In a recent column, I questioned whether being pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian, in its current format, was simply a euphemism supporting the unproductive status quo. My inbox overflowed with reasons from both camps in an attempt, as one reader wrote, "to raise my conscious."

The emails, regardless of the position, did bear one similarity -- rarely did the word peace appear.

Assuming peace is the goal, the facts on the ground would suggest this is a huge assumption; the United States remains uniquely positioned to keep the door ajar so that Israelis and Palestinians might maintain the slender opportunity to live in harmony.

Peace appears to be something that Israelis and Palestinians mention randomly to mask the gruesome reality that the statute of limitations on its possibilities has most likely expired.

In this context, peace stands helpless, with its head in the hangman's noose, each act of violence and the cacophony of certainty work in tandem to ensure that it is part of the tragic community, coined by Abel Meeropol in 1937, known as "Strange Fruit."

The simplicity that one can articulate how peace is achieved in the region is severely overwhelmed by the complexities of the human condition that prohibit it.


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The sanity of a two-state solution is buried under the weight of rhetorical barriers that validate violence, death, fear, dehumanization, suffering and unexamined assumptions that blindly fortify the belief that right lives exclusively within the domain of one's chosen position.

Israel's desire to maintain a permanent military presence in the West Bank and Hamas' continued calls for annihilating Israel, serve to derail the prospects for peace. But these are barriers that could be overcome with the right leadership.

Authentic peace cannot be held hostage to a zero-sum game that only guarantees its possibility is nothing more than an illusive intellectual exercise.

Assuming both sides realize the moral leadership that is desperately needed to put aside the aforementioned rhetorical barriers, Israel possesses an institutional obstacle, unless addressed, will make peace impossible.

The Israeli settlements, which are built on lands occupied during the Six Day War in 1967, remain the largest impediment to peace. As late as November 2013, 158 out of 166 countries in the United Nations voted to rebuke the practice.

Because the settlements are institutionalized, it can hide safely behind the rancor of the rhetorical barriers with its practices unobstructed. The settlements are institutionalized because of the unlikelihood of any Israeli prime minister, regardless of party, advocating for the removal and return to the 1967 borders.

But the United States can play a vital role in the peace process, not as an honest broker, but as one that holds the only key to its diminishing prospects.

If peace is to be realized, the U.S. must have a difficult discussion with Israel.

The U.S. must convey the settlements, in particular, undermine the special relationship that has existed between the two nations since 1948. If Israel insists on maintaining the settlements, it must do so without U.S. support.

Drastic? Perhaps. But what other options are available?

If nothing else, it would free the U.S. from its complicity in an egregious policy. It would also require the U.S. to exhibit a tremendous amount of political courage domestically.

Should this conversation not take place, it is time to officially declare that the U.S. openly supports a policy that most nations find objectionable.

If recent history is any indicator, my inbox will once again be flooded with reasons, based on a version of history, why the settlements should stay in place.

There is certainly no assurance this would lead to peace, but it represents the only possibility for a process that currently lives on life-support.

If peace is not the goal, let's admit it and accept the periodic episodes of violence and carnage as normative. If peace is the goal, there is a difficult conversation awaiting two old allies that, at some point, will be unavoidable.

Byron Williams is a contributing columnist. Contact him at 510-208-6417 or byron@byronspeaks.com.