Working towards peace and sustainability

Seeking a Just Resolution to an “Intractable” Conflict


We grieve the tragic bloodshed of the last several days; Israelis and Palestinians alike, losing life and limb, and condemn the resort to violence in general, and particularly violence against peaceful civilians. Moreover, we grieve the injustice and the violence that has marked this conflict for fully a century now.

Sadly, there is no easy solution to the conflict, especially given the ascendency of absolutists on both sides; extreme Zionists who claim a God-given right to the entirety of the historic kingdom of Solomon, and their counterparts who chant “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free,” sometimes not knowing that this is a call for the abolition of Israel. Many, on both sides are not interested in negotiating a settlement if it involves giving up their long-run objective to control all of the land that was in Mandate Palestine post World War I.

Peaceworks has long condemned the expansionist Zionism that has led to a massive increase in the Israeli population living in settlements built, and being built, on land that was promised to the Palestinians in the Oslo Accords for a state on the West Bank and Gaza. We have also condemned the violation of human rights that has gone on as Israel has built a system similar to South African Apartheid, restricting where Palestinians can live and even where they can travel.

We have, for decades now, supported a partition of the land providing the Palestinians all of the lands that Israel took control of in the 1967 Six Day War, including the land that is now occupied by Israeli settlements on the West Bank and East Jerusalem. We have supported the two-state concept, with independent states in an economic union, including major investments to build a prosperous economy in Palestine. This would include both states having sovereignty over portions of Jerusalem, which would be the capital of both, and international administration of the sites that are holy to all three monotheistic faiths.

While there would be many details to be negotiated, from water rights to reparations to security guarantees, the very concept of two states is moot if maximalists are in charge in both societies and refuse to even consider some form of compromise. After so many decades of conflict there is a deep-seated, mutual antipathy to contend with, along with a virtually congenital distrust of the other.

The alternative to two viable, contiguous states is a bi-national state that includes all living within the boundaries of Mandate Palestine as equal citizens. While this seems to be a desirable end in a world that outgrows nationalism and recognizes that we are all one human family, in the short run the antipathy and distrust mentioned above make this hard to envision, let alone implement.

While there are some examples of viable, bi-national, or even multi-national, states (e.g. Canada, Switzerland), these generally have their diverse ethnic populations living in separate parts of their countries and they don’t have the recent history of violent conflict that exists in Israel-Palestine.

While, in theory, a bi-national state might seem desirable, nationalism is deeply embedded in our cultures. Just look at a picture of a pro-Palestine or a pro-Israel demonstration and you will undoubtedly see a sea of Palestinian or Israeli flags and, no matter how hard you look, you will be very hard pressed to see even a single Earth flag.

So, what is the solution? Sadly, there is no easy answer. That said, our government has significant leverage. For decades, however, the U.S. has not been a fair broker of peace, but rather a close ally of Israel that has consistently taken their side. In particular, our government supplies Israel with $3.8 billion annually in military aid, most of which goes directly to U.S. military contractors.

Israel is already a military powerhouse and an affluent nation capable of funding its military. We would suggest redirecting this funding to joint Israeli-Palestinian projects that would, on the ground, lead to cooperation and the building of trust between members of both communities.

In addition to its own efforts to prod both parties to try something different than their current, failing approaches, our government could work, diplomatically, to gain the participation of other affluent nations, including, but not limited to, the EU, to join in such an endeavor, leveraging new approaches.

None of this is certain to yield improvement, but continuing to do what’s been done for decades that has, most obviously, resulted in failure is certainly not acceptable. We urge all to learn more about the roots of this conflict, its history and its current power dynamics.

We also urge you to avoid the simplistic, black or white, good or bad, camps who tout the cause of either side. In war, there are no winners. Likewise, continuing the current process of taking up sides ignores a reality, Palestine can only “win” if Israel wins, and the opposite is true as well, Israel only “wins” if Palestine does. Continuing warfare, yields death, destruction and hate. We need, instead, peace, compassion and cooperation.