The past few weeks have demonstrated what seems to be just the latest episode in a history of failed negotiations. We thought this time was different; we thought we finally had leaders who were committed to being partners for peace, and with hope we looked to Secretary of State John Kerry to bring us an outcome different from that of previous peace talks.
Yet, in light of a formal end to a nine-month negotiation period which brought no progress, it is clear that there still is not enough pressure on the parties to make peace. Americans had a historic opportunity to end a brutal conflict through diplomacy but once again let it go because of our inability to shift from conversations about blame to conversations about responsibility. We cannot let a failed peace process turn into an excuse to ultimately perpetuate the status quo instead of challenging or deconstructing it. Because if anything has become clear, it is that the status quo is unsustainable.
The failure of peace talks time and again is not the failure of a dream. It is not a chance to call for continued occupation, a one-state solution or a bi-national state. Rather, it is an affirmation that the only acceptable solution for people who believe in peace is one that ensures self-determination for both peoples: a Jewish democratic state in Israel as well as a free and independent state in Palestine, side by side in peace and security.
Why do I keep dreaming, even after the suspension of negotiations? Because, as a young progressive American in solidarity with the Palestinian people who also feels a deep sense of responsibility to and identification with Israel, I am overwhelmed by an undeniable urgency. With each passing day and with each settlement that is constructed, the window for diplomacy is closing. However, the growing momentum I’ve witnessed from Americans who push their leaders to takemeaningful diplomatic actions proves that the window has not yet closed.
There is no denying that, as American Jews, we have unique political leverage. I’m tired of hearing, “I have to be either pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian,” and I am frustrated by the inability of my family, friends and peers on both sides of the table to put their confidence in a future built on trust instead of closing their minds because of a violent and complex history.
Today, we are at a crossroads. It’s time to take an active step and redefine the American political conversation surrounding the conflict and create space for progressive action. At this crucial political moment, it’s time for the American Jewish community to recognize that a voice for peace is a voice for Israel.
The last nine months have been a wakeup call. Even in the face of disappointment, frustration and hopelessness, we must push for a two-state solution while the window is still open. We need to create active movements that bring people together and foster dialogue; we need to model the peace talks we want.
If the U.S. is truly committed to a solution, Kerry needs to stop allowing the continued expansion of settlements in the West Bank and hold Israel accountable to its values, while also holding Palestine — especially in reconciliation with Hamas — accountable for its commitment to nonviolence and other negotiation agreements.
For the peace process to truly succeed, the U.S. must work to be an impartial third partner, acknowledging the struggles and legitimacy of the claims of both Israel and Palestine, but also pushing a globally supported framework for a solution more aggressively than ever before. We have a responsibility to change the conversation so that Kerry can put politics aside and be unafraid to say the unpopular when putting forth a solution, not accepting anything less than a just end to the conflict for two states for two peoples.