Once upon a time the President of the United States , one Lyndon B. Johnson , was quoted making another of his not infrequent colorful statements: "Better to have them inside the tent pissing out than outside pissing in." It's not easy to be an earnest Israeli, Palestinian or American peacemaker today. The right is angry at the idea of making any concessions to the "other." The left is screaming that the occupation is illegal, criminal and virtually any steps to support it or to endorse anything short of the outright acceptance of the 1967 borders is not available. And then there are the people, parties, organizations and governments known as extremists.
It doesn't matter whether you are in the United States, Israel or the Palestinian territories or represent any other international capitol; if you are a politician, you bow to the various interest groups who elected you, feud with the opposition and respond to the public and private power brokers who are living within or affecting your kingdom, nation, state, (fill in the blank). It is 2010 and Israeli/Palestinian peace talks are almost off the table once again. The odds makers have been joined by a chorus of naysayers who can count all the reasons why peace is virtually unattainable. Each side is more than wary of the other and has more than its share of internal disaffection and external pressures pushing hard against any meaningful progress let alone a lasting agreement. And yet people in East and West Jerusalem, Haifa and Nablus, Ramallah and Tel Aviv, Bethlehem , Sderot and Rafah and all the other towns, villages and cities need desperately to find a way to sleep soundly each night with the knowledge that their lives are secure and even more importantly their children can go about their lives unmolested by guns and bombs and missiles and rockets and checkpoints and the unending threat of the next attack. To do this just about everyone has to look beyond their home, their religion, their party and even their country. To do this requires new thinking, the development of new relationships and the kind of political and public statesmanship that I'm not sure I've ever seen in my fifty five years on this planet. That means Netanyahu must look beyond the limits of his coalition and yet recognize the power of the warning of LBJ. It means Abbas must be willing to negotiate and to accept less than was offered by the previous Israeli leader. It means that Obama must mediate and educate without taking sides even as the international community is actively engaged in playing multiple positive roles. Is it realistic to suppose that it is not only possible but doable? A lot of really smart people say no. But since that has never stood in the way of progress, I like to think that together we can change the odds and the outcome.
It is true that if there is no security there will be no peace. It is equally true that if there is no peace there will be no security.