From Ramadan Dinner at the
White House to Daily Bread in Gaza
Last Tuesday night, President Obama hosted a Ramadan break the fast dinner,
complete with greens from the White House garden. Seated
alongside ambassadors from Arab and Muslim countries, members of
Congress, and ordinary citizens representing the wide diversity
of American Muslim life were some unlikely guests: Rabbi David
Saperstein of the Reform Movement, Rabbi Nathan Diament of the
Orthodox Union, and Israeli Ambassador Michael
President Obama’s guest list –
perhaps a little uncomfortable for all – illustrates his
push for mutual understanding and peace-making, literally an
invitation for those in conflict to break bread together.
Which brings us to Gaza, where the affects of an
Israeli-imposed economic blockade and last winter’s
hostilities have led water and electricity shortages, severely
limited access to adequate health care and unemployment
consistently over 40%. Ongoing tensions between Hamas, Israel,
the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, and the U.S. make the
situation difficult to resolve, and ultimately, the civilian
population of Gaza pays the price.
long-term change is still only a distant goal, the Obama
administration has made significant efforts to improve the daily
lives of Gazans. It matters that a sitting U.S. President has
publicly acknowledged the suffering of the Palestinian people
– suffering that also threatens Israel’s long-term
And it matters that quiet U.S. pressure has led to an
easing of the blockade and expansion of the kinds of items
Israel will allow into the Strip.
But these small
changes aren’t enough. Deep mistrust and complications of
even the simplest issues pose real obstacles to progress. The
U.S. has been pushing to allow concrete into Gaza, for instance,
to facilitate the repair and rebuilding of thousands of
buildings, but Israeli officials fear that Hamas will seize the
cement to rebuild its badly damaged military infrastructure.
If President Obama is to push for solutions to
these thorny issues, if he will successfully break bread in
Gaza, he will need to know that the American Jewish peace
community has his back.
We've Got Your
Back on Gaza Relief, Mr. President pdf
"If the people of Gaza have no
hope, if they can't even get clean water... if the border
closures are so tight that it is impossible for reconstruction
and humanitarian efforts to take place, then that is NOT going
to be a recipe for Israel's long-term security or a constructive
peace track to move forward."
--President Barack Obama, Cairo, June 4,
The ongoing crisis in Gaza is a genuine threat to
Israel's long-term security and well-being.
distressed and politically unstable society on its border is a
genuine threat to Israel. The Gaza Strip, home to nearly
1.5 million Palestinians, is one of the most densely populated
areas in the world. It is plagued with 40% unemployment,
profound poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and international
isolation. At least 85 percent of Gazans receive some kind of
aid from international donors. There has been limited
reconstruction after the recent Israeli incursion into Gaza,
which resulted in the destruction of 22,000 buildings. Gaza's
economy is based largely on an underground smuggling industry:
money, ammunition, and other items are brought into the Strip
via tunnels that circumvent Israeli border controls. To ignore
Gaza is to ignore a powderkeg.
Resolving the Gaza crisis is key to advancing the
Gaza will almost certainly be part
of a future Palestinian state. In order for Israel to relinquish
its present control of the Gaza Strip's borders, airspace, and
seacoast, stability must replace the status quo. Hamas and Fatah
will need to end their internal hostilities for there to be a
final status agreement between Israel and an accountable
Palestinian entity -- reason enough to support the Hamas-Fatah
reconciliation process now underway, with a plan to have a joint
security force maintain order in Gaza. Finally, Israeli Cpl.
Gilad Shalit remains captive in Gaza after more than three
years, and Israel has tied Shalit's release to any discussion
around lifting the economic and political blockade of Gaza.
The Obama Administration's multi-faceted Gaza policy
stresses the role all parties--Israel, Hamas, the Palestinian
Authority, Egypt, and international aid organizations--play in
resolving the conflict.
Israel : In the aftermath of
President Obama's speech in Cairo, the Administration called on
the Israeli government to allow more food and medicine into Gaza
as well as rebuilding materials, to permit the transfer of funds
from West Bank banks to Gaza banks, and to open the border
crossing to materials that encourage economic growth. The
Obama Administration has also been involved in behind the scenes
attempts to secure the release of Gilad Shalit.
Hamas : The Administration has argued that
Hamas must play a role in ending the conflict and called on it
to renounce violence, while refusing official contact. Top Hamas
leaders now support a ten-year truce and state that they would
accept a peace agreement if Israel returns all land occupied
Palestinian Authority : The PA,
controlled by Fatah, has governed the West Bank since Hamas took
over Gaza two years ago in a coup. The Administration has urged
the PA to build stronger security and economic institutions in
preparation for an independent Palestinian state.
Egypt : The Administration is quietly
supporting Egypt's key role in brokering unity talks between
Hamas and Fatah and, separately, negotiation between Israel and
Hamas for the release of Gilad Shalit.
Aid Organizations : In March, Secretary of State
Clinton pledged $300 million in aid to rebuild Gaza -- to be
channeled through organizations not associated with Hamas
-- at the Donor's Conference for Gaza Recovery and has
continued to encourage international rebuilding support.
Obama" Fact Sheets
Gaza Relief pdf
Two States pdf
A Complete Settlement Freeze pdf
Stand with Israel pdf
Building Arab Support for
Palestinian Accountability pdf
Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance for
Justice and Peace
11 E. Adams Street, Suite 707
Phone: (312) 341-1205
Fax: (312) 341-1206
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