Eight Steps to
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains
intractable, despite the best efforts of the Clinton Administration. Traditional
techniques of conflict resolution, using engineering, mechanistic, isolated
approaches to problem solving are not suitable for nonmaterial, identity-based
conflicts. Beliefs, values and behavior of conflicting parties are at stake. The
fundamental concessions that are needed for peace will emerge, not through
technical agreements, but only in a transformed political and psychological
environment. Israeli-Palestinian peace is achievable but only at a price: both
sides must undergo a change of mind.
The present impasse in the
peace process is fundamentally a crisis of mind and spirit. If Israelis and
Palestinians cannot change some deeply ingrained habits of thinking about one
another, a crisis will be recreated in short order. Only a new shared vision
Why vision? To avoid drift.
To avoid self-centeredness. To help mobilize the best imagination and energy of
followers and leaders. To widen and deepen the sense of mutual responsibility.
In the absence of vision, pandering replaces leadership, mood replaces action,
and charisma replaces creativity.
Self-evidently, not all
Israelis and Palestinian are accepting of the other, or open to the reality that
they are each other’s neighbors. The irredentists among both groups insist
that no real change has taken place in the context of their relationship. There
are Palestinians and Israelis who recognize that the relationship between the
two parties has changed, but they are incapable of acting on their conclusions.
Palestinians and Israelis have no other viable choice but to live beside each
other. The security of the Israelis and the dignity of the Palestinians go hand
The only workable instrument
for establishing a Palestinian-Israeli peace is the development of a broad
consensus. The strategy of consensus calls for Israelis and Palestinians to
strengthen their mutual dependencies and cooperative linkages. Both parties must
willingly exploit existing tendencies towards their interdependence. Israeli
security, from this perspective, is achieved less by placing the Palestinians at
a power disadvantage than by circumscribing Israel’s freedom to and incentives
for undertaking hostile actions. Adoption of an interdependent strategy carries
with it an implied willingness to downgrade sovereign freedom of action as a
defining characteristic of security. Enhanced Israeli security requires improved
Palestinian security. Both sides achieve common security.
The process of consensus
underscores the obsolescence of the habitual competitive practice in the
Israeli-Palestinian relationship. It is a model based on the assumption that the
pursuit of self-interest leads to the betterment of both sides. Consensus
requires a cooperative model of Israeli-Palestinian relationship that focuses on
the benefits of stable peace for both. Neither Israelis nor Palestinians can
achieve stable peace alone. In fact, both sides have to make sacrifices.
Given present realities, the
Israelis cannot be defeated militarily; yet, they cannot win politically. The
loss of the ability to force a verdict by armed conflict imposes a limitation on
the practice of Israeli-Palestinian statecraft. But it is a limitation that
leaves room for vigor, imagination and skill in framing and executing
reconciliation and coexistence between both parties.
Apology and Forgiveness
Israelis and Palestinians
should begin their own process of truth and reconciliation now. Apology and
forgiveness are central ingredients. Apology was a key to peace in South Africa
and is being currently practiced by the Catholic Church, Germany and Poland who
are seeking forgiveness from the Jews. Israelis should extend an apology to the
Palestinians for Israeli abuse of Palestinian basic human rights. Palestinians
should apologize to the Israelis for Palestinian acts of violence against
civilian Jews. Both must forgive, and accept apology graciously.
Recognition and Acceptance
Palestinians and Arabs have
to accept Israel as a Jewish state. Palestinians must recognize the Jewish
historical, religious and emotional connection to the Temple Mount. This is
consistent with Islamic traditions. While it is true that in times of decline in
Islamic history Muslims violated precepts of coexistence, the religion of Islam
clearly acknowledges and respects the rights of Jews, as well as Christians.
Judaism, Christianity and Islam are not inherently hegemonic. However, in the
context of power politics, Jews, Christians and Muslims have and do justify
hegemonic practices. In keeping with the Islamic tradition and precepts, the
Palestinians should accept Jewish identity.
Arabs also need to
acknowledge the tragedy of the Holocaust—to listen to the Jewish story of pain
and empathize with the historical memory of the Jewish people. The Arabs must
acknowledge that the Jewish people have a historical connection to the Old City
of Jerusalem and accept Israel into full membership in the Middle East region.
Israel must be included in Arab maps, sports, and regional gatherings.
