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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom
Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace
Op-ed: Two-state solution is best for Israeli Jews
The Peoria Journal Star
By Rabbi Brant Rosen
President Bush recently traveled to Israel to celebrate that country's 60th anniversary, a visit attested to by the many pictures of him smiling and shaking hands with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Yet I cannot help but feel that this isn't a time for celebrations - and certainly not for smiling.
The photo-ops belie the appalling situation facing Israel and the Palestinians: Israel's internationally approved blockade of Gaza continues to deepen a humanitarian crisis in which hundreds of thousands of people cannot meet their daily food needs, while Hamas continues its rocket attacks into Israel's south, creating a nightmare of fear and uncertainty.
Worse, the faint hope born in the Annapolis peace process launched last November has festered into weary inaction. Nice things are said occasionally, but not much happens by way of doing the hard work of building peace. As a result, the misery continues. Fingers are pointed in all directions.
But as Israel marks its first 60 years, we cannot avoid a simple fact: If the immediate situation in and around Gaza remains unaddressed, there can be no progress in the peace process. If there is no progress in the peace process, the dream of Jewish independence in a Jewish state - a dream for which generations of Israelis have sacrificed their lives - will be lost.
Sixty years, six major wars and endless rounds of armed attrition after the United Nation voted to partition the land, partition remains the only solution to the conflict - two states for two peoples, Israel living in peace alongside a Palestinian state.
In spite of President Bush's inaction, however, some of our elected representatives have shown that they do know what needs to happen. Peoria Congressman Ray LaHood, a Republican and Lebanese-American, and his Democratic colleague from North Carolina, David Price, sent a letter to the president (signed by 50 additional congressmen) urging Bush to invest his administration in finding a true solution to the decades of bloodshed and despair.
"We are concerned," the congressmen write, "that unless something changes, progress toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement will continually be hampered by the violence in southern Israel and Gaza."
Specifically, the letter recommends that Bush continue to condemn Hamas rocket attacks; that Israel bring an end to the Gaza blockade and open the border, allowing food, medicine and essential supplies in; that the smuggling of weapons into Gaza be addressed; and that the possibility of an Israel-Hamas cease-fire be explored, most likely to be mediated by a third party (such as the current effort being led by Egypt).
I can only hope that Bush sees the wisdom of the LaHood-Price letter and is inspired to take real steps toward bringing Israel and the Palestinians back to a process of sincere negotiation. The U.S. must create the kind of atmosphere that allows the leaders of both peoples to make hard decisions and painful compromises, with security arrangements and enforcement mechanisms, incentives for reconciliation and disincentives for foot-dragging.
The American Jewish community, and indeed all Americans who wish Israel well, must make it their business to call on their elected officials to actively support such an effort.
In so doing, they will not only be doing what's best for Israel and the Palestinians, they will also be representing the mainstream opinion of Israeli and American Jews alike. About 64 percent of Israelis want their government to negotiate a ceasefire with Hamas, and 87 percent of American Jews support a two-state solution to the conflict.
If we want the sacrifices of the past to have true meaning, if we want what's best for Israel, we will redouble our efforts to achieve durable peace between Israel and the Palestinians. This is the best way to truly celebrate the accomplishments of the last 60 years.
Brant Rosen is the rabbi of the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation of Evanston and is a leader of the Rabbinic Cabinet of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace.