Just be a little more patient.
In the summer of 2016, what didn’t happen at Camp David, with John Kerry and his team, or in brief discussions following the horrible murders of three Israelis and one Palestinian and the resulting militant and military responses in mid-2014, will happen at Blue Heron. There are too many anarchists, terrorists, militarists, “sectarianists,” political apologists and lots of other “ists” — yes, even including journalists and columnists — that have too much vested in the Israel-Palestine blame recycling industries to allow peace to break out any sooner.
These industries have been built to survive any and all good news threats, so settling on 2016, the last year of the second Obama administration, and the third year that the Affordable Care Act will have been in full implementation mode, seems more realistic. (Of course, if the Supreme Court is petitioned to rule on whether Middle East peace unfairly targets pro- and anti-Israel interstate commerce or abortion rights, all bets are off.)
Jumpstarting the peace non-negotiations is now less about the issues and more about the people.
The evils that have been taught, learned (and witnessed), often at early ages, have to be unlearned. Imagine: If your early education includes reading, writing, and advanced settlement, refugee and missile arithmetic, with after school parental homework focused on identifying the other side as terrorists or oppressors, how quickly will you be able to accept that your enemy can also be your neighbor — albeit the one who may still occasionally conduct raids or lob missiles at odd hours?
Politicians, militant groups and countries who are reflexively anti-Israel or anti-Jewish will also need time to recalibrate their hatred and focus on other scapegoats. But the Middle East confirmation bias epidemic has become so widespread that eradicating it won’t be easy. It will be hard to convince infected populations that the real existential threat is now that person looking back in the mirror, the one who sees their past as the only possible future.
But mark it down: 2016 is when a peace agreement will be reached. There, in idyllic Martha’s Vineyard, at Blue Heron Farm, a 28 acre retreat owned by Lord Norman Foster, the British designer of Hebrew University’s Brain Sciences Center, Obama will once again enjoy a vacation with his family, but this time he will add Middle East peace to his agenda.
Hidden from Fox News and MSNBC — still America’s Right and Left cheerleading squads —Obama and his special Middle East team, including former President Bill Clinton and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ( the 2013 new and improved Schumer-endorsed version), will help Palestinians and Israelis reach their promised lands.
Those promised lands will feature Palestinian control of approximately 96 percent of the West Bank, with the large settlement blocs remaining under Israeli control. Some Palestinian land will be leased to Israel under a long-term lease. Bypass roads will be built to help ensure contiguous travel between Palestinian and Israeli areas.
Jerusalem will be divided into eastern (Palestinian) and western (Israeli) sectors with international forces — including Israel’s own military for the first five years — providing security there, at religious sites, and at the Jordanian border. Timelines will be established for both a gradual transfer of West Bank settlers back into Israel and a diminishing Israeli West Bank security presence.
While Israeli settlers will be permitted to remain in Palestine, the generous compensation and housing contributions announced by Israel will be expected to encourage virtually all of the settlers to move. Palestine will have its own police force, but not its own military. Israel will also agree to a formula to compensate Palestinian “refugees” and their descendants and admit up to 10,000 over a ten year period, subject to a security screen. As part of the agreement, the Arab League will announce a broader peace agreement with Israel which will include compensation for Jewish refugees who were forced to leave Arab countries.
Now that was easy wasn’t it?
So you ask: Why has it taken generations of Israeli, Arab and Palestinian leaders eight decades of off and on (mostly off) negotiating?
So I answer: Perhaps for many leaders in the ersatz leaders’ club, an uncomfortable stasis has always trumped the risk of venturing into what they see as a politically scary abyss that only seems to deepen with each passing missile, bomb, and settlement.
Yet, Israel’s economy tanked in late 2014 and 2015 and a center-left bloc rose to power in a special election called in late 2015. The Israeli public became much less enamored with Netanyahu as unemployment and inflation grew, numerous reports indicated that the Obama administration had grown increasingly estranged, and key American Jewish leaders began to publicly express dissatisfaction with Israel’s policies — particularly ones that were seen as discriminating against women, the Reform and Conservative movements, and Palestinians.
With the Iran threat lessened in early 2015 — Russia was instrumental in getting Iran to agree to stricter nuclear weapon controls, including a U.N.-led inspection regime — the Israeli public became much more internally focused.
Netanyahu was also reported to be shocked when his 2015 Congressional address (a.k.a. history lesson) was met with polite silence instead of the usual standing ovations. After J Street’s 2015 Washington convention almost matched AIPAC’s in size, and AIPAC featured several Israeli NGO and Palestinian speakers, Netanyahu panicked. Hoping to secure his political base and gain bargaining leverage, he called an early election — a miscalculation that cost him his job.
Fortuitously, Hamas and Fatah, who had formally united under the State of Palestine umbrella in early 2015, adopted a new charter recognizing Israel and all past Israeli-Palestinian agreements, and forswearing violence. While missile launches into Israel by radical Palestinian groups didn’t immediately stop and Israel still conducted infrequent Gaza targeted assassinations, both Israeli and Palestinian leaders began to see these actions as exceptions to an overall improving environment.
All of this left an opening for Obama to reengage with Israeli and Palestinian leaders he felt were finally motivated to not only negotiate, but to actually reach a peace agreement.
Maybe all Palestinians and Israelis ever needed was a Passover and Ramadan-celebrating President, freed from election constraints and willing to push his own “endorsed” plan — referred to euphemistically by some commentators as the U.S. TAKE IT OR WE LEAVE PLAN, a plan no less or more radical than any plan both sides had already largely agreed to in previous years. Plus, this plan offered the added kicker of various U.S security and financial guarantees and the full support of the Arab League, who, while historically largely ineffectual, was now a key player.
This vision is, no doubt, more inciteful than insightful to those who prefer to believe that it is always “their” — you fill in the “their” blank — fault. But there will always be a “their” as long as the world’s worst negotiation continues. We are now at Day 24,158. But why count days when we should be counting generations? (By the way, that wasn’t a rhetorical question. For fans of precision, go to the www.bumpspot.com website to get the negotiation length down to the hours, minutes and seconds.)
The 2016 final plan was largely drafted decades ago and was a modestly changed version of the one Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last discussed before they were swept up in the Middle East’s infectious anti-leadership/lost election epidemic back in 2008. (Olmert also caught the indictment flu in 2009, but the symptoms manifested in 2008 and weakened his negotiating position.)
It took far too long, but by 2016, reaching a peace agreement was seen as the least risky option. As Obama famously commented to Oprah Winfrey on OWN, now the second largest cable network, “After over 100 years, my Cubs finally won the World Series. That should give us all great hope for the Palestinian-Israeli future: Neither side will need to overcome the goat’s curse that gave the Cubs so much grief. Palestinians and Israelis will just need to work harder to overcome each other’s grief. It’s all in their own hands. And while there’s no telling how long it will be before the Cubs win again, I see every reason for the world to expect many Palestinian-Israeli joint victories in the future.”