Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) listens to US President Barack Obama in the Oval Office.
(photo credit: AFP PHOTO)
After a brief lull following an exchange of verbal blows between Israel’s prime minister and the president of the United States around the nuclear agreement with Iran, the sides have resumed their public spat.
At issue this time is the statement by Secretary of State John Kerry that the two-state solution is receding and that Israel is inexorably being transformed into a binational state, with all the concomitant dangers such a development involves. Prime Minister Netanyahu, involved up to his neck in the US presidential elections (for reasons of Israel’s national security, he argues), responded immediately. Without rejecting Kerry’s fatalistic assessment, he blamed the Palestinians for the rapidly approaching violent clash between the two peoples within a binational state.
As a matter of principle, I do not believe relations between friendly states should be managed on television, via the Internet or in the press. The important question is not who began the squabble. Nor is it important who will display the maturity necessary to stop the dispute and move the discussion back to the confidentiality of the telephone line or the personal meeting.
The real issue is whether or not the situation on the ground is irreversible, and if we are rushing headlong toward the establishment of a binational state between the Jordan and the Sea.
Just a few days ago former defense minister and deputy prime minister Amir Peretz presented a plan for separation between Israel and the Palestinians that constitutes, in my view, a real and feasible answer to the fatalism enunciated by both Secretary of State Kerry and Prime Minister Netanyahu.
According to Peretz’s plan, clear and agreed-upon boundaries will be established between Israel and the Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 borders, taking into account demographic realities on the ground. Israel and the Palestinian state will carry out a limited exchange sovereignty: Five percent of Palestinian land, containing some 80% of the settlers, will be annexed to the Jewish state. In exchange, Israel will forfeit sovereignty over land of equivalent size, constituting 1% of its sovereign territory.
Moreover, Israel will be liberated from the military, economic and social burdens of the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem. Arab neighborhoods will be under Palestinian sovereignty; Jewish neighborhoods will be part of Israel.
The Peretz plan confronts, head on, the lack of trust between the two sides that has stood in the way of renewed peace negotiations, by calling for confidence building measures. The Palestinian Authority will move to halt incitement and violence against Israel, while Israel will freeze construction in the settlements.
Israel will declare that negotiations will be based on the 1967 borders, taking into account demographic changes and based an exchange of territory. The Palestinians, meanwhile, will announce that their negotiating goal is a peace agreement and the end of conflict.
In my view, the Peretz plan offers a practical and realistic way to confront the current wave of terrorism and, no less important, an effective answer to the growing sense of despair among Palestinians, Israelis and the international community. Adopting the Peretz plan for national separation will offer both sides a ray of hope. And it will convince both John Kerry and Benjamin Netanyahu that we are not looking at the lights from a train approaching from the opposite direction.
The writer served as a strategic adviser to Shimon Peres in his capacity as foreign minister, deputy prime minister and president.