The benefits of a two-state solution to Israel are obvious. Arabs who live in the West Bank do not have the same legal rights as Jews who live in the West Bank or as Jews and Arabs who live in pre-1967 Israel. That's understandable in the context of a temporary military occupation caused by Jordan's attack on Israel. But Israel cannot remain Jewish and democratic and in permanent control of the West Bank indefinitely; it can only have any two of the three, and most Israelis recognize that the only way to realize the classic Zionist dream of a democratic Jewish state is to cede the West Bank.

So why not do it? The Oct. 22 terrorist attack in Jerusalem, in which 3-month old Chaya Ziessel Braun was murdered, explains exactly why. Instead of unequivocally condemning the attack, Fatah's official Facebook page published a notice saying that "The Silwan branch of Fatah honors the heroic martyr Abdel Rahman Al-Shaludi, who executed the Jerusalem operation which led to the running over of settlers in the occupied city of Jerusalem."


This is far from an isolated incident. Would you trust a group so heartless and full of hate to be a partner for peace? Would you trust a group that celebrates the murder of children? Can you at least understand why Israelis might be nervous?

The fact of terrorism does not erase the fact that Israel's future as a democratic Jewish state depends on a two-state solution. The goal of terrorism is to provoke and strengthen extremism on both sides, so those who cite terrorism and its reaction on the Palestinian side as a reason to derail the peace process play into the hands of the terrorists. Yet even though Israel needs peace, peace cannot occur without a partner that Israel can trust.

If you accept the imperative of a two-state solution, then it no longer matters whether Israel's claim to the West Bank is superior to the Arab claim, because a two-state solution necessarily means Israel relinquishing nearly all of the West Bank. That's why the United States, as well as many Israelis, view construction on the other side of the 1967 borders as an obstacle to peace: It makes a two-state solution more difficult. Settlements are not the root cause of the conflict, but they impede a solution. That's why even if a two-state solution is not possible now, the United States and other governments that support Israel oppose construction even in parts of Jerusalem on the other side of the 1967 lines.

Some in Israel oppose a two-state solution and believe that a Greater Israel in control of the West Bank overrides the democratic principles on which Israel was founded. Others, who deny demographic reality with the same vehemence and closed-mindedness of those who deny climate science, think that Israel can retain the West Bank indefinitely without compromising Israel's Jewish or democratic character because Jewish population growth will outstrip Arab population growth. They don't realize that for Israel to retain its Jewish character while still granting equal rights to all its citizens, Israel needs an overwhelming Jewish majority (like it has in pre-1967 Israel). Otherwise, Israel would just be a state with a lot of Jews.

Both groups support settlements precisely because settlements impede a two-state solution and could lead to permanent occupation. Whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supports settlement growth to keep his coalition in power or because he truly believes in the settlement enterprise is unclear.

Yet Netanyahu was democratically elected by the people who have the most to gain or lose from the peace process. We are all entitled to our opinions, but unless we are willing to move to Israel and expose ourselves and our children to the daily terrorist threats that Israelis face, we can best serve the cause of peace by ensuring that Israel knows that we fully understand and respect their judgment on matters affecting their own security. Empathy for the Palestinians is good. But if we can't also empathize with Israelis and use our influence to persuade Palestinians that terrorism will not advance their objectives, peace will remain elusive.

Chaya's murder in Jerusalem reminds us that it's just not as easy to make peace as some would wish.

Sheffey has long been active in the pro-Israel community and in Jewish communal life. He is a lifelong member of AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and served on the board of CityPAC, a pro-Israel Chicago-based political action committee, for seven years, including two years as its president. He is also active in Democratic politics and served as an elected delegate to the 2012 Democratic Convention from Illinois.