Levy: We need a break-through to establish a two-state solution. Try this.

President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin

President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu huddle during their joint news conference in Jerusalem, Israel. (Mar. 20, 2013) (Credit: AP)

Now that President Obama has wrapped up his trip to Israel, I thought it timely to forward my humble suggestion as to how we can have a breakthrough in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. How about buying from the Palestinians the land they once lived on and is now the state of Israel.

For the last several decades, negotiators had tried to curb the violence by seeking a two-state solution. Israel would claim a hands-off policy to a neighboring Palestinian State while the Palestinians would simultaneously acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.

The reason this proposal never moved forward is because it did not get to the root of the anger that lies beneath this controversy. In order to fashion a lasting peace, we first have to look back to the manner in which the conflict erupted upon the founding of Israel in 1948.


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There were four major players in this scenario: the United Nations, the British, the Jewish people and the Palestinians. It is hard to say that any one of these entities was the bad guy. Millions of Jews who were uprooted by Nazi tyranny were, after World War II, in a state of shock with no home and needing to regroup. The U.N., with the best of intentions, looked to provide these dispersed Jewish populations with a singular homeland where they could grieve for their dead and start anew. The British would retreat from its colony after having tried unsuccessfully to fashion a Jewish homeland since the 1917 Balfour Declaration. It was a magnanimous gesture. The only problem is that they created the new nation of Israel on land that many Palestinians had called their own. Palestinians were actually uprooted and forced to flee the area. So, one can see the burning hostility that would boil within the Palestinian people.

By the same token, it is hard to expect the Jewish population at this point to have rejected this offer to control their own destiny through their own government. The problem comes in when some inject into the argument that one people has more of a God given right to the land than another. I can’t imagine the person on the losing end of that argument feeling very good about themselves.

The Jewish people were merely trying to survive in peace. They were not seeking to conquer their neighbors or to hurt anyone. On the other hand, an angry Palestinian population that was kicked off their land, was feeling a sense of humiliation. They have mistakenly concentrated their anger upon the Jewish population and have vowed revenge. Thus we had attacks on Israel in 1967 and again in 1973.

More recently, Israelis have been bombarded with haphazard shellings from over their border. The restraint shown by the Israeli people is incredible. I doubt that Americans would be so restrained if we were being bombed every day from a bordering state. A foreign power attacked our buildings once and we rightfully responded with an overwhelming military fury.

Many Arab leaders, who are despots in their own right, have used anti-Semitism as a way to create a nationalistic jingoism to distract their poverty stricken constituents from the leaders' evil ways. Their schools teach their children to despise Jews are the Devil. Is it any wonder that these younger generations grow up with such hatred toward the Jewish people.

But Israel, America and others seeking the long-term survival of Israel must understand the humiliation and the frustration that many of these generations have harbored - in part due to the repression that they face through occupation, and even more so from the fact that they were kicked off of their land without any compensation.

What if the U.N. would have been more sensitive to the Palestinian people who were displaced back in 1948? What if instead of kicking them off their land, they offered to buy their land? Israel could have been created without the resentment and the humiliation that came about. Perhaps it’s not too late for that type of justice. Perhaps the way to finally create lasting peace in this area is to recognize that Israel has a right to exist and that the Palestinians who were displaced have a right to compensation for the land they lost.

So, instead of us wasting billions of dollars in federal aid to thankless powers such as Pakistan, Egypt and Afghanistan, perhaps our money would be better spent in a one-time payment to the Palestinians for the land that was previously taken from them. The compensation would go far beyond helping people in poverty; it would create a sense of justice for those who feel they were wronged. Only when that sense of resentment is eradicated from the situation, will there be peace of mind for the Palestinian population and peace for all the region that lasts.

Steve Levy is President of Common Sense Strategies, a political, governmental and business consulting firm. He served as County Executive of Suffolk County, NY from 2004-2011. 

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