Sheikh Farid Khadar Al Jaabari is the head of the largest clan in the Hebron region. Over the past few years, stories emerging from Hebron have revealed unexpected positive interactions and cooperation between the local Jewish and Arab communities there.
Anarchist activists who have come from afar to try to ignite tensions between the two local communities have been banished from the city. Plans to destroy a synagogue have been stopped. New water lines have been installed to provide for both Jewish and Arab residents.
These and other signs of cooperation have been made possible by Jaabari's initiative and policy of neighborliness.
Recently, at an alternative peace conference held in the EU Parliament in Brussels, I had the opportunity to meet Sheikh Jaabari personally. There, and at follow-up meetings back at home in Israel, I learned firsthand about his platform. Jaabari represents a traditional local leadership that was common pre-Oslo before the PLO was brought in from Tunis 20 years ago. He views the Palestinian Authority administration as a bunch of corrupt criminals, and blames Israel for bringing them in and appointing them as government.
Jaabari is considered the Sheikh of Sheikhs, a powerful and high-ranking tribal adjudicator. He is one of few in the region whose authority entitles him to prevent revenge killings in family feuds. He is reputedly sought out to resolve disputes - not only by Arab residents in the Hebron area - but also throughout Israel and even Jordan.
A few years ago, a teenage member of the Jaabari clan was shot and killed by the Palestinian police. Sheikh Jaabari demanded that the shooter be turned over to him, but his requests were ignored. That night, Jaabari's men took over the PA police station, burned 14 jeeps and held 34 PA police hostage. As a result, Mahmoud Abbas declared the killed boy a martyr and awarded his family a lifetime compensation pension.
Man of faith, and a realist
Jaabari's independent power base enables him to take a unique stand, voicing a call for coexistence with the Jewish population in Judea and Samaria. This position runs counter to the official PLO policy, which claims that any Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria is an obstacle to peace.
Make no mistake: Jaabari is not a Zionist; he is a devout Muslim leader who believes that the entire land of Israel is holy to the Muslim people. That being said, in his eyes, the holiness of Hebron and Shechem are the same as the holiness of Jaffa and Haifa. In his opinion, those (PLO and Hamas) who consider signing away any part of the land to the Jews in an agreement are traitors to Islam.
He recognizes that the PLO has failed his people, and that Hamas is not a better option. He would rather be realistic and live with the understanding that the Jews control the land de-facto, than willingly sign an agreement of consent. He is a man of faith, but a realist as well.
Jaabari calls on Israel to end the occupation by imposing Israeli law on all parts of the land that it controls and naturalizing all its residents, as was accomplished by Israel's government in Jerusalem and the Golan through the Jerusalem Law in 1980.
As in the case of Arab residents of Jerusalem, Jaabari is calling for citizenship without the right to vote for Knesset. This could be the basis for a one state solution in which the demographic threat has been neutralized.
This plan might not be the ultimate dream of the Jewish people, but on the other hand, it might be a much better program than any currently on the table, and it deserves consideration.
David Ha’ivri is the director of the Shomron Liaison Office. He and his wife Mollie live in Kfar Tapuach, Shomron with their eight children. You can follow him on Twitter @haivri