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Peace Is Possible in the Middle East
Congressman Jesse L. Jackson, Jr., USA
May 2, 2002
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "quiet is the absence of noise, but peace requires the presence of justice."
As Americans, that is our charge and our challenge in the Middle East. We seek not only to establish quiet from bombs and bullets, but also to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.
Even at this dark hour of death and destruction, peace is still possible in the Middle East.
Although involving Arabs and Jews, the crisis in the region is not an ethnic problem. While it invokes Judaism and Islam, it is not a religious problem. Though engulfing an ancient land, it is not an archaic problem.
At its root, the crisis between the Israelis and the Palestinians is a political problem requiring a political solution, not a military one. It is intractable, but not impossible. And, it demands American engagement and American leadership to solve.
Our proper and necessary role in the region must be that of an honest and balanced broker, a mediator between the two sides, and a facilitator of peace. A broker understands and honors the needs, fears and aspirations of each and must maintain the trust and confidence of both. A mediator talks and listens to both sides, steps in the gaps of distrust and enmity, and reconciles differences and disputes. A facilitator recognizes and holds both sides accountable for the obligations and compromises each side must make for progress and peace.
Undoubtedly, just as it takes more than one party to make war, it takes more than one party to make peace. While we have no closer friend and ally than Israel, it is not our only friend and ally. Our interests are broad and should not be restricted to just one country in the entire region.
To do so, would compromise our own long-term national interests, diminish our standing and influence in the world, and abdicate our role and responsibility as the sole Superpower. Such a move would be tragic for us and for them, leaving both sides with no final arbiter, no place to turn other than violence.
It's time to break that vicious cycle. It's time to end the bloodshed and the heartbreak. It's time to do everything in our power to encourage both sides to make the hard choices and to take the daring steps toward peace.
Yet, instead of leadership and vision, this Congress has offered an unbalanced, untimely and counterproductive resolution. Because of what is in it and what is not, H. Res. 392 is not what is needed now. It is not constructive. It will not advance peace. I cannot support it.
This resolution rightly demonstrates support for the security of Israel. We recognize Israel's vulnerable position amidst a hostile neighborhood and unequivocally support and defend its right to exist within secure and internationally recognized boundaries.
However, this resolution wrongly omits statements of support for Palestinian self-determination and national rights. We should reaffirm our support for the right of the Palestinians to have their own state with secure and internationally recognized boundaries.
This resolution correctly condemns and opposes the use of terrorism and suicide bombings that intentionally targets and kills innocent Israeli civilians. We uphold Israel's right to combat legitimate targets and prevent such savage and brutal attacks.
Yet, this measure unfairly ignores the Israeli occupation and settlements on Palestinian territory. In a recent editorial, The New York Times stated, "Just as terror is the greatest Palestinian threat to Middle East peace, so are settlements on territory captured in the 1967 war the greatest Israeli obstacle to peace. They deprive the Palestinians of prime land and water, break up Palestinian geographic continuity, are hard to defend against Palestinian attack and complicate the establishment of a clear, secure Israeli border."
H. Res. 392 properly cites the mounting death toll and carnage caused by Palestinian attackers on Israelis. We mourn their deaths and share their grief. Yet, the measure makes only passing reference to Palestinian casualties and no mention at all of Israel's controversial incursion into Jenin, where the debris, devastation and death warrant an impartial investigation and an international humanitarian response.
Perhaps most unsettling, is the imperfect analogy within which this resolution is framed. The measure equates America's war on terrorism with Israel's campaign in the West Bank. But, such a clear and convenient comparison is not so easy to make and, as The Washington Post observed, "overlooks this contest for territory and sovereignty underlying the Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed."
Surely, Israel is justified in protecting itself and uprooting terrorism. While war is disastrous and often messy, it does not justify deliberately raiding and wrecking banks, schools, streets, and municipal buildings. Yet, the Israeli offensive in the West Bank not only dismantled the terrorist infrastructure, but also systematically destroyed the civil infrastructure and institutions of Palestinian self-government. They are not one in the same. Yet, both lay in ruin. If only for their own sake and standing, Israel must adopt a policy that differentiates between the two. And, the world should know that we know the difference as well.
p>In this bloody stalemate, one side is not entirely at fault and the other completely free of it. Both sides know fear. Both know hardship. Both know suffering and tragedy. But, instead of comparing and measuring wounds, we should aid in healing them. Rather than concentrating on the failures of war, we should focus on the possibilities of peace.
Peace should be the crux and motive of this measure. But, it is not, and so the Administration asked the House not to consider it. Yet, despite the objections, Congress does so anyway.
In lieu of H. Res. 392, Congress should offer its imprimatur, its influence, and its ideas to animate and encourage efforts to pave a pathway to peace. We know that the framework of a final settlement already exists in U.N. Resolution 242, 338, 1397, 1402, Oslo, and most recently, the Saudi Peace Initiative. We know that the basic formula is land for peace. We know that an economic recovery plan is necessary to rebuild and revitalize the region. We know that an international presence is required to sustain a final negotiated settlement. Now, we, the United States, must help to figure out how to forge it and flesh it out.
Undoubtedly, it will be hard. At the very least, it will require the commitment of the Israelis and the Palestinians. Both sides must meet the challenge and give to the other what it wants for itself—dignity, security and peace.
Ultimately, there will and must be two nations—Israel and a Palestinian state—living as neighbors, both sovereign, secure, stable, free and democratic. Only then, after such a long and tumultuous nightmare, Israelis and Palestinians will wake up in the Holy Land to a new morning. And, to peace.
Jesse L. Jackson, Jr., is a Congressman (D-IL) from the Second Congressional District, Illinois.
Statement by Congressman Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. regarding his "No" vote on H. Res. 392, Thursday, May 2, 2002.