A True Partner

November 5th, 2012

By Jeremy Ben-Ami

As we commemorate the legacy of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin seventeen years after his tragic assassination, we are called to remember the two fundamental realizations that drove his pursuit of a two-state solution: “to be a Jewish, democratic state, we have to separate,” and “you don’t make peace with friends.” Rabin was no naïve dreamer. He was a pragmatic, battle-hardened patriot who understood that peace was key to Israel’s security.

One of the most common objections we hear at J Street when we urge proactive American and Israeli leadership to achieve a two-state solution is that there is no Palestinian partner. “The Palestinians don’t want peace; they want all of Israel, and the two-state solution is just a step toward taking all the land.” This obsession with excuses over solutions has greatly hindered our ability to make peace and achieve a two-state solution when Israel’s survival as a Jewish and democratic state depends on it.

Today, the need for a peace agreement is greater than ever, but the window of opportunity to achieve it may be closing.

Israel does not need a perfect Palestinian leader, but it does need a partner. And fortunately, that partner exists today. At our 2012 national gala dinner, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told us “there is a partner. [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] wants peace with Israel.”

So it was incredibly important to hear President Abbas’ interview this week on Israeli television, in which he detailed his views on a number of the most sensitive issues. Addressing the Palestinian right of return, a historically difficult component of peace negotiations, Abbas chose to talk about it in the context of his childhood home in Safed, today within the state of Israel’s borders. “It is my right to see it, but not to live there,” said Abbas.

He further declared “Palestine…is “67 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital...[the] West Bank and Gaza is Palestine and the other parts [are] Israel.”

Abbas has repeatedly stressed his commitment to the two-state solution, to diplomacy and to nonviolence.

Israel may not get a better partner than Abbas. It would be a tragedy to look back years from now and say: wasn’t it a shame that we didn’t seize this moment when it was staring us in the face, that we didn’t reach an agreement with a Palestinian leadership that was committed to peace and to two states?

Nearly twenty years ago, Rabin said “enough of blood and tears. Enough.” On the anniversary of Rabin’s death, Abbas’ words are yet more proof that the time is now for real action toward a two-state solution that finally and peacefully resolves this conflict.