Op-Ed

Instead of a two-state solution, how about a two-democracy fix?

Last month, Vice President Mike Pence said that the president was “actively considering when and how” to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv To Jerusalem.
Last month, Vice President Mike Pence said that the president was “actively considering when and how” to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv To Jerusalem. AP

On Dec. 1, President Trump is supposed to decide whether or not he should sign the waiver again postponing any plans to move the American embassy to Jerusalem. My guess is that he will sign it.

To preempt the wrath of those who believed Trump’s campaign promises to move the embassy to Jerusalem, Vice President Mike Pence said on Tuesday that the president was “actively considering when and how” to move the embassy, the subtext being that it could only be done in the framework of a comprehensive peace package or, rather, in the Trumpesque jargon, a “deal.”

Pence spoke at an event marking the 70th anniversary of U.N. Resolution 181, which, on Nov. 29, 1947, called for the partition of Palestine between Arabs and Jews. Jews embraced it while Arabs rejected it, attacking the embryonic Jewish state, hoping to wipe it off the map. Except that the Jews won, and the Arabs lost their first chance to establish a state in part of Palestine. In 2011, in a rare interview on Israel’s Channel 2 TV, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas regretted it. “It was our mistake,” he said. “It was an Arab mistake as a whole.”

Admitting past mistakes aside, it doesn’t seem that the Palestinians today are more ready than before to accept a compromise, otherwise, they would have accepted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s repeated calls to come to the negotiating table without any preconditions.

On the Israeli side, in the meantime, the feeling that there is no credible Palestinian partner and two bloody intifadas led to hardening of positions. While polls show that two out of every three Israelis still say they favor a two-state solution, in reality, Israel is ruled today by a coalition government led by right-wing hardliners, who claim ownership over all of the land.

It’s no wonder then, that in light of this, the rumors from Washington about an impending, ultimate peace deal, which will put an end to the long Israeli-Palestinian conflict, are met with skepticism. In an ABC-Washington Post poll on the first anniversary of Trump’s election, 65 percent of Americans said he had accomplished very little. Why should we believe that out of all places, he would succeed in the Middle East, where several American presidents and secretaries of State have failed?

To make things even more difficult, Trump’s vow to move the embassy to Jerusalem and the U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman’s comment in September that, in any future plan, Jewish settlers would not be uprooted, make one wonder how Trump and his emissaries are going to impose any deal whatsoever on the Palestinians, let alone convince them to accept it.

There is, however, a way to square the circle, and it takes talking to my Palestinian friend George Assousa.

In the 1948 war, George and his family fled from their house in Katamon, a Jerusalem neighborhood. He has all the reasons to be bitter and to play the victimhood game of the refugee. Instead, he chose to be realistic and to craft for the future generations of Israelis and Palestinians, who were doomed to share this land, a scenario where they would not only be able to live next to each other, but to also prosper from this neighborhood.

Simply put, his plan, Dual Democracy Initiative (DDI), entails two democracies, Israeli and Palestinian, living peacefully side by side. He realizes that uprooting hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers is impossible. So he proposes that all the Israeli settlers who would wish to stay in their homes in the Palestinian state as law-abiding , taxpaying Palestinian citizens or alien citizens, would be welcome to do so. If there is a Palestinian minority in Israel, he argues, why shouldn’t there be an Israeli minority in Palestine?

Furthermore, the Israeli settlements, instead of being a thorn in the flesh of the Palestinians, will become an engine in the economic growth of the Palestinian state. With so much to win, moving the embassy would become a small matter.

It is easy to dismiss George and his DDI plan as naïve, and indeed, when I took him to present it to a group of retired Israeli generals, they grilled him mercilessly.

He listened patiently and then said: “Friends, you have tried everything else and it failed. Why don’t you give my plan a chance?”

If Jason Greenblatt, the American emissary who is Trump’s adviser on Israel, is interested in this idea, which might lead to a genuine compromise, where both parties are equally satisfied or dissatisfied, I’d be happy to give him George’s number.

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