Israeli security and Palestinian rights go hand-in-hand

Americans concerned about the future of Israel and the Middle East have an opportunity to help establish the principle that Israeli security and Palestinian rights are mutually dependent.

June 9, 2016 21:38
3 minute read.
Baseball Israel

THE BASEBALL LE’KULAM program brings together Arab and Jewish youths who learn to play baseball thanks to the organizers, Play Global, Israel Association of Baseball and JNF.. (photo credit: YOSSI ZAMIR)


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The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is ongoing, deteriorating and continues to undermine Israeli security and basic Palestinian rights, while costing lives on both sides. Some argue that the conflict is doomed to persist because there is no way to reconcile the basic needs of Israelis and Palestinians. Can an independent Palestinian state exist alongside a secure State of Israel? An eye-opening and timely report from important expert voices makes clear that they can. Reaching a two-state agreement and ending the occupation would enhance Israeli security while greatly improving the lives of both peoples.

That is the top-line finding of the report released last week by the Center for a New American Security, a leading Washington- based think tank. It was written by two veteran Israeli security experts, and two Americans who have worked on questions of conflict resolution and Israeli security at the highest level. The Americans served as advisers to Secretary of State John Kerry and to Gen. John Allen, the decorated, retired US commander who worked with Israelis and Palestinians on questions of security during the previous round of negotiations.

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The report is grounded in the basic truth with which it opens: “Israelis will never agree to a two-state solution unless their security concerns are addressed. Palestinians will never agree to what they view as an endless occupation.” It reveals how a two-state solution can and should create an incredibly detailed and effective security framework that addresses both concerns.

Israel would be able to thoroughly defend itself, with the aid of the best of modern technology and with the close cooperation and assistance of the United States. Palestinians would be able to have the independence, dignity and freedom that they desire – without unnecessary Israeli interference or intrusions on their sovereignty.

The impressive report undercuts the narrative that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the many right-wing leaders around him have used to solidify their hold on power in Israel. They have told voters again and again that the creation of a Palestinian state would severely undercut Israel’s security, and that the occupation of the West Bank – and the expansion of settlements – keeps Israelis safe. Netanyahu has billed himself as “Mr.

Security” – the only politician who truly understands how to use force and tough talk to protect Israelis.

In reality, the ongoing military occupation is a massive drain on Israel’s resources and a huge threat to its democracy.

It undercuts Israel’s international standing and creates distrust and resentment among Palestinians, while failing to prevent periodic outbreaks of violent terrorism.

The report makes clear what senior Israeli commanders have said for years – that a two-state solution is actually the best way to make Israelis safer and secure the country’s borders. A political solution is the only way to ensure true, lasting security.

This document is a tool that advocates of peace and security can use to counter failed policies and false narratives. It also highlights another important truth. Even in the absence of direct negotiations at the moment, outside actors such as the US can play a major, constructive role in helping to craft and put forward ideas and solutions that point the way toward a solution.

Indeed, Gen. Allen and former undersecretary of defense Michèle Flournoy spoke on a panel following the presentation of the report. They stressed its helpfulness as a guiding light and benchmark for leaders and diplomats on both sides.

While some loud voices urge the Obama administration to step back from the conflict and leave Israelis and Palestinians to their own devices, the report shows precisely why they should not. A wealth of expertise – US, Israeli, regional and international – can be drawn on to put forward ideas for bridging gaps on tough questions and helping leaders and citizens on both sides realize that a two-state solution is not a dangerous fantasy but a realistic, workable necessity.

Americans concerned about the future of Israel and the Middle East have an opportunity to help establish once and for all the principle that Israeli security and Palestinian rights are mutually dependent, not mutually exclusive.

Emphasizing this basic truth is the key to achieving the kind of the progress that we all want to see.

The author is the president and founder of J Street.

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