Throughout two decades of the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process,” direct negotiation has been perceived as the only paradigm that can lead to an agreement. But that paradigm has made direct negotiation as the goal in itself instead of the means to reach an agreement. Further, the failure to reach an agreement has given excuses to the rejectionists and extremists on both sides, allowing them to blame the other party for failure to progress, and destroying the belief within the respective societies that an agreement is possible in the foreseeable future.
With this history the only conclusion to solve Israel-Palestine conflict is to find a new approach to the peace process. Recently Israeli Left has done exactly that.
A couple of decades the international community has preached a doctrine of ‘Two states for two peoples’, without any progress for its implementation. Sure also in my opinion a two-state solution might be possible. The final status agreement has been very close at least since Beilin-Abu Mazen understandings/agreement/plan (1995) where nearly all issues were agreed. The Olmert proposal (2008) was probably the last serious try. (both plans can be found from my document library ) The parameters of the end-game have been clear the whole time but despite of a number of negotiations the final agreement is missing.
On 10th Sep. 2015 Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again told David Cameron that he is ready to return to peace talks with the Palestinians without pre-conditions, during their meeting at 10 Downing Street: “I want to say here in 10 Downing Street, and reaffirm again, that I am ready to resume direct negotiations with the Palestinians with no conditions whatsoever … and I’m willing to do so immediately,” said Netanyahu according BICOM.
Same time the actions of European Parliament do not have any sense of reality. EU’s motion of labelling Israeli goods from the disputed territories is giving supporting message to the growing anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish sentiments in Europe, while EU instead should promote cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians. When the whole MENA region risks falling into an abyss of war and genocide EU choose to attack the only stable democracy in the region, namely Israel. And this attack even does not help Palestinians as its effect might be totally opposite. (P.S: more background in “Top Priority of EU Foreign Policy: A New ‘Jude’ Badge” ) Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said that the EU motion [EP 10th Sep. 2015] was “discriminatory with a sharp smell of boycott,” adding that “under the guise of a technical procedure, this is an attempt to force a diplomatic solution instead of encouraging the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.” EU claims that imaginary Gaza blockade is the reason for slow reconstruction in Gaza strip while the main reason is corruption and misuse of funds. (More e.g. in Instead of Gaza’s Reconstruction Donor Aid Finances Terrorism And Corruption and a wider picture about non-existent skills of Palestinian authority to deliver international donor aid to beneficiaries one can find from my article Palestine – Placebo effect for people and society with 20 bn bucks)
With background described above the only conclusion to solve Israel-Palestine conflict is to find a new approach to the peace process. Recently Israeli Left has done exactly that.
Leader of the Israeli opposition – and Labor/Zionist Union – Isaac Herzog has proposed to divide the land between the Israelis and Palestinians. Following a quote from interview of Isaac Herzog in Fathom :
I speak in a very frank and open manner. I believe that Israel must move for peace. We must move towards the division of the land between the Palestinians and us in order to maintain the future of Israel as a Jewish democratic state. I say this very bluntly. For example, on the issue of Jerusalem, I don’t rule out the possibility that as part of a political solution there will be government institutions of the Palestinian state in one of the Arab neighbourhoods of Jerusalem. I don’t think that violates our loyalty, love and affection for Jerusalem. In the eastern Arab neighbourhoods of Jerusalem there reside over 300,000 Palestinians. They are not seen as part of Israel, and rightly so. I think that we need to be innovative and bold and tell the truth to the people. Part of the truth is that in order for Zionism to prevail and to succeed we must make sure that Gush Etzion and Maaleh Adumim will be part of Israel for ever. This needs to be done by way of a swap of land with the Palestinians. If we reach an agreement to separate from the Palestinians, this will be a victory for Zionism.
Already 2012 then Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Wednesday that Israel should consider imposing the borders of a future Palestinian state, becoming the most senior government official to suggest bypassing a stagnant peace process.
More recently Zionist Union MK Hilik Bar, who heads the Knesset Caucus to Resolve the Arab-Israeli Conflict, unveiled a proposed diplomatic framework, which he says would resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Bar’s framework calls on Israel to first recognise a Palestinian state at the United Nations, so long as the Palestinian Authority (PA) agrees not to use such status to undermine bilateral talks and accepts the concept of two nation states. Negotiations would then ensue over borders, Jerusalem, refugees and security arrangements. In addition to direct Israeli-Palestinian talks, Bar envisages that Israel would simultaneously enter into dialogue with other Arab countries and issue a formal response to the Arab Peace Initiative. Lähde: BICOM
These initiatives are however in my opinion too general; fortunately for peace there is now also two options which go further in seeking solution for Israel-Palestine conflict.
