A Speech for Peace movement has sprung up on Facebook, the idea being to bring US President Barack Obama to deliver a historic address at Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square.
Hundreds of thousands of people packed Rabin Square, spilling like rivers deep into the adjoining boulevards. Security was overwhelming. The skies teemed with drones and military helicopters, the rooftops locked and sniper-strewn. He had finally come. Not the fictitious Messiah, but a presidential peace-seeker, emboldened by a second term. There he stood, on the raised platform in front of Tel Aviv’s iconic town hall, beaming and defiant. From behind bullet-proof glass, he looked out at the sea of expectant faces, of burning candles, a canopy of blue, white, red and green flags, flowers and balloons. He breathed in deep, and began:
“Good evening to you all, and thank you for your invitation to address you at this hallowed place. I am honored to be here, in this freedom-loving city of Tel Aviv, in the dynamic and diverse State of Israel.
“You are a people of spirit and innovation, arisen from the ashes of persecution. I am in awe of all that you have built and achieved. From sand dunes to skyscrapers, brutalized refugees to high-tech revolutionaries – you turned a scattered people into an independent, prodigious nation.
“I also know that many of you carry mini-ground zeros in your hearts – the scars of trauma in your daily lives, the black holes of the family and friends that you have lost along the way. I salute your stoicism, in the face of war and senseless terror. I defend, loudly and clearly, your indelible right to security. Am Yisrael Chai. The Nation of Israel lives, now and in perpetuity. Iran will not get nuclear weapons, and rockets will not destroy your cities.
“Make no mistake: I come here not to blunt your sword, but to tell you that I’m on your side. That America and I love you, forever. And it’s because of this love – our unbreakable marriage of values – that the time has come to break this stalemate, to move forward and sign a peace agreement with your Palestinian neighbors.
“You can close your eyes, and wish away reality – ignore the other’s existence and remain slaves of a Pharaoh of cynicism. Yet this will only condemn you to an eternal cycle of violence. For two nations, two narratives, two irrepressible urges for freedom, dwell in this beautiful but bloodied land.
“Your fallen leader, Yitzhak Rabin, stood on this very spot over seventeen years ago, and spoke the simple words of “Enough of blood and tears. Enough”. I reiterate them here today, for they have lost neither their currency nor their urgency: Enough polarization, enough procrastination. Enough denying each other’s irrevocable right to statehood!
“You and the Palestinians can reach an agreement. You can and you must! Do not believe the doomsayers, the peddlers of fear and self-fulfilling slogans. There is no alternative to the two-state solution, to peace and co-existence – words that may seem tired and stained, but which still, after all these years, remain stubbornly true.
“The seemingly intractable issues can be solved if your leaders come to the table with humility, flexibility and a resolute determination to only leave once an all-encompassing accord is signed.
“Indeed, the parameters for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement are clear:
- A mutually agreed-upon border that upholds the territorial ratio of the Green Line – involving equitable lands swaps and the prevention of enclaves.
- A pragmatic resolution to the refugee crisis – both an unlimited Right of Return to the new Palestinian state and generous monetary compensation financed by my country and our European allies.
- A Palestinian capital in the Palestinian areas of east Jerusalem, and a creative solution to sovereignty and security in the Holy Basin.
- An effective, international force to prevent weapons-smuggling along the Jordan River.
- A grand Marshall Plan for an independent, viable Palestine.
“I know that the majority of Israelis have accepted the fact that in order to safeguard your country’s Jewish AND democratic essence, withdrawal from most of the West Bank is unavoidable. I know that a majority of you would tick “yes” in a national referendum on a final status agreement based on the Clinton Parameters. And though it’s your choice to make, it’s the right choice. It’s the only choice.
“To the Palestinian people, I say to you, that I too am your friend. I am not blind to your suffering. I feel your pain, and the weight of your expectations. Yet this too I must say, loudly and clearly, especially to the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip: Violent jihad merely robs each successive generation of its right to life and liberation – the coming to the end of your al-Nakba. Non-violence will set you free! Not Qassams, or kidnappings, or alliances with Iran. Non-violence, and an unequivocal recognition of the State of Israel, will defang those who argue that there is no partner for peace.
“Again, it’s your choice to make, but it’s the right choice and the only choice. I know that the majority of you love your children as much as I love my own two girls, as much as any good parent across the world cherishes their offspring. We are all the seed of one colorblind Creator, all deserving of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And in our hearts, we know that God is about love, not hate… and that those who preach otherwise, whether they wear crescents, stars or crosses, are not spreading the Almighty’s true message, but rather sinister distortions of self-evident truths.
“So I say, on behalf of the great United States of America, and all freedom-loving people around the world: Let us pry apart these iron shutters, these stubborn curtains of pessimism. Let the light in. Let this dark Israeli-Palestinian winter of despair end. Let it be springtime. Aviv. Rabeeʻa. Let the buds blossom, and let us stop and smell the pollen. Think not of your egos, of your self-righteous histories, but only of your children.
“Let them go! Let them go and be free from this wicked cycle of war and sorrow. Let healing reign, in the kindergartens of Sderot and Jabalya. Let them sing the sweet songs of peace, of friendship and common understanding. From Rafah and Rosh Ha’Nikrah to Metulla and Hebron, let weapons of mass-elevation proliferate – more jobs, better schools and hospitals, lucrative trade agreements, quiet skies, longer and happier lives. Friends, let’s look over the mountaintop, and feast our eyes on the dividends of peace.
“President John F. Kennedy, the slain visionary once said, “Lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today, to the hopes of tomorrow.” Be’ezrat Ha’Shem, Insha’Allah, God willing, we will rise above our age-old grudges and cease to use our children as sacrificial chess pieces – choose life over death, hope over fear, tomorrow over yesteryear.
“Finally, they may call me the most powerful person on earth, but we all know that real change can only begin at home. I cannot force you to cross this bridge, but I will accompany you every step of the way. I extend my hand to the new Israeli government, to the Palestinian Authority, and to our allies around the globe. We have much work to do. Too many tears have been shed. Too much blood has flowed. Enough is enough.
“Thank you, and may God bless the people – and most of all, the children – of Israel and Palestine.”
The crowds erupted in thunderous applause, their hands like drums, whistles and cheers like trumpets. Israeli flags, American flags, Palestinian flags, rainbow flags, flags of all stripes and colors filled the night. And then, another president came forward, and began singing from a blood-stained page that had belonged to his departed friend.
Spring was in the air, and maybe, just maybe, Bibi was finally listening.