2005: A Time of Hope and
By Marcia Freedman,
On President's Day Weekend (February 19-21, 2005), join us for
our third national conference, "From
Gaza to Negotiations: The Role of American
Jews" in New York City, featuring Geneva Accord
architects Yossi Beilin and Yasser Abed Rabbo. Learn more about
the conference and take advantage of early registration discounts today.
Once again in my lifetime, it seems there is
a real prospect for a just, negotiated resolution of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I join a chorus of voices
affirming that this window of opportunity has opened due to a
constellation of developments, some unexpected.
But as much as there is reason to
hope, there is also much to fear. I believe, along with many
others, that the Gaza withdrawal is part of Prime Minister
Sharon's end game to hold on, if possible, to 58% of the West
Bank. He will attempt to gain as much time as he can after the
Gaza withdrawal without having to do anything further toward a
resolution of the conflict. In the meantime, Israel would
continue to create facts on the ground in the West Bank by
expanding the settlements and the infrastructure that then
becomes necessary to support them.
- The Palestinians are experiencing an
historic transition from the rule of a single charismatic leader
to the rule of law;
- The Likud and Labor Parties will likely
form a unity government in order to accomplish the Gaza
- Popular support among both Palestinians and
Israelis for negotiations and a two-state solution has never
been greater; and
- Civilians on both sides are increasingly
unwilling to pay the economic, social and human price of a war
that has taken so large a toll in human
And herein lies
the danger. For the past three decades Ariel Sharon, in one
governmental role or another, has seen his dream of a greatly
expanded Israel realized one step at a time, and sometimes with
some very strident steps, as in the past four years. Can he be
I do not know the answer to this question. I
don't think anyone could. Will the Labor Party use its influence
as part of the coalition to successfully move from Gaza first to
the West Bank second? Or will it allow itself to be party to
policies of foot-dragging and find reasons why, after the Gaza
withdrawal, further progress toward peace is not yet
There are many other unknowns in the
immediate future that could jeopardize a negotiated two-state
solution. It is too early to know, for instance, whether or not
the soon-to-be-elected leadership of the Palestinian Authority
will have sufficient political standing and public support to
secure the cooperation of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, on the one
hand, and the European Union and the White House on the other.
Without these in hand, Prime Minister Sharon will have an
In addition, we must watch to see how the
new unity government will handle settler resistance to the Gaza
withdrawal. Will the government forcefully and effectively
oppose and overcome settler resistance? If not, why not?
But the greatest wild card of all is the new
Bush administration. Much depends on U.S. leadership and the
President's commitment to his own vision of the establishment of
a democratic Palestinian state alongside Israel.
At present, the administration is showing
characteristic signs of indecision on the Israeli-Palestinian
issue, sending out mixed signals to everyone - the Israelis, the
Palestinians, the Quartet, Tony Blair, and to American citizens,
including and especially the American Jewish community.
Ominously but ironically, it is in the hands
of George W. Bush to determine the immediate and long-term
future of Israelis and Palestinians. His decisions and the input
of those who have his ear will determine whether there is a
just, negotiated resolution of the conflict or whether there is
a continued state of war that could at any time become a
regional and perhaps international conflagration.
The coming year and perhaps the one after
will mark a decisive turning point in the history of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With the right combination of
international intervention and the dynamic of internal
self-interest of Israelis and Palestinians, as well as the firm
support of the Jewish and Palestinian diasporas, we might see
the outcome for which those of us in Brit Tzedek and our allies
have been working.
With the wrong combination of circumstances,
we may find ourselves on the path to prolonged and escalating
warfare accompanied by further economic and civil deterioration
- with no end in sight.
Unfortunately, we have no control and very
limited influence over some of the historic events soon to
unfold - the results and aftermath of the Palestinian elections
and the true nature of the new coalition worked out between
Labor and Likud.
But we do have a privilege and a
responsibility--as Jewish citizens of the United States who wish
to have a voice in the determination of U.S. policy with respect
to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict--to do all that we can to
influence the Bush administration.
Today, less than three years since its
founding, Brit Tzedek is almost 25,000 strong. We have developed
important relationships with leaders and community institutions
at the local level, and among progressive Jewish organizations
and leaders at the national level. We have grown rapidly in a
relatively short time. Now we must reinforce and harness our
collective strength and use it effectively to do what Brit
Tzedek was founded to do: bring a strong pro-Israel voice to
advocate for a negotiated two-state solution to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, giving justice to the
Palestinians, security to Israelis, and well-being to
We will do this at the national and local
levels, through mass-market Internet campaigns, and by direct
advocacy with elected officials in Congress. We will seek to
broaden our access to the Administration and the White House. We
will work intensively this year to deepen our penetration of the
print and broadcast media. We will continue our successful
in-reach to the organized Jewish community on the local and
national levels. We will begin to develop collaborative
relationships with other organizations, Jewish and non-Jewish,
pursuing our goals and sharing our message.
I thank you for your support for our calls
for action, your time and financial assistance, or simply
passing our message on to your personal networks. I hope we can
count on at least that much and - hopefully - even a little more
in 2005. It is going to be a critical year in terms of the issue
that is at the core of our mission. That means that each of us
has, in our own way, a critical role to play.
I would like to hear your views on the
current situation and what you think we should be doing. You can
email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best wishes from all of us on the board of
Brit Tzedek. May our hopes and dreams for a new year of peace be
realized, even in tiny part, and let there be more peace and
less war "b'chol rachavei tavel" (throughout the whole wide
Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance
for Justice and Peace
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Phone: (312) 341-1205
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