President Obama Shows True Leadership By Pushing For Peace Between Israel And Palestine

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On Tuesday, an op-ed written by President Obama appeared in Haaretz, Israel’s oldest newspaper. This op-ed comes as tensions between Israelis and Palestinians are extremely high. Last month, the bodies of three Israeli teens were found in the West Bank. They had been abducted weeks before. Israel claims that the militant group Hamas is responsible for the murders.  Shortly after the discovery of the bodies, a group of Israelis kidnapped and murdered a Palestinian teen in retaliation. While Israeli police have captured six suspects, and three have recently confessed to the killing, the situation in Israel remains very delicate.

The President reached out to the parents and families of all of the slain teens and called for restraint.

And as a father myself, I cannot imagine the pain endured by the parents of Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, who were tragically kidnapped and murdered in June. I am also heartbroken by the senseless abduction and murder of Mohammed Hussein Abu Khdeir, whose life was stolen from him and his family. At this dangerous moment, all parties must protect the innocent and act with reasonableness and restraint, not vengeance and retribution.

In the article, the President reaffirmed his and the nation’s commitment to Israel’s security. He pointed out that the United States has and will always be Israel’s “greatest friend.” The President also highlighted the monetary aid that the US has promised to send Israel to boost its national security.

From Harry Truman through today, the United States has always been Israel’s greatest friend. As I’ve said time and again, neither I nor the United States will ever waver in our commitment to the security of Israel and the Israeli people, and our support for peace will always remain a bedrock foundation of that commitment.

Over the past five years, we’ve expanded our cooperation and today, as Israel’s leaders have affirmed, the security relationship between Israel and the United States is stronger than ever. Our militaries conduct more exercises together.

Our intelligence cooperation is at an all-time high. Together, we’re developing new defense technologies, such as remote IED-sensing equipment and lightweight protective armor that will protect our troops.

Budgets in Washington are tight, but our commitment to Israel’s security remains ironclad. The United States is committed to providing more than $3 billion each year to help finance Israel’s security through 2018. Across the board, our unprecedented security cooperation is making Israel safer, and American investments in Israel’s cutting-edge defense systems like the Arrow interceptor system and Iron Dome are saving lives.

President Obama also reassured Israel that the United States won’t just help Israel’s national security via monetary aid and technology sharing, but also through its engagement with other countries in the region. Specifically, the President pointed out efforts made by the US to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of nations like Syria and Iran.

Our commitment to Israel’s security also extends to our engagement throughout the Middle East. Last month, under American leadership, the international community successfully removed the last of Bashar al-Assad’s declared chemical weapons from Syria. Eliminating this stockpile reduces the ability of a brutal dictator to use weapons of mass destruction to threaten not just the Syrian people but Syria’s neighbors, including Israel. And we will continue working with our partners in Europe and the Arab world to support the moderate opposition and to press for a political solution that resolves a conflict that is feeding a humanitarian crisis and regional instability.

We are also working to ensure that Iran does not ever possess a nuclear weapon. Through tough international negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, we are attempting to peacefully address a major threat to global and regional security, including the security of Israel. We have been clear that any agreement must provide concrete, verifiable assurances that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful, and we have consulted closely with Israel throughout this process. As we draw near to the deadline for negotiations, we do not yet know if these talks will succeed, but our bottom line has not changed. We are determined to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and we are keeping every option on the table to accomplish that goal.

In the end, though, POTUS declared that the only real path for true Israeli security is peace with Palestine. The President plainly stated that Israel needs to work with the Palestinian people to find a peaceful resolution to the long-running turmoil. He also reiterated his support for a Palestinian state and said that peace between Israelis and Palestinians is possible and obtainable.

As I said last year in Jerusalem, peace is necessary, just, and possible. I believed it then. I believe it now. Peace is necessary because it’s the only way to ensure a secure and democratic future for the Jewish state of Israel. While walls and missile defense systems can help protect against some threats, true safety will only come with a comprehensive negotiated settlement. Reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians would also help turn the tide of international sentiment and sideline violent extremists, further bolstering Israel’s security.

Peace is also, undeniably, just. Just as the Israeli people have the right to live in the historic homeland of the Jewish people, the Palestinian people deserve the right to self-determination. Palestinian children have hopes and dreams for their future and deserve to live with the dignity that can only come with a state of their own. And, in President Abbas, Israel has a counterpart committed to a two-state solution and security cooperation with Israel. The United States has repeatedly made clear that any Palestinian government must uphold these long-standing principles: a commitment to non-violence, adherence to past agreements, and the recognition of Israel. With negotiations on hiatus, these principles are more important than ever. All parties must exercise restraint and work together to maintain stability on the ground.

Finally, peace is possible. This is one of the most important things to remember during setbacks and moments of frustration. It will take political will to make the difficult choices that are necessary and support from the Israeli and Palestinian people and civil society. Both parties must be willing to take risks for peace. But at the end of the day, we know where negotiations must lead—two states for two peoples. Refusing to compromise or cooperate with one another won’t do anything to increase security for either the Israeli or the Palestinian people. The only solution is a democratic, Jewish state living side-by-side in peace and security with a viable, independent Palestinian state. That’s why Secretary Kerry and I remain determined to work with both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas to pursue a two-state solution. When the political will exists to recommit to serious negotiations, the United States will be there, ready to do our part.

President Obama showed that he remains firm on his stance regarding a two-state solution and that Israel needs to work with Palestinian leaders to achieve this. It is the only truly humane and just way for tensions between the two groups to finally cease.

Justin Baragona

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