Cover Letter to: A New Peace Plan for Resolving the Israel Conflict

I'm a sociologist by education, an engineer by trade. One thing this background predisposes me to do is to write prescriptive plans on how people should do things to solve their problems and live better. I witnessed the 9/11 terror attacks in New York, and was alarmed by the rush to war that followed. I was a teenager during the buildup of the Vietnam War, and remember vividly the tolls that war exacted. In the post-9/11 context, I started researching many topics that relate to the terror attacks and our predisposition toward war. The Israel conflict emerged as one of the most important topics. Since 2001 I've learned quite a bit about this conflict, but I hardly consider myself an expert. As usual, I found myself thinking about how to resolve the conflict: a specific series of steps by various parties that lead progressively to a solution likely to stand the test of time. I've been turning this plan over and over in my mind for a couple of years now, and finally sat down and in four or five bursts knocked out the 13,000 word screed now in front of you. Several of the steps developed here are, to the best of my knowledge at least, novel. Several steps that occur in most alternative plans have been omitted. The key thing, I think, is to develop an intuition about what works and what doesn't, about who can do what and who can't. Most of the piece consists of background and inferences. I try to explain why it has to be this way, and less often why it cannot be some other way. In the deep background is an idea of how the world ought to work, based on a few simple principles like mutual respect and only working as hard as you have to in order not to have to work harder. The latter point, which is obvious if you're an engineer, only appears at the very end, but I'd like to think I can derive everything else in the piece from it. One of the maddening things about the Israel conflict is all the concrete that will eventually have to be torn down that never should have been poured in the first place. These core ideas relate back to a book I wanted to write 8-10 years ago, something about post-capitalist life. One insight I had there was that we were going to have to develop more effective chains of trust. One major threat we would face if we failed to do so would be terror attacks, but I felt awkward making that threat at the time. After 9/11 that was one problem I no longer had.

I don't know what comes next. The plan itself is obviously an idea for a political program, but I'm not a politician or a political activist or even much of a publicist, so if this is to happen it will have to be as someone else's project. From a structural standpoint, it might make sense to pull the plan up front then move the background to an appendix. The background is intended as the minimal amount that someone needs to know, but it's probably a bit more than that. Because of the way I wrote this, there's a good deal of redundancy. From a literary standpoint it would be good to cut that back, but there's also something to be said for drumming key points home. It's quite possible that some things here need to be said more politely, especially as a political program. I waver back and forth in trying to specify the plan with legal precision. Certainly that is a direction it needs to go in eventually -- probably sooner rather than later. I've thought about trying to turn this into a slide presentation which I could then take around to various audiences, including local Muslim and Jewish groups. That seems like the most immediate way to get feedback on it, and those presentations could be scaled up and disseminated. But my first step will be to post it on my website and pass the URL around to some friends and acquaintances, and see what kind of feedback I get there. I'm not so arrogant as to think that anyone should listen to me here. But I do think that there are some ideas here that are worth considering.

As I thought about this I talked it through with Laura Tillem, and made many adjustments along the way. It took her a long time to get me interested in this subject, so this is for her. My first super-awkward sketch was hacked out in an email discussion with Michael Neumann, in part as a critique of a plan he had. I read over two dozen books along the way, each adding crucial bits and pieces to the story. The most important of these may have been Richard Ben Cramer's, since he's the one who finally convinced me that most Israelis fear peace far more than they fear war. That established that the solution will not come from Israel, although if I was Israeli I wouldn't let that stop me. Jeff Halper's essay on "The Matrix of Control" is another key piece, especially if you consider it alongside George Bisharat's AJVP lectures. I wrote notes for the AJVP series which we handed out when we presented those videotapes to our local peace group, and they are chock full of invaluable information. Bisharat's point that refugee rights are individual is central to my proposal here, and I've tried to find a balance that respects his defense of refugee rights against the obvious political obstacles. I've also tried to find an accommodation between the "two states" reality and the distinctive approach that Mazin Qumsiyeh offered when he made a presentation here. I've also learned an immense amount from Deborah Gordon, in more ways than I can enumerate. So in many ways this piece is a synthesis of many inputs -- a case, like so many others, of standing on the shoulders of giants. I hope you will find it useful.