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Dr. Bryan Schwartz

 
PROF BRYAN SCHWARTZ: PROPOSAL FOR AN ISRAELI PEACE INITIATIVE



by Dr. Bryan Schwartz, April 5, 2011

 

[Editor's note: Dr. Bryan Schwartz is a  law professor at the University of Manitoba specializing in international and constitutional law.   He holds an L.L.B from Queen's and a Masters and Doctorate from Yale  Law School. He has published seven books and over 60 academic articles. He has acted as counsel for Pitblado law firm since 1984. He has recently taught at the  Inter-Disciplinary Centre in Herzlia,Israel.]

Executive Summary

Israel needs and desires peace.  Some options for achieving it may not be feasible at present.   These include negotiating a legal settlement with the Palestinians.   In the meantime, Israel should undertake a bold diplomatic initiative.   It should present a comprehensive Israeli Peace initative.   The objective would be to clarify for the world Israel’s just intentions; to turn back the tide of efforts to deligitimize Israel; and and to provide a coherent framework in which to continue to reach a negotiated agreement when conditions finally permit.

An Israeli Peace Initiative should seize the opportunity to say “yes” to as much as possible of overtures from the Arab world and the world community.     The Arab countries have offered their own peace initiative, which would accept Israel within the 1967 boundaries, require a just settlement of the Palestinian refugee issue and provide Israel with full recognition by Arab countries.    Israel can accept this proposal with qualifications.   It would have to be made clear that while the 1967 boundaries are a basis for a settlement, there will be some adjustments.    Those adjustments in favour of Israel will be balanced by compensation to a Palestinian state in the form of land swaps, a highway linking Gaza and the West Bank or some other mutually acceptable benefits.   Israel can make it clear that it will never accept a huge influx of  Palestinain refugees or the descendants of refugees,  but that it is committed to finding a just settlement of the refugee issue.   There would be a non-militirization of a Palestinian state and a time-limited security presence in the Jordan Valley;  choice of settlers outside the new boundary to live in a Palestinian state, with rights as a minority comparagble to that of Arab citizens of Israel;  and full recognition by the Arab states The peace proposals put forward by Bill Clinton points the way to a reasonable resolution.   It would be  a definitive resolution of the conflict. 

By saying “yes” to as much as possible as to what the Arab world has already offered,   Israel can help prevent the goalposts from being shifted to its disadvantage – for example, to a “binational state” that would mean the effective end of Israel’s existence as a Jewish homeland and the eventual disappearance of the Jewish people.

Israel has, in the closing stages of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, demonstrated that it will make sweeping and painful concessions to achieve peace.    The “negotiation” mode of communicating just intentions Is , however, limited in it its effect.     What takes place in secret does not make the same impression as a pronouncement that is open and public. .    As a new round of negotiations begin, Israel plays the usual negotiation strategy of starting with a fairly hard line in public so it has plenty of negotiating room.     What is needed now is a sweeping and public statement that would leave no room for doubt about Israelis commitment to peace and justice.
The following article details  what a comprehensive proposal could contain. 
It could include:
- a narrative section, that would explain Israel’s past.    What is obvious and known to most Israelis is obscure to the world, and Israel must do its best to explain it.   How many people know or remember that Israel accepted the creation of a Palestinian state at the outset, and it was other Arab countries that attempted to destroy Israel and that took over the Palestinian territories?    Or that a huge part of Israel’s populations consists of refugees and their descendants from the Islamic world, rather than Europe?
-an affirmation section, that would say yes to as much as possible of what the world community has already proposed, and in particular, would include a qualified “yes” to the Arab Peace initiative (otherwise known as the Saudi  Arabia Peace Proposal);
-a peace proposal t would provide  the key elements of a definitive resolution of the conflict. The proposal would accept the 1967 boundaries as a baseline, but require compensated adjustments;   a just resolution of the refugee issue and the status of Jersusalem;   the non-militirization of a Palestinian state; and full recognition by the Arab states;
-a proposal for a process to negotiate the terms of a legal settlement with the Palestinian Authority;
-a vision of the future that would include economic and cultural exchanges with the Arab world.
A peace initiative could be preceded by a maximum effort to ensure that it will be met with understanding and a positive response by as many states as possible.   The forum for presenting it could also be imaginative; suppose, for example, the Prime Minster of Israel presented it not at an Israeli university or in the United States, but in Cairo?
There can be no naivite about the difficulties the state of Israel faces, including hostility based on leftist ideology or anti-semitism, ignorance, and economic interest, in the resources of the Arab world.   The future of the Arab world is uncertain. No one knows the extent to which democracy will consist in various places of the elected installation of an Islamist government that permits no further contests.     The Iranian government has not abated in its hatred of Israel at the same time that it works towards the acquisition of nuclear weapons and delivery systems.   But to the extent that any people has survived through the power of words and the love of them, it is the Jewish people.    Worlds that are sincere, brave and reasonable can have an impact even in a hostile world.    The current Israeli government is headed by a Prime Minster who is a master of direct and persuasive expression.     The time to speak powerfully and forthrightly is now.

