Gershon Baskin and Hanna Siniora, the Israeli and Palestinian co-directors of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI), recently told an audience of 120 at Temple Israel in Boston that “a framework agreement for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is within reach.”
Rabbi Kolin of Temple Israel welcomed the speakers from IPCRI and opened the conversation on “homeland, safety, and peace” by inviting those present into the “sacred space” of the sanctuary, appropriate for discussing the serious issues at hand.
“Despite the setbacks of the recent weeks of violence, negotiations will continue and Abbas and Olmert will reach an agreement” Baskin asserted. The two speakers expressed confidence that a significant majority on both sides will support peace, if given the opportunity within a reasonable timeframe. In the meantime, they said, behind-the-scenes talks are progressing, mediated by a third party, to achieve a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
However, “the longer we wait for a comprehensive agreement,” says Siniora, “the more radicalization we face against a two-state solution.” According to Siniora, 80 percent of Palestinians currently support a two-state solution, and what was at one time an existential conflict has evolved into a debate on issues (settlements, refugees, Jerusalem, borders, water, and economics), but that percentage won’t hold without sustained America intervention.
Diane Balser, Brit Tzedek’s interim executive director, stressed the importance of the American Jewish community raising its voice even more loudly in support of U.S. engagement in resolving the conflict: “The future of Israel and of the Jewish people depends on Israel’s ability to negotiate a two-state peace agreement with the Palestinians,” she said. “Those of us who are concerned with Israel’s survival and welfare will continue to let our representatives in Washington know that being pro-peace is being pro-Israel.” With over 38,000 supporters nationwide, Brit Tzedek is the US Jewish community’s largest pro-Israel, pro-peace, grassroots organization.
In his remarks, Gershon Baskin pointed to the paradox that the substance of what a political agreement would entail is widely agreed upon, and yet the process by which to get there continues to elude both sides.
Unless a Palestinian state living peacefully alongside a secure Israel is created soon, Israel is “committing national suicide,” Baskin said, “a metaphoric march up to the top of Masada. since the alternative is an entity between the Jordan and the sea in which the Jewish people are yet again the minority.”
Established at the start of the first Intifada in 1988, IPCRI is the only joint Israeli-Palestinian think-tank. MIT Professor Emeritus Franklin Fisher, author of “Liquid Assets: An Economic Approach for Water Management and Conflict Resolution in the Middle East and Beyond,” says that IPRCI is “the foremost and most thoughtful Israeli-Palestinian organization working for a peaceful two-state solution by engaging with both sides.” IPCRI initiates policy work, grassroots organizing, peace education, conferences, and public diplomacy.
Originally Published in the The Jewish Advocate