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Jerusalem Peace & Security Forum

Jerusalem Peace & Security Forum: Realistic Strategies for Solving the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Jerusalem, Israel - On Dec. 4, 2013, the Israel Peace and Security Forum took up the topic “Realistic Strategies for Solving the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” Professor Eliezer Glaubach, president of the Jerusalem Peace and Security Forum, and his wife, Rachel, hosted the meeting. Professor Glaubach gave a short historical review: “For thousands of years there has been a conflict over the land of Israel. Many empires were eager to control our region, a land that bridges three continents and is a crossroads of commerce from ​​Mesopotamia to Egypt. The conflicts escalated when it became the Holy Land of the three monotheistic religions.”

Mr. Shaul Menashe, a nationally known radio personality and commentator on the Middle East and the Arab world, said that because the Palestinians depend on the Arab world, it is important to include the Arab world when discussing an Israeli-Palestinian solution.

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What disturbs the Arab world the most nowadays is “Shiite Iran and its war against the Sunni," Mr. Menashe said. "Iran creates physical damage anywhere: in Syria, Bahrain, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Iran is supporting [Syrian President Bashar] Assad and will continue to do so. If Assad loses his power, it will weaken the power of Hassan Nasserallah, the head of Hezbollah, and we will witness a ‘domino effect’ situation that might lead to the collapse of Iran," he said.

"If Israel would have a reasonable peace agreement with the Palestinians, Iran would not approve it, but the rest of the Arab world would, since it worries about Iran's aggression and it is already drained by the Palestinian problem,” Mr. Menashe said. “Israel should be very disturbed by Iran's having nuclear weapons, since it would be a strengthening force for all the terror organizations, knowing they have the support of a nuclear power state," he said. Demonstrating the new dynamics in the Arab world, Mr. Menashe read a headline from a Saudi newspaper: “If Israel attacks Iran, not only Saudi Arabia would support this act but rather all the Sunni world.”

Mr. Ephraim Dubek, the former Israeli ambassador to Egypt and India, said there are two accepted axioms regarding the Israeli-Palestinian solution: "First, if the Israelis want to live in a Jewish and democratic state, they need to be separated from the Palestinians, and second, the basis for any agreement is the borders of 1967 and some acceptable agreement of territory exchange. Unfortunately," Mr. Dubek said, "as much as I want peace, I don't see the path that would bring that agreement, since the maximum that Israel can offer is less than the minimum that the Palestinians want." If the Palestinians would recognize Israel as a Jewish state, he said, the conflict would come to an end.

Mr. Dani Rubinstein, a senior journalist and a lecturer in media studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, supported Mr. Menashe's observation regarding the decline of interest in the Palestinian problem within the Arab world: "In the Arab daily press there are only five items a week about Palestine, compared to 60 items a week in the past years."

There is a gap between the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian people, Mr. Rubinstein said. Palestinians don’t trust their leaders and say, "They are all thieves." The Palestinian people feel unhappy about the proposed two-state solution (“two states for two peoples”) and favor the one-state solution, he said, explaining that is why Palestinians increasingly are requesting Israeli identity cards—which in the past was considered a betrayal.

Two things comprise Israel’s best defense, Mr. Rubinstein said: Israel’s nuclear power and the support of the United States. "If those would be undermined, it would be a bad situation for Israel," he said, adding that the end of the two-state solution is also a dangerous situation.

Dr. Eldad Pardo,an Iran scholar and professor in the Department of Islamic and Middle East Studies at the Hebrew University, emphasized the importance of education in the Palestinian schools. "As long as they teach [in Palestinian schools] that the Israelis are 'a gang of criminals who arrived from Europe,' there will be no change," he said. "One can give up a little bit in the level of the words, and thus gain something in the actual world. For example, [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan does not talk about Turkey but rather about Islam. This small change in the level of words changes the bitter feeling and behavior for the good.”

Dr. Shelley Elkayam, an Israeli poet and scholar of Kabbalah and religion, discussed the term "soft power" and said it is important to internalize it in the region.

Both Col. Moshe Zurich, a former Israeli military attaché in the United States and deputy head of the research division in the Intelligence Corps, and Dr. Itzhak Gerberg, director, the Southern Africa department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, agreed that ongoing unpredictable changes in the Middle East, the Arab world and the world in general may bring new solutions for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As a result of those new concepts, they said, Israel will have to reconsider its actions in achieving a substantial peace agreement with the Palestinians.

All the speakers agreed that Israel should support the Palestinians and the Arab countries as much as it can. Mr. Rubinstein suggested that Israel support Gaza in building a water desalination system or in developing its own gas resources system, and even give them water. Mr. Menashe agreed with this point and said that Israel's giving water to Jordan for the past 18 years—since the Israeli-Jordanian peace contract—has had a meaningful effect. He quoted a Jordanian newspaper: "We trust Israel, but we don't trust Syria. Syria is stealing water from the Yarmouk River. Israel has been maintaining the agreements already for 18 years."

Professor Glaubach concluded the meeting on an optimistic note, saying: “The prophets from the Bible predicted peace in the last days; therefore, only leaders who have a spiritual vision can bring a realistic peace. We need leaders like [former Israeli] Prime Minister [Menachem] Begin and [former Egyptian] President [Anwar] Sadat, who could create mutual spiritual trust. Father Moon created the spiritual foundation to fulfill those prophecies. Our forum hopes that the current U.S. Secretary [of State] John Kerry will succeed in the negotiation for peace.”

Additional Participants:

Mrs. Rachel Glaubach, senior administrator at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital
Mrs. Miri Kamar, secretary general, UPF-Israel
Mrs. Adi Sasaki, director of the Jerusalem Peace and Security Forum
Dr. Nurit Hirschfeld, director of the Jerusalem Interfaith Forum

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