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Savir's corner: 2014 is decision time
By URI SAVIR
19/12/2013
It is time, in the beginning of 2014, for Netanyahu and Abbas to make the decision based on America bridging proposals.
 
Countries that are unable or unwilling to resolve conflict find themselves isolated today from the international community.

This is a result of a profound change in international relations.

Throughout history, wars were the engine of change. Today, war is perceived as archaic, futile and immoral. At the basis of those changes lies the democratization process in the world. When political leaders were alone in forming international politics, war was an attractive option, as it was perceived to strengthen their country’s strength and hold on power.

Today, after the information and technological revolution, the voice of the people, the world over, is a powerful component in shaping international relations. It seems that in most societies, not only Western democracies, people are opposed to war, as it destroys prosperity in an era of a globalized economy.

A war economy is an offside economy – look at the streets of Tehran. Most young people prefer to study together rather than to fight each other. When it comes to war and peace, the Middle East is perceived by the international community as the tilting point for international stability. The world – East-West, North-South – is not ready to go along with a massive tinderbox in the region. It intends, under American leadership, to diffuse this time bomb. Middle Eastern volatility and instability is perceived to be a function of the Syria crisis, the Iranian nuclear ambition, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Syria, even under the brutal dictator Bashar Assad, had to give in to the international community’s demands on dismantling its chemical weapons arsenals. Assad was forced by an international consensus orchestrated with skillful diplomacy by Barack Obama. The region and the world are safer today due to collective diplomacy. Iran, too, is faced by an international consensus, as expressed by the rigorous sanctions and the coordination of the P5+1, to put an end to its military nuclear ambitions. An important first step was taken last month in Geneva by freezing the nuclear program in return for a partial and reversible lifting of sanctions. Even the ayatollah regime understands that it is unable to offer any economic future to the Iranian people without complying with international norms; therefore in 2014 a permanent agreement is very likely. The international consensus on nonproliferation of nonconventional weapon has became effective, since the relevant diplomatic activity is led by the United States, in close coordination with London, Paris, Berlin and to some degree Moscow and Beijing.

On resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict we face also a set of accepted international norms, and a broad consensus, especially in the Western world. These norms are shared, not only by the big powers, but by great segments of international public opinion. They constitute basic attitudes to the resolution of the conflict between Palestinians and us: • No more war – the international community will invest much effort to prevent deterioration into a violent regional conflict, emerging from an unsolved historical conflict. Too many extremist and fundamentalist organizations are awaiting this moment of glory to thrive on bloodshed when conflict resolution fails. Palestinians will not achieve their state by force; neither will Israel achieve security by might. This conflict will have to be resolved by diplomacy, bilateral, trilateral or collective.

• No to terrorism – the greatest international plague is international terror, with its prolific agents throughout the Middle East, with extremist religious belief against Western infidels.

From Hezbollah, through Hamas to al-Qaida, all abusing the lives of young people with their clout in the region, based on violence.

The days are over in which the international community showed tolerance to so-called “freedom fighters”; it sees them today as a destructive, even strategic, threat. In the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolution forces must be disarmed and politically weakened. Peace is the victory of the moderates.

• Self-determination of people and nations – this has a globally accepted norm since the end of colonization. The whole world supports, categorically, the creation of a Palestinian state that determines its destiny by itself and not by Israeli imposition.

• No occupation – territorial conquests are passé in modern international relations because of the right of self-determination and as there is no value anymore in controlling foreign lands for the sake of security or control of natural resources. Neo-colonialism is rejected by the whole international community and therefore there is wall-to-wall objection to Israeli settlements. Of the whole world, only the Israeli right-wing parties support settlements.

• Security, like diplomacy, has acquired a collective nature. From NATO to UN forces as well as the American-led coalition twice in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even the strongest power in the world cannot gain security on its own. President Obama was brave enough to admit it when turning to Vladimir Putin on Syria and to the P5+1 in Iran. Security cooperation will become part of a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

• No more rejection on a religious, ethnic or racial basis. Internationally, the Arab world will not be able to afford to reject the legitimacy of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.

