No Turning Back
By Steve Masters and Rob Levy

If we support Annapolis rather than succumb to our skepticism, if we demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt to the White House, to Members of Congress, and to the presidential candidates that American Jews stand behind genuine peace efforts – we can change history.

 

Since our formation five and a half years ago, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom has been calling for active U.S. engagement to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We called for an international fund to bring the settlers home. We called for a Mideast peace envoy. We called for an international peace conference. The past six months excepted, our response from the Bush Administration has had an undeniable element of talking to a brick wall.

 

In response, we've sought out other ways to build political pressure for a two-state solution - by reaching out to more members of our community, to the media, and to our Representatives in Washington. While the Bush Administration was asleep at the wheel, Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace forces have been scoring bigger and bigger successes – most recently, with 135 Members of Congress signing the Ackerman-Boustany letter to Secretary Rice in support of Annapolis and with nearly 500 rabbinical signers (and climbing) to our Rabbinic Call on Annapolis and the Next President.  The political climate is changing in our direction.

 

What You Can Do:

1) Get educated – knowledge is power, and we all feel more sure-footed when we know our opinions are backed by solid facts. Take the time to visit the Brit Tzedek Annapolis resource page, and learn more about all aspects of the upcoming meeting.

2) Talk to your friends, family, neighbors, members of your synagogue. The vast majority of American Jews support strong U.S. peace initiatives that exhort both Israelis and Palestinians to reach a peace agreement – we must now encourage our community to act on its convictions.

3) Help Brit Tzedek publicize our Rabbinic Call on Annapolis by making a donation. With your support we can publish newspaper ads and appear on talk shows with the message that a large percentage of our spiritual leadership want to see Annapolis as a launching pad to a real peace agreement.

4) Write a letter to the editor of your local secular or Jewish paper explaining why you support the peace conference.  Contact your Congress people, your Senators, and/or the White House by responding to Brit Tzedek’s timely action alerts.  Reach out to your presidential candidate of choice.  And in all of these, stress that you are an American Jew who is pro-peace because you are pro-Israel.

Now, we find the Bush Administration engaging in the kind of sustained, proactive diplomacy we've been calling for. We see Secretary Rice traveling back and forth to the region, meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in genuine shuttle diplomacy. And we await the convening of an international "meeting" in Annapolis intended to re-launch serious Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

 

Yet many in the Jewish community, in particular among peace advocates, have been utterly silent on Annapolis. Understandably, many feel a great deal of frustration and anger with the current Administration and are frankly doubtful that anything good can come of Annapolis.

However, if we support this latest effort rather than succumb to our skepticism, if we demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt to the White House, to Members of Congress, and to the presidential candidates that American Jews stand behind genuine peace efforts – we can change history.

Our voices need to ring out with a very clear message:

  • We fully support the U.S., Israeli, and Palestinian governments as they launch the Annapolis meeting in an attempt to revive serious Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations towards a viable two-state solution.

  • For Annapolis to be a success, it must be followed by genuine U.S. diplomatic engagement more intense and more involved than anything that has preceded it in the last seven years.

  • Tangible improvements on the ground are vital, if the Israeli and Palestinian people are to support diplomatic efforts, at Annapolis or after. There must be an increase in freedom of movement and access for Palestinians, and a freeze on settlement growth from the Israeli side; and stepped-up security, financial, and governmental reforms on the Palestinian side, with real efforts to put an end to the firing of Qassam rockets out of Gaza.

  • Gaza cannot be ignored. Israel must do everything it can to achieve a ceasefire with Hamas and bring captured soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit home. The humanitarian situation of Palestinians living in Gaza must be addressed, and Israel must stop threatening invasion or the cutoff of electricity.

The Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace grassroots have no choice but to offer one simple message: There can be no turning back.

There can be no turning back to the previous years of diplomatic neglect. No turning back to over-simplistic rhetoric that there is no Palestinian partner for peace. No turning back to the idea of unilateral withdrawal from some territories, combined with unilateral settlement expansion in others.

And if we’re really serious about there being no turning back – we must give our full support to this Administration’s efforts to move the peace process forward, regardless of our disagreements with its actions up till now.

The hard work will start the day after Annapolis. That's when the world will be watching to see how serious all the parties - Israeli, Palestinian, American - really are about peace. That's when American leaders will be judging just how much support they have from their constituencies, especially American Jews, for continuing down this difficult path.

Because we care about Israel, we must make the peace process that begins at Annapolis a success.

There is no turning back.

 

Steve Masters is the President of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom.  Rob Levy is Brit Tzedek's Washington Representative.


Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace
11 E. Adams Street, Suite 707
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: (312) 341-1205
Fax: (312) 341-1206
info@btvshalom.org
www.btvshalom.org


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