The debate in Israel over peace with the Palestinians has centered since 1967 on
the price we will have to pay to resolve the conflict.
polls focus on questions regarding the withdrawal to the 1967 lines, dismantling
of settlements, compromises on Jerusalem etc.
Peace is not the price you
pay; peace is the absence of war and conflict, as well as the best guarantee for
life and prosperity.
While the price for peace with the Palestinians is
well known, the return is not. The perceived quid pro quo in Israel is between
what we give on the one hand and how much we can trust the Arabs on the
This creates a mistaken perception in which Israel gives back
tangible assets such as land, and, in return, we depend on the mere goodwill of
our neighbors to sustain peace. This is not realpolitik and is based on a
condescending attitude that the Arabs have nothing to give us in return. Yet
peace must be based on an equation, a structure of common interests.
price for peace is already defined in the 1967 Security Council Resolution 242 –
territories for peace, and today is part of all internationally respected peace
plans – a withdrawal to a border, based on the 1967 lines, with mutual land
swaps (for the settlement blocs), security arrangements, Jerusalem as a shared
capital, and no right of return for Palestinian refugees to Israel. This is
basically true for the Clinton Plan, the Geneva Initiative, the Saudi Peace
Plan, the Ehud Olmert-Mahmoud Abbas talks and, by and large, the Obama vision of
Israel never sufficiently defined what the tangible quid pro quo
On the “give,” one must be a dove, as the occupation of
another people is not sustainable and is immoral; on the “take,” one must be a
hawk, and demand in return cooperative relations that create common interests to
Israel, rather than trying to diminish the price of peace
by 1 or 2 percent of the West Bank, will serve its interests better if it
defines what peace means, in the equation of territories for peace. We have to
define firm demands from both the Palestinians and the Arab countries, and
condition the permanent deal on a real transformation in the regional
relationship. That is the key to sustainable peace.
Palestinians, we must demand the same normalization clauses that we insisted
upon with Egypt and Jordan, if not more: full diplomatic relations between
Israel and Palestine, with ambassadors in the two parts of Jerusalem, as well as
consulates (for visas, not permits), withdrawal and trade relations.
permanent-status agreement must mean the end to all mutual claims, as well as
the recognition of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.
why that recognition is necessary. It is important for the Palestinians to
recognize Israel for what it is, and not just as a fait accompli imposed on them
by the world. In parallel we should expect and propose full cooperation (what
the Arabs wrongly define as normalization) in the field of shared
infrastructure, such as water, energy and tourism. The two states will be
sharing a very small land and cooperation is necessary, based on full
While making demands, Israel will have to get used to not
imposing its will anymore, as the Palestinians will no longer be an occupied
people but our next-door neighbors. The same is true for the Palestinians, who
will have to put the occupation behind them and cooperate with Israelis as their
next-door neighbors. Such cooperation should include the various government
ministries, including the ministries of education, in order to create a joint
program for peace education; a difficult challenge after a century-long
People-to-people relations should have a central place within
the negotiations, possibly as the sixth permanent-status issue.
should include youth exchanges, twinning of cities, international exchanges,
business- to-business relations especially in high technology, tourism, media
and communication, sports etc.
There will not be much love lost between
the two societies, but the goal has to be reconciliation. Both sides have much
to gain from it.
This will be based on the creation of common interests
that will develop with time between two neighbors. It is not a favor we are
doing for each other – neither our withdrawing from Palestinian land, nor their
normalization and cooperation with us. This new cooperation must be accompanied
by the rhetoric of leaders, calling in Arabic and Hebrew for cooperation,
reconciliation and equality. Changes of attitudes are necessary in conflict
resolution in order to sustain peace.
Israel has to make similar demands
from the rest of the Arab world. The Arabs have claimed since 1967 that their
hostility to Israel is a function of the occupation and our domination of the
lives of the Palestinians; once this is resolved, the Arab countries will have
to put rejection and hostility behind them. We must demand, in exchange for the
return of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, that all Arab states establish full
diplomatic relations with Israel, an exchange of ambassadors, as well as full
consular and trade relations.
The Arab League should be asked to witness
the Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. A full normalization of relations has
to follow, as alluded to in the Saudi Peace Plan (the Arab
Peace is the opportunity for the Middle East to advance
economically and become part of the globalized world. A framework of regional
economic cooperation must be put in place; the European Union started with
cooperation on coal and steel, the Middle East should start with cooperation on
tourism and irrigation. The Middle East is one of the only regions that does not
have a regional development bank; the region’s countries should establish such a
bank with a strong regional economic planning unit that will include Arabs and
When it comes to economic cooperation, Israelis look at the
United States, the EU and Japan; while the Arabs look to the wealthy Gulf. Both
have to understand that a good national economy is a function of a strong
regional economy. Take tourism: most countries in the region have 2 million to 3
million tourists a year, as compared to southern Europe with about 60 million
across Italy and Spain. With everything we have to offer, from the cradle of all
monotheistic religions, the birthplace of great civilizations, unique
archeological sites and magnificent beaches along the Mediterranean, the missing
links for a tourism boom are peace and cooperation.
development has to put at the center the well-being, education and employment of
the young generation – the generation of change.
should also be dependent on security for the prevention of war and the fight
Governments make peace, but it must be for the people.
Wars in our region have destroyed economies and societies. Peace is a healing
process and must be structured in such a way. Not just a transition between
wars, but a new era. An era where economies grow through cooperation, people can
develop to their potential to the fullest, especially the young. Peace in our
region must therefore be a fundamental transformation, for countries, societies
Such a transformation, more than every paragraph of a
peace treaty or any inch of land, must be on the mind of the peacemakers and at
the heart of our demands.
Historically, Israel knew how to prepare for
the worst. Now it is time to prepare for the better. We have to demand it from
our neighbors and not less so from ourselves.The writer is president of
the Peres Center for Peace and served as Israel’s chief negotiator for the Oslo
Accords.Barbara Hurwitz edited this column.