For how long has the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians sometimes simmered and often flared up in terrorism and violence? Far too long, for sure. Yet President Trump—like Presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton and more before them—is declaring that the time for peace has come. Within the next few weeks he will be traveling to the Middle East to launch this initiative. What peace plan could he propose that might realize his ambition?
Making peace between two arguing entities is I, and other marriage therapists, do.
A responsible marriage therapist takes into account what would be best for the children as well as for the warring couple. In the case of Israel and the Palestinian territories (also called the West Bank), the children are the residents—Jewish, Christian and Arab—on both sides of the border.
If Israel were to look afresh at what she herself could do to create arrangements that would be responsive to the underlying concerns of all who live in the “family,” here’s a plan that could work.
Note that Israel is the stronger partner in this marriage. The goal of this plan therefore is to look at what actions Israel could take—preferably in cooperation with the Palestinian authority, and if not, on its own—to bring peace to the region.
TOGETHER WE THRIVE:
AN 8-POINT PEACE PLAN FOR ISRAEL AND THE PALESTINIANS
Submitted by Susan Heitler, PhD
1. ACCEPT THE NEW TWO-STATE SOLUTION
With the Hamas takeover of Gaza there are now two Palestinian states, Gaza and the West Bank. There are three states in the region if you also count Israel.
In the new peace arrangement, there would be just two states in the total area: an Arab state of Gaza and a Jewish state of Israel.
2. END THE OCCUPATION
To end West Bank “occupation,” the majority of residents—Jewish and Arab, in the West Bank and in Israel—could vote or request that Israel enlarge its borders to make the West Bank a region within Israel.
Integrating the West Bank territories fully into Israel would eliminate any so-called “occupation.” There is no occupation if the West Bank and the existing Israeli land are all one country.
Judea and Samaria (the historical names of the two territories within the West Bank), like the North of Israel, the Negev, the coastal plain, and Jerusalem and its hills, would become membership regions of the one state of Israel.
Ideally, the transition would be initiated by an election run jointly by Israel and the Palestinian Authority. In a kind of Brexit-in-reverse, West Bank residents would be invited to vote in favor of merging with Israel, or against.
3. CONTROL LAND FOR PEACE
Where Israel controls the land, there is peace.
The Palestinian Authority is a thugocracy that has denied its citizens the basics of security under the rule of law, honest government, and economic development that could bring jobs and fair wages.
Arabs who currently live in Israel as Israeli citizens enjoy these basic blessings and many more. The majority of West Bank residents would be likely to appreciate an opportunity to choose to enjoy these blessings as well.
Jews—the so-called “settlers” who live in the West Bank—bring health care, roads, jobs, higher wages for all workers, and economic development to the area. As the West Bank becomes a normalized part of Israel, all its residence, Arab and Jewish, will benefit.
Elimination of the current border-crossing checkpoints, and in some places walls, would enable West Bank Palestinians to travel freely to jobs on both sides of the current dividing line.
Arab workers then would benefit by access to more jobs; Israeli businesses would benefit from the increased labor supply. Arab business owners would benefit from Israeli shoppers, and Jewish businesses would do the same. A boom in housing and office-building construction, manufacturing, and retail development especially would benefit both Jewish and Arab residents from both sides of the former border.
4. DEFUSE THE DEMOGRAPHIC BOMB
The majority of Arab Palestinians now live in Gaza. Eliminating this population from the Palestinian entity that would join Israel significantly reduces the demographic threat to Israel.
In addition, the Palestinian birth rate has been steadily decreasing. The Israeli birthrate has been increasing. The birth-rate gap is closing.
Teaching West Bank Arab children to become comfortably tri-lingual (in Arabic, Hebrew, and English) can enable them to become to full and successful participants in the modern world economy, much as their Arab Israeli (Arab citizens of Israel) brethren already are doing. Teaching them principles of democracy and of collaborative conflict resolution could further prepare them to be full and productive Israeli citizens.
5. OFFER ISRAELI CITIZENSHIP TO WEST BANK PALESTINIANS
While Israel is a Jewish state in terms of its culture, the official holidays that it celebrates, and its status as a homeland for all Jewish people, it gives full citizenship benefits, including health care, college access, the option to serve in the military, and freedom of worship, to it’s Arab residents.
Arab residents of the West Bank would be given the option of earning similar full Israeli citizenship over time (five to ten years) by meeting specified criteria such as residence in the country, knowledge of the principles of democratic government, ability to speak the national language (Hebrew), and willingness to take an oath of loyalty to the country.
These criteria for citizenship are based on America’s citizenship requirements for its new immigrants.
6. LET PEACE BEGET PEACE
Palestinians currently are incited to hatred and violence by their political leaders, their media, their religious leaders, and by teachers in their schools. If these leaders were instead to encourage their population to interact with Israel and Israelis peacefully, like normal and even friendly neighbors, and without hatred, stone-throwing, and knife stabbings, there will be peace.
In particular, the following incitement methods must cease:
–Teaching of hatred in Palestinian schools and textbooks
–Preaching of Jew-hatred from mosques.
–Anti-Israel broadcasting on the government-controlled newspapers, TV and radio.
–Payments to Palestinian terrorists in Israeli jails and to families of “martyrs.”
–Children’s summer camps that indoctrinate hatred of Jews and Israel.
7. TAKE LAND FOR WAR
In response to any future Palestinian terrorism or other acts of war, Israel will annex an area of Palestinian land.
In response to hostilities from Gaza, Israel might start by annexing a swath of land along the Gaza-Israel border to create a security zone. In response to terrorist acts from the West Bank, parcels from Area C (currently populated primarily by Jewish residents) would immediately be incorporated into Israel.
8. PEACE NOW
If this peace plan were adopted by Israel, and especially if the plan was nurtured with American support, encouragement and financial incentives for Arab West Bank residents, Palestinians would be likely to be interested. To the extent, by contrast, that the Palestinian government or people do not comply, the US could cut off further Palestinian funding.
In this regard, this plan does not require a negotiated agreement from Abbas or his government.
While it would be helpful for the plan to include a West Bank election to determine whether or not the Palestinian Territories would request annexation from Israel, the plan could be implemented NOW, with no need for Abbas or the Palestinian Authority to lose face by having to give their official consent.
SOMEWHERE, OVER THE RAINBOW…
This peace plan offers a simple and realistic pathway forward for all Israelis and Palestinians, those who live within the current boundaries of Israel and also those who live in the current West Bank.
The goal: a peaceful prosperous Israel, inclusive of the West Bank, with safety and prosperity for all..
Source: (c) Susan Heitler, PhD
Susan Heitler, Ph.D., is a Denver clinical psychologist. Her books The Power of Two and The Power of Two Workbook teach the skills for collaborative dialogue and conflict resolution that sustain peaceful relationships. Her book From Conflict to Resolution explains how couples therapy works.