Open letter to President Barack H. Obama …
In your letter to me dated August 16, 2016, you say: “I want you to know when you send me a letter I am listening.” Mr. President, I need you, I want you, I have every interest for you to now listen to the echoes coming from the hearts and souls of millions of people on all sides of the Divide in the Israeli-Palestinian Quest to Co-exist. We join President Jimmy Carter in urging you to recognize the State of Palestine because to paraphrase you: “if a policy hasn’t worked for 68 years, isn’t it time to change”?
You’ve made it possible. Our three adult children will join my wife and me to spend Christmas in Havana. It is something I have wanted to do for almost half a century. On December 25th, we will leave from Orlando, FL. Thanks to your insight and foresight and especially hindsight, the United States now recognizes Cuba. We’ll send you and your family a Christmas card with a belated Feliz Navidad from ‘that great place (coabana) where fertile land is abundant (cubao)’.
The Land of Palestine is the Land of Israel as a result of a name change by the Romans in 132 CE. Sooner than later all the people in the Region will realize their only option is to embrace each other with: “Welcome Home”. The Region is home to all Palestinians, to all Jews, not for decennia, not for centuries; for millennia. As I have stated to you in my previous letter: I, too, have a spiritual connection to the land. The region is my home, born on the outskirts of Israel-Palestine, the Red Sea on a British Ship of Dutch parents. Inside my soul and within all of my being, I am attached to the splendor of the many colors, their tints and hues. I really do not know how to explain my love and deep devotion to the land, but I understand implicitly and intuitively why neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis will ever leave.
You’ll be moved when you read the letters addressed to you via the ‘Virtual Post Office’ on www.buildingthebridge.eu. Here are three:
- Awni wrote: “The Palestinians have suffered a lot through the last century and it is time for them to live in peace”.
- Hassan wrote: “I am writing this letter to prompt President Obama to do more effort to recognize the Palestinian state as a step to make permanent peace in our area”.
- Tourabdel wrote: “I’m writing this letter because…you can do it”.
What if a growing number of Israelis and Palestinians respond to the higher calling of becoming a ‘light among nations’ (Torah, New Testament, Qur’an), ‘seeking the better angels of our nature’ (President Abraham Lincoln) and act accordingly as responsible citizens in the community of men and women, especially among those they have hurt so much? They will want nothing more than a full reconciliation with their neighbors. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if both people will publicly apologize: “We recognize we can’t get away getting something for nothing … we realize we can’t get away with murder … let’s tear down the walls between us, share the land, and break bread together … and here is cash, earnest money, a compensatory resolve to seal the deal (precisely how Germany recompensed Jews and other victims following World War II)?”
Without full reconciliation, the wounds can only be temporarily soothed, letting the disease to stealthily spread and eventually erupt and explode again. Imagine, Mr. President, the Israelis and the Palestinians in full reconciliation, living apart together, within one homeland inside two borderless states, rejoicing freedom of movement and the right of passage, sharing Jerusalem and the region not too different from the BENELUX countries (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg), the forerunners of the open borders in the European Union (EU)? Instead of heading toward an American Indian model, with Palestinians on reservations amid a sea of Israeli settlements and security zones, why not open borders with freedom of movement? Mr. President, many people around the world would like to hear you say: “Mr. Netanyahu, tear down those walls”.
What if the Israelis rediscover themselves and build the Zion of my parents’ dreams, a heaven on earth, a Zion belonging to all of Abraham’s descendants, all of God’s children, the God of all mankind? In this light, they can and will destroy their enemies by becoming friends with all the give and take to make and keep the friendship? In the collective memory of NEVER AGAIN, the Israeli credo so genetically encoded in their collective history and hysteria, can be changed from “we will fight to the end, if we must…” to “do what’s right” (Deputy Chief of Staff Major General Yair Golan), to share the Promised Land and to revere the stranger.
Mr. Obama, please recognize Palestine. The majority of people on all sides of the Divide will forever be grateful. The sweet aroma of peace is in the air, all around us. A clear majority on all sides of the Divide wants peace (Israeli Jews, 73.8%*; Israeli Arabs, 97%*; and the Palestinian Arabs, 85.7%*). This is affirmed by the Jerusalem-based Israel Democracy Institute and the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (executive summary here, full survey here).
In response to what you told me: “We will continue to offer constructive approaches and continue to encourage the Israelis and the Palestinians to work together to resolve the conflict”, may I impart upon you the thought: I agree we should propose and not impose but let us remain steadfast in walking the warring parties – holding them by the hands if we must – through the path of darkness into the light. The United States and the European Union must support an Arab League led forum to help the Israelis and Palestinians cross the bridge toward peace. The Israelis and Arabs are, after all, neighbors. All sides must reconcile with the other and learn to live, work and enrich each other.
Both the Israel Democracy Institute and Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research suggest strongly that many Palestinians (44%) and a majority of Israeli Arabs (54%) prefer a multilateral forum in which major powers sponsor the negotiations. Among Israeli Jews, 27 percent prefer a multilateral approach. Only 22 percent (a significant minority) of the Palestinians prefer bilateral negotiations while 41 percent (also a minority) of the Israeli Jews prefer the bilateral approach. What’s more, findings show that a significant majority of Palestinians are almost equally open to either an Arab led forum or one led by the United Nations or the European Union, with support ranging between 20-22 percent each, while only 8 percent prefer a US-led effort. A majority of Israeli Jews prefers almost equally an Arab forum (28%) and a US-led effort (26%). Among Israeli Arabs, support is greater for an UN-led approach (36%) and a EU-led one (27%).
So what is it that the people of Israel/Palestine really want? “Among Israeli Jews, a Jewish majority (identity) is seen as the most important value (35%), followed by peace (32%), democracy (20%) and a Greater Israel (10%). Among the Palestinians, Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders and the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital is seen as the most important value (45%), followed by obtaining the right of return for refugees to their 1948 towns and villages (32%), and building a pious or moral individual and a religious society (13%)”.
BOTTOM LINE, most Israelis and Palestinians want to be safe from ‘terrorist’ attacks, including state terror. Most Palestinians worry more about jobs than about territory or borders. Most people on all sides want little more than for the other side to leave them alone. Before they are willing to break bread with each other, they would first want to put bread on their own tables to take care of their families and to raise their children. Everyone deserves to be happy. Everybody wants to wake up to a more fulfilled life. On all sides of the Divide, people do their best to provide food, shelter and education. Jews, Christians, and Muslims everywhere whisper the same daily prayer: ‘take care of our children’.
A few more weeks and you’re at the Finish Line only to start anew. Eight years! So fast! I remember it as though it is yesterday. Thank you so very much for everything. History will treat you well. You are – I’m sure millions of people around the world will join my wife and me in saying – the most transformative American President, in our times. Though this is my second letter to you in your capacity as the President of the United States, I look forward to many more correspondences between us in the years to come.
With every good wish to you, Mr. Obama and to your family, I remain,
Abraham A. van Kempen, Editor
Cc: President Jimmy Carter