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Is Encouraging Peace in the Middle East Acceptable These Days?

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Just three days ago, NJDC reacted to the power-sharing accord between Fatah and Hamas. While that short statement was only 167 words long, it's been impressive watching how far some have misread it over the past 72 hours. That certain media outlets and others would purposefully do so for ideological or partisan reasons is to be expected. But the blowback also begs the question: "Is encouraging peace in the Middle East acceptable these days?" Further, what does some of the pushback against such a simple statement say about the current state of our collective communities' mind -- that some would call into question the credibility of a statement simply because it didn't include language restating long-understood facts about terrorist organizations? But to make sure that those who pounced on our words for political gain are not allowed to pull along people of goodwill, let me clarify our statement from the other day.

Aside from what we said that is similar to what so many others have said, we also merely reminded that "the status quo is not sustainable" and the only path forward "leads towards two states." Or as Israel's Ambassador Michael Oren said yesterday on National Public Radio, "the current situation is unsustainable... we do need peace in our region." Just as Ambassador Oren expressed cautious optimism during yesterday morning's interview, so too do we believe that there could be a moment of opportunity amidst the many challenges.

But those challenges are obviously manifold. As we noted on Tuesday, Hamas simply must renounce violence, abide by past agreements and recognize Israel's right to exist. We also said that "extreme elements of Palestinian society [have] to lay down their weapons and end this generation's old conflict." But in just 167 words, we thought some things could be left unsaid. For example, of course Hamas is a terrorist organization; that's a fact, as the administration of President Barack Obama rightly reminds us again and again.

What's more, now is the time -- if there ever was one -- for Hamas to work as a government, not a terrorist entity. They must sit with Fatah and together show that they can be partners for peace. A great new start for Hamas would be releasing Gilad Shalit.

This and much more didn't make it into a 167-word release; such are the limitations of a concise statement in which we were trying to focus on the one thread that we thought added value to the conversation -- as Ambassador Oren said yesterday, that the status quo can't remain. Had we put in everything we might have liked to, we could have easily gotten to 20,000 words.

So if you are a person of goodwill who was confused for any reason by our Tuesday statement, please don't be confused or misled. And if you're one of those doing the confusing -- especially for partisan reasons -- enough already. The stakes -- the U.S.-Israel relationship, Israel's security, and peace in the Middle East -- are too high for such silliness.

This article can also be viewed at NJDC.org.