It is the right of the Palestinians to determine and shape their own destiny and future. Like Americans, we Palestinians are motivated by the same yearning for freedom, dignity and democracy that represent the basis of American values and principles, and it is our dream to live one day without fear, and with dignity and liberty. The main impediment preventing us from developing our own realities remains Israel’s illegal occupation, a system of direct control that affects every single aspect of our lives. For us to fully develop our potential and capabilities, the tyranny of our occupation must come to an end so that Palestine can finally be free. Given the power imbalance inherent in the occupier-occupied paradigm, it is imperative that international law and positive multilateral engagement be activated in effecting a fair solution.
I understand that genuine peacemaking is no easy task, especially given the enormous pressure to compromise principle in favor of electoral advantage in the midst of elections. Yet to prevent the collapse of the two-state solution in 2012, words are no longer enough. Given the full support and legal immunity that the U.S. has granted Israel, the Israeli occupation remains America’s moral responsibility and liability, not just in the midst of the Arab Spring but also among all people of good conscience. History will look kindly on those who dared to shape it on the basis of fairness and equity, but it will not be so forgiving of those who evaded the moral responsibility of pursuing peace with integrity.
Mr. Obama is currently under enormous pressure to condone or even wage yet another war in our tormented part of the world. In his visit to the White House, Prime Minister Netanyahu once again attempted to subject American national interest, standing and security to Israeli priorities, thereby making the U.S. complicit in his efforts to scuttle the two-state solution and maintain an illegal and inflammatory occupation. The real key to regional peace, stability, security, prosperity, and democracy is within reach: Israel must let the Palestinian people go, must relinquish what does not belong to it and withdraw to the June 4, 1967 borders and learn to live as a neighbor rather than as an oppressor.
True leadership lies in the ability to withstand the pressures and constraints of the moment with an eye to shaping a better future. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." I believe it is time for all those who share this vision to stand up and be counted.
Ultimately, the choice is Mr. Obama's: to stand on the side of liberty, peace, and historical redemption or to stand aside and bear responsibility as the entire region is plunged into further extremism and violence. In our context, time is not an infinite commodity, and Palestinian captivity must be brought to an end.
Ashrawi is a longtime Palestinian peacemaker, legislator and PLO Executive Committee member.