A bright spot for a troubled region

Another week in Washington. It’s hard not to be alarmed by the ever-widening circle of the highly questionable, if not illegal, behavior by the Trump family — and the lack of courage by my Republican colleagues to step up and hold them accountable. Yet another appalling Republican health care plan was released. It will deny care to millions, raise costs on others, and destabilize the health insurance market. Our priority this July session is to defeat this bill.

With all of these concerning revelations and efforts, however, there was a bright spot this week for a troubled region.

I’ve worked for years on the mounting humanitarian water crisis in Gaza. Currently, 97 percent of the water there is not safe for human consumption, and its quality is only getting worse. The health and security implications of unsafe water and sanitation issues are not just a threat to the people of Gaza, but to those in Israel. Water, disease, and pollution, after all, do not recognize boundaries.

I spent last week in Israel, where I personally raised this issue with the Israeli Prime Minister, the #3 official for the Palestinian Authority, and the U.S. Ambassador to Israel. I arrived home to the announcement of an agreement reached between Israel and the Palestinians to provide more water to severely water-stressed Palestinian communities, including those in Gaza. While the amount is modest in terms of overall the needs, it is significant towards averting the disaster in Gaza and lays the groundwork for future cooperation.

At the same time, news came this morning of more violence in the old city of Jerusalem, at the center of some of the holiest spaces for Muslims and Jewish people. One week ago, I was looking down at that very spot on a morning run. These events are so immediate, so consequential. Where absent action, continued violence appears inevitable. During my trip, I found that a majority of Israelis and Palestinians still believe in a two-state solution, even if America equivocates. The looming humanitarian, health, and ecological disasters continue, but action is possible. It won’t take much to make things better.

This is, for me, a global, historic illustration of the challenges and opportunities we face. Like the Gazan water and sewage crisis, solutions are well-within our capacity. There are indications that people can and will take action. It seems clear that the right choices can make a profound difference.

Here in our country, the health care controversy is entirely a manufactured political crisis. There is no reason to deny health care to millions of our most vulnerable citizens. While we destabilize the health insurance markets for everybody, we put at risk hundreds of thousands of family-wage jobs in health care, which provides a major part of the economic engine in every community. We don’t have to do this.

Here too, I see signs of optimism. The four versions of the Republican attack on the Affordable Care Act have come up short. They are incredibly unpopular with the American public. They have drawn statements of opposition across the board, including from the men and women we trust with our health care decisions. No major profession that Americans rely on for their health care supports this approach.

There are ways to protect and enhance health coverage and reduce cost. The challenge for us all is to harness this deep concern for the attack on our health care into support for ways to make it actually better. This is a time of great opportunity, whether in the Middle East or the Midwest, Jerusalem or Estacada, OR. Let’s be inspired by success and opportunities, be committed to solving problems, and be motivated, not discouraged by the events that face us each day.

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