This war's outcome depends as much on the power of brains and diplomacy as on the power of tanks and aircraft. Some opportunities for political change that might be created include: a greater will of all parties involved to replace the paradigm of violence with one of political dialogue and negotiations; implementation of UN Resolution 1559 and other relevant UN Resolutions; creating a peace process between Israel and Lebanon, and between Israel and Syria; stabilizing a long-term Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire, leading to the renewal of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process; utilizing international forces in effective peacekeeping roles; and integrating several of the regional actors into these forces. These opportunities indicate several bilateral tracks aimed at resolving the current crisis and bringing the region back onto the peace track. WHAT COULD emerge are: The Israeli-Lebanon Track. A cease-fire agreement is reached, supported by the international community. The Lebanese government ensures immediately that signs of life of the two Israeli soldiers are transmitted to Israel Government of Israel. A mutual exchange of all prisoners takes place immediately after the cease-fire agreement comes into force.
Israel withdraws all its forces in Lebanon and an effective international peace keeping force, led by NATO and mandated by the Security Council, is sent to south Lebanon. This force works with the Lebanese Army to strengthen it as it is deployed in southern Lebanon and along the Lebanon-Israel border.
The Lebanese government implements UN Resolution 1559. Hizbullah forces are immediately removed from south Lebanon. The force ensures that the flow of weapons into Lebanon for Hizbullah is stopped.
Israel withdraws from the Shaba Farms, which are turned over to the UN pending transferral to either Lebanon Syria. Israel submits maps of land mines left in Lebanon to the International Force.
Israel and Lebanon enter into bilateral peace negotiations with the aim of reaching a full peace treaty including normalized relations addressing all outstanding issues. The peace treaty is ratified by the UN Security Council. (This process is part of the larger regional process involving bilateral negotiations on other tracks).
The Israeli-Palestinian Track.
The Palestinian captors of the Israeli soldier in Gaza show a sign of life from him.
The Palestinian president and PM announce an immediate cease-fire by all factions, including all acts of aggression against Israel, especially the Kassam rockets from Gaza. Israel responds by announcing an immediate Israeli cease-fire, including all acts of aggression against the Palestinians, especially targeted killings and Israeli military incursions in Gaza and the West Bank.
The kidnapped soldier is released to one of the international representatives in Gaza.
Within one week after his release, and as part of the framework of the cease-fire agreement, Israel releases the Palestinian women and minors held in Israeli prisons.
A week later, with the continuation of the cease-fire, Israel releases all the Palestinian PLC members held in prison.
An Olmert-Abbas summit begins the renewal of the political process that could focus on the ultimate coordination and cooperation with of all future Israeli withdrawals from the West Bank; and on outstanding Gaza issues such as the passage between Gaza and the West Bank, the airport and seaports, and internal Palestinian issues such as unification of the Palestinian forces, the rule of law and order in the PA territories.
Within six months of the summit Israel releases all Palestinian security-political prisoners in Israeli jails predating September 1993.
Within one year from the summit permanent status negotiations ensue, to be completed within six months and leading to the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian state and peaceful relations between the two states based on the Clinton parameters and the Arab League Peace Plan. (This process is part of the larger regional process involving bilateral negotiations on other tracks). The peace treaty is ratified by the Security Council.
The Israeli-Syrian Track
The US undertakes to support negotiations between Israel and Syria, following Syria's undertaking to demonstrate its willingness to change course by, for example: sealing its borders with Iraq, closing the Islamic Jihad and Hamas offices in Damascus and closing the "pipeline" transferring weapons to Hizbullah.
The basis of the Israeli-Syrian agreement, mostly agreed to in the past, entails a full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights. The Golan is demilitarized forever, with a 10-year international peacekeeping force in place. Syria is no longer part of the Iran-Hizbullah axis.
Israel and Syria sign a full peace treaty, with full normalized relations, part of the larger regional process involving bilateral negotiations on other tracks. The peace treaty is ratified by the Security Council.
The US and EU provide significant funding for Syrian economic development and for regional cooperation and development.
IMPLEMENTING these steps in all three bilateral tracks would enable the conclusion of peace treaties and normalized relations between Israel and all Arab League countries, in accordance with the Arab League Peace initiative of 2002.
Once the three trilateral tracks achieve peace treaties, the multilateral aspects of the Madrid process would resume with the convening of the original five working groups on arms control, water, environment, regional economic development and refugees.
The writer is the Israel Co-CEO of IPCRI - the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information.