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Where do we go from here?
The tragic eruption of large-scale violence between Palestinians and Israelis in recent months makes manifestly clear that the approach to peace symbolized by the Oslo Accords is dead. Yet it is also evident that when this latest sustained eruption of rock-throwing, shooting and killing finally subsides and the political fallout from these events is absorbed, our two long-suffering peoples will find themselves confronting exactly the same dilemma they faced a year ago and a decade ago and a generation ago, namely, how to coexist in the tiny land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River without giving way to murderous violence neither side can long sustain.

Belonging and Sharing

So if the Oslo process, based upon mutual recognition and trading land for peace, has proven not to be the answer, what conceivable formula can we find to finally break the impasse? While both sides do indeed need to make painful concessions in order to reach a just peace settlement, it will also be necessary for each people to make profound psychological adjustments that render more inclusive the manner in which both connect to the common land over which we have been struggling for so long.
As agonizingly complex as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict often appears, at heart it is quite simple. For over a century, our two peoples have been fighting with stones, bullets, bombs and missiles over the same small piece of land, all the while trying to out-shout each other with expressions of undying love and devotion for the place. In recent years, more and more Palestinians and Israelis have understood that they cannot militarily vanquish or permanently disperse the other side, and therefore will have to cede a portion of the land to the sovereignty of the other. Yet it is surprising how few have followed up that realization with another critically important one, namely, that while our two peoples are indeed fated to live side by side forever, it is not preordained that we must do so in a mutually resentful fashion, as though forced to put up with a free-loading relative in one's own home. As long as we are condemned by fate to share the land both so revere, might we not learn to enjoy doing so?
Indeed, why cannot the mutual enthusiasm of Israelis and Palestinians for the same hills, valleys and ancient cities and for the same sights, sounds and smells become a positive force for drawing closer together? No immutable law of nature dictates that we cannot enthusiastically share with each other the abiding love each people feels for the common land one side calls Palestine and the other Israel. Why cannot we not celebrate together our common feeling of connectedness and belonging to the place? Why not embrace a doctrine of "Two States, One Common Land"?

Against Separation, for Reconciliation

The two of us have joined together to espouse this new consciousness as a Palestinian-American whose father was driven from his ancestral village of Beit Dajan near Jaffa in February 1948 by Jewish forces and who himself aspires to return to live there one day, and as an American Jew who has spent five years of his life living in Israel and passionately loves the country. We do not agree on every issue, but we rejoice in celebrating together our mutual love for the tiny, jewel-like land that is at the heart of our respective identities.
We strongly oppose the doctrine of "separation" between our two peoples. True reconciliation can only come about through an ongoing program of intensive personal interaction between grass-roots Palestinians and Israelis. Imagine people from twinned Israeli and Palestinian villages and cities or from professional associations in both states talking to each other on a sustained basis via telephone, the Internet and regular face-to-face meetings on both sides of the new border. Imagine Israeli scouts, both Jewish and Arab, hiking together with Palestinian scouts along the old Green Line, comparing historical, religious or folkloric associations each side attaches to the same hidden spring, ancient village or crumbling ruin.
The ethic of "Two States, One Land" is also about taking urgently needed steps to protect the fragile environment of the land, which is under great strain due to over-population and runaway development. It is necessary for Israel and Palestine to work together to institute sensible environmental and land-use policies, while equitably sharing water and other scarce resources.

A Common Vocabulary

At first glance, our vision of "Two States, One Common Land" may sound romantic, even utopian. Actually, it is eminently pragmatic and practical, since the realization of this new ethic could finally overcome the entrenched opposition to a peace agreement by large constituencies on both sides.
Many Palestinians oppose the Oslo Accords because of a fear that by signing a peace deal with Israel they would be cutting abiding communal and personal ties to the cities and villages from which they fled or were driven in 1948. Israelis and Jews often see that as evidence of revanchism, but, in reality, it is simply asking too much of Palestinians to relate to only the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem as Palestine. By the same token, many Israelis and Jews fear that once a peace deal is consummated, they would have to sever ties to West Bank sites, including some that have been attacked by Palestinians in recent months, with which they have deep spiritual and historical connections. Palestinians and Arabs often see expressions of this connection as evidence of expansionism, yet, in reality, it is asking too much of Israelis to embrace only the politically defined State of Israel and sever all emotional connections to the remainder of the biblical homeland.
Rejectionists on both sides happen to be correct that Israel-Palestine is organically one land. Yet they are profoundly wrong in insisting that the whole of the land can be united only under their own dominion. A century of conflict has proven that neither side has the power to force the other to accept such a solution. Therefore, the most sensible strategy for achieving reconciliation is to divide the land into two states while promoting love of a common land that transcends the borders of those states.
"Two States, One Common Land" cannot be a substitute for a just peace settlement between Israel and Palestine, but must instead go hand in hand with one. Yet the latest spasm of violence has made graphically clear that it will likely prove impossible to find a formula for a peace settlement acceptable to both sides, unless we find a common vocabulary allowing both peoples not only to feel secure, but also to have a sense of belonging they can share. The notion of "Two States, One Common Land" is the missing link needed to bring about genuine and lasting reconciliation.

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