Breaking the Chains of History: Crafting a Fresh Approach to Middle East Peace

In the aftermath of conflict in Gaza, when the dust will eventually settle and the world will turn its gaze to the region once again, the imperative for a lasting resolution will echo louder than ever: the call for a genuine, viable solution that charts a course towards lasting peace in the Middle East.  A peace that will provide Israel with the security and safety it so desperately needs while providing the Palestinian people with a future pregnant with hope and optimism they so desperately deserve. 

In embracing this call to action, our greatest test lies in rising above the shadows of past attempts and failures- beginning all the way back to the failed UN partition plan of 1947 and continuing throughout the twentieth century to the frustrated efforts of Oslo I in ‘93 and Oslo II in ’95 – and refusing to let those efforts cast a pall over the potential of future endeavors and aspirations. The essence of our response must lie not in clinging to the outdated and inadequate resolutions of yesterday, but in boldly crafting the new and ingenious while redefining the landscape of possibility for tomorrow.

The key question of course, is the governance of Gaza in a post Hamas world, and by association and potential linkage, a Palestinian State alongside Israel, if the idea of a two-state solution is ever to be further entertained.

Looking ahead, we must learn from the mistakes of the past. In 2005, during Ariel Sharon’s premiership, Israel executed the unilateral disengagement plan in Gaza, relinquishing control to the Palestinian Authority (PA). Unfortunately, this decision proved disastrous, as it allowed Hamas to seize control, leading to a continuous onslaught of rocket attacks and terrorism against Israel. The culmination of these events occurred on October 7th, 2023, resulting in unspeakable atrocities.

Given this history, an unconditional and unregulated handover of Gaza to the PA would be deemed untenable. It underscores the importance of carefully considering the potential consequences and ensuring that any future actions prioritize stability and security in the region.

In our pursuit of lasting solutions and the eventual establishment of enduring peace, it is imperative to reframe the Gaza issue and the potential for a two-state solution and view it through a new lens. Rather than viewing it solely as a matter of self-governance, we should perhaps consider it as a multifaceted decolonization process. This goes beyond territorial aspects of decolonization and encompasses economic, ideological, and cultural dimensions as well.

By adopting this broader decolonization view, we not only address the need for territorial self-governance but also recognize the importance of economic independence and the dismantling of ideological and cultural constraints. This approach seeks decolonization not only from perceived Israeli “imperialism”, but also from the restrictive and harmful “imperialisms” of entities like Hamas and other radical forces. It’s about reclaiming true independence and freedom on all fronts, including economic, ideological and cultural freedoms, without which there cannot be coexistence.

Moreover, framing the undertaking as a decolonization process opens the door to drawing inspiration from the successful strategies employed during the decolonization era of the 1950s and 60s. By adopting a decolonization mindset, we can unearth previously overlooked tools and mechanisms, injecting a fresh perspective into our current deliberations and enabling us to explore innovative avenues that may not have been considered before. 

Consider for example, the International Trusteeship System outlined in the U.N. Charter (Ch. XII, Articles 75-85) as a significant and relevant mechanism deserving of careful consideration. Stemming from the foundation laid by the mandate system of the League of Nations, this system has evolved and matured over time.

Established in 1945, the Trusteeship System emerged in response to the pressing concern of colonies belonging to nations defeated in the war. Its primary aim was to prevent these territories from falling prey to colonization by the victorious powers. At its core, the system sought to place such colonies under the oversight of a trust country, subject to international supervision. The overarching goal was to foster the advancement of the trustee territories’ inhabitants and promote progressive development, ultimately steering them toward self-government and independence.

Highlighting the versatility of the Trusteeship System, a noteworthy instance of success unfolded when the United Nations assumed the role of a trust state in East Timor in 1999, leading to the establishment of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET). This initiative exemplified the system’s effectiveness in facilitating infrastructure rebuilding, sustainable governance, the rule of law, and the crucial processes of constitution drafting and elections.

Looking ahead, if we aspire to see a stable Gaza and the realization of a potential Palestinian state, a pragmatic and gradualist approach is imperative. This involves entrusting a country or a consortium of nations with the role of a trust state(s). The mandate should encompass a comprehensive “decolonization” of the Palestinian people—educationally, economically, culturally, and ideologically. Simultaneously, efforts must be directed towards the de-radicalization of elements hindering peace, preparing the ground for eventual self-governance.

Anticipating initial resistance from the Palestinian community towards an external administrative government, it becomes paramount to assert international pressure. The message is clear: without embracing this approach, the dream of a self-governing Palestinian state may remain elusive indefinitely. The journey towards lasting peace necessitates bold and unconventional measures, echoing the successful precedents set by the Trusteeship System. In confronting these challenges, we must draw inspiration from history’s triumphs and forge a path that ensures a future where peace in the Middle East becomes an achievable reality.

[Photo by Wafa (Q2915969), via Wikimedia Commons]

Raphael Lapin is an international relations scholar; a Harvard-trained negotiation, mediation and dispute resolution specialist; and Professor of Law who teaches negotiation, mediation and international conflict resolution at law school in Southern California. He practices as a negotiation and dispute resolution specialist serving Fortune 500 companies, organizations and individuals worldwide. He has lived on four continents including ten years in the Middle East (


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