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R. Cohen: Toward an Era of Interfaith Cooperation and Peace

Address to the International Leadership Conference, Seoul, Korea, January 2012

Parliament members must see themselves as a real representative of their people and not to only as someone who governs them. In that sense the position of a member of parliament is unique. In the case of a large and real gap between the true will of the people and the way the government conducts itself, then parliament members should find creative ways to emphasize the opinion of the majority in their nation and overcome any refusal by the government to respond.

A distinct example of this is the situation in the Middle East: it is clear in all the polls that the majority of the Israeli people (about 70-75%) support the solution that a Palestinian state should be established alongside the state of Israel. The majority of the people fully and completely support this solution.

The situation of the Palestinian people is similar: a large majority (70-75%) support the creation of two states side by side as a full, peaceful solution.

Unfortunately, because of various reasons the people on both sides have elected governments who reject peace. In Israel it is the government of Netanyahu, and for the Palestinian people it is the government of Hamas.

In a situation such as this, holding a referendum is the only real opportunity to overcome those who reject peace. In spite of any natural and understandable opposition to holding such a referendum, which may cast doubt on the democratic process, I see it as the only chance we have.

If the leaders of the regions, headed by Abu-Mazen, can act to achieve a peaceful contract for the two states to live side by side in peace and security and if this contract can be brought as a referendum before both the Israeli and the Palestinian sides, with a time limit of no more than a month or two, then there is a real opportunity that the people on both sides will approve such a peaceful contract by a large majority.

Obviously, for this to happen the involvement of the world's nations is required, as well as that of peace organizations and other international factors – in order to lend support so that both sides can reach a peaceful settlement. Otherwise, the leaders have no way to reach such a goal by themselves.

If the initiators of this conference can suggest this as a valid resolution respecting the position of each nation seeking peace, and if this conference's participants can adopt this resolution, then I believe that we would have the power to support those nations where people still live under conditions of occupation and war, and help them achieve their long-desired peace.