Is­rael is a given. So let’s do a deal

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT&ANALYSIS -

AS WE CEL­E­BRATE 60 years of Is­rael’s in­de­pen­dence this week, it is an op­por­tune time for re­flec­tion. Yom Ha’Atz­maut ends a week of in­tro­spec­tion and re­mem­brance in Is­rael, with me­mo­rial days for the Holo­caust and Is­rael’s fallen sol­diers in the last few days. Our joy is as ever set in a wider con­text. We should not al­low our­selves to cel­e­brate un­til we have re­mem­bered, and un­der­stood the pain and sor­row of the past. I am a son of Holo­caust sur­vivors. My par­ents en­dured the hor­rors of the Nazi geno­cide, and met in a Swedish refugee camp fol­low­ing the war. They re­built their lives, raised a fam­ily in Fin­land and made their own con­tri­bu­tion to the de­vel­op­ment of the state of Is­rael. Is­rael, too, was born out of the Holo­caust, a re­sponse to the guilty con­science of the world that stood by as six mil­lion of our par­ents, brothers, sis­ters and chil­dren per­ished.

And so we are right to cel­e­brate Is­rael’s in­de­pen­dence. There is a great deal to be proud of, much of it un­think­able even 10 years ago. Is­rael is among the most de­vel­oped and cul­tur­ally ex­cit­ing places on Earth. Its econ­omy has be­come ro­bust and stable. Is­rael is a global leader in cut­ting-edge tech­nol­ogy, in med­i­cal re­search and in the arts. El Al, the na­tional car­rier, is ac­cepted through­out the world. Is­rael is also a full mem­ber of the fam­ily of na­tions, with diplo­matic ties around the globe. In its own re­gion, Is­rael is part of an al­liance of moder­ates who to­gether con­front threats em­a­nat­ing from Iran and its al­lies. Is­rael has con­tacts with half of the Arab states, and full peace with some. It is a re­mark­able achieve­ment for any young state, let alone one fac­ing such ex­is­ten­tial threats over the years.

Is­rael is en­gaged in a sin­cere at­tempt to re­solve the con­flict with the Pales­tini­ans. Is­rael’s gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to con­clud­ing a peace deal with their Pales­tinian coun­ter­parts by the end of this year. And as the Pales­tini­ans de­velop their ca­pac­ity for self-rule, Is­rael will hand over re­spon­si­bil­ity in or­der to bring into be­ing an in­de­pen­dent and vi­able Pales­tinian state, liv­ing along­side Is­rael in peace and se­cu­rity. Is­rael’s com­mit­ment to peace is all the more re­mark­able when the Pales­tini­ans of Gaza, un­der Ha­mas lead­er­ship, con­tinue to at­tack in­no­cent Is­raeli civil­ians ev­ery day.

Is­rael can­not achieve this alone. I urge Is­rael’s neigh­bours to join the project of bring­ing peace, sta­bil­ity and pros­per­ity to all the peo­ples of the re­gion. Now is the time for mod­er­ate, re­al­ist lead­ers to come to­gether and lead their peo­ple to a bet­ter fu­ture. My ex­pe­ri­ence across the re­gion tells me that peo­ple want to im­prove their lives, to live in peace and safety.

But peace is more than a po­lit­i­cal deal be­tween lead­ers. If we are to see real change, the peo­ples of the re­gion, too, will have to reach an ac­com­mo­da­tion with Is­rael. Be­yond the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of the var­i­ous peace ini­tia­tives, the cit­i­zens of the re­gion — from com­merce to cul­ture, science to sport — must show their po­lit­i­cal lead­ers the way for­ward. Arab states and their cit­i­zens, buoyed by their oil rev­enues, can do so much to im­prove the lives of all the peo­ples in de­spair in the re­gion, bring­ing real change to their daily lives. I look par­tic­u­larly to the Gulf states, which share with Is­rael the vi­sion of a mod­er­ate Mid­dle East, to bring their re­sources to bear on bring­ing peace to the re­gion. For­eign Min­is­ter Tzipi Livni’s re­cent visit to Qatar gave us a glimpse of what might be pos­si­ble. And it is a tan­ta­lis­ing pos­si­bil­ity.

Our obli­ga­tion as Is­rael’s sup­port­ers through­out the di­as­pora is to sup­port th­ese peo­ple in their search for peace. Is­rael is nei­ther a char­ity case nor the poor re­la­tion that we pa­tro­n­ise with pity. The state of Is­rael is the best in­sur­ance pol­icy for the con­tin­u­a­tion Jewish life in Bri­tain and through­out the world. Is­rael’s po­si­tion in the re­gion will di­rectly shape how we live our Jewish lives in the fu­ture. What Is­rael does now to con­front ob­sta­cles and build bridges to peace will en­sure our free­dom in the fu­ture. We should be over­whelm­ingly proud and overt in our sup­port for Is­rael be­cause there is much to be proud of. Poju Zablu­dow­icz is Chair­man of the board of Bicom, the Bri­tain Is­rael Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Re­search Cen­tre; a mem­ber of the board of the Jewish Lead­er­ship Coun­cil; and Chair­man & CEO of the Ta­mares in­ter­na­tional in­vest­ment group

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