AN ISRAELI PEACE INITIATIVE

Israel needs shalom – not just peace as in the absence of war, but acceptance and good relations with the region and in the world . Among the three  options suggested to achieving  shalom, or drawing closer to it, are negotiated agreements with the Palestinians, and other adversarial nations; unilateral concessions, including withdrawals to a boundary close to the 1967 border; an imposed solution by third parties, such as the Security Council. There are severe obstacles to each of these options.
There is a fourth option that will be advocated here: to present publicly a bold and comprehensive peace plan. Doing so would make clear Israel’s honourable intentions and place its current actions, pending acceptance by other parties, in a fresh light.
A crucial example is Israel’s control over land beyond the 1967 boundary. The occupation of this territory has become to be seen as representing Israel’s presumptive and stubborn refusal to end its rule over an unwilling Palestinian population. It may be seen quite differently if it is clear that occupation is only because of the unwillingness of the Palestinians to negotiate its end based on a reasonable offer by the Israelis. Some land beyond the 1967 boundary will remain in Israeli hands under any reasonable settlement. It is inconceivable that Israel would voluntarily accept the return, for example, of parts of West Jerusalem that end the 29 year territorial separation of Mount Scopus (within Israel's 1967 borders) from the rest of Israel, or that do not provide for Jewish control over the Jewish quarter and the Western Wall. The current occupation and building on such territory would be cast in a very differently light if it is clear that Israel is committed to the 1967 borders as the basis for a settlement and that it would compensate the Palestinians for any additions to territory beyond that. The form of the compensation would be land swaps or other mutually-agreed upon arrangements.
A peace plan should not be in the usual "negotiation" mode: a very tentative and limited proposal that falls far short of Israel’s bottom line. Reversing the rising trend of international delegitimization of Israel cannot be achieved by stating "opening positions" that invite ready dismissal. Rather, it is time for Israel to show the kind of unilateral courage and clarity that Anwar Sadat displayed by announcing his intention to speak to the Knesset and negotiate a comprehensive agreement with Israel.  In stating this proposal, Israel can take advantage of the fact that its adversaries and critics as well as supporters have laid out so many points to which Israel can say "yes" – in basic principle at least. These include the Arab Initiative supported by virtually the entire Arab World, President Bill Clinton’s Parameters from the Camp David talks and resolutions 232 and 242 of the Security Council. If Israel does not move decisively now, the goal posts of the international community may change for the worse – including demands for a single binational state, or a strict return to the 1967 boundaries without any adjustments.
The surrounding political realities are more menacing than potential changes in the proposals from other quarters. It is time again for the Israeli political leaders to demonstrate the kind of courage in peacemaking it has so often exhibited in the past – as with the Begin-Sadat deal – and so often in war.
The military threats against it continue to increase. Hezbollah and Hamas continue to arm for the next round of rocket attacks or incursions. Their sponsor, Iran, continues to work on its missile threat and its capacity to arm those missiles with nuclear weapons. Its regime is cruel and murderous to its own people, sponsors terrorist groups Hezbollah and Hamas that seek the annihilation of Israel, and it threatens to destroy Israel. Turkey has gone from friend to an adversary that mutes its hostility only at the behest of the United States. The Arab world is in the throes of upheaval that might produce democratic and peaceful governments, or might – as revolutions often do – result in the triumph of the most radical and violent factions.
The self-confidence of the people of Israel and their ability to trade with the world requires an end to the onslaught of campaigns to delegitimize it diplomatically, culturally and economically. Israel is constantly called upon to defend itself against criticism by governments, non-governmental organizations and freelance advocates of righteousness, especially of the left. The criticism is often fuelled by feelings of anti-Semitism. It usually is girded in a double standard in which the most democratic, tolerant and decent government in the region is constantly berated while surrounding regimes continue to oppress minorities, women, gays and promote or condone the viously anti-semitic or anti-Israel propaganda. None of this is fair.  In fact, it is perverse and despicable. It also, however, is a reality that must be boldly addressed, , not merely passively lamented. Israel must make its intentions known with a clarity and directness that defies the attempts of its critics to defame the justice of its people and their cause.  Israel must put forward a comprehensive peace proposal; one what would make it clear to anyone in the world who has a decent regard for peace and truth that Israel’s cause is just, that its intentions are honourable, and that individuals and governments of good faith should be supporting its existence and assisting it to resolve its conflicts.
Let me briefly review some of the other options.
One route to peace would be a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians. It is not known whether this is possible in the foreseeable future. The Palestinian leadership in the West Bank may feel too weak to make a deal, especially in the absence of effective authority over Gaza.  Many Palestinians may be reluctant to part with their grand grievance – the existence of a Jewish state. . It is difficult to part with a dream of final conquest of Israel if you know that the pay-off – a small but independent Palestinian State - may not govern democratically or effectively. Indeed, many Palestinians may quietly prefer a status quo in which Israel guarantees stability and economic development in the West Bank, and protects it from a Hamas takeover. There is no guarantee that a comprehensive Israeli peace proposal will be accepted in the foreseeable future. But the statement of a proposal can itself change the diplomatic and political environment in which Israel deals with the Palestinians and the rest of the world. If a formal peace agreement is not possible now, at least it will be clear that the intransigence lies on the Palestinian side. Israel’s willingness to publicly affirm the key points of a reasonable peace plan would create a greater chance, albeit no certainty that political forces on the Palestinian side will sooner or later rise to meet Israel’s outstretched hand.
