Israelis and Palestinians at Harvard: Part 6 of 9

12/04/2014 03:58 pm ET Updated Feb 03, 2015

Two-State Solution

While all Israelis I spoke to agree the goal should be to realize a two-state solution, several Israelis told me that Muslims are not ready for democracy and that the two states will be very asymmetric. They described Muslims as though they had a very different set of values and culture. One Israeli told me that in Iraq democracy can't be created by using force and that the same lesson applies to Palestine. There will be no successful state of Palestine if it is imposed; it has to be an indigenous movement, said the Israeli. A Palestinian told me that help may be requested and given, but to impose a political system will be viewed as another type of Colonialization.

Even if there is a two-state solution, where Palestine has its own sovereignty, when asked about the issue, a Christian Palestinian born in 1976 I spoke with did not say he was worried about living under a Muslim-dominated Palestinian state. In fact, he said he was more worried about the current radicalization of religion all over the world and the mixing of religion and politics. Another Palestinian told me that "no Palestinian claims that Israel shouldn't exist; it is there, it is a fact. The only doubt is the Jewish people who think about the background, they still see the Holocaust; it is a fresh memory so it is understandable." When discussing the Holocaust, some Israelis noted that it is fresh in their minds. Israeli Natasha told me that it is not pragmatic for government officials to play on the Holocaust or the victim card; however, she also noted that there is a 2,000-year history of being victims that is always present in the psyche.

Orna, a mid-level Israeli government employee, said "I hate that people say that the Holocaust is the reason for the existence of Israel; it was a 'trigger' to get [the world] to do something that should be done." Another Israeli who had worked in [Holocaust] Compensation Programs for Eastern Europe and for the American-Jewish Joint Distribution Committee states that Israelis don't want to be seen as victims of the Holocaust in contemporary politics; "we have our own country, today." The first Israeli Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, wrote that "Had partition [referring to the Peel Commission partition plan] been carried out, the history of our people would have been different and six million Jews in Europe would not have been killed---most of them would be in Israel."

According to one Palestinian, Israel was not interested in attending the Madrid Peace Conference. The message was clear from the U.S.: We'll stop the loan guarantees. Secretary of State James Baker even provided the phone number of the White House. The Shamir government actually has a lot of tools to discipline Israel. However, politicians don't want to put too much pressure on Israel since they eye is always on the next election. Whether or not it is true that Israel was not interested in attending Madrid is irrelevant; each side has beliefs about the other is wrong, on mo many issues.

One Israeli woman noted that there was no Palestinian body that could be negotiated with up until the early 1990s. With this in mind, Israel to build on the land (the settlements) since it was land that belonged to Israel as acquired in the 1967 war. Every Israeli I spoke with agreed that land acquired in war is not subject to being returned, especially a war that they did not start. One Israeli noted that Israeli did not start the 1967 war but acted preemptively to defend itself since there is no doubt in anyone's mind that Arab states were going to attack.

An Israeli man, who was going to work for the Prime Minister of Israel after leaving Harvard said that there were "unjust things that have happened. This is the reality" but he offered no solution to the problem. When asked about the issue of the "land grab" this individual noted that Israel is divided on the issue, that Israel should not occupy any settlement and that the current Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu "is not interested in a resolution, right now, or for the next few years, due to right-wing forces and his lack of courage." But another Israeli who has worked for the government for a long time said just the opposite; Palestinians need to get over this notion of getting back 100 percent of the land Israel acquired in 1967 because it is not practical.

PAUL HEROUX is a state representative from Massachusetts who previously lived and worked in the Middle East, was a senior analyst at the Institute for Defense and Disarmament Studies, and is a frequent guest on TV and radio stations discussing the Middle East. Paul has a Master's in International Relations from the London School of Economics and a Master's from the Harvard School of Government. Paul can be reached at PaulHeroux.MPA@gmail.com.