In the context of an initiative to promote new methods to end the Israel-Palestinian conflict, I recently flew to the United States, to speak to Jewish communities, college students, and elected officials, under the auspices of Our Soldiers Speak .
My task, was to present a new, out-of-the-box approach known as the New State Solution. I believe that the existing approaches are wholly unrealistic and obsolete. Neither the traditional two-state solution, nor the call for Israel to unilaterally annex Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) are achievable. For the record, I presented alongside a highly respected Israeli who spoke in support of the two-state solution.
But I found myself lecturing to a range of audiences on the idea of establishing a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and the northern Sinai.
I imagined encountering BDS demonstrations and hostile responses that would, I had feared, trivialize the idea and shower it with cynicism.
Surprisingly, no such attitude was demonstrated.
THE SON OF A DIPLOMAT
My concept of how world opinion views Israel has undergone a number of changes throughout the years.
As the son of an Israeli diplomat, I spent my early years in several countries, including Italy, the Ivory Coast, Chile, and Argentina. I was exposed to many different cultures and ways of thinking, and experienced a wealth of diversity.
Upon my return to Israel, having spent my formative years in so many countries, I was drafted into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). During my 30 years of service, my impression that the international view toward Israel was highly diverse began to fade, giving way to the belief that the world was fairly uniform, in terms of how it viewed Israel. The international community seemed closed, uncompromising and, even, unfair, when it came to my home.
Such was the context for my concerns as I began my US lecture tour. I had, though, prepared for my talks in a comprehensive manner, thinking long and hard about the plan I would be presenting.
My preparations included formulating solutions for any question that I anticipated the audience raising.
I am pleased to say that across-the-board, the response to the New State Solution proved to be one of enthusiasm, curiosity, and openness – and a real desire to hear more, to learn more, to further refine the idea.
During my first presentations in New York, I encountered a Jewish audience, which was politically varied, with members ranging from the right-wing to J-Street.
After presenting the New State Solution, people from across the political spectrum approached me with enthused responses. More than once, I was told that this was the first time they had heard of a solution which seemed applicable and equitable.
Many questions followed. But there are concrete answers to such questions.
The campus leg of the tour took me to, among other universities, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts, one of the most highly esteemed centers of education for national security policy in the USA.
I presented the New State Solution at this institution for over an hour, and was met with many questions, chief among them: How willing is Egypt to cooperate in the building of a new state in north Sinai? Other questions focused on solutions for Palestinian residents of Judea and Samaria, and the status of Jerusalem.
Once again, I received a highly positive response to the idea. There was one student in the audience who later approached me and my co-panelist, and informed us that she questioned Israel’s very right to exist in any formulation. In such a case, no solution to the Israeli – Palestinian conflict could be relevant, of course.
This talk was followed by a day of presentations in Washington DC, where I met with Senators, members of Congress, and staffers, both Democrat and Republican. The surprisingly enthusiastic response to the New State Solution surpassed all expectations.
I explained to the listeners that the time is now ripe to propose such an initiative to the Egyptians. The instability Egypt faces, its economic woes and the potential for mass starvation within its population, all coalesce to form an opportunity for globally minded cooperation centering around the notion of peacemaking.
A New State Solution, with the international aid it would secure for Egypt, would save the country, and would also ensure the stability of the strategically vital Suez Canal crossing.
Establishing a non-jihadist, Palestinian state would also help stabilize Sinai , an area where Egypt has exhibited a low level of sovereignty and struggled to put down an ISIS-fueled insurgency.
In sharp contrast to the two state solution, which calls for the forced removal of hundreds of thousands of Jews from their homes, The New State Solution stipulates that not a single Palestinian is evicted from their home, anywhere.
Palestinians in Judea and Samaria would be incentivized to emigrate to the New State, willingly. Those that remain in Judea and Samaria would become citizens of the New State, while retaining autonomy where they live.
JERUSALEM AND THE NEW STATE SOLUTION
Regarding Jerusalem, I felt it was important to put forward the Jewish peoples’ stance in a clear manner. Jerusalem is a central city for all three ,major religions; and it cannot be divided. The State of Israel is the only guarantor that has proven its ability to ensure that Jerusalem remains accessible to all religions. Additionally, Jerusalem is a part of the Jewish nation’s historical right, being the ancient and modern, national capital. It has always been the center of gravity for the Jewish people.
With Christians being ethnically cleansed from the Middle East, and with Christian communities fleeing the Palestinian Authority, it should be clear to all that the state of Israel is the country best positioned to defend Jerusalem for all religions.
Senators, members of Congress, and staffers heard the solution with much attentiveness, and asked excellent questions, displaying a real openness and positive approach.
Their response constitutes further evidence that the New State Solution is feasible. It would enable the US to pave the path to peace with a solution that produces many winners: from the impoverished Egyptians, to the residents of an over-crowded Gaza.
The toppling of Hamas, and removal of ISIS from the Sinai, would improve local conditions in a major way.
The addition of territory from the northern Sinai territory to Gaza would provide local Palestinian residents – and those from Judea and Samaria who choose to join them – with the geographic viability they require, with full, territorial contiguity, and no limitations on Palestinian sovereignty.
Israel would be able to annex Judea and Samaria while avoiding the need to provide citizenship to millions of additional Palestinians.
CONSENSUS HAS NEVER BEEN A PRE-REQUISITE FOR INITIATIVE
To be sure, there were those who asked why the Palestinians would agree to such a solution? But such questioners were reminded that no consensus exists among the palestinians toward any solution, including the two-state paradigm. Consensus is thus not required in order to initiate a new idea for peacemaking. What is necessary, is a sustainable plan. This is all the more true in a Middle East filled with major security challenges, radical ideologies, and fast-paced changes.
The New State Solution is one that views the future of Israel through a lens of a hundred years, and more.
The current dispute between the two-state or one-state solution is moot, and futile. In my view, neither one is sustainable in the reality of today.
PERHAPS IT IS WE ISRAELIS WHO MUST THINK THINGS ANEW?
The New State Solution is achievable. It also has the potential to create more cohesion within Israeli society, which suffers from deep polarization between the Left and the Right.
My lecture tour placed me before left-leaning students who received the New State Solution very well. I found that those who sought two states for two peoples were uninterested in geography. They were more interested in creating a Palestinian state, a need the New State Solution certainly recognizes.
From campuses, to congress to military academies, the New State Solution was met with much hopeful energy and understanding. Time and again, audience members expressed their view that the new formula could work.
While many within Israel believe that those abroad are close-minded when it comes to our country, this lecture tour demonstrated to me that the very opposite can be true.
There is a wide variety of thinking overseas, and out-of-the-box solutions are welcomed. This is particularly true in light of the growing sense of desperation that stems from the existing proposals, all of which have failed, for decacdes.
The failures of the past do not absolve us from the need to consider proposals for our future and for the future of our Palestinian neighbors. Seeking a just, realistic answer, while ensuring that it meets the challenging regional realities, can benefit Israelis, Palestinians, Egyptians, and many others who seek peace around the world.
Edited by: Yaakov Lappin
Co-edited by: Benjamin Anthony
Notice: The views expressed above do not represent the views of the IDF, the Foreign Ministry or the organization Our Soldiers Speak. They are reflective solely of the views of the author.