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A better route to Israeli-Palestinian peace?

08/30/2007

A peace conference is in the offing. Once again, after a long lull in which nothing was accomplished, Israelis and Palestinians are scrambling to hammer together a framework agreement. In theory, both Palestinians and Israelis want peace, and polls seem to show that they do. Reality is different. Neither the leaders nor their constituents have any confidence that any such vague framework will be a basis for a peace plan that does not cheat them, nor do they trust the other side to carry out their part of the bargain. Each side is skeptical that the other side has both the will and the capability of implementing any agreement. There may be many fine words, but in the end, people suspect the settlements will remain where they are, and the various terror groups will stay in business, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will continue as usual.

Below is a proposal for a radically different approach. This plan is the brainchild of a member of the MidEastWeb e-dialog group. It would show both sides the precise shape of the final peace settlement before enlisting their support for it, and it claims to provide a robust mechanism to ensure that it is implemented.

Ami Isseroff

Introduction

Here is a staged plan to break the Israeli-Palestinian impasse and achieve a peace agreement. It can be carried out even by weakened leaders or leaders of a dysfunctional entity such as the leaders of the current Palestinian authority.

Why have all the Israeli-Palestinian peace plans faltered at a very early stage in their implementation? The basic reason is total lack of trust in the process and therefore a lack of payoff for carrying out steps to which there is a very stubborn and vociferous opposition at home. As long as there is no guarantee that the process will have a satisfactory completion, the "good will gestures" which are offered, are understood as a substitute for peace rather then as planks on the bridge to peace.

Since each side believes that the other side will not carry out its part, both sides carry out token gestures to appease the external powers, but refrain from any steps that would be unpopular with their people.

A Palestinian leader who would try to constrain the extremists will be accused of sedition. Palestinians say, "Why help the Israelis to maintain the occupation when there is no guarantee that this will attain any goal of the Palestinian people? The resistance shows the Israelis the hopelessness of continuing the occupation."

Israelis say, 'Why remove settlements when all this will do is signify defeat to the Palestinians?" Continuing the settlement effort shows the Palestinians the futility of their resistance." Conversely, a number of settlement leaders have stated that they would not stand in the way of "true" peace, implying that all the current and past efforts implement a bogus peace. Similarly, in a recent interview, a chieftain of the Al Aqsa Martyrs brigade stated that he would disband his forces for true peace.

What is needed then is a process that each of the sides will view as beneficial to its true interests. The process must also be capable of being carried out even by the Palestinians, who do not as yet have the institutions of a state or any of the powers of a state. Indeed, the process must assume that those institutions will have to be put together as the peace process progresses. Furthermore the process itself must be stable. That means that at each stage, each of the sides must believe that the other side will carry out its part because it is in its own interest.

The proposed paradigm

The way forward consists of first obtaining certain agreements, and of accepting ahead of time that while the agreements are negotiated, fighting may continue. This means that negotiations will be going on while one's brothers and sisters are dying in war. Only when the agreements are negotiated will any steps on the ground begin to take place.

Thus, it will be agreed ahead of time that two agreements will be negotiated, perhaps with a pause between the two negotiating periods.

1. A complete description of the final status resolving all issues including refugee compensation and resettlement as well as borders and Jerusalem. This description will not commit any of the sides to any actions as it only expresses a common understanding of what peace is. Such an agreement implies regional arrangements for refugee resettlement and therefore requires the participation of some of the countries of the region.

2. An agreement on how to reach the final status. This agreement will consist of a plan for actually implementing the peace by inter-meshing steps. The steps will be taken by each side in turn. There will be no time table for carrying out the steps nor will there be any arbitration agreements. Each side will have to decide for itself whether the milestone defined for the previous step by the other side had been reached. If a positive decision is reached the next step will be carried out by that side. The steps will be planned so that each side is actually capable of carrying out its obligations at the current stage of the implementation.



Characteristics of the implementation plan

The implementation plan will be designed to take account of conditions on the ground and the political capabilities of each side. .Below are some of the considerations involved.

During the early steps of this process the range of actions the Palestinians will be able to carry out will be extremely limited. This is probably also true, but to a much lesser extent, as far as Israel is concerned. As the plan proceeds, it is expected that the Palestinians will be able to disband the terror groups and create the elements necessary for self governance.

The steps will be planned so that they allow for this to happen.

At each step of this plan, the active side for that stage will announce at some point that it considers the current milestone requirements for its obligations to have been reached. At that point, the other side will have to decide whether to accept that judgment, or reject it and if accepted whether to start implementing the next stage.

All this implies that if a decision to reject the attainment of the milestone, or not to carry out the next stage for any reason is reached, the side that reneges on the agreement risks the resumption of hostilities. On the other hand, since the steps are relatively small, particularly at the beginning of the process, and since each side knows that the other side will face the same decision at the next step, there is a high motivation to accept the milestone as completed if this is a proper decision, and to carry out the next step. The alternative, renewed violence, will then appear unattractive. Both sides know that if this process is carried to completion, the desired pre-agreed final status will indeed be reached.

Furthermore, as the process proceeds, the Palestinians have to evolve functioning self governance so they can speak with one voice. If they do not, they will not be able to carry out steps from some point on, as those steps require an ever-stronger central government. That means that if the process is carried to completion, agreement reached will also be maintainable by them as well as Israel.

Conclusions

The main property of the negotiations paradigm I propose above is its robustness. Both sides know that if all the steps are carried out, a satisfactory final status will be reached, that each of the steps along the road to this peace are relatively risk free for both sides, and at each step both of the sides have a strong motivation to carry out that step. This is very unlike the Oslo process and the road map where it was not clear where the process was leading, and each side had no motivation to carry out the next step, because it was likely to be the last step, as the other side could not be trusted. In the process described above, there is no need for trust. The process is designed so it does not depend on trust in the other side, but rather, it depends on trust in the process itself.

Dan Chazan

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000619.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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Replies: 4 comments

Doesn't this leave too much room for disagreement over whether a step in the process has been completed? What if side A only makes a half gesture, or doesn't fully complete a step, yet insists the step has been completed? The other side (side B) would surely reject the measure and accuse side A of manipulating the peace process. Then you'd have side A insisting side B didn't want to take the next step, while side B claims side A never completed the previous step. Fighting would break out anew with both sides accusing the other of abandoning peace. It would be resolution 242 all over again.

I like the idea of baby steps. But wouldn't the steps need to be easily verifiable and obvious of their completion (which may not be possible)? And if that's the case, why not have both sides agree to a neutral third party as arbitrator (like an international court, or some coalition of international countries, or even the UN general assembly) and let that third party have the final decision on when each step had been instituted?

Posted by Nathan @ 09/06/2007 05:55 AM CST

retarded

Posted by yona loriner @ 09/26/2007 11:42 PM CST

retarded

Posted by yona loriner @ 09/26/2007 11:55 PM CST

This proposal is an Israeli plan to keep the status quo and keep the settlement policy ongoing while giving the Palestinians nothing except talk.

Posted by Dr. Seerwise @ 10/23/2007 09:28 PM CST


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