When I sit to draft these emails late Thursday night and early Friday morning, I often have several communal ideas to share. Yet, with the continued developments at the United Nations, I want to continue the dialogue about Israel.

On Wednesday, I was struck by the passionate comments made by President Obama at the United Nations. In his speech he addressed, I believe, “head on” many of the issues confronting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. I believe excerpts from his remarks are well worth repeating:

One year ago, I stood at this podium and called for an independent Palestine. I believed then – and I believe now – that the Palestinian people deserve a state of their own. But what I also said is that genuine peace can only be realized between Israelis and Palestinians themselves. One year later, despite extensive efforts by America and others, the parties have not bridged their differences.

I know that many are frustrated by the lack of progress. So am I. But the question isn’t the goal we seek – the question is how to reach it…Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN – if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now. Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians – not us – who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and security; on refugees and Jerusalem.

We seek a future where Palestinians live in a sovereign state of their own, with no limit to what they can achieve. There is no question that the Palestinians have seen that vision delayed for too long. And it is precisely because we believe so strongly in the aspirations of the Palestinian people that America has invested so much time and effort in the building of a Palestinian state, and the negotiations that can achieve one.

America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable, and our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring. And so we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day. Let’s be honest: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel’s children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, looks out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map.

These facts cannot be denied. The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland. Israel deserves recognition. It deserves normal relations with its neighbors. And friends of the Palestinians do them no favors by ignoring this truth, just as friends of Israel must recognize the need to pursue a two state solution with a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine.

That truth – that each side has legitimate aspirations – is what makes peace so hard…We will only succeed in that effort if we can encourage the parties to sit down together, to listen to each other, and to understand each other’s hopes and fears.  

The question is -- now what?

This morning, I watched Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas  formally apply for UN recognition of a Palestinian state. Many question "if and how" this will move the process forward. And what will be the reaction? We will have to wait and watch.

All I know, as the Jewish New Year approaches, let’s pray for peace and security for all.

Shabbat shalom.


PS -- Last night, the Jewish Federation held its Cornerstone Event for many of the leading philanthropists in the Jewish community. Jerry Silverman, CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America (the umbrella body for the 157 Jewish Federations around the continent) shared his message about the importance of a strong centralized Federation community, the opportunities we have when we work collectively, and how every community needs to "dream big." Portland can do each of these three things!

Mazel tov to Kim Rosenberg, Federation's Campaign Chair, and Michael Weiner, Federation's Chairman of the Board, on a beautiful evening filled with warmth, passion, and communal commitment.


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