Nomi Sharron, a peace activist I’ve known for many decades, sent me an “Open Letter for Peace” and asked me to send it out. My first reaction was that it is naive, and that the three parties involved, Israel, Hamas and Fatah, will never work together, but then, on second thought, if on this first week of Obama’s presidency, I (we) don’t aspire towards new ideas, who am I (we). We have heard in the last days: Rosa sat, so Martin Luther King could walk, so Obama could run – so our children can fly.”
Let us of the generation that has striven for peace for many decades start running so our children and grandchildren can run.
An open letter to President Obama – a way to Peace in the Middle East
This letter reflects the views of many Jews and Israelis, who passionately believe in the right of Israel to exist within secure borders. We also believe in the right of the Palestinian people to live in their own State, alongside Israel. And both peoples have the right to live in peace.
The history of both peoples has been a long liturgy of mistakes and worse on both sides. There is right and there is wrong on both sides, and we can go on trawling through our own versions of history forever, blaming the other side and justifying our own actions. But you cannot kill ideology with bombs; bombs kill people, not ideas. Meeting violence with violence only breeds more hatred.
It does not bring peace.
We need a new vision. It is time to take on board Einstein’s dictum that “No problem can be solved by the same consciousness that created it”. It is time for a new consciousness, a new way of seeing, to cut across the mire of complicated politics, accusations and mistrust that we have dug ourselves into.
Here is our simple and practical solution to bringing peace to the Middle East. America gives vast amounts of aid to Israel, much of it going on arms. If America were to continue to give this money, but demanded as a precondition that a large percentage of it [say at least 50%] was to be used by Israel to rebuild Gaza, the whole of the Middle East would be transformed in one go. The Palestinians – both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas – would be invited to join with Israel in the rebuilding as equal partners. We would also hope to have on board other partners: America, the EU, Egypt, other moderate Arab states. Look at what this could achieve:
- The siege of Gaza would de facto be lifted and the borders between Gaza and Israel would be open
- If Hamas saw the huge benefit of being involved as equal partners, they would be transformed from a terrorist organization into a partner for peace. If they refused, they would be completely marginalized, as the majority of Palestinians in Gaza would no longer need or want them.
- After the devastation in Gaza, Israel has to be involved with its reconstruction. It would have American and world support, which would also serve to counteract the negative hard-line implica-tions if Binyamin Netanyahu were to be elected Prime Minister in the forthcoming elections.
- This new situation on the ground would de facto create a new and peaceful atmosphere in which negotiations for a two-state solution could move forward and at last bear fruit.
- This would also create fertile ground for a peace treaty between Israel and Syria.
- With Hamas either on board, or marginalized, Iran would lose its power base in Gaza.
- Seeing the huge benefits of peace would have a ripple effect outwards and must surely influence the situation in Lebanon as well.
- Peace in the Middle East and the establishment of a Palestinian State would surely vastly reduce Islamic terror in the wider the world.
There is a story about the sun and the wind. The wind was always boasting that he was much stronger than the sun and he wanted to prove it, so he challenged the sun to a contest. Just then, they saw a man walking along the street wearing a thick overcoat. The wind suggested that whoever could get the man to remove his overcoat was the stronger. The sun agreed. The wind tried first, huffing and puffing and blowing more and more fiercely. But the harder he blew, the more tightly the man wrapped his coat around him. The wind could not get him to take off his coat. Then it was the sun’s turn. The sun shone more and more brightly and soon the man, feeling its warmth, removed his coat.
The force of the wind has been blowing across the Middle East for far too long. It is time for the gentle warmth of the sun. A new vision is urgently needed. Of course there are huge challenges in implementing this, but with the will and the courage, it can be done. As someone said, not so long ago, “Yes we can!” Yes, we can. And a by-product would be that you would go down in history as having achieved peace in an intractable situation that has defeated all your predecessors!