Enhancing the lives of both Palestinians and Israelis?

The ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine is reaching another volcanic peak. Perhaps the biggest tragedy is the painfully familiar sense that it is all so unnecessary. Here and there I find commentators who offer insightful new directions and people on the ground working to make a positive difference. I share some of these points of light and then ask about the larger shifts needed if we wish to co-create flourishing lives together instead of collective tragedies.

I know of no one who believes that what is happening between Israel and Palestine right now is a positive development. I also know the whole subject is very hot.

Most of what I read regarding this life-degrading situation are perspectives that incriminate one side or the other. Some incriminate both, observing from afar the horrific details of the disaster or commenting on the tragic intractability of such tribal craziness and the threat it poses to “regional stability” and “American interests”. Some sources provide historic background, usually to justify one side or the other – or to preserve a certain safe, freeze-dried academic objectivity. Each side’s arguments are, of course, totally compelling when one listens well to only one side. Its enough to make one’s hair stand on end.

I see in the overall media field ample opportunity to learn more about the conflict, to immerse ourselves in the heat of one or another righteous perspective, or to protect ourselves from it with the distance of spectatorism.

What I see too little of – and always look for – is useful commentary on what could change the situation into something not just stable, but life-serving.

So below I offer four fascinating commentaries of that kind – including even a provocative survey exercise demonstrating that most Israelis and Palestinians already agree on what should be done but hardly any of them realize that potentially game-changing fact about the other. Their cynicism runs deep, but the potential is huge.

In addition, for those who may not be aware of the extensive ongoing work to create humanizing, productive conversations and alliances between Arab and Israeli people, this Wikipedia article provides an impressive list to which I’ll add these initiatives associated with friends of mine:

And now there’s another aspect of this I want to invite us to explore.

From the co-intelligence perspective, I see a question that is seldom even asked in times of tragedy and crisis, let alone answered:

What kind of society would automatically pay more attention to life-serving approaches (like those noted in the two previous paragraphs) than to divisive, partial, imperialist, or spectating approaches (like the ones noted at the beginning of this post).

And perhaps even more importantly, we could ask:

How might we go about building such societies?

I highlight these questions because the horrendous Israeli-Palestinian conflict is, tragically, only one of hundreds of challenges where precious little attention is being paid to transforming life-degradation into life-enhancement. The opportunity always exists. But seems likely we’ll keep creating more tragedies until we find some transformational answers to the meta-challenge represented by those two questions.

We at the Co-intelligence Institute explore approaches to building societies that focus on enhancing life in and around them. We know that many of you do, too. We invite you to share your answers and perspectives in the comment section below this blog post. This is the path where hope lies.

As Rumi famously and usefully said:

Beyond right thinking and wrong thinking
there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

Blessings on this difficult, necessary, and potentially uplifting Journey.


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From: Rabbi Michael Lerner
Subject: Israel: Stop the Invasion and Bombing of Gaza & Free the Palestinian Prisoners
Date: July 18, 2014 12:09:26 AM PDT


Israel must end the invasion, stop its bombing of Gaza, free the Palestinians it has arrested in the past years, and abandon its insane policy of seeking security through domination. This approach may work in a dictatorial regime for a little while, but even in those circumstances, the repression only works for a limited period (ask the former leaders of the Soviet Community party). Instead, Israel needs a generosity strategy, not only agreeing to a Palestinian state in the West Bank, the release of all Occupation-related prisoners, getting the US and its Western allies to provide a massive reparation fund to support the new Palestinian state till it achieves economic and political parity with Israel, share Jerusalem as the capital of both an Israeli and Palestinian state, an end to teaching hatred and racism in its schools and media in exchange for Palestine doing the same, but also agreeing to allow 20,000 Palestinian refugees a year to move to Israel each year for the next forty years in exchange for Palestine allowing Israelis living in the West Bank to stay in their settlements as law-abiding citizens of the new Palestinian state and subject to Palestinian law and court system (just as Palestinians living inside the pro-67 borders of Israel are subject to Israeli law and Israeli courts).

If Israel could apologize for its part (partial, not total) in creating the Palestinian refugee population, create jointly with Palestinians a Truth and Reconciliation process similar to that done in South Africa, and accept an international force to police the borders and protect both Israel and the Palestinians from the inevitable extremist attacks by Hamas and Israeli settle fanatics, and most importantly if as the more powerful party in the struggle can act with a genuine spirit of open-heartedness to the Palestinian people in seeking to help rebuild all that it had destroyed in Gaza and the West Bank, its spirit of generosity would within less than ten years undermine the hold of Hamas on a large section of that fundamentalist group’s political base in both the West Bank and Gaza. In the Middle East, particularly among Arab communities, there is no stronger “weapon” than generosity and genuine caring for the well-being of the other. So, yes, Hamas can start to lose its constituency fastest when Israel becomes most generous and caring, or Hamas can grow into a permanent majority the more that Israel relies on its current strategy of domination.

