“I will grant you peace in the land, and you shall lie down untroubled by anyone.” This declaration from Leviticus Chapter 26 verse 6 offered the Israelites reassurance about their life in the land they were about to enter. They were told that they would know that peace if they kept the divine commandments and walked in godly paths.
Yesterday, President Barack Obama discussed an approach to peace in that same land, which focused on the pre-1967 borders between Israel and the neighboring countries, borders that were actually armistice lines from Israel’s War for Independence in 1949. As I understand it, the President suggested that those borders be used as a basis for arriving at a final peace agreement that would include the creation of a Palestinian state, with “land swaps” as a mechanism for creating flexibility and reassuring Israel and the Palestinians on rights and security. President Obama also commented, “For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won't create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist…. As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself -- by itself -- against any threat. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, to stop the infiltration of weapons, and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state. And the duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.”
There is a great deal of ink in the printed media and space on websites that will be devoted to reactions to the President’s speech. Specificity on the exact borders to be established will continue to be a “hot-button” issue. The central question is this: Are enough people on each side ready to accept the other and their state as legitimate and deserving of a right to exist and thrive?
Time will tell if this new attempt to inch closer to an Israeli-Palestinian accord will bear fruit. Our hope for those on both sides of the conflict is that they will know true peace in the land and that they will lie down untroubled by anyone – not because of one side defeating the other in a war employing rhetoric or violence, but because they will come to see their common interests in a shared future. Perhaps, one day, this dream will become a reality.