We Israelis have to add a new term in our diplomatic lexicon and to overcome our
national inability to say “Thank you” to friends who work for our
Take the Obama administration, which in five years has strengthened
security cooperation with us more than any previous administration, given us
massive economic aid, is in the process of dismantling the Syrian chemical
arsenal, has succeeded in orchestrating crippling international sanctions on
Iran’s economy to bring it to negotiate the prevention of nuclear arms
development, has waged war against Islamic terror in Iraq and Afghanistan and is
actively engaged in bringing about historic conflict resolution with the
Palestinians and with the Arab world, our security interests very much in mind.
Secretary of State John Kerry expends unprecedented energy, determination and
creativity; his current effort is our best chance to preserve our identity as a
Jewish democracy living in security.
And what is the reaction of our
prime minister? Suspicion, criticism and working against the administration with
America is not doing us a favor, it is working
for its own strategic interests, but from a most supportive point of view. It is
in our strategic interest to work with the United States, not against
This is crunch time. The America’s diplomatic offensive results from
an in-depth analysis of its security interests in the Middle
Without conflict resolution at the core of the region, there is a
real danger that the extremist, fundamentalist forces will have a field day and
will ignite violence and terror on the shoulders of a disillusioned, frustrated
Palestinian and Arab public opinion.
In addition to understanding who our
friends are and what our interests are, we must think, decide and act
accordingly. And the time is now. It is quite basic. Seven million Jews and 4.5
million Arabs live between the river and the sea. Almost 300 million Arabs live
The choice is between two states, with Israel normalizing its
relations with the Arab world, and no nation-state at all, with regional
The trade-off is clear – we must grant the Palestinians the
real ability to create a fully independent state on the territories occupied in
1967 in return for full peace, security and real normalization with the Arab
Permanent status must be coupled with regional peace and regional
structures for political, economic and security relations in three regional
structures with international support.
The Israeli-Palestinian circle –
The conflict resolution must address the fundamental interests of both sides and
not political positions and predicaments. Israel needs security in a volatile
and mostly hostile region, economic development as well as regional and
international legitimacy. The Palestinians need full independence, a modern
nation-building process as well as regional and international support. Both
sides want to safeguard their unique identity as nationstates.
interests can be reconciled. A viable Palestinian state must be based on the
1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps. Israel’s security will be
safeguarded by a better and more equal relationship with Palestine that must be
demilitarized (including Gaza) with international inspections and security
arrangements along the borders for several years to prevent the anti-peace
forces from sabotaging the agreement. The settlement blocs close to the Green
Line include 75 percent of all settlers (4 percent of the West Bank) and the
other settlers will be relocated into the blocs. An issue important to the
Palestinians is a full release of all prisoners with the peace agreement. In
this way, independence and security can be reconciled.
One must also
reconcile the two identities and narratives. There should be mutual recognition
of the two nation-states. Israel must recognize Palestine as the national
homeland of the Palestinian people and deal with it on the basis of full
equality. Palestinian self-determination is a basic right, but also an Israeli
interest for the preservation of our national and democratic
Israeli self-determination as the one homeland of Jewish people
is a basic right (both rights were recognized by the UN in 1947), but also a
Palestinian interest. Without a Jewish state to its west, Palestine would not be
Palestinian, but a binational state.
This mutual recognition would be a
recognition of reality, which not only the leaders, but also the two
constituencies, must get used to.
As part of the reconciliation of
identities, Jerusalem must be a shared capital, with the holy sites shared
according to their religious character. It can remain a united city with the two
sides cooperating on its socioeconomic development.
On the issue of
refugees, the problem must be solved, as mentioned in the Arab Peace Initiative,
in a just and agreed upon way, while not altering the demographic integrity of
both countries. In other words, the “right of return” would be to the new
Palestinian state, not to Israel, accompanied by an international compensation
These solutions would reconcile the basic interests and
identities of both sides in a fair and sustainable way and would put an end to
the conflict and to mutual claims. They demand major decisions of historic
Both leaderships at this point are too weak to take such
decisions on their own.
The Palestinians are in need of a regional
umbrella to make historic concessions, as well as of international support.
