Israelis and Palestinians: A Shared Prosperity
Israelis and Palestinians sharing prosperity, doesn’t that sound great? The violence would be over and families could live safely, if only. Well that is what one Peace activist group, Anahnu is trying to achieve. The path I am sure will be exceedingly difficult. Not because of the goal―who would not want that? But there has been so many years of distrust and violence. I wish them well and am anxious to see how this works out.
On June 16, 2020 I posted “Israelis and Palestinians: Peace Cannot be Achieved Without First Addressing Their Humanity Part I,” of a two-part article. It was based on a presentation given by Israel Piekarsh, founder of the Peace organization, Anahnu, the Together Movement. They work on Peace between Israelis and Palestinians. This is Part II.
I would like to be clear that these ideas regarding Peace are proposed by Anahnu. People like Piekarsh study the opportunities for Peace in Israel, write informed proposals and do great work on the ground. I am interested in what they think because the thought of Israelis and Palestinians living in Peace is a goal that is long overdue. I add my comments and research as well, but for the most part, Anahnu gets credit for the ideas.
Some people who read Part I, are so filled with emotion and hate for the other that they felt the need to attack me personally in writing, even though I was just sharing what I had learned. Oy.
I could appreciate the historical perspectives commented on, just not an attack. In fact, later you will see that I acknowledged one person’s comment by including the topic here. I did not include this history initially since it was not part of the original lecture, but then I thought why not include it anyway, it should be addressed.
Part I identified how each side perceives the same events far differently. Piekarsh believes previous Peace attempts addressed drawing borders on maps without identifying the preconceived psychological beliefs of both Israelis and Palestinians. Therefore, are we really surprised the Peace agreements have not worked and today they are not singing Kumbaya together by a campfire?
Piekarsh says that the Peace process of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has always been approached as a zero-sum game. Now I have never been great at math, but not addressing the issue of a zero-sum game has negative consequences. Put into English …providing solutions where one party wins and the other loses sets the process up for failure.
In Oslo, the concerns were of borders and not how people would feel about them. They did not seal the deal. Piekarsh acknowledged that it did not help that both sides looked at the other as a demon.
Beyond borders there are many other issues to be addressed. There are questions of identity and justice. And Trust. How do you live today, next to a neighbor that yesterday was a terrorist?
In 2008, it seemed that Olmert and Abbas were close to a deal. It fell through. Piekarsh said the two sides had different expectations. Probably most critical was that whenever they moved closer to Peace and to being able to accept the deal, they moved further away from their political bases at home.
Israeli politics are intensely complicated as I mentioned in Part I and adding in the fact that you are negotiating with whom you consider are the enemy, well we have seen this fight go on for 100 years.
In 2013, the Jerusalem Post reported that during the 2008 Peace negotiations there were thirty-six meetings. There are so many players in this muddled, unwieldy game. Besides Israel and Palestinians, the United States, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia were asked to be participants to manage religious sites in Jerusalem in the proposed plan.1
Olmert knew it would be hard negotiating with Abbas, but according to the Jerusalem Post there were moves being made in opposing political parties as well. They reported that Olmert referred to former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s book, “No Higher Honor,” where she said that Tzipi Livni asked both her and Abbas not to “enshrine Olmert’s peace plan.” He also said that Ehud Barak asked Abbas not to accept his proposal.2
And the tempestuous atmosphere in the Israeli government continues. It took three elections since last year to finally create a Unity Government between Netanyahu and Gantz. Then there is the fact that Netanyahu is on trial as a criminal defendant while still holding the position of Prime Minister…well, who needs screen writers for exciting twists and turns, just read the news.3
According to Piekarsh’s analysis there are currently four major issues that must be negotiated between the Israelis and Palestinians and each side prioritizes them differently. The further you go down the list, the less room there is for compromise. I have listed the four issues first in the order of importance for Israelis:
- Settlements and Borders
The Palestinians list their importance as:
- Settlements and Borders
The resolution of the refugees for both Israel and the PA are high on their lists. The refugees they are talking about are the 700,000 Palestinian refugees who left Israel when they declared their independence.
I’d like to take a break here to interject the history my reader reminded me of after he read Part I. Although it was not part of the lecture, I think it is too important to ignore and I thank him for challenging me for not mentioning it. He was upset that I had not talked about the Jews who were forced out of their homes in Arab countries with the establishment of the Jewish state. There were approximately one million Jews Peacefully living in Arab countries for thousands of years. There were 820,000 Jewish refugees (more than Palestinians), yet we rarely hear of the outrage of how they were treated.4 Why is that?
From 1947 to 1948, Jewish refugees came from the Arab countries of Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Syria, and Yemen (Aden). They were persecuted, their property and belongings were taken away, and the Arab governments held bloody, deadly anti-Jewish riots.5
In Iraq, Zionism was made a capital crime. In Syria, Jews were massacred, and the government froze Jewish bank accounts. In Egypt, terrorist bombs killed dozens of Jews in the Jewish Quarter. In Algeria, anti-Jewish decrees were implemented and in Yemen, almost 100 Jews were killed.6 The majority emigrated to Israel, with some going to Europe and North America.7
Speaking with Israel Piekarsh afterwards, he advised me that the Palestinians do not consider themselves a player in how the Jews were treated in the Arab countries. I could understand this―they have had problems of their own in the Arab countries to where they fled.
