Presidential Questions on Peace Process

Israel's Ready for Compromise But Palestinians May Not Be

4 Questions: What would President Obama or Mitt Romney do to move the Middle East peace process forward?
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4 Questions: What would President Obama or Mitt Romney do to move the Middle East peace process forward?

By Noam Neusner

Published May 15, 2012, issue of May 18, 2012.
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Which is not to say that they won’t, just that they haven’t. And it would be far more revealing to ask Obama — as well as his challenger — just what he believes caused the failure of the peace process over the last three-plus years. Does he blame himself? Or someone else?

Here’s hoping he has the courage to name precisely who is to blame: the Palestinians.

Peace is not a switch you turn on inside the Oval Office; it is a state of affairs, around which many things must happen. It does not occur by virtue of a meeting of leaders, or by amassing signatures on a page. And it does not result from speeches.

Peace is the exhausting of the options of war and incitement. It is the end point after which the other options for conflict and competition are used up. Peace is what happens after many funerals, and many folded flags.

And here is the thing about Israel: It’s ready for peace. It’s never been more ready. It is a nation ready to blossom in a peaceful age. A nation of remarkable talent and beauty and receptivity. It is a nation of travelers and language learners and cultural experimenters. This is a nation that, when peace comes, its people will know what to do.

But the other side has to reach that moment, too. At times, and in pockets, we have seen it. But not enough. Not nearly enough. The Palestinians haven’t exhausted the option of violence. I fear they are still in the early stages.

It would be good for the next American president — whoever he is — to recognize that there will be no peace until both sides have accepted the end of war and incitement. Let those who stand to gain the most from peace demand it. Let them make the sacrifices for it. Let them exhaust themselves to it.

The timetable of the American presidency will not hasten that day. Neither the first day of a presidency nor the last will make any difference. They say peace agreements exist only for people who need peace. In this case, both sides need it. But only one side wants it.

I hope that this recognition will temper the expectations of the Oval Office’s occupant on January 21, 2013. Not because I don’t wish for peace, but because I wish for peace to mean what the word actually means.

Noam Neusner is a principal with the communications firm 30 Point Strategies. He was a speechwriter for President George W. Bush.


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