The victory picture of this war must be political. The massive killing and destruction within the Israeli communities on the Gaza border and in the Gaza Strip itself will remain etched in our collective memories, Israelis and Palestinians, for many years to come. A new chapter in our narratives is being written these days and the two nations will use these new chapters as another layer in our shared refusal to recognize the rights of each other to exist as a sovereign nation on part of the common homeland.
The history of the two nations during our hundred years war of survival has had almost no break from our so-called national duty for collective mobilization of our national movements to continue fighting until the death, our own and the death of the other side. The history of the two nations here is so full of blood, hatred, religious-divine-messianic impulses, and the sense of the righteousness of our cause (on both sides) along with the burning pain in each of us that drives us to seek revenge has been so much stronger than the logic that requires us to find a way to invest in the sanctity of life rather than the sanctity of death. Haven’t we had enough martyrs already? Didn’t we bury enough of our children?
How will we get out of this hell of ongoing war? What state of mental health will we be in the day after the current war? The two nations are now going through their greatest trauma since the establishment of the State of Israel. Without comparing, October 7th was the most traumatic event for the people of Israel since the Holocaust. For the Palestinians, Hamas brought the Palestinian cause back 75 years and today the Palestinians are experiencing a second Nakba. We as Israelis have lost our security and the sense that there is a country behind us that protects us. The Palestinians have never had a state that protects them and cares for their well-being.
After this terrible war, there must be an “epiphany” on both sides that will make us look ahead, focused and sober, towards creating a new reality in which our energies will be invested in rebuilding our lives and communities based on the acceptance of the very simple principle (but probably very difficult to accept) that everyone who lives between the River and the Sea is entitled to the same right to the same rights. Until both sides recognize the legitimacy of the existence of the other side as a people with an equal right to live here in the common homeland – in the Land of Israel, in the Land of Palestine, the killing, terror, destruction, hatred and desire for revenge will not end.
Obviously, those who brought us to this point must go home. Neither the Israeli leadership nor the Palestinian leadership has the right to continue to lead us. They brought us, all of us to this point and they must go. We Israelis must get out of the delusion that we can rule over another people for fifty-six years and expect to have peace, or to imprison two million people in a closed, small and dense area like the Gaza Strip with abject poverty and with a very young population devoid of any hope for a better future and expect to have quiet. The Palestinians must get out of the illusion that the Jewish people have no connection to this land, that they are occupying foreigners whose existence as a people in this place is illegitimate. This is the meaning of having the same right for the same rights. This is the foundation on which we can build together instead of continuing to kill and destroy.
The day after tomorrow, when the war ends and Gaza will be completely occupied by Israel again, it must be clear to everyone that Israel has no intention of staying in Gaza. The extremist voices in Israel calling for resettlement in Gaza must be shut down immediately. The delusionary Israeli messianic voices calling for mass deportation of Palestinians in Gaza must be stopped even with the threat of arrest because mass deportation is clearly a war crime. There is no way that Egypt or Jordan will accept Palestinian refugees and any attempt by Israel to deport the Palestinian residents of Gaza towards the borders will end in the complete cancellation of the peace agreements between Israel and Egypt and Jordan and deep regional turmoil.
The plan for the day after tomorrow must be worked out today with all its complicated components. A lot of local, regional, and international agreements will be needed so that it will be possible to get out of the disasters we have experienced and bring us to a more promising future for both nations. In the first step there must be an unequivocal Israeli announcement that at the first possible moment Israel will withdraw from the Strip and redeploy on the border between Gaza and Israel and not in Gaza itself.
There are five essential elements for creating a situation in Gaza that together, in coordination and even in parallel, must occur in order to have a chance for stability, security, reconstruction and development in Gaza, and even a realistic renewed peace process.
The five components are:
1. Palestinian leadership heading the process of stabilization in Gaza while carrying out deep reforms in the Palestinian Authority, including democratic elections for the parliament that must win the legitimacy of the Palestinian people.
2. Stationing a multinational Arab force invited by the Palestinian government and led by the Palestinian security forces with a limited mandate of the United Nations Security Council.
3. International commitment to a peace process designed to bring about a two-state solution.
4. International mobilization for the financing and reconstruction of the Gaza Strip and accelerated economic development of the Palestinian state.
5. New leadership in Israel and Palestine
The basic premise of the entire plan proposed here is that Hamas as a military and governmental force no longer exists. The idea of Hamas and the public support for it will still exist and there is no military way to fight against this. Ideas and ideology need to be challenged with better ideas and ideology. The intention of the plan detailed here is to replace the ideas of resistance and the sanctity of death for Palestine with the possibility of living for Palestine and a well-founded hope that the future will bring independence, freedom and life with dignity.
The first and second components – the Palestinians and an Arab multinational force
Under Palestinian leadership on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, a multi-national Arab force will be sent to Gaza at the invitation of the Palestinians with a mandate from the UN Security Council for a period of one year with the possibility of renewal for two periods of six months. The role of this force will be to stabilize the territory at the same time that the Palestinian Authority takes government responsibility for the government offices of Gaza.
