THE BLOG

In Meetings with Mideast Leaders, Obama Should Push for 5 Steps

Today, Israel Policy Forum took out a full-page ad in the New York Times with a direct message to President Obama that when it comes to achieving a two-state solution: "Yes You Can."

The ad also calls on the president to push for five attainable steps in his meetings in the coming weeks with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel, President Mubarak of Egypt and President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority:

1. An immediate renewal of US-mediated Israeli-Palestinian negotiations toward the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel;

2. the cessation of Palestinian terror attacks on Israelis and of weapons smuggling into Gaza, and an increase in the number of American-trained Palestinian security forces in the West Bank;

3. a freeze on West Bank settlement construction, the dismantling of superfluous checkpoints and illegal settlements, and the cessation of demolitions of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem;

4. the immediate reconstruction of Gaza with a focus on civilian needs, and the local economy;

5. the pursuit of a comprehensive peace between Israel and its neighbors, including Syria, using the Arab Peace Initiative as a basis for negotiations.

Ambassadors Thomas Pickering, Samuel Lewis, Robert Pelletreau and Edward Walker joined me, Peter Joseph and Larry Zicklin (the president and chair, respectively of Israel Policy Forum) in sending a letter to President Obama with these same points earlier in the week.

First reactions have been positive.

What is important to note is that none of our ideas are groundbreaking. In fact, none of them are even remotely new. We are essentially advocating for what George Mitchell proposed in his report eight years ago.

Unfortunately, that speaks volumes about the lack of progress towards peace in recent years. But it also begs the question: How long can progress be postponed until the two-state solution no longer remains a viable option?

This is a scary question for all of us who care deeply about Israel's security and its future as a homeland for the Jewish people. But it is also a question that we must confront urgently.

Just yesterday, new figures were released which show that by 2016, there will be an equal number of Arabs and Jews living in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

If a two-state solution fails to emerge, the threats against Israel's future as a Jewish, democratic state -- and its security -- will increase.

President Obama is determined not to allow that to happen. He became actively engaged on day one because he knows that he only has one term to get the peace process genuinely moving in the right direction. Israel's security and its future as a Jewish, democratic state, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, and American interests in the region are all at stake.

Even so, the obstacles facing a two-state solution are enormous, and those who prefer the status quo have been vocal in letting the president know it. For weeks, detractors have been telling the President that in the face of these obstacles he cannot push for a two-state solution.

Today, we made sure - and we must continue to make sure - that he hears a different message.

The bottom line is this: if we are serious about securing Israel's future alongside a Palestinian state, we have got to start laying the foundation for a two-state solution now. We urge President Obama to start by pushing for five highly achievable -- and long overdue -- steps forward.