I wrote a short form when the current Israel–Palestine hostilities started a few weeks ago. In retrospect , I was taking entirely the wrong point of view. I was thinking about it more like a r/AmITheAsshole post where it was about which side was worse. The only difference being I believed none of the typical judgements applied because the situation was too old and complicated.

In my defense, most of the world seems to be talking about this conflict in a "who is the asshole?" way.  So, maybe it just rubbed off on me? Anyway, if you're similarly afflicted, I would coach you avoid the polarizing "which side is the bigger asshole?" debate and reframe it as "what the best plan for peace?" 

This may be an odd comparison, but hear me out. Julia was recently on Conversations with Coleman discussing her new book that advocates for "scout mindset" over "solider mindset" in many circumstances. When asked if "scout" was always superior to "solider" Julia said she didn't know, and remarked at how she felt a weight lifted off her shoulders by not putting her self in a situation where she always had to defend scout mindset as superior to solider mindset. 

I also feel like a weight was lifted off of me by not having to defend or attack one side, but rather to think about what the most viable plans for peace are. 

(My only caveat would be if a "peace" plan is a world without Israelis or a world without Palestinians, I move that your plan be reconsidered.)

There are people who have spent entire careers trying to solve this problem. I'm not going to claim that I know better than they do. But in the spirit of the market place of ideas and encouraging discussion, I'll share my current thoughts. 

2000 Camp David Summit and Clinton Parameters

I'm slightly embarrassed that I knew so little about he 2000 Camp David Summit, because it was so close to succeeding. Thinking things over the last few weeks my point of view has shifted towards something close to The Clinton Parameters in terms of identifying the underpinning points for negotiation and providing a direction for discussing them. (I see them as both an ideological middle ground between the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative and the 2020 Trump Peace Plan, but also tactically superior for negotiation as they're not a take-it-or-leave-it plan). I believe they're underappreciated and worth revisiting in this context, recognizing they would have to be modified in 2021 to be viable. These were the five "parameters" (topics crucial to resolving the dispute).

  1. Territory - Mostly focusing on how land in the West Bank is divided, although the Gaza Strip is of course important as are other occupied/disputed territories.
  2. Jerusalem - This is the most difficult as it includes management of the Western Wall,  Al-Aqsa Mosque, Temple Mount/Haram esh-Sharif, East Jerusalem and the Old City.
  3. Refugees - There's a question of what to do with refugees displaced from the 1948 and 1967 wars. The gist here is that they could return to land designated as Palestine but not land designated as Israel, even if they were displaced from that land. Both sides would agree that it satisfied the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194.
  4. Security - These are compromises that would allow Israel to have some confidence that they're able to prevent terrorism and receive warnings of rocket launches (should they occur) while still giving Palestinians control over their airspace. Palestine would not possess a conventional military, instead they would have an international force for border security and deterrence.
  5. End of Conflict - Hopefully this is mostly self-explanatory.

Changes and challenges in 2021

The 2000 Camp David Summit occurred during a fairly auspicious time politically in Israel. The Likud party, that had been in power since 1977, had not done well in the 1999  election. Ehud Barak of the Israeli Labor Party was elected prime minister. Ehud Barak had a take on the conflict that I find surprising because I don't hear it expressed much now. Reading it in 2021, it's a bit like "Wait, an Israeli prime minister said that?!?"

Every attempt [by the State of Israel] to keep hold of this area [the West Bank and Gaza] as one political entity leads, necessarily, to either a nondemocratic or a non-Jewish state. Because if the Palestinians vote, then it is a binational state, and if they don't vote it is an apartheid state.

It's hard for me to read the tea leaves of Israeli politics, but the Likud party has faced significant challenges in recently elections. There may be a time in the not too distant future where an auspicious climate for peace negotiations exists again.

2021 territory considerations - West Bank geographic contiguity necessity

The Palestinian territory in the West Bank has been getting "swiss-cheesed" since the initiation of the Drobles Plan in 1978. It's more swiss-cheesed in 2021 than it was in 2000, by which I mean there are more Jewish Israelis living it it. If you're not familiar with the history of Israeli boarders, there's worse places to start than this Reddit thread about this image, if only to see both takes (e.g. this is not me entirely endorsing the top or bottom narrative). 

