The upcoming U.S. elections won’t affect Israelis and Palestinians as they do American citizens – yet it’s undeniable that America’s choice for president will have an enormous impact on the lives and struggles of people in the Middle East. We can only hope that American votes will consider our concerns as they cast their ballots.
Simply put: We need peace.
But Israeli-Palestinian peace will not happen without U.S. backing, prodding and support. President Bush has laid down a challenge for his final year: to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Even if an agreement is reached this year, however, the work of getting both parties to support and implement it will fall to the next president.
Israelis and Palestinians need a president who will take up the peace process from day one, a president who can be pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian at one and the same time, a president who can take the long view, knowing that the resources required by such a process will serve American interests as well – even if the effect is not immediate or politically easy.
Despite the impression that one may have from reading the daily news, Israeli-Palestinian peace is within reach. This does not, however, mean that it will be easy. The administration will have to provide both sides with guarantees to induce them to take the political and security risks that will allow agreement. Skilled diplomacy and determination will be required; Israelis and Palestinians will have to be convinced that the U.S. is firmly behind the process, willing to commit the resources to turn it into reality – and that the new reality will improve their lives, provide them with security, and truly end the conflict.
If the incoming administration is willing to commit itself to achieving this goal, Israelis and Palestinians will not be the only people to benefit. A just, mutually acceptable Israeli-Palestinian peace would do much to counter current international frustration with American foreign policy, enabling U.S. citizens to once again travel around the world with a sense of national pride and purpose.
Moreover, the security of the entire world, and in particular that of the United States, would be greatly enhanced were this 60-year-old conflict to be laid to rest. Many of those currently engaged militarily with U.S. forces have said quite openly that the plight of the Palestinian people is their greatest motivator; it is in the interests of the American people to put an end to this kind of motivation.
As we write these words, however, violence continues to rage between our peoples. The fragile process President Bush began in Annapolis is threatened by a broad inability to recognize a simple truth: This conflict cannot be managed by violence. It can only be resolved by peace.
We in Israel and Palestine need a U.S. president who understands this, and will act on it. Someone who will turn to diplomacy before force, someone with the vision of a peace maker. We hope that American voters will take our message to heart, and support a candidate who will help to make Israeli-Palestinian peace a priority. Americans need peace, too.
Gershon is an advisor to Israeli, Palestinian and International Prime Ministers on the Middle East Peace Process and the founder and director of IPCRI, the Israeli-Palestinian Public Policy Institute. He was the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel between Israel and Hamas for the release of 1,027 prisoners – mainly Palestinians and Arab-Israelis of which 280 were sentenced to life in prison for planning and perpetrating various attacks against Jewish targets that resulted in the killing of 569 Israelis in exchange for one Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit. Gershon is actively involved in research and advocacy concerning topics such as social policy, environmental security, political strategy, peace education, economics, culture and in the development of affordable solar projects with the goal of providing clean electricity for 50 million people by 2020.