Recent events have driven home how far apart the two sides are. There were times in the past when Israeli and Palestinian negotiators spoke, when talks resulted in options being discussed, even if they were rejected. But that is not the case now.
Back when they were talks, the two sides could make some progress on how to allocate land, but they typically broke down over a few key points, from the Palestinian side, issues of right of return and the status of Jerusalem and on the Israeli side, the recognition of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people.
To simplify, both want the same space without recognizing the other’s narrative, and as a result are at a stalemate. This inability to move forward is exacerbated by terror as it is by settlement activity. Neither side is getting what it needs — Israel needs to feel safe and secure and Palestinians need to know the Israelis are serious about a two-state solution.
Making the situation worse is that Palestinians are under the rule of two distinct and separate entities who do not co-rule, and without a single voice representing the people, there is no one for Israel to talk to. Further, and much as I hate to give up on the idea of grassroots activism, with no elections on the horizon, there is no reason to hope that an alternate voice might even rise.
So how do we move forward?
If the leadership on either side cannot take steps forward (no matter the reasons), maybe there are ways to get creative and crowdsource ways to bypass them.
For instance, why doesn’t Israel bypass Hamas?
For Palestinians, primarily Gazans, to think they and all their descendants will be able to pursue the right of return and go back to their family’s former homes within Israel is not realistic. And is that what they really want – to live in Israel and not in a future state of Palestine? UNRWA should never have nursed this promise that no other refugee population experiences. As Jeff Jacoby noted in the Boston Globe, “the best hope for refugees lies in resettlement, not in dreams of return.” I am not sure how to overcome when Palestinian television teaches there is no alternative to return.
Maybe by putting a solid offer on the table for reparations; they were, for some, a part of the discussion back in 1949. So why not now?
People just want to live their lives. Earn a living, raise their children. And in the years since Hamas has taken over the Gaza Strip, the opportunities for doing that are growing smaller and smaller. So why doesn’t Israel instead ask those with documentation (or not) of prior residence within Israel’s borders, to register a claim. And then settle for very generous compensation for displacement, loss of home, years of anguish. In exchange for accepting the reparations, the Gazans should have to agree to withdraw their demand for the right of return.
They want a state. So let them live in Gaza or West Bank or wherever, but in a much stronger financial place where they don’t need bribes from Hamas to show up to protests or as compensation from the PA for terror. People want to live their lives normally. Give them that and they can drop dependence on Hamas and PA.
Whether or not the players will agree is another story; the purpose of this blog is to ask people to brainstorm how the process can be moved forward despite all the reasons it cannot. My suggestion bypassed the ineffective leadership and goes to the people. Can you think of any other ways to creatively move things forward? How do we solve the problem of Jerusalem? How do we help Palestinians not see settlement activity as a threat?
Whatever the two sides have been doing obviously hasn’t been working, So let’s change the paradigm. Looking forward to seeing creative forward-looking ideas.