We know the years by heart: 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982 and 2006, the years of major conflict between Israel and its neighbors. Israel’s creation in 1948 ended the exile of the Jewish people from their ancient land. Tragically, the end of one diaspora established another, the displacement of upwards of 800,000 people, whose ancestors occupied Palestine for many generations. Two peoples claimed the right to inhabit and possess one land. And each side appealed to history to justify their claim to this disputed territory.
Ending one diaspora by creating another provided a recipe for tragedy and disaster. The violent years noted above obscure how Israel has lived in a de facto state of war with its neighbors, most persistently with the descendants of Israel’s previous occupants, throughout its entire seventy-five-year history.
The time has come to accept a sobering truth: left on their own, Israel and the Palestinians will never establish a lasting comprehensive peace. It makes no sense to discuss missed opportunities or intransigence in the history of peace making between these two parties. After seventy-five years of conflict, the time has come to think out of the box. The barbaric attacks of October 7th carried out by Hamas and the devastating Israeli response in Gaza underscores the urgency to establish, at long last, a lasting peace.
To this end, here is an audacious peace proposal. It will, of course, be controversial. That is always the case with out of the box proposals. There will be formidable obstacles on both sides to agree to this proposal. And if the plan is ever implemented, both sides will surely be unhappy with the outcome. But paradoxically, the unhappiness of both sides will, in my view, reflect the fairness and rightness of the plan’s outcome. The best outcome will be for neither side to get everything it wants; for each side to relinquish something important, for the sake of an enduring and stable peace.
What I have in mind is this: the responsibility for establishing a final peace settlement should be taken out of the hands of both parties. The Noble Peace Prize committee in Stockholm would be charged to form a committee of Peace Prize winners not affiliated with either side of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and who have impeccable credentials promoting the cause of peace and justice. Possible committee members could include Oscar Arias of Costa Rica, Mairead Corrigan of Ireland, Carlos Belo of East Timor, Ellen Johnson of Liberia, Kailash Satyarthi of India, and Juan Manuel Santos of Columbia. This committee would take one year to study the outstanding issues between the conflicting parties before issuing a comprehensive peace plan. Israel and the Palestinian Authority would provide a consultant to the committee to field any questions the committee might have during their deliberations.
A vitally important aspect of my proposal is that the final peace agreement would be completely binding on both parties. There would be no negotiation of any terms of the peace plan. Finally, when the settlement is announced, military personnel from around the world would enforce the peace, including battalions from the US and NATO, from developing countries and China. Enforcing the peace would become the world’s responsibility.
Would either party ever agree to relinquish responsibility to negotiate a final peace deal? To address this issue, national referenda would be held in Israel, the West Bank and in Gaza to empower the Nobel Committee to appoint individuals of the peace plan committee. The wording of any referendum would be critical.
An example might be the following:
A Referendum to Establish a Final Peace Settlement between the State of Israel and the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza:
“I support empowering the Nobel Committee in Stockholm to appoint a committee of Nobel Peace Prize winners who are not affiliated with either Israel or the Palestinian people, to establish a final peace settlement covering all outstanding issues between the state of Israel and the Palestinian people in the West Bank and in Gaza. The final peace plan will be completely binding on both parties. And strict enforcement of the peace will be the world’s responsibility.” Answer yes if you agree, no if you disagree.
Here is my critical assumption: I believe most Israelis and Palestinians would agree to this proposal if they truly believed a good enough, rather than a perfect, peace plan could be established and rigorously enforced.
Why do I believe this? Because after seventy-five years, it has undoubtedly become clear to most Israelis and Palestinians that neither side possesses the ability to end the endless cycle of violence, retribution, more violence, further retribution, and still more violence. Because after seventy-five years, both sides have valid claims regarding possession of the land. And because, and this is critical, I believe majorities on both sides do not want to live with the horrifying fact of actual and/or threatened violence claiming yet another generation of innocent people. Because I believe a majority on each side simply want, at long last, to live in peace as neighbors.
Who will be against this peace plan? Extremists on both sides, Hamas and its sympathizers in Gaza, and extreme right-wing Israeli expansionists, who remain steadfastly opposed to any two-state solution. For too long, Israel and the Palestinians have remained hostage to extremist political agendas that undermine any hope for a lasting peace. It is time to marginalize extremists on both sides and to seriously consider a proposal to effect an enduring solution to this tragic conflict.
Neal Aponte, Ph.D.
Editor of Delano