During the first half of the 20th century, the nations of Europe fought amongst themselves two all-out wars, in which they killed more than 40 million people. During the second half of that century these nations together established the European Union, with a shared citizenship and open borders among the member states.
The choice which Israelis and Palestinians now face is: Do we wish to follow the European example during the coming decades, and first kill each other indiscriminately and in growing numbers? Or can we bypass the initial European experience, put an immediate end to mutual violence, and replace it with evolving mutual relations between the states of Palestine and Israel?
Martin Luther King summed up this human dilemma 40 years ago, in the following words: “Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction…. The chain reaction of evil–hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars–must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation…. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”
We must evolve together a shared vision of light, for the simple reason that this is what the great majority of Israelis and Palestinians deeply seek. Despite the mutual violence; despite the escalating mutual de-humanization of the other; despite these agonies–what most Israelis and Palestinians seek is to live in peace, in a life of independence and dignity, within their own sovereign states.
Can such a vision become real by the year 2025? Obviously, several major developments are necessary.
First and foremost both people must recognize the humanity of the other. First and foremost we are all human beings, we all have fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, children and grandchildren; we all seek to fulfill our humanity as best we can, for ourselves as independent persons, for our families and for our communities. Recognizing the humanity of the other is also acknowledging their history, their faith and their suffering. Recognizing the humanity of the other means that leaders on both sides must regularly address their neighboring people: No more violence between us, and let us henceforth mutually discover each other’s humanity, for God created us all in his image–both Palestinians and Israelis.
Secondly, peacemaking must be generous on both sides. On the Israeli side it must be generous in giving up territories occupied in 1967 and settlements, and in facilitating a generous solution to the refugee problem–a solution which however will not undermine Israel as a state of the Jewish people. Palestinians, on their side, must also be generous in acknowledging Israelis’ deep need for security. Therefore they should commit themselves actively to putting an end to all terrorist initiatives and all kinds of violence.
Third, peacemaking should be facilitated by help from abroad. On one level foreign help is necessary to ensure peacekeeping on both sides and to prevent acts of violence. On another, the Palestinian state acutely needs aid to construct a modern economy. What the Marshall Plan did for Europe after 1945, a similar program could do for the new Palestinian state. The European Union with an annual GNP of more than 8000 billion dollars should for several years devote an annual 0.1% of its GNP to closing the economic gap between the Palestinian state and Israel. Why should it do so? Because the alternative is the danger that Israeli-Palestinian relations may escalate into a regional explosion.
Fourth, by the year 2025 peace between Palestinians and Israelis should facilitate the fulfillment of the regional vision of peace offered by Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia: a comprehensive peace between Israel and all her Arab neighbors; peace not only as the end of wars, but also as the development of human relations between Arabs and Israelis in fields of shared interest, on an equal basis.
Lastly, as the world evolves into expanding networks of nations, Palestine and Israel will also become partners in such organizations. One possibility is an association with the European Union. Another is the emergence of a regional association linking, for example, Jordan, Palestine and Israel. Thus, by the year 2025, Israelis and Palestinians will evolve multiple identities: as human beings, as nationals, as citizens of their countries, as believers in a monotheistic faith, as professionals linked to members of their profession in the world, and as citizens of a world whose different parts are linked together.
Can such a vision be fulfilled? If we have leaders locked in their experience of the previous century, then we are doomed to replicate what European nations did to each other in the first half of that century. But if we have leaders with a genuine human vision–both for their own people and for their neighbors–then by the year 2025 we shall already be living in a new human reality.
The Book of Proverbs in the Bible says (29, 18): “Where there is no vision, the people will go wild.” In other words: if our leaders do not lead us to fulfill an effective human vision, the consequence will be chaos for both our societies.
It is up to us to choose: do we wish our leaders to develop a shared human vision for a shared human future, or do we blindly follow leaders who will lead our nations into chaos.
The choice remains open.
Alouph Hareven served (1948-1975) in the IDF, the Mossad and the Foreign Ministry, and later at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. He is currently Director of the Human Dignity Program at Sikkuy, the Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality, in Jerusalem.