One can imagine what the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King would have said had he lived to see how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has evolved. I hear it in the Jerusalem of my thoughts: I have a dream!
I have a dream that the sons of former Israeli soldiers and the sons of Palestinians who suffered for years in Israeli prisons sit down at the table of a brotherhood of nations. I have a dream that the granddaughter of an Israeli who barely survived a bomb attack in Tel Aviv and the granddaughter of a Palestinian who barely survived a shooting in his West Bank hometown say of each other: She is my best friend and I can rely on her more than on anybody else in this world. This is because we have so much in common. We are so similar to each other that we reject animosity and hatred and acknowledge our equality, freedom and pursuit of happiness. We are together on the path of reconciliation now, until the gateway of Eden.
The reconciliation process cannot be arbitrated by a third party, such as the United States, the Arab League, the European Union, France, Russia, the United Nations, and many others who tried to broker a peace or a path toward reconciliation and failed. The path of reconciliation can only be taken if the Israelis and Palestinians are convinced of the right path; according to the late South African leader Nelson Mandela: “There is no road for peace, peace is the road.” Therefore, the Israelis and Palestinians must be persuaded that reconciliation starts now and ends at the gateways of Eden.
Reconciliation is a long-term process, and it includes many elements: overcoming stereotypes and humanizing the image of the other, acknowledging violence in the past, listening to the narrative of the other, putting oneself in others’ perspective. It includes accepting historians’ works describing a common history for Israelis and Palestinians to write into a new common history. It includes mutual respect, good encounters, honest cooperation. It includes opposing injustices done by one’s own group, opposing hatred and extremist views, and creating a vision for a common future. Finally, it includes mutual help in natural disasters and compromises on the many small questions of living together.
Reconciliation has principles that must start now and end in the progress of complementary elements for the path of peace.
The principles, based on the thoughts and ideas of collaboration reconciliation experts in the field, are:
- Hope for reconciliation: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not protracted, intractable or too difficult to resolve. It will be resolved if there are enough people of hope on both sides who assume their responsibility to make rational, clear and unshakable decisions. The decision must be reconciliation from now on and forever.
- Best common future: The actual situation is absurd and cannot be tolerated. As in other countries – such as South Africa in the late 1980s, Northern Ireland in the 1990s, Colombia in the 2000s – recurring wars, daily violence, extremism, 74 years of occupation, and people stuck in refugee camps should lead to a general feeling of basta ya! Enough is enough! We want to live together in a different and better way.
- Suffering of the other: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been a frozen conflict for decades. It has been frozen militarily; socially, due to the security wall; and ideologically, through a security-mistrust ideology that thrives on hatred and animosity to the other and that disregards the suffering of the other. Creating a widespread feeling of hopelessness, the most calculated and controlled theaters of violence, such as the fighting between Hamas and Israel (2008 and 2009-2010, 2012, 2014, 2018, 2019, 2021), new settlements in the West Bank, and Land Day demonstrations, did not create change, but deepen, year by year, the heavy feeling of immobility and hopelessness. On the other hand, political elites on both sides often benefit from the frozen conflict: staying in power for decades even when exercising poor governance, corruption, delaying elections and initiating a process to dismantle democracy. There are also benefits through international attention and subventions.
- Share common future: Political elites are very inventive in their ability to create excuses to not go for reconciliation in the middle of conflict and to not develop a common shared future for generations to come. Populations in conflict tend to believe those excuses and develop complementary elements for conflict progression. Sharing a common future would show the path of reconciliation and light at the end of the tunnel.
- Recognition of the other: Recognition of self-determination of both Israelis and Palestinians, such as the state of Israel as a Jewish State, and the self-determination of the Palestinian nation such as a state of Palestine on the pre-1967 borders.
- Forging a new history: Many atrocities occurred in human history that led to the forging of a new history, such as the creation of the United Nations. Also, the creation of the European Union, South Africa and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the reconciliation in Rwanda, reconciliation between France and Germany, and between Germany and the Jewish nation. Today, Israelis and Palestinians must forge a new history for a new generation. Things can change, and they will, because there is one thing unchanged in history, that nothing in history stays forever.
- Reconciliation is in the middle of strife: It must start now and from the many places where people are who say “Enough is enough!” For decades the extremists took the agenda into their own hands. It is time to change this. The good news is that everyone, even the most powerless person, can do something for reconciliation. Reconciliation is our calling and can become a lifestyle.
- Truth, justice and trust: Reconciliation requires a common and honest search for truth and justice. It is important to create spaces where Israelis and Palestinians respect the narrative of each other and talking to each other. Those spaces can be museums, community centers, or houses of worship. If those dialogues are not possible in Jerusalem, they should occur in Haifa, if not in Haifa, in Berlin, Washington or Cape Town. Trust can be different things, such as having faith in each other for the benefit of our future for our new generations.
- Social movement: Reconciliation as a social movement will grow from a minority to a majority phenomenon and pave the way to a sustainable, peaceful lifestyle for both nations to thrive in the globalized world. However, without a social movement such as reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, they cannot succeed in a long-term peace agreement.
- The narrative of the other: Reconciliation requires giving up big dreams, which are nightmares for the other side, and to espouse big healing dreams. Martin Luther King taught us that we need big dreams; Nelson Mandela knew that there is a long road to reconciliation. The sooner Israelis and Palestinians take that road, the less time and human lives are spoiled in the conflict, the less democracy will be dismantled, the less corruption will steal the wealth of both nations, the less a culture of mistrust, security-ideology and hopelessness will damage the lives of those wonderful people who live in that wonderful land.