Wednesday, January 28, 2009


A funny thing happened on the treadmill this past Tuesday. I was able to read every word of every article on the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis, every word.


It suddenly struck me. I had, what is it, an epiphany.

There is going to be a “just peace” in the region.

I knew something was happening when I heard President Obama’s inaugural speech.

I thought, of course, that much that he was directing to Americans was directed to Americans.

Not really. He was talking to all the peoples of the world.

Hear, O Israel, what President Obama said and see if the words don’t sound as they came straight out of the Torah and Judaic teachings:

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends -- hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism -- these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up
for expedience's sake.

And when he was talking those outside the United States, he was not just talking to poor nations and Muslim nations, he was talking to the Palestinians and the Israelis.

And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: Know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.

And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West: Know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

I grow more convinced each day that this person will take steps to ensure that the brutality of the continued occupation of a people allowed to continue for 42 years will not be allowed to stand.

This was confirmed last Friday when he appointed George Mitchell to mediate the conflict in Israel/Palestine.

Listen to what he said in addition to the standard Hamas must not fire rockets that Israel must re-open the border crossing into the Gaza Strip "to allow the flow of aid and commerce."

Also, in his interview, Obama said that Israel was a "strong ally of the United States" and that he "will continue to believe that Israel's security is paramount. But I also believe that there are Israelis who recognize that it is important to achieve peace. They will be willing to make sacrifices if the time is appropriate and if there is serious partnership on the other side."

Yes they will, my friends, or else.

And listen to what George Mitchell said, referring to his experience in Northern Ireland, which led to the 1998 Good Friday agreement, "I formed the conviction that there is no such thing as a conflict that can't be ended. Conflicts are created, conducted and sustained by human beings; they can be ended by human beings."

The terms of resolving this conflict have been known for decades: move back to the 1967 Green Line, end the occupation, close the settlements, “Tear Down That Wall”, East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian State, allow Palestinian access to water, bring in an international force for security, economic trade agreements, right of return (some return and some reparations).

The floodgates of criticism of the Government of Israel as being the barrier to a just peace have opened.

The Sixty Minutes segment with Bob Simon last Sunday was a powerful condemnation of the occupation of the West Bank. The title was that time may be running out for the two state solution.

Many observers believe that the Government of Israel by allowing the illegal and immoral building of the settlements has foreclosed the possibility of a two state solution.

Without a two-state solution, there are three remaining options, according to Bob Simon:

The Government of Israel could try ethnic cleansing, drive the Palestinians out of the West Bank, or they could give the Palestinians the vote. That would be the democratic option but it would mean the end of the Jewish state. Or they could try apartheid - have the minority Israelis rule the majority Palestinians, but apartheid regimes don't have a very long life.

The Government of Israel has little time left – it must end the inhuman blockade and collective punishment of Gaza and allow an international force in to keep the peace. The next step to show good faith would be the immediate eviction of the 600 Jewish settlers from Hebron.

Those would be positive signs that the Government of Israel intends to negotiate in good faith a two-state solution.

Barring that, there will eventually be one democratic state of the West Bank, Gaza and the State of Israel.

In any event, I can now read the news from that region again because I am convinced that a “just peace” is coming for the Palestinians and the Israelis!