Can the U.S. Now Act Boldly for Middle East Peace?
Our answer is --- Yes, IF the American people will support a bold policy.
And we have one to propose. Will you support it?
The U.S. government has the economic and diplomatic power to make peace happen -- but so far has refused to use it.
Now, in the wake of the deadly and disastrous attack on the high seas outside Gaza, a large part of the Israeli public is reexamining what had become almost a knee-jerk resort to military might as the sole guarantor of security.
And many Palestinians, including parts of Hamas, have said that under some conditions, a two-state peace as part of a regional peace agreement would be acceptable.
So perhaps the moment has come --- a lightning flash in a darkening sky --- to make peace possible.
But only if the US government concludes there is a political base at home to support bold US action.
It will take a concerted effort by a sizable number of American Jews, Christians, and Muslims to make this ethically and spiritually understood, and politically viable, among Americans.
Here is our proposal:
1. The US government announces it will put half its military aid to Israel in escrow. (Present aid amounts to at least three billion dollars a year.) The escrowed amount will be paid on the following conditions:
The money will be made available to pay the costs of resettling -- providing decent new homes and neighborhoods -- to the Israelis who are now living in Palestinian land beyond the 1967 borders (except those who are already living in the Old City of Jerusalem and those who choose to live under Palestinian law and sovereignty).
The money will be paid in this way:
One-fifth for resettlement when the Israeli blockade of civilian goods from entering Gaza is restricted to preventing only actual weapons from being imported into Gaza, and all other goods are allowed freely to enter and leave Gaza;
And the remaining four-fifths in stages to pay for the continuing costs of resettlement.
As the US is convinced that this process is indeed fully under way in good faith and commitment, full military aid could resume.
2. Simultaneously, the US offers aid to a nascent Palestine on condition that leaders from at least some of Hamas and Fatah --
join in a government of national unity
take vigorous steps to prevent attacks on Israel;
agree that almost all Palestinian refugees will have a right of return to the new Palestinian state (with a small number admitted to Israel); and
agree to take part in a regional peace conference with the goal of achieving peace among Israel, Palestine, and all Arab states within approximately the 1967 boundaries.
3. The US calls for a regional peace conference within four months of all Arab states, Israel, and the national unity government of a nascent Palestinian state, to achieve peace treaties and full security for all in the Middle East and greater safety for America.
In the spirit of the Torah's call for lovingkindness that transcends boundaries, this policy would transform the uses of American money from supporting violence and domination to building homes, protecting human beings, and affirming peace.
It also makes clear to everyone (through the half of US aid that continues without escrow) that US commitment to Israeli security remains strong.
It offers most Israelis the fulfillment of their dream of a safe and democratic Israel with a special relationship to the Jewish people. It actually makes available the money to meet US and world pressures to bring the settlers home.
It offers Palestinians the chance to end their suffering and to form a creative, peaceful, economically viable, and democratic Palestine.
It offers Americans greater safety as Arab rage at the US declines.
Can we get the US government to choose this path of policy?
Let's be frank: We at The Shalom Center cannot on our own mobilize enough support from large enough numbers of people --- to make this politically viable in the teeth of all the entrenched interests that will oppose it.
But we CAN nudge and noodge larger organizations the way a tugboat nudges and noodges an ocean liner to change course.
IF we can show that a sizable number of people are ready to support this policy.
Together, we might become the crucial stimulus for major change at a crucial moment.
Or we could let the Middle East and the world slip back into more war, more terrorism, more death, more rage, more hatred.
Up to us.
Shalom, salaam, peace -- Arthur