Category Archives: Israel

An Audacious Peace Plan for Israel and the Palestinians

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

Israel Agonistes

Hear these words by Martin Buber:

“You cannot find redemption until you see the flaws in your own soul, and try to efface them. Nor can a people be redeemed until it sees the flaws in its soul and tries to efface them. But whether it be an individual or a people, whoever shuts out the realization of his flaws is shutting out redemption. We can be redeemed only to the extent to which we see ourselves.”

For those who love and cherish Israel as a Jewish homeland, there is cause for grave concern.  The recent acts of violence against a Palestinian family on the West Bank and participants at a gay pride event in Jerusalem, the chronic violence perpetrated by “price tag” terrorists,  the intolerance  of the ultra Orthodox community and the political right and the reticence of the American Jewish community to criticize Israel, compel us to understand the Israeli political landscape as clearly as possible.

Some commentators have used military metaphors to explain the recent violence, suggesting Israel is at war with or under attack by Jewish extremists. We prefer another one that underscores the presence of a serious illness,  a cancer that endangers Israel more than any extremist living in Gaza, Lebanon or Iran.  An initial warning bell sounded some 20 years ago with the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, defining Israel’s Gandhi moment.  As a Hindu nationalist murdered India’s founder for allowing the creation of Pakistan, a Jewish terrorist murdered Rabin because it was feared he would pursue peace and endorse the emergence of a Palestinian state.

And the warning continues to sound with the many acts of terrorism perpetrated by the “price tag” movement during the last several years. While it is important to condemn their violence, we must also account for the political climate that breeds extremism. Israel responds swiftly when Palestinians commit atrocities, yet sputters when the terrorists are Jewish, thereby providing a tacit green light for the violence to continue. The ruling right-wing coalition remains trapped in a fundamental contradiction.   It deplores the violence like everyone else but adheres to the underlying belief that incites Jewish terrorism; namely, all West Bank settlements are legitimate and must be protected. This helps explain why extremists have not been vigorously prosecuted. Yet it begs a larger question: how does governmental approval of West Bank settlements, now housing over 350,000 Israelis, affect the viability of a two state solution?

However, the disease corroding Israel’s political culture does not merely stem from the behavior of a radical fringe or intolerance towards gays, women, Israeli Arabs and those on the political left. It derives from the complacency of Israeli citizens surrounded by a wall and shielded by an Iron Dome.  These defenses offer an illusion of safety that removes all sense of urgency to make peace with Palestinian partners and engenders acceptance of the status quo as a good enough solution; a status quo that guarantees future bloodshed and loss of life on both sides.

Currently, no one has the requisite national support to negotiate with the Palestinians. In fact, any statement in favor of the peace process evokes skepticism, even suspicion. The governing coalition assures everyone they are ready to negotiate, but no viable partner exists on the other side. While many Israelis appear to accept this view, the inconvenient reality is that Netanyahu does not want to pursue peace, he wants the other side to capitulate. It is why he vehemently opposes the Iran nuclear deal. He believes anything short of wholesale surrender by the other side threatens Israel. Sadly, Bibi’s view that Israel should get everything it wants, while the other side gets little or nothing in return, represents the dire existential threat he attributes to Israel’s adversaries. His intransigence expresses the view of someone wary of serious dialogue and dooms any realistic prospect for peace.

Bibi’s refusal to negotiate and the absence of serious challengers to his position, means that a new generation will come of age in Israel and Palestine knowing only an uneasy truce shattered by periodic conflict. Parents and grandparents will lose sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters because no one has the courage to secure a lasting peace. We will have the same debate a year from now, five years from now, ten years from now, even fifty years from now, having moved no closer to a durable solution. It will be a national and regional calamity for Israel and its Palestinian neighbors and an international nightmare that will be dreadful to witness.  And the inability to name what endangers Israel’s political culture, defining a tragic flaw in the collective soul of the Jewish people who waited two millennia to reestablish their homeland, will prevent us from experiencing redemption, a vibrant, democratic Jewish state that enjoys peaceful and secure borders recognized and accepted by everyone.


Neal Aponte, Ph.D.
Editor of Delano

Bibi and the Politics of Fear

Bibi’s shocking eleventh hour campaign pronouncements, whipping up a frenzied panic about Arab Israelis exercising their right to vote, rejecting the creation of a Palestinian state while he remains in office and refusing to relinquish any West Bank settlements, not to mention his paranoid claim regarding an international conspiracy plotting against him, confirmed what everyone already knew. Israel’s only chance to end its interminable conflict with the Palestinians, negotiating a two state solution, was dead in the water.

