Ami Ayalon: Obama speech offers 'opportunity' for Israel

Former Shin Bet chief presents his take on a two-state solution; "we don't see settlers as the enemy."

ami ayalon 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
ami ayalon 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Former Shin Bet chief and Labor MK Ami Ayalon threw his support on Friday  behind US President Barack Obama's Middle East speech, saying it complements the goals his organization, "Blue White Future," has set for Israel.
Obama is attempting to "open a window of opportunity for direct talks that will lead to a solution," Ayalon said. "Obama is saying to the Palestinians: You won't get a state unilaterally; come and talk. To the Israelis he's saying the basis for talks has to be the 1967 borders."
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Ayalon and other leaders of "Blue White Future" seek to garner Israeli support for a two-state solution, which he says most Israelis and most Knesset members would back.
"We want to rebuild Zionism around the idea of a Jewish and democratic state," he explained.
Ayalon described three possible diplomatic scenarios for Israel after Obama's speech.
The first, he explained, is that the Palestinians would declare an independent state in the UN in September. "The result of that would be international isolation and a forced peace agreement – that would be the nightmare scenario," Ayalon said.
"If the Palestinians do not get enough support in the UN, [Palestinians Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas may quit or the Palestinians may rise up against him, because they want a better future," he added. "They may give up on a diplomatic solution … ask for citizenship and equality in Israel, and if we don't give it to them, it would be apartheid." Such a scenario would mark "the end of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state," Ayalon explained.
The final scenario Ayalon described is that of a two-state solution that is the result of talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
"Blue White Future" proposed four steps that it sees as essential to peace talks that would yield positive results for Israel.
"We want to rebuild the architecture of an agreement and have Israel take its own future in its hands without being captive to the Palestinians or to those who oppose talks," Ayalon said.
The first step is to tell the Palestinians that Israel is willing to hold talks based on the "Obama outline," as Ayalon called it.
He recommends presenting a map in which settlements east of the security barrier as well as Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem would not be under Israeli sovereignty. "Israel would build only to the west of the barrier and in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem."
Ayalon also emphasized the importance of finding solutions for settlers living east of the security barrier, suggesting compensation for those who willingly leave their homes and plans for employment and absorption of settlers west of the barrier.
"We want to compensate those who return home to the State of Israel," he explained. "We don't see settlers as the enemy." Ayalon added that Israel should not force settlers out of their homes "unless there is an agreement and it is necessary."
"Blue White Future" also drew up a strategic plan, based on the findings of the government investigation into the disengagement from Gaza. "We know the government made mistakes, and we want to show how it can be done differently."
The final step in the plan Ayalon presented is a national referendum on a treaty before it is signed.
"This will be the most difficult, important and painful decision that an Israeli government will have had to make since 1948," Ayalon said. "It cannot be part of the usual political games."
Ayalon says he has support from seven ministers and most Knesset members, citing Kadima, Labor, Independence, Meretz and even some members of Shas and Likud as those who would back "Blue White Future."
His end goal is "to force [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu to do what Sharon did – change his coalition. The real question is if Netanyahu has the courage to put the State of Israel first, ahead of narrow political interests."