• Humanitarian values of equality, mutual respect and dignity have been upgraded in importance in a world of greater individual empowerment and democratization. This was expressed in a powerful way in the global tribute to Nelson Mandela and what he stood for.

These values will have to replace hate, disrespect of the different and policies of superiority in the process of Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolution.

These fundamental international norms stand at the basis of the new American peace policy in the Middle East. The United States under Obama serves first and foremost the interests of Washington, but takes into account the internationally respected values out of a mature sense of interdependence and a general desire by the American leader to solve conflict by peaceful means.

With this mindset and strategic outlook, John Kerry and his excellent peace team have already broken all frequent-flyer records to Ben-Gurion Airport. They gave Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas and their teams the opportunity in the past four months to make real progress in resolving the core issues for permanent status – borders, settlements, Jerusalem, security and refugees. The two leaders were too reluctant and suspicious to make the necessary progress.

The American administration, Israel’s greatest ally, a supporter of an independent Palestinian state, has recently come to the conclusion that while it cannot impose a solution, it must encourage the parties to make decisions on the core issues of conflict.

The world will not stand anymore for the Middle East contradicting core international values, not on nonconventional weapons, and not on unresolved conflict, that endanger international security.

Therefore the Americans have begun this month to suggest their own bridging proposals to the leaders of Israel and Palestine, starting with security after the creation of a Palestinian state. John Kerry is expected to raise other bridging proposals on all permanent-status issues in the beginning of 2014. The proposals will not come as a take it or leave it package, but rather as terms of reference for negotiating a framework for permanent-status agreement by April 2014, at the earliest.

According to Washington, such a permanent agreement would probably be based on the following principles, taking the interests of both sides into account: • An independent Palestinian state will be established, with a gradual withdrawal of Israel from the West Bank, the borders based on the 1967 lines, with mutual land swaps, with a high degree of parallelism.

• Three settlement blocs will be annexed to sovereign Israel that will encompass 75 percent of Israeli settlers. The rest of the settlers will be reallocated into the settlement blocs.

• There will be full diplomatic relations between the states of Israel and Palestine, with a mutual recognition of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people and Palestine as the homeland of the Palestinian people.

• Palestine will be a demilitarized state (including the Gaza Strip). Israel will have a temporary military presence on the Jordan River, the border crossings will be under joint responsibility, and there will be an American intelligence role to prevent terror. The American- Israeli security alliance will be upgraded due to the Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.

• Jerusalem will be a shared capital of two states, and remain one city, with special arrangements protecting the links of the various communities to their holy sites.

• The right of return for Palestinian refugees will be to the independent state of Palestine, and not applied to sovereign Israel. There will be a compensation mechanism for Palestinian refugees.

• A major economic package will be offered to the new Palestinian state by the international community, for the creation of open state institutions and for the Palestinian economy, in cooperation with Israel and Jordan.

• With permanent status, all Arabs countries will establish full diplomatic relations with Israel and will normalize relations with it.

• The European Union will offer Israel and Palestine an upgraded economic status and package, the highest for non-EU countries.

President Obama said lately that the outcomes of an eventual Israeli-Palestinian agreement is well known. Indeed this is clear not only to the American president, but to every grown-up person who is in his right mind, except for those blinded by religious, nationalist fanaticism.

Given the international consensus on these issues – this, sooner or later, will be the framework of the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is time, in the beginning of 2014, for Netanyahu and Abbas to make the decision based on America bridging proposals.

They can make the historically necessary, difficult and right compromise leading to peace with the best security possible.

They are also free to follow petty domestic political consideration and avoid a deal. No one can and will force them. In the latter and more likely case, they will endanger the stability and well being of their citizens, and risk isolating them from the international community, as pariah states.

They can follow Nelson Mandela’s example, and lead their people to reconciliation and to a valuable respected place in the family of nations; or follow the example of Mandela South African predecessors of the Apartheid regime, and isolate their countries into international isolation and boycott.

The beginning of 2014 is decision time.

The writer is honorary president of the Peres Center for Peace and served as Israel’s chief negotiator for the Oslo Accords.

Barbara Hurwitz edited this column.
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