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Dr. Bryan Schwartz


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.  &n
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