Reuven Rivlin is president of Israel.
As I write this, there is no currently viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is no diplomatic process underway, and no indication of imminent negotiations. Yet, even with no way forward, even with no clear timetable for an end to the conflict — the tragedy that envelops us all — we are duty bound to recognize where and how we can take effective action to improve the prospect that we will be able to live together, Jews and Arabs, in our region as we are destined rather than doomed to do.
Israel must take steps to improve the situation independent of the geopolitical territorial debate — steps that every sensible person understands serve simultaneously Israel’s moral and practical interests. Without resolving the question of whether or not Israel today has a Palestinian partner for peace, it is self-evident that the building of the new Palestinian city, Rawabi, is in Israel’s interest. Likewise, it is clear that cultivating channels of communication and cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian businessmen, educators and cultural figures improves our situation. Is there anyone who does not see the value and importance of the majority of the Jewish population being able to speak Arabic (a plan for which I am pleased to see has been brought before the Knesset)? When it comes to all these possibilities, we should have started yesterday.
Even in Jerusalem, seen by many as the greatest diplomatic challenge to any peace treaty, there is much we can do. It is worth understanding that the Israeli right has long ignored the eastern part of the city for reasons of internal political differences, while the left has equally neglected investing in the need for infrastructure to serve the 300,000 Palestinians of the city as part of an ideology of political separation from the Palestinians. Thus, in debating the future, we have neglected to deal with eastern parts of Jerusalem in the present — and thereby literally abandoned the security of Jewish inhabitants and the welfare of Arab ones. Does anyone think that dealing with the sewage, roads, schools and medical centers of eastern Jerusalem can or should wait until the end of the conflict? Is there anyone who thinks the consequences of these economic disparities in the city will stop at genuine or fictitious political borders? At concrete walls or fences? Or as a result of this or that agreement on sovereignty?
In the heat of our internal controversy over the country’s borders, the character of our neighbors and the nature of the final settlement or its feasibility, we are prone to ignore the necessity of managing relations between people in the present. But it is the here-and-now in which people — including children and young people — actually live. It is the present in which their consciousness is formed and their path in life crystalized.
Confidence, however, cannot be built unilaterally. It is clear that the Palestinians must end the incitement and violence against Israel. They must end the rejection of the very existence of Israel. To Palestinian youths I say: For too many years, blood has been shed like water on this land. No blood is redder than any other. Lives matter. Our lives matter. Your lives matter. I urge Palestinian parents and teachers to foster in their young dreams of life, not aspirations of death. The struggle between our peoples has already seen so much death and bloodshed — more death and bloodshed is not going to solve it.
At the same time, the international community, led by the United States, has a crucial role to play. Investing in steps like those above, nurturing mutual values and encouraging dialogue and cooperation can help lay the groundwork for a future settlement — whenever it may come — and make its success ever more likely.
None of us is exempt from the requirement to ask ourselves: What is the positive legacy we will bequeath to future generations in terms of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? I regret to say it does not appear that we will be able to bequeath them peace — but we can leave them other breakthroughs. Even if these are localized or embryonic, we can build trust between the two peoples and leaderships, so that they will not begin like us today, starting from scratch.