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Palestinians and Israel: Top down peace process for a new political horizon


One day, we all know, there must be peace between Israel and the Palestinians, but the process seems to be mired in eternal deadlock and misery. Is there a way forward?

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke of a "Political Horizon" for the Palestinians. Indeed both sides need a political horizon. All versions of the peace process have brought much talk of peace and many sound bites and photo ops, but no peace.

Israel makes empty promises and the Palestinians, including the moderate ones, make threats, not all empty. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised to make life better for the Palestinians at his last meeting with Palestinian President Abbas, but nothing much happened. The checkpoints are still there, for the most part, the housing units in the settlements are getting built, and the prisoners are still in jail. The safe passage, promised a long time ago in a previous meeting, never materialized.

President Abbas issued moderate declarations of peace and good intentions to Prime Minister Olmert and to Condoleezza Rice, but at almost the same time, he was telling Palestinians to use their guns against Israel. Gilad Shalit is still a hostage in Gaza and Qassam rockets keep falling on Sderot.
We know from opinion surveys that somewhere, hidden in the hearts of the majority of the Israelis and Palestinians there is a will to make peace, but the politicians and the political reality do not allow it come to fruition.

The blocks to realizing the dream are:

"Facts on the ground" - The glum reality is characterized by terror, incitement and repression.
- Palestinians do not believe Israeli promises of a better life, Israelis do not believe Palestinian promises to abandon violence and keep the peace. Indeed, the Hamas insist they will never recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state.

Extremists - Extremists who exploit the reality and the mistrust in order to generate support for more terror, incitement and repression and block constructive solutions.

Diametrically Opposed National Goals - Israelis and Palestinians want the same bit of land, and extremists keep pushing for mutually exclusive maximalist solutions. Goals such as more settlements and Right of Return are adopted by mainstream politicians and used to agitate against a peaceful solution that recognizes the rights of both sides.

Ineffective Peace Movements - On the Israeli side, peace movements either do nothing or advance unpopular demands of the Palestinians. They can't get a real hearing because they ignore the very real concern of Israelis, and because they are marginalized by the political leadership. On the Palestinian side, there are no movements founded with the express goals of making peace. A listing in a recent book about Palestinian "peace movements" and "civil society" included the Hamas and the International Solidarity Movement, neither of which advocate peace with Israel or are likely to bring peace.

The result is an impasse. Tzippi Livni and Condoleezza Rice chose to ignore all of the above, and to skip ahead to a happy conclusion for their press conference. It may solve their current political problems, but we know from past experience that it won't make any difference in reality. Rice and Livni proposed a "provisional" Palestinian state with "temporary" borders, but the Palestinians aren't having any of that. The Hamas would want the "temporary" borders to be along the Green line, and their state would be preparing to take over the rest of Israel. The Israeli government would want the "provisional" state to encompass the land on the other side of the security fence, and assumes that in the Middle East, nothing is more permanent than a "temporary" solution.

Many peace plans offer "horizons:" The Geneva Accord, The Ayalon-Nusseibeh agreement, the Taba plan are all pretty close to what a solution will have to be, and everyone knows it. However, none of these "horizons" are realistic political horizons, because they don't have the support of the political establishment and the polity of either side. The extremists want maximalist conditions, and the mainstream politicians use the extremists as "shoring" to further the maximalist national goals. "We would like to agree, but the Hamas (or Yesha council, or Rabbis for Greater Israel or Al-Awda or Badil or Islamic Jihad) would never allow such a settlement."

Likewise, we have a roadmap, but we can't get the vehicles to travel on that map. We need goal, a map to the goal, fuel for the vehicles to make sure they are getting there and most important, we must have drivers and passengers who want to get there. Right now the Palestinians and the Israelis and the Quartet are all traveling on different roads in alternate realities, and trying to attain very different goals. The vehicles are either stalled or headed for collision, and the sides are setting up roadblocks and detours for each other.

The sides, especially the Israelis, insist that there can be no negotiations as long as the violence continues. Since there are no negotiations, the violence continues indefinitely. Those who do not want peace find it easy to stop negotiations. All that is needed is to kidnap a soldier, fire a few Qassam rockets or stage an IDF raid "by accident" in Ramallah.

