Ray Hanania is a compassionate and, in fact, delightful person, with rare insight into the aspirations and failings of Palestinians and Israelis. In the eyes of many, that alone ought to disqualify him from consideration as a leader in the Holy Land.
Add to that, the fact that the acclaimed journalist also happens to be a first-generation Palestinian-American married to a Jewish woman, as well as a stand-up comedian who has appeared alongside Jewish comics, and the self-destructively polarized electorate of the Holy Land will need to expend not a whiff of thought in dismissing him out of hand.
Which all makes his candidacy for the president of Palestine, and the Mideast peace proposal that is his platform, all the more compelling. He is realistic about his chances ("No, I don't expect to win"). But the Hanania plan embodies the radicalism of the truly moderate, and deserves much more than cursory consideration.
Consider his proposal for one of the thorniest municipal quandaries in the West Bank. Jews who wish to live in Hebron in a future state of Palestine, should be allowed to do so, he writes, "and should be protected, just as non-Jews. In fact, for every Jewish individual seeking to live in Palestine, a Palestinian should be permitted to live in Israel."
What Hanania is proposing is a two state solution that addresses not only quantifiable issues, but underlying emotional grievances, and the anguish in the histories of both sides. Cynics, and, in particular, the extremists among them, will reject it out of hand as simplistic and artificially balanced. But if peace is ever to be made in the Holy Land, it will be made despite extremists and not by them.
The following is the text of Hanania's outline. I have taken the liberty of numbering the clauses, with an eye toward facilitating discussion:
1. I support two-states, one Israel and one Palestine. As far as I am concerned, I can recognize Israel's "Jewish" character and Israelis should recognize Palestine's "non-Jewish" character.
2. I oppose violence of any kind from and by anyone. I reject Hamas' participation in any Palestinian government without first agreeing to surrender all arms and to accept two-states as a "final" peace agreement. But I also reject allowing Israeli settlers to carry any weapons and believe Israelis must impose the same restrictions on them.
3. I can support some settlements remaining - given the reality of 42 years of time passing - in a dunam-for-dunam land exchange. If Ariel is 500 dunams with a lifeline from Israel, then Israel gives Palestine 500 dunams in exchange.
4. Jerusalem should be a shared city and Palestinians should have an official presence in East Jerusalem. The Old City should be shared by both permitting open access to the city to all with a joint Palestinian-Israeli police presence.
5. Palestinian refugees would give up their demand to return to pre-1948 homes and lands lost during the conflict with Israel. Instead, some could apply for family reunification through Israel and the remainder would be compensated through a fund created and maintained by the United States, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the United Nations.
6. I also think Israelis should find it in their hearts to show compassion and offer their apologies to Palestinians for the conflict.
7. I support creation of a similar fund to compensate those Jews from Arab lands who lost their homes and lands, too, when they fled.
8. I think the Wall should be torn down, or relocated to the new borders. I have no problem separating the two nations for a short duration to help rebuild confidence between our two people.
9. All political parties, Palestinian and Israelis, should eliminate languages denying each other's existence, and all maps should be reprinted so that Israeli maps finally show Palestine and Palestinian maps finally show Israel.
10. A subway system should be built linking the West Bank portion of the Palestine state to the Gaza Strip portion of the Palestine State. Palestine should be permitted to build a seaport access to strengthen its industry, and an airport to permit flights and too and from the Arab and Israeli world.
11. I would urge the Arab World to renew their offer to normalize relations with Israel if Israel agrees to support the creation of a Palestinian State.
12. And I would ask both countries to establish embassies in each other's country to address other problems.
13. While non-Jewish Palestinians would continue to live in Israel as citizens, Jews who wish to live in settlements surrendered by Israel could become Palestinian citizens and they should be recognized and treated equally.
14. If Jews want to live in Hebron, they should be allowed to live in Hebron and should be protected, just as non-Jews. In fact, for every Jewish individual seeking to live in Palestine, a Palestinian should be permitted to live in Israel. In fact, major Palestinian populations in Israel could be annexed into Palestine (like settlements).
15. Another concept is to have non-Jews living in Israel continue to live there but only vote in Palestinian elections, while Jews living in Palestine would only vote in Israeli elections. A special citizenship protection committee could be created to explore how to protect the rights of minorities in each state.
16. Israel and Palestine should create joint-governing and security agencies working with the United States to monitor the peace, and establish an agency to pursue criminal acts of violence.
As in every potentially workable peace proposal, Hanania's plan has something in it to upset and disappoint everyone. But its underlying principle of compromise based on mutual respect and compassion, its openness to the needs and wounds of two victimized peoples, and its suggestion that grassroots sentiment for peace can succeed where leaders have so consistently failed, are surely as worthy of serious consideration, as anything currently on the table.
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