Israel and Palestine, 4.0 – An Alternate Future

Israel and Palestine, 4.0 – An Alternate Future

Dr. Nir Boms and Sarah Aweidah

Amid a bloody war and the tragic course that began on October 7th, Israelis and Palestinians require a profound process of introspection, asking some difficult questions about an alternate future that may still be built. Can this tragedy be turned into a positive path forward for both people? We outline how this could be achieved.

We write during one of the darkest moments in the history of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict set against the backdrop of another war in Gaza. The war that began after the unprecedented October 7th attack has quickly emerged as the lowest point in the history of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict: the tally of Palestinian casualties already compares to the combined Palestinian death toll of the past 75 years. This destructive dynamic also finds both societies in the grips of a leadership crisis.

In recent years, until October 7th, the region was moving toward a robust path of progress and connectivity, much buoyed by the Abraham Accords. But now, it once again finds itself consumed by the familiar, destructive dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On a broader scale, this has triggered a conflagration in Lebanon, Yemen, Iran and the Red Sea.

Israel has endured the largest massacre of its people since the Holocaust and now grapples with the aftermath of an intelligence failure of catastrophic proportions. The war has temporarily diverted attention away from a protracted political division but has been far from ending the political debate, fueled by anger and revenge.

At the same time, Palestinians – caught in the crossfire in Gaza amid Israeli bombings and internal Hamas strife – are now confronted with an imperative for decisive action. However, Palestinians have little leverage as their options are constrained by Hamas’s relentless persistence in Gaza and Abu Mazen’s diminishing influence in Ramallah.

The Arab nations, witnessing the unexpected rise of radical forces, find themselves incapable of distancing themselves from the unfolding events. Torn between sympathy for the cause and fear of further escalation, they are once again summoned to assume a mediating role, provide aid, and contribute to covering the costs incurred.

On all sides, a new operating system is needed.


Israel 1.0 was conceived in 1948. The Jews settled the land and began to construct state infrastructure that came to fruition after the conclusion of the British mandate and after a war of independence with the Arabs, who refused to accept a partition plan for a two-state solution. With barely 600,000 Jews in 1948, Israel was a small nation often perceived as David among the colossal Goliaths surrounding it. Marked by a socialist orientation and grappling with the trauma of the Holocaust, Israel was finding its way, seeking refuge behind the major powers at the time. The young country had made its first steps in the international arena and worked to create relations with the non-Arab allies in the region. Turkey and Iran became trusted allies. The Palestinians, at this point, are mainly on the other side of the border.

Israel 2.0 was born in 1967. In six days of war, Israel almost tripled its territory and prevailed over three Arab armies. Gaza was taken from Egypt, the West Bank from Jordan and the Golan from Syria. Israeli generals became the heroes of the moment both in Israel and abroad. Israelis and Jews had gained their pride – but this came at a price. Israel had tripled its land but also added over 1,000,000 Palestinians to its midst. Hubris and a sense of invincibility eventually led to Israel’s most difficult moment, the war of 1973, which commenced as a coordinated surprise attack during Israel’s Day of Atonement, the most significant religious holiday of the year. After a bloody war, Israel prevailed. Yet it underwent a profound process of introspection that resulted from the realization that a their own perceptions blinded the leadership of the time. The 1973 war and its aftermath resulted in a deep process of introspection. A Commission of Inquiry explored the failures and forced a process of accountability. This led to a fundamental change in the country’s politics and leadership. Israel upgraded its operating system, and Israel 3.0 was born. Soon after, Israel changed its leadership, sending the Labor Party and the Socialists home for the very first time in Israel’s history. Israel discovered that it was not alone in the world, and a new era of peace began with Egypt in 1979. Jordan followed, and so did the Palestinians (although not with much success) and the Arab world with the Abraham Accords. Israel continued to innovate and became a “start-up nation,” creating the strongest economy in the region. With all the surrounding progress, many in Israel thought that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would become obsolete and could be pushed to the side. They were wrong.

