Encountering peace: There is no partner

There are steps that both sides must take, in agreement with each other, that are balanced and mutually reassuring that can begin the long and arduous process of building trust.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (photo credit: AFP PHOTO)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
(photo credit: AFP PHOTO)
There is no partner... for occupation.
No Palestinian leader will ever agree to sign a peace agreement that entails the continuation of the Israeli occupation. There is no partner for a peace in Palestine that would enable a Palestinian state to be established on less than 22 percent of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. There is no Palestinian who would agree to a peace agreement with Israel that will not include a capital for the Palestinian state in Jerusalem. No Palestinian leader will ever agree to let Israel control the external borders of the Palestinian state. There is no Palestinian partner for an agreement that will not let Palestinian refugees determine their future, including repatriation and citizenship in the State of Palestine, staying in their host country, or selecting the possibility of immigrating to a third country (with Israel offering a limited number of places for Palestinian refugees along with other countries), and being able to receive fair compensation for real property lost after 1948. There is no Palestinian partner for an agreement with Israel that will enable continued Israeli domination over the Palestinian economy. There is no Palestinian peace partner with an Israeli leadership that incites against Palestinians. This is what the Israeli public needs to understand.
There is no Israeli partner for peace with unless the Palestinians recognize that Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people (while Israelis need to recognize that it is also the homeland of all of its citizens). There is no peace partner in Israel unless Palestinians remove incitement against Israel and Jews from their public sphere, including textbooks and the media. There is no Israeli partner for a peace agreement that makes the Palestinian State Judenrein (devoid of Jews). There is no chance for an Israeli partner for a peace that does not recognize and allow free access for Jews to Jewish holy sites inside the Palestinian state, including in east Jerusalem, Hebron and Nablus. There is no partner in Israel for a peace agreement that will not provide Israelis with real security proven over time with a full, demonstrated Palestinian commitment to end terrorism.
There are no partners for peace in Israel or Palestine that will allow the continuation of terrorism against Israelis or Palestinians. There should be no partners for peace on either side for agreements that will prevent and discourage cooperation across the borders in all fields of life including the economy, academia and culture.
There are no partners for peace on both sides for bad agreements that provide no recourse for breaches and violations of the agreements.
The Israeli house and the Palestinian house are on fire and the bad situation of today will only get worse unless we both bridge the partnership for peace gaps.
There seems no possibility to even speak about partnerships for peace between Israel and Palestine at this time when no one is speaking or even trying to bridge these gaps and reach understandings. Both societies feel under attack and there has been no progress toward peace in years. The majority of both publics believes that there is no partner for peace on the other side.
Cross-boundary peace activities have almost ceased entirely. The region is exploding in violence and Islamic fundamentalism and extremism is a danger to both Israeli and Palestinian societies. Both Israeli and Palestinian societies are becoming more extreme in their attitudes toward making peace. At the same time the binational reality that we are living is a non-viable option for both sides. No one feels secure. There is no security. There is no real economic growth. Tourism is down, foreign investment is down. Young Israelis and young Palestinians are questioning their willingness to remain where they are. Yet neither Israel nor Palestine will disappear – there is no option of one side getting rid of the other. The only option is to find the way to live in peace.
While peace is the product of agreements and changing the basic relationships between Israelis and Palestinians, the paths toward that longer-term goal must be based on the rebuilding of partnerships between the parties. This is not done with words, but with deeds.
There are steps that both sides must take, in agreement with each other, that are balanced and mutually reassuring that can begin the long and arduous process of building trust.
Both sides could agree on specific steps to attack incitement – and both sides have legitimate claims of incitement against each other. Both sides could agree on specific measures that would improve security coordination at this time of increased violence with the specific goal of decreasing attacks. Israel could transfer parts of Area B (village areas under Palestinian civil control and Israeli military control) to Area A (under Palestinian civil and military control). Likewise, parts of Area C (under full Israeli control) could be transferred to the Palestinians for the purpose of economic development including building new cities.
In return Palestinians could encourage and enable genuine Israeli-Palestinian economic cooperation – including in the land areas transferred. Both sides could agree to a process of re-engagement at the ministerial level of re-creating the joint economic committee, the joint water committee and other joint committees with the aim of rebuilding cooperation across the borders.
These are not artificial confidence building measures, which are generally detached from real peace building.
Each one of these steps could advance the eventual return to the negotiating table to reach the full comprehensive agreement seeking to end the occupation and to make peace between two states for two peoples.
These steps cannot be imposed from the outside.
They must be initiated by the leaders on both sides and either leader can take the initiative. There is also no need to begin these steps in a public process, in fact it might be more beneficial to launch this kind of re-engagement in secret, behind closed doors, in order to give both sides the political room necessary within the constraints of both political systems. The main task of any leader is to provide their people with security and hope for a better future. So far both leaders deserve failing grades. Only through the development of renewed partnership can both leaders succeed in their primary tasks and missions.
The writer is co-chairman of the Israel Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post and the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad Schalit. His book The Negotiator: Freeing Gilad Schalit from Hamas is available from The Toby Press.