OK, So What's the Plan?
OK, So What's the Plan?

By Israel Zwick

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, it’s 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 world’s 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 child’s 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 you’re getting closer,” I explained, “Israelis and Arabs need to learn to get along with each other in progressive stages, according to their capabilities. You wouldn’t ask a 5-year old child to go to the store by himself and bring back milk and eggs. Similarly, you can’t 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 words.”

“It’s simple,” I explained, “You can’t have two independent states in such a small area without extensive cooperation between the two. This cooperation has to develop in progressive stages. You can’t do step 2 before step 1, you can’t 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 places?”

“Now, you’re 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 I’m not going to be able to get out of this so easily. OK, so what’s 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 children’s 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. It’s 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 haven’t 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 it’s probably close to zero, but with Arafat gone, there is some slim hope.”

“So why do you bother with all this,” asked Devorah.

“Because it’s 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 it’s time to recognize that this hasn’t worked and a new approach is needed based on tolerance, acceptance, understanding, and mutual cooperation.”

“Stop dreaming and get ready for shabbos. Hadlokos nerot is in a half-hour.”

I always admired Devorah for her common-sense wisdom.

Israel Zwick

(c) 2005, I. Zwick, NYC

Israel Zwick is a commentator on the Middle East based in New York.

Reprinted by permission.