The 2021 Israeli-Palestinian Joint Memorial Day Ceremony

A Solution for the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?

Penny S. Tee Article

I’m not kidding, this is another organization in Israel called A Land for All movement, working on Peace (last time I wrote about Anahnu) between the Israelis and Palestinians. Somehow, with all the talk of impending annexation, I felt like I had to quickly write about Peace activists in Israel before another probable stumbling block arrives, otherwise known as annexation. Will it happen? How much will be annexed? Who knows?

Even the term annexation is under dispute. Those in favor of officially uniting parts of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley into Israel prefer using the terms extending sovereignty. Why? Ambassador Dani Dyan, who has been Israel’s Consul General in New York for the past four years, explained it this way in a recent interview with “The Forward” … Annexation, settlers and occupation are terms used for colonialists. Although Israel is often accused of being such, he is adamantly opposed to the terms. All these words describe one country taking over the land and people of another. He views the Jewish people as indigenous to Israel, which nullifies this terminology. There is nothing that is not complicated about the conflict, including word choice.

One positive about this pandemic is the learning that has been enabled using platforms like Zoom. I appreciate being able to connect with people literally all over the world, especially in Israel. This was another meeting sponsored by my favorite Peacemakers called Roots/Shorashim/Judur. The speakers being interviewed by Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger were the well-respected members Meron Rapoport and Dr. Thabet Abu Raas of A Land for All.

To hear Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, as one of the founders of Roots/Shorashim/Judur, support their plan, made me sit up and take notice. Although Roots is apolitical, it was clear that A Land for All held a special place in his heart. His excitement was palpable. A Peace plan was being talked about that an orthodox, Zionist settler who had love and respect for his Palestinian brothers and sisters could be excited about? What Peace plan was this?

The rabbi had always demonstrated that he respected both peoples’ rights to the land. I had heard him say many times that both the Israelis and Palestinians each had legitimate rights to an historic, religious, cultural relationship to the same whole land. He acknowledged that both sides really deserved, wanted, and needed all the land. So what do you do to be fair? How do you make Peace? He said, “It’s a conundrum that’s difficult to see your way out of!”

Rabbi Hanan went on to say that the classical Oslo agreement stated that neither side could have all of it and the land had to be split up into two separate states. He said powerfully that in his opinion, both sides lost. It steals from him (the Israelis) part of their homeland and it steals from the Palestinians part of their homeland. Peace of that sort makes enemies. It takes the people who are most connected to the land and makes them enemies of the proposed Peace. It is an injustice. So the question posed is how do we give justice to both sides?

In Rabbi Hanan’s opinion, A Land for All shows a way―it is a goal to work toward. By having two states that maintain their open interconnection with each other through a confederation, then both sides can live and travel freely without constraints. You form a joint homeland. You can still be an Israeli citizen but a resident of Palestine or a Palestinian citizen and resident of Israel traveling easily past open borders. Finally, by having the confederation, it ties together the two states into one homeland. From his vantage point nothing is given up.

To see Rabbi Hanan–barely able to sit in his chair he was so excited as he gave a brief recap of A Land for All’s plan–put a smile on my face. Could there really be such an Israeli-Palestinian Peace plan proposed that could bring joy to both sides? It was worth looking at. This is not to say that everything has been worked out, but it is a creative beginning that tries to be fair to each side.

A Land for All is an Israeli-Palestinian movement that has been growing for over seven years. They believe in the confederation model to enable Peace, which was developed by both Israelis and Palestinians. Their solution to the conflict promotes sharing, equality, and mutual respect between the two peoples. It was exciting to hear that the movement, has met with tens of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians, engaged with community leaders, politicians, diplomats, journalists and academics, run workshops, and drafted documents which elaborate the movement’s vision: Two independent states within which each people would enjoy its right for self-determination, bound together in a confederation creating one shared homeland with full equal rights for all.

The plan offers a partnership of two independent, democratic states, Israel and Palestine, with the boundaries based on the 1967 borders. The two states would be part of a federation, like the EU. Israelis and Palestinians could stay where they were living with freedom of residency and of movement, regardless if the government in their town was run by the “other.” The union would share institutions for security, human rights, economy, climate, etc.

Jerusalem would be a shared city of both states.

It is their belief that separation is both undesirable and potentially impossible given the three significant obstacles of the settlements, refugees and Jerusalem. They believe dismantling the settlements not only would be difficult, it still would not resolve the fact that for the religious Jews of the area, living in what they call Judea and Samaria is still where they want to live. Why? It’s because in the Bible, Judea and Samaria, also known today as the West Bank, are the heartland of the Jewish homeland.1 But will the Jews currently living there be willing to live under Palestinian rule if the borders are returned to 1967?

They also believe separation does not resolve the Palestinian’s Right of Return. They believe that if Israel continues to reject Palestinian refugees from returning, this issue will remain unresolved and would be unacceptable to the Palestinians.

Dividing Jerusalem is difficult, given the innate complexity of splitting this Holy geography amongst the parties that each regard as their own.

The A Land for All movement sees their proposal as an alternate, in-between choice. It is neither just a two-state solution nor is it a one-state plan.

Rapoport believes the two-state solution has failed. With the prospect potentially of what he termed annexation, he rejected the notion of establishing a plan that in his opinion gives official supremacy to the Jews of the land and adopting an almost official apartheid system. Seen from the perspective of their organization’s plan, he believes it is an easy choice to choose the option providing equality and sharing between both peoples.

 Yet one of the most important points Dr. Abu Raas felt should be emphasized was that the injustices of the past must not be carried into the present to create injustices today. He also admitted that they were not security experts and did not have all the answers. But he felt strongly that addressing each of these issues would help to lessen the fear and the need for extreme security concerns. He said Palestinians had lived in misery long enough and he wanted to assure everyone that they too wanted to live in Peace in their homeland. Building trust between Israelis and Palestinians would be essential.