Israel must continue in any event to make its best efforts to reach a negotiated settlement. But there are inherent limitations in the “negotiations” mode.     At the beginning of each new round, Israel may take a hard line, both in public and private, and the impression may be created that it is not serious about reaching a just and generous peace.    In some rounds of negotiations, the give-and-take has led to a situation where, late in the negotiations, Israel makes it clear to its bargaining partners that it is prepared to make far-reaching compromises, such as yielding almost all occupied territory and permitting East Jerusalem to become the capital of the new Palestinian states.  But these offers take place behind closed doors, and world public opinion is largely unaware of the extent to which Israel has at times shown its willingness to make remarkable compromises in the interests of peace.   What is required in the present circumstances, however, is for Israel through an audacious and public pronouncement, to fundamentally change the way it is perceived by its neighbours and the world, even if it cannot succeed at direct negotiations with the Palestinians.
The route of unilateral action by Israel in the absence of a peace settlement has serious problems. The unilateral withdrawal of forces from Gaza led to the rise of Hamas and the murderous firing of rockets at civilians. It is not in the interests of Israel, other things being equal, to continue to occupy a hostile population and absorb the international criticism that accompanies doing so.  It will never be the interest of Israel to create a binational state that ceases to effectively be a secure home for the Jewish people. Some unilateral moves might still be useful at some point – such as reducing internal roadblocks and security checks within the West Bank, or even the limited withdrawal of some settlements. If Israel proposes a comprehensive peace initiative, it may in fact be easier and safer to make various unilateral moves that build trust among the Palestinians, attract world support, and reduce the strain of occupation on Israel.    The existence of a comprehensive Israeli vision for peace will provide a useful context for unilateral move.   Concessions that are consistent with Israel’s vision of a just settlement will not be misinterpreted as opening the door to concessions that are not. The route of an imposed settlement by third parties, such as the Security Council, is dangerous. It might include elements that are intolerable to Israel. The international community may little understand, for example, that an absolute return to the 1967 boundaries would be unacceptable for Israel, or to the extent to which a "right of return" by descendants of Palestinian refugees would destroy Israel.
There could be five pillars to a bold Israeli peace plan:
-  a narrative component that recalls the past, and makes clear the justice of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish homeland;
an affirmations section: a "yes" part to the Arab and wider world. Israel would reaffirm its commitment to previous legal agreements and give broad acceptance in principle (without commitment to all details) to a variety of peace proposals, including, critically, the Arab Peace initiative;
a proposal in principle for a resolution of the Arab-Israel peace conflict;
- a proposal for a process to reach a final agreement;
a visionary statement of how Israel wishes to participate as a full partner in a Middle East that engages in cultural and economic cooperation and which is respectful of fundamental human rights.
First, the proposal would contain a narrative section. The American Declaration of Independence did not stop at proclaiming the freedom of the colonies; it provided a riveting statement of America’s grievances and intentions.  Israel may take it for granted that the rest of the world understands some elemental realities, but it does not. A comprehensive peace proposal could be the vehicle for not only a statement of future intentions, but a powerful recollection of the past.
The narrative statement could record:
the fact that the Jewish people have had a continuous historical presence in their homeland since biblical times;
that the Balfour declaration promised the existence of a Jewish homeland in all of the territory west of the Jordan River, not merely the 1948 or 1967 boundaries;
the Balfour Declaration was confirmed by allied powers in the St. Remo Declaration, which was in term affirmed by the Council of the League of Nations;
that the United Nations General Assembly proposed the partition of Palestinian into Jewish and Palestinian states;
that despite the loss of territory to which the Jewish people have a fundamental attachment, the Jewish people and State accepted the division;
surrounding Arab States did not, and invaded Israel with an attempt to destroy it;
the root cause of the Palestinian refugee problem in 1948 was the war caused by Arab rejection of Israel;
Israel won a desperate war of survival, which led to the boundaries still extant in 1967;
Israel’s declaration of independence declared both a Jewish homeland and equal rights for its minority populations;
then and now, the Arab minority in Israel has enjoyed equal civil rights and a standard of living that is much higher than almost anywhere in the Arab world;
the reason for the failure of a Palestinian State to emerge in 1948 was not Israeli opposition, but the takeover of Palestinian territories by Egypt and Jordan;
the 1967 war was caused by threats to destroy Israel from Egypt, and when the war began, Syria and Jordan joined in this further attempt to militarily destroy the Jewish State;
for years after the war, the Arab world outright rejected any attempt to reach a final peace agreement with Israel;
