Gaza: Ceasefire now!

December 28, 2008

Last weekend, Israeli Defense Forces launched a major military operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip,
leaving hundreds dead and wounded – pushing the long-running
Israeli-Palestinian conflict further down a path of never-ending
violence.

As friends of Israel, we felt immediate pressure from friends and family to pick a side. Did we think that Israel’s actions were fully justified or disproportionate? Did Hamas bring this on itself by firing rockets and provoking Israel or are the strikes an act of aggression against a people trapped in misery and poverty? Couldn’t we see who’s right and who’s wrong?

At this moment of extreme crisis, we’re showing that, among those who care about Israel and its security, there is a
constituency for sanity and moderation. There are many who recognize
elements of truth on both sides of this gaping divide and who know that
closing it requires strong American engagement and leadership.

Israel has a special place in each of our hearts. But we recognize that neither Israelis nor Palestinians have a monopoly on right or wrong. While
there is nothing “right” in raining rockets on Israeli families or
dispatching suicide bombers, there is nothing “right” in punishing a
million and a half already-suffering Gazans for the actions of the
extremists among them.

And there is nothing to be gained from debating which injustice is
greater or came first.   What’s needed now is immediate action to stop
the violence before it spirals out of control.

The United States, the Quartet, and the world community must not
wait – as they did in the Israel-Lebanon crisis of 2006 – for weeks to
pass and hundreds or thousands more to die before intervening.  There
needs to be an urgent end to the new hostilities that brings a complete
end to military operations, including an end to the rocket fire out of
Gaza, and that allows food, fuel and other civilian necessities into
Gaza.

The need for diplomatic engagement goes beyond a short-term
ceasefire.  Eight years of the Bush Administration’s neglect and
ineffective diplomacy have led us directly to a moment when the
prospects for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
hang in the balance and with them the prospects for Israel’s long-term
survival as a Jewish, democratic state.

Following a renegotiated ceasefire, we urge the incoming Obama
administration to lead an early and serious effort to achieve a
comprehensive diplomatic resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian and
Arab-Israeli conflicts.

This is a fundamental American interest.  We too stand to suffer as
the situation spirals, rage in the region is directed at the United
States, and our regional allies are further undermined.  Our goals must
be a Middle East that moves beyond bloody conflicts, an Israel that is
secure and accepted in the region, and an America secured by reducing
extremism and enhancing stability.  None of these goals are achieved by
further escalation.

Even in the heat of battle, as friends and supporters of Israel, we
need to remember that only diplomacy and negotiations can end the
rockets and terror and bring Israel long-term security and peace.
American politicians are already hearing from those who see only one
side.  Help us give voice to the large number of Americans who
recognizes that justice will only be served when the rights and
grievances of both sides are recognized and a peaceful two-state
solution to this long-running conflict is put in place.

We know that many policy makers agree with us privately, but
hesitate to express their views publicly because they hear only from
the partisan extremes.  This is our moment to show that there is real
political support for shedding a narrow us-versus-them approach to the
Middle East.

The situation in Gaza could not be more urgent. Who knows how many more
lives will be lost before this round of violence is over?  When it
ends, will we look back and say if only we had spoken out sooner, more
lives could have been saved, more damage avoided?

Thank you so much for joining our efforts at this difficult time.
Together, we can achieve an end to this round of violence, a resumption
of the ceasefire, and a serious move toward peace between Israel and
the Palestinian people.

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