11/06/15 A Proposal To Move Foward
The word from Washington is that President Barak Obama has reached the conclusion that no substantive negotiations are likely to take place between Israel and the Palestinians during the remainder of the his term. To most Israelis that can hardly come as a surprise. As Israelis woke up this morning to this “breaking story” from the U.S. White House, most just shrugged and thought to themselves – “What took you so long?” Looking around the Middle East today, there are very few Israelis who believe this is a propitious time to reach any sort of peace agreement. How do you make peace when yesterday’s radical is today moderate (not because they moderated their views, but because another group has turned out to be ever more radical)?
Reports from D.C. indicate that President Obama is going to ask Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take steps that would protect future prospects for a two-state solution. Taking any such steps will be a very difficult task, especially for our current Prime Minister. On the other hand, they would be steps – that if done correctly – would receive the support of a large portion of the Israeli people.
If we are to save the future of a two state solution, some radical rethinking is required on behalf of Israel and the world community. First, everyone needs to acknowledge that now is not the right time to reach any sort of long term agreement. Second, however, this is the time to recognize that the goal is to save the idea of a two state solution and to leave behind the outdated idea that “nothing can be done”, replacing it with do nothing that would preclude a two state solution in the future . Acting as if no Israeli action should impact the long-term status of the territories has resulted in the world and the United States reacting to the building of homes in Gilo and Ramot (two areas of Jerusalem in which Israel began building right after the Six Day War 48 years ago), in the same way they do when Israel builds on an isolated settlement in the West Bank.
It is time to recognize that any future agreement – if there is ever going to be a future agreement – is going to be largely along the lines of Camp David i.e. with the areas of Jerusalem that are currently inhabited primarily by Israeli-Jews remaining Jewish and those area where a majority of Israeli-Arab remaining Arab. Any future agreement is going to include all of the larger settlements/cities in the West Bank remaining part of Israel. To think otherwise is simply not accepting reality. Whether one thinks this is division of land is morally right or not, is largely irrelevant and that fact needs to be acknowledged by the Palestinians and their supporters in the world.
Throughout history, conflicts have largely been resolved by the relative strength of the two parties embroiled in the clash. The asymmetric relationship between Israelis and Palestinians is unlikely to ever change. On the other hand, the overwhelming majority of Israelis have no interest in maintaining rule over the Palestinians; nor do they care whether Nabulus, Ramallah, or Hebron are under Israeli or Palestinian rule. What Israelis do care about is that no rockets can be launched into Israel from those places, like they have been launched from Gaza after Israel’s withdrawal.
So, how do we move forward? I suggest that Israel reaches an agreement with the United States and Western Europe. Both sides will recognize the fact that those areas of Jerusalem that are now Jewish will remain so, along with those area of the West Bank that are on the Israeli side of the separation fence. As such, the U.S. and West Europe will no longer object to Israeli building in those areas.
In return, Israel will agree to stop any and all efforts to turning Arab areas of Jerusalem into Jewish ones. In addition, the Israel will end all but defense support for any Jewish settlement on the other side of the separation fence and Israel will allow no new building in those areas.
Furthermore, an international development authority will be created to oversee construction of new housing and factories in the West Bank to spur economic development, and help create a self-sufficient entity that at some point in the future will be able to become a state.
Finally, it is time to reach an understanding that will provide international oversight over the Palestinian educational system to ensure that a new generation is not being educated to hate. At the same time, a method of oversight for the Israel judicial system in the area must be created, to guarantee that there is equality for all under the law.
There will be objections to such a plan. The ideological/religious settlers and their supporters in Israel will oppose any effort that undermines Isarel’s claim to all of the land. The Palestinians will certainly cry foul, (since these steps might impact their claims in future negotiations.) However, the time has come to ignore both groups – if we wish to preserve the option of ever having two states. Today might not be the time to successfully bring about peace, but taking no action whatsoever is a recipe for disaster. The only possible solution requires bold and radical action from the political center; taking realistic steps that can help guarantee the prospect of a peaceful future. Peace may not be around the corner, but if we do nothing, we will indeed fulfill Prime Minister Netanyahu’s vision of Israel forever living by the sword.