When we go to the polls to vote tomorrow, there will be many issues to consider. In our globalized society, more and more of these issues involve the international community. Conflicts in the Middle East are especially important to our country, and there are none more important than the conflicts between the Israelis and Palestinians.

There’s a global consensus that a two-state solution is the only viable way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The non-Jewish population of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank will soon grow too numerous for Israel to consolidate all the land and still maintain a majority Jewish population. If Israel was to deny non-Jewish residents equal rights to maintain its Jewish character, it would no longer be democratic. The current status quo — a blockade of the Gaza Strip, an occupation of the West Bank and an increasingly intransigent government in Israel proper — cannot continue if we want Israel to remain both a Jewish and democratic state.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney says he will “recommit” the United States to a two-state solution. He has visited Israel and met with its leaders, and has vowed to go against international practice by moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. He appears to be a true friend to Israel on the surface, but his attitude toward the Palestinians and the resulting implications of negotiating a two-state solution suggest otherwise. He has said Palestinians have “no interest whatsoever” in establishing peace with Israel and claimed all Palestinians are “committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel.” He ascribed the gap between the economic success of Israelis and Palestinians to a difference in culture, completely ignoring the economic effects of the occupation. These aren’t the words of someone who’s truly committed to a two-state solution.

President Barack Obama has also wrestled with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. During his presidential term, he has consistently provided necessary financial support to ensure the security of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, contributing to an unprecedented level of stability in the region. He has supported the general plan for a peaceful two-state solution that has long been the standard of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. But, there has still been unsatisfactory progress. Peace talks have been dormant for the past two years, with no signs of restarting any time soon.

During the final presidential debate on foreign policy, Israel was mentioned 35 times by the two candidates — but only one of those times was referenced a peaceful solution. The rest consisted of rhetoric about “our great friend Israel” or the threat of Iran. Our alliance with Israel is meaningful, as is the threat a nuclear-armed Iran poses to Israel. But instead of rhetoric, our generation needs plans. This debate was an example of how lax our politics are concerning this issue.

J Street supports leaders at all levels of government who have decisively proven that they are true friends of Israel by providing not only financial and military support, but also by making a concerted effort to achieve a Palestinian state.

While some may claim this lack of action stems from intractable parties on both sides, at J Street we believe a lack of exigency in the United States to push both parties to the negotiating table is partly to blame. Other concerns, domestic and foreign, have sidelined earlier efforts. It is up to us to remind our leaders in government of the necessity of a two-state solution.

J Street UMich has been doing this through our Two State Semester Campaign. We have mobilized the masses by collecting more than 300 postcards that we’ll soon submit to Congress. The postcards, signed by students, state: “We Support Vigorous U.S. Leadership to Achieve a Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.”

We have also mobilized the leaders on this campus. More than two-dozen student leaders have stood up and publicly declared their support for the statement. These are leaders from diverse backgrounds — from the ACLU to the Detroit Partnership, from Hillel to Crowd 313, from the American Movement for Israel to the Delta Gamma Phi pre-law sorority. These students all approach this issue from different places, but they all agree that now, more than ever, the United States needs to take an active role in facilitating fair negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Tomorrow, when you vote, keep in mind our campaign and consider which of the presidential candidates has shown true support for a two-state solution.

Mandy Kain is a Biomedical graduate student and Justin Wagner is an LSA junior.
This viewpoint was written on behalf of J Street UMich.

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