Today, September 21, is the International Day of Peace. This evening, my colleagues and I —the ambassadors of five EU countries—will be talking to ordinary Israelis at bars in Tel Aviv, Kfar Saba and Haifa about peace in this region and the role of the European Union in supporting it. We are looking forward to the conversation.
It is no secret that nowadays many Israelis have lost hope in the possibility of ever reaching a resolution to the conflict with their Palestinian neighbors and have adopted a fatalistic attitude. Many in Israel do not understand why the EU, among others, keeps pushing for something that appears to them to be unattainable.
We in the EU have no illusions that attaining peace between Israel and the Palestinians is an easy task. But we certainly do not think that it is an impossible task either. Indeed, compared to other conflicts in the region—from Syria to Libya—we believe that it is actually among the more resolvable conflicts. Moreover, there are very good reasons to encourage both Israel and the Palestinians to take confidence building steps, even small ones, that would gradually pave the way back to a credible peace process.
Perhaps the most important reason not to give up on peace is that there is no good alternative. Crisis management, otherwise known as the status quo, has an expiration date. Israel has everything to gain from good relations with a stable neighbor, but should fear that Palestinians who believe in cooperation, on anything from security to trade, are dwindling along with their diminishing sense that progress is still possible towards the legitimate aspiration for statehood.
In the longer term, and despite the many challenges, all Israelis who treasure their country as a Jewish and democratic state should be advocating for a negotiated two state solution. For without the prospect of an independent Palestinian state living in peace alongside Israel, Israel itself, for demographic reasons, is unlikely to remain both Jewish and democratic.
Peace with the Palestinians also constitutes the key to unlocking strategic relations with many pragmatic states in the region. And a peace agreement that determines final borders would remove from the agenda the issue of the settlements—one of main irritants to Israel's smooth relations with its friends worldwide.
Is peace easy to attain? No, the road is long and hard. Is it nevertheless worth pursuing? The answer is a resounding yes. Do I have all the answers? No, but tonight I hope to listen to yours.
Lars Faaborg-Andersen is the European Union's ambassador to Israel.