Two narratives about Israeli and Palestinian land

The West Bank is the area to the West of the Jordan River (at various times separating Israel/Mandatory Palestine) from Jordan, but for a time controlled by Jordan.  

My take here is that Israel has given up land and abandoned settlements before in exchange for peace. Case-in-point is the Egypt-Israeli peace treaty where Israel gave the Sinai Peninsula back to Egypt as part of the terms and evacuated, in some cases by force, Israeli settlers. (This is also where Egypt gave up the Gaza Strip and it was left as disputed territory).

The 2017 estimates said 2,155,743 Arabs live in the West Bank and 391,000 Jews live in the West Bank. By comparison only 4,950 Israelis were evacuated from the Sinai, so it some ways it is a much larger concession. But that should perhaps be measured by the ratio in the populations (about 5 or more Palestinians for every 1 Jewish Israeli in the West Bank).

You realistically can't have a viable nation without having geographic contiguity, and Israel would have to give up settled land to make that possible. 

2021 Jerusalem considerations - focus on East Jerusalem and the Old City

The Camp David 2000 Summit failed largely because of a lack of preparation for possible compromise on the question of East Jerusalem and the Old City. The Old City contains the Western Wall, Temple Mount/Haram esh-Sharif. Temple Mount is where the First and Second Temples were located (holiest place in Judaism) and where the Al-Aqsa Mosque (third holiest place in Islam) and Dome of the Rock are now. The Western Wall is all that's left of the Second Temple and is on the western side of Temple Mount/Haram esh-Sharif. Jewish worship is centered around the Western Wall, and Muslim worship occurs at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and other parts of Haram esh-Sharif.

1948–1967 City Lines for reference. Israeli Jerusalem is somewhat synonymous with West Jerusalem. Jordanian Jerusalem is somewhat synonymous with East Jerusalem, which contains the Old City.

 Quoting from Wikipedia regarding the 2000 Camp David Summit negotiations. 

A particularly virulent territorial dispute revolved around the final status of Jerusalem. Leaders were ill-prepared for the central role the Jerusalem issue in general and the Temple Mount dispute in particular would play in the negotiations. [Ehud] Barak instructed his delegates to treat the dispute as "the central issue that will decide the destiny of the negotiations" whereas Arafat admonished his delegation to "not budge on this one thing: the Haram (the Temple Mount) is more precious to me than everything else." At the opening of Camp David, Barak warned the Americans he could not accept giving the Palestinians more than a purely symbolic sovereignty over any part of East Jerusalem. 

All of these holy sites are very close together. For scale, the Western Wall is 488 metres (1,601 ft) long

Obviously, this will still continue to be an issue in further two-state negotiations and plans. I would like to see parts of Jerusalem become an international city, specifically the Old City area but not the rest of the city.

2021 end of conflict considerations - Palestine governed by two parties

As of 2007 Hamas controls the Gaza Strip, where as Fatah controls the Palestinian territories in the West Bank. As of 2020 they're coordinating to a degree. The 1988 Hamas Charter is pretty awful if you're looking for a document that supports a viable peace process, to put it very mildly. A quote endorsed in the document reads: 

"The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews." (related by al-Bukhari and Moslem). 

I don't know to what degree this represents the current views of Hamas. But whatever Israeli Jews think of Fatah, I believe they would much rather see Fatah in control of Palestine than Hamas. Any external organization facilitating negotiations would be wise to account for this.  

Comparing the 2020 Trump Peace Plan

This plan had a few good ideas, but was proposed prior to getting buy-in from Palestinians and Arabs.

Map of proposed Trump peace plan. Blue area would be Palestine

The West Bank-Gaza Tunnel under the Negev desert is a much better idea than it was given credit for. Clinton had previously suggested a raised highway over the Negev to serve a similar purpose. 

I will also give it some credit for attempting to give geographic contiguity to the "167 Palestinian islands" in the West Bank. 

From the Wikipedia article on Palestinian enclaves. Existing "islands" left, joined together to some degree in the Trump Peace Plan on the right.

