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Selling a Vision of Hope: A Refreshing Alternative to Armageddon

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Vision of Hope
Archive >> December 2009
file under: PalestineMiddle East PeaceIsrael 4 Dec 2009 1:39 PM
Peace in the Middle East Posted by Nissim Dahan
Peace in the Middle East is still only a dream, but the actual terms of a final peace agreement between Palestinians, at least in the West Bank, and Israelis, are not all that difficult to imagine.


Security: Israel would prefer for the new Palestinian state to be demilitarized. Palestinians in the West Bank, however, do not want to see a Hamas takeover there. They see what happened in Gaza, and have a very different vision for the West Bank. Therefore, a deal may be possible by which Israel, as part of a multi-national force, including several Arab states, will agree to guarantee the security of Palestine, even against Hamas, in exchange for an agreement to keep the new Palestinian state demilitarized.


Settlements: The vast majority of settlements will be turned over to Palestinians. Some of them, however, will become part of Israel, in exchange for an equal amount of Israeli land. Let's look at the numbers. There are approximately 300,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Some 220,000 live in several settlement blocks, which will probably become part of Israel, as part of a land swap. That leaves 80,000 settlers, 40,000 of whom will agree to leave the settlements in exchange for compensation, and 40,000 of whom are die-hard believers. The Jews who refuse to leave can become citizens of Palestine, just as Arabs are citizens of Israel, to the tune of 20% of the population. Prime Minister Fayyad has said that he would not be opposed to Jews becoming citizens of a new Palestine.


Borders: Once the issue of settlements is resolved, the final borders between Israel and Palestine can be drawn up accordingly. The final borders will likely be very close to the 1967 borders. Approximately 4-6% of the West Bank will be retained by Israel in exchange for land swaps of Israeli land. Some the land swaps could include a roadway to Gaza, for example.


Jerusalem: Jerusalem is a contentious issue, to say the least, because of the religious significance she holds for all three Abrahamic religions. Israel would probably insist that Jerusalem remain the undivided capital of the Jewish state. However, this issue could be finessed by giving Palestinians a certain measure of sovereignty in the areas where they predominate, as well as control over Islam's holy sites. This could be done without technically "dividing" the city, but simply recognizing, in a formal way, the demographic divisions that already exist there. If Jerusalem is truly the City of Peace, then why not use her to usher in an age of peace?


Refugees: Israel will not allow the Palestinian refugees and their descendents to enter Israel and become citizens. Such a move would destroy Israel as a Jewish state. However, a certain number of Palestinian refugees, as determined by Israel, could be allowed to return to Israel for humanitarian purposes. The vast majority of Palestinian refugees would be entitled to become citizens of a new Palestine, and would be compensated by Israel for the losses which they and their families suffered. The number of 30 billion dollars was discussed in previous negotiations. Some of this money could be used to build institutions in Palestine, including: revitalizing the economy, promoting education, instituting the rule of law, sponsoring student exchanges, etc.


Gaza: It is unlikely that Hamas would buy into such arrangements, at least for the time being. Therefore, a Palestinian state could be declared in the West Bank only, at least for now. However, as peace, prosperity, and freedom begin to take hold in the West Bank of Palestine, Hamas would be under extreme pressure to follow suit in terms of job creation, or face the wrath of its people in Gaza. As such, if Hamas decides to legitimate its hold on power, with good paying jobs and the like, it too can become part of the new Palestinian state, or declare its own statehood.


So you see, on the surface, at least, the terms of a peace deal are not so difficult to fathom. What is difficult is to get people on both sides to take a second look, to become more open, and to embrace the possibility of peaceful co-existence. Getting that to happen will require us to stop blaming each other, and to look inwardly, and to ask ourselves what sort of future we want for ourselves, for our children, and for the countless generations of children yet to come.