With each new American administration comes the hope of a better future. New beginnings brings with it new dreams. Inevitably, problems that have plagued the world for decades are revisited with the hope that a new administration can solve them. With every new administration comes the hope that they’ll develop a new plan to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While the Biden administration – to its credit – has not made any grandiose pronouncements about solving the conflict, many Biden supporters, from the heads of think tanks to writers, have begun offering suggestions of how a Biden administration can solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
As a Jewish resident of Judea and Samaria, I’m personally invested in finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I’ve spent many years studying the conflict and I teach students about it professionally. I escort American, European, Asian and Australian students studying in Israel into Judea and Samaria. On a program called “Crossing the Line,” I show them the conflict up close. I don’t know how one is designated as an expert, but I am confident that I have an above average understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In addition to my studies and teaching, I live the conflict each day. I drive, shop and live alongside Palestinians. I visit Palestinian villages and they come into our town. I drive through checkpoints, see IDF soldiers and Palestinian Authority patrols. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict isn’t just something I study in the abstract, it is something I experience daily.
I have spent a significant amount of time familiarizing myself with the various peace plans meant to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I’ve read the various peace plans and studied the maps. I’ve spent hundreds of hours with the authors, negotiators and government representatives, of peace plans, all to understand their perspectives. I’ve weighed the one state solution, two state solution, Trump plan, federation and confederation ideas. I have philosophical problems with some of the plans, but all plans are impractical.
The biggest impediment to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been Palestinian intransigence. While I’m aware that Palestinians and their advocates judge me as much of an impediment to peace as I do the Palestinians, the constant Israeli peace offers, Palestinian prisoner releases, and settlement building freezes show me a strong commitment on Israel’s side to finding a solution to the conflict. Every Israeli offer at achieving peace has been ignored or rejected by the Palestinians with no counter offer in response. Palestinian behavior in negotiations reflect a lack of commitment to finding a negotiated solution to the conflict.
On the Israeli side we find a population once excited about the prospects of peace with the Palestinians tuned apathetic to negotiations. In elections over the past five years, ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict hasn’t been a top issue. After Israel invested heavily in the Oslo Accords and offered over 95% of the Israeli heartland to the Palestinians only to be met with a Palestinian terror intifada that killed over 1,000 Israelis, Israelis have lost confidence in a Palestinian commitment to peace. Any peace deal must be built on trust and Israelis no longer trust Palestinians.
Palestinians take issue with Jewish towns like mine in Judea and Samaria. They frequently claim that Israeli settlements are an impediment to peace. They claim to be victims of Jewish colonialists and focus on how much land they’ve given up claim to since 1948. Palestinians see every Jewish settlement as taking their land and impractically demand that Jews disengage from the entirety of Judea and Samaria. The world supports Palestinian claims of victimhood in the face of Zionist colonialism by characterizing Jewish settlements as illegal.
For these reasons and so many more I have no confidence that the suggested solutions would work. This doesn’t mean I’m satisfied with the status quo. I have empathy for my Palestinian neighbors who don’t want to live under Israeli control, want their own state, and see the Oslo Accords as empowering the most corrupt elements of their people. Israeli semi-sovereign control over Judea and Samaria isn’t ideal, and our towns would be better planned if town councils were able to plan more than a few years in advance.
When advocates of the two state solution criticize my position that it’s impractical, their usual rejoinder demands I lay out my own alternative plan. The problem is that I don’t have an alternative plan. While many advocates of a specific plan claim that without my own plan I can’t criticize their plans, I disagree. Failed Middle East proposed solutions end in a rush of Palestinian violence. While the status quo isn’t healthy, that doesn’t mean Israel should rush into a worse plan just to avoid the status quo.
I don’t have a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and all the plans previously suggested are impractical. My lack of a plan doesn’t mean I’m not an advocate for change; I am an advocate for change because the status quo isn’t healthy for either side. My lack of confidence in any plans simply means I don’t think the Israelis and Palestinians are ready to end their conflict and even if they were ready, I don’t think any current plan is workable.