Amid cautious hope and searing skepticism, Israelis and Palestinians launched direct talks last week to forge the true and lasting peace that has eluded our peoples for too long.
Israel looks forward to narrowing the differences on all “final status” issues that must be resolved for any peace agreement. Some of these core issues are well known: Israel’s security needs or the vexing question of Israel’s settlement communities in the West Bank, for instance. Still, as negotiations advance, we should remember that peace will require compromises and concessions — not only from the Israeli side, but from the Palestinians as well.
Of critical importance, yet often overshadowed, is the need for mutual recognition and a normalization of relations between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel is surrounded by 22 Arab countries with a total population of over 300 million. So far, only two of these nations have recognized and negotiated a peace agreement with Israel. As we move forward, Israelis cannot be expected to make painful sacrifices unless the Palestinians are willing to offer something beyond a temporary cessation of hostilities — something more than the unwilling, forced acceptance of Israel that all-too-often masquerades as “peace”. To secure a genuine peace, Palestinians must publicly acknowledge Israel as a permanent fixture in the region.
Vital, therefore, is the acceptance of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people. Prime Minister Netanyahu has embraced the vision of two states for two peoples: speaking in Washington this week, he recognized the need for a Palestinian state that will serve as the homeland for the Palestinian people. In return, the Palestinians must recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. continue reading…