Encountering Peace: Our window of opportunity

There is a short window of opportunity to make peace with the Palestinians and most of the Arab world.

John Kerry 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)
John Kerry 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)
Secretary of State Kerry put it straight – there is a short window of opportunity to make peace with the Palestinians and most of the Arab world.
It will not be there for long and the consequences for Israel and the Palestinians of missing it will be severe. Kerry stated unequivocally that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas are partners for peace.
They are the best partners possible at this time for reaching a comprehensive peace agreement that will put an end to the conflict.
He got it right. Israelis and Palestinians who continue to contend that they want peace themselves but that there is no partner on the other side have it right from the perspective of history, but they got it wrong when examining the urgency and the imperative of the present and the future.
Kerry is of course confronted, as he admitted, with a great deal of skepticism and cynicism and a lot of people who ask why is this time different from all other times. We have heard the threats that the door on the two-state solution is closing.
This is not new. I have heard them many times before and have rejected that argument.
I have not made those threats because I don’t believe that there is any other solution for ending the conflict, but nonetheless, the current opportunity for moving forward toward serious negotiations is coming to an end.
What will come next is impossible to predict, but with each passing day resolving the conflict becomes more complex and solutions that may be possible to reach today will be more difficult to reach in the future. The ticking clock is not the closing of the window on the two-state solution, but on the political and perhaps physical lifespan of the current Palestinian leadership, which is truly willing and able to make the necessary concessions for peace and end the conflict.
Kerry was also correct to state that if there is no genuine peace process today each side will move into a phase of destructive unilateralism that could easily slide out of control and lead to the next violent collision between the two sides. Palestinians will consolidate their anti-Israel delegitimation campaign that will gain steam in civil society around the world. That campaign will find its way into governments’ policies around the world as well.
It begins with labeling settlement products, then preventing the entry of settlement products into various countries, to nonrecognition of diplomas from the Ariel College, to the non-visa-free-entry for settlers. From there it leads to actions against Israeli army officers and soldiers who serve in the occupied territories in local and international courts.
The BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaign which today has only marginal success to report will become mainstreamed and will gain support with greater speed and passion than is now imaginable. For Palestinians, the opportunity lost means the continued demise of their economy and security reality, increased limitations on their movements inside the West Bank and out from there to the world, more arrests of suspected organizers of unrest and violence.
If, God forbid, the territories explode into another round of violence, thousands of Palestinians and Israelis will once again lose their lives and billions of dollars in damages will be done to the physical infrastructure of the Palestinian towns and cities. All of this is unnecessary and leaders that allow it to happen will be committing criminal acts against their own people.
The Kerry initiative, backed by President Barack Obama, is the best way forward for both sides. Israel will have to come to terms with a nonmilitarized Palestinian state on 22 percent of the land between the river and the sea, that has control over its own external borders.
The sovereign Palestinian state will accept security arrangements that ensure and protect Israel against the possibility of our neighbors creating a terrorist enclave with the ability to shoot planes out of the air at Ben-Gurion Airport. This has to be part and parcel of the deal.
The Palestinians have to accept an agreement that will implement the Palestinian refugees’ right of return to their state and not to Israel proper. We will both have to accept sharing Jerusalem, enabling both states to have their capitals in Jerusalem without dividing Jerusalem physically. There are answers and solutions available for every single detail of a negotiated agreement that will enable each side to enjoy peace and security and develop long-lasting, peaceful relations between them.
The most Zionist thing for Israel to do is to make peace with our Palestinian neighbors based on two states for two peoples. The most Palestinian nationalistic thing for Palestinian leaders to do is to make peace with the State of Israel based on two states for two peoples. Leaders on both sides who oppose to this are enemies of their own people who are willing to take risks at the expense of the lives of hundreds and thousands of their own people.
This is nothing less than criminal. Real Zionists and real Palestinian nationalists will march their people to peace. We should all thank Secretary of State Kerry and President Obama for pushing us to act in our own interest.The author is 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 Schalit. His new book, Freeing Gilad: The Secret Back Channel, has been published by Kinneret Zmora Bitan in Hebrew.