A Bold Vision For The Arab World

Barack Obama has offered a bold vision for peace in the Middle East. His message is clear: There is no alternative to continued talks and tough concessions from both sides. Peace cannot be achieved with security. Both Israelis and Palestinians are now asked to recognize the other’s unconditional right to exist as a first step towards the two-state-solution.

As I watched President Barack Obama’s address just a few days ago, I had a reaction that I’m sure many around the world share. The speech was bold, filled with the highest of ideals, but also the specifics required to achieve the end we all dream of – namely a peaceful and prosperous Middle East. It brought to mind some of the great speeches given by Americans after World War II, in which they laid out a vision for Europe’s future. As the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, I have the privilege of meeting many people and visiting many places – and rarely does a day pass when I do not see tangible reminders of how the post-war vision for Europe has become reality.

A life without fear and humiliation

Now President Obama has offered an equally bold vision for the Arab world. I was particularly struck by his remarks on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, and how it can be resolved. President Obama made crystal clear our country’s unshakeable belief: lasting peace in the Middle East will never be possible until Israel enjoys the freedom to live securely, without fear, and with the recognition of its neighbors, and until the Palestinians have a home of their own, free from the humiliation and heartbreak of occupation.

When I meet Germans, especially young Germans, they frequently ask me whether the U.S. cares about the plight of the Palestinians. They know that the U.S. and Israel are close allies, but they worry that we may not have sufficient understanding for the Palestinians, that we may not be fully engaged on their behalf. What I tell them is exactly what the President said last night. There is no question that we remain committed to Israel, and to Israel’s security. Our friendship is decades old, and will not waver.

But that does not in any way lessen our commitment to the Palestinian people. They, too, have a right to live in their own state, achieve their fullest potential, and pursue a future of dignity and sovereignty. We know that this is easy to say and far harder to achieve. We, like many in Germany and around the world, are frustrated with a process that has gone on so long without achieving satisfactory results for anyone involved.

No peace is no alternative

But we also know that we have no other choice but to push on, to work with our friends on both sides. And we also know that this sometimes means telling our friends things they do not want to hear, like that the status quo is simply not good enough. Both the Palestinians and the Israelis deserve better.

President Obama chose to end his speech by reminding us that the United States is a country founded on a simple belief: people should have the right to govern themselves. Our position is clear: we stand with all those who seek to exercise the same rights we cherish for ourselves. And we will continue to do so until this conflict has finally come to an end.

Read more in this debate: Christoph Heil, Judith Althaus.


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