Yalla Peace: A peace plan Obama might embrace

What can the US president offer? Attitude. A tough, strong and undeterred approach to peace.

April 13, 2010 22:56
Ray Hanania

ray hanania. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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President Barack Obama will reportedly offer his own peace plan to Palestinians and Israelis. Although the two sides have been working on peace for nearly two decades, nothing has succeeded.

There are too many people who oppose peace – Hamas and religious fanatics on the Palestinian side, and some settlers and religious fanatics on the Israeli side.

They don’t want peace because they each believe they can get it all if they can just keep the conflict going.

So what can Obama offer that hasn’t been offered? Well, he can offer attitude. A tough, strong and undeterred approach to peace. Obama can tell both sides to shake hands the way former president Bill Clinton did in 1993 on the White House lawn with Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin – an event I witnessed firsthand.

I’VE OUTLINED my own peace plan. It’s a part of my PR stunt to run for Palestinian president, but my real goal is to run for the Palestine Legislative Council from east Jerusalem. It’s simple, and detailed on my YallaPeace.com Web site.

Basically, draw the boundary roughly on the 1967 borders. Israel keeps most of the settlements, and gives Palestine land mass equal to land annexed from the West Bank.

The Palestinian refugee issue is resolved using the rule of reason not the rule of law. Refugees would surrender the “right of return” in exchange for financial compensation from an international fund and resettlement in the Palestinian state or assimilation into the Arab countries where they now reside.

Both sides would apologize to each other for the past and embrace this vision of moving forward.

Also on the table for discussion is my plan (which the Financial Times “borrowed,” to put it nicely) requiring Israel to take back some refugees, based on how many settlers remain in West Bank settlements. “Refugees for settlers” is a concept that needs to be explored.

The Arab countries, too, would work with Israel to compensate Jews who lost lands and homes as a result of the conflict. (How Palestinians and Jews “lost” land and property is irrelevant in this discussion. It doesn’t matter if they left voluntarily or were forced to flee.)

The status of citizenship would remain the same. But Jews who wish to live in Palestine could do so and retain Israeli citizenship for voting purposes, although they must abide by Palestinian laws. Jews should be permitted to live in any area of Palestine, including Hebron.

The same for Palestinians. Refugees who “return” to Israel under the “settler-refugee exchange program” would be given Palestinian citizenship. And, Palestinian citizens of Israel could receive dual citizenship too, living by Israel’s laws. Settlers in settlements not annexed by Israel and surrendered to Palestine would be given the same option to keep Israeli citizenship.

It’s worth exploring at a higher, more detailed level.

The Old City of Jerusalem would be shared, with Israel taking the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall and Palestine taking the Armenian, Muslim and Christian Quarters. There, Palestine can establish its capital alongside Israel’s, which would be recognized by all.

The West Bank and Gaza Strip could be linked by an underground subway, or by an air corridor of shuttle flights.

The Arab world would normalize relations with Israel, and each would open embassies in each country. Palestine would be a non-military nation for the first 20 years, and would eventually partner with Israel to form a Palestinian-Israeli military, even creating merged Palestinian-Israel police.

Maps that exist today would be replaced with maps that show both country names and boundaries.

NOW, WE all know that violence will not disappear. The fact is regardless of whether it is peace or not, violence will continue, though it will be diminished considerably.

Extremist Jews and extremist Arabs will continue to sabotage the peace plan just as they undermined the Oslo Accords, but once there is peace, the major flash points will end.

Laws would be adopted to ban hate speech, and while Israelis and Palestinians can continue their own different narratives of history, a Palestinian–Israeli commission would be formed to forge a common consensus of a “peace history.” Eventually, both Israeli and Palestinian children would learn the two different narratives and the consensus peace narrative to help improve relations.

Israel would work with Palestine to create a major port in the Gaza Strip to develop an economic engine for commerce and international trade. A fund would be created that would provide grants to encourage Palestinian and Israeli cooperation to create businesses together.

Both countries will join a commission of conciliation in which grievances and failed promises are discussed. The US and several Arab countries would send representatives.

Finally, on the Palestinian side, we would also have to reengineer the existing election system. Right now it does not work. The process should be changed to permit political parties to hold primaries to elect their candidates, who would then run in a general election.

The winner of the election would not be the candidate with the most votes, but the candidate who receives 50 percent plus one vote of all votes cast.

Admittedly, this is my “anti-Hamas election rule” to prevent a radical minority from holding the entire country hostage with not a majority vote but a plurality vote. Only political parties that embrace nonviolence and the peace process could participate. Those that refuse can be shown the door.

I believe, and many other Palestinians and Israelis I have met believe, that this plan is doable. It requires both sides to make concessions, each difficult in different ways.

It’s a simple plan with simple rules. Palestinians and Israelis need peace badly, and they need it now.

It’s just an idea, but one that best encompasses most of what both sides would accept.
Obama can’t make everyone happy. But with a good peace plan, he can help make both sides safe.

Named Best Ethnic Columnist in America by New America Media, the writer is a Palestinian-American columnist and peace activist. He can be reached at www.YallaPeace.com

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