General Comprehensive Approach
It has been said that wars create opportunities for political changes. The current Middle East crisis should be used by decisions makers to create opportunities to bring the region into a new era of regional and bilateral negotiations aimed at dealing with the Israeli-Arab conflict in a comprehensive fashion.
Some of the opportunities which could be created by the crises include:
- Greater will of all parties involved to replace the paradigm of violence with one of political dialogue and negotiations.
- The implementation of UN Resolution 1559 and other relevant UN Resolutions.
- Creating a peace process between Israel and Lebanon.
- Creating a peace process between Israel and Syria.
- Stabilizing a long-term Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire leading to the renewal of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
- The utilization of international forces in various effective peacekeeping roles.
- The integration of several of the regional actors in the international forces in various effective peace keeping roles.
This paper outlines several new directions that seek to exploit and to materialize the opportunities created by the current crises. These opportunities include several bilateral tracks with specific steps that should be taken to resolve the current immediate crisis and to bring the region back to the peace track. The comprehensive approach of dealing with bilateral tracks in parallel enables the entire process to be concluded by addressing the root causes of the conflict. The comprehensive approach detailed below could lead to the development of peaceful relations between Israel and all of its neighbors in accordance with the vision of the Arab League Peace Initiative from March 2002. That initiative takes the most comprehensive approach which includes the end of the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, the establishment of an independent Palestinian State along the 1967 borders and a just and agreed upon solution to the Palestinian refugee problem. Together with the advancing of an Israeli-Lebanese Track and an Israeli-Syrian Track, the end result could be the establishment of peace and normalized relations with all of the countries of the Arab world.
The following describes in brief the measures that we believe must be taken in order to return the region to a political process.
A ceasefire agreement will be reached supported by the international community. The Lebanese government will ensure immediately that signs of life of the two Israeli soldiers are transmitted to the Government of Israel. A mutual exchange of all prisoners will take place immediately after the ceasefire agreement comes into force.
Israel will withdraw all of its forces in Lebanon and an effective international peace keeping force led by NATO and mandated by the Security Council will be sent to south Lebanon. The force will work with the Lebanese Army to strengthen it as it is deployed in southern Lebanon and along the Lebanon-Israel border. The Government of Lebanon will implement UN Resolution 1559. Hezbollah forces will be immediately removed from the south of Lebanon.
Israel will withdraw from the Shebaa farms which will be turned over to the United Nations until transferred either to Lebanon or Syria.
Israel and Lebanon will enter into bilateral peace negotiations assisted and/or supervised by France and/or others with the aim of reaching a full peace treaty including normalized relations between them addressing all outstanding issues. The peace treaty will be ratified by the United Nations Security Council. This process is part of the larger regional process involving bilateral negotiations on other tracks and will be considered within that framework.
The Israeli-Palestinian Track
The Palestinian captors of Israeli soldier in Gaza must immediately show a sign of life from him.
The Palestinian President and the Palestinian Prime Minister should announce an immediate ceasefire agreed to by all of the factions including all acts of aggression against Israel, especially the Qassam rockets from Gaza. The Government of Israel should respond by announcing an immediate Israeli ceasefire including all acts of aggression against the Palestinians, especially targeted killings and Israeli military incursions in Gaza and the West Bank.
The kidnapped soldier will be released in Gaza to one of the international representatives in Gaza. The Egyptians could probably fulfill this role.
Within one week after the release of the Israeli soldier held in Gaza, and as part of the framework of the ceasefire agreement, Israel will release all of the women and minors Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons.
One week later the continuation of the ceasefire, Israel will release all of the Palestinian PLC members and Ministers from prison.
An Olmert-Abbas summit will be held immediately to begin the renewal of the political process that could focus on the ultimate coordination and cooperation of all future Israeli withdrawals from the West Bank and on outstanding issues concerning Gaza such as the passage between Gaza and the West Bank, the air and seaports, and internal Palestinian issues such as the unification of the Palestinian forces, the rule of law and order in the Palestinian territories.
Within six months from the Olmert-Abbas summit, Israel will release all of the Palestinian security-political prisoners in Israeli jails from before September 1993.
Within one year from the Olmert-Abbas summit, permanent status negotiations will ensue that will be completed within six months time 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 and will be considered within that framework. The peace treaty will be ratified by the United Nations Security Council.
The United States will undertake to support a renewed track of negotiations between Israel and Syria following the undertaking of Syria of several steps that will demonstrate Syria’s willingness to change its current course. These steps will include the sealing of its borders with Iraq, the closing of the offices of Islamic Jihad and Hamas in Damascus, and the closing of the “pipeline” of transferring weapons to Hezbollah.
In agreement between the United States, Syria and Israel, the Israeli-Syrian track of negotiations will be immediately renewed.
The basis of the Israeli-Syrian track have been mostly agreed to in the past and it entails a full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights. The territory of the Golan will be demilitarized forever with a ten year mandated international peacekeeping force in place.
Israel and Syria will sign a full peace treaty between them with full normalized relations. This process is part of the larger regional process involving bilateral negotiations on other tracks and will be considered within that framework. The peace treaty will be ratified by the United Nations Security Council.
The United States and the EU will provide significant funding for the economic development of Syria and the advancement of regional cooperation and economic development programs.
Concluding the comprehensive approach
The implementation of these steps in all three bilateral tracks would enable the conclusion of peace treaties and normalized relations between Israel and all of the countries of the Arab League.
Once the three trilateral tracks have reached peace treaties, the multilateral aspects of the Madrid process should re-resume with the convening of the original five multilateral working groups.
Gershon is an advisor to Israeli, Palestinian and International Prime Ministers on the Middle East Peace Process and the founder and director of IPCRI, the Israeli-Palestinian Public Policy Institute. He was the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel between Israel and Hamas for the release of 1,027 prisoners – mainly Palestinians and Arab-Israelis of which 280 were sentenced to life in prison for planning and perpetrating various attacks against Jewish targets that resulted in the killing of 569 Israelis in exchange for one Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit. Gershon is actively involved in research and advocacy concerning topics such as social policy, environmental security, political strategy, peace education, economics, culture and in the development of affordable solar projects with the goal of providing clean electricity for 50 million people by 2020.