Finding Pathways Forward in the Aftermath of the Gaza War:
Dr. Stanley Wulf Speaks at Sinai
Dr. Stan Wulf came to Temple Sinai in early January 2015 to present his thoughtful view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to over 100 people gathered in Albers Chapel. Dr. Wulf, who serves on J Street’s National Advisory Council and as a board member for the Molad Center for the Renewal of Israeli Democracy, recently retired as an Ob-Gyn and Chief Medical Technology Officer so he could talk to American Jews about the urgent need for a two state solution.
Dr. Wulf outlined the clashing narratives held by Israelis and Palestinians. He acknowledged each side’s claim to the land and each history of suffering. He noted that the Gaza Wars had produced disturbingly similar stalemates, with increasing casualties and devastation. He described intensifying frustration and hostility on both sides and predicted the likelihood of more violence. But having opened with this bleak assessment, Dr. Wulf went on to make an authoritative argument for the possibility of peace.
Using ample humor and statistics, Dr. Wulf explained why he believes Israel needs a two-state solution to the conflict so it can survive as a Jewish and democratic nation. There are as many Arabs and Palestinians as Jews living in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Arabs and Palestinians will soon be the majority because of their greater population growth rates. Without change, a minority of Jews will be ruling over a majority of Palestinians, challenging Israel’s status as a democracy. But if Arabs and Palestinians could vote, Israel’s existence as a Jewish nation would be threatened.
Dr. Wulf went on to explore ways a negotiated settlement could be reached. He described past negotiated breakthroughs and suggested possible approaches to each of four issues: Borders, Security, Refugees, and Jerusalem. He admitted that a workable agreement would necessarily please neither side. Rather, both sides will need to agree to a mutually unjust solution.
The two sides have already discussed many elements of such a solution, Dr. Wulf explained. In 2011, Presidents Peres and Abbas used the 1967 lines plus swaps to reach an agreement on borders. In exchange for Israel’s gaining 3 – 6 % of the West Bank, Palestine gained the 3 – 6% of Israel (“The Triangle”) where there is the highest concentration of Palestinians. Using this agreement means 80% of Jewish settlers would stay where they are. Even the 2013 Arab League peace initiative includes swaps.
Meanwhile, Dr. Wulf pointed out that Israeli’s military brass have said a well-crafted agreement would give Israel the same or greater level of security. He thought that formal Israeli recognition of the Palestinian narrative of catastrophic exile could change the conversation about refugees. And while both sides want to claim an undivided Israel, Dr. Wulf asserted that the reality on the ground is that Jerusalem is already divided, with clear borders. Elements of a two-state solution already exist or could be agreed upon. Moderate Muslim states are willing to work with Israel. What’s missing, he believes, is the political will to bring them about, and heroic leaders who are willing to sacrifice their own political future for the future of their nations.
Dr. Wulf observed that while Israelis talk easily about many different approaches to the conflict, Americans avoid these conversations or find them offensive. He offered three guidelines that could help us have constructive conversations about the conflict. He calls them “The Three No’s”:
1. No blaming
2. No historical justifications for right to land
3. No moral justifications
After a break for food and conversation, Dr. Wulf responded to questions that had been submitted by the audience, then summarized and posed by Rabbi Regev. Dr. Wulf talked about the lack of water in Gaza as a human rights issue, the value of building Palestinian civil society, the importance of seeking out Palestinian moderates within Israel and work with moderate Arab states, the opportunity posed by Fatah’s break with Hamas, the need to distinguish between the destabilizing settler movement and legitimate growth, the danger of Israel’s discontinuation of Palestinian tax revenue to punish the Palestinian Authority, and what it will take to coexist peacefully with Hamas.
Most audience members were very appreciative of Dr. Wulf’s remarks and approach. They noted his knowledge, clarity, dynamism and balance. One person commented, “Dr. Wulf’s presentation is an excellent primer for discussion within the Jewish community.” Dr. Wulf is working on a video of his presentation and is available to speak about Israel to congregations and other interested groups throughout the United States. He offers shorter presentations as well as half day and longer workshops. Contact him at: [email protected].