The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: What to Do? A Vision
From the USA, it feels as if Israel is doomed.
Pessimism runs in Israel too. People I talk to are worried. There is a sense of helplessness; they feel that there is nothing Israel can do differently. Israelis go on with their daily work and joys, and they have kind of accepted that every few years, there will be a war, some people will be killed, and there is nothing Israel can do to change that.
The causes for this inaction, I believe, are: Israelis externalize the problem; they attribute the problem as being the Palestinians’. There is no one among the Palestinians to serve as a trusted partner in an effort to reach peace. Or, the problem is that the world is anti-Semitic, and there is nothing Israel can do to change that. In other words, the problem is “out there,” and thus the solution is “out there.” There is nothing more Israel itself can do – nothing new or different.
And for the religious people, there is nothing to do because God will save Israel. God did it many times in the past. Will do it again now.
Another cause, I believe, is that the Jewish people, for two thousand years, learned to live with problems and threats. So, unless it is a major crisis that threatens their survival here and now, they do not act. They just live with the problem. And that is what is happening now in Israel. The politicians are more worried about getting power or staying in power than dealing with the Palestinian issue.
There are five potential solutions, or better said, scenarios, that might remove the problem of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Only five, including the present default one:
1. Israel disappears from the map; the problem becomes a non-issue
2. All the Jews go back to where they came from (reverse history)
3. One state for all
4. Two states
5. Keep the status quo, the default solution
In my judgment, there are no more choices, no other scenarios, so one of these five has to be the one. Has to be.
Let us analyze them, starting from the least desirable:
Israel can disappear from the map if overcome by war or if Iran drops the bomb.
Iran cannot destroy Israel. They might drop the first nuclear bomb, but if they do, it will be their last. It is believed that Israel has over two-hundred nuclear bombs, and has a nuclear-driven submarine positioned in the Strait of Hormuz, close enough to bomb Iran undetected. If Israel is attacked, Iran will cease to exist.
I think the Iranians know this. So all their talk about how “We will destroy Israel” is bravado.
To become the leader in the Muslim world.
Overcoming Israel by war will not be easy either. Israel has nuclear armaments, and if the situation gets to the point of despair, they might use them. (It was considered in the Yom Kippur war.)
In this scenario #1, whether Iran attacks or there is a devastating war, Israel will suffer but not disappear.
Scenario #2, to reverse history, returning six million Jews back to the countries they came from, is an alternative that any person, not overcome by alcohol, can easily realize is not possible to execute. (Strange enough, it is what the radical Palestinians are demanding.)
We are left with three alternatives: one state, two states, or status quo.
One state is the end of the Zionist dream of having a Jewish state, and in fact, might even make Israel an apartheid state, or Israel might end up resembling one big Belfast. Thus, this alternative #3 is not an attractive solution and thus, it is not mobilizing sufficient political mass to be selected.
It leaves us with the two states alternative. It is a solution the world community is pushing Israel to undertake, but it will not be easy to implement. Thousands of settlers will have to be removed from the land. Those settlers have a religious-messianic ideology. They will not be removed without resistance. Maybe armed resistance. It could lead to a breakdown of Israeli society. There is no Israeli political leader who can pass this resolution of two states without significant major turmoil. And in the present state of animosity between the parties, there is the danger of the west bank Palestinian state becoming another Gaza, showering Israel with rockets. Israel would be surrounded: Gaza in the south, a Palestinian state on the east, and Hezbollah from Lebanon in the north. Not a pretty picture. Thus, this solution is not driving Israeli strategic initiatives either.
This leaves us with the status quo, and that is what is happening. That is the solution by default. By not doing anything else. The result is that Israel has no strategy what TO DO. It has only a strategy of what NOT to do. The result is that Israel is perceived as being against peace. And the world community is increasingly getting tired of Israeli negativism, and is turning belligerent towards Israel.
But what is so bad with keeping the status quo?
There is no such thing as status quo, because the situation either has to be better or IT WILL BE worse. The situation does not freeze in a status quo. And the situation is getting worse. Why? Because it is not getting better. Both the Israeli and the Palestinian populations are turning more extreme in their posture and their demands. Less compromising. And Israel has become increasingly isolated from the family of nations. So staying as is and letting the situation become worse and worse can naturally only lead to a major, major crisis.
It does not have to be so, and that is the purpose of this paper.
It can be made to be better. And by doing so, create a climate where peace negotiations can produce results. In the present climate, no solution can be accepted; thus, the status quo. Thus, the deterioration in relations. Thus, the potential doom scenario.
After writing the vision of what can be done, I realized it has zero chance of even being considered. And if I publish this, I will be a subject of ridicule. I will be called a naïve dreamer. Anything but a serious thinker. I decided to publish it anyway, so that a discussion can start.
What I have is NOT a solution. I repeat it for emphasis. Rather, it is designed to create the conditions for finding a solution. To prepare the ground.
