It sometimes seems that hardly a week passes without someone offering a new plan for peace in the Middle East.
Another plan is now on the table. This one is put forward by Blue White Future, an organization led by, among others, Gilead Sher, Ehud Barak’s former chief negotiator with the Palestinians.
The good news: It is a tough, hard-nosed, sensible plan, intended to eventually promote a two-state solution. It rejects the do-nothing mentality of Israel’s right, which somehow feels that maintaining the status quo is the best way to advance Israel’s interests in the territories. But it also rejects the starry-eyed notions of the left, which is often burdened by naïve ideas on Palestinian moderation that does not yet exist.
The essence of the plan is “constructive unilateralism.” Israel will declare that it has no claim on land east of the security barrier, and then it will stop construction on that land and begin planning for the relocation of the 100,000 settlers who live there.
However, there are three major differences between the Blue White proposal for withdrawal and the unilateral withdrawals carried out by Israel in Lebanon and Gaza.
First, everything will be carefully coordinated with the United States.
Second, while the settlers will withdraw, the IDF will stay where it is until a stable peace is established. Leaving Israel’s army in place will guarantee that Israel’s security will not be compromised and that the evacuated territory will not become a base for terror or missile attacks on Israel’s cities
And third, careful planning and dialogue will assure that the relocated settlers will be treated with dignity and respect.
The political advantages of the plan are many.
It gives the Palestinians an incentive to return to negotiations because, if they do not, the security barrier is likely to become the internationally-recognized border between the two states.
It will be sympathetically received in Washington at a time when—due to the Iranian threat and the Arab spring—relations with America are more critical than ever. And it returns the initiative to Israel’s hands. Absent a clear Israeli strategy, the next American President, no matter who is, will come up with an approach of his own—and it will not necessarily be an approach that Israel will like.
And most important is the simple fact that whether or not the plan produces a negotiated settlement, it will prevent Israel’s citizens from waking up in 5 years and discovering that their state has become a bi-national one, without a Jewish majority.
But now the bad news: The leaders of Blue White future believe that Israel’s government and the settlement population can be convinced to support their plan. There is not a scintilla of evidence to suggest that this is the case.
Nonetheless, the plan is meticulously constructed and draws on the expertise of Israel’s leading financial and legal experts. It demonstrates conclusively that what it proposes is practically feasible.
This is a plan that will serve Israel’s interests, preserve her security, promote Zionist values, strengthen relations with the United States, and improve her standing with friends and allies around the world. The government may balk and the settlers may resist, but circumstances can change, and the plan offers hope and a reasonable vision for the future.
Its creators deserve our thanks.