I consider myself fortunate that I get to travel to Israel about
twice per year. I would love to visit the Jewish communities in
YESHA, which are more commonly known as settlements
in the West Bank and Gaza. However, the precious little time that
I have there is usually devoted to spending time with my children
and little grandchildren. On my last visit, I was playing with my
22-month old grandson, Avi, when his mother, Sara, called out, Avi,
its almost shabbos, you have to put your toys away.
Avi then proceeded to identify his muktse toys, the ones
that he is not allowed to play with on shabbos, and put them
away in a designated area. With great pride, I watched how he diligently
completed the task while Sara praised him and then rewarded him
with a big hug.
Excitedly, I remarked to my wife, Devorah, Our little grandson
just gave me the key to everlasting peace for the State of Israel.
Is that so? she asked incredulously, Did you
also find the goose that lays golden eggs?
Seriously, I said, I believe that the worlds
great diplomats George, Tony, Kofi, Arik, and Mahmoud
have a lot to learn from our little grandson.
I can agree with that, Devorah responded, but
why would the Palestinians have to put away their muktse toys before
shabbos, their holy day is on Friday?
Not exactly, I tried to explain, but they need
to learn some of the basic principles of parenting skills. At each
stage in a childs development, parents try to teach independence,
responsibility, and social skills according to the developmental
capabilities of the child. So at 2-years, parents can teach a child
to put away his toys, share toys with other children, and not hit
his baby sister. At 3 years, a child can learn to verbalize his
needs instead of whining, crying, and throwing tantrums. As the
child goes into the school-age years, he learns to develop greater
independence and responsibility. He learns to dress himself, cross
the street, do homework, and to respect the needs of other children
in school. He learns to accept responsibility for more household
chores such as sorting laundry or taking out the garbage. At each
stage, parents and teachers try to teach behavior that is socially
and developmentally appropriate, while discouraging behaviors that
are inappropriate. They do this by exposing the child to positive
and adverse consequences for his behaviors.
I get it now, exclaimed Devorah, Israelis and
Arabs need to learn to share their toys together.
Now youre getting closer, I explained, Israelis
and Arabs need to learn to get along with each other in progressive
stages, according to their capabilities. You wouldnt ask a
5-year old child to go to the store by himself and bring back milk
and eggs. Similarly, you cant expect a Palestinian State to
function adjacent to Israel until they both develop the skills for
harmonious coexistence and mutual cooperation.
Devorah looked puzzled, Now you lost me with all those big
Its simple, I explained, You cant
have two independent states in such a small area without extensive
cooperation between the two. This cooperation has to develop in
progressive stages. You cant do step 2 before step 1, you
cant put the cart before the horse.
Why would the Arabs have to learn to use carts and horses
if they are so good at driving trucks and blowing them up in crowded
Now, youre getting even closer. The first step is that
the Arabs must cease and renounce terrorism. It must be made emphatically
clear that this is not acceptable behavior in civilized society
and that they will get nowhere as long as they persist in this barbaric
activity. The State of Israel must emphasize that as long as terrorist
activity continues, there can be no concessions to the Arabs. The
IDF will do whatever is necessary to provide security for its citizens,
even if it has to conduct an operation similar to what the US military
did in Fallujah. On the other hand, when terrorist activity ceases,
then the IDF can withdraw forces from civilian areas, reduce checkpoints,
and improve the quality of life for the Arabs living in the territories.
Do you want to hear the rest of plan?
I see that Im not going to be able to get out of this
so easily. OK, so whats the plan?
The next step is that the Arabs must stop the incitement
to hatred, violence, and jihad from the media and classrooms. The
Europeans can help here by providing assistance to develop new textbooks
and childrens programming on TV. When the incitement stops,
then Israel can offer to initiate academic exchange programs in
the high schools and colleges. This would continue to foster confidence,
understanding, and tolerance between Arabs and Jews.
Step 3 would be to reduce the high population density in the Arab
refugee camps. The UNRWA camps in Gaza and the West Bank have some
of the highest population densities in the world. Polls indicate
that as many as 40% of the residents would be happy to resettle
elsewhere if a suitable offer were made. Its time for the
international community to make an effort towards voluntary resettlement
of these so-called refugees. For $10 billion dollars, over 5 years,
many of these families can be resettled in other Arab countries,
Europe, and North America. Resettlement would be strictly voluntary
with no coercion. Israel would reciprocate by promising not to use
the vacated land for Jewish settlements. The areas vacated by the
Arabs would be used for new housing, recreational, and commercial
areas. The housing would be for Arabs, but the recreational and
commercial areas would be open to Arabs, Jews, and tourists.
Step 4 would initiate mutually beneficial projects between Israelis
and Palestinians. There could be a joint Chamber of Commerce that
would promote trade between the two, and with European countries.
There could also be a joint Bureau of Tourism that would assist
travel agencies in organizing tours through Arab and Jewish areas,
such as a four-day tour through Old Jerusalem, Hebron, Bethlehem,
Jericho, Massada, and the Dead Sea. There could also be a joint
Emergency Response Team that would respond to large-scale disasters
such as airplane crashes, sinking ships, explosions, and large fires.
When mutual cooperation is established and operational, then Step
5 could be considered. This would establish a semi-independent Palestinian
State, modeled after the relationship of the Vatican to Italy, or
Puerto Rico to the United States. Other creative governmental relationships
could also be considered.
What comes after that, asked Devorah.
Actually, I havent given much thought yet to Step 6
because so far there is no indication that the Arabs are even ready
for Step 1.
So what do you think are the chances of this plan being adopted?
Now its probably close to zero, but with Arafat gone,
there is some slim hope.
So why do you bother with all this, asked Devorah.
Because its the right thing to do. The Arabs and Jews
have been fighting for the last 80 years, not just since 1967 as
many believe. The conflict has been fueled and driven by hatred,
intolerance, greed, money, oil, and politics. Maybe its time
to recognize that this hasnt worked and a new approach is
needed based on tolerance, acceptance, understanding, and mutual
Stop dreaming and get ready for shabbos. Hadlokos
nerot is in a half-hour.
I always admired Devorah for her common-sense wisdom.
(c) 2005, I. Zwick, NYC
Israel Zwick is a commentator on the Middle East based in New York.