By Aziz Abu Sarah and Kobi Skolnick
(Conflicting Peace Blog)
In the last year, the new American Administration has changed the way the US have been handling the Israeli Palestinian conflict. As a result of this shift, we have encountered many questions in our speaking engagements about the administration’s stance on the Israeli- Palestinian conflict and the Middle East. Below are our answers to some of these questions.
Is Obama a friend of Israel?
A question normally asked by either conservative Christians or concerned Jews about the future of Israel. To answer the question we must first define what does the word friend mean? According to the Genesis Rabbah, “A love without rebuke is no real love.” also the Bible says in the book of Proverbs “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses…”
A friend is not someone who agrees always with his partners and friends but rather someone who is honest and willing to hurt his friend’s feelings for what is good for him.
Israel has been living in continuous conflict since it was established in 1948. Most American Presidents have supported Israel militarily through these years and many congressmen have advocated for Israel’s right to exist and defend itself. However it seems many have wandered away from the goal of the creation of the state of Israel. It was not to create a hot conflict spot that has a full scale war ever few years. It was to have a free, secure and democratic place for Jews that they call home.
Today, the dream of the Jewish majority state is fading away day by day. Ironically it is those who champion defending Israel and proclaim the love of Israel who are killing that dream. By promoting the growth of settlements and opposing the creation of a viable Palestinian State they are stabbing the dream to death. The only alternative left will be a One State for all citizens. Not because it is the ideal solution but because the ongoing changes on the ground will make a viable Palestinian state impossible.
Some take it further advocating for a new war with Iran and/or Syria. They proclaim that such a war will bring security and stability to Israel, ignoring the fact that after being victorious in many wars in the last 60 years, Israel is still far from having peace and stability. One more war will only increase hatred and enmity.
President Obama expressed his vision for Israel to have peace with all its Arab and Muslim neighbors and to become a natural part of the Middle East. His efforts are making headways in the Arab world. This is a vision of a true friend of Israel and of the Palestinians where the interest of peace for both triumph the special interest and politics that supports the continuation of the conflict.
Does Obama favor the Arabs over the Jews?
President Obama speaks of a new vision where Arabs and Jews are not seen as if on opposing sides and where one is not forced to choose to support one side against the other. It is a vision of not categorizing them by either or, nor acting with blind faith towards one or the other.
Our people both Arabs and Jews want an end to the bloodshed and injustice but because of extremists on both sides the cycle of violence will not be broken without some clear vision and drastic measures. Our people are proven to be bolder than our leaders, in showing their hope for change by signing every initiative for peace that has been circulated, from Geneva Initiative, Nusseiba Ayalon Accords to One Voice signatures campaign. President Obama is now asking our leaders to do what our people have been asking for, for too long.
What about American interest in the region, isn’t attacking Iran an American Interest?
America is engaged in two wars at the moment which means it is stretched militarily and financially in Iraq and Afghanistan. The economy is also facing many challenges as new powers are rising such as China, plus other threats keeping popping up such as N-Korea. Extremist groups are using the Israeli-Palestinian problem to gain sympathy and recruit fighters. General Petreous just confirmed this notion in his testimony to congress last week.
It is in America’s best interest to help stabilize the Middle East by promoting an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that promises freedom, security and justice to all sides. The last thing the US needs right now is another war in the Middle East. History teaches us that countries that depended on military powers alone becomes over stretched and is eventually weakened. Even conservative president George W. Bush was reported to deny Israeli request to attack Iran two years ago. President Obama is being a realist in analyzing the threats facing the US and favoring diplomacy over the drums of war with Iran.
We hope that the US will not tire of it’s diplomatic efforts on fostering a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, and eventually with Syria, Lebanon and the Arab world. Israel and its neighboring Arab and Muslim states have much more in common and much more to work on together than issues that differ. In facing the threats of the future ranging from water to energy, they must find solutions together as allies not enemies.
Does the Arab world truly want peace?
While we need to be aware of organizations that advocate violence such as Hamas and Al-Qaeda, we also need to bear in mind that a third of the world’s population is going to be Muslim. Terror is a tool adapted by only a few. There is clear trend against terrorism and a desire for just peace. For instance, Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam has taken two major initiatives; one is the Saudi-proposed Arab peace initiative adopted at the annual Arab League Summit in Beirut in 2002, and the other is a program of de-radicalization. Thousands of former terrorists participated in counter-radicalization and disengagement programs for violent extremists. While it is not one hundred percent successful, it is a significant step in the right direction. Few other countries have started similar programs. Moreover, Dr Qadri, an influential Pakistani Islamic scholar, wrote 600-page judgment, known as a fatwa, which completely dismantles Al-Qaeda’s violent ideology step by step. Also, in Palestine there is a growing movement of non-violent action to end the occupation.
We need to help the momentum towards peace in the Arab and Muslim world as they face great challenges to counter radical ideologies. In the Pan-Muslim call for dialogue, religious leaders recognize the importance of understanding the common ground “Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians.”
According to Tayob, Islam faces challenges as well as opportunities. There is a need to find a balance between modernity, globalization and tradition. The way to do so is by understanding the other: “the world must understand as distinct cultural-civilization zones which have different ways of looking at reality. The failure to recognize these differences will lead to disasters.”
One of the most effective tools for neutralizing radicalization would simply be peace between Israel and Palestine, a fact that the US Pentagon officials have come to realize. We cannot wait for another bloodbath and more celebrations by radicals on both sides. We need to stop helping these radicals manipulate young minds by delaying the peace process.
We now know what disaster looks like; can we truly imagine looking at peace?
Please send us your questions and we will answer within few days.
(This article was first published at www.conflictingpeace.com)