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A measured welcome to new peace talks

You might ask why America's leading Jewish peace organization isn't triumphantly celebrating the resumption of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Americans for Peace Now's response is more measured.  

Not that we don't savor the moment. Of course we do. Even after all the failures and disappointments of the past, it's exciting to see the leaders of Israel and the Palestinians sitting down to negotiate peace, face to face, and to do so under the auspices of a US President who clearly remains committed to achieving peace.

At this time, we are less interested in celebrating the opening of talks itself, and more interested in making sure this week's Washington gathering is not merely another ceremony, but the beginning of a process that will yield real results.

The moment is not insignificant. It is significant that the head of the most hard-line coalition in Israel's history comes to the table to negotiate the creation of a Palestinian state. And it is noteworthy that the leader of the Palestinian people comes to the table with the approval of the entire Arab world and with a commitment to active support from the leaders of Egypt and Jordan. And, of course, it is more than significant that the negotiations are steered by a US president who says he is staunchly committed to achieving peace between Israel and a future Palestine, indeed, between Israel and the entire Arab world.

All that enhances our hope that these talks will bring us closer to ending  the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We know that peace is possible. What is needed is the political will to do so. All parties must make tough decisions.  We also know that the conflict must be resolved, for the sake of Israel, the Palestinians, and US national security interests. We know that peace is vital and we know it's possible.

We also know that peace will only be possible if Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Abbas and President Obama are ready to act boldly.  

Since Israel and the PLO signed the Oslo accord in 1993, Israeli, Palestinian and American leaders have too often been telling the world that they are committed to peace. Telling with words, not always showing with actions.

The time for words has passed.  It is time for actions that demonstrate a real commitment to achieving a conflict-ending peace agreement.

Now it's time to show. It's time for the leaders to show that they are serious, to roll up their sleeves and strike a deal. It's time for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to stop strategizing about how to avoid blame for the failure of the talks. It's time for them to stop the hypocrisy of mouthing peace rhetoric while engaging in actions that undermine peace.  

It's time for them to focus on ways to make the negotiations succeed. It's time for them to make room for compromise, to engage the Obama administration to devise bridging formulae. America's role is about more than corralling the parties into the talks.,  It is about making sure they stay on track, and get the hard work done. It's time for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to engage in a genuine effort to educate their constituencies about the importance of a peace deal, and to prepare their publics for painful compromises.

It's time for all leaders - Israeli, Palestinian and American - to show that when they talk about a two-state solution they really mean it. It's time for them to give Israelis and Palestinians real cause for celebration.

It has been said that optimism is the recognition that odds are in our favor, while hope is the belief that things will work out, even if the odds are against us.
We welcome these new direct talks because we hope to see Netanyahu, Abbas, and Obama doing more than going through the motions. We'll be watching.