At the end of last week, I was excited to see my wife and children, who I had missed all week. After more than 960 days working for our great nation from the White House, nine months longer than I had planned, I arrived at the decision that the time had come to begin the transition back to my family and the private sector.
I have spent nearly three years working with colleagues on the United States-Israel relationship, Israel’s relationship with its Arab neighbors, and a vision for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. I am proud of the work we have done.
Following my eventual departure, I know that I am leaving that work to be continued by a strong team of talented colleagues, but it is time for me to return home.
It has been a profound honor to serve the United States of America. I wonder if my deceased grandparents who fled Hungary with their families decades ago – one from the Holocaust and one from communism – could have imagined their grandson would one day serve in the White House, attempting to solve one of the most complex conflicts in history.
Many people ask me what my experience is like at the White House. I describe it in five words – proud, grateful, surprised, sad, and hopeful.
Proud to be able to serve a country that, despite its challenges, affords its citizens safety, security and freedom, perhaps like no other nation ever has. Proud to serve the United States government with colleagues, who, day in and day out, serve the American people with dedication and devotion. Proud to be protecting the Jewish State of Israel under a President who has been the greatest friend to Israel in its history.
Grateful that many who have been involved in past peace efforts were willing to share their expertise, advice and friendship, whether or not they agreed with our approach. Grateful to the diplomats, private citizens, and world leaders who spent a great deal of time trying to help us understand their views and offering help. Grateful that many people who did not agree with our views (in some cases very strongly) were willing to engage in thoughtful dialogue so we could learn from one another and respectfully share views in attempts to resolve the conflict.
Surprised at how much misinformation exists about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (as well as the Arab-Israeli conflict), some pernicious, some innocent. Surprised at how people are willing to mislead reporters or leak confidential information to suit their agenda. Surprised at how many people with views different from ours were unwilling to engage in rational, respectful dialogue and seemed so certain that no one else’s view mattered. Surprised that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are willing to destroy the lives of 2 million Palestinians in their quest to destroy the State of Israel, and even more surprised at their belief that one day they will prevail.
Sad for the many Palestinians I was so fortunate to meet who seek a better life, who are hopeful that we can provide a path to such a life, but who understand the many obstacles. Sad at how challenging it is to improve their lives before the conflict is resolved. Sad at how 2 million Palestinians could be subjugated by Hamas and its partner in terror, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and at the lack of a solution to this problem. Sad (deeply so) at the lives lost and despair caused to so many families by the conflict, especially Israelis murdered in cold blood by terrorist attacks, as well as from rockets launched from Gaza. Sad that some actually believe that a moral equivalence exists between those murdered in cold blood by terrorists and those accidentally killed in Israel’s ever-challenging need to defend itself from such attacks.
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Hopeful that people heard our message and have become educated about the conflict, rather than latching onto the oft-used, vague talking points. Hopeful that the many Palestinians I have interacted with continue to support our peace efforts. Hopeful that our passionate peace team successfully continues to implement our vision for peace. Hopeful that those who believe in our mission will continue to support our efforts. Hopeful that everyone will now look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Arab-Israeli conflict in a new, realistic light and envision a world in which lasting peace is attainable.
Nothing is perfect, and compromises are necessary. I am deeply hopeful that the vision we created will appeal to Israelis and Palestinians enough to start down the hard road of negotiating a peace agreement, and that peace extends to the countries in the region beyond Jordan and Egypt. If the vision achieves peace, the lives of millions of people will be so much better.
Two types of people have an impact on this conflict: those who have hate in their hearts and undermine peace efforts, and those working toward peace. One group’s efforts prolong the suffering of all involved; the other strives for better lives for all in the region. I know what side I chose to be on.