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How the Arab Summit in Bahrain can bring peace

The Arab League, meeting in Bahrain for the 33rd Arab Summit, can bring peace to Palestinians and Israelis by including one extra clause in their declaration:

‘Both the Jewish and the Palestinian people have genuine historical and religious ties to the Land which provides a legitimate basis for statehood for both peoples.’

That is what it would take from the 22 members of the Arab League. Why?

The world keeps pushing for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At present time, most Israelis would strongly oppose a two-state solution. This does not mean Israelis are against peace. On the contrary, most Israelis dream of peace. Why?

The reason is this: so long as most Palestinians, and most Arabs, believe Jewish self-determination in the Land to be fundamentally illegitimate, most Israelis know in their gut that transition to Palestinian statehood will simply ratchet up the conflict to a more intense, more bloody level of inter-state war.

This was the lesson from Israel’s Oslo-era military withdrawals from the West Bank population centers in the 1990s, from South Lebanon in 2000, and from Gaza in 2005. And it is the lesson from Netanyahu’s five years of failed effort ‘bribing’ Hamas with Qatari suitcases of cash and Israeli work permits for Gazans.

It is what large parts of the international community, and the numerically dwindling Israeli left, repeatedly gets wrong – to believe that peace can come before legitimacy. 

This is not being anti-peace – Jews are peace-loving people through and through. Most Jews understand and accept that Palestinians are people of this Land as well and deserve statehood.

Rather it is common sense, strengthened with an added dose of 30 years’ reality facing Hamas’ suicide bombs and civilian-targeted rockets, even before October 7th came around.

Any peace outcome in which one party fundamentally denies the legitimacy of the other will not hold.

The motives for entering into that peace arrangement will always be suspect. Implementation will be subverted, fudged or subject to reversal at any point, likely on the flimsiest of pretexts.

This is why most Israelis assume ‘the day after’ in a two-state peace will involve the formalisation of an alliance between the State of Palestine and the Iranian axis and a massive arms build-up across the new state.

Even if formally demilitarised, Israel knows it will be a losing battle to enforce demilitarisation on a State of Palestine just as Hezbollah blatantly violates the disarmament requirements of UNSCR 1701 for nearly 20 years without apparent consequence.

This is why a formal recognition of the legitimacy of Jewish statehood in the Land is a necessary condition for peace.

For sure, such a declaration must be followed up with sustained efforts to educate all parties for peace, to remove incitement and hatred, to foster positive people-to-people contact, and to come up with a more creative two-state solution than simply cutting the Land in half, recognising the strong connection of both Palestinians and Israelis to all of the Land.

But this declaration would be a necessary first step.

About the Author
Adam Gross is a strategist that specialises in solving complex problems in the international arena. Adam made aliyah with his family in 2019 to live in northern Israel.
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