Thursday night’s UTS Speakers’ Forum, presented by Dr. Andrew Wilson (UTS ’78)—Professor of Scriptural Studies at the Unification Theological Seminary—on a “Citizen’s Proposal for a Border between Israel and Palestine” was interesting, enlightening and hopeful.
Dr. Wilson explained some of the complicated problems involved in establishing a Palestinian state. High on that list are the many Israeli settlements deep in the West Bank, which are cause for difficulties for both Israelis and Palestinians.
These settlements—some of which are “fingers” of land which run deep into the West Bank from Israel, and are protected by security walls—cut off Palestinians from their families and neighbors.
And for the Israelis, although the walls have helped lessen the number of terrorist attacks on the settlements, they have also creating islands in the middle of Palestine, which isolate Israelis from greater Israel in many cases.
But in spite of the difficulties, he sees hope.
“If Israel and Palestine can co-operate and develop ways to live together, these problems can be solved and peace can be achieved,” Dr. Wilson said.
When a Palestinian state is established, if the two sides can’t find a way to lessen tensions—particularly on the borders—then many Israelis in the settlements might want to return to Israel, which would be an immense displacement issue, he explained. On the other hand, Palestinians need north-south access through many parts of the West Bank, which is now blocked by the settlements, such as between Jerusalem and Bethlehem and where whole towns were split in half by the walls.
This “Citizens Proposal” would open up a number of jointly administered areas, such as in the city of Ariel. It would be part of an Ariel Economic Zone, administered by both Israel and Palestine, with guaranteed rights of transit to and from Israel for Israelis, and with unrestricted north-south road access through the middle of the area, which presently is controlled by Israel and closed to Palestinians.
Dr. Wilson said that around 20% of the Israeli population is Palestinian. In a future Palestinian state, there would also be a large Israeli population in Palestine. This alone would be a cause for the two states to need to work together, to ensure that all of their people, living in each others countries were treated fairly and with respect.
Also, it would be in the interests of both nations to have co-operation between security forces on the borders for the mutual protection of all its citizens, and so the population of both countries would be able to flow with few restrictions between the two countries.
To read more on this unique proposal, go to the website at: www.israel-palestine-border.org