The Middle East peace process has taken a variety of turns over the past two months. Americans have watched with cautious optimism as the negotiations have ebbed and flowed. Though progress this year now appears elusive, Americans should refrain from turning their backs on peace or disengaging from the Middle East. Frustration with the slow-paced peace process is understandable, but we should not lose sight of the tremendous progress that has recently been made toward a resolution to the conflict.

Unprecedented steps have been taken over the past several years toward laying ground-work for a future two-state solution. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are surprisingly close to an agreement on borders and by one frequently cited estimate, are currently haggling over less than 1 percent of the area in question. While the issue of settlements is frequently invoked as a potential deal-breaker, in reality 80 percent of all Israeli settlers live in less than 4.5 percent of the land in dispute. The vast majority of this land is adjacent to the pre-1967 boundaries and would likely be made part of Israel via land swaps in any future deal. An agreement on borders, delineating the tracts of land to be swapped, is not an unrealistic medium-term goal and would be a great step toward a viable comprehensive two-state solution. This has been the strategy of the Obama administration as outlined by State Department advisers Dennis Ross and George Mitchell.

In addition to the potential for a compromise on borders, recent developments have highlighted an impressive amount of common ground between Israel and the surrounding Arab states. While Arab nations may publicly denounce Israel, most of them understand the vital role that Israel plays in the Middle East and would not benefit from its disappearance.

The bellicose rhetoric of the Iranian regime and its desire to obtain nuclear weapons are equally concerning to Arabs and Israelis alike. Iranian support for groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas also threaten to undermine Middle Eastern stability. While Arab regimes do not often publicly voice their opposition to Islamic extremism, they understand that it is not just a concern to America and the West. Such extremism also poses a direct domestic threat. In each of these cases – Iranian nuclear ambition, Hamas and Hezbollah and the wider state of Islamic extremism – Israel is the best and most important Middle East partner the Arab regimes have.

In addition to these broad areas of agreement or potential for it, there has been significant on-the-ground progress in the West Bank in terms of state building. With the help of Israeli and international aid, as well as the decision of the Netanyahu government to relax security restrictions – they have removed all but a dozen of the 45 roadblocks intended to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers – the West Bank has seen tremendous economic growth. The removal of these roadblocks has contributed to GDP growth estimated at 7 percent for 2010 despite a sluggish global economy, according to the World Bank. This economic rise has also been coupled with a boost in security that can be accredited to cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces.

All of these factors have contributed to an environment in which peace may be possible. Israel is a tremendous strategic ally for America, and it shares fundamental American values such as democracy and individual liberty. It is for these reasons that the College Democrats and College Republicans expressed their unwavering support for Israel last week via the release of a joint statement with the Georgetown Israel Alliance.

The fact that support for Israel and the desire to see a peaceful and stable two-state solution transcends domestic political animosity in America, speaks volumes about the importance of the American-Israeli relationship. This broad bipartisan support for Israel, coupled with the significant developments outlined above, gives our organization tremendous hope for the future. We long for the day when Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side in peace and prosperity, and despite short-term impediments to the peace process, we believe that day is closer than ever before.

Daphna Katz is a junior in the College and co-president of Georgetown Israel Alliance. Evan Abrams is a junior in the School of Foreign Service and deputy vice president for political affairs of GIA.

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