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Israel and Palestine: Is there any hope for peace?

Israeli soldier confronts man during routine patrols in the occupied Palestinian West Bank.

An Israeli soldier confronts a Palestinian man during routine patrols in the occupied West Bank.

(last updated 20 August 2013)

Is peace possible?

Israelis pound Gaza during recent fighting

Israeli rockets targeted Hamas fighters in Gaza during recent fighting. The killed and injured, though, included more than 100 civilians. Among them were many Palestinian children.

Given the most recent crisis between Gaza (Palestine) and Israel in which hundreds of men, women and children were either terrorized, wounded or killed, and given the fact that just last week official United Nations observer status was granted to a newly recognized state of Palestine, I consider this the most important blog post I’ve written since moving to the Middle East one year ago.

As wars and violence intensify in the Middle East, the search for an evenhanded settlement of the Israeli – Palestinian conflict is all important. However, over the past more than 60 years of war, many of us have become unaware of the original root cause of the struggle.

Today, many believe, even if both sides are at fault, the Palestinians are irrational “terrorists” who have no point of view worth considering. But having met with numerous “stateless” Palestinians living in the Middle East, I believe that the Palestinians actually have wide-ranging grievances. Many Jews also agree. (Watch the short video by Jewish Voice for Peace at the bottom of this post.)

Principles of peace

The Geneva Initiative , also known as the Geneva Accord, is considered a “model permanent status agreement” to end the Israeli – Palestinian conflict based on previous official negotiations, international resolutions, the Quartet Roadmap, the Clinton Parameters, and the eventual Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 (endorsed by the Arab League and then Saudi Crown-Prince Abdullah).

Israeli citizen carries a sign calling for peace.

Israeli citizen carries a sign calling for peace.

Parameters of the accord were negotiated in secret for over 2 years before the 50-page document was officially publicly launched on December 1, 2003, at a ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland. The Geneva Initiative was perceived as a model permanent status agreement between the nation of Israel and Palestine. It also enjoyed, as well, the strong support of many non-government and interfaith organizations.

The accord was deemed a “comprehensive and unequivocal solution to all issues vital to ensuring the end of the conflict.” It was hoped that by adopting the agreement and implementing it there would be a resolution to the decades-old strife.

Among the principles included in the accord were:

  • End of conflict. End of all claims.
  • Mutual recognition of Israeli and Palestinian right to two separate states.
  • A final, agreed upon border.
  • A comprehensive solution to the refugee problem.
  • Large settlement blocks and most of the settlers are annexed to Israel, as part of a 1:1 land swap.
  • Recognition of the Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and recognition of the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.
  • A demilitarized Palestinian state.
  • A comprehensive and complete Palestinian commitment to fighting terrorism and incitement.
  • An international verification group to oversee implementation.

Several US presidents, most notably Jimmy Carter (1978 Camp David Accord) and Bill Clinton (2000 Middle East Peace Summit), have sought to bolster the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. While progress has been made, none, however, have been ultimately successful.

Abass and Olmert shake hands as Bush

Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert (right) greets Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abass at the 2007 Annapolis Peace Conference.

Annapolis Peace Conference of 2007

In the final year of his eight years in office, then President George W. Bush sought to leave his mark on the Middle East peace process. On November 20, 2007, plans for the Annapolis Peace Conference were announced, and nations were invited to meet in Annapolis, Maryland, to discuss the peace process. The conference marked the first time both sides came to negotiations to agree upon a two-state solution. It was also the first time that a number of Arab states were invited to attend such a meeting.

The Annapolis Peace Conference was held on November 27, 2007, hosted by the United States Naval Academy. The goal of this peace conference was to produce a substantive document on resolving the ongoing Israeli – Palestinian conflict along the lines of the Bush administration’s Roadmap For Peace, eventually leading to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. A joint statement agreed upon by all parties was issued at the conclusion of the conference.

Within the next year, though, both Israel and Palestine would end the peace process as fighting ensued between Gaza and Israel.

A grassroots citizens’ initiative

During the Annapolis peace talks, as a member of the Annapolis City Council, I gave my support to an independent meeting of Palestinian and Israeli peace activists enjoined by Peace Action, the Annapolis Friends Peace & Justice Center and Annapolis mayor Ellen Moyer. We invited citizen representatives of Ramallah, Palestine, and Israeli citizens from Tel Aviv to help us develop a means of continuing a people-to-people dialogue for peace, using the principles of the Geneva Initiative as a framework and guide.

More and more Jews around the world are speaking up for the Palestinian people. Jews, too, are demanding freedom and democracy for the men, women and children of the Palestinian state.

More and more Jews around the world are speaking up for the Palestinian people. Jews, too, are demanding freedom and democracy for the men, women and children of the Palestinian state.

While these independent efforts have also not been successful, they have led to a revived effort by the Annapolis Friends Peace & Justice Center to establish a “tri-sister-city” relationship between Annapolis, Ramallah and a yet-to-be-decided Israeli city. This relationship, as envisioned, would lead to cultural interactions and student educational exchanges between the three cities in hopes of fostering greater understanding and discussions outside the entrapments of a political process.

