Watching the American election from overseas, it makes sense to us that the conversation is mostly focused on the economic recovery. And yet, behind closed doors, topics related to us get discussed. What we’re hearing isn’t so great. In a video of a private meeting with wealthy donors, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said, “I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say there’s just no way.”
We resent that. We're an Israeli and a Palestinian—ordinary people from opposing sides of this conflict, who have forged a friendship based on the belief that this conflict can be ended with the shared vision of a two-state solution based on the borders of 1967 with mutually agreed upon land swaps. We have remained friends despite the challenges and the everyday apathy, hopelessness and despair of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We are again being tossed aside as dispensable pawns on an international chess board. If we have learned anything by living through this conflict, it is that we must hold our leaders accountable. If reconciliation through the two-state solution, hard as it will be, fails, it will only be because the leaders don’t make it a priority.
The trust-building process between Israelis and Palestinians is so delicate and essential for a future peace agreement, that every time a public figure uses dismissive rhetoric, we feel as if we are only walking backwards, scared of being pulled into another round of violence by those who benefit from the stagnation of talks. The idea that a candidate for President of the United States truly believes there is no hope for the two-state solution and that it is a problem that should be ignored not only scares us, it makes us furious.
For Americans, the two-state solution is a theory, a way out of a crisis that is, at best, worrisome. To us, the two-state solution represents our best hope for a livable future. We are aware of the difficulties such a solution holds, but the status-quo is not acceptable—it affects peoples’ lives on a daily basis, in almost everything they do—and it’s a dangerous strategy.
We do have our share of criticism over the negotiation process in the past four years and Obama’s attempts at restarting it. Still, we are pleased he at least considers it a priority. Under a hypothetical Romney administration, we have no hope this issue would be addressed—resulting in further upheaval and damage to the security and future prosperity of both the State of Israel and the future Palestinian State, and, eventually, America.
We are not alone in believing this. President Clinton, appearing on CNN recently, responded to Romney’s comments: “It is accurate that the United States cannot make peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. They have to do that. What we need to do is maximize the attractiveness of doing it and minimize the risks of doing it—we can do that.” He's right: no American president will ever be able to force both sides to make peace. But a U.S. president can and must help by providing incentives, easing the way, taking the necessary steps, and, most importantly, believing it is possible. Romney simply lacks the hope and vision that we need in the leader of the most powerful country on earth. Obama is our chance to keep on the path for a two-state solution.