Encountering Peace: Israeli-Palestinian peace is achievable

This agreement is possible. The concessions within are not losses but gains and both sides will be able to stand tall and declare peace and victory.

Netanyahu, Obama, Abbas 300 (photo credit: REUTERS/Jason Reed )
Netanyahu, Obama, Abbas 300
(photo credit: REUTERS/Jason Reed )
Many of those who claim that a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty putting an end to the conflict is not possible are the very people who do not want it to happen. This includes those who say it’s too late, there are too many Israelis living beyond the green line, or too many new settlement houses have been built, and those who say there is no Palestinian partner.
Until now there has been no partner for peace because the negotiations, even after 20 years of negotiating have not yet produced an agreement that is acceptable to both parties and ends the claims on all of the eight core issues of the conflict. But agreement is conceivable and after each side makes the concessions which must be made they will be able to stand up proudly before their people and declare “we got the best agreement possible and it is a victory for us!” Here it is in short: 1. Palestinian statehood – this is already a fait accompli, clearly in the interests of both sides – the territorial expression of our national identity sealed by agreement, recognized by the international community, accepted by the United Nations and fulfilling the principle laid down in UN Resolution 181 from November 29, 1947 – the formal birth certificate of the two states – the establishment of two states – one Jewish and one Arab on the land known as Palestine/Israel.
2. The delineation of borders between the two states – not based on the map of 1947 but on the armistice agreement of 1949, the border line between the two states will divide the land with Palestine on 22 percent and Israel on 78%. The line will allow Israel to annex about 4% of the West Bank enabling about 80% of the Israeli citizens in settlement blocs to remain where there are.
Palestinians will get in exchange equal territory from inside of Israel proper. They will be able to use those areas as development zones and as compensation for land taken by Israeli settlements.
3. Jerusalem – Israel will have full sovereignty over all of the parts of Jerusalem where Israelis live. Jewish Jerusalem will be united and recognized by the whole world as Israel’s capital. Palestine will have full sovereignty over all of the parts of Jerusalem where Palestinians live. Palestinian Jerusalem will be united and recognized by the whole word as Palestine’s capital.
Jerusalem will be like Siamese twins – connected at the most sensitive points and therefore will remain an open city with free movement throughout.
Both parts of Jerusalem will share many aspects of infrastructure and most importantly, both sides will be responsible to work together to provide real security throughout the city. The Old City and holy places will either work on the same demographic principles or will be managed by agreement by others on behalf of both peoples. The Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif compound will see the transformation of current realities into agreements with the Muslim authorities in control on top of the Mount over the mosques there and Jewish authorities in control of the Western Wall.
This arrangement can hold at least until the Messiah comes, who can make changes then if the reality allows for it. Hundreds of millions of Muslim pilgrims will be allowed to come to complete their Haj pilgrimage which brings them to Mecca and Medina and concludes in Al-Quds, Jerusalem.
4. Refugees – All Palestinians, always, wherever they are will be able to become citizens of their independent sovereign state.
Lands added to Palestine within the territorial swaps can be used for resettlement purposes enabling Palestine to say that there is a partial return to lands from before 1948.
Israel, Palestine and the international community all have an interest to give refugees a new beginning and therefore an international donor effort will be made with generous Israeli participation that will grant all refugees in need a chance for decent modern housing, education and work. New cities like Modi’in can be constructed in the West Bank. Palestinians with land deeds and businesses that were lost will be able to apply for compensation for their losses to an international commission and Israel will also generously participate in this fund.
An agreed-to symbolic number of Palestinians will be able to apply for return to Israel proper (somewhere around 50,000 people) noting that they will be then living in the State of Israel, under Israeli laws and sovereignty. Israel can call this a humanitarian gesture of family reunification and Palestine can call it the implementation of the right of return. Palestinian refugees will also have the possibility to apply for citizenship in other countries that may offer such a possibility always holding onto to the option of becoming a citizen of Palestine also and holding dual citizenship.
5. The physical crossing between West Bank and Gaza – a stretch of about 40 kilometers going through the sovereign State of Israel. The best option, I believe, is the rail link offering services to carry passengers, cars and cargo with one stop in Gaza and one in the West Bank. Other possibilities include a bridge, road, tunnel, sunken road or combinations of the above. I propose beginning to build it now, as soon as possible from the West Bank towards Gaza and ending one kilometer short of Gaza. Gaza will be part of the full agreement, but it will only be implemented when the regime in Gaza agrees to all of the terms of the agreement.
6. Economic relations – I believe the best option for Palestine will be an improved customs union which ends all of the leakages in the Paris protocol and enables Palestine to collect their own customs because their state will have clear and defined borders.
If they would like a different trade regime they should be able to propose whatever they want because the economic consequences for Israel are inconsequential.
Israel should do everything possible to allow for a prosperous Palestine.
7. Water – with double the amount of water available today because of desalination and reuse of waste water there is no real water conflict any more. Palestine will have to have an equitable share of all of the water available in the territory between the Jordan and the Sea and water has a wonderful characteristic enabling this – it moves. The two states will probably arrive at a reallocation agreement, but I would propose, in the interest of real peace, a joint management model which states that all of the water is a shared resource, not only the water underneath the West Bank. Gaza will need a desalination plant of its own and should already be working on that today.
8. Security arrangements – without security there is no agreement on any of the above. Security arrangements need to provide real security for both peoples. Primary security responsibility is in the hands of each side within its own territory. Security cooperation between the two must be robust. A multi-national force (similar to Sinai) led by the US or by NATO with Israeli and Palestinian participation will hold longterm responsibilities along the Jordan. International monitors will be on the ground to ensure full compliance of security arrangements.
More – there will be a Jewish minority in Palestine. The rights of the Jews in Palestine will be linked to the rights of the Arabs citizens of Israel. The borders between the two states should be as open as possible. Cooperation between the two states should be the goal of both sides in every field possible.
An agreement is meant to enable a new relationship taking both sides beyond conflict toward truly peaceful relations.
Our physical space is so small; we are both required to cooperate on all aspects concerning the environment and on many other issues that are cross-boundary concerns.
The agreement must build bridges of cooperation and not walls of separation.
Implementation of the agreement will be incremental, over time based on performance and upholding obligations within the agreements. A third party monitor/judge (likely the US) will be necessary for this purpose.
This agreement is possible. The concessions within are not losses but gains and both sides will be able to stand tall and declare peace and victory.
Gershon Baskin is the co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post and the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad Schalit.