Diplomatic briefing: The IPI Peace Plan

The plan is presented as a proposed draft for an Israeli reply to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative (API). Will Netanyahu buy it?

yuval rabin IPI_311 (photo credit: BAZ RATNER / REUTERS)
yuval rabin IPI_311
(photo credit: BAZ RATNER / REUTERS)
A DECADE AGO, PRIME MINISTER BINYAMIN Netanyahu, a “concerned citizen” then in the political wilderness, expressed his fears for Israel’s future.
Now over 50 concerned citizens, leaders in their fields, have produced a wide-ranging peace plan to break the diplomatic impasse they see threatening the country’s prospects under Netanyahu’s conservative, do-nothing leadership.
They point to Israel’s growing isolation and delegitimization, the “diplomatic tsunami” Israel could face if the UN recognizes a Palestinian state in September. The business people among them fear that the brilliant economic edifice Israel has built over the years may start to crumble.
Among the signatories of the new plan are senior security people including former chief of staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, ex-Labor leader and head of Central Command Amram Mitzna, ex-Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) heads Ya’acov Peri and Ami Ayalon and former Mossad chief Dani Yatom; former politicians Moshe Shahal of Labor and Yehuda Ben Meir of the National Religious Party; business leaders Idan Ofer (Israel Corporation), Bruno Landsberg (Sano) and hi-tech entrepreneur Orni Petrushka; Middle East experts Shimon Shamir, Eyal Zisser, Moshe Maoz, Yoram Meital, Eli Podeh and Matti Steinberg; and political moderates from the Torah world, Rabbi Donniel Hartman of the Hartman Institute, and Adina Bar Shalom, daughter of Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
The plan, first outlined on the bitterlemons Israeli-Palestinian website in November last year by Yuval Rabin, the late prime minster’s son, and strategic development expert Kobi Huberman, is presented as a proposed draft for an Israeli reply to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative (API).
The basic premise is that Israel’s overarching strategic goal is to live in peace and security, recognized by its neighbors. The aim of the proposed Israeli Peace Initiative (IPI) is therefore to end all conflicts between Israel and Arab actors. This is also of great tactical significance in Rabin’s view: Israeli leaders will only be ready to make major concessions when can tell their people that the Arab side is ready to end all conflicts, he says.
In the bitterlemons article, Rabin and Huberman argue that for any Israeli initiative to succeed, it must have a regional context. But rather than try to “fix” the API to meet Israeli needs, they say it makes more sense to put a parallel Israeli initiative on the table. The two initiatives taken together could then become a basis for serious engagement.
The proposed IPI has four “vision” chapters, outlining end of conflict scenarios, regional security mechanisms, regional economic development and regional recognition/normalization. The main principles for peace with the Palestinians and Syria include the following:
A. Palestinians:
1. A territorial solution based on the 1967 borders with one-to-one land swaps of up to 7 percent of the West Bank.
2. Palestine will be declared the state of Palestinian people, Israel the state of the Jewish people -- as a result of negotiations, not a precondition for them.
3. The Arab minority in Israel will have full civil rights in line with the principles outlined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
4. On Jerusalem, Jewish neighborhoods go to Israel, Arab neighborhoods to Palestine; different parts of the city serve as the capital of both countries; no one has sovereignty over Temple Mount, which is run by internationally monitored “special arrangements”; the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter remain under Israeli control.
5. Arab refugees have a right to compensation, paid by Israel and the international community, but a right of return only to Palestine. In exceptional humanitarian cases, some refugees may be allowed to return to Israel proper.
6. Both sides commit to “end of conflict” and “finality of claims.” In other words, the conflict between them is over, and neither side retains any claims on the other.
B. Syria
1. A phased Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, with some land swaps, over no more than 5 years, taking both the June 4 1967 lines and the 1923 international border into account.
2. Security arrangements, including agreed demilitarized zones on both sides of the new border, and the deployment of international peace-keeping forces.
3. Phased normalization of relations.
4. End of conflict, finality of claims.
The timing of the decision to go public with the plan was influenced partly by the winds of change blowing in the Arab world, but primarily by the looming diplomatic tsunami in September. Israel, the plan’s supporters hold, has a short window of opportunity between now and September to seize the diplomatic initiative and preempt the Palestinian UN gambit. Putting the IPI on the table now is intended mainly to pressure Netanyahu to make a game-changing move before it is too late.
Netanyahu is already under a great deal of pressure, with the September deadline fast approaching and both the Europeans and the US considering new peace moves of their own. He apparently hopes to head all this off through an initiative to hand over more West Bank territory to Palestinian control. This in itself is unlikely to impress anyone. A full-fledged IPI led by Netanyahu, however, would have an enormous impact.
Over the next several weeks, Netanyahu is almost certain to make a diplomatic move of some sort. The big question, with major ramifications for Israel’s future in the region, is: How far will he go?