Americans, Israelis and Palestinians: All dedicated to a peace resolution

I am well aware that in Israel people are quite busy with the historic third election cycle and that the conflict is, simply put, not a top priority for many people.

A SCENE FROM ‘Graffiti in Yaffa,’ part of the ‘Day After Peace’ collection (photo credit: US EMBASSY)
A SCENE FROM ‘Graffiti in Yaffa,’ part of the ‘Day After Peace’ collection
(photo credit: US EMBASSY)
I just returned home from a day and night in a European capital catching up with a group of professionals who have been involved for years, in some cases decades, working on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other regional issues. The small group was comprised of Americans, Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Christians and Muslims.
What did we have in common? We are all dedicated to see if a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be found. The discussions were lively. We were not afraid to speak bluntly, openly and honestly about everything. We enjoyed one another’s company, including two very long meals together, all while discussing the many tough issues related to the conflict, the complexities of the region and the current political situation in Israel and among Palestinians, with respect to both the Palestinian Authority and the terrorist group Hamas, which causes so much suffering and subjugates the Palestinians in Gaza.
We were each able to articulate our thoughts and positions in a respectful manner, and we each answered tough, but fair questions. No one resorted to the standard talking points that have not and are unlikely to ever achieve peace. We disagreed on many issues, but learned from one another. We implicitly understood that though we come from many walks of life and have very different views about the conflict, proposed solutions and many other things, we were all there for the singular purpose of seeing how we might help improve the lives of millions of Israelis, Palestinians and the region surrounding them.
Events like this are important. They reflect the countless discussions I have had over my nearly three years working at the White House, including with Presidents and Prime Ministers, Kings, Princes and other royalty, Foreign Ministers and other diplomats and, just as importantly, with ordinary Israelis, Palestinians and others in the region. These candid discussions continue to give me hope that something might be possible. However, the lack of such discussions between the leaders in the region – Israel and its Arab neighbors, and among ordinary Israelis, Palestinians and other Arabs in the region harms the process. While it is understandable that there is a deep division between the societies, my firm belief is that open, honest, heartfelt conversations like these can only help pave the road to peace.
I am not naive to think that this is the key to peace. There are, of course, many keys that must be utilized to unlock the many locked doors to this extraordinarily complicated conflict. But there is one key that is easier to use than people think - the key of respectful dialogue. I have had three years of experience with it, have built great friendships from it, and believe it is an important missing ingredient to help resolve this conflict.
I have had two kinds of reactions to the work that I do. One group appears not to want any solution to the conflict; they appear to only know how to hurl hateful remarks. An example of one from just this week: “... another failure [on] your long list. What a loser life.” This one is one of the more “gentle” comments. I have received many others, typically harsher, often with foul language, usually with many grammatical errors, and generally from the same small group of people. These small-minded people who make these types of comments are irrelevant, add nothing to the discussion and will likely never abandon their ideology or be willing to have rationale conversations. I read their comments from time to time solely for amusement. But I also get many other responses with positive remarks. These positive comments outweigh the hateful ones by a wide margin. Many of those who comment may disagree with my opinions or the policies that I helped work on with my colleagues while I worked in the White House. But these individuals are seeking constructive dialogue in an effort to be helpful. The people who write them can be part of the solution, or at least help pave the way to better lives for all, and maybe, just maybe, eventually peace.
I am well aware that in Israel people are quite busy with the historic third election cycle and that the conflict is, simply put, not a top priority for many people. I am also aware of the deep frustration among Palestinians with their many significant challenges, both in Gaza and Judea and Samaria/the West Bank. Both sides are deeply skeptical about the potential for progress or the prospects of achieving a solution that would be acceptable to both. I understand and respect all of that.
I have a simple ask: let’s encourage honest, respectful, constructive dialogue within the region. I have been privileged to have had countless hours of such discussions and it leaves me with hope. I want all those of you who are directly affected by the conflict to share some of that hope. In the best case scenario, your conversations will gather, and eventually build, stepping stones to better lives or peace or both, and you might even make some new friends who are vastly different from you. Perhaps you may even learn from them. In the worst case scenario, nothing happens and you lose a bit of your time. It is a worthwhile investment – trust me on that!
Who’s with me on this?
The writer was an assistant to President Donald Trump and served as the Special Representative for International Negotiations.