Partners for Peace: Israel and Palestine

05/25/2011 12:15 pm ET

Palestinian state, Palestinian state, Palestinian state. Yes, Condi Rice said it three times, fast. Now I challenge the rest of us to stand up and support it. Although she and others continue to say, "Now is the time," in reality this peace agreement is long overdue - like by about 50 years.

Actually, if someone makes peace in the Middle East, I am not sure what many of us might do. I may feel a void deep in my soul -- and I know I am joined by many others.

Many of us bask in complexity and, therefore, have willingly become Middle East experts. Others have been duped into thinking they are experts, thanks to the excessive press and attention given to this conflict by politicians and laymen alike.

Unfortunately, it has been used by some to justify brutality, torture and repression; others cite it as an excuse for hatred. Worse still, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the recruitment tool of choice for terrorist groups; I am sorry to say it works.

It is high time to "tear down that wall," Mr. Olmert, compromise and make peace -- unless, of course, you prefer to have Israel continue to be at war with its neighbors for another 50 or so years.

Keep in mind, however, that peace is a process -- something we must work tirelessly to achieve, something that requires excessive amounts of compromise, along with input from the people, to which leaders must listen. It also requires a "bilateral" and "inclusive" process, which unfortunately may include mudslinging, anger and yelling -- but it must be done. The old, one-sided, forceful Bush administration approach just doesn't work.

Israel should already know this. The Israeli government tried this basic approach with Lebanon, yet Israel is still at odds with Lebanon on many issues, including water, the Shaba farms and the continued occupation of a few Southeastern villages, where soldiers remain after the latest military incursion. To date, Israel and Lebanon continue to operate under a warlike posture.

The same unilateral approach was used in Gaza -- no negotiation, no agreement, just cut and run. Now Gaza is considered "hostile territory" that's often used as a weapons testing ground.

Gaza, though, is full of the very Palestinians with whom the U.S. administration is asking Israel to make peace, although I think all parties, including the Palestinians, are missing this point. Not only are these "peacemakers" forgetting that peace is a two-sided initiative, they are leaving out about a third of the population.

I can hear Mr. Bush now: "Don't worry, we don't need 'em." Actually, we do. One must also do the work. As stated, dictating peace is an oxymoron.

Fortunately for them, the Palestinians and the Israelis have a long history and they know what needs to be done to move forward. As the Herald Tribune reports, this may still be a sticking point for those who don't want to go all the way, so to speak. It is no surprise that "the Palestinians want a detailed declaration about the main issues that need to be resolved in a treaty, including borders of a Palestinian state, Jewish settlements in the West Bank, status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees. The Palestinians also want a timetable for creating a state." (October 21, 2007).

Unfortunately the Israelis are still stuck on politics. "Olmert prefers a vague document with considerable room for maneuvering, hoping that the outcome of the conference in Annapolis, Md., would be the resumption of negotiations." Those negotiations would focus on everything they have already been talking about since 1967 (See UN resolutions 242 and 338).

Now, all this brings us back to the beginning. Will the Bush administration help bring about Middle East peace, or will this effort end up in the same trash bin as the rest, allowing experts like me to continue arguing the same points about why there should be peace?

Regrettably, I would argue that someone should take the lid off that trash bin.

Unless ...

... we all put peace above politics. Mr. Olmert, like many of his predecessors, does not want to push his conservative government partners too hard, because then he may find himself outside looking in. Leaders without the courage to stand up for what is right -- not what is in their own interest -- cannot make peace. Constituents, take note. If they can't work for the people in this instance, what makes you think they are working for you in any other instance?

Additionally, Condi Rice, like her predecessors, is not putting an ounce of pressure (rhetoric does not count) on either party. Nor is she providing any support for the parties to succeed. Take Gaza into account. Instead of helping the Palestinians in Gaza start building infrastructure, trade and commerce, they sent guns. Guns don't feed people, but they do make for civil strife. They also make it possible to separate parties so you can make peace with the parties you want (Pro-Western Abbas, excluding Hamas) instead of everyone. This is politics and it has to stop.

... we make peace with all the parties. Yes, Hamas is considered a terrorist group and is also fighting for the establishment of a Palestinian state. Prior to Israel's establishment, many of Israel's own leaders were also members of terrorist groups who fought against the British. Menachem Begin was a member of the notorious Irgun. He later became an Israeli prime minister (1977-83). Begin also won the Nobel Peace Prize for participating in the Israel's historical peace agreement with Egypt. If we left him out, that peace agreement may never have happened.

...we deal with the tough stuff. I know I will get a million letters telling me that the Irgun was somehow different than Hamas. I know, too, that I'll get a ton of people making all the arguments as to why we should or should not make peace. So I challenge you to think about the tough stuff:

* What is your responsibility?

* How can you deal with the in-between or the gray areas?

* How can you make tough, painful decisions that make you want to tear your hair out and cry?

* How can we all recognize that we built this problem and we all have to work to help the people who are suffering through it?

Everyone has a tough time taking responsibility. Most Americans cannot even come close to contemplating that U.S. foreign policies may have led to people being angry enough to fly planes into the World Trade Center's twin towers. A deeper look into how actions truly impact others may tell them otherwise, but they need the courage to look or they will not even begin to understand how to deal with the tough stuff. Likewise, Israelis and Palestinians need to look deep into why and how they got to this point; Americans need to look deep into how they helped create the current situation, Israel lobby and all, so they can start choosing an alternative path.

...we make tremendous compromises. Settlements, refugees, walls and a holy city are all daunting. The alternative is ongoing war, suicide bombers, land confiscation and ultimately annihilation of not one or the other, but all. Sure, it may take centuries for the weak to perish, but who's counting? A whole region is suffering the consequences and children are growing up contaminated by violence, intolerance and hate.

None of these issues is easy, but they won't go away unless we make the effort to objectively help these parties through this, once and for all.

Palestinian state, Palestinian state, Palestinian state. There, I said it -- and I support it for all of our futures. And I know I can get over the potential void. Can you?