Markov Assumption to Initiate Peace Talks

Israel ended the occupation of Gaza in 2005 but did not obtain peace. Israel learned that she cannot end the occupation of the West Bank until she has negotiated a verifiable and enforceable peace treaty with the Palestinian Authority. Negotiations are blocked by many obstacles including contentious historical issues which arose during the Zionist migration to Palestine prior to the birth of the Jewish state on May 14, 1948. One such issue, which has festered for over a century, is the accusation that Israel was founded by settler colonialists and therefore has no right to exist as an independent Jewish state. Since a settler is one who makes his or her home in a new country, the founders of Israel were called settlers by the Arabs. (However, many Israelis disagree, and assert the founders were merely returning to their ancestral homeland.) The founders of Israel were not colonists because they were not subject to a parent country.

Clearly, endless arguments over disputed historical issues, such as settler colonialism, have impeded meaningful progress toward reaching a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. A unique suggestion for jump starting peace talks is to invoke the Markov assumption which, in simplified language, says “given the present, the future is independent of the past.” The Markov assumption, which renders all contentious historical issues irrelevant, will allow Israelis and Palestinians to temporarily forget their past history of bitter conflict and focus instead on developing alternative scenarios for achieving peace in the future. History will be taken into account when calculating compensation owed to displaced Palestinians refugees.

About the Author
Ted Sheskin is a professor emeritus of industrial engineering at Cleveland State University, and the author of a textbook, Markov Chains and Decision Processes for Engineers and Managers. He has published peer-reviewed papers on engineering systems and mathematical algorithms. His letters to editors addressing politics, economic policy, and issues facing Israel and American Jews have appeared in the NY Times, Daily News, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cleveland Jewish News, Jewish Week, the Forward, and Jewish Voice.