The Palestinian Authority will enter into deep reforms, including democratic parliamentary elections. A threshold condition for the participation of parties in the elections will be a commitment to a solution of two states for two peoples and opposition to the armed struggle. (Most democratic countries in the world place restrictions on who can run in elections.) The political power in the Palestinian government will pass from the Presidency to the elected parliament, which will form a new government that will be trained by the parliament. President Abbas can continue as President, if the Palestinian people so desire, with only symbolic powers. The Palestinian parliament and government must be trained by the public and represent the interests of the Palestinian people.
The third component – a peace process and the two-states solution
Immediately upon the end of the elections in the Palestinian Authority and the establishment of a new government that gains the confidence of the parliament, the USA and the OECD countries will recognize the State of Palestine and welcome it to be accepted as a member state in the United Nations. It is impossible to tolerate any more statements of support from around the world for the two-states solution devoid of any real intention to sees its genuine emergence. Any country that declares its support for this solution must recognize the State of Palestine in order to allow negotiations on borders, Jerusalem, refugees and more to take place on a state-to-state basis within the framework of international law.
The international community must mobilize to promote the end of the Israeli occupation, to reconnect Gaza and the West Bank, to recognize the State of Palestine, to accept the State of Palestine as a full member of the United Nations. An international peace conference should be convened where it will be decided to establish a path for negotiations between the State of Israel and the State of Palestine in a regional framework, rather than Israeli-Palestinian bilateral negotiations. The negotiation framework will include the countries of the region: Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and more. The regional forum will help Israel and the Palestinians settle the border between them and determine a plan for border management. Regional agreements for stability, security, economic development, energy, water, climate treatment, etc. will be discussed and agreed on. The permanent regional forum will be established that will oversee the implementation of agreements an assist with dispute resolution in real time.
The fourth component – Gaza reconstruction and economic development
The US will lead a process of international recruitment for the construction and rehabilitation of Gaza and the economic development of the State of Palestine and regional cooperation. The ambition should be to mobilize all the countries of the world interested in stabilizing the Middle East region, including rival countries such as China, in order to ensure the existence of the Palestinian state in the shortest period of time. Chinese participation in Gaza is important because there is no country in the world that knows how to build infrastructure as quickly and efficiently as China.
The fifth element – new Israeli and Palestinian leadership
The Palestinian people and the Israeli people must choose new leaders because whoever brought us to today’s situation is not fit to continue leading. The new generation of leaders are unknown today but they will arise. It is important that the Palestinians have the opportunity to choose leaders who will be legitimate in the eyes of the people, therefore Israel must carefully consider the possibility of releasing Marwan Barghouti from prison to allow him to compete for leadership. Barghouthi still supports the two-states solution to the conflict and for the past twenty years consistently comes out on top in all Palestinian polls. Israeli officials should already open a dialogue with Marwan Barghouti in order to know how he can integrate into the rebuilding Gaza and the State of Palestine as a state living in peace with Israel. Likewise, there are other Palestinian leaders with abilities and connections to the Palestinian public who are living in exile who may want to return to their homeland and take part in the construction of their independent state.
Within Israel, the public’s shift to the right was a deliberate result of a political strategy that succeeded in maintaining the division between the two parts of Palestine while making moves that convinced the public that there is no partner for peace among the Palestinians. The Palestinian leadership cooperated, unintentionally, and Benjamin Netanyahu succeeded with very generous cooperation from the international community to erase the Palestinian issue from the global agenda. In all the rounds of elections in Israel, the only real existential issue facing Israel – the continued control over the Palestinian people, was not at all presented to the public when we went to elect our leaders. From the left to the extreme right, the issue of peace with the Palestinians, an end to the occupation, negotiations with the Palestinians, did not appear and there was almost no dispute about it among the many parties that competed to receive voter support. When there was no Palestinian partner in front of us, it was very easy not to talk about a future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and what seemed to be a very distant chance of peace.
After October 7th we cannot continue to ignore our control over another nation and delude ourselves that we can continue to deny independence and freedom to the Palestinian people. The nightmare we went through must lead us to what I call “the Belfast moment” the time when we (on both sides) stand up and say no more. The Israeli public and the Palestinian publics will be rightly suspicious of the idea of peace and the viability of the two-states solution. There is very little trust, if any at all between Israelis and Palestinians. Negotiations and possible agreements must be built on the assumption that the parties will breach their obligations (as was the case in the Oslo process).
Two new elements must be built into the infrastructure of any new political process: the end goal is two states for two peoples, in contrast to Oslo where there was no defined and agreed end-game, and a robust and stable third-party mechanism for monitoring and verifying the fulfillment of obligations by both parties. Clearly defined milestones must be determined before steps with risks are taken. The milestones are points that will allow the parties to wait before moving forward until the full fulfillment of previous obligations. After a failed peace process we must not make the same mistakes we did in the past, we must learn lessons from what failed. In general, future agreements must be much smarter and based on much more suspicion than ever before, thus the chance of success will be greater.
If after the disaster of October 7th we do not change direction towards the settlement of the conflict between us and the Palestinian people, it will be just another round, the hardest of all, but just another in the circle of blood that must come to an end.