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The Question of Palestine Today
Paris, France
July 13, 2005

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A new alliance for peace: New partners, new conceptions, new methodology

The Question of Palestine is a twentieth century problem that has unfortunately cross over the threshold and is still fully with us in the twenty-first century. Although there are signs of hope, the suffering continues and solutions are not easy to come by, for the root causes lie deep and do not lend themselves to simply solutions. In fact, the full scope of the problem cannot be fully understood nor solved if analyzed solely from the perspective of national sovereignty and political paradigms. Issues of national sovereignty are of course crucial, but, as the efforts of the last century have shown, as necessary as they may be, they are not sufficient to enable the people of the region to do what is needed to create peace.

We are at a time in history when it is becoming clear that approaches to peace must be comprehensive. Peace is neither a commodity nor a destination. It is a way of life. Peace is constructed from specific kinds of human interactions and it is compromised by others. Therefore, to achieve genuine solutions to the question of Palestine, we will have to focus on developing key capacities among both leadership and citizens at large Politics alone is insufficient. Good media coverage alone is insufficient. Sound philosophy alone is insufficient. Even many grassroots and personal actions that engender peace are, by themselves, insufficient. Global systems of communication and coordination alone are insufficient. They all need to work together to get the job done.

The question of Palestine a question for humanity
In the end, the question of Palestine continues to cry out for an answer: does humanity have the capacity to resolve the root causes of conflict and violence or do we simply maintain the status quo and do the best with what we have? Do we have the courage to do what really needs to be done at this time? And this is a question not only for the Israelis and the Palestinians, but also for the Quartet?the Americans, the Russians, Europeans and the United Nations family of nations.

Today?s current default roadmap to peace is that put forward by the Quartet. Key milestones have been laid out that, a central pillar of this roadmap being the establishment of a political relationship between Israelis and Palestinians as sovereign states. However, we stand at a juncture some fifty-seven years since the original resolution, and we are still barely out of the starting gate on the journey toward this two-state solution.

How are the deep animosities, the complex intensity of religious passions and generations of mistrust to be balanced by the full realization of our common humanity, and the common future of Israelis and Palestinians alike?

Political methods alone have failed to effect peace throughout the twentieth century. For peace to emerge in this ?Holy Land,? hope first needs to become a viable alternative to hopelessness and the violence it fosters. This hope must then give rise to trusting, productive relationships. These ?internal? dynamics of peace must be nurtured and strengthened, ultimately to compete for the hearts and souls of those steeped in generations of hatred and distrust. This is the work being done by the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace (IIFWP) and its affiliated organizations and other NGOs and sectors of civil society.

Creating an alliance for peace
Piecemeal efforts alone are not sufficient. As the United Nations prepares for its World Summit during the 60th General Assembly of the United Nations, the IIFWP is also preparing to launch the next phase of a model mechanism that seeks to integrate in a comprehensive way, a wide range of peace efforts. We call it the ?Interreligious and International Peace Council.? Its purposes are indeed ?trans-national and trans-religious,? drawing upon the wisdom and resources of both religious and political communities and nations. Its works to plant the roots of peace in target communities. This requires substantial investment: economic, political and most importantly, the investment ?of the heart.? To establish a genuine, durable peace, this aspect of peace-building cannot be sidestepped.

In most communities, trust is built over long periods of time. In others, it is expanded through the medium of trade, cultural exchange, enlightened educational programs, and surely at times through peace negotiations. But the quickest way to disarm a volatile community?s tendency toward violence is to introduce ?third parties? whose agenda is clearly non-partisan and able to undermine fear, distrust and the presumption of the inevitability of conflict.

Ambassadors for Peace
Sowing the seeds of peace and countering the belief that there is no alternative to violence is no task for the feint of heart. To this end, the visionaries and the altruists become the allies of peace in the earliest stages of the process. IIFWP has managed to mobilize over 7500 people from 151 nations to Israel and Palestine with this ?soft power? contribution to the unsolved question of Palestine. Could these seeds, planted in strategic places, really make a difference to the peace process in the Middle East? The Ambassadors for Peace who came with the interreligious and international Middle East Peace Initiative were willing to to risk their lives to help open up a new
way forward in the hearts and minds of many.

Of course it is also necessary to work simultaneously to:
  1. Consolidate a democratic system of government appropriate to Palestine people and circumstances.

  2. Practice inclusive in the political process.

  3. Guarantee internal security by shifting the coercive power of weapons into the hands of legitimate elected authorities.

  4. Transform the current social conditions through collaborative efforts of the Quartet and nearby Arab States, integrating this with efforts to eliminate the misuse of funds and resources either by corruption in the government or for hostile acts against Israel.

  5. Mobilize Palestinians of the diasporas who could provide positive leadership in all areas in a new sovereign state.

Leaders of peace
In the end, if we truly want a peaceful future for the region, the peace process needs to be led today by an alliance of religious leaders and communities, educational institutions and people of faith and good conscience, as well as political leaders from both sides willing to stand together for peace beyond their own religious or nationalistic leanings, together urging their countrymen to choose peace over war and service to the other over entitlements of retribution.

Palestinian and Israeli religious leaders?Muslim, Christian and Jew?need to recognize their moral obligation to be the leaders of the peace process and to establish precedents and practices for interactions based on respect, order, harmony, forgiveness, compassion and cooperation as taught in the Torah, the New Testament, and the Koran. They need to help to bring peace to the hearts of their people now, after decades of fighting. Educational institutions could further that same spirit.

The highly charged and often violent atmosphere seems to contribute to a fear of change, further blocking the path to peace.. Therefore, recognizing that value of the ?third-party? to stimulate change, the IIFWP has called upon its Ambassadors for Peace worldwide to continue to journey to Palestine and Israel to establish a tradition of ?heart to heart? commitments that go beyond nationality, religion and political affiliation and open the way to new possibilities for cooperation, collaboration and peace-building.

Leaders of change
In the end, none of us can avoid change if we wish to ensure peace. In the end, while fully aware and respectful of the past, we must focus our energies, talents and experience on building a great and peaceful future together: Israeli, Palestinian and all others alike.

We all need courage to end the era of conflict and begin together a new age of peace.

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