Precisely fifty years after the 1973 war, Israel experienced another surprise attack that was related to hubris. At a time of deep division, preoccupied with internal strife, Israeli leadership has again failed to understand the threats upon its borders and failed to listen to those who saw the looming danger. Similarly to 1973, it is already clear that many of the signs were already apparent and that some at the helm had decided not to heed those who raised the alarm bells. And similarity to 1973, some of these leaders will have to step down as Israel 4.0 emerges. The new Israel has yet to emerge, but so far, it already appears to be a more sensitive country with a nation that has lost much of the trust that it began to gain in its neighbours or the remaining belief that peace could be possible in our times.

Palestine 1.0 was also conceived in 1948, after the United Nations adopted the original two-state solution framework. The Arabs were given a state, but the leadership decided to reject the agreement and pursue the War of Independence, called the Nakba (“catastrophe”). For most Palestinians, the Nakba represents a traumatic period marked by forced displacement, and the loss of homes, lands, and livelihoods. The Palestinians found themselves dispersed between Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, and it took a while for new leadership to emerge. In 1964, the Palestinian Liberation Organization was established under the leadership of Yasser Arafat with the goal of representing the Palestinian people and their national aspirations. The 1967 Six-Day War also brought substantial territorial changes, as Israel gained control of Gaza and the West Bank, which were previously administered by Egypt and Jordan, respectively. Two decades later, the first Intifada began, resulting in a process of negotiation with Israel to reestablish Palestine. 

 In 1993, a new chapter in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict unfolded with the emergence of “Palestine 2.0.” This era was marked by significant developments, primarily driven by the Oslo Accords and Arafat’s return to Gaza after 27 years of exile, symbolizing a potential shift toward peace. However, the path towards peace proved to be challenging, with agreements encountering difficulties in implementation. The region experienced a renewed wave of violence, shattering hopes for a stable resolution to the longstanding conflict. Amidst these challenges, a significant turning point occurred in 2006 when Hamas, a Palestinian political and militant group, won the elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza. This victory came shortly after Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the region, adding complexity to the evolving political landscape. The year following the elections witnessed a dramatic escalation as internal tensions between Fatah, the political party associated with the PA, and Hamas reached a boiling point. There are different perspectives regarding the circumstances that led to this internal strife, but the situation culminated in what is often described as Hamas’s takeover of Gaza by force. While the events surrounding Hamas’s control of Gaza in 2007 remain a subject of contention, all can agree that the consequences of Hamas’s takeover of Gaza were profound, establishing a new political reality that we will characterize as “Palestine 3.0.”

Palestine 3.0, was envisioned as a more independent Palestinian entity, free from “occupation” and from both, settlers and soldiers. Despite the initial aspirations for increased autonomy and sovereignty, the desired outcomes did not materialize, and Hamas’s rule presented fewer advancements for Palestinians. As clearly demonstrated on October 7th, Hamas focused its energy and resources on building its capabilities in the axis of resistance without attempting to bring prosperity to the people of Gaza. Meanwhile, in the West Bank, the PA has deteriorated, after losing the support of its constituents. Against the backdrop of mounting frustration, a lack of visible political progress, and a leadership perceived as weak and divided, a recent survey revealed intriguing insights into Palestinian sentiments. Over 70% of respondents expressed a desire for alternative avenues of representation, endorsing the formation of independent groups in the West Bank distinct from the Palestinian Authority.

And that was all before October 7th, a watershed event that already captured much of the region, threatening a regional conflagration and extending its influence to global capitals. Following the end of a ceasefire, and over 120 days of war, it is clear that this conflict is threatening to hold again the entire region captured by Israeli-Palestinian dynamics.

As we begin to look forward – especially for those of us who refuse to lose hope in the Middle East – it is essential to think about how a “day after” reality might emerge so that a course of events between Israelis and Palestinians will shift its path. This low point is perhaps the moment for Israelis and Palestinians to create a new ‘operating system’ that will function shortly after this war subsides.

Israel has already begun to form its 4.0 version. Recognizing its own government’s failures, the start-up nation has already produced an alternate civilian network that developed its own leadership, which will likely challenge the group of politicians and generals who are seen as responsible for what was already dubbed as Israel’s most significant intelligence and security failure to date. Hope remains that a new Israeli government, brave enough to alter its course in various policy areas, may emerge soon, once the war-mode shifts back to politics.

