Zionism is not the enemy of peace

Starting with a title like this means that certain parties will revile you while others write you off as simply naive or missing more than a few important brain cells. But I started thinking about the whole mess around making peace and if you’re John Kerry then the entire Greater Israel delegation refutes your every word and those that are so far to the left that they believe Israel = Apartheid can’t abide by your efforts either. That means that peace may have to grow between some pretty tight walls.

David Ben-Gurion was a Zionist. Ben-Gurion accepted the United Nation General Assembly partition plan, (Resolution 181), in November 1947 and with it the idea of two independent states. Menachem Begin was a Zionist. Begin agreed to return the Sinai to Egypt in March 1979 at Camp David with Anwar Sadat and Jimmy Carter and signed a peace treaty. Yitzhak Rabin was a Zionist and he endorsed the Oslo Accords in 1993 which created a Palestinian Authority and returned Yasser Arafat to power in Ramallah. Ehud Barak is a Zionist. He negotiated, (unsuccessfully), to achieve a two state solution with Arafat and Clinton at Camp David in July 2000. Ariel Sharon was a Zionist and he unilaterally disengaged the Israeli population of Gaza in August 2005. In October 2004 Sharon addressed the Knesset saying;

“We have no desire to permanently rule over millions of Palestinians, who double their numbers every generation. Israel, which wishes to be an exemplary democracy, will not be able to bear such a reality over time. The Disengagement Plan presents the possibility of opening a gate to a different reality.”

It is 2014 and Barack Obama is in his second term. And both Israelis and Palestinians want peace but believe in large numbers that it is years away. Secretary of State John Kerry is pushing negotiations and will be following with an American Framework Agreement to keep both sides at the table beyond the April deadline and give peace another chance. It is time for the two leaders to step up to the multifaceted challenges that could pull both peoples apart and threaten the political futures and maybe even the lives of both Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas. Do they have the support of their parties? No! Do they have the support of their peoples? No! Does it make sense to risk everything including the security of your people on the dream of peace? No! But it is possible to lead, to respond to the challenge in new and vital ways and create new political and popular support for peace even as you carefully educate and build the constituency to carry it forward and rekindle the public desire to move beyond an unending war of attrition on to something fundamental that is full of the Judaism, democracy and justice for all.

But Netanyahu is the leader of a very conservative Likud Party. That is true. The price of peace will include both Israeli and Palestinian leaders letting go of the past and creating new parties that can realize peace because the key participants believe that the time for peace has finally arrived.

About the Author
Larry Snider is President of the Interfaith Community for Middle East Peace, an NGO based in Philadelphia that brings the faiths together to learn about and from each other and to build a new constituency for Middle East Peace.
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