Episode 13

Published on:

29th May 2024

Einat Wilf: What Do Most Palestinians Actually Want?

Do most Palestinians want their own state in the West Bank and Gaza, one that co-exists with the state of Israel? Is the conflict between Israel and Palestinians primarily about territory and the solution therefore simply to trade territory for peace?

For many years, as an advisor to Israel's top leaders and member of its parliament, Einat Wilf thought so.

Then she started to listen deeply to what Palestinians were saying, and what she heard stunned her. What Palestinians wanted was a land to themselves so they could return to the homes their families once occupied in Israel proper. What they didn't want was a Jewish state.

This discovery, coupled with extensive research into the century-long history, left Einat with a dramatically different view of the conflict. Palestinians' dream of "return" and the world's support for this dream constituted as big an obstacle to peace as Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Engaging with this possibility may be painful, but it opens new possibilities for long-term peace in the region. If Israel and the United states take Einat's story seriously, they will approach the conflict dramatically differently than they have been doing for decades.

**Key takeaways**

  • 4:00 Why Einat believed that the conflict was simply about territory
  • 9:39 The purpose and flaws of constructive ambiguity
  • 16:00 The shock and meaning of the Second Intifada
  • 19:00 Listening deeply to Palestinians and taking seriously what they say they want
  • 22:30 The settlements are Israel's most wasteful project
  • 28:30 The Jews want a state. The Arabs want the Jews to not have a state
  • 31:00 What the Arabs of Gaza did and didn't do when they finally controlled the territory
  • 37:30 Why Israel's Labor Party declined
  • 40:30 When Arabs say two states, do they mean two Palestinian states?
  • 44:00 A clarifying question to a Palestinian student reveals a great deal
  • 45:00 The one question Israeli negotiators should ask before entering the room
  • 50:00 No refugees anywhere else in the world have had a "right of return"
  • 54:00 Amiel's reflections


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About the Podcast

How My View Grew
Origin stories of big ideas about humanity's challenges
If you’re weary of political polarization, nothing is more refreshing than nuanced thinking: ideas that reveal the complexity of what’s wrong in the world and how to make it better. But where does such thinking come from? Often, it’s from someone changing their mind—letting go of an old perspective and growing into a new one. Join executive coach Amiel Handelsman as he interviews nuanced thinkers about the origin stories of their big ideas. Each story offers a window into one of humanity’s greatest challenges like climate change, democracy, the culture wars, the wealth gap, Ukraine, and Israel. In weeks between interviews, Amiel offers tips for training your mind to navigate complex topics and difficult conversations.

About your host

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Amiel Handelsman

Amiel Handelsman is an executive coach, writer, and seasoned interviewer. As a coach, he has 25 years of experience helping leaders and teams navigate complexity. His clients have included C-level business executives, college presidents, middle managers, and teams at every level. He specializes in helping people reframe complex situations and build new conversation habits.

Amiel’s books include Reimagining American Identity, Practice Greatness, and How to Be an Anti-race Antiracist. He writes frequently for Medium about democracy, culture, and the Middle East and has been featured in Fast Company. Recently, Governing.com profiled his experience as a climate migrant.

As an interviewer, Amiel got his start at age eleven asking computer experts about software piracy. Fifteen years later, he got his feet wet conducting biographical interviews for a self-designed family oral history. As an adult, Amiel gained practice by interviewing hundreds of executives and hosting a leadership podcast for five years. He is known for deep-dive interviews that make people think.

One podcast guest, best-selling author Peter Block, commented on Amiel’s extensive preparation by saying, “You frighten me.”

Amiel created How My View Grew to bring together two interests: a commitment to exploring humanity’s challenges with nuance and a curiosity about how people change their minds. In each interview, a big thinker shares the origin story of an idea about climate, democracy, politics, the Middle East, and other complex issues. In between interviews, Amiel offers tips for expanding your perspective and navigating difficult conversations.

Amiel lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with his wife and two sons. Go Blue!

“How My View Grew dives deep into humanity’s challenges by looking at big thinkers who have changed their minds.”