A joint prayer session was held in Gush Etzion, after the Duma arson attack.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Since signing a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979, Israel has seen peace for the past 37 years, a peace that has established mechanisms for security coordination and cooperation. This agreement has enhanced security and stability for Israeli citizens as Israel works with Egypt on not only on intelligence and military matters, but also trade and desalinization.
In 1994, when Israel signed another monumental peace treaty, this time with Jordan, a nation on its longest border, it got peace — a peace that has held more than two decades as these two nations engage in meaningful and close security cooperation.
Those treaties have yielded true and lasting benefits for the Israeli people.
If Israel makes peace with the Palestinians, it too will get peace and lasting benefits that go well beyond its immediate borders. With an agreement will come enhanced security and economic opportunities for Israelis and Palestinians, as well as opportunities for collaborative efforts in such areas as the environment, energy, security and water usage, and for doors to crack open to peace treaties between Israel and other Arab nations through the Arab Peace Initiative.
An agreement means that Palestinians will be better able to raise themselves out of poverty and Israelis will be able to focus more on domestic matters and less on their borders. According to the World Bank, the West Bank and Gaza’s per capita gross domestic product was less than 8 percent of Israel’s. Israel must allow the Palestinians the opportunity to build their own economy, to work with regional partners and engage in international trade.
So, why are we waiting?
Do we want more deaths on both sides? More misery? More people scrambling for shelter? More international opprobrium for Israel?
Israel, with a military that is larger per capita than that of any of its neighbors, has the strength and ability to achieve peace. The question, though, is does Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have the willingness and motivation to do so?
Demographic realities offer Israel no choice. If Israel is to remain both a Jewish and a democratic nation, it must reach peace with the Palestinians, and it must do so soon.
Insistence on 100 percent of the land will lead to a Jewish homeland with a Jewish minority; a binational state. If Israel wants to maintain its Jewish majority, it has no choice but to relinquish land, and self-governance, to the Palestinians. The framework for such an agreement already exists — and has for decades.
Under such a framework — endorsed by the Arab League through the Arab Peace Initiative — Israel would relinquish land in return for peace. Just imagine: Fifty-seven Arab and Muslim countries would establish full diplomatic relations with Israel in return for a comprehensive, and mutually beneficial, peace agreement that ends the occupation.
The inescapable truth is that the creation of a demilitarized Palestinian state is not a gift to the Palestinians; it is a gift to the Jewish democratic state of Israel. The only way Israel can remain a Jewish, democratic state is if the Palestinians have a state of their own. Otherwise, in 2020, the population from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River will be only 49 percent Jewish.
Giving up land is the only way to prevent Israel from becoming a binational state with an Arab majority and Jewish minority, thereby forcing the homeland to either lose its Jewish character or to become a Jewish-controlled apartheid nation.
Israel’s leaders must recognize this demographic time bomb and take action before it’s too late. It’s time for two states for two people, with a demilitarized Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with a democratic Jewish homeland of Israel.
As we’ve seen with Egypt and Jordan, the only way Israel can have peace is for Israel to make peace.
S. Daniel Abraham is the chair of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace.