Time for a New Approach to the Israel Palestine Issue
A very senior settler once made the following analysis: the only reason that the international community was willing to put up with Israel’s Apartheid regime (he specifically used the “A” word), was because there was a perception that peace is on the horizon, i.e., Israel and Palestine are in a negotiation process, it may be taking longer than intended perhaps, but the end goal is in sight, which is a Palestine that is free and independent, both Israel and Palestine will have internationally recognized borders, some settlers will be withdrawn and the conflict will be over.
His fear, he said, was that once the world understands, what he and the right have been saying for many years, that the land cannot be divided (the right has actually been saying this for years – today more and more “others” are also coming to the realization that Israel/Palestine can no longer be divided), then the temporary nature of the Apartheid will turn permanent and the international community will have no choice but to re-evaluate its relations with Israel. A possible result of such a re-evaluation and actions that would follow, would be a price that would be attached to the occupation which currently does not exist for Israel.
I welcome the opportunity to address the readers of this important publication. What I am about to write here is hard to accept. The international community in general and particularly the European Union as well as Israelis and Palestinians have invested millions of dollars and tens of thousands of human hours to negotiate, investigate, outline, argue and plan the two separate state solution. One that envisages a physical border, a Palestine devoid of Jews (settlers) and an Israel facing West and a Palestine facing East. Much energy has been spent by so many, and coming to terms with failure is a hard and depressing task.
That being said, this failure, the lack of viability, sustainability and even desirability is becoming increasingly clearer to a large part of your diplomats on the ground in Israel/Palestine, as well as a growing number of Israelis and Palestinians.
Thus, the route we have been treading on, envisaged in the Oslo accord, has lead to a dead end and it is important to lay it to rest for two main reasons: The first reason is so that the international community will come to terms with the fact that today’s Israel has no intention to initiate a peace process. That Israel does actually intend to maintain the current situation, a military regime controlling around 2 million Palestinians who do not have human or political rights, indefinitely.
What to do with this realization is up to you. Decisive action, refusal to accept this reality is going to require brave and determined leadership. It will not be a pretty task. The Israeli establishment will be quick to label as anti-Semites anyone who will dare criticize Israel but true friends must say the truth even when it is unpleasant.
You should be aware of the fact that there are those I talk to in Israel who say that the international community will learn to live with this reality. That you will prefer to acquiesce to the situation then to go head to head with Israel. That you will be willing to accept an Israeli endless occupation. That you will be willing to continue doing business with Israel as usual (this approach has just been challenged by the Danish and the South African governments who are calling for a clear marking of products manufactured in settlements and thus a selective boycott). That you will agree to Israel’s double or quadruple speak where sometimes the West-Bank is just being held by Israel for the time being, where you can boycott goods produced in settlements (though Israel will continuously try to hide their origin, etc), and that there is a clear divide between sovereign Israel and the occupied territories, and others where the international community is condemned for investing into renewable energy projects or other humanitarian projects in Area C, and then blamed for messing in the internal affairs of Israel. This is a sign of a pathology. One that is not only causing great suffering and desperation for Palestinians but also one that is wrecking havoc and tearing at the fabric of Israeli society that is steadily becoming more corrupt, more violent, less tolerant and highly divided.
There are those of you who may say that a more demanding approach from Israel will only serve to make Israeli society more extreme. That Israel will huddle up, close ranks and continue with its “the world is against us” outlook. This outlook is already here. I would argue that a more engaged approach is what is needed. One that says: we care for Israel’s existence, will continue supporting a safe and secure Israel, but we cannot accept the current reality is what is needed at this time. It is a price tag that must be put on the occupation for Israel and Israelis to consider.
The second reason for putting Oslo to rest is a much more optimistic one and that is to make room for innovative, creative and out of the box search for alternatives to the 45 year occupation and the 21 year failed process. The alternative and innovation does not have to be and probably should not be a one state but rather a transcending solution, providing Israelis and Palestinians both what they need. A two state solution in one contiguous space without a physical divide or border. A two state in a one space solution, possibly emulating the European model. One where Jews and Palestinians can live in the entire geographical region. Either as residents or citizens. One very similar to Europe today. Ensuring national collective rights of all national groups as well as minority rights of all.
The major challenge is actually an economic one. Currently, there is a tenfold gap between Israeli and Palestinian GDP per capita. However, given the tourism potential and the fact that Israel/Palestine is the only land route between Europe and Asia on the one hand and Africa on the other the potential for a new serious and well thought out Marshall like plan to succeed to close the gap in a time frame of say 20 years is not farfetched. The additional fact that Israelis and Palestinians alike are highly motivated and capable people and that they have Palestinians of Israeli citizenship to bridge the gap between the two peoples, is a cause for optimism.
Thus, a combined approach is what is needed. On the one hand a refusal by the international community to the continuation of the occupation and the status quo and on the other the willingness to think big, bigger than before. To actually help the parties draw out the road map to an open, highly prosperous, peaceful and sustainable reality in the holy land. A road map with vision and promise. Something that has been lacking for so many years, perhaps always.