Encountering Peace: What Netanyahu's peace initiative must say

The real issue is not settlement growth but the final borders of the State of Israel on the east.

gershon baskin 88 USE THIS  (photo credit: )
gershon baskin 88 USE THIS
(photo credit: )
US President Barack Obama's Cairo speech and subsequent remarks by him and other senior US officials have made it clear beyond any doubt that the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is two states for two peoples. There is no other solution. Today only three countries in the world are in opposition to it: Iran, Libya and Israel. I am not so sure that the people of Israel really wish to belong to this club or rejectionists. The creation of an independent, democratic and peaceful Palestinian state is in the interest of the Jewish people, the State of Israel and the Zionist movement. It is high time that the government take up the challenge of presenting its own peace initiative that will work with the international community, rather than against it, in fulfilling the will of the international community in bringing about an end to the conflict. The initiative must of course not only present the threat perceptions of Israel and the real threats that a Palestinian state may create, but constructive and pragmatic proposals on how to confront those threats. The international community led by the United States, Israel's closest ally and the most powerful nation in the world, will be quite forthcoming in assisting an Israel which is willing to cooperate with it in bringing about an end to the conflict. PRIME MINISTER Binyamin Netanyahu has pointed to at least four real threats that a Palestinian state would create to the security of the State of Israel and its people. There are practical solutions to all of them. The Palestinian people and the international community fully understand that there are real threats. None of the threats are existential. A Palestinian state cannot challenge the power of Israel - militarily, economically or in any other way. The fears of Palestinian militarization, rockets fired from the West Bank, the smuggling of weapons can all by mitigated by a government which is cooperating with the international community and the Palestinian people in creating the Palestinian state, rather than constantly opposing the inevitable. The international community is more than willing to commit huge resources - human and financial - to assist in the process of creating a peaceful and democratic state next to Israel. International police, civilian and military forces deployed in the West Bank and at the external borders of the Palestinian state, led by a US executive management with European and other personnel working hand-in-hand with Israeli security officials, can design and implement security systems that will prevent what Israel fears in a much more effective way than continued occupation. The peace initiative must indicate its agreement to the principle of partition of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea on the basis of the 22 percent-78% divide (the amount of territorial divide created by the armistice lines of 1949). Furthermore, Israel must come to terms with the reality of Jerusalem belonging not only to it and the Jewish people. We must wake up to the reality that there are two Jerusalems, not one undivided, united Jerusalem as we have been requested to believe since 1967. The parts of Jerusalem where Palestinians live must become the capital of the Palestinian state. The areas where Jews live in Jerusalem will be the capital of the State of Israel, recognized by the entire international community. Today, not one country in the world recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It is time for the world to recognize our capital. It is time for us to recognize that Jerusalem can and will be the capitals of two states - Israel and Palestine. THERE ARE POSITIVE concrete developments happening on the ground today and they must be continued, encouraged and expanded. The mission of US Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton in training additional Palestinian security officers and their deployment throughout the West Bank has had a marked improvement in the creation of law and order as well as counterterrorism activities in areas where they are deployed. Israel has allowed its Palestinian citizens to enter several West Bank cities on the weekends to assist in economic development. Now it should allow them to enter with their private cars so that their buying power can be increased beyond what they can carry in their hands. The checkpoints can handle the quantity of vehicles that would cross. These procedures don't only have to be limited to the weekends and should eventually allow Israeli Jews to enter the area as well - perhaps starting in places like Jenin where there is already a high degree of measured success and cooperation. In the Jenin area Israel withdrew from settlements at the time of the disengagement from Gaza. Those settlements, however, remain under the control of the IDF and are closed military zones. The governor of Jenin, Qadurra Mousa, would like to build an international youth village for peace in the area. Why not turn over those settlements to the Palestinian Authority for constructive developments that would build peace? Why is Israel continuing to hold onto the vacated settlements? What message is Israel trying to give to the Palestinians, and isn't that message counterproductive to peace? THE ISSUE of settlement growth, natural or otherwise, is a tactical issue hardly worth the energy being invested in it. The real issue is the final borders of the State of Israel on the east. The determination of the eastern border will be the determination of which settlements will be annexed and which will be vacated. Once agreement has been secured with the Palestinians and the Quartet, Israel will be free to continue expanding and building in those areas that will fall under its sovereignty. This is the issue which will continue to cause the greatest tension and confrontations with the US. It would be, therefore, much more constructive and productive for the government to present its peace initiative with its own plans for ending its occupation and for the creation of two states for two peoples. The writer is co-CEO of the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information. www.ipcri.org