Ronald J. Young

Article excerpt

Ronald J. Young

One would think that prospects for peace in the Middle East would be brighter with the disappearance of the Soviet Union from the international scene. This has allowed the United States greater leverage to make feuding parties reduce tensions and work toward peace.

One would also have thought that the task of men like Ronald Young would be easier in a post-Cold War period following the Camp David accord. It looked like that for some time. But each time a lasting settlement seems closer in the Middle East, something happens to disrupt carefully crafted arrangements. Many have lost hope and given up. But not Ronald J. Young, author of the book Missed Opportunities for Peace.

Ron Young is executive director of the U.S. Interreligious Committee for Peace in the Middle East, an organization that he established in 1987 and today operates from Marysville, WA. Earlier, he worked from 1982 to 1985 in Amman, Jordan, as the representative of the American Friends Service Committee, an organization that strives for "Justice, Human Rights, Peace and Reconciliation" and has a special focus on the Middle East. During his stay in the Middle East, Young traveled widely and frequently and visited Israel several times. In the course of his travels he met both Arab and Jewish leaders, and concentrated on means of reducing mistrust and misunderstandings.

He and his wife, Carol Jensen, have put themselves repeatedly in the middle of heated debates. Several times their credenrials and even their motives were questioned, but nothing deterred their quest for peace.

Talking to the Washington Report at a meeting arranged by the American Muslim Council in Washington, DC, Ron Young cited the need to recognize that although there are extremists in both camps, there also are "reasonable people" on both sides who see the futility of living in a state of perpetual war. The hope of bringing the contending viewpoints closer together and establishing a climate of mutual trust lies with these moderates, who demonstrate a willingness to give and take, Young believes. He adds, "Let us all admit that Israel is a reality just as the Palestinians have a right to a sovereign territory in which to live."

Ron Young believes the United States has an opportunity today to play a more effective role in bringing about peace in the Middle East. "Unfortunately, when we all thought we were well on our way to a major breakthrough for peace, an extremist assassinated Yitzak Rabin, Shimon Peres lost the elections and Binyamin Netanyahu became the new Israeli prime minister, creating serious doubts about the future of the peace process," Young notes. However, he sees this not as the beginning of the end of the peace process, but as a challenge. …