In July 1994, my eldest son Arik, of blessed memory, was kidnapped
and killed by Hamas murderers. Since then, as a religious Jew and
Zionist, it has been important for me to try and understand if it
is our fate in Israel and the Middle East to live forever on our
swords, or if we are not capable of assuring peace and security for
I pray three times a day that "He will bestow peace upon us." Twice
a day I pray, "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is
one." In my philosophy, the whole of Eretz Yisrael belongs to the
people of Israel, as God promised to Abraham, Isaac an Jacob. But I
say in the same breath that the wholeness of Israel does not
warrant bloodshed or death, even of one person.
In my Jewish outlook, man is born to serve God and that is his
mission and his obligation and, consequently, human life is the
supreme value. Only when we understand that there is only one God
in the world and all the different symbols are but symbols and
under no circumstances worthy of dying for - only then will we
reach the stage of "bestowing peace upon us."
We must understand that, like us, the Palestinian is born in the
image of God. What is ideal peace? It means no hatred, no
hostility, mutual respect and appreciation. Peace means there are
no borders and there is security.
Now, let us try to construct a peaceful solution founded, first, on
Jewish sources and, second, on practicality and logic.
There is an approach in Judaism based on the words of the Ramban
(Rabbi Moshe Ben Nahminides) according to which the settlement of
the Land is one of the 613 commands. According to this approach,
one can go to war on condition there are oracles and a king, which
we do not have nowadays. On the other hand, the Ramban, Rabbi Moshe
Ben Maimonides does not see in the command to settle the Land one
of the commands according to the Torah (the Law).
According to the command "You will not show mercy to them" (lo
techunam), it is forbidden to allow Gentiles to live in the Land.
But the command is controversial. Is it referring to forbidding
encampment, that means dwelling, or does it refer to liking them
(another interpretation of the Hebrew word)? Those who claim that
it means not allowing encampment on the ground speak of star
worshippers and idolaters. The Arabs are certainly not idolaters,
but believers in our God, and if they are idolaters, then so are
Rabbi Yitzhak Herzog, of blessed memory, dwelt on the subject of
the status of the Palestinians as strangers (Gerim) living in the
Land and clearly determined that they are not idolaters and not
like those Gentiles to whom the "no mercy" command applies. The
sanctity of the Land also continues if Israel doesn't rule over
In spite of the divine promise, the Patriarch Abraham himself
compromised for the sake of peace with Lot's shepherds, telling
them, "If thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the
right, or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the
left." From the Jewish point of view, peace is such a supreme value
that in the sources it is noted, "The Holy One fabricated in order
to bring peace"; in other words, He "lied" in order to make
Chief Rabbi Kook, of blessed memory, who laid down that Eretz
Yisrael is the foundation of the seat of God and, accordingly, one
must do everything to preserve the integrity of Eretz Yisrael, also
decreed that one must listen to the rulers of the Land. He
explained that, in effect, the democratic ruler of the country
enjoys the status of the biblical king and he must be heard if he
wants to make political compromise in order to achieve peace.
Over and above all these arguments, it must be remembered that
before the 613 commandments to which the Jews are committed, there
are the seven Noachic commandments which also obligate the Jews. In
the framework of these commandments is that of "You shall not
kill," against killing any person as a person.
In conclusion of these paragraphs dealing briefly with Jewish
sources, I want to note that in the division between commandments
on the relations between man and God and those between man and his
fellow man, one must first of all observe the latter. One can
certainly not observe commandments on man and place at the expense
of those between man and man. We must, therefore, find a solution
to the Jewish-Palestinian problem through observing the
commandments on man and man.
A Pragmatic Solution
When my son Arik was murdered, the whole of the people of Israel
wept with me and my family, and felt our pain. While we Jews saw
Arik's death as murder, the Palestinian people, on the other hand,
saw in this murder a means to further the goal of a Palestinian
state. These different approaches led me to a general understanding
that what is just in our eyes is not necessarily just in
Palestinian eyes. In the light of this, I seek a solution of
intelligent logic rather than justice.
A pragmatic solution means a separation between Palestinians and
Israelis, assuring them of a state within the 1967 borders, with
minor security adjustments which will leave Israel with up to seven
percent of the whole of the West Bank. This involves annexing to
Israel those territories where a total of 75 percent of the
settlers live. An extra-territorial passage must be afforded
between Gaza and the Hebron area, so that the residents of Gaza
(800,000 people) will be part of a Palestinian state.
It should be agreed that the Palestinian state will have no army or
heavy arms and Israel will lease from the Palestinians for 100
years a number of areas where the Israeli army should remain as a
reserve force, in case of an anticipated danger on the eastern
border. These areas, which will be of minimal size, will belong to
the Palestinian state, but will be used by the Israeli army as part
of the solution to the principal security-related problem - the
fear that the Palestinians or the Iraqis or Iranians will want to
On the subject of Jerusalem, the Old City will not be divided, but
will be jointly administered by the Israelis and the Palestinians.
The significance of this is joint sovereignty between the two
peoples over the Old City. For two years, the mayor of the Old City
will be an Israeli with a Palestinian deputy, followed by two years
with a Palestinian mayor and an Israeli deputy. In practice, we
will begin to foster real peace within the walls of the Old City.
The neighborhoods outside the Old City where the Jews live will be
annexed to Israel; those where the Palestinians live will be
annexed to the Palestinian state.
