|Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have finally been renewed. Even though the current round of talks is not direct, the parties are dealing with the core issues with the goal of reaching a permanent status agreement at some point. According to news reports, the first topics on the agenda are borders and security arrangements, both of which will rapidly lead to negotiations on Jerusalem and refugees.
If the parties are successful in reaching an agreement, it will be a package of concessions and compromises that will lead to the end of the occupation, the creation of a Palestinian state with two capitals in Jerusalem, the right of return being implemented primarily in the Palestinian state, full peace and the end of all claims.
When Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu voiced his support for the two-state solution at Bar-Ilan University last June, he said: “Yes, but.”
The “buts” that he mentioned included the direct security threats that a sovereign Palestinian state might pose. Netanyahu stated that Palestinian control over external borders and airspace could present a real strategic threat to Israel. The Palestinian leaders, US President Barack Obama and the heads of the Quartet must say to Netanyahu: yes, we recognize these threats and agree that they are real, but the answer to them cannot be continued occupation or control of a future Palestine’s external borders or airspace.
IN THE framework of a peace agreement, there will be no Israeli troops present in the Palestinian state, but this is no reason to prevent its creation. Palestinians also have real and legitimate threat perceptions regarding the behaviors and intentions of Israel. Both parties, along with the international community, must treat all of these concerns with the utmost sincerity and seriousness.
The key to advancing a viable agreement will be the mechanism developed to monitor and verify its implementation, especially on security issues. Past failures teach us that bilateral assurances, again especially on security matters, are insufficient. Objectively there is almost no reason why Israelis and Palestinians should trust each other. Both sides have systematically breached significant obligations of the Oslo agreements, which contained no mechanisms for third party monitoring, verification, compliance, enforcement, or dispute resolution.
The road map process did include a monitoring mechanism and today there is a road map monitor (US Lt.-Gen. Paul Selva), but the process is secretive and there is no accountability of the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to their people built into it.
We already have so much collective knowledge about the Israeli-Palestinian track, there is no good reason to repeat the same mistakes.
SINCE THE end of the Cold War, the UN and the international community have played a large role in the development and implementation of peace accords. This has been accompanied by a tendency to develop complex multifaceted peace arrangements that include a wide variety of military and political tasks. Similarly, verification arrangements are increasingly included in peace arrangements and such tasks are often assigned to the UN or to other international actors.
Israelis and Palestinians have grown justifiably suspicious about the role of third parties. The idea of UN forces as peacekeepers has no legitimacy in Israel where everyone uses the less than satisfactory model of UNIFIL to discredit the idea. In Palestine the example of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, instituted after the massacre committed by Baruch Goldstein, is used to demonstrate the clear ineffectiveness of a third party force.
There are many examples of third party interventions that can be used as tools for learning, both successful and less successful models. In the end, both the Israelis and the Palestinians will have to agree on the mechanism and structure that best fits their specific needs and and addresses their threats.
We already know that the mandate of any peacekeeping force will have to be extremely detailed and explicit. The force will have to be composed of credible participants who cannot be bribed to turn a blind eye to violations. Members of such a force must also be well trained, intelligent, multicultural and lingual. The force must have a unified command structure leading up to a US general and administrator. The force will be engaged primarily in monitoring and verification of treaty obligations, but it must also have clear “rules of engagement” that will enable it and even obligate it to use force, if and when necessary. There must also be a trilateral Israeli-Palestinian-international joint command center to coordinate, mitigate and resolve in real time any emerging problems.
It is obvious that Israelis and Palestinians don’t trust each other. If they did, there would be no need for a third party mediator and there would be no need for international participation in the implementation of future agreements. The reality is that there can be no agreement without the direct international involvement. Recognizing this fact is the first significant step towards reaching a full peace agreement.
The writer is the co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (www.ipcri.org) and an elected member of the leadership of Israel’s Green Movement political party.