Globalization has become a major factor affecting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the past, when the world was recovering from World War II, events relating to the conflict were not fully discussed in the international arena. Many of the events were considered local news. Meanwhile, both sides were working from two sets of facts, each believing theirs was accurate. The Israelis and the Palestinians were each convinced of their just cause and were oblivious to facts that were significant to the other side.
Today, neither side has a monopoly on facts and ideas because most events in the region are documented and disseminated around the world almost instantaneously. By now, the world is simply tired of the blame game. At some point the world’s public opinion will demand that the Israelis and Palestinians become constructive and put an end to the conflict. One of the possible solutions will be a confederation between Israel and the Palestinians, even if there are no clear lines of demarcation between the two. Eventually, a confederation will be acceptable to both sides, and the major players in the region will have to accept the idea simply because the other resolutions to the conflict, such as the “two-state solution” or the “one-state solution,” are much less realistic. Simply stated, a confederation is the least unrealistic solution.
The Israeli Palestinian Confederation proposed by me is a third government common to the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples. The Confederation will find acceptance among the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples because it assures that the vital interests of Israel and Palestine are maintained, while at the same time it is flexible and demanding enough to enhance their relationship. The Confederation will be acceptable because it is not meant to replace the current governments but rather to assist them to resolve their differences.
A confederation is the only solution that does not require the destruction of anything. It does not require the dismantling of the states of Israel or Palestine. It does not require the elimination of their armies or other institutions. A confederation only builds upon what already exists. It is based on equality and self-respect. It rejects isolation and embraces dialogue and cooperation. It is not Israeli, nor is it Palestinian; it is both. It is not based on religion or national identify, nor does it reject them. It is based on the necessity of cooperation between two peoples living together in the same land. Palestinians and Israelis can maintain their own national identity, religion, culture and even loyalty to their governments. It is possible to be staunchly “pro-Israel” or “pro-Palestine” and at the same time support the Israeli Palestinian Confederation.
My proposal is not only about solving old issues between the Palestinians and the Israelis. It is about how the Palestinians and the Israelis can grow and prosper in the future.
I emigrated from Israel to the U.S. immediately after the 1973 war. My parents had immigrated to Palestine from Iraq in the 1930s. They both came from strong Jewish families with roots in Iraq going back hundreds of years. My father was a devout Zionist, which was his motivation to go to Palestine. My mother accompanied him, though she was unmoved by his Zionist ideology.
My father’s family was in commerce and the oil business and doing well in Iraq. At the time he left Iraq in 1936 for Palestine, there was not much difference between his family and many of their Arab neighbors. They and their neighbors were mostly secular, sharing the same local Arabic culture and national identity. Unlike my father, his family saw little future in Palestine. His parents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, remained in Iraq and didn’t consider a move to Palestine until after the creation of the state of Israel.
My mother’s family was from Baghdad, and like my father’s family, they were not Zionists. They were merchants and business people who were not pleased when their daughter moved to Palestine with her husband. Both my parents’ families were content in Iraq, and they always described their relationships with the Arab communities as excellent.
I was born in 1953, after the state of Israel was established. I went through the regular educational system in Israel and saw the conflict strictly from Israel’s perspective. But as I approached the age of 50, I suddenly went through a huge transformation. I had just returned to my Los Angeles home from a trip to Israel to visit family when I saw a television news report about a suicide bomber who had detonated himself in the same place in Jerusalem where I had sat with my wife and children only a few days before. I saw the umbrellas of the downtown food court where we had eaten. The report was followed by a debate about the bombing. One of the people debating said, “There has to be a solution to this problem. We just can’t go on like that. Someone has to come up with a solution.” That comment, together with the visual images of the bombing, was etched in my mind. I realized that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be resolved and that neither the Israeli nor the Palestinian governments could bring peace. Several weeks later I woke up with a pretty clear idea that a confederation government mutual to both peoples could pave the road to peace.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a product of miscommunication and lack of understanding by both sides. Both the Israelis and the Palestinians have the same mistrust of each other. They both continue to define their rivalry, and eventually its resolution, in the same one-dimensional formula based on land. Both their governments are unable to come up with a political solution.
Most Jews who now live in Israel are from Arab countries or are descendants of Jews from Arab countries. Many Arabs and Jews have similar features; an outsider who does not know the culture or the language will not be able to point out the differences between them. Most Arabs and Jews in Israel and Palestine are secular. Their food, music and sense of humor are almost identical. Palestinians and Israelis share much of each other’s languages; many Palestinians are fluent in Hebrew, and many Jews are fluent in Arabic. They both mix languages regularly. In fact, they use each other’s language to express themselves better by borrowing phrases and even adopting each other’s curses and blessings.
I am not a historian. I am an attorney. In my 30 years of experience I have litigated hundreds of disputes. While each dispute is factually different, the common theme is the same: the emotionally charged litigants are angry, humiliated or jealous.
The facts of the disputes are insignificant compared to the litigants’ emotional trauma. I can’t remember the number of times that I came back from court after an objective judge or jury had made a decision not to my liking—and yet I’d had to admit that the decision was fair and right. Each time, I regretted my inability to have foreseen and suggested that same solution before we went to court.
When parties enter into a dispute for an emotional reason, those parties are often not able to elevate themselves above the dispute. The natural reaction of a person who is hurt by another is a desire to counter with the same amount of hurt. Most of the energy of the parties is spent fanning the flames of the fire. The greater the emotions, the less rational the parties become and the more their fears magnify. One of the hardest aspects of the lawyer’s job is to see things objectively and to convince his or her client to do the same. The Israeli-Palestinian dispute is no different. It has all the emotional elements of a dispute between parties in everyday life. The only difference is the magnitude of the dispute and the fact that it is not going to be decided by a judge or a jury. The dispute will have to be resolved by the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves.
Israelis and Arabs can live in peace. The current conflict between them can be overcome. One way is through the creation of a third government mutual to the peoples of Israel and Palestine.