When Anwar Sadat broke from the past and proposed peace with Israel, it responded enthusiastically and negotiated a peace agreement that included the complete return of land captured during the six day war;
Israel further showed its desire for peace with its neighbours by reaching a peace agreement with Jordan;
it remains prepared to negotiate peace with Syria and Lebanon any time those states are prepared to engage in good faith negotiations;
the state of Israel has not been a necessary haven for survivors of the Holocaust.  It has been a homeland for the Jewish people who maintained a presence there since biblical times; for over a million Jewish refugees and children of refugees from Arab lands, who fled from discrimination and harassment in Arab states, and who have never been compensated by the Arab countries they fled; for Jews from Africa, South America, Europe and Asia that have needed haven from persecution or who wanted to live in a land in which they could fully express their spiritual and cultural identity;
that the need of the Jewish people around the world for a haven and homeland continues;
that in its sixty years of existence, Israel has built a democratic, tolerant and dynamic society that is eager to engage in a mutual exchange of ideas, culture and commerce with all of its Arab neighbours;
that Israel has a small population on a sliver of territory surround by states that have at times been hostile to its very existence. The experience with Gaza shows that unilateral withdrawal to a 1967 boundary does not necessarily bring peace, and that its most basic security need – for survival – limits its ability to make peace by itself.  Israel wishes once again to be as courageous in peacemaking as it has in war, and wishes to arrive at a negotiated agreement with the Palestinian people and with Syria and Lebanon;
The boundaries to which Israel will finally agree will be based on the 1967 lines, but must be adjusted, as is permitted by Security Council resolution 232,  to ensure Israel’s military security and its access to some of its most sacred places, and to ensure inclusion of nearby settlements with significant Jewish populations. Israel proposes that in any final settlement, the Palestinian state would receive compensation for any additions to Israel’s area beyond the 1967 boundaries, and this may include land swaps;
that while many in Israel will find it painful to accept a final settlement that falls far short of the dream of sovereignty over its entire ancient homeland; it's overriding desire is for peace. It has no inherent desire to rule over the Palestinian people, accepts their own desire for statehood, acknowledges their suffering, and wishes for the emergence of a democratic and prosperous society within an independent Palestinian state;
Israel acknowledges the suffering of the Palestinian people. While Israel has assured citizenship and equal civil rights to its Arab minority, it is unfortunate that apart from Jordan, its Arab neighbours did not provide citizenship to refugees from the 1947-48 conflict. Israel recognizes that history has proved the need for a distinctively Palestinian homeland, but this must be a distinct territory from Israel, which is the only homeland the Jewish people have had or ever will have.
The second Pillar would be Israel’s statement of "yes". It would help to legitimize the Israeli peace proposal and Israel’s political position by reaffirming previous legal agreements and seizing on the many positive elements in proposals from other quarters, including the Arab Peace Initiative.
Among the legal agreements to which Israel would reaffirm its commitment are:
Resolutions 232 of the Security Council which, while calling for the return of occupied territories, recognizes that Israel has a right to exist within secure and recognized boundaries. Resolution 232 does not state that there must be a return precisely to the 1967 boundaries;
The Peace Agreement with Egypt, which recognizes Israel’s right to exist, and calls for autonomy for the Palestinian people and negotiated resolution of the Palestinian issue;
The Peace Agreement with Jordan, which contains similar principles;
The Oslo Accords, which contain similar principles, and require the achievement of a final agreement through negotiation, rather than the use of violence.
Another aspect of the "yes" part would be to confirm that Israel is prepared to base a final agreement on the basis that is contained in a number of earlier initiatives.  Israel would be forthright about stating that it does not unequivocally accept every detail in these proposals or every possible interpretation of them, and that some specifics remain to be worked out through peaceful negotiation with the Palestinians. By saying "yes", however, Israel would help to reinforce the positive features in these agreements, make it clear that it is a willing and energetic partner for peace, and provide encouragement to moderate forces in the Arab world. Among the "yeses" that Israel might advance are
the Clinton Parameters, which the former President laid out during the Camp David Talks at the end of his presidency. These provide, among other things, for a two state solution, a non-militarized Palestinian state, and a resolution of the Palestinian refugee issue. Israel would indicate that strictly in its discretion, it would admit some refugees for family reunification and humanitarian reasons. The main resolution of the issue would be: refugees would acquire citizenship in the new Palestinian State; others could return to parts of Israel swapped to Palestine; some would acquire citizenship in their current residences; others would be settled in other countries. The Clinton Parameters would divide Jerusalem, but Israel would retain the right to sovereignty over sacred places in the old city, certainly including the Western Wall and possibly including an area on the Temple Mount where the holy of holies is likely to be; 
- the Arab Peace Initiative. The key elements of this 2002 proposal, backed up by the entire Arab world, include a two state resolution that requires the return to the 1967 border, recognition of Israel by all Arab states and normal relations; and a just resolution of the Palestinian refugee issue, to be agreed upon by Israel as well as Arab states, that is in accordance with General Assembly Resolution 194.

