A pragmatic ‘yes’ to the Arab Peace Initiative

By YUVAL RABIN, KOBY HUBERMAN
November 29, 2010 22:51

Yitzhak Rabin’s son proposes an Israeli Peace Initiative, arguing that it demonstrates a "transformational shift in strategy."

4 minute read.



A pragmatic ‘yes’ to the Arab Peace Initiative

arab league 224 ap. (photo credit: )

Since 2000, the peace process has been oscillating between stops and starts. Whether or not Israelis and Palestinians resume peace talks – and more so if the talks fail – it’s time to face the inevitable conclusion: Permanent-status agreements are unlikely to be achieved through mere bilateral negotiations without a regional context. A new approach is therefore needed to ensure that the process reaches its destination while the impact of spoilers is minimized.

In 2002, Arab states presented the Arab Peace Initiative (API) as their “endgame” vision, introducing a transformational shift toward a comprehensive, regional and “future-based” process rather than a fragmented, bilateral and incremental one. Like many Israelis, we perceived this as an historic event. Still, we do not intend to explain the difficulties Israeli governments have had with the API or why it was not accepted. Instead, we propose that Israel respond with its own parallel “endgame” vision – an Israeli Peace Initiative or IPI – rather than attempt to “fix” the API.

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The IPI should articulate Israel’s own long-term vision, to be achieved after successful and gradual implementation of all permanent status agreements. Proposing such an IPI would demonstrate a transformational shift in Israel’s strategy – a realization that only by ending the regional conflict will Israel attain its security goals and eliminate existential threats. Such a vision should also demonstrate that these longterm interests (such as security, identity and acceptance in the region) are achievable in accordance with the API core concepts.

WITH THAT in mind, two years ago we started to draft an IPI proposal based on three principles: our interpretation of Israel’s genuine strategic interests; our assumption that Israeli leaders would be ready to make “all possible concessions” only when they could show Israelis that these would be “in return for the end of all conflict”; and our determination to adopt existing proposals already negotiated in the 19 years since the Madrid Conference.

The detailed IPI text will be published shortly in English, Hebrew and Arabic; it contains four vision chapters, starting with regional end-of- conflict scenarios. The Israeli-Palestinian scenario is a viable Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders and one-on-one land swaps, Jerusalem as the home of two capitals and special arrangements in the Holy Basin, an agreed solution for the refugees inside the Palestinian state (with symbolic exceptions), mutual recognition of the genuine national identities of the two states as the outcome of negotiations and not as a prerequisite, reiteration of the principles underlying Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence regarding civic equality for its Arab citizens, and long-term security arrangements with international components.

The Israeli-Syrian end-ofconflict scenario is based on phased withdrawals from the Golan Heights to the 1967 borders, with one-on-one land swaps, coupled with tight security arrangements to curb paramilitary organizations. Regarding Lebanon, the scenario articulates mainly security arrangements, as international borders have already been established.

The other IPI components present regional security mechanisms addressing common regional threats, a vision for regional economic development and parallel evolution toward normal ties.

As we are pragmatic businesspeople, we intentionally left many issues for the experts, e.g. water, symbolic exceptional solutions for refugees in Israel and the impact of long-term permanent security arrangements on nuclear weapons in the region.

For similar reasons, we are not in a position to suggest the exact diplomatic processes that will turn the API and IPI into actionable platforms. However, in the past 18 months we have shared the evolving IPI text with Arab figures in various forums and were encouraged to hear them welcoming the very fact that Israelis are responding to the API, regardless of the IPI’s language. When talking to them and Israeli experts, we presented our idea of forming a regional framework agreement as a synthesis between the API and the IPI. In fact, the two initiatives could become “vision deposits” that provide a declaration of principles, or alternatively a framework agreement.

The ideas in the IPI are not what we Israelis have been dreaming and hoping for, as they represent a major shift from our collective ideology. Accordingly, Israeli society will find them difficult to digest. But we believe Israelis can face these challenges, and that our democratic system will win, because the IPI reflects the mutual sacrifices needed to end all conflicts and achieve the true strategic interest of the State of Israel: a secure homeland for the Jewish people, with full regional recognition.

We hope the IPI creates an intensified dialogue and some rethinking in Israeli circles and the region. More importantly, 15 years after prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, we hope to see brave regional and international leaders translate the API and IPI visions into practical, synchronized progress.

Yuval Rabin is a businessman. Koby Huberman is a strategy development expert, a businessman and a social entrepreneur. They are coauthors of the IPI. This article was first published on bitterlemons-api.org and is reprinted with permission.


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