: A Roadmap to Peace in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,
or a Mere Pipe Dream?
April 4, 2003
By Brian Kupfer
Oppressive nationalism must be conquered... I can see
a future for Palestine only on the basis of peaceful cooperation
between the two peoples who are at home in the country...
come together they must in spite of all. - Albert Einstein,
January 8, 1930.
George W. Bush recently announced a "road map for peace"
in the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict. Drawing a roadmap for
peace in there is like charting a course through a minefield
for a blindfolded sap on roller blades. Whether or not something
as intricate and convoluted as this horrific tragedy can be
understood, let alone solved by Mr. Bush is anyone's guess.
The bitter reality of the Bush "roadmap" is that if it does
what it is designed to do, it will only bring the parties
back to the same point they were in the summer of 2000. Will
Ariel Sharon be better equipped to cut a deal than the dovish
Ehud Barak? The most polite name most Palestinians have for
the man is to call him "The Tank." Furthermore, if George
W. Bush was not able to get France on board for a war against
an evil tyrant, how in the world will he ever get the Palestinians
to surrender their request for a right of return?
As a guess, I would place the chances of the Bush "roadmap"
succeeding at slightly less than that of Dick Cheney entering
and winning the New York, Los Angeles, and Boston marathons
for 10 consecutive years. It is not even a pipe dream. It
is more like an intellectual pipe bomb designed to suppress
any effort to alter the preferred status quo. Sharon needs
the Intifada. It is his powerbase and has served to minimize
his pro-peace opposition into political paperweights, thus
paving the way for what has always been his goal: settlement
expansion as a means of territorial maximization.
The Bush Administration has proven to be more than willing
to feed the Israeli war machine the capital that serves as
its lifeblood. It has weakened a United Nations body that
could have been extremely helpful in the peace making arena.
Then there is the vacuum that is the Palestinian "leadership."
The Palestinian Authority is the "Emperor's New Clothes" of
governance. Hamas serves as a defacto government-like institution,
but sadly holds the baggage of being a terrorist organization
that has a peculiar craving for littering streets with destroyed
civilian buses and charred children.
These problems are mere semantics in the face of negotiating
Jerusalem, the granddaddy of divisive issues. But that's another
story for another day. For now, the outcome of the al-Aqsa
Intifada is that hundreds of Israelis and thousands of Palestinians
that were alive during the Camp David II negotiations are
now dead because of its failure.
The new reality is that the Oslo peace process is as now
as dead as the dismembered Palestinian and Israeli children
who flood both peoples' streets. Oslo's death means the idea
of a two-state solution is buried with it. With its funeral
should come a reappraisal of goals by both camps. Both peoples
desire, and deserve, independence and peace. But the lesson
of Oslo may be that these goals are not compatible. Ehud Barak
offered the best deal any Israeli Prime Minister is going
to offer, yet he did not move far enough to satisfy the Palestinians'
desire for a just solution to this conflict.
It may be that the only way out of the current state of
affairs is through a democratic binational state that unites
greater Israel. The logistics of constructing and implementing
such an entity would be maddening, yet there may be no alternative.
How can two peoples with such deep-rooted contempt for one
another ever live as a single nation?
For a model I offer the example of Switzerland. Yes, you
did read the name Switzerland. This may sound silly on the
surface, considering that the Swiss comprise a nation that
enjoys both peace and order, two attributes that are painfully
absent in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. However,
there are a few important similarities. Take into account
that Switzerland is approximately 41,000 km has a population
of nearly 6 million, just like Israel. Additionally, the two
nations have similar systems of military mobilization and
Switzerland was born through an extensive period of war
that lasted hundreds of years. They have a highly diverse
population that, like Israel, has 3 national languages. They
come from diverse backgrounds as well. According the 2002
CIA World Fact Book, 65% of the Swiss people are German, 18%
are French, 10% are Italian, 1% is Romansch, and another 6%
are listed as "other." To further complicate things, the same
source states that 46.1% are Roman Catholic, another 40% Protestant,
8.9% are Atheist and 5% belong to another religious affiliation.
In order to effectively deal with their diversity, the Swiss
constructed a strong and effective form of Federalism. They
have a system of 26 cantons that have full sovereignty, their
own constitution as well as legislature. These cantons are
able to achieve a satisfactory level of effectiveness through
local control and the system runs fairly smoothly.
Were Israel to annex the occupied territories and create
a binational federation of cantons that takes into effect
the variety of ethnicities, it might look something like this.
The nation would have a reasonably even split between Jews
and Muslims, with a small Christian minority. There also would
be a nationality division between Israelis, Palestinians,
Druze, and Bedouin. A strong Federal system could take this
diversity into account and perhaps make it manageable.
The dream of a Jewish state is very reasonable following
the horrible fate of 6 million Jews during the 1940's. Some
Jewish people wanted to control their own destinies so that
an event like the Holocaust would never occur again. But have
they been successful in preventing the meaningless death of
Jews? The body bags that lined the streets of Haifa filled
with the Jewish children killed when Egged bus No. 37 blew
up on March 5, 2003 illustrate that Jews are no safer in their
assessorial homeland than they have been anywhere else throughout
their troubled history.
The Palestinians' desire to return to their homeland is
reasonable as well. After all, they had been living there
until they were removed from their homes, some forcibly, by
a foreign and permanently occupying army. The country is littered
with evidence of their residence in the forms of mosques,
churches, and the more than 1,000,000 people that remains
citizens of Israel. There are millions of Palestinian refugees
that were displaced as a result of Israel's 1948 drive toward
statehood. A number of these people and their descendents
are living under curfew in refugee camps, while holding onto
the keys for their apartments in Haifa, Nazareth, and Jerusalem.
The Israelis cannot grant this right because the end goal
of Zionism is a Jewish majority. The influx of millions of
non-Jewish Arabs would cause a demographic unbalance that
would destroy the current Jewish majority. There are roughly
5 million Jewish citizens in Israel today, and 1.2 million
non-Jewish citizens, most of whom are Muslim. Any increase
in its Palestinian population takes away from Israel's interests
of maintaining a Jewish majority.
There are essentially two conceivable alternatives. The
first is the two-state solution, which, due to the strategic
placement of settlements, incredible birth rate disparities,
and an ever-failing sense of compromise, looks less and less
likely everyday. It may still come to be, but it is almost
inconceivable at the moment. If Mr. Bush's "roadmap" is implemented
to its utmost potential, they will only be as close as they
were in the summer of 2000 at Camp David. The same "redlines"
will be drawn in the sand.
The second alternative is the status quo. This entails the
continued Israeli occupation and suppression of the West Bank
and Gaza Strip, leading to Palestinian militancy and suicide
attacks against scores of innocent civilians, in turn causing
Israeli over-retaliation and continued occupation of these
territories. It is a cycle that has no conceivable end besides
The notion of a binational state is, at the moment, a pipe
dream. Then again, so are hopes for peace. The essence of
what both parties are looking for is a just end to the conflict
that brings territorial autonomy and a cessation of bloodshed.
Jerusalem could be a united capital to be enjoyed by everyone.
Refugees could return to their homes. Jews could live in peace
on their ancestral homeland, with a good degree of self rule.
This idea may be the only true roadmap that doesn't end in
an overabundance of funerals.