Keep on Moving: DD Versus BB, Part 6

03/11/2015 12:51 pm ET | Updated May 11, 2015

Keep on Moving: DD v. Bibi, Part 6

DD, the imaginary Israeli Defense Dove had by now outlined for me the first three steps of her "Step by Step" approach to breaking up the Middle East iceberg.

"At this point," she said, "there ought to be a pause of one year to allow everything to settle and to see that the steps are working. If all is going reasonably well, we then move another step.

STEP 4 (Three years into the process): The Palestinian Authority declares its opposition to any efforts abroad to boycott, divest or otherwise sanction Israel or companies doing business with Israel. It announced that it severs ties with any groups promoting these kinds of actions and bans any contacts with them by Palestinian institutions abroad.

The PA declares that boycott activists are unwelcome in Palestinian territories. The Arab League endorses this announcement, officially ends its boycott of Israel and opens an office in east Jerusalem.

Israel dismantles 25 roadblocks in the West Bank.

STEP 5: (Six months later): Israel, the PA, the Arab League, the U.S., the E.U. and the U.N. announce that they endorse a special "Right of Temporary Refuge" for Gaza Palestinians. About 2/3 of Gaza's population of 1.5 million are refugees or children of refugees. Suffering and unemployment are widespread. They face repeated blow ups. Such a situation may please Hamas or Islamic Jihad recruiters but it means that Gazans have few choices in life.

So why not create an experimental "Right of Temporary Refuge?" Gaza's refugees should have options to move elsewhere -- temporarily. Or permanently.

They could have a special status in their new places of residence. They could opt for immigrant rights although reserving the right to become citizens of a future independent Palestinian state (including Gaza) or in a Palestinian-Jordanian confederation under a 'law of return' to either of these. The process could begin with, say, 500,000 refugees.

Eventually 350,000 could be resettled over, say, two years throughout the Middle East. This could include the West Bank. A new but still empty Palestinian city, Rawabi, has already been built with a potential capacity of some 40,000 people not far from Ramallah. Two more of these could be built and subsidized for refugees. And the other 150,000 could go elsewhere, perhaps to European countries or other lands (like Turkey or Iran) that have made Palestinian statehood and well being central to their foreign policies. And a special international fund would ease resettlement.

This "Right" won't solve the refugee problem. It won't be agreeable to everyone. It would, however, go at least some way to relieve Gaza's congested misery.

It would improve lives both for those who stay in and those who leave the Strip. The Arab League, Turkey, Iran and the UN General Assembly should endorse this as a humanitarian effort. It would probably have a salutary collateral effect: hindering renewals of violence on the Gaza-Israel border.

STEP 6 (Six months after Step 5): Jerusalem, as everyone knows, is an especially contentious matter. Everyone in our region claims it in one way or another -- as his or her holy place, as his or her capital, as his or her destined capital, forever and even longer.

Personally, I think that when it comes to 'forever' it is best to fudge things. So why not separate the idea of Jerusalem as a political capital city from Jerusalem as a spiritual capital?

After all, you Americans do something somewhat like that. Washington is your political capital and New York is your cultural capital. (Apologies to Los Angeles).

Israelis, Palestinians (Jordanians too, if they are involved) can all declare that Jerusalem is their cultural and spiritual capital. Tel Aviv can be Israel's political capital (I'm talking to you from the Defense Ministry, which is already there). Ramallah can be the Palestinian political capital (or Amman of a Palestinian-Jordanian confederation).

Israel could move, say, its Transportation and Interior Ministries to Tel Aviv. Ramallah would be declared officially to be the Palestinian seat of government, while Palestinian ministries of, say, religion and education could be moved to east Jerusalem.

These moves leave many, many hard problems open but they change some things in Jerusalem -- on the ground and symbolically. And they foreclose nothing. Moreover, they test both sides.

Of course, on-the-ground security arrangements for daily life would have to be set up carefully to keep the city peaceful and free of terrorism."

"I can hear loud howls from both sides about your idea," I said to DD.

"Me too," she said, "There will be louder ones about the next step."

See the next post for the next step.


Mitchell Cohen is editor emeritus of Dissent Magazine and professor of political science at Baruch College and the Graduate School of the City University of New York. His book Zion and State (Columbia University Press) examines the intellectual origins of the conflict between the left and the right in Israel. It has just been republished in Paris by Editions la Decouverte.