Although the world only seems to concentrate on their treatment in Israel, the Palestinian refugees who fled to Jordan, Lebanon and Syria during the Nakba have suffered ever since―under the rules of their Arab brethren. Their mistreatment by Arab countries has been a point of exasperation for many Jews. Why is Israel always criticized, yet heinous actions of other Arab countries are ignored?
For instance, in Jordan, many Palestinian refugees live in poverty, are not allowed to be citizens, are not allowed to go to school, do not qualify for healthcare, and are limited as to the jobs they are allowed to choose.8 The US Department of State also indicates that there is “widespread and systematic discrimination” against Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.9 The Action Group for Palestinians of Syria (AGPS), a London human rights watchdog, reported that over 4,000 of the Palestinian refugees in Syria had died since 2011. Additionally, 614 died of torture in prisons, 315 were executed, 311 Palestinians were killed by sniper gunfire, 142 in bombings, 92 in “extra-judicial killings” by the Syrian authorities and its proxy groups, and 315 who were executed or died of suffocation and arson incidents. The list goes on, but you get the picture―it is disgusting.10
The Right of Return is a huge stumbling block to the Peace negotiations. Israel cannot support the Right of Return for the Palestinians as demanded. Why? Because it would be the end of Israel. The Palestinians want the Right of Return for those that left as well as their descendants forevermore. Today that would be millions of Palestinians and if they all returned to Israel, Israel would no longer be Jewish, nor Israel―it would be Palestine.
Jerusalem is always a sticky wicket for either side. Having the most holy sites for Jews, Arabs and Christians in one small area would be challenging for friendly associates, let alone sworn enemies.
Land is a constant tug-of-war between the foes and also an opportunity to negotiate and trade territory. Borders, occupied territory, settlements―it is a chess game not for the faint of heart.
Security is another huge issue for Israel. Having safe borders and freedom from the terrorism that is rampant today is essential. Bombings, stabbings, car rammings and incendiary devices do not encourage cooperation nor trust.
Piekarsh emphasized that the refugee problem and lack of security were the greatest deterrents to Peace. Without these issues being resolved he said that collaboration in the field was impossible.
So, what does Anahnu propose as a Peaceful solution? One thing I know for sure is that people have strong opinions about the conflict―don’t shoot the messenger. Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.” So, do these issues sound familiar? It is time for a new approach in areas that were not working. There have been decades without a resolution, at the cost of thousands of lives.
So, for a few minutes, hang on to your hats, and we will check out some of their plans. Try to imagine their strategies for a few minutes without judging. Their creativity intrigued me. I care and would love to see everyone living in Peace. For details check out the Anahnu website.
Let’s start with their belief in mutual prosperity. They say, “Only when Israel and Palestine can grow stronger together, will there be enough trust to lead the way to solving the conflict. Thus, we need to create an equation of mutual prosperity, based on the historical rights of both sides, without requiring either of them to leave its fate in the hands of the other.”
- Equal partnerships based on a WIN-WIN principle for all Israeli political groups as well as Palestinians.
- Israel’s state symbols will continue to be Jewish.
- Independent constitutional communities would provide members with religious, educational, and cultural services.
- Constitutional amendments will be made (requires a 75% majority in Parliament or referendum):
- The central government would be neutral regarding religion.
- The national anthem will reflect changes.
- The day after Independence Day will mark the covenant for the unity of all Israeli citizens.
- The central federal government would provide health, policing, transportation, defense, welfare, and foreign relations.
- Establish a federal Jewish and democratic constitution in Israel with an enlarged Palestinian minority with equal rights.
- A separate Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with a secure Jewish minority.
- New villages and social institutions such as student villages should be established to create a social and economic infrastructure in Area C.
- Israeli citizens in the West Bank will be given the option to stay under Palestinian law with equal rights, non-territorial Jewish autonomy for religious and cultural education or chose to be evacuated.
- The settler community will be compensated by Israel.
- Israeli citizen civil status in the Palestinian state will be agreed upon by both the Palestinian and Israeli governments.
- The Anahnu movement will act to implement these ideas in the West Bank with the legitimate consent of the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
- Will be administered by the Palestinians.
- The IDF will remain in limited defense of the settlements unless there is an emergency threat to Israeli citizens whereby they would have independent entry under international supervision.
- Any settlers acting in violation of international law or harming Palestinian rights or refusing to become citizens of the future Palestine state will be evacuated and compensated.
- Palestinian Right of Return:
- Establish a 50-year social and political process.
- A 70% Jewish majority will be maintained in Israel.
- Palestinian refugees can choose to:
- Accept Israel’s law and authority and wait to become an Israeli citizen. They will be absorbed by establishing new Palestinian settlements or integrated into existing settlements.
