Those of us who place ourselves somewhat left of center squarely in the Democratic Party here in America and in the Zionist Union or the more liberal Meretz Party in Israel have been chasing peace and a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for a very long time. Despite the best efforts of Israeli MKs, American Presidents and countless others the principals have been unable and unwilling to negotiate beyond the old fashioned Oslo framework and its unsuccessful derivatives. Ideas have been discovered and rediscovered, discussed and rediscussed and written down in countless government, private sector, academic and NGO initiatives until the paper was illegible and the keys on the computer no longer worked and still no breakthrough. We are approaching the 50th anniversary of the watershed Six Day War that opened up the ancient land of Israel for resettlement and an occupation that still determines the contours of the lives and livelihood of millions of Palestinian residents who continue to exist without an independent state of their own.
There are many questions and answers as ‘facts on the ground’ continue to inspire their own conclusions. The numbers are daunting based on the history and consequences of the Gaza disengagement. The reality of Gaza itself and Hamas control separates virtually every conceivable outcome from the creation of two independent states. Looking at the numbers, demographic trends, political realities in Israel and the West Bank and the continuing efforts of dozens of small NGO’s and their supporters in Israel, the West Bank and beyond to grow a peace movement doesn’t add up to enough to challenge the status quo which is dominated by terror, fear, anger, hatred and behind all of that a well developed and well earned lack of trust on all sides, (and there are many more that two).
I read a recent Op Ed in the Jerusalem Post by Joel Braunold and Jeremy Saltan; “Hope is not a strategy,” that leaned heavily on polling results that define an increasing number of young Israelis as more religious and less interested in a two state solution. I believe getting real is only part of the medicine that the left and everyone else need to swallow. It is dangerous to ignore the threats and continuing violence in Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and throughout the region that is changing the very nature of the Middle East. It is dangerous as well not to establish positive goals that lower the tension and the daily threats that look to start the next firestorm. It would be good to dampen the cinders and to begin in earnest to twist the arms of leadership of both governments, (as much as they can be twisted), to halt incitement and initiate some positive programs that are built to take root and grow in ways that will positively affect facts on the ground. That is one vital precursor to progress that must be woven into the fabric of a new formula for understanding and peace.
It does not take a visionary to recognize that it is unlikely to make peace with someone you believe is a terrorist. It does however take much more than vision for Israelis and Palestinians to have the courage to face their enemy, to sit down and begin a carefully moderated dialogue that allows each to hear an ‘other’ and in time accept if not agree with the reality of their very different story and their very different truth. I believe there is no panacea, but that there can be a process, internationally sponsored, strategically mapped and worked out to bring Palestinians and Israelis together, (independent of politics, AKA a Track Two process), that over time can establish relationships and even build the trust necessary to alter the willingness of two peoples and their governments to seek and find and make peace and cooperate to keep it in a very aggressive and difficult Holy Land.