Peace is the only way

Peace is the only way

Rabbi Aryeh Meir of Teaneck is on the faculty of the Academy for Jewish Religion and is the chairperson of the Teaneck Environmental Commission.

In his “Truth has Consequences” column of December 8, Rabbi Boteach wrote the following:

• The Palestinians have refused to negotiate.

• Prospects for a deal will be enhanced by recognition of Jerusalem and by relocating the U.S. embassy.

• The Jewish claim to the whole city goes back to King David.

• The Palestinians have no claim whatsoever to Jerusalem.

• The Palestinians never had a state and have no legal right to political sovereignty over any part of the city.

I agree completely that Rabbi Boteach’s “truths” have serious consequences. Really, they have one unavoidable consequence — they guarantee an unending conflict between the two peoples/nations. They guarantee that the status quo of no justice for Palestinians and no peace for Israelis will continue.

There is only one solution to the conflict — two states for two peoples.

To me, there is no other way out of this century-old conflict. Each side has its truth narrative that the other side has, thus far, been unwilling or unable to accept:

The Israeli/Jewish narrative: In ancient times our people had sovereignty in this Land (Eretz Yisrael); we were forced out and wandered for 2,000 years. We never gave up our dream, our hope of returning, and more than a century ago we began to realize our dream, helped, in part, by some great powers and by our own powerful attachment to this particular land.

We established a Jewish state, with its capital in Jerusalem, a state and capital that are almost universally recognized. We recognize that there had been another population living in the land (for some centuries) and that those people therefore have a right to their own national self-definition. They chose to define themselves as Palestinian and have been recognized as such by many nations and by international bodies.

The Arab/Palestinian narrative: Our people have lived on this land for centuries and feel a strong attachment to it. We feel that we have no other homeland. To us, Israel’s creation was a disaster, creating a Palestinian diaspora and multitudes of refugees. War forced us from our homes in Jaffa, Haifa, and Jerusalem, and while we realize that the political realities of today are radically different than those of 1948, we still believe that we have been treated unjustly. Since 1967, Israel has controlled the remaining territory that would be our only homeland. On it Israel has built many settlements, with a Jewish population approaching 400,000. We feel that our dream of a state of Palestine is fading. Now the president of the United States has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but he has said nothing about our dream of a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem/Al Kuds.

There exists a basis for bringing these two narratives together. It is called the Oslo process and the Roadmap for peace. In 2002, then President George W. Bush called for an independent Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in peace. The Roadmap provided the following: an end to the violence; a halt to all settlement activity; the reform of Palestinian institutions; the acceptance of Israel’s right to exist; establishing a viable, sovereign Palestinian state and reaching a final settlement on all issues. Subsequent Israeli governments rejected any freezing of settlements and ruled out the right of return of refugees.

By 2009, the end of President Bush’s term, the Roadmap had fallen into the background. The issues then are the same today: the permanent status of the West Bank, the ongoing expansion of settlements, Palestinian terrorism, and the final borders of Israel.

As long as the two sides in this conflict refuse to consider and understand the narratives of the other, there will be no peace. The Palestinians must recognize Israel’s historic claim to its homeland and that Israel defines itself as a Jewish state. They know that non-Jewish citizens of Israel have equal rights under Israel’s Declaration of Independence and Israeli law.

Similarly, Israel must recognize the Palestinian people’s historic attachment to their land and their dream of a state of their own with its capital in (East) Jerusalem. That state, while defining itself as Palestinian, must insure equal rights to non-Arabs and others holding Palestinian citizenship.

There is a roadmap to peace: It is the two-state solution, Israel and Palestine side by side, living in peace. There is no other way. Peace is the only way.

Rabbi Aryeh Meir of Teaneck is on the faculty of the Academy for Jewish Religion and is chairperson of the Teaneck Environmental Commission.

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