The endgame imperative

Only a clear vision of the final goal – a sovereign Palestinian state coupled with a final ‘end of the conflict’– could motivate compliance by both sides.

A major problem – the evacuation of settlers. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A major problem – the evacuation of settlers.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
THE RECENT French and rumored Egyptian proposals for an international or regional conference to renew efforts for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict stem from a sense of urgency.
Both countries are concerned by the danger of the present West Bank violence turning into an armed intifada, the possible collapse of the Palestinian Authority, and the creeping, if unofficial, Israeli annexation of Area C of the West Bank via settlement expansion, land expropriation and the displacement of Palestinian residents. Many Israelis, too, are concerned that the nearly 50 year-long occupation is destroying the Zionist dream: the existence of Israel as a democratic state for the Jews and all the citizens residing in it.
Certainly some new initiative is needed, but since it is most unlikely that the present Israeli government could be considered a credible partner for negotiations, other ideas are being raised. We hear of temporary or interim measures, partial or unilateral withdrawals in certain areas of the West Bank, an easing of restrictions on Palestinian movement, allocation of more work permits and so on – for example, the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies’ “Plan B” for partial unilateral withdrawal coordinated with the US, or the Zionist Union plan for limited unilateral separation moves.
A word of warning, if we are not to repeat the mistakes of the past.
Of course, it is worthwhile to improve conditions for the Palestinians and doing so may even provide another respite. But none of the suggested measures will make a lasting difference or provide long-term security. Interim and partial measures are always problematic – providing time for spoilers to mobilize and disrupt any progress they believe has been achieved. Indeed the major problem with the Oslo Accords, as important and groundbreaking as they were, was their interim and partial nature – without a clear view of what the final outcome would be.
Without a clearly envisioned “endgame” it is futile to expect people to exercise control and tolerate continued restrictions (the Palestinians) or make sacrifices (the settlers). So long as Israel controls all the land entrances and exits to the West Bank, the occupation in effect continues, as will resistance to it. And as long as there are no clear conflict-ending agreements and measures, neither will the settlers’ supporters be placated.
Only a clear vision of the final goal – an independent, fully sovereign Palestinian state coupled with a final “end of the conflict” – to be achieved within a clear and reasonable time can challenge and isolate the spoilers, and motivate compliance from the people on both sides.
This is presumably what the French were seeking in their proposals for a new UN Security Council resolution last year and what they may be seeking now through an international conference: a clear plan with an endgame and a binding timeline.
The contents of such a plan, that is, the components of the endgame (agreements on borders, security, Jerusalem, refugees and so on) are well-known. They were outlined in the Clinton parameters of December 2000, and final parameters were also very near completion with the additional proposals made by former prime minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas regarding Jerusalem and security issues in 2008. Actually the major problems today are no longer, necessarily, Jerusalem or the refugees, but rather the evacuation of settlers, even with Israeli annexation of the large settlement blocs.
The parameters are also spelled out in the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 – with its promise of peace, normal relations, security and end of the conflict. The Arab Peace Initiative has been repeatedly reaffirmed even in these times of uncertainty in the region. Indeed, it is now more important than ever, for the present situation actually offers an opportunity through a new mutuality of interests between Israel and the moderate Sunni Arab states once hostile to it.
Yet the possibility of Israel and the moderate Arab states working together remains blocked by the outstanding Palestinian issue. This obstacle is reflected in the French and Egyptian proposals. In both cases the two-state solution is to be the centerpiece, while involving the Arab states among the international participants in a comprehensive agreement.
This Arab involvement would not only provide backing for the Palestinians, for example on the matter of concessions made by Abbas on Jerusalem; it would also provide the long-sought Arab acceptance of Israel’s legitimacy as a state in the region. And if the international nature of the proposed conferences is intended as a measure of pressure on Israel to finally agree to what is, in fact, in its best interests – that is what friends are for.
Unless one prefers EU sanctions or US aid reductions…
Prof. Galia Golan, political science professor emerita at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is the author of ‘Israeli Peacemaking Since 1967: Factors Behind the Breakthroughs and Failures’ (Routledge, 2014)