Columnist Richard Fein: Israel/Palestine peace — what can be done right now

  • Richard Fein FILE PHOTO

Published: 7/24/2022 8:22:00 PM

Imagine a situation where two people, lets call them Izzy and Phil, grab a hold of a cloth and both claim that the entire cloth is theirs. They fight ferociously over it to the point of drawing knives on each other. There are three possible outcomes: a) One kills the other and takes the entire cloth; b) Realizing that there is no end to this struggle they decide to divide the cloth; or c) they keep up the struggle until the cloth is shredded and they are both dead.

This column thinks that the parable of Izzy and Phil describes the current Israel/Palestine struggle. Both sides have tried some version of outcome a) and failed. Neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis are going away. They talk about outcome b) but neither the government of Israel nor the Palestine Authority have a serious interest in peace on anything like the terms that the other side could possibly accept. Outcome c) is a real possibility. The Palestinians will not have a state of their own. Israel will no longer be really Jewish because its West Bank policy violates the most basic Jewish moral teachings. Since Palestinians in the West Bank do not have the right to vote on Israel’s policies, Israel wouldn’t be a democracy either.

To complicate matters, Israel’s government is unstable. The fifth election in four years is scheduled for later this year. The Palestine Authority in the West Bank hasn’t had an election at all in 16 years. The third player in this tragic situation is Hamas, which governs Gaza. That organization openly seeks Israel’s annihilation, the no more Israel solution. Hamas might win and take control of the West Bank if the Palestine Authority ever does hold an honest election.

That said, it is possible to take steps now that would reduce mutual hatred and increase the chances for a lasting peace in the future. That means a State of Palestine and the State of Israel living peacefully with each other. Here as some things that each side can do unilaterally.

What Israel’s government can do: Loosen up its harsh rule over Palestinians. There should be the most minimal interference in daily life. No more roadblocks to inhibit or prevent movement from one Palestinian community to another. No more arbitrary searches and arrests. No more demolition of houses. No more expropriation of water resources. The primary role of Israel’s military and police would be to prevent attacks against Israel launched from the West Bank. A second goal would be to prevent Jewish settlers from attacking Palestinians and vice versa. Most Palestinians in Israeli jails for “security reasons” could be released unless they have been accused of murder or attempted murder.

Israel must also vigorously suppress the activities of extremist groups within its own boundaries that seek to intimate Palestinians and/or seize total control over the Temple Mount/ Haram Al Sharif in Jerusalem.

It would b a good idea to start talking to Jews living in the West Bank settlements. If the settlers wish to remain in the territory that eventually becomes the State of Palestine, they will do so under Palestinian governance.

What the Palestinian Authority can do. End anti-Jewish school books. Saudi Arabia has already made significant progress in this area, so can Palestinians.

Wake up to the fact that neither the Arab world nor the international community more broadly will create a Palestinian state. Violence and terrorism won’t either. The PA must stop rejecting reasonable peace offers that don’t meet its maximalist demands. The Palestinians must reject the idea that “From the (Jordan) River to the (Mediterranean) Sea, Palestine will be free,” namely no more Israel. Palestinians must remove the so-called “right of return” from their demands. There were about 500,000 Palestinian refugees in 1948. Today, more than 4.3 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants are registered with the United Nations for humanitarian assistance. Israel will not commit demographic suicide in the name of peace. Also, Israel can rightfully point out that about 500,000 Jews fled or were expelled from Arab countries as a consequence of the same 1948 war. Palestinians should realize that 11 million Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia, Denmark and Poland at the end of World War II and never had any right of return.

There is also something that each side can do: explicitly acknowledge that the other side has a legitimate claim to the land they both want.

The prophet Zechariah spoke about “prisoners of hope.” If Israel and the Palestinians follow through on this column’s suggestions there will be good basis to hope for a brighter, peaceful life for everyone.

Richard Fein holds a master of arts degree in political science and an MBA in economics. He can be reached at

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