Since a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians has been agreed upon, there are those who advocate that peace negotiations between the two sides should commence immediately to prevent future conflagration and bring an end to the destructive seven-decades-old conflict. I could not disagree more. Whereas a peace agreement based on a two-state solution must eventually be the outcome, no agreement can be reached unless it is preceded by a process of reconciliation for a period of at least five years to mitigate the ingrained hatred and distrust between them. Such a process would consist of multiple measures that run simultaneously on government-to- government and people-to-people levels, which can accelerate and enhance the implementation of the reconciliation process.
There are several preconditions upon which Israel must agree to allow reconciliation to advance unimpeded. This includes: no further annexation of a single inch of Palestinian territory, no expanding settlements beyond their established parameters, and maintaining the current status quo of Jerusalem.
Government-to-government reconciliatory measures
Halting the mutually acrimonious public narrative: Israeli and Palestinian leaders must stop their acrimonious public narratives against each other. Indeed, rather than preparing the public for the inevitability of peace and engaging in constructive public dialogue, they have been poisoning the political atmosphere and setting one side against the other, creating the perception that peace is an illusion and that the differences between them are simply irreconcilable.
Establishing an economic relationship: Israelis and Palestinians must develop a strong economic relationship. Other than trade, Israeli investors should be encouraged to invest in the future Palestinian state. Economic exchanges, investment, and development will foster a very close relationship between the two sides.
Modifying school textbooks: Israel and the Palestinians must modify their textbooks to reflect an objectively more accurate and less biased historic account throughout their educational institutions. Both sides must stop disseminating inaccurate historic accounts in their textbooks and reinforce that through their public discourse.
Taking no provocative action: The Palestinians should not turn to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to charge Israel with crimes against humanity, and must prevent any terrorist attack against Israeli targets. Israel on the other hand must not unduly restrict the movement of Palestinians, and must stop the practice of night raids and end the demolition and/or eviction of Palestinians from their residences anywhere, and especially in East Jerusalem.
Maintaining security cooperation: Israel and the Palestinians should not only continue to collaborate on all security matters but further augment future cooperation. Alleviating concerns over security will have both psychological and practical implications, especially as both sides move toward substantive peace talks.
People-to-people measures on the ground
As the above measures are taken, people-to-people interaction becomes a natural process conducted in a constantly improving atmosphere. The following measures are being pursued today on a small scale and should be greatly expanded.
i) Mutual visitation: Israel and the Palestinian Authority must agree to allow mutual visitation. It is hard to exaggerate the value of such visits when ordinary Israelis and Palestinians meet in their respective places of residence to share experiences and understand each other's grievances and concerns, and often discover that their shared interests and aspirations are far greater than their differences.
ii) Women activism: Activism by Israeli and Palestinian women can be a very important part of the reconciliation process. Israeli and Palestinian women should use their formidable power to demand that their respective leaders end the conflict. The role of women in ending the conflict in Northern Ireland offers a vivid picture of how women can impact the course of events.
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