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Never stop imagining what peace can bring

Time is of the essence, and we should not wait to talk about the steps that are needed to create a framework for peace (AFP)
Time is of the essence, and we should not wait to talk about the steps that are needed to create a framework for peace (AFP)
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14 Feb 2024 01:02:06 GMT9
14 Feb 2024 01:02:06 GMT9

As salaam o alaikum and shalom my dear Muslim and Christian cousins.

While I know it might be difficult for voices like mine to be heard at this moment, I am of the strong belief that anyone who is a bridge builder and wants to see a long-lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians cannot remain silent.

I am still a strong believer that the majority of the daughters and sons of Abraham will one day remember what unites us and that peace is the best option. We have to begin working on a framework and a roadmap as soon as possible — and it will have one aim: a future with a two-state solution.

Some people call me a dreamer because of my ideas. Yes, I am a dreamer for peace. In fact, I believe you have to be a dreamer in order to be a bridge builder and one dream is that daydreams can become reality. And I am not the only one.

Shimon Peres was also a dreamer. He never stopped to believe that one day we can all live peacefully together in this region, and not only this but also build a unit against terrorism and threats.

I was lucky enough to have had long conversations with him throughout the years about the importance of a two-state solution, as well as his belief about how important it is to reach out to all countries in the Middle East. He believed very much that one day there would be peace with all the countries in the Middle East.

I saw him shortly before he passed away in 2016. He took me aside and said: “Please don’t give up on peace. It will not be easy, but it’s worth the effort.”

All the peace treaties Israel made with Arab states were close to his heart, as they are to mine.

Unfortunately, the attacks on Oct. 7 and the aftermath have set us back. The past months have been difficult, dire and an emotional roller coaster for all forces of peace and coexistence.

We must assume that it was the aim of Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Iran to destroy any efforts that were in the making for a broader peace in the Middle East, as well as the work of the bridge builders, and to replace hope with despair, friendships with animosity and openness with suspicion.

Since the attacks on Oct. 7, we in the World Jewish Congress have seen an increase in reports of hate crimes and hate speech. Antisemitism and Islamophobia are on the rise.

And we are witnessing a time in which people are spending more time and energy on creating divides instead of building bridges. Instead of taking the time to read, reflect and think, people of all backgrounds and in different leadership positions seem to follow easy narratives and are quick to believe the lies and conspiracy theories that are being spread.

All of this plays into the hands of extremists on all sides. The haters — no matter from which faction — fear nothing more than Israelis and Arabs, Jews, Christians and Muslims, coming closer together as people, because they manifest their power by spreading division and fear.

The haters fear nothing more than Israelis and Arabs, Jews, Christians and Muslims, coming closer together

Ronald S. Lauder

We should not make any mistakes. These are not just ill-informed people, but also some of the highest achievers who are suddenly falling for prejudice or the propaganda of dividers and haters.

While achieving an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians might be difficult, I am still holding on to the belief that it is not only possible but will also be the long-term right answer and antidote to hatred, antisemitism and Islamophobia.

Time is of the essence and we should not wait to talk about the steps that are needed to create a framework for peace.

As I have written in this newspaper in the past, I believe we need a Marshall Plan for the Palestinian territories. Not only to rebuild homes but also to help with the creation of an educational infrastructure and economy that will offer a new perspective, especially to young Palestinians.

Countries like Saudi Arabia, as well as Egypt, Jordan and all the countries that joined the Abraham Accords, together with the US and Europe, have an important role to play, especially in ensuring that funds reach the right people and are used for the right projects.

Now is the time for all the bridge builders — including political and religious leaders — to put their efforts together and move forward toward peace.

History has shown us that it is possible to achieve; that people who used to fight against each other, who used to be enemies, ended up across the table from one another because they understood that the path of peace was the one that would lead to a better future for their children and grandchildren.

In the end, I hope we can all see what Peres saw: “Peace with the Palestinians will open ports of peace all around the Mediterranean. The duty of leaders is to pursue freedom ceaselessly, even in the face of hostility, in the face of doubt and disappointment. Just imagine what could be.”

We must never stop to imagine what peace will bring to all of us.

  • Ronald S. Lauder is president of the World Jewish Congress. X: @lauder_ronald
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