There are eleven shared agreements to their plan:2

  1. One Land, Two States: Palestine and Israel are one historic and geographic unit, stretching from the Jordan River to the sea. In it, the two sovereign states Palestine and Israel will live with self-determination within the borders determined June 4, 1967 border.
  2. Democracy, Human Rights, Rule of Law: The two states will be democracies; their governments will abide by the rule of law and recognize human rights as recognized by international law, based on the principles of equality, freedom and the sanctity of human life.
  3. Migration and Citizenship: Both countries will determine their own immigration and citizenship laws.
  4. Vision of the Open Land: Both states will allow citizens of both countries to move and live in all parts of the land.
  5. Jerusalem: Jerusalem will serve as the capital of both states open to citizens of both countries, within agreed borders. The holy places will be managed with the participation of representatives of the different religions and the international community, while ensuring freedom of worship to people of all religions.
  6. Security: The two states will solve all their disputes in peaceful ways, will act against any violence or terror, will be sovereign on all matters relating to protecting public order within its borders and the personal security of its residents.
    • Armed militias and unauthorized organizations will be disarmed.
    • The two states will enter a mutual defense treaty against external threats; no foreign military power will enter the territory of either country, but only in agreement.
    • A shared supreme security council will be formed to monitor and decide on common security issues. The council may deploy a joint force to protect the external borders, with the agreement of both states.
  7. Shared Institutions: The two states will share the following institutions:
    • Human Rights Court, which will be empowered to serve as the highest instance to rule on the following two matters:
    • Petitions by non-citizen residents against the country of their residence, claiming a violation of their rights.
    • Conflicts between the two states as to the rights of their citizens residing in the other state, and all matters deriving from the one land vision.
    • A shared institution to guarantee a minimum economic safety net for all residents of the land, both Palestinians and Israelis.
    • A special authority to manage and develop the land’s economy, which will include institutions for economic cooperation, coordination of customs, traffic of goods and labor, work migration, development of infrastructure and local and international investments.
    • Institutions for fair distribution of water, natural resources the environment and land development.
    • Any additional shared institution required with equal representation of citizens of both states.
  8. Palestinian Citizens of Israel: The Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel will be granted national minority rights, civil equality, and appropriate representation in government institutions in Israel. The Jewish minority in Palestine will receive similar rights.
  9. Restitution and Reparation: A common mechanism will be created to manage the restitution of property lost or confiscated as the result of the conflict, or for reparation in case restitution is impossible. Israel and Palestine will call on Middle Eastern countries to compensate Jews for the property they have lost and allow those who so desire to return to their homes, as possible.
  10. Reconciliation: Common mechanisms will be established to reconcile the two people, including the establishment of shared reconciliation councils to allow a comprehensive discussion of past wrongs on both sides. Shared plans will be formulated to promote reconciliation on the levels of the community, the education systems and cultural institutions.
  11. International Framework: To implement the reconciliation agreement, an international body acceptable to both sides will be formed, representing the following, among others: the Arab League, the European Union and the UN. This body will guarantee the implementation of the Two States, One Homeland plan, and will support it diplomatically, legally and economically.

Dr. Thabet Abu Raas, who is both Palestinian and an Israeli citizen, commented that he believed the “Deal of the Century,” put forth by President Trump was bad for both Israelis and Palestinians and therefore hoped it would not be adopted. He said that both communities are eager for hope and he feels that A Land for All was suggesting a comprehensive plan that recognized the rights to the land of both people, which was the most important point of their proposal. Once they had this acknowledgement, then he felt they could move ahead.

One of the questions asked after their presentation was regarding what you do with the extremists? Meron Rapoport responded that there will always be people who want to sabotage attempts for Peace on both sides. Once you deal with the fundamental issues with mutual respect then you have a chance to move forward and make extremists less powerful.

He used Northern Ireland as an example. He said that Peace in Northern Ireland is not achieved by strict police rule or militarism by the British. It was achieved with parity of esteem for both sides―Irish Catholics and the British Protestants. Security is important, but once the roots of the conflict are dealt with and both sides have self-respect, then extremists will have less power.

For me, being neither an Israeli or a Palestinian, I’m an interested party but not one that I feel can judge these proposals. I don’t live with the constant fear for my life, nor the strained relationships of an angry neighbor who doesn’t even speak the same language or speak to me. But I do care, and send my love and hope for Peace to Eretz Israel and what will possibly someday be Palestine. At bare minimum, everyone should be able to live in Peace.

Reading the legalese of these Peace documents, it hit me that beyond the terminology, since these are proposals that impact humans―psychology is always the key to what will work. Israelis and Palestinians are not just words in this article―they are people with families and goals and needs. I sure hope the thousands of interested parties turn into millions. If not this exact plan, make some changes. Isn’t Peace always worth a try?

Cooperation and trust would be key for a successful implementation―not exactly what the relationship of Israelis and Palestinians is known for, but at least in theory, does this proposal give you hope? Oh, and then there are the issues of the leaders Netanyahu and Abbas perhaps having other ambitions. And did I mention COVID-19? Well, in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict there are always too many issues causing the cauldron to boil over. I truly wish them all luck. Peace, שלום, سلام in Israel and Palestine, it has to start somewhere.

May you live in Peace, שלום, سلام,

I invite you to Join Me on My Journey…

Endnotes

1 by Brandon Marlon, “What Judea & Samaria Mean to the Jewish People,” The Jewish Express, January 17, 2013,  https://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/what-judea-samaria-mean-to-the-jewish-people/2013/01/17/

2 A Land for All, https://www.alandforall.org/english-program/?d=ltr

 

 

 

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