Presbyterians for Middle East Peace commends President Obama on his just-completed trip to Israel. The President spoke powerfully to the fact that the rights and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians must be recognized for peace to be possible. He described the harsh reality of the threats Israel faces and Israel’s right to security, while pointing out that “the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and justice must also be recognized”. The President stressed that the “two state solution”, two states for two peoples, remains the best and most viable path to sustainable peace, saying “the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine”.
President Obama forcefully described the need for ordinary people to engage in bridge-building and peacemaking, saying “That is where peace begins – not just in the plans of leaders, but in the hearts of people; not just in a carefully designed process, but in the daily connections that take place among those who live together in this land, and in this sacred city of Jerusalem. Speaking as a politician, I can promise you this: political leaders will not take risks if the people do not demand that they do. You must create the change that you want to see”.
We were also heartened to hear the President stress the importance of positive investment for peace, a theme that was embraced by the Presbyterian Church at last summer’s General Assembly. President Obama spoke of Israel’s remarkable record of innovation, saying “Already, we see how that innovation could reshape this region. One program here in Jerusalem brings together young Israelis and Palestinians to learn vital skills in technology and business. An Israeli and Palestinian have started a venture capital fund to finance Palestinian start-ups. Over 100 high-tech companies have found a home on the West Bank, which speaks to the talent and entrepreneurial spirit of the Palestinian people”.
We hope that all in the religious community take these words to heart, and embrace bridge-building instead of boycott, investment instead of divestment, and diplomatic, academic, and cultural cooperation instead of sanctions.