The Middle East is at a dangerous crossroads as we approach
Will the region move to a viable peace process through
negotiations, or towards a dangerous volatility due to unilateralism? September
has to be seen in the light of last January – the beginning of the Arab Spring.
From the time the Tahrir Square revolution took place, no Arab leader will be
able to make decisions without consulting his constituency, particularly the
When it comes to peace in the region, the thoughts and emotions of
the Arab peoples are deeply linked to their Palestinian brethren under Israeli
To some degree, there are similarities in Israel. After the
300,000-strong demonstration of the young middle class two weeks ago, it can be
said that we are indeed witnessing a sort of “Israeli Spring.”
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will not be able to make decisions on issues of
peace and security without the support of that young constituency, who perhaps
are neither Right nor Left, but desire a decent and peaceful life.
creates a new democratic equation in our region – the people matter, and peace
will not be a peace of leaders and elites, but a peace of and for the
If Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
want progress and stability for their countries, they need to address the
Israeli and Palestinian peoples, and to brave the mistrust that exists toward
them among their neighbors.
They would, therefore, be best served if
Netanyahu spoke directly to the Palestinian people, and Abbas spoke directly to
the Israelis. They need to learn from Sadat, not Mubarak.
Why would not
each leader take a 20-minute drive, Netanyahu from Jerusalem to the Palestinian
Majlis and Abbas from Ramallah to the Knesset, with offers of peace? This is
what I believe these two leaders should say, if this scenario should
Netanyahu at the Majlis:
Mr. Speaker, members of the Majlis, I
come from Jerusalem, so close, and yet so far. I have come to offer peace
between two states, two nations. To break the psychological wall that has
separated us. To turn prejudice into respect, and fear into hope.
privileged to address you here in your parliament.
I am a son of
Jerusalem, the heart of Jewish life for three millennia. I represent a people
who have known throughout the centuries expulsions, hardships, inquisitions,
pogroms, Holocaust – yet never for a moment, abandoned their values inherited
from our biblical forefathers, or their yearning for our historical homeland. In
the 20th century we were able to witness the rebirth of our nation in its land,
and developed a state that we are proud of and a safe haven for our people. It
was never our intention that Israel’s independence would be at the cost of our
Arab neighbors. But history moved in a tragic direction of ongoing conflict and
After peace with Egypt and Jordan, the time has come to make
peace between us – Israelis and Palestinians. It is not our intention to control
your lives. I have already, two years ago, recognized a two-state solution, a
peace between the Jewish state of Israel and the Arab state of Palestine. This
peace must be accompanied by stringent security measures.
never compromise on its security; that is my prime responsibility.
with this in mind that I propose immediate direct negotiations on a peace treaty
between us, with borders based on the 1967 ones; mutually agreed land swaps;
stringent security measures that will put an end to all violence and terror; and
a resolution to all permanent-status issues.
The peace between our
countries will be a peace between two societies that will cooperate fully, with
full normalized relations in favor of our economies and our societies. Our peace
will be an inspiration to the whole world, especially our Arab
It is our will to reach comprehensive regional peace that will
include the whole Arab world.
I have come here as a proud Israeli and
Jew, and am extending my hand to peace between our countries, nations and
Abbas at the Knesset:
Mr. President, Mr.
Speaker, members of Knesset, it is a privilege to speak to you here, in the
center of your democracy and through you to the people of Israel. I have come as
a Palestinian patriot, a representative of the whole Palestinian nation. I have
come to you to merge two conflicting yearnings into one – a new reality of
peace, with full equality, between Palestine and Israel.
like the Jewish people, have been the victims of history. We lived throughout
our long history under the yoke of foreign rulers. Today, we have already lived
44 years under your occupation, never knowing a single day of full
I have come here to say, enough to foreign rule, and declare a
beginning to Palestinian independence, a sovereign Palestinian state within the
1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.
But I have also come to
say to you, our Israeli neighbors, that our independence will not come at your
The end of occupation will not mean an end to security; on the
contrary – peace with Palestine will bring more security to both our nations.
Peace is security. We are ready to enact security measures for the good of both
sides that do not infringe on our sovereignty. We will be in charge of our
internal security and prevent violence and terror. To this end, we accept
Palestine to be a demilitarized state. Independent Palestine will have full
diplomatic and normalized relations with Israel, and the future of our societies
will be one of cooperation. For that, neither you, nor we, are required to give
up on our historical narratives, national traits or religious beliefs.
this vein, I announce here that within the implementation of our
permanent-status agreement, we will recognize you in the way you define
yourselves – as the homeland of the Jewish people. Let us start negotiations to
resolve all permanent-status issues and create a peace of security and equality
between an independent Palestine and an independent Israel.
mean an end to unilateralism, you by refraining from building in the
settlements, and we by not asking for a unilateral UN vote on a Palestinian
state. We will ask our Arab brethren to join Palestine in peace with Israel, to
create a comprehensive and just peace in our region.
These speeches have obviously not been delivered. But if
Netanyahu and Abbas want to prove real leadership for their peoples, I believe
this is the path they should choose – a path of both courage and compromise.
September is approaching and the alternatives may be catastrophic for both
sides. It is not too late.
The writer is the president of the Peres
Center for Peace and served as Israel’s chief negotiator of the Oslo Accords.