Yoel Oz
Co-Founder of the Abrahamic Movement

Excerpts from “Abrahamic Confederation: A Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict”

The following are excerpts from the new book: “Abrahamic Confederation: A Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict”, by Yoel A. Oz, available at Amazon.

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Paradigms
Paradigms are the lenses through which we view the world – and changing paradigms is hard work. This is especially so when the current paradigms concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seem set in stone.

It is our proposal that a new kind of thinking is necessary in order to attempt to resolve the conflict. The concept that we have developed called Abrahamic Federalism turns certain premises on their heads. Rather than a Two-State/One-State Solution false dichotomy – we propose a confederation, or “two-states IN one state”. Between “One” and “Two” lies “One and a Half”. Rather than seeing religion as an obstacle to peaceful, coexisting relations – we propose seeing religion as the linchpin that will finally bring the sides together and truly achieve peace.

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What is Abrahamic Federalism and Why It Works
The idea behind Abrahamic Federalism is fairly simple. It is the recognition that there are two nations (at least) between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea and that they must share the land. Neither side is going to disappear. But instead of dividing the land artificially into two states (an attempt that has failed), or combining them into one, bi-national state, we propose a hybrid model of “two states IN one state”, or a model where we are both “Separate and Together”. This model has a Jewish state called Israel (with its own independent government, legislature, courts and police force), and an Arab state called Palestine (also with independent government, legislature, courts and police force), under an umbrella organization called the Abrahamic Confederation, that will be regulated by a body called the Council of the Confederation.

The second component of Abrahamic Federalism is the recognition that there is a need for a unifying, symbolic thread, that can be embraced by both peoples. We believe that the Biblical and Qur’anic figure Avraham/Abraham/Ibrahim is the obvious choice for the Holy Land…

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Sharing the Land vs. Dividing the Land
For the past 25 years, since the beginning of the Oslo process, the goal has been an attempt to partition the land into two states for two peoples, with each side making painful compromises to achieve a deal. What we have learned over this time is that there is not a great deal of a desire to make these compromises on either side. On all of the core issues – borders, security, Jerusalem, settlements, right of return, etc., each side wants the maximum it can get, and neither side seems interested in compromises.

Unfortunately, what the two sides do seem to want is to make the other side “disappear”. “Us here, them there” was one popular slogan. This is the psychological hurdle that really must be overcome. Both sides need to accept that neither side is going anywhere. We are both here to stay and our destinies are intertwined. There will be no divorce. We must learn how to live WITH each other and share the Holy Land.

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An Inheritance Dispute, Not a Divorce
Rather than looking at a potential settlement as a divorce, we should be looking at this like an “inheritance” dispute. The children of Isaac and the children of Ishmael are cousins…

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Why Symbols Matter
We use symbols to unite us around basic ideas and principles. Names matter, as they are signifiers of ideas that are larger than ourselves.

And let us be frank. People are willing to die for a piece of a cloth at the end of a stick. This is the simple reality.

Much of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is over symbols. Whose flag will we fly over the land? Whose language will be spoken and dominant?

For Israelis, the symbol of the Star of David on a white field, with two blue stripes reminiscent of the stripes of the Jewish prayer shawl, is a powerful image of the reconstitution of Jewish independence in its ancient homeland. The revival of Hebrew, the language of the Torah and the Bible, as a spoken language, unifies Jews in Eretz Yisrael and reconnects them to their ancient heritage. What the term “Jewish state” means is subject to great debate and has to some extent been deliberately left vague. But the concept of return to the Land of their forefathers is at the heart of the movement for Jewish national revival in the Promised Land.

Similarly, for Palestinian Arabs, the black, green, red and white flag, which is based on the original flag of the Arab Revolt of 1916, is a symbol of their yearning for national independence, which is a natural desire of all peoples. Palestinian nationalism stems from the idea of a people sprouting from its land. It is also the symbol of a people who have endured great hardship. The Arabic language is a strong unifier between Palestinian Christians and Muslims. It also connects them with the broader Arab world, though it is a distinct type of Arabic native to the region.

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Why Symbols Matter So Much in the Middle East
Most of the peace plans that have been proposed over time have been from Western, secular countries. What they have often not adequately taken into account are the cultural and religious sentiments of the people of the Middle East. Religion matters deeply to the people of the Holy Land and the symbols of each religion hold a powerful sway. It is time that we find a solution that fits for the Middle East, rather than for the secular West.

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The Abrahamic Solution
Hiding in plain sight is the unifying religious-political and cultural symbol of the Biblical Patriarch and Muslim Prophet Abraham/Avraham/Ibrahim. We can construct a political structural framework that fits the region, but unless there is a unifying thread, there is little to hold the parties together.

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This is the Holy Land
Many have viewed religion in Israel-Palestine as an obstacle to peace. We view it as the means by which we will bring on board those religious Jews and Muslims who have otherwise been skeptical of Western, secular peace efforts.

The very reason Israel-Palestine gets top news headlines is that it is the focal point for over 3 billion Jews, Christians and Muslims in the world. The three great Abrahamic faiths are what made the land famous.

The reason Abraham works as a unifying religious, cultural and political symbol is that each faith views him as one of its main progenitors…

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Abraham as a Cultural Symbol
Objections may be raised by secular people on all sides that the injection of an ethnoreligious symbol does not respect their desire for secularism. Happily, this is not the case.

First, in no way does utilizing Abraham as a political/cultural symbolic figure result in religious coercion of any kind. Abraham, as understood by all the religious traditions, was the paragon of hospitality, accepting people into his tent from all walks of life, each on his/her own terms, with loving-kindness. The “open tent” model is one we should strive to emulate.

Furthermore, we should note that many, many places are named after great historical and even mythological figures. Rome was named after Romulus, Alexandria after Alexander the Great, and Washington after George Washington, just to name a few. For believers, it was through Abraham that God made the land of Canaan famous. As a simple cultural figure, Abraham fits the bill.

As we have already emphasized, this is the Holy Land. The very name Israel already has religious connotations, as well. But if this symbol could really bring peace, would secular people still object?

The “Abrahamic Solution” gets us to “Yes” and results in a “Win-Win” situation for all the parties involved.

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Conclusion
Our goal is not to solve every problem, but Abrahamic Federalism provides a conceptual framework through which we can work problems out. Negotiations would still be necessary. It will be important to clarify what are bedrock principles and what are details that can be left to negotiations…

We have the ability to change reality if we first focus on changing our thinking. It is time to open our minds to creative thoughts. The “Abrahamic Solution” gets us to where we want to go. The ideas presented here can get us to a place of dignity, respect, and peace.

About the Author
Yoel Oz served as an Orthodox rabbi and educator in the Washington, DC metro area for five years. He studied at Cornell and Yeshiva universities and Yeshivat Hamivtar and Yeshivat Rabbenu Yitzchak Elchanan. He currently resides with his wife and daughter in a suburb of Tel Aviv and is the co-founder of the Abrahamic Movement.
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