You won’t hear this on the news in Israel: There is no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
No matter how many times the generals and politicians tell us that they have destroyed the terrorist infrastructure in this refugee camp or another, the very next day a Palestinian will undertake a suicide mission aimed at killing Israelis in retaliation for the killing of Palestinians by Israel.
One week these Israeli so-called experts tell us that the den of terror is in Jenin and the next day it is in Nablus or Bethlehem or Hebron or Gaza. As long as there is occupation and Palestinians live without the most basic human and civil rights, there will be Palestinian violence against Israel’s control over their lives. The Israeli occupation is nothing less than daily terrorism against the Palestinian people and the response to one side’s terrorism is terrorism in return. This ongoing war relying on what is called deterrence is futile and will only promise a lot more of the same.
There has to be a better way
There must be a better way. But with a failed peace process and the main option that was on the table fading away, most of us are without direction and answers.
This past week former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that the two-state solution is no longer relevant. His statement joined the calls of other American and European officials who believe that the time has come to abandon this formula and focus on the demand that Israel grant equal rights to Palestinians.
In my own personal experience in meeting diplomats, very few of them really think that such an option is still viable. Let’s face it, the Israeli settler movement won. Now we have to deal with the reality that their victory is in fact the defeat of Israel.
Israel is not the democratic nation-state of the Jewish people as it defines itself. Both elements of that definition are lies – between the river and the sea, the area under the de facto control of Israel, there is no Jewish majority any longer and genuine democracy is limited to Jews only. There are two very different economies – one Jewish and one Palestinian. There are two very different sets of laws and regimes to enforce them. There are those with the right to vote and to be elected and there are those without those rights. The list goes on and on describing the differences between being a Jew on this land and being a Palestinian. Some call this apartheid and others disagree with the term, I call it a new form of apartheid. We have a bi-national, non-equal reality in which millions of Jews and millions of Palestinians live.
Whatever you call it, the reality that is unfolding is one of increased violence. Israel sends its forces into Palestinian cities and refugee camps and they face Palestinian resistance with weapons. Settlement building is on the rise, more Palestinian land is being confiscated and Palestinians see their hopes of freedom disappearing rapidly. Young Palestinians with weapons use those weapons against settlers and military forces. Most are eventually killed and some are captured.
The Palestinian public supports the use of violence; and Israelis unify in solidarity with their government who sends more forces into Palestinian areas where more Palestinians are killed. This is the victory of the settlement movement and the defeat of Israel in very vivid terms. All people who are oppressed will fight for freedom. If we Jews were in the position of the Palestinians, we too would take up arms to fend for ourselves while the world gives our enemy impunity to do whatever it wishes.
If in fact the two-state solution is dead and no one really knows what a one-state solution means and all of the talk of federation or confederation is quite vague and very few people really understand what they mean, we have a huge problem.
For 46 years I supported the two-state solution, which was never an ideal solution or even the most just solution that one could think of, but it seemed to be the solution that provided both sides with the minimum of what was required for them to live in dignity, on a personal and a national level, and bring a majority of people on both sides of the conflict to support it. I can think of no other solution right now that enables both peoples to define and preserve their identities.
As an axiom, I believe that there is no solution that is based on a religious conviction that God gave this land to one people or the other or that by unilaterally controlling the territory, people are fulfilling God’s will. If we are talking about a political solution, then there is no equation in which God has a role – because no one really knows what God’s will is or even if God exists.
The challenge before us is to propose a solution that can achieve a majority support among both peoples. A solution that we can all live with. The proposed solution must provide for the expression of the territorial linkage to identity over which Jews and Palestinians have been killing each other for more than 100 years.
The solution must provide for the highest degree of personal security possible – in other words, it must include that we will stop killing each other.
The solution must also take into account the most sensitive issues – Jerusalem, holy sites, refugee rights, immigration policy, protection of land rights ownership, freedom of movement and access, economic prosperity, protection and proper use of natural resources, and a high degree of the sense of equality.
There is of course the possibility of saying there is no solution. If that is what people and political movements believe then the responsible thing would be to tell us what price they expect us to be willing to pay for the implementation of the plans that they have helped to put into motion.
I would like to hear from the Yesha (Yehuda and Samaria aka West Bank) council what they propose for a solution (based on the above guidelines). I would like to hear from the Religious Zionist Party and from Otzma Yehudit. I would like to hear from Hamas and Islamic Jihad what their solution is. I would like to hear from the Likud and from Yesh Atid and from the National Unity of Benny Gantz. It would be interesting to hear from Hadash whose core group, the Israeli Communist Party, supported the two states solution since 1947. Does what remains of the Zionist Left have any solution to offer? What about the Fatah movement in Palestine? Is there anyone in Fatah thinking about a realistic, pragmatic solution today?
I believe that the solution has to come from us, from Israelis and Palestinians, and not from the outside. It is possible that we have not suffered enough to come to terms with the need for a solution. It is possible that we have become accustomed to living in a situation of despair that our mental ability to create new ideas is limited by the forces that keep us basically complacent, instead of revolting against where our political leaders have brought us. It is possible that we are still unable to see the suffering that we cause to the other side.
None of our leaders are leading us to any kind of future that promises us life and security and that has to change. The change has to be made by us.
The writer is a political and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to peace between Israel and its neighbors. He is a founding member of Kol Ezraheiha-Kol Muwanteneiha (All of the Citizens) political party in Israel. He now directs The Holy Land Bond and is Middle East Director of ICO – International Communities Organization.