There is now wide consensus among Israelis and Palestinians on several points:
- We’d like the Palestinians’ lives to be better, freer, and more prosperous.
- We’d like Israel to stay out of Gaza, and out of Ramallah, Jenin, and most other Palestinian cities.
- We do not want a repeat of Israeli forces killing Palestinians.
There is also wide consensus within Israel that:
- Israel should not be vulnerable to rockets, tunnels, or other military or terrorist attacks.
- Palestinians and Israelis should not be raised to hate each other.
- Palestinians and Israelis should not live in fear.
Those goals do not significantly conflict. If Israeli and Palestinian leadership chose to make significant progress towards these goals, they could.
They would be backed by a large alliance including Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, and many western countries that could help. The siege could be gradually lifted, with some third party and electronic surveillance mechanisms put in place to prevent remilitarization. Funds from Qatar and other countries that were previously used to spread death could now be used to increase life and happiness.
But for this to succeed, we would have to talk about improving lives, not solving the problems. We’d need to defer discussions that drive us apart, especially regarding:
- The future of West Bank territories that are currently under dispute and under Israeli control.
- Palestinian statehood.
- War crimes’ accusations and tribunals.
If the Palestinians are interested in improving their lives, deferring these issues would seem like a wise choice. The moderate left in Israel has just seen the rockets and tunnels. In the near future, they are neither likely to win an election nor to push for withdrawing from strategic territories.
There is wide consensus in Israel that the crimes in this war were committed by Hamas and that Israel acted morally. Trying to prosecute Israel for war crimes will only further alienate the Israeli voters.
If we could agree to move forward in areas where we agree, and defer the areas where we disagree, we could build a better future for us all. And when we revisit the most contentious issues, we would be moving forward from a place of greater trust and goodwill.
I’ll feel some cautious optimism if I see people focusing on improving Palestinians’ lives and Israeli security, and deferring the contentious issues. I’ll be a lot less optimistic if I see people focusing on trying to “solve” the Israeli – Palestinian problem by pushing both sides to compromises that there is zero chance of them making in the near future.