"America has worked steadily and aggressively to advance the cause of two states -- Israel and Palestine -- in which peace and security take root, and the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians are respected.... The time has come to re-launch negotiations without preconditions."
-- President Barack Obama, September 23, 2009

Advocates for a two-state resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict know that achieving true peace is not now, nor has it ever been, easy.

President Obama acknowledged this simple truth in his speech before the United Nations, even as he pledged to "continue to seek a just and lasting peace between Israel, Palestine, and the Arab world. He said: "I am not naive. I know this will be difficult."

This is an historic moment for American Jewish peace advocates, a time to rally without hesitation around the cause in which we believe and for which we have fought so long. Let us grab it.

Now we must follow President Obama's speech with bold steps of our own. We must publicly support the President's efforts toward negotiation, and help achieve the very peace that Israelis, Palestinians, and three-quarters of Jewish-Americans say they want.

Since his inauguration, President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and Mideast Envoy George Mitchell have invested enormous energy and capital working, in the President's words, "steadily and aggressively to advance the cause of two states."

Slowly, these efforts have begun to bear fruit.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has tried to shift the Obama administration away from a focus on settlements and onto an agenda of Palestinian economic progress, but the White House hasn't budged. "We continue to emphasize," the President clearly stated, "that America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements."

Similarly, Obama has been adamant that the Palestinian Authority increase security and restrain anti-Israel incitement. American security teams working on the West Bank report a greatly improved situation but, in the words of the President, more progress is needed: "We continue to call on Palestinians to end incitement against Israel."

President Obama spoke with much greater frankness at the U.N. than we are accustomed to hearing from US Presidents. But, if these frank words are not followed by firm action, they will achieve nothing. If the world, American political movers and shakers, and Israelis and Palestinians alike don't believe that the President has our support, he will not have the political space he needs to take that action.

If we truly believe what we say we believe -- that Israel's security is best served by peace, and that only a two-state solution will resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- then we must see President Obama's speech at the UN as a call to action.

Those of us in the American Jewish community who have long advocated for such a solution are right to feel heartened by the President's vision and to recognize the role that we have played in achieving this historic moment.

But our job has only just begun.

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

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