- Move to the Palestinian State.
- Receive compensation as agreed upon by both the Palestinian and Israeli governments.
- West Jerusalem will be the capital of Israel.
- East Jerusalem will be the capital of Palestine.
- Temple Mount:
- Full agreement between parties must be obtained and not imposed by anyone.
- The Al-Aqsa compound should be transferred to full Palestinian sovereignty.
- A state institution for the Jewish heritage in Jerusalem should be built next to the southern wall, outside the mosque compound.
- The State of Israel will make a formal request to the Palestinian State to allocate a prayer area for Jews on the Temple Mount and to allow the Israeli Antiquities Authority to carry out archaeological excavations there.
So how was that for some new ideas? It blew my mind, how about you? I don’t have a clue what will happen, but Anahnu demonstrates a belief in a new vision.
Other Anahnu initiatives are establishing “groundbreaking social institutions for mutual partnerships between national religious and secular groups in Israel.” Whether building student villages, joint tours and encounters, or their unifying Shabbat Project, Anahnu’s intention is to build bridges between disparate communities.
Anahnu has received written support from Israel Prize laureates, senior academics and mayors, former senior members of the defense establishment, clerics, Jews, and Arabs. Their work is worth reviewing and if you agree, you might consider supporting them.
Anahnu believes Israelis must make the first move because they are more powerful. This is a grassroots movement of strong Israelis from both the right and left movements willing to pardon the Palestinians and ask for mutual forgiveness. Israelis are willing to test it on Facebook and in lecture tours.
Ultimately, both sides must look at their own actions first and accept responsibility for what they have done. “Injustice does not justify injustice.” Once they own up to what each perpetrated on the other, then they can move on to mutual forgiveness. They should be reminded that forgiveness is what you do to help yourself be free of negative emotions―it is a gift you give to yourself. With each shift in position they can move forward toward mutual prosperity.
Piekarsh emphasized that they should not wait until all stages of their strategies were accomplished in full before acting. Once Israelis and Palestinians are talking, you can take actions to work together to have joint social activities, build a joint economy and strive for equal rights.
Piekarsh informed me that Anahnu is about to publish a comprehensive study with a new constitutional vision―I wonder what new insights that have unfolded in their work will be reflected in the proposed changes. Don’t you?
Now with the annexation thriller fast approaching, emboldened by the “Deal of the Century,” what will happen is a mystery. Stay tuned.
So, you can see Anahnu is the embodiment of wanting to move Israelis and Palestinians forward with dignity and respect toward Peace. Even Anahnu concedes it is not a perfect solution and there are many unknowns, but perhaps the most important part of their proposal―the solutions will have been agreed upon by both Israelis and Palestinians.
Will they be successful? We can only hope. As spiritual leaders acknowledge, we must live in the present. The past is gone, and it is time for both Palestinians and Israelis to move forward into a positive future.
The quest for Peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians reminded me of what we are seeing boiling over in the United States today. It will be a difficult but essential road to climb. It will take decades to accomplish. I hope the Israelis and Palestinians will learn from our mistakes and really listen to each other when they say something is not working and avoid the mess we now have in America. It is time to change the world!
May You Live in Peace, שלום, سلام,
As always, I invite you to Join Me on My Journey…
1 By Avi Isacharoff, “Revealed: Olmert’s 2008 peace offer to Palestinians,” Jerusalem Post, May 24, 2013, https://www.jpost.com/Diplomacy-and-Politics/Details-of-Olmerts-peace-offer-to-Palestinians-exposed-314261
2 By Avi Isacharoff, “Revealed: Olmert’s 2008 peace offer to Palestinians,” Jerusalem Post, May 24, 2013, https://www.jpost.com/Diplomacy-and-Politics/Details-of-Olmerts-peace-offer-to-Palestinians-exposed-314261
3 By Reuters staff, “Israeli court to weigh in on whether Netanyahu can stay PM amid criminal charges,” Global News, May 3, 2020, https://globalnews.ca/news/6899618/israel-supreme-court-netanyahu-charges/
4 “Fact Sheet: Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries,” Jewish Virtual Library, https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jewish-refugees-from-arab-countries
5 “Fact Sheet: Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries,” Jewish Virtual Library, https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jewish-refugees-from-arab-countries
6 “Fact Sheet: Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries,” Jewish Virtual Library, https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jewish-refugees-from-arab-countries
7 “Fact Sheet: Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries,” Jewish Virtual Library, https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jewish-refugees-from-arab-countries
9 “Lebanon: Treatment of Palestinian refugees, including information on identity documents, mobility rights, property rights, access to social services, education and employment, and living conditions,” Refworld, November 15, 2011, https://www.refworld.org/docid/507553bd2.html?
10 By Khaled Abu Toameh, “Palestinians in Syria: Another Year of Death and Misery,” The Gatestone Institute, January 6, 2020, https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/15379/palestinians-syria-death-misery
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