The history of Israeli – Palestinian aggression

During the 1947 creation of the state of Israel, the homeland of the Palestinian people for more than a thousand years was taken from them by force. All subsequent crimes–on both sides–inevitably follow from this original injustice. Yet a peace process in the  Israeli-Palestinian conflict has continued over the years despite the ongoing violence which has prevailed since the very beginning.

A new history entitled Struggle and Survival in Palestine/Israel, contains twenty-four chapters, offering an unprecedented set of biographies of members of the two communities. It tells the stories of construction workers, journalists, Holocaust survivors and others who have called the land home during the late Ottoman Empire, post-1948 and contemporary periods. The everyday lives and struggles, not merely of elites, but even more so of the “ordinary” people whose lives are rarely captured by scholars, opens new understandings of the history that has brought us to this point in the history of the agression on both sides.

By studying the past we better understand what might lead to co-existence with equal freedom, dignity and political, economic and social possibilities for both peoples.

Please take just a few minutes to watch the following short video recently produced by my friends at Jewish Voice for Peace. This documentary shows how the Israeli – Palestinian struggle has evolved over a period of 65 years.

If you have any concern about what’s happening in the Middle East, you owe it to yourself to watch and learn from this excellent production. Please share this blog post with your friends.

Sources: Jewish Voice for Peace, CNN, Al Jazeera, The Washington Post,, the United Nations


December 3, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Yes. Good summary. Now what is this group, Jews for Peace, actually doing? What does “join us” mean in practice.


    Comment by Marina Bhler-Miko | December 3, 2012 | Reply

    • Marina,

      Jewish Voice for Peace is a group I’ve known for some time. There is now a corresponding Muslim group called Muslim Voice for Peace & Reconciliation. Hopefully both groups can move their audiences into a conciliatory vein–giving peace a chance in the Middle East.


      Comment by Sam Shropshire | December 4, 2012 | Reply

  2. Comprehensive piece,SAm; but I couldn’t get the video to work. You’re doing a good hob of keeping us posted. Light Life andLove. Mardy

    Comment by Mardy Burgess | December 4, 2012 | Reply

    • Mardy, this blog post created a lot of discussion. I’m grateful for that. ~ Sam

      Comment by Sam Shropshire | December 4, 2012 | Reply

  3. Thanks for this Sam. I have two thoughts:
    1. You mention the “original injustice” as being in 1947. I have found that drawing a starting line in the sand is tricky business. Consider the 1929 Arab killings of Jews in Hebron that resulted in the Brits resettling Jews in Jerusalem with a promise of a return. There is also the broken promises the Brits made to Palestinians in the fight against the Ottomans about 20 years earlier. While I think those who say this is an ancient battle may be misstating things, I also think that to say it all started in 1947 does the same.

    2. I heard from many Palestinians who, I suspect, would not sign on to the Geneva Initiative. From quite a few folks – including co-founders of the BDS movement and residents of a Bethlehem refugee camp – “Right of Return” is one of their primary goals but the Geneva Initiative says “End of All Claims”.

    Just my two cents.

    Brad Ogilvie

    Comment by Brad Ogilvie | December 4, 2012 | Reply

    • Brad,

      Thank you for responding to this blog post. Please read my response to our rabbi friend below. Perhaps you are correct about drawing a line in the sand by using the year 1947.

      Yes, “the end of all claims” is certainly a sticking point in using the Geneva Initiative principles as a starter for dialogue on Israeli/Palestinian peace; however, this document gives a foundation on which to negotiate.

      Thank you, Brad, for responding.


      Comment by Sam Shropshire | December 4, 2012 | Reply

  4. working towards a peaceful solution is what i do too, sam, by initiating open dialogue between muslims, christians and jews in our neighborhood faith communities. unfortunately i believe that you are adding fuel to the fire by showing a few facets to a multi-faceted situation in your video regarding the israeli/palestinian conflict, starting from the beginning, for example, stating that israel took the palestinian land by force, was responsible for massive destruction of palestinian life and property, and created the palestinian refugee problem is a smokescreen covering up the fact that had israel not been attacked by the surrounding countries in its newly UN sanctioned homeland, both sides could have lived in peace. it was a matter of defense against neighboring hostility that started this problem, but it began long before 1947. sadly, anti-semitism remains the oldest form of bigotry.
    hazan rav danny marmorstein
    rabbi, ahavat olam
    miami, florida

    recommended viewing: the other son, an independent movie, accurately depicting in my opinion the present day situation, a part of which you address on this website. in short, 2 students, one israeli and one west bank palestinian, discover that they were switched accidentally at birth in a haifa hospital. this disturbing news came to light when the israeli enlisted in the army and tests concluded that his blood type matched neither of his is a poignantly portrayed story of how the 2 families cope and deal with the situation.