To make a difference in reality, we need to break out of the impasse - to offer both a real political horizon that is supported by the political mainstream and a different reality, not pie in the sky, so that the population at large will see progress toward peace and begin to support peace as a national goal. We need a way forward that can change reality, but that is risk free insofar as legitimate needs of each side is concerned. We need to be sure everyone is following the same program and roadmap, and moving toward the same solution.

To this end, we need to advocate the following program, as a goal of all peace movements, and eventually as a goal of the Israeli and Palestinian political leaderships. We propose:

  • Negotiations must start now, regardless of violence or other conditions.

  • The negotiations must work out a detailed final agreement.

  • Negotiations between the sides to define the steps that can be taken before the agreement is carried out. The negotiators must include leading opposition figures as well as the parties in power.

  • Negotiations between the sides to define clearly the steps that can only taken and will be takenafter the agreement is approved. The negotiators must include leading opposition figures as well as the parties in power.

  • Fail safe procedures for handling the possibility of failure at each stage to ensure that failure does not result in violence or indefinite postponement, as occurred so often in the past.

  • Agreed criteria for success at each stage and a monitoring mechanism.

  • The agreement is adopted by the political leadership of both sides as the political platform of their parties - in all its aspects.

  • The agreement is adopted by the political leadership of both sides as the political platform of their parties - in all its aspects.

  • Both sides undertake to mobilize support for this program with the same zeal as today they push for right of return and settlements

  • As the reality changes and the incitement stops, public opinion on both sides comes to support the agreement.

  • Referenda are held to ratify the final political solution.

  • If the solution is not approved, a fail safe procedure is carried out, and the problems are handled according to a defined plan.

  • If the solution is approved, it is implemented according to the agreed upon stages, with the support of the political establishments of all sides.

The differences of this plan from previous "peace processes: should be clear:

  • There is a defined goal that takes into account the needs of both sides: Two states living side by side, a solution for refugees and security guarantees.

  • The political apparatus of all parties is enlisted to support the plan after it is clearly specified. Success becomes a personal career issue for every politician, not just for one man, as in the case of Ehud Barak. At the same time, since everyone knows exactly what they are supporting, the risk is minimized.

  • All parties become partners in implementing the peace, rather than antagonists trying to sabotage it and gain an advantage.

For example, let us say, the sides agree that Palestinian refugees will be settled in a Palestinian State and they agree on the borders of that state. The Palestinian government declares its readiness to recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state in the new borders, so the international funding blockade is stopped.

In the interim period, no settlements are evacuated, and no refugees give up any rights involuntarily. However, no more settlements or housing units of settlements are built in the areas that will become Palestine, the security fence is moved to those borders.

All incitement is stopped. The Palestinian government no longer mobilizes "Nakba Day" demonstrations, Mr. Abbas no longer tells Palestinians to turn their guns against the occupation, and Mr. Lieberman no longer makes incendiary statements.

The Palestinians control terror in earnest, so the checkpoints can really be removed, and the raids of the IDF are stopped as well. Prisoners can be released and exchanged.

Refugees begin moving into new housing that is built for them in the area of the Palestinian state to be, and receive agreed-upon compensation. With the end of the terror, the fence can be opened to allow travel of Palestinian workers and prosperity for the Palestinians.

The above period might be the "Hudna" (truce) advocated by the Hamas. However it must be a real truce, not a truce with Qassam rockets and hostages and threats, and it is a truce with a defined purpose. We will need to travel a long and bumpy road to get to the end of this period. It is possible to get there if everyone is trying to go in the same direction, with the same national and political goals. Given an end goal that is supported by politicians on all sides, it is possible to mobilize public opinion to support it, to marginalize extremists and change the reality.

When the political reality and the reality on the ground are ripe, the approval of the final peace proposals becomes a formality that ratifies the new reality on the ground.

After I had written most of the above, I read in Ha'aretz that Deputy defense minister Sneh told an academic forum that a peace settlement could be reached in two years, if we start now. Unless we start some time, the peace settlement will always be just over the horizon - two years from never.

Can we begin by getting all the real peace movements and real peace and dialogue NGOs to back this plan for immediate, serious negotiations?

Ami Isseroff

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Replies: 1 Comment

Whoop whoop, i agree. Much Wikid Klown Love

Posted by Fat Panda @ 02/02/2007 05:14 PM CST

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