However, regarding the plight of the Palestinians, it appears that substantive change in Israeli policies remains elusive as long as the entrenched 3.0 version of Palestine continues to dictate the operational landscape. An Israeli consensus exists around the lack of Palestinian leadership that could offer a meaningful partnership for a different path toward the future.

Interestingly, this conclusion might also be shared by others in the Arab world. Further reflecting upon our current moment in time, it has become clear that neither Hamas nor the PA were able to advance the Palestinian agenda or live in a recognized state of their own. Hamas took over the very first independent Palestinian land and established a Palestinian polity that could and should have been a Singapore – not an Afghanistan. Despite significant international aid, Gaza produces a GDP of $5,000, with the majority of investment going to military and arm structures rather than to the benefit of the population. The situation in the West Bank is equally challenging, with a proliferation of militant groups, able to grow in a reality of leadership failure. These groups are not necessarily sympathetic to Hamas but are driven by frustration with the persistent violence imposed on them by settlers and the Israeli army and by the need to offer a response. Many individuals view Hamas as a means of resistance against the oppression they experience, contributing to the complexity of the dynamics in the region and rendering the control of Ramallah increasingly difficult for 87-year-old Abu Mazen. 

The call for for starting a new – or a move to a “Palestine 4.0,’ is akin to Israel’s call for introspection and change, which has also become ever more urgent. However, the international community has indicated hesitations in investing in rebuilding efforts without a sustainable resolution that prevents the recurrence of conflict. The reluctance stems from the concern that investing in reconstruction might be futile if the region remains susceptible to future disputes. Hence, the imperative for a comprehensive solution—Palestine 4.0—that addresses the root causes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and seeks to build a stable foundation for reconstruction, development, and lasting peace is clear. Palestine 4.0 might emerge from a shallow point following a conflict that left Gaza in ruins, a leadership vacuum, and the continued popularity of Hamas. However, the vision for Palestine 4.0 must still be articulated, calling for a new building and a change, of course, following years of failing efforts.

The idea of Palestine 4.0 represents a transformative paradigm shift from the entrenched dynamics of Palestine 3.0, which internal divisions, leadership challenges, and a lack of tangible progress for statehood have characterized. It aims to address root causes, rebuild infrastructure, and establish lasting peace. This ambitious initiative recognizes the urgent need for decisive action and comprehensive solutions, not only in terms of reconstruction but also in fostering genuine autonomy, sustainable development, and stability. In the 4.0 version of Israeli-Palestinian relations, an “Independent Partnership” will be vital, emphasizing collaborative efforts, mutual respect, and shared responsibility for the collective well-being of both nations.

How do we get there?

Reimagining Palestine must commence within the current state of affairs, still within the mud of the Gaza war that is wedging outside. It will require the involvement of partners in the region and beyond as well as new leadership that will likely to emerge on both sides of the green line.  

  1. The transformative 4.0 version will also unfold simultaneously on the Israeli and Palestinian sides. Recognizing that the war dynamic has de-facto taken Hamas away from effective control in Gaza, the initial phase calls for the development of a leadership alternative, envisioning a different scenario for a “day after” and a broader agenda for the Palestinian people. Support from the Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and other nations is crucial to endorse an independent Palestinian leadership team that could revive a different and constructive political process. This leadership will play a pivotal role toward the beginning of a transitional period. Notably, the alternative leadership will come outside of existing structures such as Hamas, the PA or the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), aiming for independence and detachment from previously unsuccessful frameworks.
  2. In the second phase, we call for establishing a trusteeship or a capacity-building Arab-Palestinian commission that will function as a transitional authority. This commission will be vital in coordinating international efforts aimed at reconstructing civilian life in the Gaza Strip. A thorough review of the progress achieved by the commission should be conducted within a five-year timeframe, at which point the involved stakeholders can decide whether to extend its mission for an additional term.
  3. In the third phase – predicated on the success of the new Palestinian governing structure and polity – negotiations will resume so that such a polity could exist peacefully alongside Israel and other regional neighbours. This phase will also address the advancement of more constructive and peaceful relations between Israel and the future Palestine.

