Ziad Asali
Middle East Times (Opinion)
November 8, 2007 - 1:00am

It has festered for decades and has been at the core of other related conflicts across the Middle East that threaten global peace and security. Although the contours of its ultimate resolution have been known for sometime, the efforts to bring it about peacefully by creating a state of Palestine alongside Israel have been stymied by political forces on all sides that have exercised veto powers to block it.

By presenting the issue as a zero sum game, these passionate and vocal forces have prevented the evolution of the political base needed to achieve a meaningful and lasting compromise.

In addition to dominating the discourse on Palestine/Israel in the U.S., this diverse array of groups also capitalized on the absence of a Palestinian voice by articulating it themselves in the most negative terms.

The silver lining in this cloud however, was that these forces advanced their aims simply by using the tools afforded them by the American political system. This system was designed specifically to respond to organized and serious engagement by all Americans no matter what causes they have advocated.

With this in mind, and for the purpose of empowering moderate Palestinian Americans, the most concerned party in the US and the one that is most qualified to initiate a serious national dialogue with Americans Jews and other Americans to move this conflict towards resolution, a group of like-minded Palestinian Americans set out to establish the American Task Force on Palestine in 2003. Prior to

that, advocacy for Palestine in the U.S. was missing a central component, an authentic Palestinian American perspective. Typically, representing that perspective were Arab embassies, Arab-American organizations or left-wing Jewish Americans. ATFP’s core mission was to insert that unique Palestinian American voice at the highest level of official and unofficial decision-making and opinion-making circles regarding Palestine, focusing on advocating the vital U.S. national interest in the establishment of such a state.

In addition to resonating extremely well in Washington policymaking circles, ATFP’s approach has reoriented the existing framework defining pro-Israel and pro-Palestine advocates in the U.S. from one of ‘blame game’ adversarial rhetoric to a ‘win-win’ positive and forward-looking framework for the U.S., Israel and the Palestinians.

Other elements of this approach include articulating the American interest in establishing a Palestinian state above all others; making the distinction between being against the Israeli occupation rather than against Israel; crafting a message that is consistent, credible and relatable by the American public; and redefining the issue as one between those in support of a fair and just sharing of the land and those against.

Such a multi-pronged approach enabled ATFP to establish a Palestinian- American voice in U.S. policy-making circles. This has been reflected in invitations for expert testimonies at Congressional hearings on Palestine, solid working relations with the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships, growing alliances with Jewish-American organizations also advocating a two-state solution to the conflict, and regular meetings with top Administration officials seeking a Palestinian voice on current issues.

While this access and influence is new for a Palestinian advocacy group, we are keenly aware of the enormous amount of work that still needs to be done.

Much of this work centers on our plans to spearhead a new National Coalition for a Two-State Solution in the United States. At its core, such a coalition would include a wide spectrum of Palestinian, Jewish and Arab American organizations all sharing the common goal of advocating a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Supporting them would be a national array of organizations, church and labor groups, influential individuals and Fortune 500 companies.

This wide national coalition will include strange bed fellows who find themselves in agreement on this one issue while they have very little else in common. Such a coalition would address the main challenge facing members of Congress who typically shy away from actively supporting a two-state solution by giving them the political support of local constituents who are a part of national network of support.

There is no guarantee of success. Rapid developments on the ground in Israel/Palestine and the Middle East are challenging two-state solution prospects. These challenges include the rising influence of Iran and its proxies in Palestine and elsewhere, the ascent of radical Islam, continuing Israeli occupation and settlement activity as well as internal Palestinian disunity. However, not engaging the system in a deep, wide, rapid and coordinated national effort to address these challenges and establish a Palestinian state guarantees failure.


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