The great question still left open is whether to implement physical
separation, including mined borders and walls, or whether one can
achieve a peace the significance of which is doing away with
borders and walls.
Many meetings with Palestinians have led me to recognize and
understand that, if the Palestinian Authority (PA) - which will
become a legal government - reaches an agreement with us on
security and terror, it may be possible to live with open borders.
This is conditioned upon a strong emphasis in the Jewish and the
Palestinian populations that terror is rejected and upon a
permanent struggle against terror and its initiators.
An Imperfect Peace
Peace must not remain only as a prayer without our working
unceasingly to realize it. The peace process as such must not
become the main thing while peace itself becomes an illusion.
Extremists must not be allowed to lead us and disrupt our public
agenda. We must do everything, within the framework of the law and
without the use of inappropriate means, to reach a peace of
compromise. We must continue with the peace process until peace is
won, in the understanding that peace will not be a perfect one, but
one of compromise.
In order to make peace, a quick and efficient process of changing
thinking habits must take place. About half the people in Israel
are accustomed to thinking that the establishment of a Palestinian
state is forbidden because it contradicts the Jewish law (Halacha),
that Jerusalem is now united and it is forbidden to compromise over
the city for the sake of peace, that as human beings the
Palestinians are different from the Israelis and that they deserve
their present status.
All these thoughts are wrong. Until we take quick action, of a year
or two, to change these thinking habits, we won't succeed in making
peace. Neither the late Yitzhak Rabin nor Shimon Peres nor Ehud
Barak nor Yossi Beilin could and can make peace, however much they
want this, since a large part of the people is opposed. The
sympathies of these people will not be with the peacemakers until
thinking habits change.
The Goal: to Change Thinking Habits
For some years, I have been working on a simple and practical plan
for changing thinking habits. It is primarily based on the basic
principle of marketing: that a change in consumer habits is not the
same as marketing a new product. The way to change consumer habits
differs in essence from marketing a specific product. When I am
producing vegetarian sausages whose taste and texture are identical
with meat sausages, I want to market my new product as a substitute
for meat sausages and mainly through a change in consumer
I have to persuade the client who is accustomed to a certain
product to try a new one. I have to convince him that the new
product is better than the one he is used to. The change won't be
simple and fast. It isn't enough to give samples, to advertise in
the media: I have to work for an extended period in large
frameworks and bring experts with credibility to explain to the
public the advantages of the new product. If I have a good product
at a good price, and if I invest correctly in promotion, the
results can be startling.
Now let us move on from a substitute for sausages to a substitute
for war. We have to approach the Jewish people in Israel and abroad
and persuade them through people with credibility, who speak the
language of Halacha and of Judaism. They will have no wish to enter
Israeli politics, but possess a strong will to change things in
Israel, not because of weakness or out of love for the Palestinians
or out of hatred for the settlers or disregard for Jewish
With both a large religious Zionist group numbering over 5,000
serious Israelis, and a big group of bereaved parents and victims
of terror all of whom support peace - over 50 such families whom I
organized during my first year of mourning - one can work to change
It should be noted that there is a qualitative difference between
us and Peace Now or any other leftist Israeli movement. We speak
from Halachic arguments, from within Judaism. We, ourselves, are
religious people who pray daily to God, religious in our whole
approach and way of life. The plan to change thinking habits is
founded on mobilizing suitable people from the human reserves that
I mentioned. It will reach the radio, television, film, the press,
schools, educational trips, etc. It will not be easy and it will be
friendly rather than aggressive, but I am convinced that, in a
year, we can start to change habits of thinking.
Peace and Compromise
Those who set about this task have to come from the people: on the
one hand, from the religious Zionist camp and, on the other, from
the group of bereaved parents and victims of terror. All
wholeheartedly believe that the problems between us and the
Palestinians can be solved through compromise and agreement,
preserving the strength of the Israeli Defense Forces as a defense
force and not a force policing the territories.
We have to understand each other's anguish - the Palestinians and
the Israelis equally. We have to crystallize a solution in
accordance with these feelings of distress on both sides, which
will provide an answer to both and which must bring about a
compromise between them. We have to implement the solution and
reach peace through mutual agreement.
Ideal peace sounds like a vision of the end of days, some sort of
unachievable goal. Peace means wholeness - be it political, in
relations with neighbors, or in connection with the Land. To reach
peace, however, we must compromise and, by nature, compromise
negates wholeness, for in compromising over parts of Eretz Yisrael,
again there is no "whole" or "greater" Israel. It is the same for
the Palestinians. Compromising on their dream of the whole of
Palestine again gives them not wholeness but compromise. Perhaps in
our world this is real peace. In other words, visionary peace is
Utopian and not realistic, while real peace is one of
In order for one to understand the distress of the other, the
Palestinians must understand that all the settlers cannot be
evacuated, for this would cause a civil war and, at all events, it
won't bring peace. We want to achieve a peace agreement which will
secure for the Palestinians what they lack, a state where they will
be able to live in dignity alongside Israel. They must understand
that one cannot, on the one hand, speak of peace and, on the other,
encourage terror and call suicide bombers martyrs.
The Israelis for their part must understand that one cannot rule
over another people and neither can one solve problems by
sloganeering about a "greater Israel." They have to know that the
Palestinians must achieve statehood in the 1967 borders, with minor
security adjustments; that peace is impossible without finding a
way to solve the Jerusalem question - a way in which both Israelis
and Palestinians find an answer to their expectations and where the
necessary compromise will put an end to bloodshed.