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International Peace Day falls this year on Rosh Hashana. Rosh Hashana, as I saw in particular when I was last posted to Israel ten years ago, is a time not just for family, tasty food and tradition but also opens a period of self-reflection and commitment to life, to the future. Seeing such a process of internal contemplation beginning for many Israelis and Jews around the world, I thought, why not reflect on "peace" as well?
I hear many people explaining why there cannot be peace here. Far fewer will tell me why there can be peace. Nevertheless, the European Union tends to agree with this latter group. Not from idealism or naiveté, but from experience. Ours is a Union that was born after the most violent conflict in human history among its own nations and from the horrors of the Shoah. With the belief that peace and forgiveness is always possible, that even seemingly perennial conflicts can be solved, we have reached agreements, opened borders, committed to common values, as well as a common currency, built together enduring prosperity for our citizens – all things that were unimaginable 70 years ago.
The 28 Member States of the European Union are unanimous in their support for the two-state solution. Our positions have not changed. Our commitment to a negotiated two-state solution, as the only realistic and viable way to achieve lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, remains as strong as ever. You might have expected me to say that, of course. But as our High Representative Federica Mogherini said just a couple of weeks ago, there is no contradiction between being effective and being predictable. Being strategic also means sometimes being stubborn.
And since the EU has an important presence and engagement on the ground, including but not confined to financial assistance, we want to be as effective as possible to support the objective of two states, living side by side in peace and security. The rationale of everything we do on the ground has always been, and will remain, to advance towards a two-state solution.
For Israel, with its famously youthful demographic profile, more than three-quarters of the population have been born since June 1967. For Palestinians, the figure is even more striking: almost 90% have been born since then. We're always waiting for the next generation to be the savior. Some idyllic generation which will not feel hate or anger, even when they live under conditions of terror or oppression or worse. Seventy years ago, men and women in Europe, recovering from the horrors of the war, discovered that they could be that generation.
To all Israelis and Palestinians who think that, 50 years after 1967, the time is ripe to make peace, my message is that the European Union is with you.
Agreements begin with leaders. Peace begins with people.
Part of the European Union's commitment to building peace is also manifest in its engagement with civil society on both sides. In the words of Albert Einstein, "Peace cannot be kept by force, but through understanding." This engagement is a fundamental step towards a durable and sustainable peace. The European Union's Peace-building Initiative is working on this aspect of the peace process. It seeks to strengthen Israeli and Palestinian civil society, empower the people who want to live in peaceful coexistence and work to bring an end to the conflict.
This inspirational work being done by real people on the ground teaches us that peace is a joint effort. So, let's all roll up our sleeves, join hands and work towards a peaceful future.
Let's make sure that every year will be a sweet year. Shana Tova u-Metukah.
By Emanuele Giaufret, Ambassador-designate of the European Union to Israel
Published in the Jerusalen Post on 20 September