This focus on the psycho-spiritual dimension of the struggle and the need for a strategy of generosity is precisely what Tikkun brings to the table through our Network of Spiritual Progressives and which you’ll find sorely missing in most of the analyses whether from Israeli, Palestinian, European or American political analysts, editorialists, politicians, and media reporters and even leftie protesters. Yet it is this dimension, which is ignored to their peril by all who care about the well-being of both peoples. So, yes, we demand an end to the bombing of Gaza and the invasion of Gaza, just as we have demanded of Hamas that it stop its attempted bombings of Israel.

Rabbi Michael Lerner is the editor of Tikkun magazine, rabbi of Beyt Tikkun synagogue in Berkeley and San Francisco, CA, and the author of eleven books.

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Subject: Some thoughts this morning
Date: Tue, 22 Jul 2014 10:16:26 +0300
From: Gershon Baskin

The ceasefire proposal being advanced by Shaul Mofaz is gaining traction – and for good reasons. Mofaz proposes adopting an international mechanism, on the basis of the one used by the international community to remove chemical weapons from Syria (which required UNSC approval) to disarm Gaza. In exchange, he proposes an international fund for the reconstruction of Gaza in the amount of $50 billion. That figure comes from a Canadian government report on development needs in Gaza. Mofaz is 100% correct in understanding that we must address the real problems of Gaza where today young people have no reason to hope for a better future.

The main element absent from the Mofaz plan is the political side. The political side is of course renewed genuine negotiations for a two state solution where Gaza is once again part of Palestine and the negotiations lead to an agreement on two-states for two people and ending the Israeli occupation. Without the political side of the plan the other parts will not work. Palestinian political rights for self determination must be treated with respect and must be implemented through a peace agreement.

In the immediate present and after math of this war, it has become clear that the real strategic threat to Israel is not the rockets but the tunnels. According to an American intelligence report Israeli is under-estimating the number of tunnels leading into Israel. These tunnels are a mega-threat to Israel and must be eliminated. (perhaps the Palestinians in Gaza have begun digging the tunnel from Gaza to the West Bank and in a peace treaty could save a lot of money in the eventual connection link between the two parts of the Palestinian state!). The tunnel discovered yesterday leading to Kibbutz Nir Am is 200 meters from the home of my nephew, his wife and two kids, but it is not a personal matter, it impacts the security of the Israeli state.

There can be a ceasefire now and as part of that ceasefire a plan submitted and accepted and imposed if necessary, a plan to deal with the tunnels even after the war is over. A buffer zone of several hundred meters along the Gaza-Israel border could be set for a defined period of time. Internationals led by the US, assisted by Israel and others could use seismic sensors or whatever technology is available to find and destroy the tunnels. If appropriate technology is not available or not successful, they could dig a 30 meters deep line all along the border to find and destroy the tunnels. This must be done and must be part of any ceasefire agreement.

The ceasefire agreement should address all 3 elements that will change life in Gaza and in Israel: the political, security and economic.

It is also important that the national reconciliation government be empowered to act so that new elections can be organized for the Palestinian people to make their choice of who they want to lead them for the years to come. I believe that if there is a process taking place that includes the three elements (political – aimed at ending the occupation. economic – reconstruction and development for Gaza and the West Bank, and security – disarming Gaza, joint Israeli-Palestinian security agreements for peace) the Palestinian people will elect a leadership that will lead them to peace and Hamas will be reduced to a small, insignificant political force in Palestine.

Gershon Baskin, Ph.D.
Dr. Baskin was the Israeli Co-Director and founder of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI) – a joint Israeli-Palestinian public policy think and “do”-tank located in Jerusalem. Since January 2012 he is the Co-Chairman of IPCRI’s Board of Directors. He has a regular column in the Jerusalem Post newspaper.

Gershon Baskin’s more detailed article in the Jerusalem Post 7/24/2014
Encountering peace: Identifying when a crisis can become an opportunity


From: Don Ellis
Subject: [NCDD-DISCUSSION] getting to the table
Date: July 21, 2014 5:39:19 AM PDT

People often ask me about Gaza and what I think about everything that is going on. Here’s what I tell them first and it has nothing to do or very little to do with communication and political solutions. It’s a matter of getting to the table. Actually, we have lots of knowledge, skills, and theory about dialogue and deliberation etc. but getting the two contending parties to talk is often underappreciated in terms of its difficulty.