A recent study headed by Professor  Alex Mintz of the Lauder School of Government at the Interdisciplinary Study in Israel concluded recently that the best option for improving Israel’s diplomatic and political standing would be the qualified acceptance of the Arab Peace Initiative.   The initiative he proposes is broadly similar in content to the suggestion here, although it is tentative about the Jerusalem issue – calling upon it to be negotiated separately.   That kind of reticence in relation to Jerusalem issue might indeed be appropriate, given the emotional, religious and political sensitivity of the issues concerned, and some of the practical complexities.   Some unusually subtle and creative solutions may emerge. if both sides are prepared to work in earnest towards a definitive resolution.   One can imagine, for example, that even if they become citizens of a Palestinian state, residents of some Arab neighbourhoods would actually prefer to remain under the municipal administration of Jewish Jerusalem, and retain some special rights under Israeli law.    An Israeli Peace initiative might, however, at least commit in general terms to achieving a reasonable solution, including:

- general committing to renewed and best efforts to negotiating with the Palestinians a just and mutually acceptable resolution of the status of Jerusalem;

- reaffirming its role as the most sacred place in Jewish civilization,

- acknowledging that it also has a special place in the Christian and Muslim traditions,

-confirming the principle of accessibility to holy places for members of all faiths;

- acknowledging the desire of the Palestinian people to have their national institutions located in east Jersualem and a willingness by Israel to discuss this possibility in the context of final status discussions. 

