Revising the peacemaking modality between Israel and the Palestinians from resolving to reducing
By Samuel Hyde
On one side, there are those within Israel and the International community who are still fixated on the idea that the conflict can be solved – an aspiration that many Israelis believe is currently unrealistic. On the other hand, some think the conflict must be managed, and the status quo must be sustained indefinitely – an equally problematic aspiration.
So perhaps it’s time for something new.
To move forward, I will argue that this approach must begin with breaking free from the two dreams birthed within Israel post our victory in the 1967, Six-Day War. I unpacked these two dreams in the first part of this article series, titled “Israel From Within: From Dreams to Fears and Back Again”. However, I will still provide necessary context on these two opposing dreams in this piece as we advance. From the onset, I will also clarify that this concept will not solve the conflict. It won’t help manage it. However, it has the potential to reduce it.
Any proposal for reducing the conflict must meet the following criteria:
- occupation redirection over the Palestinians with no settlement expansion, while at the same time leaving Israel’s security firmly intact, and
- re-directing Western funding policies which have enabled Palestinian rejection.
A BREAKAWAY FROM TWO DREAMS
After the Six-Day War, Israelis were blinded by two dreams of certainty. The first dream, known as “Land for Peace” was centered around Israel’s peace-seekers who woke up after the war, looked at the country’s new borders, and saw for the first time that the Jewish people held solid bargaining chips: The idea was that these territories could be exchanged for a peace treaty. In other words, Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War presented a golden opportunity to end war.
The second dream is known as “Settlement for Redemption”. Instead of bargaining away the captured territories, the state could settle them. According to the great ideologue of the settlement movement, Rav Kook, the Hebrew Bible contains a series of prophecies that the Jewish people will return to their land, and by settling the hills of Judea and Samaria, otherwise known as the West Bank, Jews would fulfill these prophecies and provoke a chain of events leading to the messianic dream.
These camps of dreamers did not achieve their intended goals, which today has led to an oddly paralyzing consensus within Israel. Today most Israelis do not want to control the lives of the 2.6 million Palestinians living in the West Bank. At the same time, most Israelis don’t want to withdraw from this territory for fear of making their country so geographically small as to be indefensible. They agree on a paradox, and therefore the certainty behind the two dreams has only led to confusion and stagnation.
In truth, the current paralysis in Israel, if mobilized correctly, can lead to fresh thinking and a new course of action. Philosopher Karl Popper once observed that:
“new ideas are not born in ideological spaces paralyzed by certainty, but in places where doubt fills the human mind.”
So, how do we replace paralysis with pragmatism?
OCCUPATION REDIRECTION AND SETTLEMENTS
The 1993 Oslo Accords birthed the Palestinian Authority (PA) and granted it control over 40% of the West Bank. The Palestinian zones are called Area A and Area B. Area A covers the main Palestinian towns, where the PA has total civilian and security control; Area B encompasses the outlying areas and villages, where the PA has only civilian control. The remaining 60%, called Area C, remains under the control of the Israeli army.
Therefore, a Palestinian resident of Ramallah does not directly experience the Israeli occupation daily. The authority that governs him is Palestinian, and the police force protecting him is Palestinian. However this is only true as long as he remains inside Ramallah and does not venture out to other areas that do not share continuity.
Addressing this situation does not require a peace accord. The solution is neither strategic nor political but infrastructural. In the early 2000s, the Israeli Central Command and IDF Planning Directorate drew up a plan dubbed ‘Keep It Flowing’ to pave roads that would bypass the settlements and join the different parts of the Palestinian Authority. Over the years, civilian bodies have continued developing and upgrading this plan. It would not be cheap to implement because it involves tunnels and bridges, but it would create transportational continuity for Palestinians. Senior officials in the IDF Central Command are clear that the Israeli security apparatus already has the technological solutions to facilitate this development – without reducing Israel’s level of security. If Israel were to pave this network of roads, giving the Palestinian Authority autonomous control, freedom of movement would be completely transformed.
If this is so simple, why has it not been done yet? The hard-right opposes any territorial concessions to the Palestinians because it believes the land is holy and must not be conceded. But many members of the hard left are also against it because they think policies that make life easier for Palestinians in the territories will normalize the occupation and thereby legitimize it. The center’s emergence in today’s political scene comes at such a vital time – allowing Israelis to break free from years of left and right polarization.
Next, to facilitate no settlement expansion, Israel would have to refrain from expanding its settlements outside the major blocs and allocate land in Area C for Palestinian economic initiatives. One annex of the 1995 Oslo Accords is the Paris Protocol, making the Palestinian economy entirely dependent on the Israeli economy and the State of Israel. The Palestinian tax, customs, import, and export systems rely on and are effectively controlled by Israel. The Paris Protocol can and must be revised to end this dependence. Recent years have seen a creeping annexation in the territories. The ideas above would propel Israel in the opposite direction— necessary separation. In other words, yes to the occupation redirection, no to settlement expansion.
