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Issue Date:  March 3, 2006

America's leaders must recommit to the two-state solution


The Middle East always seems to be at a “crucial,” “vital” or “very dangerous” time, but concerned Americans must see Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s incapacitation and Hamas’ election victory as especially troubling developments. Gen. Sharon, architect of settlements, turned into the one who led Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza with remarkably little conflict, confounding those who had predicted violence between Israeli settlers and soldiers and demonstrating again the resilience of Israel’s democratic society. Can Gen. Sharon’s Kadima party become more than a personal vehicle and gather enough support to enable his successors to take similar risks for peace? Hamas’ success, even if explained by Palestinians’ desire to rid themselves of Fatah’s corruption, brings to power a movement committed to radical Islam, the destruction of Israel and terrorism.

What can thoughtful Americans do now? We should call on the administration to recommit our country to the two-state solution President George Bush outlined in June 2002. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s visit to the region last November, and her effective brokering of an agreement while there, is a reminder of the continuing influence of the United States.

President Bush has many priorities, but seeking peace between Israelis and Palestinians through two states must stay at the top of the list for three reasons.

First, it was the right policy in 2002 and it is the right policy today, even in the face of setbacks. If America had more actively pursued the two-state policy these past three and a half years, perhaps Hamas’ appeal might have been undercut. A two-state policy also speaks to the fundamental positive values held by Palestinians and Israelis. Poll after poll shows that both want two states.

Second, pursuing the two-state solution would help us succeed in Iraq and support the effort to combat terrorist networks around the world. Al-Qaeda’s strategic interests are advanced by the continuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In Arab and in other Muslim countries whose cooperation we need to fight terrorist networks, judgments about American intentions are disproportionately a function of their people’s views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

We need the support of these same Arab and Muslim countries and the support of Europeans in the effort to rebuild Iraq, keep focused on Afghanistan, stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons and fight terror. The administration is right to return to a policy of multilateral action and consultation such as the recent meeting of the Middle East Quartet and joint efforts on Iran. More active pursuit of the president’s two-state policy would gather even more support.

Third, if Hamas wants to participate in governing, it must recognize Israel’s right to exist, end its support of violence and renounce terrorism. There can be no compromise on this. Will anything encourage Hamas to make these changes? The best answer may be American recommitment to two states: If the Palestinian people came to understand that but for Hamas’ murderous ideology, they could work for a state supported by America and championed by President Bush, they might pressure their leaders to focus on a future of hope for their children rather than Hamas’ vision of more suicide bombers.

What can concerned people do to encourage the administration’s active effort on the two-state solution? One possibility is to join the Campaign for American Leadership in the Middle East. The campaign is a nonpartisan Internet petition designed to show President Bush that the American people support a two-state solution ( Thousands of Americans from all 50 states have already signed on electronically to the petition. Well-known Americans who have done so include Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick; former Defense Secretary William Cohen; former 9/11 Commission Chairman Tom Kean and Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton; former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright, Warren Christopher and Larry Eagleburger; FedEx Chairman and CEO Fred Smith; and Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders throughout the country.

We have arrived at another of those “crucial” moments in the Middle East. America has an important role to play in bringing peace to that troubled land. Supporting the Campaign for American Leadership in the Middle East can help send the right message to Washington.

Marc Grossman is vice chairman of The Cohen Group, which supports the Campaign for American Leadership in the Middle East. He was undersecretary of state for political affairs from 2001-2005.

National Catholic Reporter, March 3, 2006

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