I deal with a few basics of the issue here.

Donald G. Ellis is a Professor in the School of Communication at the University of Hartford.

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From: Steven Kull
Subject: Re: [NCDD-DISCUSSION] getting to the table
Date: July 21, 2014 7:32:53 AM PDT

It is always important to distinguish between the leaders and the public, even in highly polarized situations. At the end of last year we did one of our online policymaking simulations with Israelis and Palestinians on final status issues in the negotiations that were going on at the time and found that that 6 in 10 on both sides found common ground. Alas the leaders were not so able. Here is a link to the study:


Steven Kull
Program for Public Consultation


An innovative survey of Israelis and Palestinians, released today at the Saban Center of the Brookings Institution, found that pessimism about current negotiations and the readiness of the other side to compromise has obscured the fact that there is substantial common ground between a majority of Israelis and Palestinians on a comprehensive peace agreement.

Only 4% of Israelis and 11% of Palestinians believe that current negotiations will bring an agreement in the next year, and half of both Israelis and Palestinians believe a peace agreement will never be reached.

However, when Israelis and Palestinians were presented the same eight-point package deal covering what many experts regard as a possible framework for an agreement, six in ten on both sides approved of their government supporting the deal if the other side would support it as well.

Respondents went through a process, called a ‘policymaking simulation,’ in which they were presented the proposed package as a possible framework and then presented a series of strongly stated arguments for and against it. This revealed strong ambivalence on both sides. Arguments against the deal were found more convincing than arguments in favor of it, but many of the arguments in favor were found convincing by majorities.

Respondents were then asked whether they would recommend that their government accept the package deal as a framework for further negotiations. Initially, 54% of Israelis (50% of Israeli Jews) and 41% of Palestinians recommended accepting it.

But among those who recommended against the deal, approximately half said they were not intrinsically opposed, but were so pessimistic about the other side accepting it “there is no point in saying we would accept it.”

If the other side would support it, many said they would then favor their side supporting it as well—bringing the total in support of the package deal to 63% of Israelis (59% of Israeli Jews) and 59% of Palestinians.

Steven Kull, director of PPC, commented, “Deeply entrenched pessimism has made it difficult for Israelis and Palestinians to discern that they actually share a lot of common ground on what would be a feasible peace agreement.”

The main points of the package deal were as follows: A Palestinian state would be established, with boundaries based on 1967 borders and a link between the West Bank and Gaza. Israel would keep major settlement blocks in 3-4% of the West Bank, with land swaps to compensate. In Jerusalem, Israel and the Palestinian state would have sovereignty over Jewish and Arab neighborhoods respectively, with the Walled City under international control. The Palestinian state would have a security force, but not a military. International forces, but not Israeli forces, would be stationed along the Jordan River. Palestinian refugees could return to the Palestinian state, with a limited number allowed to return to Israel and compensation for loss of property. The Palestinians would recognize Israel as a “state of the Jewish people and all its citizens” and Israel would have trade and diplomatic relations with Arab and Muslim states. The agreement would constitute the end of the conflict, with all claims pertaining to it relinquished.

The survey was conducted by the Anwar Sadat Chair and the Program for Public Consultation (PPC), both affiliated with the University of Maryland, and was co-sponsored by the US Institute of Peace. The Palestinian Center for Public Opinion conducted the poll of 1,003 adult Palestinians through face-to face interviews from November 17-28 throughout the West Bank and Gaza. An Israeli polling organization, the Midgam Project, led by Mina Zemach, conducted the poll of 1,053 adult Israelis from November 21-25, including 902 Israeli Jews interviewed over the Internet and 151 Israeli Arabs interviewed face to face.

Steven Kull, a political psychologist, studies public opinion around the world. He is director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) which manages the WorldPublicOpinion.org, a project involving research centers around the world, and Senior Research Scholar at the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM), University of Maryland. He is also director of the Program for Public Consultation which develops methods for enhancing the capacity of governments to consult their publics on policy decisions. Dr. Kull plays a central role in the BBC World Service global poll, and regularly gives briefings to the US Congress, the State Department, the UN, and the European Commission. He appears frequently in the international media and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He recently completed a four-year study of the Muslim public summarized in his newest book Feeling Betrayed: The Roots of Muslim Anger at America (Brookings).

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