J Street welcomes news of Israel’s decision to end military operations in Gaza

January 18, 2009

We welcome yesterday’s decision by the Israeli cabinet to bring an end to military operations in Gaza.

We hope this means an end to the rocket fire out of Gaza into Israel and relief for all the civilians who have suffered during this latest round fighting.

We also welcome Friday’s agreement between Israel and the United States for enhanced cooperation to end the smuggling of weapons into Gaza.

We hope that this ceasefire will provide the necessary time for Egypt and other international actors to work out the final details of a negotiated agreement that not only stops the rockets and the weapons smuggling, but opens up the crossings into Gaza for shipments of food, fuel, medical supplies, and other basic necessities.

For Israel to achieve long-term peace and security, there is no alternative to further hard diplomacy and negotiation to resolve the underlying Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  As this round of violence draws to a close, we urge the new American President together with Congress to look for ways to turn this crisis into an opportunity for fresh approaches to address the deeper, long-running conflict.

Barack Obama is likely the last U.S. President who will have the chance to bring about a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Allowing another Presidency to go by without resolving the conflict may well mean, as Prime Minster Olmert has himself said, the end of Israel’s hope to be both a democratic state and the home of the Jewish people. Without a resolution, episodes like the latest Gaza crisis will become the norm, only with more powerful weapons, greater suffering and wider damage.

For the United States, the costs of a conflict without end are great: escalating anti-American anger in the region; damaged American credibility across the globe; regional allies weakened by growing domestic opposition; an expanded pool of recruits for extremists; and a political gift to Iran.  Our allies both in Europe and the Middle East also hope that the new Administration puts productive leadership on this issue at the center of renewed U.S. diplomatic engagement with the world.

The guns in Gaza are silent tonight – and for that we are thankful.  Next week, the hard work will begin for the new Administration.  We hope that means taking bold, assertive leadership to bring long term peace and security to a region that has known far too little of either.