Susan Heitler
Clinical psychologist, popular book author, and blogger
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If Palestinians and Israelis were a couple, could a marriage therapist help?

Couples counseling brokers peace between arguing entities; why not treat Israelis and Palestinians as a couple?

For too long, conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has sometimes simmered and often boiled up into violence. President Trump — like Presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton and more before him — is declaring that the time for peace has come.

Within the next few weeks President Trump will be traveling to the Middle East to launch this initiative.  What peace plan could he propose that might successfully realize his ambition?

Making peace between arguing entities is what marriage therapists do, me included. I aim to help couples find win-win solutions to their differences, that is, to create plans of action responsive to all of both of their concerns.

In addition, marriage therapists take into account what would be best for the children.  In the case of Israel and the West Bank, the children are the residents—Jewish, Christian and Arab—on both sides of the border.

What peace plan could be responsive to the underlying concerns of all who live in the “family?” I do believe that the following plan could work.

Note that Israel is the stronger partner in this marriage. This plan therefore looks primarily at what actions Israel could take—preferably in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, and if not, on its own—to bring peace to the region.


1. Accept the new two-state solution.

With the Hamas takeover of Gaza there are now two Palestinian entities, Gaza and the West Bank. There are three entities functioning in the region of Israel overall: Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel.

Two of these however—Gaza, and the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority—function as dysfunctional entities.

Both, in spite of decades of major financial contributions from individuals and countries around the globe, are essentially failed states—in large part because their leaders rule for the benefit of the those who govern, not for the benefit of the governed.

The new peace arrangement would rest on a two-state solution: an Arab state of Gaza and a Jewish state of Israel.

2. End the occupation.

To end West Bank “occupation,” the majority of residents—Jewish and Arab, in the West Bank and in Israel—could request that Israel enlarge its borders to make the West Bank a region within Israel.

Integrating the West Bank territories fully into Israel would eliminate any so-called “occupation.” There is no occupation if the West Bank and the existing Israeli land are all one country.

The West Bank, like the North of Israel, the Negev, the coastal plain, and Jerusalem and its hills, would become a membership region of the one state of Israel.

Ideally, the transition would be initiated by an election run jointly by Israel and the Palestinian Authority. In a kind of Brexit-in-reverse, West Bank residents would be invited to vote to merge with Israel.

To prepare for the election, Israel could produce TV programs such as a reality show where Jewish and Palestinian “couples” do “couples therapy” to learn to talk and live together cooperatively.  Arab Israelis, who are increasingly expressing appreciation for Israel, also might be invited to appear on TV to share their views of the benefits of Israeli citizenship. Such shows could impact both Jewish and Palestinian views of each other.

3. Land for peace.

Where Israel controls the land, there is peace.

The Palestinian Authority has denied its citizens security under the rule of law and has thwarted economic development. Israeli governmental leaders, while not perfect, do aim higher.  In addition, policies from Israel could encourage Palestinian educational and economic development, both of which incentivize continued peace.

Arabs who currently live in Israel as Israeli citizens enjoy these basic blessings and many more. According to a recent Tel Aviv University study by Professors Tamar Hermann and Ephraim Yaar, 57% of Israeli Arabs describe their situation living in Israel as “good or very good.”  The majority of West Bank residents would be likely to appreciate an opportunity to enjoy these blessings as well.

Jews—the so-called “settlers” who live in the West Bank—already bring health care, roads, jobs, and higher wages to the area. Elimination of the current border-crossing checkpoints, and in some places walls, would enable West Bank Palestinians to travel freely to jobs on both sides of the current dividing line.

Arab workers then would benefit by access to more jobs; Israeli businesses would benefit from the increased labor supply.  Arab business owners would benefit from Israeli shoppers, and Jewish businesses would do the same.  A boom in housing and office-building construction, manufacturing, and retail development especially would benefit both Jewish and Arab residents from both sides of the former border.

4. Defuse the demographic bomb.

The majority of Arab Palestinians now live in Gaza. Eliminating this population from the Palestinian entity that would join Israel significantly reduces the demographic threat to Israel.

In addition, the Palestinian birth rate has been steadily decreasing. The Israeli birthrate has been increasing. The birth-rate gap is closing.

