The conflict between Israel and Palestinians has heated up quite a bit lately due to the attack on the “aid” flotilla sent to Gaza. This has left many wondering, “Can there ever be peace between Israel and the Palestinians?” Some Jews (and supporters of Israel) think that peace can only be found when the Palestinians leave Israel. Alternatively, many Palestinians (and supporters of Palestinians) believe peace can only be found when the Jews leave ‘Palestine’ (hat tip to Helen Thomas). The fact is, neither option is tenable or humane.
For the Jews, Israel holds significance for two reasons. First, it is their ancestral homeland. Their history centers around what occurred in Jerusalem, so much so that for 2,000 years Jews would always say, “Next year in Jerusalem.” Jerusalem was their home, given to them (in their minds) by God. While they faced various wars and occupations during their reign in Jerusalem, they at least had a home. After the Roman Empire expelled the Jews from Jerusalem in 70AD, they were on their own. Wherever they went they faced persecution. When the German princes, Italian provinces, French government, and Spanish inquisitors punished the Jews, the Jews went east and settled in Prussia and Hungary. How ironic that a few hundred years later, a population of over 7 million Jews in Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia was reduced to a population of just over 6,000 in the modern day (not all died in the Holocaust, many fled to other countries). This points out the second reason why Israel holds significance for the Jews – it ensures that they are free from persecution.
The Jews have learned the hardway that just because a nation is friendly to them today does not mean they will be friendly tomorrow. As I pointed out above, the Polish government was friendly to the Jews, but eventually turned on them. Even the various German provinces under the Holy Roman Empire in the 16th century were friendly to Jews, but turned on them when financial crises hit or when plague hit. America has traditionally been friendly to the Jews, but there’s no guarantee that America won’t turn on them tomorrow. For the Jews, to have a homeland of their own is of vital importance; to have it on their ancestral grounds is even better.
In all of this, however, the Palestinians cannot be ignored. In Israeli society they have been treated as second-class citizens. They are not allowed to vote, not allowed to serve in the military, and so on. Granted, these measures are taken to keep a Jewish majority in the government and military, but it is still unfair to the Palestinians. Likewise, Israel’s neighbors of Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, and Syria have been quite unwilling to allow Palestinians to integrate into their respective societies. This leaves the Palestinian without a place to call home.
It seems with the above, we are left at an impasse. The Jews need a nation of their own and in such a nation, they must hold the majority, otherwise they risk losing their own nation. At the same time, such a requirement comes on the backs of Palestinians who are then stripped of certain rights. But in this, I do believe peace can be found by certain actions, and I believe these actions must take place in this order:
1) The Palestinians must take action to vote out Hamas and/or Hamas gives up their arms and goes the route of Martin Luther King Jr and Ghandi and offers up peaceful resistance – the only reason Israel has put a blockade on Gaza and the only reason Israel has fenced in Gaza is because the Hamas run government has consistently launched rockets into Israel, targeting population centers. When civilians die due to Israel actions, it is generally because Israel was targeting a terrorist hideout or a rocket launch site that happened to be surrounded by civilian structures. Thus, the civilians are collateral damage. Alternatively, whenever civilians are killed and it was an attack launched by Hamas, the civilians were the target.
In other words, the Palestinians have to realize that the main reason they’re suffering is because their heroes (Hamas) are killing innocent Israeli civilians. The Israeli government has a moral duty to prevent such actions from occurring. Until the Palestinians lay down their weapons and seek peaceful ways to protest, the conflict will wage on. This does mean that the first move toward peace rests upon the shoulders of the Palestinians.
2) The Palestinians must recognize Israel as a legitimate nation and abandon hopes of “casting the Jews back into the sea.” – it is impossible to come to peace with a people if you don’t recognize that people’s right to exist. If the Palestinians don’t recognize Israel as a legitimate nation (including the 1967 territory that Israel took as a response to them being invaded), then this would indicate that they would constantly seek the destruction of Israel. If the Palestinians truly want peace, then they have to recognize Israel as a legitimate nation.
3) Israel must allow Arab representation in their government – if the above two conditions are met by the Palestinians, justice would require the Israelis to allow Arab/Palestinian representation within their government. While such representation would not need to be a majority, it would still need to be substantial.
4) Israel would need to allow the Gazans to be self-ruled to a certain extent – while Arabs and Palestinians would be represented in the overall government, it would be right of Israel to allow them to have their own parlament. So long as the Gazans held to the overall rules of the nation of Israel, they would be allowed to be self-ruled, but not autonomous.
5) Israel would need to offer aid and help create jobs and rebuild Gaza – even if all the above occurs, the fact is a Palestinian state wouldn’t be tenable without a stable economy. Since Israel has a stable economy, they would be in the best position to do business with Gazan businesses. In doing so, they would be helping to increase and stabilize the Gazan economy.
6) Forgiveness must be shown between both sides – after all of the above steps had been taken, in order to solidify the truce between Palestinians and Jews, a day of forgiveness between both sides would be highly appropriate. A memorial on the border between Israel and Gaza to all the innocent people who died in such the conflict between the two would go a long ways toward healing the scars, with the hope being that the next generation would grow up without soldiers breaking into their home looking for terrorists or losing classmates because of a homemade rocket crashing into their school.
7) Israel and Gaza would work together to find a way to make Gaza autonomous – Israel and Gaza would need to work together to find a way to make Gaza and independent nation. This, of course, would mean that Arabs would lose representation in the Israeli government, but they would in turn gain representation in their own government. Once the region was stabilized and the Gazan economy slowly began to recover, if peace existed between the two nations it is not unrealistic to expect Gaza to finally be independent.
Peace is possible between Palestinians and Jews. The question isn’t, “Can peace exist between the two nations,” but instead, “Are both sides willing to do what is right?” Regardless of anything else, peace will only begin to exist when the Palestinians begin to drop their weapons and instead find peaceful, non-violent ways to protest their treatment. Until that time, violence will exist and Israel will be forced to respond with a heavy-hand.