Ziad Asali
The Jordan Times (Opinion)
November 19, 2004 - 1:00am

A consensus about the contours of a genuine and lasting peace between
Israelis and Palestinians is well known. Its essential elements have
been expressed in Clinton's Taba proposal, the Geneva and Nusseibeh-
Ayalon plans, and the roadmap. Surveys of Palestinians, Israelis,
American Jews and Arabs indicate support for a two-state solution.

However, an opposing minority in each camp has exercised its power
predictably and effectively to thwart the will of the majorities.
These forces are opposed to peace because they think time is on their
side. The Israeli opposition, whether national or religious, believes that
if Israel hangs tough, it will in time rule the whole land of Palestine
without significant challenge. The Palestinian and Arab opposition,
whether national or religious, believes that Israel is just another
Crusader state that will vanish in time.

The truth is that Palestinians struggling alone are unlikely to achieve a
state in Palestine no matter how steadfast, or even wise, they are. With
only the support of the Arab and Muslim worlds, the Palestinians have
been, and probably will be, unable to achieve independence.

Israelis have to make a choice between working together in a serious
way with the Palestinians, the majority of whom are anxious to
negotiate an end to occupation on reasonable terms, or to dash the hope
of the Palestinians for a state and simply hope for a less troubled
future. Should the compromise fail, it is hard to see how Israel can
escape a looming confrontation for the balance of the century with over
a billion Muslims clamouring for the liberation of Jerusalem.

The status quo is clearly painful and untenable for both sides. Even if
Israel were to fully implement a Gaza disengagement plan, the
fundamental elements of the conflict would remain unresolved and a
solution based on two viable states would still be the fundamental
requirement for peace.

An alliance of Palestinians and significant segments of Israeli society,
working in tandem with Arab Americans and American Jews, all
committed to the grand compromise, can form the core of the coalition
needed to produce positive movement. The existing global consensus
for peace should help empower this alliance to achieve its objective.

American politics are based on building alliances. They are pluralistic.
No single party or group is powerful enough to achieve its objectives
on its own. Single-issue coalitions are forged between groups pursuing
a defined objective that they have in common, regardless of their other
strategies, ideologies or even competing interests.

The alliance that traditional Zionists have forged over decades is
astounding in its breadth and depth. Centring on support for Israel, it
consists of groups as varied as the Republican and Democratic parties,
labour unions and chambers of commerce, Christian fundamentalists
and white liberals, black leaders and conservative southerners, as well
as a legion of voices in liberal and conservative media outlets. This
coalition is one of the most successful convergences of strange
bedfellows that have ever been assembled.

A cursory look around the United States reveals wide support for a
two-state solution among the majority of American Jews, Arab
Americans, especially Palestinians, the moderate wing of the
Republican Party, and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party,
the public at large, academia, mainstream churches and many ethnic
groups with an emerging voice of support in the media. Yet, until now,
no thread ties these groups together around this issue.

Indeed, gatherings of what ought to be the core constituents of such an
alliance — like-minded Jewish, and Arab or Palestinian Americans —
more often than not reveal vast psychological and emotional divisions
separating them. Human bonds are rarely created, and tribal ties prove
more solid than reasoned strategies. Real, no-nonsense, business-like
communication has yet to evolve. In the meantime, calm and rational
public discourse is stifled by passionate voices of recrimination and

The two communities must endeavour to search for answers together
rather than to score debating points.

The coalition we seek can only work if it is perceived to serve the
interest of each group as it defines it for itself. Different constituencies
— both in the Middle East and in the United States, and on both the
left and right wings — might, for diametrically opposed reasons, agree
on the desirability of a two-state solution. In fact, and whether they
recognise it yet or not, this agreement alone makes them important
potential allies.

There is a further basis on which Jewish-Americans and Arab-
Americans can unite in support of conflict resolution: as loyal
Americans. Every serious observer of anti-American fanaticism has
recognised that no step would be more powerful in diminishing its
appeal than a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. United
States has much to gain in terms of promoting its values, economic
interests and status as a world leader from such a resolution, and our
interests suffer substantially from the failure to end this most longrunning
and damaging of conflicts.

Those who are serious about achieving a solution of Palestine alongside-
Israel will have to forge the coalition that can make it
happen. At its core must be a self-respecting, dependable relationship
among like-minded people in Palestine and Israel and in the United
States. Anti-Semitism and anti-Islamism are poisonous and to be
avoided as such.

It is our obligation to confront all these ills through a working bond of
brave people committed to building an alliance for a genuine and
lasting peace.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017