Try to imagine living your entire life with the knowledge that your grandparents’ ancestral village was destroyed and all its inhabitants murdered.
You would be grateful always that your grandparents themselves made it to America before the slaughter. This heritage would make you among the most loyal of American citizens – proud to vote, run for office, pay taxes and enter government service.
But you would always be looking over your shoulder.
President Obama, please have a frank, in-depth discussion about this with your trusted current and former employees from the American Jewish community.
President-elect Trump, please have this same frank discussion with those members of the American Jewish community close to you.
This is a very difficult discussion to have. It involves existential fear. But it must be done. Understanding this deep-seated anxiety is a key step in resolving the Israel-Palestine dispute, and indeed, every seemingly intractable dispute between warring groups of people the world over.
Overwhelming fear makes people behave in ways that are otherwise impossible to understand.
Once you have had this discussion, you will much better understand the American Jewish community and its creation, the State of Israel. Amid all the accomplishments and successes, there remains a gut-level fear of annihilation that will just not go away.
Building new apartment houses on disputed land is a symbol of that fundamental insecurity. Demands for ever more expensive military assistance is the same thing.
Israel has been attacked repeatedly from Gaza and the West Bank. Would an empowered Hamas, Iran or ISIL-ISIS try to take over a Palestinian State? From terribly insecure Israel’s point of view, this is inevitable.
The disputed settlements are, in actuality, a military insurance policy. Any invader would have to go through these imposing apartment houses full of civilians in order to invade Israel by land.
These civilian deaths of yet more innocent Jewish people would not play well in the international media or to history. The disputed apartment blocks discourage a land invasion of Israel just by their very existence.
But in this case, what is militarily wise is politically foolish. It just makes peace in the region that much harder to achieve.
So, creative diplomacy is in order. How about insisting that a certain number of non-violent elderly Palestinians and Palestinian single moms with young children be permitted to live in these disputed apartment buildings at low cost?
This plan would provide a substantial benefit to Palestinians (subsidized beautiful new apartments), yet satisfy Israel’s need for a military insurance policy.
The Palestinian Authority and Hamas-Gazan leadership have an undisguised desire for the whole State of Israel. Thus, our policy should be to work around them. Find eligible Palestinians to move into the new housing blocks without them.
Use the network of international sympathetic non-sectarian social service agencies to do this. Make sure representatives of the Israel Defense Forces carefully screen each Palestinian family that will move in to a disputed new apartment house.
Each time a carefully selected eligible Palestinian family moves into a new housing block, celebrate this peace move with a colorful festival and press conference. Make peace a beautiful process – one new apartment at a time.
And once Israeli Jews and Palestinians are living together in brand new beautiful West Bank apartment houses for a while, perhaps they can form a new State of Palestine non-violent government together.
After all, we wouldn’t want a Palestinian State with no Jewish minority any more than we would want the State of Israel to have no Palestinian minority.
A state with no domestic minorities to protect is a state with no humanity towards other countries. It is this idea that should be a cornerstone of our American diplomacy the world over.
That is because this is who we are – a little bit of everybody from everywhere – The United States of America.
This solution comes from a past president of the Queens County Bar Association, where we creatively solve bitter disputes between and among people from all over the world in the shadow of Kennedy Airport every day.
Incidentally, when the Queens County Bar Association was founded in 1876, Jews were not welcome as members. Neither were African-Americans nor women of any background.
We have come a long way in America since then. We can show the Israelis and Palestinians the way forward in running states with ethnic minorities and women protected.
When administered in this way, the disputed “settlements” are a catalyst for the two-state solution, not a bar to it.
Please consider the plan outlined in this column. President Obama, please include these ideas in your upcoming formal speech on this subject.
President-elect Trump, please consider these ideas in formulating your new foreign policy towards Israel and Palestine.
The world will be a better, safer place if you do.
Paul Kerson is a partner in the law firm of Leavitt & Kerson with offices in Queens and Midtown. He can be reached at (718) 793-8822 or firstname.lastname@example.org.