Here’s the opening of an editorial I wrote that appears in today’s Peoria Star-Journal:
President Bush recently traveled to Israel to celebrate that country’s 60th anniversary, a visit attested to by the many pictures of him smiling and shaking hands with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Yet I cannot help but feel that this isn’t a time for celebrations – and certainly not for smiling.
The photo-ops belie the appalling situation facing Israel and the Palestinians: Israel’s internationally approved blockade of Gaza continues to deepen a humanitarian crisis in which hundreds of thousands of people cannot meet their daily food needs, while Hamas continues its rocket attacks into Israel’s south, creating a nightmare of fear and uncertainty.
My op-ed was published in this particular paper in support of a letter to President Bush written by Peoria Congressman Ray LaHood (a Republican and Lebanese-American) and Democratic Congressman David Price. The letter, which was signed by fifty additional congressmen, expresses “deep concern” over the ongoing crisis in southern Israel and Gaza – and the fear that prolonging the status quo would “derail progress toward achieving an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement in 2008.”
I can only hope that Bush sees the wisdom of the LaHood-Price letter and is inspired to take real steps toward bringing Israel and the Palestinians back to a process of sincere negotiation. The U.S. must create the kind of atmosphere that allows the leaders of both peoples to make hard decisions and painful compromises, with security arrangements and enforcement mechanisms, incentives for reconciliation and disincentives for foot-dragging.
The American Jewish community, and indeed all Americans who wish Israel well, must make it their business to call on their elected officials to actively support such an effort.
In so doing, they will not only be doing what’s best for Israel and the Palestinians, they will also be representing the mainstream opinion of Israeli and American Jews alike. About 64 percent of Israelis want their government to negotiate a ceasefire with Hamas, and 87 percent of American Jews support a two-state solution to the conflict.
If we want the sacrifices of the past to have true meaning, if we want what’s best for Israel, we will redouble our efforts to achieve durable peace between Israel and the Palestinians. This is the best way to truly celebrate the accomplishments of the last 60 years.