Is it possible for the Israelis and Palestinians to defeat each other?


At one time I interviewed Daniel Pipes, an American conservative thinker. I presented him with the idea of achieving peace through the Israeli Palestinian Confederation. Pipes felt that the idea of cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians contradicts history and the matter in which peace is forged. He believes that in order to have peace, either the Israelis or the Palestinians would have to completely win the war over the other, with one remaining as the dominant force.

In My opinion Pipes view does not take into account the new communication options available to us for personal connection, including the Internet and electronic devices. We now have much better tools that give us more options than the one that served military generals, empires and tyrants up to the 21st century.

Would it make sense to limit our health strategies to surgeries and medicine alone? Would it not make sense to also eat right and exercise? There are many people who find natural ways to prevent illnesses and remain healthy. Using this metaphor, the Israeli Palestinian Confederation is the alternative medicine. It is the eat-right-and-exercise aspect of the relationship. It does not proclaim to be the exclusive remedy. Indeed, all remedies and visions should be attempted simultaneously.

There is no one formula to reach peace. Peace is a process that relies on multiple layers of visions and aspirations. It is a process of never-ending and rigorous connections between people on multiple levels. It is a state of mind that needs to be constantly addressed, fed and nurtured.

Does it make sense for either Israelis or Palestinians to believe that they can defeat the other?  Does the secret, long-nurtured belief of some that time is on their side really make sense? The January 19, 2009, issue of Time magazine contained the population statistics of Jews and Arabs in the state of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Time noted that there were 5.4 million Jews and 5.5 million Arabs in the entire area in 2008. It estimated that by 2020 the population of Jews would be 6.4 million, and there would be 8.5 million Arabs. Any casual observer will immediately recognize that both peoples are there to stay, and they are not going anywhere anytime soon.

All these millions are firmly embedded in the area, physically, economically and religiously. Both sides have substantial emotional and historical connections to that land. Clearly, neither is going away, and the sooner they learn to live with each other, the better.

The relations between Israelis and Palestinians cannot be described in stark black and white. Many Arabs and Jews have very good relations. It is only when nationalism is thrown into the mix that the relations deteriorate. More importantly, Jews and Arabs inside the state of Israel have had peaceful and growing relations for decades.

For the most part, Arab Israelis and Jewish Israelis live in peaceful coexistence. Arabs participate fully in the Israeli political process. They have their own political parties and Knesset members. Many Arabs participate in the legislative and judicial process. Many are doctors, lawyers, ambassadors or judges. Any person going to an emergency room in any hospital in Israel has an almost equal chance of being treated by an Arab or a Jewish doctor. I heard on Israeli radio that many more Arabs donate body parts to Jews than Jews donate to Arabs or other Jews. On a day-to-day basis, Arabs and Israelis interact with each other peacefully and pleasantly. They buy from and sell to each other and visit each other’s homes. They teach each other and learn from each other and attend universities together. Some Arabs even serve in the Israeli army. Many Arabs serve in the Israeli police force and routinely arrest Jews who are suspected of crimes. The reverse is true as well. Arab judges regularly conduct trials where the litigants are Jews, and many Jewish judges conduct trials where Arabs are the litigants. Arabs hire Jewish doctors and lawyers, and the reverse is true as well. All aspects of civic society are mutual to Arabs and Jews within the state of Israel. Arabs are simply an integral part of Israeli society. I am aware of some discrimination that still exists against Arab Israelis, but the relationship between Arab Israelis and Jewish Israelis is far better than the relationship between Jews and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

Israeli Jews and Arab Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are also able to forge meaningful personal relationships. Despite the separation wall and the fences between the two, they are able to communicate by phone, in person and over the Internet. There are many Palestinians in East Jerusalem who are not separated from the Israelis at all. Many of the taxi drivers and hotel workers in Jerusalem are Palestinians who reside in Jerusalem and do not hold Israeli citizenship, yet they work freely in Israel. Many Israelis and Palestinians conduct business with each other on almost all levels. There are hundreds of professional, scientific, peace and trade groups and organizations common to Israelis and Palestinians. The connection between Israelis and Palestinians on a personal and professional level certainly exists. The personal relationships between Jews and Arabs provide the lubricant necessary to keep the peace going. Without that lubricant the prospect of peace is tenuous.

I would argue that the only point of non-agreement is nationalism. In my opinion, most Israelis and Palestinians are secular. Most do not attend synagogues or mosques on a regular basis.  Religion, in my opinion, does not divide Israelis and Palestinian as much as nationalism does. In general, both sides feel much greater loyalty and patriotic allegiance to their nation than to their religion.

The vision of peace should capitalize on human relationships, needs and aspirations rather than focus on the larger disagreements of nationalism.

An Israeli Palestinian Confederation will help provide them with one more common ground: a shared national identity. They will share a common government: the government of the Israeli Palestinian Confederation. It is possible for an Israeli or a Palestinian to be proud of and nationalistic toward his own government and at the same time be proud of and loyal to a shared or common government such as the Israeli Palestinian Confederation.

A vision of peace could include the expansion of the individual vision of each Palestinian and Israeli as a common expression through a unified government that does not contradict their separate governments. They currently have no national, mutual, common framework to express this relation. Many Israelis and Palestinians have a higher loyalty and sense of friendship to each other than to neighbors with whom they share the same citizenship. The Israeli Palestinian Confederation will help them capitalize on their trusting relationships and help propel other segments of society that are perhaps more reserved and suspicious to support the common government. Those Arabs and Jews who trust each other today will be the pioneer members of the Israeli Palestinian Confederation.



About the Author
Josef Avesar is founder of the Israeli Palestinian Confederation, which advocates for a mutual third government for Israelis and Palestinians. An American-Israeli of Iraqi background, he practices law in the U.S., but travels frequently to Israel and Palestine.