‘it’s in our hands’
Omer Bar-Lev is an MK for the Zionist Union. He was a commander in one of the IDF’s elite units – Sayeret Matkal – before becoming a high tech entrepreneur and an MK in 2013. In a speech Bar-Lev gave in the Knesset to mark the 37th anniversary of the Entebbe operation, to which he participated, he said that we need a diplomatic Entebbe, meaning that the entire Entebbe operation was built around improvisation and initiative. In that same speech he said to the prime minister:
Take an example from your brother [commander in Entebbe, killed in action there]. The operation in Entebbe was an expression of the Zionist spirit to move forward always, never to be passive and never to be dragged into situations beyond our control; to be bold, innovative and creative. Where is all that now? Even Israel’s approach to security lacks creativity. It lacks initiative. (Source : Al-Monitor )
According Omer Bar-Lev the basis of the vision of Zionism is that Israel should be the homeland for the Jewish people. In order for that to be achieved, there has to be a clear Jewish majority in Israel. As long as Israel wants to be part of the enlightened Western world – part of the democratic world – it must give equal rights to all human beings living in the borders of the country. To keep the Zionist vision alive, Bar-Lev proposes that Israel has to separate from the Palestinians as now, Israel is controlling, one way or another, 2.8 million Palestinians in the West Bank who don’t have equal rights and who don’t vote for the Knesset. His conclusion:
If Israel wants to be a democratic state, which it does, then it has to either grant them full citizenship rights, which will subsequently destroy Zionism (one state for two nations) or separate from the Palestinians (two states for two nations). In that case, Israel can keep the Zionist spirit. Then, it is for the Palestinians to decide to create their Palestinian State, which is in their interests and they will make their own decisions.
Bar-Lev calls his program as ‘it’s in our hands.’ According him to achieve separation,
the best way to do it is through an agreement with the Palestinians, for sure. The two sides would agree to make their compromises, sign an agreement, and peace and love will reign forever. However, the probability of both sides, simultaneously, producing leaders who can make that strategic decision, and that strategic compromise, is very low. Israel cannot put its future in the hands of the other side. If we had a partner, then great, we should make an agreement and move forward and sign a two-state solution. However, even if the other side is not prepared to do so, Israel has a lot of steps it can take to begin the separation from the Palestinians. Therefore, I called my initiative – ‘it’s in our hands.’
Omer Bar-Lev represents a three step program to implement the separation:
- The first step would be to stop building settlements outside the blocs. It is not in Israel’s interest . I’m not sure when the new future will come, either in one year or 10 years, but when it will come, these settlements will not be part of Israel.
- The second step is to pass a bill in the Knesset to compensate any Israeli settler living outside of the blocs, once he or she decides to resettle in Israel. In order to do so, we have to build the infrastructure within Israel; we have to relocate tens of thousands of settlers and this will take time.
- A third step is to enlarge the areas of the West Bank where the Palestinians hold full responsibility and formal independence.
(Source: Fathom )
The plan titled “It’s in Our Hands,” by Omer Bar-Lev calls for Israel to unilaterally define its own borders to ensure its security, would keep control of all of Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley and bequeath about 60 percent of the West Bank to the Palestinians, evacuating 35,000 Jewish settlers — less than 10 percent of the total. This plan might be provocative but for me it seems to be realistic tactic towards two-state solution.
According to the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) policy recommendations a couple of years ago, Israel must apply a top-down and bottom-up approach to the conflict, two efforts simultaneously: 1) Continue to pursue negotiations; and 2) Preparation of a viable, national-scale plan to relocate up to 100,000 settlers – currently living outside of the settlement blocks and in areas Israel will eventually withdraw from – within Israel proper in a compassionate, well organized way. (More in INSS publication ‘The Political Process: Plan A, Plan B, and What Lies Between Them’ by Udi Dekel, Anat Kurz, and Gilead Sher )
An Israeli NGO Blue White Future,(“BWF”) is a non-partisan political movement founded in 2009 by Admiral (ret.) Ami Ayalon, the former Director of the Israel Security Agency, Colonel (res.) Gilead Sher, a prominent advocate and former senior peace negotiator, Orni Petruschka, a hi-tech entrepreneur and former IAF fighter pilot. Blue White Future seeks to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of a “two states for two peoples” solution by facilitating the relocation of settlers so that all Israel’s citizens reside within secure permanent borders that guarantee a Jewish majority. BWF also seeks to advance the processes necessary to meet this goal, through the projects it runs and through its proposed policy plan, and thus provide security and prosperity for generations to come.
