FALMOUTH – I recently attended the pro-Israel AIPAC meeting in Washington and heard President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discuss their thoughts on the peace process.

The following are the important messages I took away from that meeting.

More important than the physical border between countries is what is on the other side. The 49th parallel works well between the United States and Canada.

However, making a border of a curvilinear line that almost cuts Israel in half and is nothing more than the armistice line after the 1948 war between Israel and five Arab countries is problematic.

Even international security guarantees do not substitute for a true peace partner.

When Israel left southern Lebanon, the United Nations passed a resolution to demilitarize the region and stationed U.N. troops to enforce that resolution.

Over the last couple of years, Iran and Syria have re-armed Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and installed about 55,000 missiles, including some sophisticated Scud missiles, in densely populated civilian areas. So much for U.N. guarantees.

A second important message is that peace at any price is equivalent to surrender and rarely, if ever, leads to true peace. In the late 1930s, the European Allies went to great lengths to appease Hitler. They allowed him to send troops into the demilitarized German Rhineland and to annex Austria and Czechoslovakia.

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned from a Munich meeting declaring that Hitler’s ambitions were satisfied and there would be “peace in our time.”

These actions by the Allies emboldened Hitler and convinced him that he could conquer all of Europe and Russia. That miscalculation led to the deaths of more than 70 million people during World War II.

My introduction to Israel occurred in 1979 when my wife and I and eight other Maine couples accompanied then-U.S. Sen. Bill Cohen and his wife on a 10-day trip to Israel.

We met most of the political leaders during that trip and also spent an afternoon touring the U.N.-run Gaza Refugee Camp.

We had a briefing at an Israeli general’s headquarters and learned that in the 12 years since 1967, when Israel captured Gaza, the standard of living of Gazans had tripled, as 40,000 were commuting to work in Israel on a daily basis.

At around that time, the United States and European nations offered to knock down the refugee camp and build modern housing with roads, schools, water and sewage systems and so on.

However that project was blocked at the United Nations by the Arab countries since they did not want to make it a permanent situation.

A couple of years ago, I met a young man from Gaza who attended Maine’s Seeds of Peace Camp and told him of my visit to Gaza.

He said that the early 1980s was the golden era for Gaza, where people had money, the stores were busy and his family vacationed in Europe.

He then added that soon after that, the violence started and all had changed. He added that Gazans have a love-hate relationship with their fellow Arabs, believing they are their brothers but also realizing that they are using them as pawns in their war against Israel.

To have a two-state solution, the Palestinian Arabs must accept Israel’s right to exist and then build a nation of their own. To create jobs and opportunity, they must attract foreign investors and tourists, and for that they need stability and security.

The West Bank has an active police force, and it is working to prevent terrorist attacks.

As a result, Israel has removed more than 100 roadblocks and the West Bank economy has grown by 10 percent a year for the last two years in spite of a worldwide recession.

On the other hand, Gaza’s leaders have fired missiles into Israel and have taken credit for terrorist incidents. That is not the way to build a nation or improve the lives of your people.

Is peace possible in the Middle East? After Egypt fought Israel in 1967 and in 1973, Anwar Sadat concluded that it was not in Egypt’s best interest to expend its resources and military in fighting with Israel.

He came to Jerusalem and recognized Israel’s right to exist, and Israel responded by dismantling an air force base and settlements in the Sinai, and returned all the land in the Sinai, including the oil fields.

That border and the one with Jordan have remained peaceful since both sides chose peace.

Former Prime Minister Golda Meir said that peace will come to the Middle East when the Arabs love their children more than they hate the Israelis.

– Special to the Press Herald