In his recent speech before Congress, Bibi accused Iran of gobbling up Middle East capitals, implying it spearheaded a monolithic Shia movement in the way Cold War hawks believed Russia masterminded a unified communist effort to secure world domination. But demagogic rhetoric aside, he deflected attention away from Israel’s brazen effort to gobble up land in the West Bank and establish settlements that dot its entire length and breadth, housing more than 350,000 citizens.

In his tendentious speech, Bibi suggested anything short of Iran’s capitulation provided grounds for walking away from negotiations over their nuclear program. But any serious negotiation involves hammering out a good enough solution for both sides, not about demanding total victory. While he accuses Iran of harboring extremist intentions, political and diplomatic intransigence represents a cornerstone of Bibi’s leadership and expresses his own radical agenda, especially when it comes to addressing Israel’s immediate existential threat, its relationship with the Palestinians.

Bibi suggests he is ready to talk peace but has no suitable partner, which means no one is willing to accede to his demands. But Israel’s policy should involve cultivating and empowering political moderates and marginalizing extremists. Asserting there are no reasonable Palestinian leaders to work with undermines the political leverage of those who could engage Israel in meaningful dialogue and empowers extremists.

Moreover, Bibi’s adamant refusal to identify a suitable negotiating partner perpetuates a dreary status quo, consigning both sides to a vulnerable truce fractured by periodic armed conflict. He fashions himself as a defiant and courageous guarantor of peace and a champion of Israel’s national interest. But the opposite is true. Bibi’s intransigence guarantees future conflict and war.

Unfortunately, as significant numbers of voters allow Likud to remain in power, swayed by Bibi’s manipulative rhetoric, Israel will continue to require a protective wall around it and an Iron Dome  above it to maintain an illusion of security. This illusion will be rudely and tragically broken, however, when Israel’s Palestinian neighbors become desperate enough again to resist its occupation and engage in renewed fighting. This is the bitter fruit of Bibi’s cynical politics of fear:  it poses a grave threat to Israeli society by creating the very situation he promises to avoid.


Neal Aponte, Ph.D.
Editor of Delano

Moving Beyond the Code of Hammurabi: A Peace Proposal To End the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth was a defining principle of the Code of Hammurabi in the 18th Century BC.  Unfortunately, this horrific law of retribution still governs the interminable conflict between Israel and Palestine nearly four thousand years later.  The world community assumes that the roadmap to peace involves renewed bilateral negotiations.  But the time has come to recognize the obvious.  The tit for tat violence between Israel and Palestine will not stop.  Jewish and Palestinian parents and grandparents will continue to bury their children because neither side possesses the political will or the necessary visionary leadership to end the cycle of violence. And so the impasse will continue because each side feels victimized and aggrieved by the other and justifies its violent behavior in the name of self-defense. We believe the time has come to adopt a new approach to resolving this enduring conflict.

At first glance, what we propose may appear untenable and impractical.  But it merely involves embracing the fact that Israelis and Palestinians are and will remain unable to achieve a lasting peace through bilateral negotiation.  Since these parties cannot effect a durable settlement, then responsibility to secure it must be given to someone else.  What we have in mind is this:  The United Nations Security Council should appoint a committee of extraordinary individuals whose integrity and fair-mindedness is beyond reproach.  For example, individuals like Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, Oscar Arias of Costa Rica, Jose Ramos Horta the ex-President of East Timor and Martti Ahtissari, the ex-President of Finland.

This committee of Nobel Peace Prize winners would meet for one year to determine a final and completely binding resolution to each and every issue separating Israel and Palestine, including Israel’s right to have secure and peaceful borders, the geographical shape of a Palestinian state, the status of Jerusalem, and the presence of West Bank settlements.  This binding set of resolutions would be enforced by the entire world including a very sizable number of UN peacekeepers and law enforcement from around the world.

During the year of deliberations, there would be an immediate end to all hostilities enforced by international peacekeepers.  Moreover, each side would receive significant incentives from the world community, including commitments of sizable investment and other foreign aid, to adhere to this completely binding framework.

Of course, neither side would be happy with the outcome.  Neither side would achieve all its objectives.   But for the sake of a durable peace, we believe this is an acceptable price.  To the immediate objection that neither side would ever consider this proposal, what if elusive goals like Israel’s right to enjoy peaceful and secure borders with its neighbors and the Palestinian right to a homeland were guaranteed?  If these goals were established as sacrosanct at the outset, we could develop a constituency on both sides for this proposal.  And by taking responsibility to negotiate a lasting peace away from the warring parties, we remove the political pressure applied by hard liners on both sides to maintain the status quo.  We need acts of political imagination and courage to move through the intractable stalemate and end the violence.  By creating a new international framework that guarantees the essential objective of each side, we can begin to replace despair, cynicism and mutual distrust with the possibility of hope.

