As an American and as a strong supporter of Israel, the most embarrassing moment in recent memory for me was when the US Congress - apparently without regard to party - showered Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a smooch fest for a foreign leader who stood before the US Congress and insulted the American president for having a sensible idea of a two-state solution. When Netanyahu was spreading the "no 1967 border" propaganda (no one ever said that Israel needed to return to the 1967 borders without change) and members of Congress were fawning all over him, as an American, I was ashamed of our Congress.
Apparently, Americans weren't the only people embarrassed by our national leaders and proud of the stance that President Obama took to usher in a peace process. So were Israelis. On Saturday, Israelis answered the US Congress' Netanyahu-ass-kissing by taking to the streets in support of President Obama's plan.
This Saturday, a march organized by various peace groups and political parties of Israel including Kadima, Hadash, Labor and Meretz delivered 25,000 people in the streets of Central Tel Aviv in support of the establishment of a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders."Yes we ken" ("ken" is "yes" in Hebrew) - as Israelis marched in support of peace and demanding that their own government stop demagoging the issue of peace and sit down at the table, they held up their sign of hope, of courage, of doing the right thing. And by the way, that fantastic poster is available to you for free, here.
The Israeli people get it. The American people get it. The Israeli people overwhelmingly (57%) support President Obama's two-state solution based on 1967 borders with mutually agreed-upon land swaps. Israeli leaders also support President Obama's vision:
“Tzipi Livni, an opposition leader and former foreign minister who leads the Kadima movement, criticized Netanyahu’s resistance to Obama’s vision for peace talks. ‘An American president that supports a two-state solution represents the Israeli interest and is not anti-Israeli,’ Livni said. ‘President Obama’s call to start negotiations represents Israel’s interests.’” — CNN.Israeli newspaper Haaretz published an editorial today demanding that Netanyahu accept a French proposal based on President Obama's outlines:
“President Obama … expressed a simple truth, which we simply cannot do without. The entire world, certainly the West, from Australia by way of Canada and Europe and all of the American administrations of the past generation—without exception—unequivocally support resolving our conflict with the Palestinians on the basis of the 1967 borders coupled with land swaps. This is what Obama said in his first speech and what he reiterated and underscored in his second speech. Nothing changed between the speeches, even though President Obama ultimately neglected to present a comprehensive peace plan.” – Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Yedioth Aronoth, May 27, 2011.
France has placed an offer on the desk of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Begin direct negotiations with the Palestinians in September, on the basis of the Obama plan. [...]I am so proud of the Israeli people, the Israeli leaders and a very significant portion of the Israeli press for standing up to Netanyahu and his party's radical platform that "flatly rejects" the possibility of a sovereign and independent Palestinian state.
This is a worthy proposal mainly because it can jump-start dialogue between the parties and assuage, at least temporarily, Netanyahu's concern over the internationalization of the conflict. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has accepted the proposal. Netanyahu, as expected, has turned up his nose, and will reportedly attempt to persuade Washington to oppose it. It would not be going too far to suppose that the prime minister is looking for another excuse to miss an opportunity and to stop the peace process.
Every supporter of Israel should understand that Netanyahu and Likud's ideological stridency is not in favor of peace. For Netanyahu, the 1967 stuff is a rouse. It's a rouse behind which he wants to hide his real intention: never accepting a two-state solution, something that has been the American policy and position spanning three American presidents. Israelis are right to reject negotiations with Hamas, a terrorist organization that at its root denies Israel's right to exist. One should also understand that Likud, while not a violent terrorist organization, in its political philosophy also denies Palestine's right to exist as a sovereign state.
The embarrassment I talked about at the opening of this piece wasn't just because I was watching our Congress fawn over a foreign leader who was insulting our President. It was also because by doing that and supporting Netanyahu's radical views (as I have outlined above), our Congress was sending a message to the rest of the world: that the US Congress was not serious about a peace process in the middle east. That our national representatives were more interested in politicking this issue than in solving the crisis that is making Israeli and Palestinian mothers live in terror. That our national "leaders" forgot what it means to be a true friend: telling your friend the hard truth, even if your friend won't like it.
Being Israel's friend requires that yes, we fearlessly and unconditionally defend Israel's right to exist and stand against any threats thereof, but being a true friend of Israel also requires that we tell Israel's government that peace is paramount, and real solutions needs to be worked out. The time for political posturing and pandering is over. The time for action is now. There is no truer friend than one that gives you reason to hope - hope for peace. That is the path Barack Obama is following - a path to peace and hope. The Israeli people know that. Why don't American politicians?
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