Rep. Charles B. Rangel is the U.S. Representative for New York’s 15th congressional district, serving since 1971. A member of the Democratic Party, he is the third-longest currently serving member of the House of Representatives.
For 63 years, Israel has prospered as a beacon of democracy in the Middle East. I have been privileged to witness Israel grow from a state of 800,000 people to a nation of over 7.7 million residents who help set international standards in many fields, such as technology, science and the arts. Continuing strife between the Israelis and Palestinians, however, has overshadowed Israel’s great accomplishments and weakens American efforts to bring stability to the region. I join with President Barack Obama’s call for our two great nations to move beyond the current stalemate in peace negotiations with the Palestinians and re-launch efforts to establish a lasting two-state solution. Although a peaceful solution may not be easily attained, I am convinced that peace is possible.
I want to make it clear that President Obama is not calling for Israel to return to the 1967 lines but rather to use this benchmark as a starting point for negotiations, as called for by both the Clinton and Bush Administrations. I agree with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the Palestinian leadership must publicly recognize the existence of a Jewish State of Israel.
Both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have suffered from the violence of warfare and terrorism. Our own nation has experienced similar plights in our own history. Two hundred years ago, it seemed impossible for the United States to remain united as long as slavery existed — especially in the South. Even after a long and bloody Civil War resolved the issues of slavery and secession, it was not certain that the United States could move past the bloodshed and come together as one nation. The road to unity did not occur overnight; it required a lengthy and a difficult period of Reconstruction. While remnants of the struggle for peace and liberty still persists, America today stands proudly as one nation, indivisible, and stands for the ideals of freedom, liberty and justice for all.
Reconciliation is not only possible but also practical. It starts with one person with a vision and the drive to make what seems inconceivable a reality. Dr. Martin Luther King was one such visionary who dreamed the impossible, believing in a America that was no longer divided by race, religion or gender. Bringing about equality through non-violence was not easy: many people were harassed, assaulted, and some leaders including Dr. King were killed. Yet Americans are united today to never allow fear, or the forces of intolerance and hatred to pervade our communities. On November 4, 2008, the world watched Dr. King’s ‘impossible’ dream come into fruition, as America elected her first black President. Prejudice may exist in parts of our society, but America has embraced the idea of bridging the gaps that has long existed to make our nation safer and stronger.
The issue at hand is not about forgiveness; we are striving for security, prosperity and peace for both Israel and a Palestinian state. We want Israel to continue to succeed and serve as a leader in the world. I am certain that regardless of their geographical, ideological or economical differences, the Jewish people are united by their common desire for peace, prosperity and freedom. If we dream of a world where our children and their grandchildren can grow up without fear or want, the Israelis and Palestinians must come together to negotiate for peace. Peace, although challenging, is always possible.