Some 120,000 Palestinians work in Israel, bringing large sums of money to the Palestinian territories and providing a livelihood for 600,000 people. There is a significant pay differential between employment in the PA and Israel – for the same job. The IDF’s top brass have concluded that permits for Palestinians to work in Israel can be dramatically boosted. These employment opportunities can be opened to women and older men with clean records, with a supervised but minimal risk to Israel. If 400,000 Palestinian workers entered Israel every day, this would significantly improve the Palestinian economy. More than 1 million Palestinians would directly enjoy the fruits of working in Israel.
Note the complementary process here. Alongside political separation is economic independence. These policies would not produce a two-state solution but will create a two-state reality. These small and cumulative steps are not to end the conflict but to change its nature; paving the way with pragmatic caution.
In 2005, Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip, a unilateral move many describe as a failed experiment. As a result of the disengagement, Israel may have gained a sizeable demographic bump. Still, it also saw the birth of Hamas, an Iranian terror proxy with a founding charter that calls for the genocide of Jews and destruction of the Jewish State.
When it comes to Palestinian terrorism, Israel’s security is based on its forces’ ability to foil the formation of terror cells in the West Bank. Their great success stems from Israel’s wide-reaching intelligence network in Palestinian towns and villages. To guarantee the effectiveness of this intelligence, Israel needs to maintain free military access to every part of the Palestinian autonomous areas. Here are the five principles that will guarantee Israelis’ continued security. Note that Israel conceded three of these five points in the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
-The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) will remain in place, and Israeli intelligence will continue to operate in all parts of the West Bank.
-The IDF will continue to conduct pursuits and arrests in all parts of the Palestinian autonomous area.
-Israel will retain a permanent military force in the Jordan Valley.
-The airspace will remain under full Israeli control.
-The electromagnetic field will remain under full Israeli control.
With western countries providing the bulk of the funds for UNRWA’s operations, it unwittingly bolstered the Palestinian idea that it is better to struggle for a “return of refugees” rather than come to terms with the legitimacy of Israel and build a new life of prosperity in the West Bank and Gaza. UNRWA undermines peace by reinforcing to the more than 70% of Gaza inhabitants registered as refugees that Gaza is not their true home. It does so by providing the political infrastructure that grants Palestinians the status of “refugees”, which they would not otherwise merit if international standards were applied. UNRWA cannot be a meaningful partner in Gaza’s reconstruction. On the contrary, UNRWA remaining a major actor in any attempts to rebuild Gaza assures its failure.
Israel should insist that UNRWA’s donor countries – the United States, Australia, Britain, and the European Union – cease its support. Countries that officially support the two-state solution should not underwrite an organization such as UNRWA, whose transparent aim is that the Jewish people will not have a sovereign state. Dissolving UNRWA is essentially dissolving a structure that only further enables the root cause of this conflict – Palestinian rejection of a Jewish State in any part of the land between the river to the sea.
By redirecting the billions of dollars from UNWRA, foreign governments could instead aid the already developed yet highly under-funded education and public health systems of the PA. Those supporting a two-state solution or those invested in creating a ‘two-state reality’ must send a clear message:
One that simultaneously enables Palestinian enrichment but erases the cause that denies Israel’s existence.
Furthermore, countless independent NGOs and research bodies have found that UNWRA’s school curricula are entrenched with antisemitic propaganda. Many of UNWRA’s teachers have been found guilty of engaging in antisemitism. When we talk about terrorism in Israel, we focus on the individual or individuals committing the attack to remain “polite” and not generalize. The truth remains that terror attacks in Israel are the product of deliberate, systemic, and ongoing incitement, often from within the UNWRA education system. It might be the time to dispense with political ettringite and replace it by holding those responsible for this incitement accountable.
I am not advocating a complete divorce between Israel and the Palestinians. These changes would not produce a two-state solution but, if handled effectively, would lead to a two-state reality that would best provide for Israel’s vital interests, notably security and dramatically improve day-to-day life for Palestinians.
If this approach to ‘reduce the conflict’ is undertaken, the future could prove more promising. History is dynamic and surprising, and so is the Middle East. We can assume that new opportunities will arise. Ten years ago, people would have shrugged, looked to the sky, and rolled their eyes at the thought of the Abraham Accords becoming part of the Middle East’s reality. A revised approach for conflict reduction, will reposition Israel to always spot arising opportunities to favourably remodel a more prosperous and peaceful future for all in the region.
About the writer:
Samuel Hyde is a political writer and commentator based in Tel Aviv, Israel. As a columnist he has been published throughout Israel, the U.S and South Africa in esteemed publications, focusing on topics such as Israel’s political climate, antisemitism, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the Jewish world, and Jewish Pluralism. He also works in field related organizations.
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