In Gaza's Shadow: Obama's Inaugural Message

'To the Palestinian people, on this day we declare ourselves your allies'.

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An excerpt from an imagined inaugural address, 20 January:

These are dark days for those who believe in peace in the Holy Land. But history has shown that violence can give way to reason, new realities and unforeseen opportunities. It is for us to seek them out, explore them, and foster them.

To the Palestinian people, on this day we declare ourselves your allies.Allies, because we know that your desire for peace, for a stable and productive future, for freedom and self-determination, is real.Your cause is just. Your challenge is monumental. You have made heroic sacrifices. But if your children are to know peace, and an independent Palestine, there will be new sacrifices to make which will demand no less bravery on your part, and perhaps much more.

As you choose your battles, so you will need to choose your dreams.Choose peace. Renew your commitment to co-existence. Make that choice, and we pledge to be more than a fair broker. We will be your advocate.

We have learned your history, we have come to know of the tragedies you have suffered and the pain you have endured. We admire you for your determination. We esteem your deep attachment to the Holy Land. We know that you cannot be broken. We know that you cannot be forced, cannot be brought to heel.

We know that that the vast majority of Palestinians still support a peace of two states for two peoples, but that they have lost their belief in it.Our own history, our own struggles and pain, have shown us that a house divided against itself cannot stand. But we have learned, at the same time, that healing renews strength and feeds hope. Healing promotes unity and, in time, addresses anger.

We will not stand idle. We pledge, first and foremost, to listen to you.Together with partners in the international community, we pledge to help you rebuild. We pledge, as well, to help you begin to rebuild a bridge to peace. We know that many a bridge to peace has frayed and fallen into the chasm. Make the choice, and we pledge to stand with you as you take the first testing steps on that bridge.

To the people of Israel: in this place, in this difficult hour, we freely declare our gratitude for your long friendship, and underscore our commitment to your security.

We take the liberty to speak with the frankness of old friends. The conflict, if it is to be resolved, requires new thinking and fresh perceptions, and a renewed commitment to compromise.

We know that for the vast majority of Israelis, the goal of peace is paramount. During the 1990s, Israelis and Palestinians took courageous steps toward one another, finding themselves allies in a search of an end to endless warfare.

Since then, however, the minority of extremists on both sides, the enemies of peace whose actions darken the lives of the majority, have scored notable gains. Those whose actions are aimed at crippling compromise and the belief in peace have thrived.

For Israelis to begin to cross a new bridge to peace will require faith, and dependable friends. We make this pledge: we will not stand idly by. We will stand with you on that bridge.

To the Israelis and the Palestinians, both:

No peoples on earth have fought longer or more tenaciously for freedom, justice and security. For that very fact, until both peoples have a peace which includes freedom, justice and security, neither will.

The Holy Land is by its nature a sacred trust. It belongs to you, and to the world as well. Your peace is the peace of the world.

To believe in peace is to value children by fostering their future. We will ask your opinion and esteem it. We want to hear not only from leaders, but from parents, children, grandparents and clergy. Write to us.

Tell us your feelings, your fears, your ideas for a solution.

We will listen to you. We see no greater honor, no greater diplomatic imperative, than to support you, Palestinians and Israelis, in a defiant struggle, against all odds, for peace.


This article was written for the Common Ground News Service.