Real Estate Magnate Sees a Third Way Leading to Mideast Peace

By Eric Marx

Published December 05, 2003, issue of December 05, 2003.
  • Print
  • Share Share

As the recently unveiled Geneva Understandings pick up international support — and settler leaders push their own model for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — yet another Middle East peace plan is being put forward. Abe Hirschfeld, an eccentric real estate mogul and senatorial candidate from New York, has a binational plan that, he claims, can bring peace to the region in a matter of weeks.

The peace plan, premised on what Hirschfeld calls the “Tel Aviv-Jaffa model” of Palestinian-Israeli coexistence, calls for a single state called Israel-Palestine — comprising Israel and the territories — with a Jewish prime minister and a Palestinian deputy prime minister working together under a constitution based on the Torah. Under the plan, Palestinians would have full and equal voting rights — unlike the settlers’ plan, which would limit Arabs’ political representation in an expanded Jewish state with annexed territories.

Hirschfeld said at a press conference last week that he was not concerned about his plan undermining Israel’s identity as a Jewish state.

“It will be an Israeli state and the whole world will be coming back to it, and it will be like it was after the war [of Israeli independence] when every Jew was building and walking and creating,” he said. “When there will be peace, we Jews will love to go to Israel. I’m going back the same day.”

Hirschfeld, 84, was born in Poland but immigrated with his family to Palestine in 1934. He found success in business and politics — he was elected deputy mayor of Bnai Barak, near Tel Aviv, in 1946 — and continued to live there through Israeli independence, before moving to the United States in 1950.

Hirschfeld said only a plan based on Israeli-Palestinian cooperation, rather than the separation at the center of the Geneva Understandings, can bring true peace. “We have to eliminate friction in religion,” he proclaimed. “I’m a simple, practical person with a fifth-grade education and I believe in simplicity. It’s such an easy thing, it sounds stupid.”

Yitzchak Findrus, mayor of Beitar Illit, an Orthodox Israeli settlement in the West Bank, spoke in support of Hirschfeld’s plan, adding that the details about how a binational state might operate would work themselves out at a later time. “How to run it? That’s less important,” he said. “The question is what we want to do. We have three choices: Leave Israel and make three divided states, racist transfer and the third way — Abe’s way.”

Findrus concluded, “The only way is to sit together and see how we exist together.”

This is not the first time Hirschfeld has proposed such a plan for Middle East peace; he unveiled a similar plan in 1974, when he was running for Senate. But Hirschfeld had a chance to put his theories about interreligious reconciliation to the test recently, when he was serving a prison sentence for trying to hire a hit man to rub out his longtime business partner.

Hirschfeld said that during his two years behind bars — he was released in 2002 — he brokered a peaceful settlement between Muslim, Christian and Jewish inmates who could not agree on a day of prayer. “I came up with a solution to eliminate frictions between the religions,” he said. “The basis was immediately accepted. There was unanimous support for it. Not 99%. I had 100% support.”

According to Hirschfeld, the lone holdout to his plan had been an inmate who had killed 44 people. This prisoner, who was serving a life sentence, was initially uninterested in reaching any accommodation. But in the end, even this dissenter agreed to the Hirschfeld plan.

“I was so happy because I felt I was able to follow the path of other great leaders sent to jail. Gandhi, Mandela — they got ready to lead their people in jail,” Hirschfeld said at the press conference, to great applause.






Find us on Facebook!
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.