Let me get right to it. I’ve solved the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Or perhaps I should say, I’ve solved Israel’s side of the conflict. My solution is a course of action that could be set in motion by Israel today to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I submit to you that most Israelis will agree with this plan, and that it will allow Israel to seize both the moral initiative as well as the strategic initiative in its ongoing conflict with the Palestinians. What’s more, this plan will put Israel in a position where it will have to risk relatively little in exchange for a potentially vast reward. Conveniently, it requires no immediate cooperation from the Palestinians.
I call my solution “The In-Your-Face Peace Plan.”
The In-Your-Face Peace Plan
Israel should unilaterally, and very publicly, present a peace treaty to the Palestinian leadership, already signed and approved by the Israeli government, as a standing offer of self-determination and peace. From that moment forward, responsibility for the continued conflict would rest on the shoulders of the leaders of the Palestinian people. Indeed, Israelis could then truthfully say that the Palestinians could have their own state immediately, if only the Palestinian leadership would simply countersign the peace treaty. The Palestinian leadership might even be pressured internationally to sign the treaty. The treaty might even result in the creation of the State of Palestine, and end the conflict. But until that day comes, Israel would be less burdened by responsibility for the conflict, both at home and on the international stage.
There’s no reason to go into the precise details of the peace treaty here. Countless others have outlined what a peace between the Jewish State and a Palestinian state might look like. In short, the treaty should be generous enough that a reasonable Palestinian would be happy to sign it (by reasonable I mean uninterested in the total destruction of the Jewish State but very interested in building a peaceful, prosperous Palestinian state). At the same time, the peace treaty should be one that the Israeli government is comfortable with, in case the Palestinians do choose to accept it.
In Your Face
Benjamin Netanyahu, the current Prime Minister of Israel summed up the conflict as he saw it in 1978: “The real core of the conflict is the unfortunate Arab refusal to accept the State of Israel… if self-determination, as they now say, is the core of the conflict, they could have easily established a Palestinian state.” Moreover, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has recently said that he wants Palestinians to have their own state: “I don’t want to govern the Palestinians. I don’t want them as subjects of Israel or as citizens of Israel. I want them to have [their] own independent state. But a demilitarized state.”
Netanyahu, and the Israeli public, have good reason to be wary of building another Arab nation-state in the Middle East, considering the collapse of Syria and Iraq, the rise of ISIS, the increasing power of the terrorist group Hamas among Palestinians, and radical Islamist turmoil in the region generally speaking. Clearly the security and safety of the State of Israel is the Prime Minister’s primary concern – he has no interest in controlling the Palestinians, and he does so only to the extent that they pose a threat to the citizens of Israel. In other words, if a Palestinian state came into being that was peaceful, it would have even the current right wing Israeli Prime Minister’s blessing.
The In-Your-Face Peace Plan would put Israel’s money where its mouth is. It would demonstrate that, in a very concrete and immediate sense, it is not the Israelis who are preventing the Palestinians from achieving full statehood and self-determination, but rather the Palestinians themselves. By publicly shoving a reasonable, signed, peace treaty in the Palestinians’ collective faces, Israel would be able to safely wash its hands of the conflict, once and for all – without any help from the Palestinians.
The Israeli Right wins because they’ll be glad to have a chance to prove to themselves and to the world that the Palestinians are the true warmongers here – not the Israelis. The Israeli Right does not believe the Palestinians will accept any reasonable peace treaty that the Israelis are willing to offer. The In-Your-Face Peace Plan will primarily be a public relations stunt in their eyes, but an effective one.
The Israeli Left wins because they will be able to ease their collective conscience. The In-Your-Face Peace Plan will be, in their eyes, a good faith attempt to end the conflict and give the Palestinians a state of their own. The Israeli Left will sincerely hope that the Palestinians will sign the treaty at some point. But if the Palestinians reject the peace treaty in perpetuity, “at least,” they can say, “we tried.”
The Palestinians win because they will have the opportunity to end their conflict with Israel, establish their own peaceful state, and gain the right of self-determination.
