Rabbi Michael Shevack - Israel

Law for Peace: Beyond Palestinian and Israeli Land Claims

Rabbi Michael Shevack - IsraelThe idea hit me as I was driving, through the border from Germany to France: Germany, a separate state? France, a separate state? So, what is so painful about a Palestinian state contiguous with the state of Israel? Why is it so impossible to imagine driving your Palestinian family to Israel to visit family and friends, and vice-versa? Or, for that matter, crossing borders freely to pray at any sacred religious site?

Is the territory of Israel just a baby which two mothers are claiming as their own, and seeking judgment? Yes! But, where is the Solomon? Where is the Solomon on either side of the argument, who is dividing the baby with wisdom? Does the suggestion to divide the territory reveal Truth? Does dividing the territory reveal Justice? Could it ever reveal which of the mothers is the rightful heir, someone who would rather lose the land than see its sacred integrity violated?

After all, the Biblical promise of the Land of Israel is hardly just about Israelis or Palestinians. The purpose of the Land of Israel is to be the creational- nucleus from which the redemption of the entire earth shall spread forth: “For the land shall be filled with knowledge of the Glory of the Lord.” (Habakkuk 2.14.) “Holy holy holy is the Lord of Hosts, the whole world is full of His glory.” (Isaiah 6:3) Peace in the land of Israel and peace in the world are inseparable at the core of Jewish, Christian and indeed, Muslim religious identities.

The real problem here is that are not dealing with a sacred nation, in the biblical sense. We are dealing with, very loosely, a “nation state” – that awkward, flawed and dangerous political concept that fed the destructive rivalries of both World War I and World War II. Israel was modeled on the nation-state concept. Should now Palestine be? Alas, we are stuck with nation states, at this moment in history.

The fact is, when one drives from Germany to France – and there were no two more long-standing enemies in pre-WWII history – territory is not really the functional definition of “border” any more. Oh, perhaps, on paper it is. But, the reality of the map is borderless. It is borderless because the laws of the States of Germany and France are now mutually compatible. They are respected by the citizens and legislatures alike. The militaries of both are friendly allies that help each other, as do the police. So, when one crosses the border from France to Germany, the territories may change, but the spirit of each nation is the same. They are friends! What we need to solve the Middle East problem is to no longer focus on territory. But to focus on law!

The real issue – before we can even begin to divide territories – is the law of these nation-states. What will be the laws of any new state called “Palestine”? Will these laws be humane? Will they be open to religious equality? Will they be compatible with the laws of Israel? Will they honor the religious sites of others? Will they render those who seek to destroy Israel, such as terrorist organizations, illegal? Prosecutable? Will they render those who seek to blow up sacred religious sites, and re-build an ancient Temple, illegal?

I call this new peace approach: Law for Peace

Let the world see what this new Palestine can be. Let Palestine go on record as to the kind of nation it will be, and the laws that will define its status as a nation-state. And then, let us take a good hard look at whether such a state is compatible with the laws of Israel, and vice-versa, whether the police, and even possibly the military (though Israel currently will only consider a non-militarized Palestine), will live and work together with the same spirit.

If the laws of Palestine and Israel are truly spiritually compatible, dividing the territory is relatively easy. We may make formal borders on maps but these are not the reality of the map.

Moreover, this approach handles some of the more delicate issues for both Israelis and Palestinians. Why can’t Israelis have settlements in Palestinian territories, provided they obey mutually-compatible Palestinian Laws? Why can’t Palestinians “take back” a piece of Israel, without threatening its existence? After all, in this model, as with Germany and France, Palestinians would not be able to vote on the affairs of the state of Israel, so, Israel need not be “voted out” of existence because of “democracy.”

I propose a conference of the peoples of Palestine to define a Law of Peace, which would be binding upon all citizens of this future state, and constitutionally-guaranteed, ratified by all the friends and allies and nations which surround them. I propose a Law of Peace which is compatible with all the good and noble intentions of the religious spirit of all three Abrahamic faiths, as well as the enlightened democratic spirit which is the best of the West.

In Genesis 17:26 the Torah makes note of something rather curious: “In the same day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son.” In Genesis 15: 28-10, the Torah, states: “In the same day, the Lord made a covenant with Abraham, saying, unto thy seed have I given this land.”

Is it possible that Muslims and Jews are supposed to inhabit the same land, each with their respective states?

Law for Peace is the beginning of real peace. Not splitting hairs over splitting territories.