Teaching West Bank Arab children to become comfortably trilingual (in Arabic, Hebrew, and English) can enable them to become full and successful participants in the modern world economy, much as their Arab Israeli (Arab citizens of Israel) brethren already are doing. Teaching them principles of democracy and of collaborative conflict resolution (which Jewish Israelis could benefit from learning as well) could further prepare Palestinians to become full and productive Israeli citizens.

5. Enable West Bank Palestinians to earn Israeli citizenship.

Israel is a Jewish state in terms of its history, its culture, the official holidays, and its status as a homeland for all Jewish people.

At the same time, Israel gives full citizenship benefits including health care, college access, infrastructure development, the option to serve in the military, and freedom of worship and of celebration of Ramadan and other Islamic holidays to it’s Arab-Israeli residents.

Arab residents of the West Bank could be given the option of earning similar full Israeli citizenship by meeting specified criteria such as residence in the country, knowledge of the principles of democratic government, the ability to speak the national language (Hebrew), and willingness to take an oath of loyalty to the country—criteria for citizenship similar to America’s citizenship requirements for its new immigrants.

6.  Peace begets peace.

Palestinians currently are incited to hatred and violence by their leaders. New leadership elected in the new one-state regional entity could change this pattern.

In the meanwhile however, the following incitement methods must cease:

–Teaching of hatred in Palestinian schools and textbooks
–Preaching of Jew-hatred from mosques.
–Anti-Israel broadcasting on the government-controlled newspapers, TV and radio.
–Payments to Palestinian terrorists in Israeli jails and to families of “martyrs.”
–Children’s summer camps that indoctrinate hatred of Jews and Israel.

Without this incitement, and instead with a welcoming attitude from Israel plus new Arab leaders who encourage their Palestinian neighbors to give peace a chance, peace will beget peace.

7.   Land for war.

In response to any future Palestinian terrorism or other acts of war, Israel will annex Palestinian-controlled land.

In response to hostilities from Gaza, Israel might start by annexing a swath of land along the Gaza-Israel border to create a security zone.

In response to terrorist acts from the West Bank, chunks or all of Area C (currently populated primarily by Jewish residents) would immediately be incorporated into Israel.

8. Peace now.

If this peace plan were adopted by Israel, advocated for by Arab Israelis and nurtured with American support, encouragement, and financial incentives, Palestinians might well find it attractive.

A West Bank election could enable West Bank Palestinians to choose leaders to replace the Fatah and Hamas options.  Voting for leaders who support annexation into Israel could facilitate a peaceful transition with no need for President Abbas to lose face by having to give his official consent.


This peace plan offers a pathway forward for all Israelis and Palestinians—for those who live within the current boundaries of Israel and also for those who reside in the current West Bank.

Alas, there will be hurdles.  Israel’s spouse (the Palestinian Authority) has troublesome and wealthy relatives (the UN, European Union, the American “progressive” Left) who continue to scapegoat Jews. They pay Palestinians with both financial and political support to resist all constructive solutions.  We also have the spiteful Uncles (Fatah, Hamas, Iran, Hezbollah, ISIS, etc.) who want to destroy Israel far more than they would like to see Palestinians enjoy a better life. And the current Palestinian leadership will not easily give up their access to wealth siphoned off from international donations.

Nonetheless, with clarity from Israel’s leadership, economic and political support from the US, and enthusiastic participation from the growing numbers of Arab Israelis who appreciate their country, Palestinians and Israelis together could succeed in building a more perfect union.

The outcome then? a peaceful prosperous Israel, inclusive of the West Bank, with safety and prosperity for all.

Denver psychologist Susan Heitler most recently has authored Prescriptions Without Pills: For Relief from Depression, Anger, Anxiety and More.

About the Author
Susan Heitler, PhD, a clinical psychologist formerly from Denver, has recently made aliyah to Israel. Dr. Heitler's popular blog—Resolution, Not Conflict—has received more than 25 million reads. Her Power of Two book and workbook, teaching communication and conflict resolution skills, has been published in six foreign languages including Hebrew. For her techniques for relieving depression, anger, and anxiety, see her website at
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