The Middle East wins. Even if the Palestinians refuse to sign the treaty, having a standing peace offer will allow Israel to further develop its relationship with other Arab countries. Israel may even have a chance to sign independent peace treaties with members of the Arab League, who might be glad to have an excuse to make peace with Israel. Because Israel is making very proper peace overtures to the Palestinians, it should buy them goodwill with other Arab countries – Arab countries that will then have the political cover to make peace with Israel – leading to increased stability in the region.
Basically, it’s a no-brainer.
I now present some likely questions related to the In-Your-Face Peace Plan along with my answers to those questions.
Q. Currently the West Bank and Gaza have different governments. The Palestinian Authority controls parts of the West Bank, and Hamas controls Gaza. How can Israel send the Palestinians a signed peace treaty under these confusing circumstances?
A. To deal with this, the peace treaty should provide for the possibility of two separate treaties with two separate Palestinian governments, one in Gaza and one in the West Bank. In addition, a contingency should be included in the treaty, which would combine those two treaties into a single treaty with a single Palestinian state in case those territories are ever unified.
Q. There is a problem with extending a peace treaty without an expiration date, because facts on the ground change over time. Wouldn’t a standing peace offer be inflexible?
A. I would recommend that a provision be written into the treaty to deal with this – specifically, that the Israeli government has the right to edit the treaty on say, an annual basis, until the Palestinians accept it.
Q. Many Israelis are extremely concerned that any unilateral move to provide Palestinians with greater control over their territory will result in extremist terrorists operating with impunity from that territory, as happened with Hamas in Gaza. Wouldn’t this peace offer just result in more violence?
A. The mistake of the unilateral pullout from Gaza was that Israel did not ask for anything in return so as to make Israel’s withdrawal contingent upon some concession from the Palestinians. The Palestinians therefore interpreted the Israeli move out of Gaza as a sign of weakness on the part of the Israelis. This encouraged the extremist elements in Palestinian society, like Hamas, to take control and try to destroy Israel, instead of trying to negotiate with it (why pay for the cow when you can get the milk for free?). With the In-Your-Face Peace Plan, we’re not talking about a unilateral gift of territory. We’re talking about a unilaterally composed peace treaty offer. Israel loses nothing by publicly offering peace and self-determination on safe and reasonable terms. However, it has everything to gain.
Q. Won’t the Palestinians just sign the treaty, get their own state, and then break the treaty?
A. They may not break the treaty, and then we’ll have peace. But if the Palestinians do sign and then break the treaty, then Israel’s obligations under the treaty will be voided as well. Politically speaking, we’ll be right back where we started – except Israel will have made a very strong and undeniable good faith effort toward peace.
A Few Ideas on the Plan’s Implementation
The key for rolling this peace treaty out is in making sure that everyone all over the world knows about it – to wave the peace treaty in their collective faces, so to speak. All avenues for making a big deal out of this peace offer should be pursued. The Prime Minister should announce the treaty at the UN, and might consider speaking in Arabic at the climax of his plea for peace. Short and entertaining videos describing the plan should be released on all social media in all languages, including (of course) Arabic, so as to get the word out to those who need to hear it most. Top Israeli officials should give interviews on all major news outlets, and even to late night shows, to spread the word about the signed treaty. Pamphlets, in Arabic, containing Israel’s overture for peace with the Palestinians, and describing the major points of the peace treaty, should be airdropped over the West Bank and Gaza. This should buy Israel goodwill with the Palestinian public, and put pressure on the Palestinian leadership to accept the treaty.
Additionally, Israel might consider quietly running the treaty by other states for approval before presenting it to the Palestinians and the rest of the world. If, for example, the United States, the EU, Russia, and China all gave the peace treaty their imprimatur, the Palestinians would be hard pressed to find a reason to reject it.
Making peace is always a risky business. However, Prime Minister Netanyahu has repeatedly outlined the basic requirements of a peace treaty that would be safe enough to meet with his approval. Why not unilaterally present a fleshed-out and signed peace treaty that meets those requirements? If properly executed, it would, at the very least, ease the Israeli conscience, and provide Israel with a tremendous amount of international goodwill. At most, it would lead to peace in the Middle East.