Encountering Peace: Netanyahu: Commit to two states
2013 must be the year when the leaders go beyond themselves, move forward beyond the expectations of their people, far beyond their own expectations of each other and of the possibilities for peace.
UN's Ban Ki-Moon, PM Netanyahu Photo: GPO
There is no better person to lead Israel to peace than Prime Minister Binyamin
That is not an easy statement for someone like me to write.
Netanyahu as the leader of the right wing has the ability to reach an agreement
with the Palestinians and gain the support of the majority of the Israeli
Israeli-Palestinian peace will entail concessions on the
positions held by Netanyahu and backed by at least half of the Jews living in
Coming to terms with the parameters of peace for Netanyahu will
mean an enormous, heart-breaking struggle with the ideology he has lived with
and by his whole life. But peace with our neighbors is the most important
long-term achievement an Israeli prime minister can deliver and we need
Netanyahu to be the leader to do it.
Netanyahu sees himself as a great
historic leader of Israel and the Jewish people. He perceives of himself as the
inheritor of the legacies of David Ben-Gurion and Menachem Begin. It seems that
he has sought to step into those great shoes by taking on the Iranian bomb and
Iran’s dream to destroy Israel.
His term of office, about to come to an
end, can be marked by his drawing of global attention to the Iranian nuclear
issue and success in getting an American commitment to preventing a
nuclear-armed Iran. In his next term of office he needs to refocus his attention
to achieving peace with the Palestinians, because failure to do so would pose
existential risks to Israel no less than the Iranian bomb.
In order for
that to happen, here are some things that must occur: President Barack Obama
must tell Netanyahu with determination that the United States is fully
responsible for ensuring that Iran will not arm itself with nuclear weapons,
regardless of what is required to achieve that end. Iran is for the US to deal
with, not Israel.
President Obama must then tell Netanyahu that he must
dedicate himself to facing the Palestinian issue and come to terms that will
enable a breakthrough toward genuine negotiations.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas must reach out to the Israeli people and convince them
that he is the partner that Israel needs to make peace. Abbas must acknowledge
the genuine Israeli concerns regarding his record and his positions. He must be
unequivocal in his determination to remove incitement against Israel and Jews
from all aspects of Palestinian public life. That determination must be
expressed in real actions, not only in statements.
He must convince
Israelis he is willing to accept all reasonable Israeli security demands that
will ensure that the West Bank will not become a base of terrorism for attacking
Israel after Israeli withdrawal. He must acknowledge and agree that Jewish holy
places that might be in the Palestinian state will be honored and protected and
that Jews will always have the right to visit and worship in these places. He
should declare that Jews can also live in the Palestinian state and that no harm
will come to them.
He must clearly state that when an agreement is
reached on all of the issues in conflict that it will be the end of conflict
Israel’s other neighbors that have peace treaties with Israel
should show their support for the two states for two peoples solution. They
should provide clear assurances that once the Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty
is signed the frozen state of peace will be converted to real peace.
is especially important now that the Muslim Brotherhood rules Egypt and because
of the large Palestinian population in Jordan. The leaders of Egypt and Jordan
can provide substantial assistance both in the process of negotiations and by
providing political support for the Palestinian leadership, which will have to
make its own significant concessions. Visits to Israel by the leaders of Egypt,
Jordan and Palestine together – addressing the Knesset with an appeal for peace,
would make real inroad towards changing Israeli public opinion.
must recommit himself to the two states for two peoples solution, as he did at
the beginning of this term. It would be wise for him to tell the Palestinian
people (and the Israeli people) what he means by peace and his vision must be
convincing and genuine. He has to go beyond the clichés of his Bar Ilan speech
and begin to speak in real terms that Palestinians can believe provide the basis
Both Netanyahu and Abbas should understand that they have a
responsibility to create a dynamic of mutually reinforcing positive statements,
rather than what they have done so well over the past years, namely mutually
Netanyahu has the copyright on “mutuality” and
He doesn’t lose anything by taking the first step and
reaching out to the Palestinian people. He should seriously suggest to Abbas
that if he is invited to come to Ramallah he would accept the offer to address
the Palestinian people directly from the Palestinian Authority headquarters
where all of the Palestinian leadership would gather to hear him and his talk
would be broadcast on Palestinian media and to the world.
have to decide that the scoring of points and the entrenchment of the language
of animosity must come to an end. Responsible leaders of Israel and Palestine
can no longer risk missing this opportunity to engage with each other in an
honest pursuit of real peace. I am convinced that both leaders genuinely want
peace for their peoples. I know that both peoples have had enough of conflict,
they are tired of the suffering, but have lost the belief that peace is
possible. The leaders themselves have demonstrated over the past four years that
they have been captives of the same attitude.
2013 must be the year when
the leaders go beyond themselves, move forward beyond the expectations of their
people, far beyond their own expectations of each other and of the possibilities
for peace. Abbas can do it. Netanyahu can do it. We need them to do
The writer is the co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Center
for Research and Information, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post and the
initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad