APN's Top 10 Messages of Encouragement to Secretary Kerry as He Returns to the Middle East

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1. Keep doing what you're doing.
2. Yes, you can.
3. Israeli-Palestinian peace is a vital U.S. national security interest.
4. Yes, the U.S. can "want it" more than the parties.
5. Hold on to your sense of urgency.

6. Distinguish between wise counsel and advice from those with hidden agendas.
7. Majorities of both Israelis and Palestinians want you to persevere and succeed.
8. The majority of Americans, including American Jews, want you to persevere and succeed.
9. Israel's own national security establishment is with you.
10. Pursuing peace is the real pro-Israel policy.

Keep doing what you're doing.

Your instincts are good. Israelis and Palestinians alike are taking you seriously. The Arab world is paying attention to your efforts to revive the Arab Peace Initiative. These are significant achievements that create space - and hope - for real progress. So far you are doing it your own way, following your own rules, keeping people a little off balance - and it is having an impact.

Yes, you can.

It is neither naÏve nor arrogant to believe that peace is achievable. The two-state solution is indeed still possible, even if it becomes harder to imagine, and to implement, with each passing day. And the two-state solution remains the only path that holds the promise of anything other than a permanent state of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and between Israel and the Arab world. The price of losing the chance for peace and a two-state solution will be unbearable for both parties. The price will be high, too, for U.S. national security interests in the region and beyond.

What is needed now in order to achieve a breakthrough in the Israeli-Palestinian arena is determined, resolute, unflagging U.S. leadership - something that you have demonstrated in spades since becoming Secretary of State. Such leadership is by definition characterized by a belief that it can succeed and must succeed, for the sake of U.S. interests and for the benefit of all the stakeholders.

Those who argue that negotiated peace between Israelis and Palestinians is impossible, or not worth the price Israel will have to pay, are ignoring the clear record of successful Israeli-Arab peace agreements. More than three decades after Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's 1978 visit to Jerusalem, which heralded the beginning of the land-for-peace era, Israel's peace treaty with Egypt still holds, despite ongoing upheaval in Egypt. Likewise, Israel's peace treaty with Jordan continues to offer security dividends on that border.

Israeli-Palestinian peace is a vital U.S. national security interest.

Achieving Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab peace is vital to U.S. national security and must be a central U.S. strategic priority. In much of the Arab and Muslim worlds, perceptions of the U.S. are shaped by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for both good and bad. When the U.S. is seen as credibly leading for peace, support for the U.S. increases; when the U.S. is seen as not being an honest broker, while the situation languishes or deteriorates, anger at the U.S. rises. This has clear implications for U.S. engagement in the region and beyond, including with respect to the growth of extremist, militant groups who have long exploited the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to mobilize anger and support.

Likewise, U.S. failure to credibly lead Middle East peace efforts has global implications. U.S. allies and adversaries alike are watching and judging U.S. credibility and relevance in the foreign policy arena, based in no small part on America's performance in the Middle East and specifically in the Israeli-Arab context. Their conclusions - whether drawn in Tehran or Pyongyang, when negotiating over their nuclear programs, or in Moscow, when negotiating over arms control issues, or even Paris and London when considering NATO interests - have very real implications for U.S. national security.

Clearly, the Israeli-Palestinian and the Arab-Israeli conflicts are not the source of all problems in the region or in the world. However, the linkages between the conflict and U.S. national security are incontestable. Sustained, credible U.S. efforts to achieve Israeli-Arab peace are a necessary element of U.S. support for Israel and must be a cornerstone of any serious U.S. approach to confronting the challenges emanating from this volatile region.

Yes, the U.S. can "want it" more than the parties.

The U.S. "wants it" - wants peace for Israelis and Palestinians - not simply as a favor to both peoples, but because we have our own vital interests at stake. In this context, the reality is that the U.S. may, and at times probably will, want peace more than the parties. Years of broken promises and bad behavior have deepened grievances among both Israelis and Palestinians, leading to an ethos on both sides characterized by nothing so much as skepticism and cynicism about the other. Overcoming this skepticism and cynicism demands exactly the kind of leadership demonstrated in February by President Obama in Jerusalem and Ramallah, and exactly the kind of sustained engagement and leadership demonstrated by your multiple trips to the region. Such leadership and engagement can restore the credibility of the entire land-for-peace, negotiated-resolution paradigm and, along the way, can break down the skepticism and the cynicism.

As you well know, there is no magic formula for moving forward. While there is already a longstanding and broadly-based international consensus on most of the elements of a permanent status agreement, it is clear that, on their own, Israelis and Palestinians cannot get to an agreement. The difficult compromises that will be demanded from both sides necessitate U.S. leadership to bring the sides together and help them to come to agreement.

The persistent failure of past peace efforts reflects the complexity of the issues, the reluctance of the parties, and, in no small part, the absence of sufficient political resolve on the part of successive U.S. administrations. The success or failure of any U.S. policy will lie first and foremost in the ability of the U.S. to get the parties to take the effort seriously and to convince people on both sides that the effort can, this time, succeed. To achieve this, you and President Obama must continue to engage and lead with conviction.

Hold on to your sense of urgency.

It isn't too late for the two-state solution, but you are absolutely correct in your assessment that the opportunity will not last forever and, in fact, won't last much longer. In this context, there is no option to put peace efforts "on hold" or "manage" the conflict until circumstances are more promising. In the absence of tangible progress towards ending the conflict, developments every day on the ground and in the political sphere will continue to render circumstances ever-more antithetical to peace.

Those who despair of ever achieving a two-state solution, as well as those who are fundamentally opposed to the two-state solution, want to suggest that there is some viable alternative. The reality is that no such alternative solution exists. There are only two possible outcomes if there is no two-state solution. One is an Apartheid-like situation in which what will soon be an Israeli-Jewish minority will rule over a disenfranchised Palestinian majority. The other is a bi-national state, which is a prescription for ongoing bloodletting between Jews and Palestinians, two peoples who each aspire to their own state.

Distinguish between wise counsel and advice from those who have hidden agendas.

As Secretary of State, you are getting lots of advice (including from us). For example, you are likely hearing from those who advocate for "interim steps" and arrangements - a tactic that has a long and ugly history of being exploited by those who want to create facts on the ground in order to block peace. You are probably also hearing from people urging you to focus your energies on "confidence building measures," like expanding economic activity for the Palestinians. As you have rightly pointed out, such measures can play a role in improving the immediate situation, but they cannot be a substitute for a political process that addresses the core issues at stake in this conflict. The reality is that the occupation cannot be neutered by clever "interim" arrangements, and economic development under occupation will never be an alternative to Palestinian independence and self-determination.

Likewise, some longtime peace process "experts" have suggested that President Obama should break with longstanding U.S. policy and international consensus to become the first U.S. President in history to give a kosher stamp to certain categories of Israeli settlements and settlement expansion. Specifically, they want you and President Obama to give U.S. approval to Israeli construction inside the ever-expanding, undefined areas of the West Bank known as settlement "blocs," as well as in East Jerusalem, in exchange for Israel agreeing to stop expanding settlements in other areas. These experts pretend that such a step can plausibly be framed as an Israeli "concession" to the Palestinians, and that it would be a positive achievement for peace.

The reality is that adopting this approach would destroy U.S. credibility in the region, put the U.S. on a collision course with the international community, and definitively kill the two-state solution. It would open the door for changes on the ground that would make a realistic, negotiated, viable two-state solution impossible. It would mean fundamentally rejecting the entire basis of the land-for-peace paradigm: a negotiated solution based on the 1967 lines. It would mean tossing out the window the most important concept that has developed to allow Israel to keep some settlements: agreed-on land swaps. It would render impossible, on the ground, the establishment of anything resembling a politically and economically viable, contiguous Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem. Anyone who suggests that changing U.S. policy to accept Israeli settlements and settlement construction - outside of a peace agreement - is a constructive step toward peace is either ignorant of the facts, misinformed, or seeking to mislead, for their own purposes.

Majorities of both Israelis and Palestinians want you to persevere and succeed.

Extremists on both sides are rooting for you to fail - and in many cases are actively working to torpedo your efforts. However, polls have shown that majorities of both Israelis and Palestinians support the two-state solution, even as each side doubts the other's commitment to such an outcome. Polling has found similar views in the Arab world, alongside a recognition that if the two-state solution disappears, the likely result will be intense conflict.

The gaps between the parties, as broad as they may seem, are not unbridgeable. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have in the past made significant progress toward mutually agreeable compromise formulas. Even on issues that involve heavy emotional baggage - such as Jerusalem and refugees - leaders on both sides have devised reasonable parameters which large majorities of Israelis and Palestinians support. Israelis and Palestinians, as well as international brokers, can benefit from creative proposals such as the Geneva Initiative and other Track II efforts.

The bottom line is this: with strong leadership from the U.S. and the support of the international community, Israeli and Palestinian leaders can reach a workable agreement - and when they do, majorities on both sides will support them.

The majority of Americans, including American Jews, want you to persevere and succeed.

Since the dawn of the current era of Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, American public opinion, including inside the American Jewish community, has supported U.S. leadership to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. All but a small minority of Americans, comprised of the most religiously doctrinal and ideologically extreme on issues related to Israel and Palestine, support the two-state solution, oppose Israel's self-destructive settlement enterprise, and embrace the peace based on the sort of parameters laid out by President Clinton and President George W. Bush.

The bottom line is this: you and President Obama have strong support among Americans and American Jews for your efforts to launch a serious, credible peace effort that can lead to Israeli-Palestinian peace, based on the vision laid out by President Obama earlier this year in Jerusalem.

Israel's own national security establishment is with you.

On the plane, as you head to the region, we urge you to take some time to watch "The Gatekeepers." This is the Oscar-nominated Israeli documentary in which every living former head of the Israeli Shin Bet makes the case that the most important thing Israel needs, for its own security and viability, is peace with the Palestinians and an end to the occupation. We urge you to also take note of the recent comments by former head of the Mossad, Meir Dagan, who challenged those who oppose Israeli "concessions" with respect to its borders by noting, simply, that "the IDF can defend Israel from any border."

Today, leading figures in Israel's national security establishment have come to recognize that achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace is an existential issue for Israel. Continued Israeli control over the lives of millions of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza threatens Israel's identity as a Jewish state and a democracy. The occupation is eroding Israel's democracy and its values, transforming Israel into an increasingly violent and intolerant society. Israeli efforts to address the very real security challenges stemming from the absence of a peace agreement - challenges that have no ready answers - are resulting in Israel's increased isolation and growing pariah status in the international arena.

Pursuing peace is the real pro-Israel policy.

Many are rooting for you to fail. These include many political figures inside Israel's ruling coalition, including some within Netanyahu's inner circle who openly oppose the entire idea of a two-state solution. They also include some within the U.S. Jewish community and within the Christian evangelical community who share similar views. All of these people apparently value settlements over security and land over peace. They are, it seems, willing to sacrifice Israeli democracy and Israel's Jewish character to preserve a "Greater Israel" that will be rooted in racism and intolerance, an Apartheid-like state increasingly isolated in the international community.

Those who are rooting against you either fail to recognize, or don't care, that the real existential threat facing Israel today is not any external enemy, but rather the perpetuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the continued occupation. Alarmingly, the window is closing on a two-state solution, which is the only solution that can allow Israel to remain both a Jewish state and a democracy, and a respected member of the family of nations. Moreover, there is a direct line connecting right-wing efforts to defend the settlement enterprise and the frightening erosion of basic democratic values and rights taking place in Israel today. There is also a direct connection between this same right-wing extremism and the growing incidence of so-called "Price Tag" attacks - violent attacks by Israeli extremists against Palestinians, Israeli security forces, members of the Israeli peace camp, and targeting private property, mosques, and churches. While initially a phenomenon limited to the West Bank, today these attacks are increasingly taking place inside Israel proper. Such attacks, like the illegal settler construction they often seek to defend, or whose removal they purport to avenge, are a direct challenge to Israel's rule of law.

By continuing to press, energetically, for a negotiated two-state solution, you are demonstrating that you care more about Israel - as a living, breathing, nation at home in the community of nations - than these ideological and religious extremists and their supporters. John-Kerry180x180.jpg

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