Suddenly Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is speaking about renewing negotiations with the Palestinians.
Yair Lapid said that he will not join a coalition that does not renew negotiations, Tzipi Livni and Shaul Mofaz as well gave the push and Netanyahu has succumbed to the “will of the people.” Outgoing Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor of Likud says 80 percent of the people want the government to advance peace with the Palestinians. (Where were these people during the past four years?) The morning of a new dawn has come to Israel.
But does Netanyahu really want to enter into serious negotiations with the Palestinians or is just another tactic to gain international and local favor by negotiating but not making the tough decisions that could actually enable the negotiations to succeed? Netanyahu is not stupid and he is certainly not unaware of the content of the previous rounds of negotiations. He must also be aware that the Palestinians will not agree to back-track – they will not restart the negotiations from a point earlier than where they were when prime minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas held their last meeting. He certainly can’t believe, as Yair Lapid suggested in the campaign, that it is possible to convince the Palestinians to give up east Jerusalem.
The parameters of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal are known to Netanyahu, they have been on the table for years and Netanyahu refused to touch them even with a 10-foot pole. So what is different now? Is Netanyahu suddenly ready to accept a deal that he has rejected until now? Sources close the Netanyahu have told me he would accept a deal that would include a 10% annexation of the West Bank with no territorial swaps. There is not a Palestinian alive that would accept such as deal. The Palestinians will not give in on the principle that their state will be 22% of the land between the Jordan and the sea.
From their perspective this is what was agreed to in Oslo when they recognized Israel in 78% of the land. Israel will be able to annex about 4% of the West Bank in exchange of uninhabited lands inside of Israel proper, enabling the settlement blocs to fall under Israeli sovereignty, but not much more than that because equitable land for the swap inside of Israel does not exceed much beyond that.
They will not agree to not having their capital in east Jerusalem with Palestinian sovereignty in the areas of the city where Palestinians live. They will agree, in my assessment, to special arrangements for the Old City, as Olmert had proposed, or alternatively the Clinton parameters in the Old City, with sovereignty divided on demographic lines.
Palestinians will agree, in fact demand, that Jerusalem remain an open city with the only walls standing being those Ottoman walls around the Old City.
They will agree to Israeli sovereignty over the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter along with all of the other Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem (with the exception of Har Homa which was built after Oslo began) and they will be agreeable to transforming the status quo of Muslim control over the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif into permanent arrangements with limitations on both sides building, digging, tunneling or doing any damage to the holy compound without mutual consent.
Palestinians have agreed to a non-militarized state and they will agree to all reasonable Israeli security needs and demands, including an extended Israeli military presence along the Jordan within a framework of a multi-national force.
Palestinians understand that there will be no real return of Palestinian refugees to Israel proper. There will be some kind of symbolic gesture and some form of some family reunification. There will have to be some kind of post-conflict acknowledgement of Israel’s part of the responsibility for the birth of the Palestinian refugee problem.
There will have to be Israeli financial participation in an international resettlement fund for Palestinians who lost real property and assets inside of Israel proper.
And Israel will have to agree that all Palestinians always all over will have the right to attain citizenship in their own state and to return to their state of they so desire.
Both sides will be able to agree that Gaza will be part of the Palestinian state but this part of the agreement will be implemented only when the regime governing Gaza accepts the terms of the agreement. This will provide the Palestinian people in general and in Gaza in particular the ability to have a clear choice between liberation, freedom, independence, peace and prosperity or the continuation of Hamas rule.
At that point the Palestinian people will either force Hamas to change its positions or to remove Hamas from power. Hamas is a Palestinian problem, not an Israeli problem.
With the correct political tools it is possible to empower the moderates and throw the extremists out.
SO THIS is the deal, this is what is possible – but what will it convince Netanyahu to go for it? Netanyahu needs to come to terms with the meaning of the historic role that he sees for himself. He has often likened his role to that of Ben-Gurion and Begin. He has seen his chapter in history, until now, as saving Israel and the Jewish people from the Iranian nuclear holocaust.
This was his mission in his last term.
President Obama must assure Netanyahu that Iran is no Israel’s problem but an international one, and that the United States will keep its promise that Iran will not get the bomb. That is likely to be Obama’s main message to Netanyahu when he visits next month. Netanyahu’s place in history must be bringing Israel peace with its neighbors. This is his destiny as the leader of Israel’s right wing. It is essential for Israel’s welfare, both internally and externally, that he be the Israeli leader that will reach agreement with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu can do it and actualize his promise of long-term security for Israel.
Jerusalem will remain the eternal capital of Israel and the Jewish people and Israel will attain recognized sovereignty over all of the Jewish parts of Jerusalem which will remain an open physically undivided city.
Countries worldwide will move their embassies to Jerusalem, which will serve as the capitals of the two-states solution.
Netanyahu will preserve the Jewish identity of the state and fulfill the vision of the Zionist movement of a truly safe haven for Jews in their nation state, liberated from conflict and control over another people.
Netanyahu will be able to focus his future sights on creating a prosperous Israel where equality will exist for all of its citizens enjoying a modern economy that is able to provide the best education and health care systems in the world alongside of a welfare system that addresses those in need with compassion and the ability to help.
SO A recap of the push for Netanyahu to undertake the peace agenda with sincerity: Security, check; Preserving the Jewish identity of Israel, check; Retaining Jerusalem as the recognized capital of Israel, physically undivided with Israeli sovereignty over Jewish Jerusalem, check; Annexation of the Israeli settlement blocs, check; No real return of Palestinian refugees to Israel proper, check; Achieving a modern prosperous economy among the top 15 economies of the world, check; A place in history as a leading figure on the world stage and the legacy of bringing real security and peace to Israel and its people, check.
So, Mr. Netanyahu – time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Just one more additional note – it will not be possible to achieve the agreement with the Palestinians in a process of public diplomacy – you must negotiate with them, not with your own political party, so go ahead and do it via a secret back channel. Conclude the agreement and bring it to the people – you will be more than surprised at the massive support you will get.
The writer is the founder and co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information.