Two states, two routes to peace

The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment - Joel Braunold

DE­SPITE THE wishes of those who wish to see an end to the Is­raeliPales­tinian con­flict, the ne­go­ti­a­tions in their cur­rent form are well and truly dead. While sup­port for the two-state so­lu­tion still ex­ists, the pop­u­la­tions are in­cred­u­lous that this will hap­pen within the next decade. While the ma­jor­ity can just about agree on what the light looks like at the end of the tun­nel, there is no tun­nel for them to travel through. In such cir­cum­stances, po­lit­i­cal ne­go­ti­a­tions in a vac­uum will not be enough to bring peace.

The big­gest block to any progress to­wards peace be­tween the Is­raelis and the Pales­tini­ans is a sys­temic lack of trust. The Pales­tini­ans are look­ing for tan­gi­ble land and they get good in­ten­tions in­stead; the Is­raelis are seek­ing an in­tan­gi­ble con­cept of peace, and they do not get the com­mit­ment that they want from the Pales­tini­ans.

This trust deficit will not be met by just get­ting to know more peo­ple on the other side. Rather, each side needs uni­lat­er­ally to take steps that are in its own self-in­ter­est and fur­ther the chances of a two-state so­lu­tion.

Is­rael needs to start con­struc­tion in the north and south of the coun­try. It needs to build schools in empty vil­lages into which to trans­plant set­tler com­mu­ni­ties. Ev­ery ma­jor po­lit­i­cal party in Is­rael ac­cepts that at least 30,000 peo­ple are go­ing to have to move, and the set­tler com­mu­nity fears that it will have nowhere to go, as hap­pened to those from Gush Katif af­ter the 2005 dis­en­gage­ment.

With a hous­ing short­age, sim­ply giv­ing cash to set­tlers will up­set the eco­nomic bal­ance and fur­ther strain the hous­ing mar­ket. In­stead, these empty com­mu­ni­ties need to be filled. They also need to be con­nected to Is­rael’s train sys­tem to al­low peo­ple to con­tinue to com­mute to the eco­nomic cen­tres.

By do­ing this, the Is­raelis would demon­strate a com­mit­ment to life af­ter the oc­cu­pa­tion. They would show that they care about the peo­ple that they are ex­port­ing. They would lengthen Is­rael’s strate­gic cor­ri­dor away from it be­ing merely the coastal re­gion, by link­ing the rail net­work and al­low­ing more cit­i­zens to live else­where.

They could re­bal­ance the de­mo­graphic wor­ries in the north and south with­out any talk of trans­fer of Arab cit­i­zen­ship. And, fi­nally, they could af­ford this through the use of the Tamers gas field off the coast of Haifa as a ma­jor in­fras­truc­tural in­vest­ment.

On the other side, build­ing the Pales­tinian state needs to con­tinue and it needs to hap­pen along­side po­lit­i­cal mo­men­tum that will be gen­er­ated by de­vel­op­ing towns within Green Line Is­rael. In this way, Pales­tini­ans, can fo­cus on build­ing their state, with the knowl­edge that the land they claim will be un­der their con­trol in fu­ture. “Build Pales­tine” will be the na­tional call.

Build­ing state in­sti­tu­tions needs to be done de­spite the oc­cu­pa­tion, and the oc­cu­pa­tion can be non-vi­o­lently re­sisted while build­ing the state. One does not pre­clude the other.

The UN Re­lief and Works Agency will one day leave. In­sti­tu­tions need to be set up to help re­house, ed­u­cate and train thou­sands of Pales­tini­ans. In­sti­tu­tions of this mag­ni­tude re­quire plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment be­fore im­ple­men­ta­tion.

Both Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans can im­ple­ment these steps in­de­pen­dently of each other. But the hope is that they could be car­ried out si­mul­ta­ne­ously and go some way to fill that trust deficit. This is a ver­sion of Joel Braunold’s win­ning en­try for the Avi Schae­fer Peace In­no­va­tion Com­pe­ti­tion at Har­vard. The prompt was: “With un­lim­ited re­sources how would you bridge the gap be­tween Is­raeli and Pales­tinian so­ci­eties?”

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