ENCOUNTERING PEACE: Paradigm of partnership

The interim agreement of 1995 actually created more than 25 joint cooperative bodies between the two sides.

Herzog and Abbas 370 (photo credit: Ran Aharon)
Herzog and Abbas 370
(photo credit: Ran Aharon)
When the Oslo process first began, the vision of peace which was negotiated over most of 1993 was based on a paradigm of cooperation across boundaries that would lead to a “win-win” deal for both Israel and Palestine.
The interim agreement of 1995 actually created more than 25 joint cooperative bodies between the two sides.
The initial thinking was that during the five-year interim period cooperation across the borders would lead to the development of trust which would facilitate the permanent-status negotiations where the parties would confront the difficult issues such borders, Jerusalem and refugees. But as we all know, the process failed, trust was not developed and the paradigm of cooperation across borders was replaced with “us here and them there,” replete with walls, fences and barbed wire.
But the framers of Oslo actually had it right. Real Israeli-Palestinian peace can only be based on cross-border cooperation with the free movement of people and goods across the borders of the two states. Real peace cannot be based on walls and barbed wire. We can reach a treaty with that separation basis, but it will not lead to real peace.
In this small land between the river and the sea, where both peoples feel connected to all parts of the land, the paradigm of peace must entail reaching a reality of free movement and access throughout all of the land for all of the people living here. That is a vision that can actually inspire people, unlike a land divided by separation barriers.
The most fundamental element of any Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, therefore, will be the establishment of real security for all of the people living between the river and the sea. In today’s reality we have very limited movement and access. Jews cannot enter the Palestinian controlled areas without (Israeli-issued) permits and Palestinians cannot enter Israel without (Israeli-issued) permits. In today’s reality all Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza are prohibited from entering Israel, except those who have permits. In the paradigm of real peace, all Palestinians should be permitted to enter Israel.
Likewise, all Israelis must be permitted to enter Palestine. It is the spoilers who use violence whose movement should be limited, not the masses of Israelis and Palestinians.
In order for the paradigm of free movement and access to come into being, the means for achieving real security must begin now, even prior to reaching a permanent-status agreement.
The mechanisms for ensuring real security must be based on true security cooperation between the parties. No external or international security presence will replace the security that the parties must take direct responsibility for ensuring.
If this cannot be achieved, then peace cannot be achieved.
Israel must stop its military incursions into the Palestinian areas now. The Palestinians must be willing to act on intelligence information provided by Israel regarding suspected terrorist activities against Israel. Israel must be able to verify that the Palestinian security forces have acted and that the Palestinian legal system has properly investigated, and if warranted indicted, tried and incarcerated convicted criminals who were planning to use violence against Israel.
Likewise, Israel must take real action against violence perpetrated by groups of settlers and individuals against Palestinians.
There is security cooperation and coordination today between Israel and Palestine. The level of the cooperation and coordination must be significantly upgraded so that we all know before there is a peace treaty and further Israeli withdrawals whether the mechanisms for providing security really work. If we leave it until after there is a treaty, it may be too late.
In setting up the systems for movement and access I can foresee a situation where people apply for permits online and have the ability to even print them out on their home computers, or to have them sent to their smartphones, like we all do today with boarding passes for airplanes.
There will be security checks at the borders, but they will be much more efficient than today. If millions of people can move around the world through airports everyday with very high levels of security provided, Israelis and Palestinians can also come up with systems that will enable rapid and humiliation- free movement across their borders. We will return to the days when Palestinian vehicles move across the borders as well.
Trucks carrying goods from one side to the other will no longer have to go through the tedious and costly back-to-back systems where goods are unloaded from Palestinian trucks, checked for security, and then loaded onto waiting Israeli trucks. Goods will move from door-to-door instead of from back-to-back. Today we have Jordanian trucks which are cleared for security in the factory by Jordanian security personnel and move across the Israeli border on their way to the port of Haifa without be stopped for security checks (except for random spot checks).
This will have to be the norm for movement across the Israeli- Palestinian borders as well. In order for this vision to become a reality we must transform our imagination of peace from the current separation paradigm of walls and fences to a world of open borders and real people-to-people interaction. We must initiate steps today that begin to develop that paradigm on the ground now. This cannot be implemented overnight.
It will take time and we will need a period of continued hard separation barriers while we continue to negotiate and after we begin to implement future agreements. But we must begin to develop the vision of real peace and to adjust our planning of the future accordingly. In order for peace to provide security, security must provide peace, and the people on both sides of the border must be partners in this process.
The author is 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. His new book Freeing Gilad: the Secret Back Channel has been published by Kinneret Zmora Bitan in Hebrew and The Negotiator: Freeing Gilad Schalit from Hamas from The Toby Press.