An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth was a defining principle of the Code of Hammurabi in the 18th Century BC. Unfortunately, this horrific law of retribution still governs the interminable conflict between Israel and Palestine nearly four thousand years later. The world community assumes that the roadmap to peace involves renewed bilateral negotiations. But the time has come to recognize the obvious. The tit for tat violence between Israel and Palestine will not stop. Jewish and Palestinian parents and grandparents will continue to bury their children because neither side possesses the political will or the necessary visionary leadership to end the cycle of violence. And so the impasse will continue because each side feels victimized and aggrieved by the other and justifies its violent behavior in the name of self-defense. We believe the time has come to adopt a new approach to resolving this enduring conflict.
At first glance, what we propose may appear untenable and impractical. But it merely involves embracing the fact that Israelis and Palestinians are and will remain unable to achieve a lasting peace through bilateral negotiation. Since these parties cannot effect a durable settlement, then responsibility to secure it must be given to someone else. What we have in mind is this: The United Nations Security Council should appoint a committee of extraordinary individuals whose integrity and fair-mindedness is beyond reproach. For example, individuals like Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma, Oscar Arias of Costa Rica, Jose Ramos Horta the ex-President of East Timor and Martti Ahtissari, the ex-President of Finland.
This committee of Nobel Peace Prize winners would meet for one year to determine a final and completely binding resolution to each and every issue separating Israel and Palestine, including Israel’s right to have secure and peaceful borders, the geographical shape of a Palestinian state, the status of Jerusalem, and the presence of West Bank settlements. This binding set of resolutions would be enforced by the entire world including a very sizable number of UN peacekeepers and law enforcement from around the world.
During the year of deliberations, there would be an immediate end to all hostilities enforced by international peacekeepers. Moreover, each side would receive significant incentives from the world community, including commitments of sizable investment and other foreign aid, to adhere to this completely binding framework.
Of course, neither side would be happy with the outcome. Neither side would achieve all its objectives. But for the sake of a durable peace, we believe this is an acceptable price. To the immediate objection that neither side would ever consider this proposal, what if elusive goals like Israel’s right to enjoy peaceful and secure borders with its neighbors and the Palestinian right to a homeland were guaranteed? If these goals were established as sacrosanct at the outset, we could develop a constituency on both sides for this proposal. And by taking responsibility to negotiate a lasting peace away from the warring parties, we remove the political pressure applied by hard liners on both sides to maintain the status quo. We need acts of political imagination and courage to move through the intractable stalemate and end the violence. By creating a new international framework that guarantees the essential objective of each side, we can begin to replace despair, cynicism and mutual distrust with the possibility of hope.
Neal Aponte, Ph.D.