Can the Israelis and the Palestinians Both Win?

In a magnificent achievement, unmatched in the annals of Diplomacy since Neville Chamberlain waved the famous paper promising peace with Hitler, President Obama has managed to unite the Israelis and the Palestinians – They both hate him.

The Israelis are horrified that an American President has betrayed them by demanding that they return to the 1967 borders (with agreed land swaps), despite this being the same basic negotiating position that they have accepted throughout the intervening 44 years.

On the other hand, the Palestinians are appalled that Obama does not support their request for recognition by the United Nations, the same body that originally partitioned the land between the Jordan River and the Mediteranean Sea, creating Israel and, by extension, Palestine.

Of course, both sides do have some grounds for complaint. After a brutal and bloody coup that divided Gaza from the West Bank, Hamas and Fatah are BFFs again, and Israel is naturally unhappy about including Hamas, which still rejects the right of Israel to exist. However, an enduring peace between Israelis and Palestinians can only happen if it is supported by all of the Palestinians, or at least a large majority. Hamas still has considerable support among Palestinians and must be a part of the solution or their followers will sabotage it.

The refusal of the Israelis to meaningfully negotiate in recent years and the continued expansion of the Settlements mean that the Palestinians feel that this may be their last chance to establish reasonable boundaries for their Nation.

However, the land is only a part of the problem. The Israelis and the Palestinians both want Jerusalem as their Capital, but the Israelis do not accept that Jerusalem can ever be divided again. The Palestinians demand that any Palestinian refuges be granted a right to return to whatever part of the land their families are from, whether it be Israeli or Palestinian territory. The Israelis know that this would be a demographic timebomb which would outnumber the Jews within a generation. The Israelis are encircled by Arab Nations, who either hate or loath them, and need to be able to defend their land and people from the possibility of an attack similar to the three that they have survived so far.

These issues are fundamentally impossible to resolve because both sides want something that the other side cannot ever accept.

Unless, rather than both sides trying to win for themselves, what if both sides let the other side win ?

The Palestinians can allow Jerusalem to remain united and can allow the Israelis to have it as their Capital. Meanwhile, the Israelis can allow the Palestinians to also have Jerusalem as their Capital, if they will simply share the entire city. Two Nations sharing a single Capital.

The Israelis can allow the Palestinian refuges to have a right of Return to wherever they wish to go. And the Palestinians can accept that the Israeli right of Return for all Jews also applies and that they are both permanently established in their Constitutions along with freedom of Religion without the option of amendment, and enforced by the entire United Nations and all individual member Nations.

This United Nations commitment could also apply to the security of the entire land. Anyone attacking the Israelis or the Palestinians would have the entire World against them. Kuwait was liberated even after it had been completely invaded by Iraq. Surely this is better security than Israelis currently have, where losing a single war will be the end of their Nation forever ?

Finally, why not accept the 1967 boundaries as the dividing line between Israel and Palestine, but with the two Nations forming an eternal pact that gives citizens of each complete access to the other… they can live and work wherever they like but would have a choice of which Passport to carry. Each Nation would have its own Government with responsibility over their land, but they would both have some Arab towns, some Jewish towns and some mixed towns so that the people could live in whatever environment they are comfortable with.

Of course there would be some people who would try to sabotage this peace, but most people would want the peace to last and the underlying hatred would gradually fade.

It is worse than foolish to try and fix the mistakes of the past. It does not matter whether the sons of Isaac or of Ishmael have more right to the land between the Jordan River and the Mediteranean Sea. What matters is that they are both there now and the only way that either of them will thrive there is if they learn to share, as their grandfather Abraham would surely expect.