According BWF Israel should prepare for a reality of two states for two people, most notably by declaring that it does not have claims of sovereignty over most of the occupied territories, and by planning and acting accordingly, including preparing for the relocation of settlers residing east of the separation barrier to Israel proper. Specifically, its policy should include the following components (Source: BWF ):
- • Israel should consistently strive for a permanent agreement according to the principles of the Clinton parameters and other like-minded proposals, while pursuing an unconditional track, independent of any progress that may take place through negotiations.
- • Israel should refrain from building new settlements and from expanding existing settlements east of the separation barrier and in Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. Construction could continue in the settlement blocs and in the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem.
- • Israel could consider transferring areas east of the barrier to Palestinian control in a gradual, monitored and supervised manner. [Note that this part requires coordination and therefore is optional].
- • Israel should enact a law that allows for voluntary evacuation, compensation and eventual absorption of settlers presently residing on the eastern side of the security barrier, to encourage settlers who wish to relocate within the green line or within settlement blocs, regardless of whether an agreement with the Palestinians is concluded.
- • Israel should prepare a national plan for the absorption of the settlers who would relocate to Israel proper, whether before or after an agreement is signed. Such a plan should have urban, vocational, social, psychological and other appropriate components.
The Palestinian Authority has already taken constructive unilateral steps by seeking United Nations recognition as a state and building the institutions of statehood in the West Bank. Neither action contradicted the two-state vision. Although many Israelis and the Obama administration objected to the bid for statehood, it could have moved us closer to that outcome had Israel welcomed it rather than fought it. After all, Israel could negotiate more easily with a state than with a nonstate entity like the Palestinian Authority. And statehood would undermine the Palestinians’ argument for implementing a right of return for Palestinian refugees, since the refugees would have a state of their own to return to.
BWF proposes that the international community should adopt a paradigm that allows all stakeholders – Israel, Palestinians, the US and the other players – to take independent steps that will advance a reality of two states. Once the parameters are on the table, any independent step taken in the future can be clearly evaluated regarding whether they moves us closer to the reality of two states, and are thus considered constructive, or take parties further away.
For example, according BWF, a long-term truce between Fatah and Hamas, allowing for the rehabilitation and reconstruction in Gaza while preventing arming, is a positive step; a resurrection of Palestinian violence is evidently in the wrong direction. Similarly, an Israeli cessation of settlement activity outside of the settlement blocs, as well as preparing for the relocation of the settlers who currently live there, are constructive steps, while expansion of settlements outside the large blocs is not.
The components of Two-State solution have been roughly clear last two decades – see ‘Parameters of the Israel-Palestine Conflict’ on the beginning of this article – but the final agreement is still missing. The international pressure might lead to talks or negotiations again, with or without outside facilitators, but probably with the same outcome than earlier. So from my perspective a new approach is needed and both Israeli leftist initiatives – ‘it’s in our hands’ by Omer Bar-Lev and ‘Constructive unilateralism’ by Blue White Future – are steps forward and in my opinion also to the right direction.
If two-states solution can not be negotiated between shareholders and when one-state option in my opinion would destroy Israel as ‘Jewish homeland’ so there is possibilities to make regional solution – I have long propagated the idea of the “Three-State-(return) Option” ( e.g. in ”The Three-State Option could solve Gaza Conflict” ) or to support local unilateral solution. If peace negotiations don’t start, they fail again or regional solutions can’t be realized this time so from my viewpoint Israel could independently implement what I have called a ‘Cold Peace Solution’, a minimal level of peace relations, where Israel would annex main settlements from West-bank inside the security fence and return to negotiations about other than so solved border issue when both parties feel need to make a long term deal. This solution in my opinion is the best way forward and it even might be possible to implement. If unilateral solutions are made in the framework of constructive unilateralism so this approach might be the right roadmap towards more permanent two-state solution. Not so bad option compared status quo anyway from my perspective.