Accepting the Arab Peace Initiative, with qualifications, could be a tremendous diplomatic step forward for Israel. It would better fix in place, for the entire world, the goal of a two state resolution, and the illegitimacy of attempts to destroy Israel or engulf in a "binational" state in which Jews would be a minority and which there is no assurance even of democracy or civil and minority rights. It would help to fix in place the goal of normal relations with the entire Arab world.  It would place Israel in the position of a country saying "yes", not always playing defence, strengthen the hands of moderates in the Arab world, and improve Israel’s acceptance in the eyes of the Arab and world public.
The yes would have to be qualified. But these reservations can be done in a way that should be reasonable to the vast majority of those inside and outside of the Arab world that are willing to take an even moderately balanced view of the conflict.
Israel clearly cannot accept an absolute return to the 1967 boundary, but it can and should accept that the 1967 boundary should be the basis of final borders, with lands swaps or other compensation for adjustments in favour of Israel.  Other possible compensation could include elements such as building a road between the West Bank and Gaza over which Palestinians would have a right of transit, subject to appropriate security arrangements for Israel, financial compensation; or the continuation of some special status of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, who currently have a right of movement within the city, to Israel health care benefits and access to Hebrew University.
With respect to the refugee issue, General Assembly Resolution 194 is problematic. It calls for a return to their homes of refugees who are prepared to live in peace in Israel. Israel would be destroyed as a Jewish homeland were there to be a massive influx of refugees – who in the unique case of Palestine are defined by the United Nations as including the descendants of those who first fled. Israel can explain, however, that much has changed since the time the General Assembly enacted Resolution 194. The General Assembly originally had in mind the original refugee population, not their millions of descendants. It was passed at a time when there was no Palestinian State to which refugees would acquire citizenship. The multi-faceted resolution contained in the Clinton parameters offers an appropriate framework for resolution. The Clinton parameters, moreover, call for both sides to accept its proposals as implementation of Resolution 194.
The third pillar of the Israel Peace Proposal would be Israel’s affirmative proposals for a definitive peace agreement with the Palestinians. It would state positively that:
Israel is committed to a two-state resolution;
the 1967 boundaries would be the basis of the borders, but there must be adjustments to reflect Israel’s security needs, attachment to its most holy places, and the reality of nearby highly populated Jewish settlements.  Israel would commit to the principle of counterbalancing compensation, which could include land swaps as agreed upon with the Palestinians;
all Arab states would recognize Israel and normalize relations;
the Palestinian State would be non-militarized;
Israel might, at least for some years, be allowed a security presence in some parts of the new Palestinian State, such as maintain observation posts or patrols in certain areas.
the Palestinian refugee  issue would be addressed in accordance with the Clinton Parameters;
Jerusalem could be the capital of the new Palestinian State. Negotiations are required to determine the precise division of territory, the issue of sovereignty, control or access to the Old City, the possibility of some form of integrated or coordinated municipal administration after the city is divided.
Any final resolution must be fully respectful of the fact that Jerusalem is the most sacred place in Jewish civilization but also holy in the tradition of Christians and Muslims;
residents of the settlements not be included within the final border of Israel could remain in Palestinian territory, under the rule of Palestinian laws, but residents would be given assurances of civil and political rights comparable to those enjoyed by the Arab minority in Israel;
just as Israel acknowledges the plight of the Palestinian people in the aftermath of the 1947-48 war, Arab states are asked to acknowledge that hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from Arab countries fled to Israel, and that they have never been compensated by their states of origin.
