Peace depends on the recognition of Israel

This is a republication of an original article written by Jonathan Aires in the Hoya on Tuesday, January 31, 2006 and in the Israel Campus Beat on Sunday, February 5, 2006.

Israel will always strive for peace with all of her neighbors. This has been proven time and again. One need only look at the history of Israel’s diplomatic relations with her neighbors to understand how deeply she yearns for peace. Israel reached peace with Egypt in 1979 and with Jordan in 1994. In 2000, it completed a total withdrawal from southern Lebanon and offered the Palestinians a full state.

Whether you’re familiar with the situation or not, the conclusion is pretty clear: when Israel has had the opportunity, Israel has taken the initiative and made peace. In the summer of 2005, Israel completely withdrew from the Gaza Strip. There is neither an Israeli civilian nor military presence left in Gaza. The Palestinians now control an international border of their own for the first time.

In withdrawing, Israel took a tremendous risk. Unable to negotiate with a Palestinian regime that refused to take on the terrorist groups that undermine the peace process, Israel’s leaders believed that a unilateral move might jolt the process forward by spurring the Palestinian Authority into action while proving Israel’s commitment to the peace process.

The thinking went that the Palestinians would finally have a chance to govern themselves and prove to their own people, to Israel and to the international community that they were serious about making peace with Israel. Having spent part of this past summer in Israel, I know that many Israelis were supportive of the move because they genuinely believed it was good for the country, good for their future and ultimately good for the peace process — something that would benefit Palestinians and Israelis alike.

So, you might ask, what have the Palestinians done with this tremendous opportunity? Well, in the first elections for the Palestinian parliament in 10 years, members of the terrorist organization Hamas were voted into 76 of the 132 seats. I’m sure that commentators and analysts will debate the causes of this victory ad nauseum. Some argue that it was essentially a rejection of the long-ruling Fatah party rather than a show of support for Hamas. Others highlight Hamas’ ability to provide social services in an incredibly corrupt and lawless environment.

But to focus on the explanations would be to miss the point. More than anything, the juxtaposition of the newly elected Palestinian leadership with the moderate Israeli leadership leads to one conclusion: that while the Palestinian population might genuinely want a two-state solution, only one government has a proven record on real, substantive moves toward a full and lasting peace. That government is Israel.

In the coming weeks, the debate over these issues will be intense. In a university, freedom of speech is crucial, but so is common sense. All sorts of arguments will be heard regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and what is required to solve it. Above all, however, I urge you to keep in mind two prerequisites to peaceful progress. You can be sure that any group that is unwilling both to recognize Israel’s right to exist and to condemn suicide bombings is not concerned with seeking full justice for both Palestinians and Israelis. If these prerequisites are not recognized, a two-state solution will be unattainable.

Throughout my four years of involvement with the Georgetown Israel Alliance, we have publicly endorsed a two-state solution and tried to promote an active and constructive dialogue towards an Israeli-Palestinian peace. We have engaged the campus community by working with groups from UNICEF to Christianity in Politics to organize events that highlight mainstream political, social and academic views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. An example of this practice can be found in our upcoming ‘Mothers for Peace’ event on Feb. 8, which will feature a dialogue between one Palestinian and one Israeli mother.

They will discuss what they believe is necessary for peace to be achieved between Israelis and Palestinians. I am sure they will have disagreements. I am almost positive there will be a heated but constructive dialogue between the mothers and with their audience. With this event, as with all others we have held, we know that any progress on the peace front is absolutely dependent on two things: recognition of Israel’s right to exist and a complete condemnation of violent, Islamic terrorism aimed at the state of Israel. With the recent Hamas victory, a commitment to the two prerequisites is more necessary than ever.

About the Author

Jonathan Aires is a senior in the School of Foreign Service and a board member of the Georgetown Israel Alliance.