Neal Aponte, Ph.D.
The Editor of Delano


Breaking Taboos: Confronting the Ghosts of 1948

Every conflict between Israel and its neighbors including the recent fighting in Gaza stems from an enduring tragedy.  It is a tragedy few supporters of Israel want to discuss:  the creation of the Israeli state in 1948 ended one diaspora and created another.  Ever since, Jews and Palestinians have asserted ownership of the same territory known as Israel. Jewish claims refer back to the ancient world. Palestinian claims derive from more recent centuries. There is, of course, historical truth to support both positions.

We want to be clear about where we stand.  Israel has the right to exist and the right to enjoy peaceful and secure borders.  It is intolerable for any Israeli citizen to live with the threat of rocket attack and/or invasion by tunnel. These are not subject to negotiation. Never again should the Jewish people be defenseless and/or without a homeland.

But there will never be a durable peace without recognizing how the creation of Israel established a Palestinian diaspora. This is an important challenge confronting every Israeli citizen.  Honore de Balzac said that behind every great fortune lies a great crime. Regardless of how you feel about his statement, we believe the creation of every nation involves many great crimes, crimes including appropriation of wealth and/or land, a usurpation of political power and the murder of those in opposition, invariably signifying the death of many innocent people. Israel is no exception.

In 1948, atrocities were committed on both sides. And land owned and occupied by Arabs for many decades and/or centuries was taken over by Jews. Eight hundred thousand Arabs went into exile. The Jewish people who lived in exile for millennia should understand the plight of any people living in a diaspora, especially those sent into exile by the creation of Israel. For an older generation of Israelis and Jews living around the world, we believe unvoiced guilt makes it difficult to discuss the Palestinian exile. For younger generations and recent immigrants to Israel, the historical record of 1948 appears to be ancient history and irrelevant.  As a result, it is remarkably difficult to mention this inconvenient truth of history  without being accused of being anti-Israel or, worse yet, anti-Jewish.

But acknowledging the historical record does not make one anti-Israel any more than admitting the injustice done to Native Americans makes one anti-America. It is important to understand what happened in 1948 because the Jewish people must accept there are legitimate grievances on the other side. The historical injustice effected by Israel’s creation should compel every Israeli to conclude that nothing short of a two state solution will ever end hostilities between Israel and Palestine. Unfortunately, the political momentum in Israel has shifted away from embracing the need for two states. And any serious discussion of the origin of the Palestinian exile has become virtually taboo in Israeli political life.

There are also fundamental challenges confronting Palestinians. Someone once quipped that forgiveness means giving up hope for a better past. Yet individuals and nations often fight one another to address previous injuries. But to do so perpetually is ultimately self-destructive. Can all Palestinians finally embrace Israel’s right to exist and to enjoy peaceful and secure borders? Can they accept that the reality of 1948 will not be overturned? Can they accept there will be no right of return that would demographically endanger the Jewish state?

Both sides must finally transform their respective national conversations about painful and difficult issues if an enduring peace agreement is to be negotiated. This will involve confronting and breaking political taboos. However, the entrenched positions of hardliners on both sides militate against this, prompting the ghosts of 1948 to haunt Israel and Palestine well into the 21st century.

Neal Aponte, Ph.D.
Editor of Delano

The Wall

It is known as a separation barrier, a security or an anti-terrorist fence or, as the International Court of Justice described it, a wall. When completed, it will be a 422-mile long physical barrier separating Israel from Palestine. Construction of the wall began in 2002 during the second intifada when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon approved it to protect Israel from suicide bombers. The wall’s exact location and route and its precise role in reducing terrorist attacks remain controversial.

The wall functions as an obvious physical barrier separating Jew from Palestinian, reflecting their tense and often violent relationship and the perceived Israeli need to remain apart. As a result, the wall greatly diminishes physical contact and cultural exchange between these two peoples. This is an ominous development. The reduced level of personal, professional and cultural interaction means that ordinary citizens on both sides have less experience and understanding of one another as flesh and blood individuals. Each side becomes a suspicious and feared and an increasingly unknown “other”. This allows Jews and Palestinians to more readily vilify and demonize one another as less interpersonal contact enables ugly and derogatory prejudices and stereotypes to flourish on both sides, unchecked by the wisdom embedded in actual relationships.

The political consequence of this cannot be overemphasized. As negative stereotypes abound, intolerant and even hateful rhetoric becomes an increasingly accepted part of the cultural landscape. Political discourse about the underlying conflict becomes more harsh and inflexible, reinforcing the intransigent positions of hardliners on both sides. In turn, the spirit of accommodation and compromise vital to any productive and successful negotiation to engineer a durable peace agreement becomes difficult to nurture and sustain. We believe this has already occurred on both sides.

