The concessions that will be required of both Israel and the Palestinians, if six decades of fury and intermittent bloodshed are ever to be ended, have long been well understood by anyone seriously concerned for the future of the region and its peoples.
The Palestinians must accept as an immutable fact, and without reservation, the legitimacy of Israel’s existence, and must abandon their claim of a “right of return” to their former lands in what has been for more than two generations the Jewish state.
Israel, for its part, must cease the establishment of settlements in the occupied territories, abandoning some of those outposts while maintaining secure and defensible borders. And it must be willing to join the international community in helping the new Palestinian entity find its footing.
Those “musts” will not be easily met. They will mean painful and in some cases hotly disputed sacrifices on both sides. But no peace — no relief from the incendiary cycle of provocation and retaliation, and no release from grief and despair — will be available except on those terms.
They are the basis for any viable, durable two-state solution.
Leaders in the region, including some of the most militant, have long understood that. It also has been the starting point for the efforts by every recent U.S. administration, including the present one, to jump-start productive Middle East discussions.
Republicans have begun trumpeting the accusation that President Obama has abandoned Israel. That can only be seen as a transparent and altogether cynical attempt to gain political advantage by cutting into the Democrats’ traditional base of Jewish support.
In fact, Obama’s “offense” has been simply to restate the obvious fact that unless those essential preconditions are met, it is impossible to see any clear hope of a genuine Mideast peace.
As long ago as 1970, when I spent three months in the region, that much was accepted by a great many of the Palestinians and Israelis I met, notwithstanding the long legacy of bitterness and conflict that divided them.
It remains the case today.
And even Israel’s current hard-line prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in spite of his much overblown tiff with the president during his March visit to Washington, has publicly conceded that it is true.