While there is some geographic contiguity, the proposed area doesn't have a shared border with Jordan or a beach on the Dead Sea. 

On the question of East Jerusalem, the Trump plan put Haram al Sharif/Temple Mount and the Al-Aqsa mosque under Israeli control. Right of return for Palestinian refugees from 1948 and 1967 were subject to Israel's approval. So it's easy to understand why Palestinians would dislike this.

2002 Arab Peace Initiative

This is a short, 10 sentence, proposal for resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict put forth by the Arab League.  It calls for Israel to return to the June 1967 boarders, which would mean entirely withdrawing from the West Bank and Gaza (in addition to the other occupied/disputed territories, the Golan Heights and the south of Lebanon). Additionally Israel would recognize a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It doesn't specifically say what would happen to the Old City in East Jerusalem, other than it would be the capital of Palestine, which seems to imply Palestinians would control the Temple Mount and Western Wall. Similar to the 2000 Camp David Summit it seeks some resolution for Palestinian refugees from 1948 and 1967, is also short on specifics. 

Israelis variously expressed some optimism about using it as a starting point for negotiations, but that seems to have fizzled out. Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas of the Fatah party both supported it. Hamas has been divided over it. 

Sort of like the Trump plan was made without consultation of Palestinians, the Arab Peace Initiative was made without consultation of Israelis. Though, it should be said that unlike the Trump plan it at least was made with the full support of a regional organization


I'm not sure what the answers are, but can confidently say there's mistakes we can avoid repeating.

  1. Negotiations seem better than take-it-or-leave-it plans. Meaning the 2000 Camp David Summit was much closer to a success than the Arab Peace Initiative or Trump Peace Plan.
  2. We need to find viable answers to the question of East Jerusalem and the Old City. Israelis won't accept Palestinian control of the Western Wall and Palestinians won't accept Israeli control of Haram al Sharif/Temple Mount. I don't know what the answer is, but would encourage not proposing either of those options and instead looking for new, novel, solutions. To the best of my knowledge internationalizing the Old City (not all of Jerusalem, just the Old City area) has never been seriously discussed as part of formal peace plan or during negotiations (if I missed it, please tell me in the comments).
  3. The part of the Palestinian State in the West Bank needs boarders that look like the boarders of a state. Or, in other words, meaningful geographic contiguity.


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Perhaps I am too cynical here, but the first step towards a peace plan has to be desire for peace. It seems to me that Netanyahu needs arab aggression to stay in power (and stay out of jail), while Hamas needs Israeli aggression to retain support for violent resistance. Until that changes, well good luck. There is an old comment about the prayer for the "Peace of Jerusalem" by Meron Benverish, "You can have peace or you can have Jerusalem." I dont see that changing in my lifetime.

It's exactly the problem, and the fact that the Hamas started the war just as Netanyahu was losing his grip to power is highly unlikely to be a coincidence. 

The fact that Israel lead the best vaccine effort in the world but refused the easy PR move to give vaccine to Palestine is also significant.

This is a sad and complicated situation, given that the two sides of the conflict can't even agree on some basic facts, such as "what actually happened in 1948?" or "is holocaust a hoax?". Depending on whose set of beliefs you buy, either side can seem like martyrs or assholes. Both sides believe that God is fully on their side and that the whole territory should be rightfully theirs.

Speaking as an outsider who probably doesn't understand 99% of relevant facts, the Arab plan to return to 1967 borders sounds like the best starting point, simply because realistically (1) there are going to be two states, and (2) the area of neither can look like Swiss cheese. (Yes, there are states with discontinuous territory, such as USA and Alaska, but not that discontinuous.) The current situation makes almost entire territory of the fractal Palestine a border. That's not good for either side, if they want to protect their borders.

If this seems to someone like I'm too sympathetic to the Arab side, just imagine that instead I said "like the 1967 borders, except smaller, but continuous with simple borders". Actually, I have no strong opinion on the size of the territory, only that its shape should make sense, otherwise the conflicts have no chance to stop. You want most Palestinians to have Palestinian neighbors, and most Israelis to have Israeli neighbors, otherwise even the everyday conflicts between neighbors automatically fuel the ethnic conflict.

