A Palestinian protester holds a Hamas flag during clashes with Israeli troops in the West Bank .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Human rights for Palestinians will lead to reconciliation and a two-state solution, and can be found without compromising Israeli security.
In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, radicalized ideologues today argue vehemently for one side or the other. Perhaps searching for consistency, these ideologues have made it taboo to speak against the Israeli Right or the Palestinian cause from within either culture.
“Smolani” (leftist) is somewhat seen as a dirty word in Israel. In the West Bank, 70 percent of Palestinians believe they cannot criticize Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas without fear of reprisal. However, there is no reason one cannot criticize Israeli treatment of Palestinians while also saying no to Palestinian statehood aspirations for the time being.
The idea is simple: do what the Institute of Zionist Strategies proposed with its Blue and White Human Rights Initiative. For example, observing checkpoints and helping Palestinians experience as little trouble as possible when entering Israel will undoubtedly reduce the everyday hostility between Palestinians and Israelis, without significant cost to Israel’s security. This approach is crucial to eventual reconciliation with the Palestinians.
I will be frank: At this moment, I do not believe the Palestinians are ready to govern themselves without it being at Israel’s expense. A majority of Palestinians would likely use a state as a step in a program of stages to “liberate all of Palestine,” and there is no certainty they even want a two-state solution right now. A majority of Palestinians support firing rockets at Israel. Conversely, there is no reason to believe a one-state solution would lead to equal rights or protection for the Jewish people after the decades of mutual hostility.
Even so, Israel cannot use the inability to implement a two-state solution as an excuse to create more animosity.
Separation, harassment and fear are not conducive to changing the hostility preventing a two-state solution.
The “trade off” between security and human rights is a fiction, and Israel needs to realize that in order to increase the possibility of reconciliation. One can reduce hostilities while also keeping security stable (and a reduction in hostilities may increase security).
What is being said here is that Israeli methods of security, not Israel’s right to security, ought be questioned.
As such, each security policy must face the same question: is this necessary? A holistic approach to each policy might provide Israelis and Palestinians with the human rights and the reconciliation (over time) that they desperately want. There should be a review with the following goals in mind: • Ease the procedure at checkpoints to speed movement and allow more transparent appeals.
• Educate Israeli soldiers on the need to follow the “purity of arms” doctrine in the IDF Code of Ethics at an earlier age.
• Reduce Palestinian casualties by investing more in non-lethal crowd-control methods instead of conventional lethal weapons.
• Seek to more efficiently and fairly reapportion water between Israelis and Palestinians.
• Reduce anti-Palestinian incitement by fairly labeling – as may soon begin to happen – groups like Lehava as the terrorists they are.
These are not all the steps that must be taken, merely a few of many, and my suggestions necessarily focus on Israel alone. The Palestinians have their own struggles to undertake: ending their own incitement and properly investing in their water infrastructure among them.
Accusations of unfair attention on Israel may arise from my discussion here. However, I believe that Israel cannot use Palestinian failures to justify Israeli excesses. Further, I believe that Israel should not fear reform, as success will show the world which party is truly holding up reconciliation. The list of issues with PA and Hamas policies is far longer, and Israel can show that by shortening its own list.
The point remains, then, that Israel can still take a step toward the moral high ground by applying scientific and humanity-inducing principles that would not compromise security.
Indeed it must apply these principles if it hopes to someday have peace and regain the good graces of the international community.
If Israeli authorities undertake an independent, impartial and holistic review, and no policy is found as unnecessary or excessive, then Israel can continue with good conscience.
If some are found, then it will have moved toward reconciliation and reduced hostility of its own accord, acting responsibly in the process.
Skeptics will claim that Israel will be criticized no matter what, as the more powerful party. I agree. However, Israel will also be given more slack by other nations as taking positive steps, in the same way that Ariel Sharon’s advisor Dov Weisglass argued that disengaging from Gaza would show the world that the Palestinians were not ready for peace and reduce the pressure on Israel as a result. There must be a reduction in hostility, and that requires Israel taking the initiative to be the moral party in the conflict, even if the Palestinians refuse to do their own part.The writer is a researcher at University of California, Berkeley.