Election 2000 and U.S.-Israel Relations

Article excerpt

Election 2000 and U.S.-Israel Relations

Debra DeLee is president and CEO of Americans for Peace Now.

As I write, we still don't know who will be the next president of the United States, nor do we know the final composition of the 107th Congress. But even before the dust settles, the one thing we do know is that the challenge for progressive forces in Israel and in the American Jewish community will be to familiarize ourselves with the new players in Washington and to educate them about the complexities of life in the Middle East.

The next administration and Congress will need to learn that a majority of Israelis still support the peace process, even during times of trouble. Polls show that up to 66 percent of Israelis favor continuing the peace process with the Palestinians, compared with 31 percent who do not and 3 percent who don't know. Further, surveys indicate that 59 percent of Israelis would either vote for, or are leaning towards voting for, a final status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians based on what they have heard until now, while 32 percent would vote against it or are leaning towards voting against it, and 9 percent don't know. Some American Jewish groups have walked away from the peace process, but U.S. decision-makers must be told that the Israeli people have not.

The next administration and Congress will need to learn that Israelis support peace because they are pragmatists who recognize that the only alternative is ongoing rioting, violence, and destruction. Some groups in our community point to renewed hostilities as proof that the peace process failed. But the exact opposite is true. The recent turmoil underscores the failure of prolonged stalemate and what can fill the vacuum in the absence of peace. Israelis already know this, but Washington must be made to understand that peace is the only acceptable response to what is taking place in the region.

The next administration and Congress will need to learn that peace is in the best interests of Israel because it provides the Jewish State with greater international acceptance, foreign investment, economic growth, and stability. The peace process was the reason that Israeli high-tech companies had an environment that encouraged their phenomenal growth, that the tourist industry was booming, that moderate Arab states were willing to establish diplomatic relations, and that the Israeli standard of living had risen to Western European levels.

And the next administration and Congress will need to learn that peace serves American interests as well. …