What’s really blocking Mideast peace

There are two kinds of people in this world -- those who approach contentious situations as seeing the glass half empty, and those who choose to see it as half full. Judging by The Times’ editorial Tuesday, “Netanyahu, roadblock to Middle East peace,” it is clear that the paper’s editorial board practices the former philosophy. The historical significance of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s June 14 speech was not grasped in the negative lines of the editorial.

The prime minister clearly articulated that Israel does not want to control the lives of the Palestinians. Although those Palestinians live in the epicenter of the Jewish homeland, Israel is willing to make compromises to ensure safe and comfortable living conditions for everyone. Netanyahu declared that there will be no new settlements in the West Bank, nor will the borders of existing settlements be expanded. Among the important points he made is the willingness of Israel to resume negotiations for a two-state solution right away.

Nevertheless, The Times focuses yet again on the obstacles, which I agree are numerous. But focusing on the negatives is the most assured recipe for failure.

When the prime minister was speaking about a demilitarized state, he was not inventing the concept. Such successful states exist, as is evident with Andorra, a small country that maintains a happy, independent existence despite its demilitarized status.

Netanyahu’s reference to the Jewish identity of Israel is not a novel concept. The United Nations’ partition resolution of 1947 divided the land of Palestine into an Arab state and a Jewish state. All of the Arab leaders chose to reject this resolution. In a democracy, the majority is entitled to define its own identity. As long as Palestinians do not accept Israel as a Jewish state, and as long as they continue to repeat the claim of return, they are not accepting the right of Israel to exist.

Palestinians are educating their youth -- the next generation of leadership in the region -- not to accept the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. This perpetuates hate and violence. The recognition of Israel as a Jewish state does not mean that we “ignore” the Arab population. Arabs have been living with us in the Jewish state and -- this is a fact that may surprise you -- are doing so much better than their brethren in the neighboring non-Jewish states.

The real key to peace lies in this recognition. When our partners understand where we come from, and respect our heritage and tradition, as well as our very long history in the region, only then will we be hopeful that real peace can be achieved. Peace must come out of mutual acceptance, respect and appreciation. Let’s start a new approach in focusing on what we have in common rather than what breaks us apart -- and The Times can definitely contribute to this effort. We want a permanent, peaceful solution, and we want to take the steps to achieve it now.

Jacob Dayan is the consul general of Israel to the Southwest United States.

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