The fourth pillar would propose the arrangements for negotiating a final legal agreement and interim arrangements. Israel could indicate its willingness to recognize an interim Palestinian State while the final details are being worked out, provided that the Palestinian authority formally recommits to some key principles on both a short and long term basis, including demilitarization, and acceptance that resolution of the refugee issue must reflect contemporary realities, including the emergence for the first time of a Palestinian State and existence of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. Above all, the Palestinian authority would have to accept that only peaceful negotiations will be the route to a final settlement.
The fifth part could be visionary. It could set out the goal of Israel-Arab cooperation in the area of economic and cultural exchange.  It could call for all sides to review their educational systems and ensure that they are forums for educating each other’s society about each other and do not promote hate or misunderstanding. It would contemplate the possibility of free-trade agreements in the Arab-Israeli world, and recognize that the long history of exchanging religious and cultural ideas between the Jewish and Islamic worlds should be revived and strengthened. It would commit Israel to the goal of trade and economic cooperation with the new Palestinian State in an effort to eventually raise the standard of living there to among the highest in the Middle East. It could recall Israel’s success in addressing some of the most important problems in the Middle East, including reconciling traditional values with modern ideas of civil rights and democratic governance, addressing environmental issues including water shortages, and attempting to maintain a distinctive national identify for the Jewish State while respecting minority and individual rights, and offer Israel’s full cooperation in an exchange of ideas with the Arab states on these fronts. It could also call for security cooperation in the face of common threats, such as Iran’s nuclear program.
The preparation for the announcement of an Israeli Peace initiative could include lining up support among various members of the international community, and even commitments to repay Israel’s commitment to a just peace with concrete measures such as the establishment of diplomatic relations with states that previously withheld it.   
The presentation of the Israeli Peace Initiative could be as dramatic as Sadat’s journey to Jerusalem.   The current Prime Minister has given major speeches about speeches in locations in Israel and the United States.   Imagine the impact of an Israeli Prime Minister instead making his presentation to the Arab world at the Egyptian Parliament in Cairo,
The strategy of announcing an Israeli Peace Initiative is based on the assumption that a broad public commitment of Israel’s intentions is necessary, regardless of whether a peace agreement can be reached in the near to middle term with the Palestinians.      The announcement of the initiative, however, might be coupled with an offer to the Palestinians to engage in an intensive round of negotiations to achieve a definitive solution.    Israel might announcement, for example, that to ensure the earnestness of negotiations, and in light of resources that must be committed to in on the part of Israeli leaders and officials, that it seeks an essentially non-stop but time limited round (say sixth months) of negotiations with the Palestinians aimed at achieving a treaty.   Israel would commit, as a gesture of good faith, to some forms of settlement freezes during the duration of these discussions.    If negotiations failed, however, the Israeli Peace Initiative would remain on the table, but Israel would take a break from the process until the Palestinian side demonstrate it is ready and willing to reach an agreement.
It might be argued that Israel would be undermining its negotiating position by being so forthright about what it is prepared to accept. But this concern is unfounded.
First, Israeli leaders have in private negotiations (and Wiki leaked internal cables) already revealed that they are prepared to accept very painful compromises in the interests of peace. What Israel needs to do now is strengthen its political stature in the region and world by taking bold and unmistakeable steps on an official and public basis to clarity its intentions.
Second, much of what Israel currently “has” is not in its interest to keep. Israelis are a just people and, apart from a small minority, have no desire in principle to rule over populations that do not welcome them; no wish to see a greater Israel in which the Arab population matches or exceeds that of Israel; and no wish to sustain indefinitely the cost in treasure, morale and the life and safety of its soldiers from trying to police the territories so as to prevent terrorist attacks.
Third, if an Israeli peace plan is properly articulated, it will be clear to anyone that Israel has absolute bottom lines. It will not "compromise" its existence as a Jewish state. It will never accept a massive influx of Palestinians, never return to a situation in which the Hebrew University is separated from the rest of the state and the most sacred parts of the Old City are outside of it, and never accept the existence of a Palestinian State within its gut that is free to arm itself and eventually eliminate it.
