Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

A Dogged Pursuit of Middle East Peace

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

A Dogged Pursuit of Middle East Peace

Article excerpt

GEORGE MITCHELL, the former U.S. senator who famously brokered peace in Northern Ireland, knows the path to peace is unpredictable. "Until it happens," he said, "you can't predict with certainty. ... You can't take no' for an answer.... You just have to keep at it until peace is achieved."

After five years of stalled Middle East peace talks, Secretary of State John Kerry lured Israeli and Palestinian negotiators back to the peace table in July. Sadly, my desk is littered with articles by naysayers who seem more than willing to "take no' for an answer" when it comes to peace in the Holy Land.

Naysayers point to the expansion of Jewish settlements and the polit- ical power of Israeli hawks, as well as the divisions in Palestinian soci- ety that convince them there is "no true partner for peace." Certainly years of disappointments and failed negotiations offer ample cause for skepticism.

But I agree with Faisal Abbas, who suggests that cynicism is a lazy option we can't afford. "Negotiations may succeed or fail to achieve peace," he writes, "but the alternative (not having these negotiations) is guaran- teed to fail."

He is not alone. For every pun- dit preaching pessimism, I find another betting on hope. "The deal is still workable. It is still politically viable," writes Ben Birnbaum in The New Republic. He notes an increasing willingness to compromise in both Israeli and Palestinian public opin- ion, Kerry's tenacity, as well as Arab League support for the peace process.

Lara Friedman writes compel- lingly in The Jewish Journal about another reason to pursue peace: The stakes are simply too high to give up. "The current Kerry- backed peace effort is probably the last, best hope for achiev- ing Israeli-Palestinian peace in this gener- ation." Without it, she predicts, the con- flict will play into the hands of extremists on both sides, "with dev- astating implications for everyone else ... mutual bloodletting." To avoid that, she says, "we must dog- gedly support the pursuit of peace ... refusing to allow skeptics, cynics, and spoilers to demoralize us or distract us from our goal."

I know Lara. An experienced for- mer U.S. diplomat who loves Israel and cares deeply about Palestinians, she's an expert in policy and inter- national affairs. …

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