At the same time, Israelis
have to accept that there is a Palestinian people—not merely “West
Bankers”—and acknowledge the historical memory of the Palestinians. The
Israelis should stop referring to Palestinian land as Judea and Samaria and
recognize the Palestinian’s just claim to their land. Israelis, too, must
undergo a process of soul-searching and come to terms with a past that includes
acts of repression and dehumanization. Israel must also see itself as a Middle
Eastern country. Israel is projecting itself in the region as a superior Western
country, oblivious to its actual geography—an attitude that rekindles Arab
resentment of Western colonialism and continued hegemonic behavior.
The Israelis need to abandon
the practice of exploiting inter-Arab tensions. In international forums, Israel
needs to refrain from voting against Arab states. In Arab countries, in public
discourse, Israel should be treated as a neighbor rather than an enemy. Israelis
and Arabs need to move away from the adversarial posture that both have adopted
toward one another in the region and the international arena, toward a
There cannot be peace
without economic prosperity. Prosperity must be shared. Opportunities for
economic growth will ensure that both Israelis and Palestinians are too busy to
hate. Mutual prosperity will provide a basis for overcoming mistrust, paranoia,
and defensiveness. Israeli society and industry are technologically
sophisticated, but Israel has not demonstrated willingness to help Palestinians.
Israelis should pursue policies that promote Israeli investment in Palestine and
development of the Palestinian economy. Encouraged by the Palestinians, Arab
countries must end the economic boycott of Israel and promote trade and
Rights of People not States
Israelis and Palestinians
need to recognize the rights of each other’s people. Israel should acknowledge
its role in creating the plight of Palestinian refugees. Palestinian refugees
should be given the choice to live where they want. Jewish settlers should be
granted similar rights to settle in the West Bank. Palestinians should also be
compensated for the property that they lost as Jews are now being compensated in
Eastern Europe for the same. The same applies to the compensation of Jews who
lost property in Arab countries.
If Israel were to accept the
return of Palestinian refugees, only a small percentage of the refugees would
return. It is generally agreed that a significant number of Palestinian refugees
would remain in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria if the governments of these countries
were given incentives and were willing to integrate them into their societies.
Mutual Religious Tolerance
Judaism, Christianity and
Islam need to acknowledge one another. Israel needs to recognize the legitimacy
of Islam, rather than view Islam as the enemy, and move away from a clash of
civilizations, to a dialogue of civilizations posture. Muslims need to
acknowledge that Judaism has a deep historical connection to the Old City of
Jerusalem. By recognizing each other’s narrative, Jews, Christians and Muslims
prevent the discourse of their respective fundamentalisms from becoming an
instrument of foreign policy, as is presently the case.
Education and Communication for Peace
Both Palestinians and
Israelis need to change curricula, textbooks and other learning sources to
accept the concept of the new truth. Israelis and Arabs who do not know one
another are the most aggressive towards one another, because the other has no
face. This results in de-humanization. Both sides need to move towards
re-humanization and empowerment. Israeli and Palestinian youth have more in
common than their grandparents did. By confronting their differences, they will
discover their similarities, as some are already doing.
The final step is possible
only when the previous steps are realized. Jews, Christians, and Muslims have
equal rights in Jerusalem. Every religious group should acknowledge the right of
every other religious group. We need to take politics out of the Old City of
The Old City, whose walls
shelter the holy places for three religions, should be administered by a council
representing the respective religious communities. Its inhabitants should have
the choice of Israeli or Palestinian citizenship. The council should have a
rotating leadership. Security in the Old City should be shared between Israelis
Capitals could be located
outside the Old City. Israelis and Palestinians can locate their capitals in
metropolitan (greater) West and East Jerusalem—Jerusalem minus the Old City.
Borders within metropolitan Jerusalem could disappear. They are illusory. Its
inhabitants should be given the choice of Israeli or Palestinian citizenship.
Embassies could be located anywhere in greater Jerusalem and serve both Israelis
and Palestinians. Finally, we would suggest that were the Arab world to
unequivocally and sincerely recognize the right of Israel to exist as a brother
nation in the Middle East, the symbolic capital of Jerusalem as the key national
identity marker for Israelis would diminish.
This is not idle dreaming.
The journey toward peace requires a great awakening.
The folks at Nonviolence