Leaders speak on Annapolis aftermath
The Jewish Advocate
February 22, 2008
By Lorne Bell
BROOKLINE - Almost three months removed from the Annapolis Conference, the goal of realizing a lasting peace and two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians is still in its infancy. But at the Workmen’s Circle Building in Brookline last week, Nadav Tamir, consul general of Israel to New England, and Diane Balser, interim xecutive director of Brit Tzedek V’Shalom, shared their insights on the peace process as part of an event titled, “Annapolis: What Happens Next?”
“It is quite clear that the toughest issues – the core issues – are the borders, Jerusalem, the status of Palestinian refugees and security,” said Tamir. “We’re trying to work with moderate Palestinians in order to create a political horizon for them and for us that will also empower them to convince the Palestinian people that negotiations and peace are better than terror and bloodshed.”
Tamir and Balser addressed a packed audience of over 100 people, and followed with a question and answer session that went late in to the night. It was a clear indication that American Jews are responding to the prospect of peace, something Balser said is crucial to reaching a lasting accord.
“As U.S. Jews, we need to put pressure on the Bush administration to match his words with actions - in particular the freeze on West Bank settlements, mov
ing of illegal outposts, and Palestinian security reforms – and to encourage both sides to reach a cease fire,” said Balser. “We need to encourage the U.S. commitment to the peace process to keep moving in that direction as strongly as possible.”
Balser said that most Americans are supportive of a two-state solution. But she noted that for the most part, American Jewish organizations have not taken an active and supportive role since Annapolis.
“What we are finding is that in Boston, with the exception of the Jewish Community Relations Council, many Jewish organizations have stayed silent,” she said. “[Brit Tzedek V’Shalom] believes it is important not just to support
Israel in times of conflict, but to be pro-peace.”
Although most American Jews and many Israelis recognize a two-state solution as a legitimate and necessary path to peace, Balser said “rejectionists” exist on both sides of the conflict. And for many Israelis – like the residents of the tiny border town of Sderot – the prospect of peace may seem unrealistic
against the backdrop of daily attacks from Palestinian militants.
“In the past, many thought that we could not talk about the vision of what a peace agreement will look like before we change the situation on the ground,” said Tamir. “We now understand that if we create the political horizon, we
will have more chances to change the situation on the ground. Of course, we also understand that the implementation of an agreement is conditioned on the
roadmap criteria, which means we have to create security first.”
It is a tall task, but Tamir said that Israel was encouraged by the Bush administration’s commitment to moving the peace process forward. As for the
timetable set forth at Annapolis – which called for an agreement by the end of 2008 – he was confident that the foundations for a resolution could be stablished by the time the next U.S. president takes office in January.
“We are going to at least try to reach some agreement before America is busy with the transition period,” he said.
But regardless of whether or not a preliminary peace agreement can be reached by then, the next American president will be responsible for seeing the process
through. And the American Jewish community can and should play an active role in making sure that happens, according to Balser.
“We need to tell the next president of the United States that this has to be a top priority,” she said. “The Jewish community is very wrapped up in Iran and Iraq, but you can’t forget the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that it is important for Israel, but also for the U.S.”