With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned to office — in the wake of a campaign where he firmly rejected a two-state solution — and peace efforts in the Israel as well as the Palestinian struggle in shambles, why do I still support efforts to reach a two-state solution?
Because I believe there is no other long-range answer.
It will not be “peace now” or even tomorrow, but it will come someday because there is no rational option.
If there is no peace, imagine Israel in 10 or 20 years. With the natural growth of the Palestinian and Israeli Arab population, and Israel’s de facto annexing some of the West Bank and contemplating formally annexing much of the remainder — an Israeli minority might then be ruling an ever more restive Palestinian majority. Whether the world views this as “apartheid” or chooses some other word, this will mean the end of Israel as a democracy. To preserve the character as a Jewish state will require strong Israeli military control, a shrinking of democratic practices, unconcealed discrimination and a tense, fearful Israeli society. Israel will become a nation characterized not by tolerance, but by racism.
This picture is complicated by the ever-broadening, worldwide condemnation of Israel’s West Bank settlement policies — now leading to increasing boycotts of settlement-produced products, with the threat of these boycotts expanding to include all Israeli products, with crippling economic results — a signal that all of us who care about Israel cannot ignore.
For years, polls among Israeli and Palestinians have shown strong support, usually a majority, favoring a two-state answer. Will the people on each side of this struggle ever find leadership with the courage to move this peace process forward? Someday they must.
As Moshe Dayan once said, “You do not make peace with your friends. You make peace with your enemies.” Israeli and Palestinian leaders should take these words to heart.
You don’t have to love each other to start to set mutually acceptable borders and let time and trade develop mutually beneficial interactions.
I believe all who care about Israel and its future must keep alive this vision for a two state-solution, and with this vision, work in whatever way possible toward this goal. This means supporting those courageous activists on the ground in Israel, like Shalom Achshav and its sister organization in the U.S., Peace Now. These organizations and a few others in Israel and the U.S. are keeping alive the hope and possibility for a two-state solution and pressing their own politicians to get on board and support policies that are genuinely in Israel’s best interest and not the anti-democratic, ultra-conservative and often religiously motivated extremists who seem to value land over enriching human life.
This is a long road, with many ups and downs. But it is imperative to keep this vision alive, and that is why I continue to support Peace Now.
Los Angeles philanthropist Richard S. Gunther is a board member of Americans for Peace Now and New Israel Fund.