The Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains intractable, despite the best efforts of the Clinton Administration. Traditional techniques of conflict resolution using engineering, mechanistic, isolated approaches to problem solving are not suitable for nonmaterial identity based conflicts. Beliefs, values and behavior of conflicting parties are at stake. The fundamental concessions that are needed for peace will emerge, not through technical agreements, but only in a transformed political and psychological environment. Israeli-Palestinian peace is achievable but only at a price: both sides must undergo a change of mind.
The present impasse in the peace process is fundamentally a crisis of mind and spirit. If Israelis and Palestinians cannot change some deeply ingrained habits of thinking about one another, a crisis will be recreated short order. Only a new shared vision will suffice.
Why vision? To avoid drift. To avoid self-centeredness. To help mobilize the best imagination and energy of followers and leaders. To widen and deepen the sense of mutual responsibility. In the absence of vision, pandering replaces leadership, mood replaces action, and charisma replaces creativity.
Self evidently not all Israelis and Palestinian are accepting of the other, or open to the reality that they are each other´s neighbors. The irrendentists among both groups insist that no real change has taken place in the context of their relationship. There are Palestinians and Israelis who recognize that the relationship between the two parties has changed, but they are incapable of acting on their conclusions. Palestinians and Israelis have no other viable choice but to live beside each other. The security of the Israelis and the dignity of the Palestinians go hand in hand.
The only workable instrument for establishing a Palestinian-Israeli peace is the development of a broad consensus. The strategy of consensus calls for Israelis and Palestinians to strengthen their mutual dependencies and cooperative linkages. Both parties must willingly exploit existing tendencies towards their interdependence. Israeli security from this perspective is achieved less by placing the Palestinians at a power disadvantage than by circumscribing Israel´s freedom to and incentives for undertaking hostile actions. Adoption of an interdependent strategy carries with it an implied willingness to downgrade sovereign freedom of action as a defining characteristic of security. Enhanced Israeli security requires improved Palestinian security. Both sides achieve common security.
The process of consensus underscores the obsolescence of the habitual competitive practice in the Israeli Palestinian relationship. It is a model based on the assumption that the pursuit of self-interest, leads to the betterment of both sides. Consensus requires a cooperative model of Israeli Palestinian relationship that focuses on the benefits of stable peace for both. Neither Israelis nor Palestinians can achieve stable peace alone. In fact, both sides have to make sacrifices.
Given present realities, the Israelis cannot be defeated militarily; yet, they cannot win politically. The loss of the ability to force a verdict by armed conflict imposes a limitation on the practice of Israeli Palestinian statecraft. But it is a limitation that leaves room for vigor, imagination and skill in framing and executing reconciliation and coexistence between both parties.
Step One: Apology and Forgiveness
Israelis and Palestinians should begin their own process of truth and reconciliation now. Apology and forgiveness are central ingredients. Apology was a key to peace in South Africa and is being currently practiced by the Catholic Church, Germany and Poland who are seeking forgiveness from the Jews. Israelis should extend an apology to the Palestinians for Israeli abuse of Palestinian basic human rights. Palestinians should apologize to the Israelis for Palestinian acts of violence against Jews. Both must forgive, and accept apology graciously.
Step Two: Recognition and Acceptance
Palestinians and Arabs have to accept Israel as a Jewish state. Palestinians must recognize the Jewish historical, religious and emotional connection to the Temple Mount. This is consistent with Islamic traditions. While it is true that in times of decline in Islamic history Muslims violated precepts of coexistence, the religion of Islam clearly acknowledges and respects the rights of Jews, as well as Christians. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are not inherently hegemonic. However, in the context of power politics, Jews, Christians and Muslims have and do justify hegemonic practices. In keeping with the Islamic tradition and precepts, the Palestinians should accept Israeli identity.
Arabs also need to acknowledge the tragedy of the holocaust -- to listen to the Jewish story of pain and empathize with the historical memory of the Jewish people. The Arabs must acknowledge that the Jewish people have a historical connection to the Old City of Jerusalem and accept Israel into full membership in the Middle East region. Israel must be included in Arab maps, sports, and regional gatherings.
