A villa in the jungle

While watching Israeli television recently, I heard a new metaphor, one that described Israel as “a villa in the jungle.” I’d been watching a panel discussion about lessons learned from the Yom Kuppur War. Led by the legendary Israeli news anchor Chaim Yavin, the panel of distinguished, journalists, generals and politicians, including Tzipi Livni, addressed such questions as “Is Israel ready for a surprise attack?” and “Could the Arabs attack again in a similar fashion?” The consensus was that a Yom Kippur-like war is unlikely because Arab leaders are too preoccupied with maintaining their own survival and because Israel is no longer unprepared nor as arrogant or dismissive of the Arabs as it was in 1973. However, the panel also noted that today’s Arab world contains more elements hostile to Israel, including Iran, with its potential nuclear weapon, and such terrorist organizations as El Qaida, Hisbala and Hamas—which brought the panelists to the metaphor: that Israel’s location makes it “a villa in the jungle.”

I have heard similar metaphors before. “If Sweden were next door we wouldn’t have this problem,”, or “We live in a dangerous neighborhood.” They all convey the same message: The problem is with the “neighborhood,” not with us. We live in an area surrounded by lions and tigers and bears, which attack instinctively and for no reason whatsoever. Those who subscribe to the notion that Israel’s threat comes from the “neighborhood” insist that Israel must remain constantly vigilant to protect itself from its bad neighbors. These neighbors are predators that are incapable of thinking or reflecting; they attack because it is in their nature to do so. Because Israelis live in “a villa in the jungle,” it must protect itself from the surrounding dangerous animals and poisonous snakes, also known as Arabs. Israel will be attacked, senselessly and without rhyme or reason, unless it remains vigilant around the clock.

Panel participant Tzipi Livni took exception to the metaphor of a “villa in the jungle,” but not because she didn’t agree; indeed, she repeated that Israel lives in a “bad neighborhood.” Her problem with the metaphor was that in a villa, “you can shut the windows.” Israel, she said, “cannot shut its windows “.

My problem with the metaphor is this: While it’s hard to admit, we all helped create the neighborhoods in which we live. Israel cannot ignore the fact that the establishment of the state of Israel displaced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. Not only did these people pay a heavy price for Israel’s creation, Israel continues to occupy their land and to maintain inhumane and shameful control over them and their descendants. To blame the neighborhood for what it is while claiming complete innocence regarding its creation and renouncing responsibility for its existence  is neither honest nor in Israel’s interest.

Israel is part of the neighborhood, and Arabs are not just acting instinctively against anyone who is not Muslim. In fact, many, if not most, Israelis are themselves of Arab origin. Many speak Arabic and maintain similar cultural customs and practices as the Arab neighborhood that surrounds them. The people of Israel are not strangers to this neighborhood. Many of their ancestors lived in peace in this very neighborhood for hundreds of years.

Israel must take responsibility for and make good on its part in creating its own neighborhood. Israelis may consider every possible scenario of Arab attacks and devise means to deflect them, but the solution this dilemma is obvious: Make peace with the Palestinians. Peace will change the neighborhood, and it won’t require the heavy human price and billions of dollars Israel now spends on its intelligence and military readiness. Peace, not military might, is the best security.

There were two major Issues the panel failed to discuss. First, can Israel survive in the long run by maintaining military superiority? Will Israel always be able to outsmart and outfox its many enemies?  Is Israel—in its obsession to plug every possible hole in the dike—missing the real picture? What if searching for a military answer to every potential attack is the very mistake Israel is so afraid of making? What if Israel is overlooking the one thing that could give her the best security: Peace. A person can search every drugstore for every possible medicine to take care of every possible ailment, but at the end of day, it is better to have good health than good medicine.

Second, is the Israeli government even capable of making peace with the Palestinians? A similar question could be posed to the Palestinian government. These two governments are not only nationalistic, they exist in opposition to one another. Each wants the opposite of what the other wants. The constellation of these two governments circling in eternal opposition renders them incapable of making peace. The two-state solution they both claim to espouse is not a peace plan; it is a divorce plan. It is a real-estate deal, and it has nothing to do with peace.

Those who think Israel’s long-term security comes from its military and intelligence capability are mistaken. Those who do not see the need for peace as Israel’s first priority are endangering the existence of the state of Israel.

Watching this panel discussion reinforced my conviction that in order to achieve peace, new and different approaches must be tried—and they need not involve the Israeli or the Palestinian governments. One such approach is an Israeli Palestinian Confederation, which would be an independent and separate government for the peoples of Israel and Palestine together. An IPC government will not replace or override the separate Israeli or Palestinian governments. An Israeli Palestinian Confederation government would be a mechanism to resolve the larger disputes by dealing first with issues that are readily—and mutually—solvable. I will be happy to send a free copy of my book, which explains in detail how the IPC will work. For a free copy, send an e-mail to me at the following address: josefavesar@sbcglobal.net

To watch a video illustration of the IPC concept, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POjypzcii_8

To read the IPC Constitution go to:  http://www.ipconfederation.org/constitution-english.aspx

For answers to FAQ, go to: http://www.ipconfederation.org/faq.aspx

About the Author
Josef Avesar is founder of the Israeli Palestinian Confederation, which advocates for a mutual third government for Israelis and Palestinians. An American-Israeli of Iraqi background, he practices law in the U.S., but travels frequently to Israel and Palestine.