    Comment by hazan rav danny marmorstein | December 4, 2012 | Reply

    • Rabbi,

      What an honor to have you comment on this article. I’m deeply grateful that you would take the time to do so. I have several e-mails related to the post, and they have all given me the opportunity to think and respond accordingly.

      You are so kind to take time to comment on the Jewish Voice for Peace video. I’m grateful. You have made some valid points, and you give me the opportunity to study and respond. I’ll try to reply quickly and briefly to both:

      1. We must admit, there have been tremendous injustices from both sides. And all terrorism is evil and wrong. I’m a firm believer in non-violence. But we don’t live in a perfect world and we have many radical, violent, fanatics out there–Muslim, Christian and Jewish!

      Before the nation of Israel was formed the Zionist underground organization called the Irgun blew up a British headquarters in the King David Hotel. (I stayed at that hotel when, as a college student, I was in Israel. The manager told me what happened there in 1947. Here’s the documentation: .) Lots of innocent people were killed. Israel has often set the example of Middle East guerilla warfare. There were many other Zionist guerilla attacks against the British and Palestinians. Zionist terrorists in Israel have continued there program of planned assassinations and bombings ever since, using Israel’s internal security service, the Shin Bet, and the Israeli spy agency Mossad, to do its dirty work–often cleverly concealing the killings, leaving no evidence behind and never claiming responsibility for their actions. In double-speak, Western media give the impression that Israelis are “freedom fighters” while Palestinians and Arabs are “terrorists.”

      2. Just as Jews look at Jerusalem as the holy center of the homeland, so do Muslims look to Jerusalem. The Muslims took control of Jerusalem during the 10th century and have lived there ever since. If either the Jews or Muslims can today lay claim to Jerusalem and the surrounding land, then certainly native Americans have every right to reclaim the United States and Canada.

      Muslims claim that the Dome of the Rock mosque on the Temple Mount is the center of Islam, as well as their two holy cities Mecca and Medina. (See: .) The third most sacred city in Islam is Jerusalem, which was the original qibla (direction of prayer) before it was changed to Mecca. Jerusalem is revered because, in Muslim tradition, Muhammad miraculously traveled to Jerusalem by night and ascended from there into heaven.

      The two most important Muslim sites in Jerusalem are the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The most notable Muslim sight of the two is the Dome of the Rock (Qubbat as-Sakhrah), which, like the Ka’ba in Mecca, is built over a sacred stone. This stone is holy to Jews as well, who believe it to be the site at which Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac. (Muslims place this event in Mecca when Abraham prepared to sacrifice Ishmael.)

      The absolute truth (according to recent surveys) is: Israeli and Palestinian youth no longer want to fight these crazy holy wars. They simply want a life–their own version of the “American Dream.” Sound economies, a good job, a family, a home, etc. They want nothing to do with these 2000 to 1000 year old wars.

      Again,thank you for expressing your concerns. You help me to think things through. I used to be a Religious Right-type individual. I was educated at a fundamentalist Christian high school (Bob Jones Academy) and college (Shelton College). I did most of my graduate work at Faith Theological Seminary and California Graduate School of Theology. I was one who believed the Jews “could do no wrong.” But the Torah says otherwise–the Jews are stiff-necked and easily go astray! (As do I!).

      May God grant us the grace, mercy and forgiveness now to move on beyond our bigotry and hatred. Let’s get on with the work that’s before us–religious reconciliation, especially among the Abrahamic faiths. We have much more in common that we have in difference. The Lord God Jehovah–the one and only God–we all worship and submit to. I would say that’s an incredible commonality. Building on that we need to stop the killing, bombing and insane behavior; sit down, talk and work out a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. If we can’t do that then we need to complete a one-state solution. And we all know what that means: the Palestinians will be the majority population.

      God bless you…


      Comment by Sam Shropshire | December 4, 2012 | Reply

  5. Your maps show Jews coming from Arab countries…..but you feel the fact that half of all Israelis have ancestry from nearly all Arab or Islamic majority countries is trivia. It is not. These Jews deserve compensation for land and resources lost in Morroco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya (then referred to as Tripoli or Benghazi), Egypt, Yemen and Iran. They will hold on the Palestine as collateral until justice is served.

    Comment by neil.nachum | December 8, 2012 | Reply

    • Neil, certainly that is an issue that should be put on an agenda for discussion. Also, there is the issue of Christians and Musims who were uprooted by the formation of the nation of Israel. But first discussions should and must take place. We Musims, Christians and Jews should be able to sit down and talk. We all claim to worship the God of Abraham. It is my understanding, however, that many Jews left these nations, not because of repression, but they were lured by promises of a better life in Israel. Some sold their properties before moving to Israel. Many Jews saw Israel as simply a transitional sight for getting to America. They later resettled in New York, Miami and many other places. But all of this must be sorted out, and in order to do that Israel and Palestine must sit at a negotiation table. My belief is that the Geneva Initiative should be the basis for such negotiations.

      Comment by Sam Shropshire | December 8, 2012 | Reply

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