Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu got it right: We cannot depend on foreign
troops, even US troops, for our security. Peace cannot be guaranteed by third
parties. Security is the most fundamental aspect of the current negotiations,
the one that will determine whether or not peace is in fact a viable
But here is where Netanyahu also got it wrong.
does not exist in a vacuum, nor can it exist if genuine sovereignty is denied to
The Oslo process totally crashed and its internal
rationale imploded when it became apparent to the Palestinians that Israeli
withdrawal from territories that in their understanding were to become part of
the Palestinian state ceased.
At that point, their side of the bargain,
combating terrorism and ceasing to use violence as the means to fight the
Israeli occupation, also ceased. The average Palestinian security official, who
until creating the Palestinian Authority was a Palestinian combatant, simply
felt that without the Palestinian state in site, continuing the security
cooperation with Israel meant protecting the settlers and making the occupation
sustainable. This is how the second intifada was born.
Netanyahu got it
right: Security must be provided by Israel and Israeli troops. But Netanyahu
also got it wrong: Without full, genuine Israeli-Palestinian cooperation in the
field of security, there will be no security and no peace agreement. But there
is no possibility for genuine security cooperation without the creation of a
genuine Palestinian state which has genuine sovereignty.
For this to
happen, Israel will have to give up its control over everything that happens in
the West Bank. No Palestinian leader will ever accept a deal that is essentially
a sovereign cage. No Palestinian leader will accept an agreement that enables
Israel to continue to control, unilaterally, totally, and without any due
process the lives, the movement and access, the economy, and the use of natural
resources of their future state. Israel will have to let go.
At the same
time, Palestinians are going to have to become a lot more responsible, as
partners to an agreement, than they have at any other point in the past 20
The risks are great, no doubt. We do not have the luxury of
another interim agreement to test each other. After 20 years and after what was
supposed to be a five-year interim agreement, we must reach a permanent-status
agreement in which we agree on all of the core issues. The agreement will have
to be implemented over time and based on performance.
The parties must
fulfill their undertakings phased over time in order to progress from one stage
The determination of progress must be in the hands of the
agreed-to third party (most likely the United States). Third party monitors and
verifiers of implementation must be on the ground who will determine if the
parties have in fact acted according to their obligations in the treaty. They
will also be there to deal, in real time with breaches and problems in
implementation and disputes as they arise so they will be confronted at the
lowest level possible as they occur, thereby avoiding explosions and
This process of changing the Israeli-Palestinian relationship
must begin now, even prior to an agreement. As I have written in this column
before, the real hard work of making peace begins the day after the agreement
has been signed.
What will enable the agreement to even exist and will
even assist in arriving at solutions to the most difficult issues in conflict is
the beginning of change in the relationship today on the
Difficult negotiations always open the doors to expressions of
anger, frustration and even despair.
The public statements over the past
weeks that we have heard from named and unnamed officials regarding the lack of
progress in the negotiations, true or false, are dangerous and open the door to
violence. Using the media to score points is part of negotiating and should be
understood as such.
Nonetheless, both sides would gain a lot more if they
used the negotiations period to advance positive messages that lead to
behavioral changes that will be the core of the Israeli-Palestinian peace
agreement – restructuring the relationship from occupied-occupier to good
This is not a naïve dream but exactly what happens when
conflicts between states are resolved.
Both sides have an interest in
this process and one side’s behavior directly impacts on the
There are many examples of what can and should be done now that
I have shared with the negotiators, and I will continue to do so. I believe that
despite the pessimistic tones we have heard recently there is still room for
I believe that more progress has already been achieved in the
negotiations than most people here, on both sides, would have
Moving from here to an agreement is difficult, but not
I remain convinced that Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas are the best partners possible for a deal and that they
both have what it takes to become true partners. If they heed these words here
and begin now to demonstrate the change of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship
by building the partnership, the skepticism of the publics on both sides
regarding the chances of peace will also change. The two sides will take to the
streets and support their leaders to charge forward to make peace a
The author is co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Center
for Research and Information, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post and the
initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad
Schalit. His new book Freeing Gilad: the Secret Back Channel has been published
by Kinneret Zmora Bitan in Hebrew and The Negotiator: Freeing Gilad Schalit from
Hamas by The Toby Press.