What if there were a peace plan that actually offered the people on both sides something that they would truly want?
By Bradley Burston / Haaretz
August 8, 2017
A new peace plan for Israel and Palestine landed literally on my doorstep this morning.
It came in the form of a cautionary feature story in The New York Times, warning of the risks which Brexit poses to the arduously won peace process in Ireland. But it was how the piece began, that got me to thinking that the wisdom in it might benefit the peoples of the Holy Land as well:
Crossing the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic used to involve delays, checkpoints, bureaucratic harassment and the lurking threat of violence. That it’s now virtually seamless — that you can drive across without even knowing it — feels close to miraculous.
For both Israelis and Palestinians, sick to death of bloodletting and disillusionment, one of the few points of common ground is the sense that it would take a miracle to forge a viable peace. At this point, when people on both sides ask, and with good reason, “What’s in it for me?” — bitter experience is scant incentive. It is not for nothing that the Holy Land is where peace initiatives come to die.
But what if there were a peace plan that actually offered the people on both sides something that they truly would want?
An EU passport, for example.
Here’s the hint: When the United Kingdom held its June, 2016 referendum on leaving the European Union, Northern Ireland voted against Brexit by a clear majority. Here’s the plan: Israel and the Palestinian Authority apply for membership in the European Union.
Here’s the background:
A. The EU is Israel’s largest trading partner. At the same time, the EU has shown a strong commitment to aiding Palestinians in the West Bank and to working toward an independent Palestine alongside a secure Israel.
B. Israelis and Palestinians both offer a deep reservoir of well-educated, strongly motivated young people whose opportunities for advancement and fulfillment are stymied by the many negative manifestations of the conflict.
C. Easing access to opportunities abroad, as well as exposure to European concepts of governance, could make both Israel and Palestine more competitive, more attentive to the needs of young adults and families, less hamstrung by bureaucracy, human rights abuses, religious coercion, and extremists demanding zero-sum apocalyptic maximalism.
In fact, paradoxically, the flexibility offered by EU citizenship might well reduce the desire of young Israelis and Palestinians to leave the Holy Land for good. It could bolster investment, trade, stability and prosperity for both Israel and Palestine. In practice, it could reverse the brain drain.
D. Extremists on both sides of the Israel-Palestine divide have worked long and hard — in many cases, brutally hard — in their efforts to persuade the majority of their people that a two-state solution is impossible.