Alfred E. Newman once said, “Try walking a mile in your enemy’s shoes. You’ll be a mile away and you’ll have his shoes.” There are many clichés to similar effect, but they all mean the same thing: try getting a glimpse into your opponent’s frame of mind so you can better confront him, or so you could look for ways to meet the demands of both sides — or both these objectives combined.
With less than two months before the second Knesset elections, scheduled for September 17, Israel, which boasts that it is the only democracy in the Middle East, still fails to apply democracy in practice in all areas and with respect to all of its citizens, regardless of their religion or origin.
No Israeli can say with certainty that Jews themselves are treated equally, let alone the minorities living in Israel. To make sure I am not misunderstood, I will give two examples: Ethiopian Jews are definitely not treated like the rest of the Jews and Israeli Arabs are certainly not treated like Ethiopian Jews.
The early elections, originally called for April 9, were a result of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempt to escape the growing number of corruption investigations being waged against him; the policies vis-à-vis the Gaza Strip; the criticism over the transfer of millions of dollars in Qatari funds to Hamas; and the fear of a potential security escalation in the north. Netanyahu may have been re-elected in April, but he failed to form a government, thus calling a second snap election for September, which may prove to be his lifeline.
Since the Second Intifada (2000-2005), Netanyahu has instilled in Israelis the fear that the Palestinians are terrorists and murderers. To prove it, he has created a standard image by which each side views the other, making sure this effort was further bolstered by two walls – a physical one, seeking to obscure the view in both directions, and a mental one, fueled by the natural fear of the unexpected that may lurk behind said physical wall.
And so, Israelis have become accustomed to seeing Palestinians as either terrorists or construction workers building settlements, while the Palestinians see Israelis as soldiers who humiliate them at checkpoints, settlers running amok across the West Bank and Jerusalem, or prison guards, who deprive thousands of their basic rights over their resistance to the occupation.
This routine perpetuates the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and makes sure it goes on at a pace that Netanyahu finds convenient, thus assuring he maintains his grip on power.
What would I do if I were Israeli?
It is a difficult — albeit not an impossible — question to answer, if one applies common sense. A brief review of modern history makes one well aware of the fact that Israel has fought more than 10 wars and, despite winning all of them, has failed to achieve either peace or security.
This would lead me to conclude that wars do not result in peace, security, or stability, and prompt me, as an Israeli, to rid myself of the phobia that has been drilled into me for over 15 years by Netanyahu. I would look for partnerships with Palestinian society. Netanyahu has used former prime minister Ehud Barak’s saying that there is “no Palestinian partner for peace” so often that he has rendered it hollow, and while he may see it as true, Israelis must understand that the Palestinians are partners — real partners — who are willing to reach a just and sustainable solution to the conflict, despite their plight.
As an Israeli, I would seek to join the many other Israelis who see peace as their real interest, but have been incited to believe that Israel is facing an existential threat.
This might have been an understandable excuse early on, but in the wake of the 1979 peace deal with Egypt, the 1993 Oslo Accords, and the 1994 treaty with Jordan, which were followed by the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative and the Arab Spring in 2011, it is hard to believe that a state rumored to have more than 200 nuclear warheads faces such grave danger.
As an Israeli, I would seek a solution based on international law, one that calls for the inception of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. I would adopt the two-state solution within the 1967 borders so that both the Palestinians and the Jewish people have an independent and sovereign state.
This would allow us, together, to maintain stability and peace. This would also spell the end of the conflict and the normalization of ties with 57 countries, and would allow the resources currently invested in security to be invested in development.
As an Israeli, I would spare no effort to save Israel from a leadership that is leading the country to an abyss by electing leaders who believe in peace and in observing human rights – not depriving them of others.
I would also spare no effort to end the occupation of the Palestinian state, before it is too late. The alternative is a one-state solution, which fails to meet the future needs of the Jewish and Israeli population.
As an Israeli, I would look for a Palestinian friend with whom to build a relationship based on common ground. I would turn to him – rather than to a distant friend who cannot necessarily help me in my hour of need – only if circumstances change.
I would see myself as part of the Middle East and part of humanity, and as an individual tasked with the protection of basic human rights, chiefly that of self-determination.
And last, but not least, I would regain my moral values and morality in practice, by electing leadership that shares my ideology and values; a leadership that can realize a sustainable peace agreement with the Palestinians and other neighbors in the region. That would ensure a better future for the children and grandchildren of the peoples of the region, and especially for the Palestinians and Israelis.