- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I expected to be criticized from many sides when I decided to give the keynote address recently to 12th Annual Herzliya Conference, regarded by many as Israel’s most important annual forum for debating its involvement in global affairs. But in speaking via teleconference to the Israelis, I overruled objections from my closest advisers, family and friends.

The Israeli audience mainly focused on their issues of military and physical security. So, there was understandable reason for concern at my participating in such an event, considering the state of Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Yet, I was willing to accept criticism for being radically moderate in speaking to the Israelis and in trying to advance peace.

I am not a novice on this issue. I have spent countless years trying to achieve a lasting and honorable settlement to the decades-old conflict. However, it has been a long time since I’ve felt this pessimistic about the situation on the ground.

There are simple truths that justify such pessimism and lead me to conclude that peace is unattainable for the foreseeable future.

One such truth is that the Netanyahu government does not accept that the security of one people cannot be built on the insecurity of another. It is tragic that those in power in Israel need to be reminded that, like them, the Palestinian people have experienced loss of lives, of families, homes, and whole communities. They have felt the same despair over years of turmoil and war.

Another truth is based on a law of diminishing returns. It says that the more Middle Eastern states, including and especially Israel, spend on armaments, the less they feel secure.

Yet another truth is that this continued hostility has cost us all greatly. Since the 1991 Madrid Conference until 2010, the region has lost an estimated $12 trillion in missed economic opportunities, according to the Strategic Foresight Group.

Every single country in the region has suffered, regardless of its political perspectives. The per-capita income of all countries would have been double what it is today.

Security through weapons cannot bring peace: Only peace, a peace with justice, can bring real security.

There are several necessary conditions for peace.

First, we must negotiate with our enemies. We cannot choose our negotiating partners. Well-meaning friends do not need a mediator.

The role of Washington as Israel’s interlocutor to the rest of the region may be comfortable, but it is not pragmatic: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has even recently proposed that the United States should pivot away from the Middle East toward the Asia Pacific region. It seems Washington is also pessimistic about prospects for peace.

Second, we must have the will to move from enmity to at least mutual recognition of shared interests, equal sovereignty and common humanity.

Third, we must not use negotiations as a delaying strategy, continuing policies that forestall true peace.

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