A FRESH PERSPECTIVE: Giving peace a chance

Why is Israel, a country so well known for its innovative spirit, unable to think outside of the box when it comes to the peace process?

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July 18, 2013 23:00

 
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Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Since the dawn of the Israeli-Arab conflict, the world has adopted a single approach to peace: Find the right way to divide the Land of Israel among Arabs and Jews, and this will bring peace.

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The British Mandate area was divided in the 1920s, establishing Jordan as an Arab state and Israel as a Jewish one. In the 1947 Partition Plan, the United Nations tried to further divide the land that was left in the mandate. However, the Israeli-Arab conflict only intensified.

Recent peace talks were more of the same.

Each failure has led to yet another attempt at implementing the same two-state solution, while expecting different results. Reviewing the history of the conflict necessarily leads to the realization that it is about more than a question of borders.

The Jewish nation has a connection to the whole of the Land of Israel, while Palestinians lay claim to cities such as Jaffa and Haifa. Nothing Israel can suggest will suit the Palestinians, and nothing the Palestinians would suggest could be accepted by an Israeli prime minister. There is simply no geographical solution to this conflict.

In Israel, the political Left was traditionally equated with peace-loving, while the political Right was perceived as refusing any opportunity for peace. Additionally, the Right was often accused of not offering alternatives to the twostate solution.

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With the continued failure of the two-state solution, the roles have become reversed. The Right has fostered several innovative proposals, which, although flawed, demonstrate a willingness to think outside the box in hopes of peace. Still, the Left rejects all solutions other than the impossible: to implement two-state solution.

Those attempting to discuss alternative solutions are heavily criticized and attempts are made to silence them. Shouldn’t peace-loving be equated with those yearning to find and discuss a solution to the conflict by any means? Israel is a country renowned for its innovation. Why not use this innovative spirit in its search for peace? The great philosopher John Stuart Mill wrote in his famous work On Liberty that “we can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion.” By silencing everyone who raises an alternative, we might be stifling the option which would bring us peace.

It is my goal in this column to help bring fair exposure to alternatives of the two-state solution, and a selection of these solutions is presented below. Like the two-state solution, these solutions are far from perfect. The ensuing discussion is my analysis of the pros and cons of each solution, including the two-state solution as one possibility. I do not endorse any of these plans. However, I do endorse a fair discussion of all of them.

This analysis is incomplete and some existing approaches are not included. However, my hope is that this short list of alternatives will allow for a fairer discussion of the diverse approaches to the conflict, help us embrace innovation rather than reject it, and reframe discussions of peace more broadly than the paradigm of the two-state solution.

If a fraction of the intellectual energy, political power and financial capital that has been invested in the two-state solution had been invested in exploring alternative solutions, we might already have achieved peace in Israel.

The Hotovely-Elitzur Plan (annexation)
Short description: This plan, supported by MK Tzipi Hotovely, MK Reuven Rivlin and journalist Uri Elitzur, seeks to annex Judea and Samaria into Israeli territory. In order to counter the demographic threat this can lead to, the first stage of the plan includes massive incentives for immigration of Jews to Israel, as well as the legislation of a constitution that will enshrine the Jewish character of the State of Israel.

Pros: This plan is based on the values of democracy, realizing that the Palestinians should also have political rights and not being afraid to give them those political rights, even if they will end up being a very significant and powerful minority in Israel. Much of the opposition to this plan, even from the Left, seems to have racist undertones, as people seem to reject the idea of having a large Arab minority for racial reasons.

Cons: This plan is based on controversial demographic data and presupposes the success of several initial steps, including the successful immigration of over one million Jewish immigrants and the legislation of a constitution.

The Bennett Plan (conflict management)
Short description: This plan does not seek to end the conflict but rather to manage it better.

Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett argues that, on the one hand, we cannot annex the whole of Judea and Samaria for demographic reasons. On the other hand, the creation of a Palestinian state cannot be the solution, for historical and security reasons. His solution is to annex part of Judea and Samaria into Israeli control, while granting autonomy to the Palestinians in the other areas. This autonomy will include the building of new roads, which will enable Palestinians to live a completely autonomous life without feeling occupied.

Pros: This plan comes from a realist strategic perspective: the conflict cannot end; let us try to improve Israel’s strength in this conflict.

By not seeking a utopian end to this conflict, Bennett is able to ask what Israel should do for its own good.

Cons: This plan does not claim to bring about an end to the conflict. Palestinians will have autonomy, but not sovereignty. It is hard to imagine a scenario where Palestinians will agree to those terms and therefore, the conflict will continue to rage on.

The Israel Initiative (the Jordanian option)
Short description: Jordan was created out of the British Mandate for Palestine and more than two-thirds of its population is Palestinian. If so, the national ambitions of the Palestinian people can be reached through self-determination in Jordan, by giving all Palestinians Jordanian citizenship and negotiating a final peace treaty with Jordan.

Pros: There is strong historical justice to this plan since it will return to the original British Mandate framework and divide the land of the Mandate into two states, one Jewish and one Arab.

Cons: It is hard to imagine a scenario where the current Jordanian government would be willing to implement such a solution. Even if a Palestinian government were established in Jordan, it would have no incentive to allow for this plan to be implemented.

The Two-State Solution
Short description: This plan aims to divide the remaining land under Israeli control into two states, roughly based on the 1948 armistice lines.

Pros: This plan already has international support and if a compromise was to be reached, it would be fairly easy to implement.

Cons: This plan requires Israel to relinquish important parts of its historical homeland. It also requires Israel to take serious security risks by accepting very narrow borders. Also, it has been tried over and over again – and has always failed. Every failure has brought bloodshed, and one can assume that further failures will bring further bloodshed.

Investing in the Alternatives
The main objection to any alternative to the two-state solution is that these are unrealistic solutions due to the lack of international support. To respond to this claim, let me quote prime minister Menachem Begin.

When asked, “How can you lead a policy of settlement expansion when the whole world is against such a policy?” Begin answered: “Has there ever been even a single Israeli representative who told any foreign official that Judea and Samaria (…) need to be an integral part of Israel? What criticism do you have against any foreign official when even Israel does not say that? Do they need to be more pro-Israel than what Israelis are?” As long as we keep telling the world that the two-state solution is the right solution, they have no reason to doubt themselves! Therefore, as long as we ourselves refuse to look at other options, the only option on the table will be the two-state solution. As we have said, this solution is not a viable solution, and, therefore, as long as we refuse to open our minds and look at alternative and innovative options, peace will never be achieved.

Those who truly want to give peace a chance need to start evaluating all alternatives, while trying to innovate and create further alternatives. ■

The writer is an attorney, and graduated McGill University Law School and Hebrew University’s honors graduate program in public policy

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