There are two peoples living on the same land. Dividing it between them — Israel and Palestine — is the only way to bury this long conflict once and for all.
FOR decades, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the larger Arab-Israeli conflict have cast a dark shadow over the Middle East. This conflict has cost human lives and drained vital resources. It has denied millions of people in the region the opportunity to prosper and grow away from the threat of confrontation, occupation and violence.
We know how this can and must end: a two-state solution ensuring that two states, Israel and Palestine, can live in peace and security, with both sides accepting and recognizing the national and legitimate rights of the other. This is not a zero-sum game — the fates of both peoples are permanently intertwined, and neither can truly flourish while the other suffers.
The time when one side can afford to deny the presence of the other is long gone. The stark truth is that there are two peoples living on the same land and dividing it between them is the only way to bury this long conflict once and for all.
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Maen Rashid Areikat will join Jeremy Ben-Ami to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the viability of the two-state solution, and the role of the U.S. in working toward a peaceful future Oct. 19, at Town Hall Seattle at 7 p.m.
As the official Palestinian representative to the United States and the head of a major pro-Israel American Jewish organization, we have embarked on a joint trip to the West Coast, scheduling major public appearances in Seattle, San Francisco and San Jose. We hope to demonstrate that we can work together further to promote the cause of peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.
In this endeavor, we are partners. While we do not underestimate the challenges created by the differences in our backgrounds and affiliations, we strongly believe that our objective is worthy of the support of the largest segment of the American people — regardless of ethnicity or religion.
We understand that these conversations are difficult and controversial for many. Mistrust and animosity between Israelis and Palestinians, and their aligned communities in the U.S. and around the world, have festered for decades.
In our public conversations, we want to avoid the perennial game of assigning blame and scoring political points. We fully understand that the historical narratives of both sides are embedded in the psyche and culture of the conflict. But telling the stories of our own struggles, grievances and concerns should not, and must not, negate and nullify the other side.
These discussions allow us to recognize our common humanity and interests. They are vital if we are going to move forward toward an acceptable solution that both sides can claim. For this to happen, we will need to learn from the past, without allowing it to be an impediment toward progress. Our main focus must be on the future — and how we can finally reach an arrangement that will satisfy the national aspirations of both peoples.
What saddens us is how rarely this kind of exchange and mutual recognition takes place. Instead, the situation on the ground and the mistrust between the two sides is worsening and widening. The lack of a genuine political process to deal with the thorny issues is creating a vacuum that leads to more resentment, hatred and violence.
Ongoing events in the Middle East and an alarming drift to extremism, fanaticism and racism in all societies should give us a strong sense of urgency. We must not have the illusion that if we wait long enough, the problem will simply go away. The conflict has historically been a political and territorial dispute, not one based on religious hatred and extremism. We cannot allow misunderstandings and alienation to allow it to become that way.
Looking at the geopolitical map today, the Middle East is not safer today than it was 10 years ago. The longer we wait, the more difficult it will be to reach an agreement.
We need to have the courage to act now. Solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would be a major boon to the forces of stability, progress and tolerance in the Middle East.
Whether they identify as Jews or Muslims, Christians or atheists, pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian, Americans who care about building a better Middle East should get engaged and involved and urge our elected leaders to work tirelessly to help the parties reach a just, lasting and comprehensive peace. This kind of engagement can begin with a simple conversation, a willingness to listen and learn.
We are not seeking miracles. We know there are limits to what conversation and good intentions can achieve. But we also know that nothing can be achieved without them.