In today’s political and social atmosphere, real peace cannot and will not emerge. In the present climate of animosity and mistrust, no solution, whether it is status quo, two state, or one state, will work. None.
My suggestion is to first create the conditions for peace, and only thereafter, have peace negotiations, which could end as one or two states or keeping the status quo. With a better climate, whatever is decided might have a better chance of success.
Here it is as a vision, to serve as a basis for a discussion that might produce some action in the right direction.
Here is what I believe needs to be done to create conditions for peace:
1) Pass a law forbidding any expression of intolerance. It would be punishable by law. Establish hundreds of citizen courts elected by the people to judge anyone that has exhibited intolerant, discriminating behavior, such as refusing housing because of someone’s origin, or not accepting children in a school because of the color of their skin, or screaming obscene racist calls from the stands in a soccer game. And this law would apply not only to Ethiopian Jews or Arabs; no discrimination would be tolerated toward any immigrant group. No expressions of intolerance, even against the settlers – the Israeli men and women who are in the so-called “occupied” areas. By having hundreds of such courts, I expect to spread the message: intolerance, racism, and discrimination, are not acceptable.
Force tolerance and mutual respect by law.
2) Announce that Israel will stop new expansionist construction in areas that Palestinians consider as part of their state, IF and WHEN the Palestinians stop the hate literature in their schools, clean up their textbooks, and legislate that expressions of hate against Israel are punishable by law.
Trust-building initiatives have to be mutual.
3) Bring the Arab political party into the governing coalition. I believe they support the survival of Israel, as long as they can feel like equal members of Israeli society.
I believe in this because if the hostile Palestinians win the war, the local Arabs will, one way or another, be punished as collaborators. Furthermore, in Israel, the Arabs have better standards of living and more political freedom than the Arabs in neighboring countries. They will lose it all if Israel disappears. As evidence, I submit, when it was suggested that Umm al-Fahm, a big Israeli Arab settlement, would be transferred from Israel to the potential Palestinian state, the majority rejected the plan.
4) Pass a law requiring that an Israeli Arab be elected Vice President of the country. Should anything happen to the President so that he or she cannot perform assigned duties, the Arab Vice President will assume the office of President till the mandate expires.
5) Announce that XYZ sum of billions of dollars be put in escrow in a Swiss bank for the Palestinians. This would be compensation for the land they lost in all the wars. But, this is done without Israel admitting guilt. It is more a show of empathy for the Palestinian suffering and a willingness to help them rebuild their lives.
I know that billions were already given to the Palestinian authority and nothing happened to bring peace. The above alternative is different. The money would be given to those who agree to cede their right of return. To avoid corruption and the disappearance of the money, and also to make sure that the funds are not used for rearmament, the money must be assigned only for building industry or commercial enterprises in collaboration and co-ownership with Israeli or foreign entities.
Israel needs one way or another to build their economy, so that in case of war, they have something to lose. As it is now, they are so desperate, without a future, that their only hope is to go to heaven and find happiness there. And in the process, take as many Jews with them as they can.
The sum would be put into escrow because we do not know if and when the Palestinians will accept the money and agree to cancel their right of return demands. But, that will put some moral pressure on them to be reasonable in their negotiations.
6) To overcome what I think is a subconscious fear of assimilation in time of peace, or a general fear of rejection of the Arabs, Israel has to feel strong spiritually and religiously. I would make Jewish religious education mandatory in all Jewish schools. No one can graduate without knowing Jewish prayers, customs, and traditions.
And, 7), I would make knowledge of spoken Arabic and the study of the foundations of Islam requirements for graduating high school.
I would do all of the above before going to any negotiations for peace.
Before negotiating peace, there must be a climate that can make peace possible.
To sign a peace agreement, without at least some trust and without minimal mutual respect, is only to have it on a piece of paper. In reality, peace will not happen. It cannot happen.
Now imagine if all of the above, or even parts of the above vision were applied. What would be the climate in Israel? How would Israel be supported by the family of nations? And would it be easier to negotiate peace for one or two states? Or even to maintain the status quo?
Or would it be more difficult?
I am cognizant of the Israeli political climate. And of Israeli culture to criticize and negate anything. To always find what is wrong and not what is right. But I hope I made the point that, as is the situation now, if things do not get better, they will only get worse. Second point: one role of leadership is to give hope, to point to a direction to take in time of crisis. As it is now, Israel has no strategy one can identify that is positive and leading anywhere short of incoming disaster. And the strategy should not be one it had in the past. It relied too much on Palestinian cooperation. Since there is no partner who can sign a real peace agreement and carry it through, the strategy should be one that Israel can do on its own, not depending on the Palestinians. It is a strategy to give hope, to have a peace initiative, one that can hopefully start the movement in the right direction.
Ichak Kalderon Adizes