Salim Ali in National Geographic:
Six years ago, I received an invitation to participate in an event on peace-building in the Middle East at the University of California, Los Angeles. The seminar had been organized by a local lawyer, Josef Avesar, along with academics at UCLA to find a novel way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The idea was taken from other historic territorial conflicts and rivalries – to establish an Israeli-Palestinian Confederation – analogous to the cantons of Switzerland uniting or indeed the articles of confederation of the United States, as noted by Amherst College political scientist Ronald Tiersky in the Jerusalem Post earlier this year. However, unlike earlier efforts, this idea was to be implemented from the grassroots using the internet as a platform to recruit candidates for a “virtual parliament,” while the policy-makers remained deadlocked. In six years, Mr. Avesar has been determined despite all odds and has managed to get over 700 Israelis and Palestinians (including in Gaza) to run in a virtual election which will be held on December 12, 2012. Those who may dismiss this as a gimmick should note that even a willingness to run in an election of this kind poses peril to the candidates but they are willing to do so because they see this as the most tangible effort to “think outside the box” and move beyond the stagnation of one-state/ two-state fixes.