Jerusalem's Old City, November 14,2014.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
On August 6, 2015, renowned Palestinian expert Avi Issacharoff published a piece in The Times of Israel under the title “The end of the twostate solution.” Issacharoff detailed the wide expansion of Israel’s settlements throughout the West Bank.
He wrote that “perhaps the time has come to say it out loud. To the Israeli right wing: You have won. No Palestinian state will exist here beside the State of Israel.”
If Avi is right we are all in very big trouble. There is only one solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, if “solution” means ending the conflict, and that is two states for two peoples. This is axiomatic because this conflict is between two national movements which have proven their willingness to fight, die and kill so that each could have a territorial expression of their identity. Each side is fighting for a land they can call their own, on which they express their identity, and through which their identity is expressed. Both movements are fighting over the same piece of land. The option of one united peaceful state with a homogenized identity – the United States of Israel-Palestine – is not real because neither side wants a homogenized identity; both sides are willing to continue to fight, with even more passion and venom so that the one state takes on their own identity.
When I meet Israelis and Palestinians who advocate the so-called “one state solution,” as soon as I dig below the nice slogans, what I find is that the Israelis are talking about a Jewish state with a large Arab minority and the Palestinians are talking about a Palestinian state with a large Jewish minority. Neither side of the so-called “one-staters” is really willing to give up its dream of the territorial expression of its identity.
So like it or not, Issacharoff and others who agree with him, we do not have a choice – there has to be a two-state solution, and obviously the longer we procrastinate in making the hard decisions, the more difficult it will be. No one ever said that making peace is easy. There are tough decisions that have to be made and in order for peace to be genuine we need to run away from some of the concepts that guided negotiators in the past and have led to their failure. In facing the difficulties that any Israeli government will have in making the tough decisions and then implementing them, it is important to remember any prime minister who negotiates such a deal will have the support of the defense establishment – the chief of staff, the head of the Mossad, the head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and most senior officers. The peace treaty will be backed by a referendum or new elections which will gain a majority of support from the Israeli people. Implementing difficult decisions will be possible because they will be supported by the people in a country of law, to say nothing of the enormous amount of international support that will be behind the agreement.
The first decision that the negotiators will have to make concerns the realization that security is the foundation on which any peace will be built. Security is for both peoples and for both states and there is no possibility for one side only to retain the responsibility and authority for the security of peace. There is also no real feasibility or desirability to sub-contract security responsibilities to a third party. Security must be the direct responsibility and authority of both parties and it will require them to work together and to design a security regime which will be based on a lot of cooperation and joint command and forces. Neither Israel nor Palestine can or should depend on the other side to provide security. Therefore, the only solution is for them to work together at it.
No, this is not the joint security mechanism of Oslo, which largely became Palestinian security forces being subordinate to Israel and in the end enhanced the feeling and belief that the entire Oslo process was designed to serve Israel’s settlement interests. Genuine security cooperation would involve joint command and forces in which cooperation is real and exists on both sides of the border.
Jerusalem must become the capital of both countries, but the physical division of Jerusalem cannot be accepted or tolerated. Jerusalem must be an open city where sovereignty is divided on a demographic basis, but the city must remain open. Yes, it is a security nightmare, especially in the beginning, but this can only work through real Israeli-Palestinian cooperation.
The openness of Jerusalem is in the interest of both sides and the entire world and therefore the two sides must work hard to find the solutions. The municipal governments can be joint or separate, that is much less important, what is essential is the physical unity of the city.
Peace cannot be built on walls, fences and barbed wire. It must be built on open borders – on the ability of people to cross into each other’s territory – legally and with security. There will have to be a border regime which at least initially checks and provides permits for people to move about freely. That regime can be streamlined and made efficient. The basic principle must be based on the understanding that even though we are partitioning the land into two states, for each side there are places of importance and meaning that are found in the other state. Peace should not give people the sense that they are living in a cage and that their free movement is limited. Peace must be based on building cooperation across borders and in turning the peace treaty from a piece of paper between leaders into building partnerships between people.
Peace must be developed through fostering a culture of peace and this cannot wait until a peace treaty is signed. Both sides must attack with full fury incitement, racism, materials and elements that create a culture of hate and a worship of death. We have all seen too much hate and too much death and it must be addressed now, not later.
Most settlers will remain where they are through a territorial swap. Nonetheless, a large number of settlers are probably going to have to leave their homes and relocate either in parts of Judea and Samaria that will be annexed or to return to the other side of the Green Line. There must be a Jewish minority in Palestine.
This must be part of the peace treaty and those Jews living in Palestine must be protected by their new state (Palestine). Communities that are evacuated and infrastructure left behind must remain intact and made available for the use of Palestine. It is insane to even think about demolishing all that was built. This is part of the infrastructure of rebuilding relations based on peace between Israel and Palestine. It will also be part of a larger compensation program and support for the development of Palestine and for its ability to absorb Palestinian refugees.
There is no time to wait and steps can be taken now that will put us in the right direction. Sixty-two percent of the West Bank is “Area C” – large parts of that can be already turned over to the Palestinians for them to begin to build new cities and new industries that will support peace.
If we wait, Avi Issacharoff will be proven right and then we will come to the realization that we are doomed to live by the sword for generations to come.
The author is the co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post and the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad Schalit. His book, Freeing Gilad: The Secret Back Channel, has been published by Kinneret Zmora Bitan in Hebrew, and in English as The Negotiator: Freeing Gilad Schalit from Hamas by The Toby Press.