November 29, 2013

A statement for the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams.

Livni, Erekat, Kerry and Indyk at negotiating meeting 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Brendan McDermid )
Livni, Erekat, Kerry and Indyk at negotiating meeting 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Brendan McDermid )
Today, Friday November 29, marks an important day in the nine-month, US-sponsored negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Yet the day will more than likely pass with an opportunity missed. The negotiations have focused on the necessary issues that must be addressed: Jerusalem; security; borders; and refugees, but not enough attention has been put on the less tangible but equally important issues. Those are the issues of emotion, trauma, responsibility, acknowledgement of the other and a better understanding of who they are.
To tackle those issues will take sustained efforts over years, but that process must begin at some point. Moreover if an agreement is to have a successful landing those issues need to be named now.
Today the Palestinian and Israeli negotiators could issue the following statement: We, the negotiating teams representing the Palestinian and Israeli peoples, note this Friday, November 29, 2013 marks the completion of four months of negotiations between us, as well as the 66th anniversary of UN Resolution 181, also known as the Partition Plan for Palestine. All of this gives us reason to pause and reflect. While we are working to create a two state solution, in reality we are working on a variation of the original partition plan; something that has eluded our peoples for decades.
It would be easy to say that one side accepted the Partition Plan of 1947 and that the other side did not, and while historically accurate it misses deeper dynamics that in truth until recently have thwarted efforts to reach an agreement.
While the Israelis accepted the Partition Plan of 1947 they in no way acknowledged, much less accepted, full Palestinian aspirations.
By the same token the Palestinian rejection of the Partition Plan of 1947 did not take into consideration or recognize the full aspirations of the Jewish people. Our negotiations take place in a cycle of this conflict when both sides are able to say to the each other that we recognize your national aspirations as legitimate.
We the Palestinians have reached the point where we acknowledge and understand the historical connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel and why you fought us to secure that right.
We the Israelis understand not only the Palestinian right to a state of your own, but the right you had to oppose us until this point. With heavy hearts we both realize that we each have been blinded by our own aspirations, however legitimate, and by extension the pain and suffering we have caused each other.
These are not easy words for us to say, and we know they are also difficult many of our people to articulate, but they are essential if we are to create a new peaceful reality for our peoples including the end of all claims that we have against each other.
We are not blinded by the notion that the agreement we are working on will end our differences entirely. A peace treaty is not the end game; it is the necessary first step to allow for new relationships to emerge. We the Palestinian and Israeli delegations dedicate ourselves to complete the task before us over the next five months so that Israelis and Palestinians can forge the future together we have for too long denied each other.Rabbi Michael M. Cohen teaches Conflict Resolution at Bennington College.