US Secretary of State John Kerry should understand that “settlements” are not the obstacle to peace in Israel – to the contrary. It is cities such as Ma’ale Adumim that stimulate peace and cooperation.

During my recent visit to Israel I had the opportunity to observe thousands of people peacefully marching 12 kilometers from the city of Ma’ale Adumim, located seven kilometers east of Jerusalem, to the East 1 territory in response to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s pressure to negotiate the borders of this land.

The Americans were also demanding a stop to the development of this city within the East 1 territory (E1 contains the security center that is maintained by the city of Ma’ale Adumim) during the negotiations for peace.

I was overwhelmed at the large number of people who gathered from all over Israel to demonstrate their support for the growth of this city. More than 15,000 came to publicly take a stand in the eyes of the world.

The demographics of the supporters were even more impressive. Representatives of all age groups attended, including a very high percentage of teens from all over Israel.

I spoke to several participants in the march, and a student named Efraim stated:

“This march is important to me for several reasons, but most important, this is the place [where] I want to raise my family. I want to have seven children, and this land is a part of my heritage and my children’s to come.”

Another student named Eva said, “I am here because this city is beautiful and there are thousands that live here. I want to see my country thrive. I have many friends and family that live here, as will even my own family one day. I must show my support to ensure this country’s growth for future generations to come.”

Several of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet ministers and members of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) came to speak and show their support.

Ma’ale Adumim Mayor Benny Kasriel said that young couples who grew up in the city should not be forced to relocate elsewhere for lack of housing.

“We have elderly and young, religious and secular. All are welcome here,” he said.

Peace in Israel Cannot be Achieved by Caving In to Demands

“We know from experience that the more we cave in, the worse it gets,” Housing Minister Uri Ariel stated.

He then added, “There are those who believe that if they follow the dictates of the rest of the world, we will have peace in Israel…. As housing minister, I am telling the prime minister that we are here to ensure that you keep your promise to build here.”

Ariel reminded the crowd that Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu had “stood on this exact spot” and said that the land connecting Ma’ale Adumim to Mevasseret Adumim (E1) must be developed.

“We will not go back to the Auschwitz borders,” stated Member of Knesset Ze’ev Elkin.

During my visit to Israel, spending time among the communities and talking with many people, it is difficult to understand why anyone would want to stop the development of this peaceful, thriving city.

Ma’ale Adumim is the very example of peaceful coexistence with the Palestinians for which politicians claim to be working and negotiating. Thousands of Palestinians earn a living in the city’s factories and enjoy freedom and friendship with Ma’ale Adumim citizens.

Why is Kerry not supporting this city and even requesting more backing from both sides of the table to help it grow as an example of the true collaboration that has already been achieved?

Many of the Palestinians that work and support their families within the Jewish communities of Israel want to foster their relationships and see them grow.

It is only those that do not have the opportunity to experience this kind of freedom and democracy that fight against it.

We should expect Kerry to encourage those who are truly extending their hands in peace – not dividing and stopping this growth, but stimulating it.

This is what the peace process should really be about.

Author: Kaylene Rudy, President, Americans United with Israel
Date: Apr. 7, 2014