We believe the wall has also engendered a false sense of security that reduces a sense of urgency in Israel to negotiate a final settlement. It contributes to what we perceive as an arrogant swagger by members of the ruling Israeli cabinet in response to John Kerry’s recent efforts to promote constructive dialogue. We remain worried about the rigid and unrealistic postures of the current Israeli government that help explain why there has been no concerted effort to broker a peace deal with Mahmoud Abbas, who still represents Israel’s only viable partner in any peace negotiation.

But there is a profoundly disturbing irony here that is often overlooked. Jews have a long and tragic history with walls. What are we to make of a people once coerced to live in communities enclosed by walls but who now feel compelled to enclose themselves from their neighbors? Could those who fled Europe, escaping or surviving persecution and the Holocaust to settle in Israel, ever imagine the Jewish state building a wall to keep itself safe and secure? This would have been too awful to contemplate. We do not equate the Warsaw ghetto wall with the barrier separating Israel from Palestine but the latter conjures the horrifying return of a Jewish nightmare despite the persistent refrain of “never again” and expresses the grim political reality.

The presence of the wall reflects the chronic failure of both sides to meaningfully address the sources of their conflict. But it also represents a failure to recognize the shared humanity that transcends the divisions expressed by any wall or separation barrier, one that yearns to live in peace with safe and secure borders and with dignity and hopeful aspirations for the future. It is a humanity that lies fractured by the physical wall that, in turn, reflects the presence of many walls separating Israeli from Palestinian and Palestinian from Israeli. Who on either side will have the vision and the courage to assert that humanity and defy what continues to separate and condemn both peoples to endless, pointless violence?

Neal Aponte, Ph.D.
The Editor of Delano

Israel and Hamas: What is To Be Done?

Israel’s devastating air, naval and ground assault of Gaza will destroy many rockets and their launchers and the maze of underground tunnels, to say nothing of inflicting a terrible loss of life and property. The military threat posed by Hamas will be, for the short and even medium-term, seriously eroded. But what happens after the military campaign is over? Will this latest round of violence bring Israel and the Palestinians any closer to a durable peace? Sadly, as long as Israeli policy remains focused on responding to hostilities versus resolving the conflict, the answer is a resounding no.

Everything Israel does vis-à-vis its neighbors in Gaza and the West Bank should be assessed on its ability to empower Palestinian moderates and erode the popularity of extremists. Israel’s policy mantra should be: empower the political center, marginalize the extremes. Do the current hostilities help Israel accomplish this?

Quite clearly the reverse is true. Israel’s military campaign unifies Palestinian moderates and extremists around the perceived heroism and courage of militants who resist the continued “occupation” of Gaza and attack Israel. Of course Israel has the right to protect its people from rocket attack and from underground tunnels. No one disputes that. But the invasion of Gaza bolstered the image and popularity of extremists when support for Hamas was declining. At the same time, Mahmoud Abbas has been widely scorned if not ridiculed in the West Bank for having nothing to show for his long-term effort to make peace with Israel. In other words, current Israeli policy has enhanced support for extremists while eroded popularity for the political center. This is directly contrary to what Israeli policy should promote, indicating a need to change direction with a bold initiative.

There has been talk of offering a huge carrot to Gaza and its militant leadership: give up violent resistance and accept Israel’s right to exist in exchange for receiving a massive amount of development aid. We understand the sentiment here but the idea that diehard militants will be bought off represents a cynical calculation doomed to fail. A more plausible strategy involves offering assistance to someone Israel can do business with. The time has come to empower Mahmoud Abbas by allowing him to present something tangible to his supporters. Israel should negotiate an enduring peace with him, regardless of his unity pledge with Hamas, and offer massive aid from Israel and the world community to implement a Marshall plan for the West Bank. If a durable peace can be brokered resulting in significant new investment, many new jobs and a rising standard of living, Israel can develop a significant constituency for peace in the West Bank by linking an end of hostilities to economic prosperity.

Peace and prosperity in the West Bank would have a desired political effect in Gaza. As the economic and financial gulf between the West Bank and Gaza widens, Gaza residents, worried about being left behind, would apply increasing pressure on Hamas to change direction or risk being stripped of political power. If Israel is serious about regime change in Gaza, it will pursue a focused policy to connect peace with prosperity in the West Bank. Regime change will be undertaken in Gaza by the residents of Gaza themselves not by Israeli military campaigns. The only effective way to dislodge Hamas is from below.

So important questions remain: Does Israel have the political will to make a deal with Mahmoud Abbas despite Fatah’s unity agreement with Hamas? Could it achieve a durable peace in the West Bank and establish a political and economic wedge between Fatah and Hamas resulting in political pressure on Hamas from its own citizens? At the moment there is no sign of this policy shift, yet it remains Israel’s best chance to undermine Hamas and establish a lasting peace with its Palestinian neighbors.

Neal Aponte, Ph.D.
Editor of Delano