Let’s Push for Two States

By Frank G. Wisner, Vice Chairman for External Affairs at the American International Group and former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt and India.

Having served my country for many years in the Middle East, I appreciate the difficulty of making progress there.  I admire the officials in our government who devote their lives to pursuing peace in the region and I recognize the huge difficulties our political leaders face in defending our nation’s interests in this perennially troubled area.

Despite – or indeed because of – the most recent violence between Israel and Hezbollah, we need to rededicate ourselves to the pursuit of peace in the Middle East, including a vision of two states – Israel and Palestine.  It may seem like a bad time to work for such a far reaching goal, but we should not forget the 1973 War and its aftermath laid the foundation for Camp David.  Israel did not want to fight another war, and Egypt recognized that long-term peace was necessary to its stability.  Thanks to US diplomacy, the Gulf War in 1991 opened the way to the Madrid Summit.  While neither comparison is a perfect match, we should not close our eyes to the urgent need for American leadership in peacemaking.  Despite the many calls on American diplomacy and on the attention of our leaders, America must be ready to play its traditional role of catalyst in peacemaking between the region’s parties – Israel and Palestine, Israel and Syria and Lebanon’s communities.  If peacemaking is not pursued vigorously on these several fronts, even the recently secured disengagement of forces in Lebanon will be at risk.
A firm recommitment of the United States to seeking peace will send a strong signal to the entire region and the Muslim world.  It will work to the benefit of our beleaguered position in Iraq.

This is why the Administration must continue to look for opportunities to broker dialogue, and with respect to Israel and Palestine, the two-state solution President Bush proposed on June 24, 2002.  The President must know that the American people will support him, even if the road ahead is a long one.  I urge all Americans to support the Campaign for American Leadership in the Middle East by submitting their signatures, and therefore their voices, to this very important petition.  Yes, the circumstances look grim, but that does not mean they can be ignored until the “right time” comes along.

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