President Obama has made resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a high priority in the first years of his administration, appointing former Sen. George Mitchell as a special Middle East envoy on his first day in the White House. Positive developments in the West Bank Palestinian political landscape – particularly the nation and institution building led by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad — have opened up new opportunities to make progress toward peace. Provided that Israel’s fundamental security requirements will be met in any final peace agreement, Prime Minister Netanyahu has expressed support for the establishment of an independent, demilitarized Palestinian state – a state with an internal security apparatus, but not an army that could potentially threaten Israel. While not making it a precondition for negotiations, the Prime Minister has insisted that Palestinian leadership recognize Israel as the Jewish state, the nation state of the Jewish people. In order to build confidence, the Israeli government imposed an unprecedented ten month moratorium on settlement construction in November 2009.
With U.S. help, following months of “proximity” talks led by Mitchell, the parties finally returned to direct, face-to-face negotiations in early September at a summit in Washington, D.C. Present at the summit were President Obama, Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Abbas, King Abdullah II, and President Mubarak. Before convening the summit, President Obama stated that “these negotiations are intended to resolve all final status issues…and result in the emergence of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state, living side by side in peace and security with a Jewish state of Israel and its other neighbors” However, when the settlement moratorium expired, the Palestinians halted bilateral negotiations..
Through October and November, the administration sought to bring the parties back to the negotiating table, and, with the Palestinians refusing to negotiate while settlement activity continued, offered Israel tangible incentives for extending the moratorium for an additional period of time. In December, the administration abandoned its efforts to achieve an extension of the moratorium, and explored new mechanisms for advancing the peace process. Throughout this period, the Palestinian authority leadership has engaged in activities antithetical to its internationally recognized obligations to negotiate an agreement with Israel by publicly expressing intentions to unilaterally declare statehood, escalating its efforts, particularly in Latin America, to gain international recognition for a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders and continuing to promote one-sided initiatives critical of Israel in international bodies, including the United Nations.
The JCPA believes that:
- The United States government should oppose Palestinian Authority Efforts to declare a state unilaterally and to seek recognition by the United Nations and other governments.
- The Administration should be commended for its active and sustained diplomacy in trying to facilitate direct, face-to-face, bilateral and uninterrupted negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians that can lead to two states for two peoples living side by side in peace and security.
- As the Israeli government negotiates permanent status issues (including borders, security, Jerusalem, settlements and refugees) to reach a comprehensive and just peace agreement with the Palestinians, the organized Jewish community should support those efforts, consistent with our longstanding tradition of supporting the efforts of Israel’s democratically elected government to achieve peace and security.
- Lasting peace depends on both parties recognizing each other’s right of national self-determination. Just as Israel has recognized this right for the Palestinian people, the American Jewish community should continue to support Israel’s insistence that the Palestinian Authority recognize Israel as the Jewish state, the nation state of the Jewish people.
- It is crucial that the United States and the international community support courageous peace efforts made by Israeli and Palestinian leaders, specifically
- Palestinians should continue to receive closely monitored assistance in building the political, economic, and security institutions necessary to lay the foundation for statehood.
- Arab states should be urged to normalize relations with Israel
- As long as Hamas continues to maintain effective control over the Gaza Strip and shows no movement toward fundamental change, the international community should continue its policy of isolating Hamas, while ensuring that this policy causes a minimum of suffering to the people of Gaza. The right of Israel to defend itself against missiles and other security threats while continuing to make every effort to avoid civilian casualties should be fully respected.
- As an important contribution to an environment that promotes peace, the Jewish community should encourage a broad spectrum of religious and civic leadership, particularly from among Jewish and Arab Americans, to support those Israelis and Palestinians who seek a peaceful two state solution, and oppose all elements which use terror, violence or rejectionism to thwart that goal.
- The U.S. government should clearly and publicly discourage the Palestinians or any party from directly or indirectly engaging in or supporting efforts aimed at delegitimizing Israel, including through international multi-lateral bodies such as the UN Human Rights Council, UNESCO and international legal forums such as the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court and the judiciary of countries that claim universal jurisdiction to prosecute Israelis.
- The U. S. government should vigorously encourage the Palestinians to return to direct negotiations promptly and without preconditions. The United States and the international community should stress that for there to be lasting peace in the Middle East, peace, not hate, must be taught. Therefore, the Palestinian people should be urged to prepare their young people to accept the concept of Palestinians living in peace with Israel in schools and through television, internet and other mass-media programming.
- The United States should continue to insist on full implementation of the Israeli-Egyptian treaty, which serves as the foundation for pursuing an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians and for expanding peace throughout the region.
The community relations field should:
- Advocate for the aforementioned positions and messages to decision-makers and opinion-molders in the general community, to the Administration and Congress, to the international community; and,
- Convey its own commitment to these principles to the Jewish community and to Israeli leaders.