(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
National Union-National Religious Party chairman Benny Elon proved that peace plans were not limited to the Left on Sunday when he presented his solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - a plan dubbed the "Israeli initiative."
At a press conference at Tel Aviv's Beit Sokolow, Elon repeatedly referred to peace and spoke about the need to help the Palestinian people. Elon launched a million-dollar advertising campaign to promote his plan on some 400 billboards and in the Hebrew and English press, as well as through a Web site in Hebrew, English, Arabic, Russian, French, Spanish and German.
The 16-page plan will be distributed to thousands of decision-makers in Israel, the US, Europe and Arab countries. The money for the campaign was raised from Israeli and American Jewish donors.
Elon said he had decided a different approach was needed to solve the Middle East conflict, one not based on Israeli territorial compromises. He purposely released the plan, which he had been working on for months, ahead of the upcoming summit between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
"The political discourse in Israel consists of old-fashioned concepts and mistakes," Elon said. "The assumptions are that in order to achieve peace, we must relinquish territory; that the Palestinians are a partner; and that Israel is prohibited from dealing with the refugee problem. These conceptions have failed and brought us to the place we are today: No peace, terror, Hamas controls Gaza and is threatening to seize control of Judea and Samaria. We must reexamine all the underlying assumptions that brought us to this current situation, and think differently, 'outside the box.'"
According to the initiative, the West Bank would remain under Israeli sovereignty, but Palestinians would become Jordanian citizens. The plan is based on three main principles: the rehabilitation of refugees and the dismantling of the refugee camps; strategic cooperation with Jordan; and Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank.
Elon said Israel must strive to find a humanitarian solution to the Palestinian refugee problem instead of a political one. He proposed dismantling the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, an organization that he said "perpetuated the refugee problem" and collaborated with the Palestinians to use the refugee issue as a political tool against Israel. Refugees would then be offered permanent housing, citizenship and generous rehabilitation grants.
He cited surveys carried out among the Palestinians that testified that 30 to 50 percent of them were interested in a humanitarian solution in other countries. He said that Jordan and other moderate Arab countries had an interest in cooperating with Israel in implementing such a plan, because of the nuclearization of Iran, the Shi'ite takeover in Iraq and the Hamas coup in Gaza.
"For the first time, a new situation has been created in the Middle East that creates common interests between us, the moderate Arab countries and the international community and turns the plan into a possibility," Elon said.
Olmert's office declined to comment on the plan.