Israel is in need of a regional quid pro quo for its concessions as well as
international support, hence the other two circles of peacemaking: The
Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian circle – an economic federation. A two-state
solution must take into consideration the interests and role of neighboring
Palestine and Jordan are linked demographically and
geographically. Israel and Jordan are linked by a peace treaty.
Jordanian role, together with the Palestinians, and not in their place, would
make the decision-making process easier and the outcome more stable. Jordan has
governance and security experience and is respected in the West. The economic
future of the three countries is intertwined, as every economy today is of a
A trilateral cooperation effort should be embarked upon,
together with the negotiation process, leading to an Israeli-Palestinian-
Jordanian economic federation, like Benelux, following the permanent-status
agreement. It should be based on free trade, on cooperation regarding water,
energy and transportation infrastructure, as well as on joint ventures,
especially in tourism and in the development of the Dead Sea area.
cooperation can also be useful on the security front, by establishing a
trilateral force along the Jordan River for the prevention of terror (possibly
under American command).
According to the Israeli-Jordanian Peace Treaty
and the agreement between King Abdullah and President Mahmoud Abbas in March
2013, Jordan has a role with regard to the Muslim holy sites of the Old City of
This can be helpful in resolving the most emotionally loaded
A Jordanian role in the peace process would facilitate and
encourage Palestinian and Israeli decision-making. Yasser Arafat had Hosni
Mubarak as a partner to agreements and concessions, Abbas may have King Abdullah
in a similar role. As for Israel, Jordan is viewed as experienced on security,
with a positive attitude toward Israel, and its inclusion would make agreements
and concessions more acceptable.
The regional circle is of prime
The Arab world’s motive for conflict with Israel was the
unresolved Palestinian question. With permanent status, all member states of the
Arab League have obliged themselves in the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 to
normalize relations with Israel, which means the establishment of diplomatic
relations between us and about 20 Arab countries. Today no country in the world
recognizes Jerusalem as our capital, not even the United States; after permanent
status, all of the international community and the Arab world will recognize
West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and establish their embassies
Peace and security in today’s world is of a regional nature, with
regional political, economic and security cooperation and structures.
this realm, the Arab League should endorse the permanent-status agreement as
well as the future Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian economic
Peace must profoundly change the regional economy, from
destruction and poverty to cooperation and growth. Such cooperation could be in
the fields of shared infrastructure, such as water, energy, transportation,
communications, etc. Tourism is the leading peace industry and with peace and
cooperation the number of tourists to the region, including to Israel, could
easily triple or more.
Such cooperation can sustain peace and the
multilateral planning of it can give important incentives to Israel and
For us, it creates a new horizon of regional and international
relations, for the Palestinians it creates an important umbrella for their
decision-making and nation-building processes.
These transformations will
be slow and difficult, but as they were possible in most post-conflict regions,
they must be an aim of the Middle East peace process. They speak more than the
political process to the economic well-being of the people.
circles of peace efforts must be encouraged and supported by the international
community, especially the US and the EU. The United States is the leading player
in the peace process and has turned from facilitator to effective
Beyond its necessary bridging proposals, Washington can
contribute to the peace process by working closely with the parties on security.
The US has the intelligence capacity that will make the fight against terror
more effective after the IDF withdrawal from the West Bank. It also has the
political clout to influence the security situation, as no country is eager to
lose its support.
Barack Obama and Kerry plan to get the American private
sector involved, especially for the economic development of the new Palestinian
state. Regional projects may become of interest to US companies, including in
the Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian triangle.
In the past, American
companies showed interest in developing the “Lowest Point on Earth Park” at the
Dead Sea as a major global tourist attraction.
The European Union has
signaled that it intends to upgrade Israel and Palestine to the highest non-EU
member status, with major advantages for both economies. It can work with the
region on regional economic development as the force and voice of
Sustainable peace needs a peace architecture.
legitimate in a democracy to oppose peace and there are plenty who do in the
Arab world and in Israel. On the other hand, it is defeatist for those who want
peace to say it is not possible. Peace is difficult to achieve, as it demands
compromising with former enemies, yet with creativity and courage, it is not
only possible, but a must.
The writer is honorary president of the Peres
Center for Peace and served as Israel’s chief negotiator for the Oslo
Barbara Hurwitz edited this column.