But if that experiment is allowed to fail, ask yourselves: What will replace it? What will happen if the Palestinian economy implodes, if the Palestinian Security Forces dissolve, if the Palestinian Authority fails? Surely something much worse for Israel’s interests and for America’s and for the region. In fact, the failure of the moderate Palestinian leadership could very well invite the rise of the very thing that we want to avoid: the same extremism in the West Bank that we have seen in Gaza or from southern Lebanon.
So before anyone gives up on this hope, we have to ask whether we are prepared to live with permanent conflict, with the possibility of widespread civil disobedience, with the possibility of a civil rights movement that grows in the West Bank, with the possibility of another intifada always looming around the corner. If the parties don’t agree to come back to the table, the Palestinians have already said that they will go to the UN and seek to join more UN organizations, where, despite the best efforts of the United States, they will probably get more votes in their favor than they got last time. And last time, we only got nine votes against. And the Palestinians have also threatened to take their case to the International Criminal Court.
Yes, the United States of America will always have Israel’s back. We will always stand up for Israel’s security. But wouldn’t we both be stronger if we had some more company? With the right choices and enough courage and determination, there is a very different future possible for Israel.
So I ask you today, don’t just look at what may happen that’s negative; look at the possibilities. I ask you to recognize that this time can be different, but this time it actually has to be. People have spent so much time lamenting what hasn’t worked in the past that I believe we’ve actually forgotten to focus on what the future could look like if we do keep faith.
Think of the security benefits: an Israel where schoolchildren actually run around a playground without having to run into bunkers and shelters to escape the incoming rocket fire. I’ve been to Sderot. I’ve seen those hundreds of casings that are displayed there that have been fired out of Gaza. I went to Kiryat Shmona up in the north and went into a bunker where kids had to hide from the Katyusha rockets coming in from Lebanon. I know that fear. We can see a difference where you have a world where extremists and their state sponsors can no longer use this festering conflict as an excuse or a rallying cry for any number of hidden agendas. And we could see an Iran that is increasingly isolated.
And think of the economic benefits for the average Israeli citizen. The governor of the Bank of Israel said a peace agreement with the Palestinians could boost Israel’s GDP by as much as 6 percent. An agreement with the Palestinians that resulted in the normalization of relations with the Arab world, promised by the Arab Peace Initiative, would end the Arab League boycott of Israeli goods, open huge new markets for Israel, bring new foreign investment and business opportunities to Israel. And imagine the possibilities, if you had peace, of the extraordinary array of religious sites that suddenly become available from Jordan through the West Bank and into Israel. The end of political and logistical barriers could turn Tel Aviv into a global hub for international finance and technology. And the possibilities for tourism, as I mentioned, are simply extraordinary, an area where Israel actually currently underperforms its potential and other countries in the region. They’re limitless with a rich collection of historical, archaeological, religious sites, as well as the modern attractions.
My friends, quite simply, peace pays. And Israel’s vibrant society and economy and its scientific and technological achievements, all of them would suddenly receive a recognition that they deserve on the world stage with the barriers broken down and the ability to move within the region, with embassies, with recognition, with governments, with peace. That is what the future actually could produce. As the Bible says, “There is a future for the man of peace.” And as men and women of peace, that is the future that we need to pursue.