At the same time, Israelis have to accept that there is a Palestinian people and not merely "West Bankers" and acknowledge the historical memory of the Palestinians. The Israelis should stop referring to Palestinian land as Judea and Samaria and recognize the Palestinian´s just claim to their land. Israelis, too, must undergo a process of soul searching and come to terms with a past that includes acts of repression and dehumanization. Israel must also see itself as a Middle Eastern country. Israel is projecting itself in the region as a superior Western country, oblivious to its actual geography, an attitude that rekindles Arab resentment of Western colonialism and continued hegemonic behavior.
Step Three: Non-Adversarial Relationship
The Israelis need to abandon the practice of exploiting inter-Arab tensions. In international forums, Israel needs to refrain from voting against Arab states. In Arab countries, in public discourse, Israel should be treated as a neighbor rather than an enemy. Israelis and Arabs need to move away from the adversarial posture that both have adopted toward one another in the region and the international arena, toward a cooperative relationship.
Step Four: Sharing Progress
There cannot be peace without economic prosperity. Prosperity must be shared. Opportunities for economic growth will ensure that both Israelis and Palestinians are too busy to hate. Mutual prosperity will provide a basis for overcoming mistrust, paranoia, and defensiveness.
Israeli society and industry are technologically sophisticated, but Israel has not demonstrated willingness to help Palestinians. Israelis should pursue policies that promote Israeli investment in Palestine and development of the Palestinian economy. Encouraged by the Palestinians, Arab countries must end the economic boycott of Israel and promote trade and commercial transactions.
Step Five: Rights of People not States
Israelis and Palestinians need to recognize the rights of each other´s people. Israel should acknowledge its role in creating the plight of Palestinian refugees. Palestinian refugees should be given the choice to live where they want. Jewish settlers should be granted similar rights to settle in the West Bank. Palestinians should also be compensated for the property that they lost as Jews are now being compensated in Eastern Europe for the same. The same applies to the compensation of Jews who lost property in Arab countries
If Israel were to accept the return of Palestinian refugees, only a small percentage of the refugees would return. It is generally agreed that a significant number of Palestinian refugees would remain in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria if these governments were given incentives and were willing to integrate them into their societies.
Step Six: Mutual Religious Tolerance
Judaism, Christianity and Islam need to acknowledge one another. Israel needs to recognize the legitimacy of Islam, rather than view Islam as the enemy and move away from a clash of civilizations, to a dialogue of civilizations posture. Muslims need to acknowledge that Judaism has a deep historical connection to the Old City of Jerusalem. By recognizing each other´s narrative, Jews, Christians and Muslims prevent the discourse of their respective fundamentalisms from becoming instruments of foreign policy, as is presently the case.
Step Seven: Education and Communication for Peace
Both Palestinians and Israelis need to change curricula, textbooks and other learning sources to accept the concept of the new truth. Israelis and Arabs who do not know one another are the most aggressive, towards one another, because the other has no face. This results in de-humanization. Both sides need to move towards re-humanization and empowerment. Israeli and Palestinian youth have more in common than their grandparents did. By confronting their differences, they will discover their similarities, as some are already doing.
Step Eight: Jerusalem
The final step is possible only when the previous steps are realized. Jews, Christians, and Muslims have equal rights in Jerusalem. Every religious group should acknowledge the right of every other religious group. We need to take politics out of the Old City of Jerusalem.
The Old City, whose walls shelter the holy places for three religions, should be administered by a council representing the respective religious communities. Its inhabitants should have the choice of Israeli or Palestinian citizenship. The council should have a rotating leadership. Security in the Old City should be shared between Israelis and Palestinians.
Capitals could be located outside the Old City. Israelis and Palestinians can locate their capitals in metropolitan (greater) West and East Jerusalem -- Jerusalem minus the Old City. Borders within metropolitan Jerusalem could disappear. They are illusory. Its inhabitants should be given the choice of Israeli or Palestinian citizenship. Embassies could be located anywhere in greater Jerusalem and serve both Israelis and Palestinians. Finally, we would suggest that were the Arab world to unequivocally and sincerely recognize the right of Israel to exist as a brother nation in the Middle East, the symbolic capital of Jerusalem as the key national identity marker for Israelis would diminish.
This is not idle dreaming. The journey toward peace requires a great awakening.
Sincerely, The folks at Nonviolence International
Things undreamt of are daily being seen, the impossible is ever becoming possible. We are constantly being astonished these days at the amazing discoveries in the field of violence. But I maintain that far more undreamt of and seemingly impossible discoveries will be made in the field of nonviolence.
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