Welcome back, Mr. Secretary. I am quite sure none of the leaders you will meet
on this visit to Israel and Palestine will say “thank you,” so I will say it on
behalf of all of the people of Israel and Palestine. We need you, even if we
find it hard to admit.
We hope that you will finally be putting your
bridging proposals on the negotiation table because it is time for the
negotiations to get really serious. It is clear once your proposal is on the
table, the talks will be focused on it. Being the most serious side in the
negotiations it is quite clear that you and your team have worked very hard on
putting down concrete solutions that maximize the needs of both sides while
balancing the conflicting demands.
I am sure you know this, but I will
say it anyway: the hardest part is getting the two sides to move away from their
positions in favor of providing real answers to their needs and interests. The
parties have locked themselves into positions, often for reasons of internal
politics, and in doing so they forget to really focus on their needs and
You know that both the Israeli and the Palestinian publics are
very skeptical about these negotiations. Neither Israelis nor Palestinians
believe it is possible to reach an agreement. Both sides are convinced that
there is no partner on the other side. Both sides are convinced that their side
is a partner. Both sides make public statements and actions which are not very
helpful in reaching peace because they are playing small politics focusing their
attention on their own constituency rather than rising to the task of being
statesmen. You have no choice but to ignore that self-defeating behavior at this
time, because the two leaders are only a reflection of their own people and they
too don’t believe that an agreement is possible. So just keep on doing what you
have been doing, you be the responsible adult at the table, you demonstrate the
seriousness needed to reach an agreement. Be hard on the leaders; don’t get all
soft and wishy-washy. We need your firmness and determination.
agreement reached will be a balance of needs and interests. It will bring about
the end of Israeli control over the Palestinians and will give birth to an
independent sovereign Palestinian state next to Israel. The final map will be
based on the June 4, 1967 lines with agreed-to territorial swaps. The
Palestinian state will compose 22 percent of the land area between the river and
the sea. The Palestinians will get their state with pieces of land which are
today inside of Israel and a majority of settlers will remain in Judea and
Samaria in the annexed areas.
The agreement will be implemented over
years. The Palestinians will agree to Israeli military/security presence within
the framework of joint patrols under Palestinian command, as a reflection of
Israel’s security needs will be balanced by the
Palestinians’ need for genuine sovereignty and for ending Israel’s control over
them. The Palestinians will make a sovereign decision not to have a militarized
state. The Palestinians will control their own borders deciding for themselves
who and what will enter, but they will make a sovereign decision to allow for
international inspectors to monitor those borders.
They may even agree
that Israelis can be part of the international monitoring mechanism and if they
don’t, they will agree to some kind of fail-safe mechanism that will allow for
Israeli review of problematic cases of entry of goods or people, as existed in
the Rafah agreement.
With more than one-third of Jerusalem’s residents
being Palestinian and entire parts of the city being Palestinian, Jerusalem will
be the capital of both countries. I hope that you insist that the city remain
open and physically undivided, because that is the only way that Jerusalem can
exist and thrive. As a Jerusalemite who loves Jerusalem, I don’t want to see my
city divided into pieces with walls and fences.
The only walls in the
city should be those around the old city.
We will need the help of the
United States to help us both create joint security forces in Jerusalem so that
the city will be safe for all who live there and come to our wonderful city. The
Old City can be under shared sovereignty or divided sovereignty by demography or
some form of international management under the authority of a joint
Israeli-Palestinian council. There are various workable models.
the Holy Sites, under real peace we can formalize the current arrangements where
the Muslim control the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif and the Jews control the
Western Wall. All sites should be open for all. The Temple Mount is Holy for
Jews and the Western Wall is holy for Muslims. All people should be allowed to
pray wherever they want as long as they don’t do so at the expense of others.
This is a political issue, not a religious one, and the religious leaders of the
Holy Land should come up with suitable answers together, after peace is
established. They will have a key role to play in turning peace into a
It is then that the moderate religious leaders of the area and
the world will need to step up and be counted. Israel’s Jerusalem will be the
eternal undivided capital of the state and of the Jewish people and Palestine’s
Jerusalem will be their eternal undivided capital. When that happens, Jerusalem
can become the capital of the world symbolizing the ability to go beyond
conflict and create a city which celebrates its diversity.
Palestinian refugees will be given a choice of options for their future with the
best one being return to their state and receiving fair compensation for their
property loss and their suffering. Other countries have offered in the past to
absorb Palestinian refugees and I believe that they will once again make that
offer. Israel too will offer to accept a symbolic number of refugees under a
humanitarian family reunification scheme. All of the refugees must understand
that those who choose the Israel option will become Israeli citizens, under
Israel sovereignty and law, paying taxes to Israel and perhaps even serving in
the military or non-military national service.
Israel and the other
countries offering to accept refugees will select those who applied and not all
who apply will be able to get their first option. But all Palestinian refugees,
always, for all time, will be able to become citizens of the State of Palestine.
When you succeed in reaching an agreement, you should know that we the people,
the majority of Israelis and the majority of Palestinians, will vote “yes” in
So, please don’t give up. Keep on pushing. And once
again, welcome back!
The author is co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine
Center for Research and Information, 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, has been published
by Toby Press.