Encountering Peace: Breakthrough dynamic

Decisions with historic consequences could be made by the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in the coming days.

January 25, 2012 21:54
4 minute read.
Palestinian terrorists fire a mortar shell in Gaza

Palestinian terrorists fire a mortar shell in Gaza 311 R. (photo credit: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters)

We are about to enter another one of those critical weeks in the chronicles of our peoples. Decisions with historic consequences could be made by the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in the coming days.

Neither Israel nor Palestine has a real strategic alternative to a negotiated peace agreement that leads to the establishment of a nation-state of the Palestinian people, Palestine, next to the nation-state of the Jewish people, Israel, and the end of the conflict.

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The initiative taken by Jordan’s King Abdullah II to launch talks in Amman was courageous and most admirable, as was the agreement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to participate. It would be unreasonable and illogical to return to the position of not talking. What is needed now to sustain the talks is a “breakthrough dynamic” that can advance us all towards serious negotiations on all of the core issues.

The “breakthrough dynamic” can best be found in the security realm. The issue of security, which at the end of the day is the most crucial element in ensuring the safety of all of the people of the region, has to be dealt with directly and in a mutual problem solving manner.

It is essential, on the one hand, for Netanyahu to understand that the position of full Israeli control over the eastern border of the Palestinian state is a non-starter for the Palestinians, and on the other hand it is essential for Abbas to understand that without Israeli security satisfaction there will be no agreement on the other core issues, first and foremost on borders.

With the current chaos in the region and the prospects of further destabilization in sight, the Israeli perspective is that the future eastern border of the Palestinian state is Israel’s security border. Even if, as we all hope, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan remains stable, Israel must be able to ensure that the West Bank will not become a factory for rocket production and that there is zero smuggling of weapons and the means of production of weapons into the Palestinian state.

Israel must also consider the possibility of the destabilization of Jordan in which case Iran or Iranian agents could potentially be on Israel’s eastern border. This is one of the planning perspectives on the table within the Israeli security establishment and it is essential to take it seriously.

The breakthrough dynamic could be created when the three parties together, Israel, Palestine and Jordan decide to put the security issue on the table and propose real and acceptable solutions to the real Israeli threat perceptions. I am quite sure that those solutions can be found. The attitude at the table must be that these threat perceptions are not tactical maneuvers to prevent real negotiations on the other core issues.

This issue is the fundamental key that will open the door to serious negotiations on the other issues. The point of this exercise is not to have the Israeli security agenda take primacy over the Palestinian demands for sovereignty, determining borders, etc. Those issues must be dealt with seriously and as soon as possible. The problem is that they will not be dealt with soon or seriously if there is no breakthrough on the security needs.

I believe that King Abdullah should put the issue on the table, enabling Israel to present in depth its full threat perception assessment and a presentation of Israel’s needs in this realm for creating maximum security within the bounds of a possible Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty. The discussions on solutions must be trilateral and all parties at the table must be able to propose various kinds of solutions, with an Israeli readiness to consider the proposals and work with them.

This is a serious exercise and must be done with precision and sensitivity. All three parties together should address possible mechanisms for solutions. The resolution of this issue will enable the parties to move forward next to the issue of borders, which will then put an end to the controversy of continued settlement construction.

I cannot think of a better way of progressing nor a better framework to do this in. The tri-lateral Jordanian, Israeli and Palestinian negotiating table is the right place at the right time for dealing with the security issue. Jordan could offer proposals that allow for joint patrols with Israeli and other international participation on the Jordanian side of the border.

The Palestinians should be able to consider the kind of proposals that Hafez Assad was prepared to accept in the late 90’s including non-uniformed Israeli presence in a multinational presence led by the United States. Technological advances make border control more feasible today even without a massive physical presence patrolling the borders, as is used along the Israel Gaza border and other sensitive places along the Israeli defense lines around the West Bank and along the northern border with Lebanon.

President Abbas indicated in previous talks that the Palestinians recognize Israel’s real and legitimate security concerns and is prepared to work with Israel and defining acceptable measures that will ensure Israel’s security within a peace treaty. Palestinian negotiators during the time of the Olmert government agreed to the principle of a nonmilitarized Palestinian state and I am quite sure that they will agree to that today as well.

Israel’s security problems and threats are real and the current chaos in the region has only increased the threats and the security anxiety. This issue must be addressed now because finding solutions to it will enable a breakthrough in the negotiations on borders – which must come next.

The writer is the co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information, and a radio host on All for Peace Radio.

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