It might be argued that the current Prime Minister of Israel is in no position, in the current political circumstances, to take the kind of daring steps that a Menachem Begin or Yitzhak Rabin or Ariel Sharon carried out. But great leaders find the ideas and voice and courage to secure the long term future of these countries even in the face of domestic political risk. There is no one better equipped by intellect and eloquence to reframe Israel’s position in the world through a stunning peace offensive. Some observers say that he is a perpetual slider; someone who knows how to do what is necessary to stay in power in the face of conflicting demands and factions. But no one comes to power – not even the greatest leaders like Lincoln – without some adeptness at temporizing, delaying, compromising and funding. Past great leaders of Israel have shown that they can do all that, but more - summon up great courage and astonish the world with their vision.
The Jewish people can never forget the need for realism. The past has proved there is no limit to the murderous cruelty that can be inflicted on Jews. Israel’s strategic situation is fraught with mortal risk. Israel is strong economically and militarily, yet is always facing existential threats, and is increasingly alone in an unsympathetic world. The Jewish State cannot lose one war. Jewish civilization cannot survive one more Diaspora.
The proposal here is not intended to be naive about the conditions in which Israel finds itself or the nature of the Arab and world audience to which it will be addressed.  Religiously based anti-Semitism remains alive throughout the world. Guilt over past atrocities against the Jews invites many self-styled do-gooders to relish portraying Israel as a nothing less than an apartheid state or worse.  Many of the political left, in their relentless division of the world into the oppressed and victims have decided that Israel is the oppressor, and that the tyrannical, sexist, homophobic and anti-Semitic character of the governments of Gaza and Iran is of no interest. It is not clear whether the current President of the United States has a real emotional connection to Israel or an understanding of its history.  His Cairo speech, which emphasized the Holocaust and made no mention of the historic Jewish connection to Israel, and which drew some appalling moral equivalences, is a lingering cause for great concern.  In Europe, the ideological hostility of the left and its alliance with anti-Israel forces among a booming Islamic population has undermined support for Israel. Around the world, it is easier to side with the Arab States, who are far more numerous and populous than Israel, and a still indispensible source of oil.
The political difficulties of finding a partner for peace on the Palestinian side must be fully recognized.
A realistic assessment of current conditions, however, calls for the maximum action that is possible to better secure Israel’s standing and security in an often hostile world.
An Israeli Peace Initiative will not necessarily lead to a final legal agreement in the near future with the Palestinians. But no one should doubt that political turnarounds are possible either. Who expected that Anwar Sadat would risk all for peace with Israel? Who anticipated the pro-democracy protests that have arisen in the Arab world?
Israel can at least seriously increase the chances for a definitive peace agreement by moving now with a comprehensive proposal. And if the day of that agreement is later, rather than sooner, the direct and visionary statement of Israel’s intentions can change the interim conditions, including the rising tide of efforts to demonize, isolate and delegitimize the state.
The Jewish people more than anyone should understand the power of the world.
The account of the creation of the world begins with the voice of God.
Jewish civilization defined itself, and survived against all odds, through the power of words: through the transcendent eloquence and wisdom of its sacred literature, from the Bible to the Talmud to the Kabbalah to the voices of Herzl and Jabotinsky and of its modern leaders.
Here and now, words can still change the world.  Israel has on its side the power of historic truth, the magnanimity of its modern democracy and a leader who is gifted with extraordinary power to speak powerfully in terms that can be understood by anyone prepared to listen.  It is not the time for half-measures, or the stinting and ambiguous language of negotiation. It is time for Israel to state its program for peace in a language so clear, and in terms so just, that the rest of the world can and will finally respond with sympathy, understanding and respect.
 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


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