Central to this strategy is the phased establishment of a new Palestinian leadership independent of existing structures. Initiatives are underway, with prominent Palestinians engaging in discussions with Gulf partners and international stakeholders, signalling a concerted effort to foster meaningful change from within Palestinian society.

Underneath the surface, we already see a movement for change, acknowledging the necessity of a new leadership paradigm and a new structural approach if progress is to be made. It seeks to usher a new era of Palestinian governance characterized by responsiveness to the needs and aspirations of the Palestinian people, as well as the ability to engage constructively with regional and international partners in pursuit of stability. The initiative aims to cultivate a leadership capable of navigating the complex geopolitical landscape and advocating for the interests of the Palestinian people on the global stage.

Gaza, a Tragic Opportunity for a Pilot

The carnage and devastation in Gaza provide a tragic – but nevertheless, still – an opportunity to enable a needed first step in the build-up of a Palestinian political alternative. The leadership vacuum in Gaza, the Israeli security concerns and the visible weakness of the PA – all call for an arrangement in where an external team, backed by regional and international partners, will play a significant role in the post-war period in Gaza.

Following a desperately needed ceasefire to address the current humanitarian crisis, the Palestinians in Gaza will need a governance team that will enable them to break away from the destructive path of conflict that had led Gaza since the rise of Hamas in 2006. Israel, who paid its own steep price for this war, will not relinquish control easily. However, it will likely be open to exploring scenarios that could serve as an alternative to taking full responsibility for civilian life in Gaza. Israel’s lack of trust in the PA, along with the opportunity to create further normalization in the region, furthers the push for a formula in which a ‘team of experts’ or an ‘external commission’ will be appointed to help manage the Day After project in Gaza. Such an approach could align with Israeli interests by providing perhaps with the only feasible alternative to the reality of a full-scale Israeli occupation in Gaza, an overwhelming task for Israel, which is not keen on taking sole responsibility for the lives and livelihood of two million Palestinians. While Israel will not agree to give up security control, it will likely be more open to accepting a more significant involvement of others in civilian affairs and, overall, in the broader restructuring process. Successful progress in these areas could help plant the needed seeds for a future Israeli acceptance of a Palestinian polity.

On the other side, this approach could also align with the Palestinian interest since it is becoming clear that there is no Palestinian structure at this time that can gain legitimacy and implement a successful ‘Day After’ project and since the need for regional and international backing is critical for implementing and Day After plan. Partners in the region and beyond who are keen to stop this war and find an alternative political path understand the need to create a mechanism that could satisfy Israelis and Palestinians alike. Most of the partners understand that the PA is not able to lead that process and that Israel would not relinquish the current de-facto occupation of Gaza without a solid alternate path that will receive the support and backing of its allies. These realities strengthen the likelihood of creating an external mechanism that will be built upon the increasing role of some of the regional partners in the “Palestinian file.” An ‘external team that the PA does not lead could, in turn, provide the needed space for the growth and prominence of alternative local Palestinian leadership that will slowly build its legitimacy both inside the Palestinian society as well as more broadly in the region and vis-à-vis Israel.

 The ultimate goal is to create a sustainable framework that sets the stage for peaceful negotiations and coexistence between a reimagined Palestine and Israel, contingent on the success of the new governing structure. This comprehensive strategy aims to bring hope and stability to the region while addressing the longstanding challenges of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While it’s difficult to imagine a positive future in this abysmal state of affairs, we believe that these ideas deserve a chance, as we have already seen that the continuation of the current dynamics is unsustainable and tragic for both Palestinians and Israelis alike. We recognize that supporting a new leadership that goes against the existing Palestinian institutions is a bold move. Still, we also believe that it is the only possible option that could change the dynamics in the region moving forward. It has been 30 years since the Oslo Accords, and we have seen primarily conflicts, deprivation, and failed Palestinian leadership that split the Palestinian camp and has now brought the tragedy of Gaza upon us. It is time to leave this model behind, along with all those who had endorsed it. It’s a time for a new beginning for Palestinians and Israelis alike. 

Sarah Aweidah is a Palestinian activist based in Ramallah and a member of the Executive Committee of MENA 2050. Dr. Nir Boms is the Manager of the Program for Regional Cooperation at the Dayan Center, Tel Aviv University 

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