Encountering Peace: Peace directive in the hands of leaders
By GERSHON BASKIN
There is a debate going on locally and around the world on the question of whether perhaps it’s too late to achieve peace.
I challenge the leaders, Binyamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas – how long would it
take to make real peace if making real peace was your primary governmental
directive? If you said to yourselves: I will make peace with the other side –
there is nothing more important for me to do in my position as leader of my
people – how could your personal decision affect real change and make the
difference in leading us to peace?
There is a debate going on locally and around
the world on the question of whether perhaps it’s too late to achieve peace.
There is a growing number of people who suggest that the two states for two
peoples solution is no longer valid and viable. They claim that there are simply
too many Israelis living in the areas that are supposed to become a Palestinian
state. They claim that the Palestinians will never give up the right of return
and that Israel will never agree to accept the right of return. There are those
who say that after 20 years of failure it is time to admit that the Oslo
paradigm is dead and we should begin to look for something else.
I am one
of those who claim that there is only one solution to the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict and it is two states for two peoples. If by “solution” we mean the end
of the conflict, only by this solution can we reach this desired end. Every
other proposed “solution” in my view will result in the continuation of the
conflict and, I believe, in its escalation. There is no one-state solution.
Neither Israelis nor Palestinians wish to live in a homogenized reality where
their identity is not the determining one on the ground. No binational state
idea will work here. The failure to reach a solution which is based on
territorial partition into two national states means that we will continue to
struggle about whose identity is in control of the territory.
non-coordinated Gaza disengagement and its aftermath put an end to the dream of
unilateralism, although some still speak about some kind of coordinated mutual
unilateralism where each side will take unilateral steps that answer their own
interests and somehow inform or coordinate those steps with the other side. This
is very unlikely to succeed. Lack of formal agreement in conflict settings
between enemies strengthens radicals and weakens moderates who advocate
Yes, so far the Israeli-Palestinian peace process can only be
called a failure. Both sides, as a result of continued failed implementation of
agreements and understandings have come to the belief that there is no serious
partner for peace on the other side. Does this mean that the paradigm has
failed, or does the failure perhaps lie somewhere else? I believe that the
failure has a different address – not the desired outcome, but the ingredients
of bad agreements, failed implementation, perhaps less than good intentions,
lack of dispute resolution mechanisms, inabilities to deal with breaches in real
time, continued violence by enemies of peace, and political leaders without
determination to bring the process forward because of a lack of political will
to pay the necessary price for completing agreements.
I continue to
believe that the final outcome of a peace process based on the two states for
two peoples formula is a known value with the details of possible agreements on
all of the issues concerned planned, documented and feasible. There is not a
single issue in dispute which has not been dealt with by experts and negotiators
on both sides and in the international community.
resolvable, every single technical element has solutions, the plans for dealing
with security, water, environment, economics, borders, Jerusalem and refugees
have all be worked out. A range of options exists within the realm of what could
be acceptable to both parties. There are no secrets here and almost all
possibilities have been explored. There are several new ideas which have
appeared recently and have been or are being presented to decision makers, but
for the most part, most of the issues have been negotiated and the areas of
compromise have been defined. What remains absent is not the know-how but the
political will to make it a reality.
It may come to pass that for the
time being the two states for two peoples option will be off the
The current leadership on the Palestinian side, which continues
to adhere to this solution and even sincerely believes in it, may soon no longer
be in power. The leadership in Israel, which has mainly given this solution lip
service and has done little to advance it, may find that it will continue to
speak about this solution after the rest of the world, and mainly the
Palestinians, are not longer considering it.
We may go through a period
of searching for other solutions and presenting “new” ideas. We may have to go
through another round of violence leading to the unnecessary deaths of
thousands. In the end of the searching, after all of those people have been
killed, we will come back to the basic reality that there are two national
groups living on the land between the river and the sea who each want a piece of
it to call their own. We both want a territorial expression for our identity and
we don’t want to be controlled by someone else.
This all seems so obvious
to me and I fail to understand why this is so much more difficult than it has to
be. It is first and foremost and matter of political will.
If the two
leaders would make the decision that there will be peace and that they will
invest all of their energies and attention to making it a reality, it will
How to start? I suggest that each side do something tomorrow
morning that will positively surprise the other side. I can provide you both
with a long list of suggestions, but I am quite sure that you can come up with
your own lists as well. Keep in your minds the following idea: what we do and
what we say impacts and what the other side does and thinks. It is completely
possible to influence the policies and the thinking of the other side. Get
The writer is the co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine
Center for Research and Information, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post, a radio
host on All for Peace Radio and the initiator and negotiator of the secret back
channel for the release of Gilad Schalit.