Retired Four-star Gen. Wesley Clark Was the Supreme Allied Commander of Nato. Dennis Kucinich’s Stat

It is no exaggeration to say that peace in the Middle East must be one of the highest priorities of leaders around the world. As president of the United States, it will surely be one of mine.

I stand firmly behind my commitment to the State of Israel and the security of the Israeli people. Israel and the United States have been allies since the birth of that nation in 1948. I stand in solidarity with Israel as it battles the terrorist infrastructure in the Palestinian areas.

At the same time — and for the same humanitarian principles — I declare my support for a Palestinian state and for the security of the Palestinian people.

The security of Israel requires the security of Palestine, and vice versa.

The same humanity that requires us to acknowledge with profound concerns the pain and suffering of the people of Israel requires a similar expression for the pain and suffering of the Palestinians.

When our brothers and sisters are fighting to the death, instead of declaring solidarity with one against the other, should we not declare solidarity with both for peace, so that both may live in security and freedom?

For these reasons, I support the U.S.-sponsored “road map” peace plan adopted by the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.

It is imperative that all parties involved, but particularly Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, work together in a spirit of cooperation and fellowship to implement the road map and set the stage for an enduring peace in the Middle East — a peace that will eventually straddle the Fertile Crescent all the way from Egypt, through Israel and Palestine, to Iran and Iraq.

While I understand Israel’s ardent desire to protect her people from violence, I cannot believe that the security fence Israel is constructing through the West Bank will help achieve that goal. While this barrier may decrease short-term random violence, in the long term it will surely breed deepening resentment and hatred.

I believe that what is needed, rather than a fence, is creation of a democratic Palestinian state with territorial contiguity and economic viability.

This is as necessary for the Israeli people as it is for the Palestinian. It is, I believe, the only path to a true and lasting peace.

As president, I will work with both parties, Israelis and Palestinians, to meet the commitments each has made under the road map.

It is time for the world to let go the ways of war and embrace the ways of peace. As president, I will create a Department of Peace. Conflict is inevitable; violence is not.

Nonviolence is abstinence from violence in settling conflict. It makes the world safer for people to be in conflict, as they will inevitably be. It is the only way for a nuclear-savvy humanity to survive.

Domestically, it important for us to remember that our Constitution protects all of us to worship as we choose in the faith of our choice. Our founding fathers recognized that for us to enjoy religious freedom, there must be a complete separation of church and state.

This does not keep spirituality out of our public lives, nor should it. It does, however, ensure that our government does not favor any one religion or another.

This is why I believe that the “faith-based initiative,” which provides specific and controversial ways in which religious organizations and governments may partner to provide social services, violates that basic constitutional mandate.

In lending the imprimatur of the state to organizations that are overtly religious, it blurs the distinction between church and state and renders meaningless the promise that our government will not promote one religion over another.

I would do away with the faith-based initiative and instead work through the Department of Peace and other social compacts to promote programs designed to reduce poverty, homelessness, joblessness and illness, and to raise the health, prosperity and cultural literacy of all Americans.

School vouchers also harm rather than help. They bleed vital funds from our public-school system and threaten values vital to the health of American democracy.

Vouchers attempt to disestablish not only public education, but the entire public realm. They divert public money away from the vast majority of public-school students — in most cases, the students who need it the most.

As president, I will lead the fight to improve public schools and oppose alternatives that divert attention, energy, and resources from efforts to reduce class size, enhance teacher quality and provide every student with books, computers, and safe and orderly schools.

Dennis Kucinich represents Ohio’s 10th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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