After the borders are established, I think it would be nice if Israel allowed a right to return to a limited number of Palestinians per year (kinda like the green cards in USA). Maybe designed in a way that people who feel most strongly about it (but pass a security check; like they really want to live there, not to blow themselves up) get a priority. Hopefully, after those who felt strongest about it have returned, the remaining Palestinian population would be on average more okay with their new situation.

Probably worth considering is some form of international help with some control mechanisms so that it would be used to build Palestinian cities and job opportunities. Again under the assumption that people who have a new house and a new job would feel more okay to stay where they are. Dunno, maybe something like this already exists. But again, this requires a non-Swiss-cheese Palestinian territory, so that you can build nice places to live that are not next to the border.

"I don't know to what degree this represents their current views of Hamas. But whatever Israeli Jews think of Fatah, I believe they would much rather see Fatah in control of Palestine than Hamas. Any external organization facilitating negotiations would be wise to account for this. "

That's probably part of the problem too. If I remember correctly Hamas won the elections a decade or so ago and Israel+the Western governments helped Fatah to stay in power... meaning that right now there is not even a real government to negotiate with.

Negotiations are seem better than take-it-or-leave-it plans. 

I agree, but I am somewhat partial to "take-it" plans. Instead of any negotiation, Israel would unilaterally withdraw from the West Bank (just like they did from the Gaza Strip) ,agree with the US on terms and basically say: "You have a state now, do what you want with it" (not unlike how Singapore became an independent country involuntarily) .  

This has the benefit of simplifying  issues,  and solves an underappreciated problem on the Palestinian side: Any politician signing a deal that loses Jerusalem or other religiously significant land immediately becomes a prime target for assassination. 

This  applies to the Israeli side as well of course (it's what happened to Rabin); to solve it one could appoint somebody with a terminal sickness as the responsible Prime Minister.  

(NOTE TO SELF: I need to give myself a day between writing and publishing because I miss so many grammar errors). 

This  applies to the Israeli side as well of course (it's what happened to Rabin); to solve it one could appoint somebody with a terminal sickness as the responsible Prime Minister.

This is honestly not a bad idea. 

I had some horribly controversial ideas that I didn't share (these are just ideas, not advocating for any of them). 

What if Israel and Palestine mutually agreed to destroy the Old City? No one gets any of it. It would be awful and no one would be happy. But in the long run would it be less awful than decades of violent conflict? It's it too taboo to even discuss? Of course, the parties that agreed to this would need to go in to a self-imposed exile to ensure their safety (at the very least some place like Tristan da Cunha, or a boat at Point Nemo... or Mars).

What if Israel decided to move the Western Wall back far enough to create a border space or "DMZ" between them and the Temple Mount? If God can hear your prayers at the Wall now, God could hear them from 100 feet away from where it is. It would be the same stones to the extent that their original.  

If an internationalized Old City didn't fly, what if there was an agreement to turn control of the Old City over it to a very disinterested but capable country to ensure maximum neutrality? Meaning a country where Abrahamic religions are negligible but that would have the resources to manage the area. Japan comes to mind, but there are probably others. It would be a big ask for whatever that country is, but maybe that's offset by a "peace-keeping tax" on goods and services provided in the area. There is an awful lot of tourism there, so it may make fiscal sense. If it worked, they could be unlikely heroes that helped bring peace to region. 

The Holy Sepulchre has been administered by a Muslim family for centuries because the Ottomans empire was fed up with the different Christian denominations endless fights to pray in the sanctuary.

I suspect that is asking too much of the religiously zealous. A Buddist country with oversight of an internationalised quarter seems more likely to fly.

After reading Amos Elon's "Jerusalem - City of Mirror" (good book for anyone wondering why this is so hard), I thought the best we could hope for would be a meteor strike cratering the whole of the temple mount for starters. 

To understand the danger, think of the geopolitical implications of 4th temple nutters blowing up everything in the Al-Aqsa compound ( a serious proposition).

This is my plan for peace: Palestine should be divided according to the 1937 proposal, with the exception that the international zone belongs to Israel, except for East Jerusalem and the Old City, which are continued by Jordan.Israeli troops leave Palestine and refugees are returned only to Palestine.

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