Tne of the few things Democrats and Republicans seem to agree on these days is that they can’t wait for the Nov. 8 election to be behind them. Eighty-one percent shared that sentiment, according a new poll, and only 7 percent said they want to hear more about the election in the coming days.
Both sides of our increasingly divided society are experiencing frustration with the campaign, as well as deep concerns about the country should the candidate they favor lose the presidential election. That doesn’t bode well for the future, given that sentiments are so strong. It’s not likely that supporters of the losing candidate are going to suddenly rally around the person they’ve been calling a danger to our society.
We don’t often look to the Mideast to buoy our spirits, but amidst the frustration over the status quo on the peace front and anger over the UNESCO vote ignoring Israel’s historic ties to Jerusalem, there was a promising event in Jerusalem two weeks ago that did not receive sufficient attention. It was a meeting that brought together Palestinian Muslim and Israeli Jewish religious leaders, hosted by Israeli President Rivlin at his residence, initiated by the Washington Institute for Near East Peace. The leaders spoke out for peace and issued a statement denouncing “the killing of innocents or any kind of aggression against the other.”
The participants included Israel’s Sephardic chief rabbi, three leaders of Yeshivat Har Etzion in Gush Etzion, the founder of Gesher (an Israeli group countering the religious-secular divide) and the top religious affairs adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Cynics will note that talk is cheap. But David Makovsky, who, along with fellow Washington Institute scholar David Pollock, spent a year planning the initiative, pointed out that “since much of the violence of the last year has been religiously motivated, we believed it was vital for religious leaders to speak out.”
No one expects one meeting to transform the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But each effort that can break down negative stereotypes and bring adversaries together for personal contact and conversation is a step in the right direction. More high-level dialogue is planned to help reduce religious tension in the region. Perhaps we need a similar initiative here at home to defuse the toxic political climate come Nov. 9.