Several generations have now grown up with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Central to that reality has been the start and stop of Arab-Israeli peace talks, which always seem to take one step forward and then three back. But in some areas of the world, most recently on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., talks between Arabs and Israelis are continually moving forward with the same message: peace.
Yesterday I attended a discussion hosted by Americans for Peace Now (APN), which featured Ori Nir of APN and Hussein Ibish of the American Task Force on Palestine. While their speeches, comments, and answers to questions were certainly insightful, the most striking lesson that I left the brown bag lunch with was the plain and simple fact that an Arab and an Israeli could talk with one another and agree upon the most basic desire for anyone involved in the Middle East: peace in Israel/Palestine.
Now, at first that sounds rather silly to come out of such a discussion focusing on this basic and fairly self-evident thought. However, from my short time working on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and especially how it is approached in the United States, I have found that many people deeply involved in the issue have lost sight of that basic fact. We all want the same thing. Jewish Israelis, Arabs, American Jews and Arab-Israelis all deeply desire peace. The main problem of the specific terms of peace still appears insurmountable at times, but the end goal is a common one.
At the talk, which was open by invitation to interns on Capitol Hill in hopes of inspiring the younger generation to work towards a comprehensive peace, of course the standard topics of two-state versus one-state solution, Hamas, the future of Fatah, Palestinian state-building efforts, the effect of the American government, etc. were all touched upon. Listening to the complexity of the issue unravel before you, the probability of a successful two-state solution not only seems far off but shrouded in complicating factors and misleading stereotypes held by all sides. But unlike most talks on this issue that I have attended, I came away from this one optimistic and uplifted by the image of an Israeli and an Arab both speaking passionately about the need for peace – the need not only just for the Palestinians and Israelis, but for all Americans, all Arabs, and the world to realize this peace.
Peace can and must come to pass in this conflict, which has continued throughout not just my lifetime but my parents’ lifetimes as well. Such a peace can only succeed if all parties stop focusing on what the other side is doing wrong and instead recognize that they are not the only party with dear interests at stake. I am entirely aware that my statements now are highly idealistic and that peace is complicated by many factors, not least of which is the imbalance of power between Israel and the Palestinians. But without reminding ourselves to think of all the interests involved in the issue and the common-held desire to see peace within our lifetimes, I believe that a true, successful peace will be lost.