Abbas, Netanyahu, Obama

Five Minutes to Midnight

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Gershon Baskin feels that at five minutes to midnight, there is no time to wait for negotiations; it is time to put the real peace offer on the table, one that you know the Palestinians and Syrians can accept.

It is time to put the ‘real’ peace offer on the table.

Israel is facing the most severe crisis in its history. Surprisingly, most of its citizens choose to ignore this reality. The growing movement to delegitimize our right to exist cannot simply be dismissed by calling it anti- Semitism. The reasons are more complex than that.

The country is also losing its best friends, and even Jews inside and outside of it are beginning to dissociate themselves from it because of the ongoing occupation. Many Jewish students on campuses across the US have told me that Israel’s behavior embarrasses them. The house is on fire and it’s time to wake up before everything we have built is destroyed by our own doing.

Most objective observers, even supporters of Israel, believe that the two-state solution is no longer viable. They say: How can a Palestinian state be created where there are so many settlements and bypass roads exactly in the place it is supposed to exist? They add that the situation is getting worse – the refusal to freeze all settlement building, especially in Jerusalem, means no Palestinian state will be possible.

Everyone knows that the Palestinians will never agree to a deal that does not include east Jerusalem as their capital. Removing Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan and in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City and replacing them with Jews is erasing the chances of two states for two people.

Everyone knows that the Palestinians will not accept a state on less than 22% of the land between the river and the sea. In accepting the Oslo and Madrid paradigms, they agreed to give up 78% of the land. Next week we will mark Kaf Tet Benovember (November 29, 1947), when the UN partitioned the land into two states. Then, the Palestinians refused to accept a state on 45% of the land; today they are willing to accept one on only 22%, but not on less.

Danny Danon, Tzipi Hotovely, Reuven Rivlin, Nir Barkat and Binyamin Netanyahu are not acting on behalf of the Zionist movement by continuing their rapid settlement growth in the name of the Jewish people. By their own hands, they will succeed in destroying the Zionist dream. I correct myself – there will continue to be a Jewish state, but no one will be able to claim it is a democratic state.

A very large minority, which in a short period will become a majority, will not accept to live in a Jewish state. The two-state solution will lose its viability when it is no longer supported by the majority of Palestinians – both citizens of Israel and residents of the occupied territories. At that time a global campaign will be launched that will force Israel to become a democratic state, and then we will no longer be able to speak about a Jewishdemocratic state.

The call for equal citizenship and one-person- one vote will be compelling compared with lack of logic behind the idea of a Jewish nation-state where a majority are not Jews.

No one outside Israel’s right-wing and religious citizens will accept the idea of two types of citizens – Jews and non-Jews. No one, not even the US, will be able to support a state which is so blatantly antidemocratic.

The shared values that US leaders speak about regarding Israel will no longer exist. It will cease to be democratic, and so the occupation will finally delegitimize its right to exist.

THE CONSTRUCTION of settlements worries me less regarding the diminishing viability of the two-state solution than the diminishing legitimacy of the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad. Their legitimacy will completely disappear very soon if there is no credible peace process. Next year is the year for the establishment of a Palestinian state. There will be no Palestinian leadership able to publicly support that solution much beyond that.

Gershon Baskin and David Grossman in Sheik Jarrah

Gershon Baskin and David Grossman in Sheik Jarrah

We should not live in the illusion that the Palestinians will ever accept less than what has already been offered to them. The parameters of peace are on the basis of the June 4, 1967 borders with agreed-upon territorial swaps of 1:1 in the amount of about 3% of the West Bank, with Jerusalem as the shared capital of both states, some sort of international regime in the Old City, or the Old City quarters divided along demographic lines, with an agreed upon solution to the refugee issues according to the Arab Peace Initiative.

For this kind of peace to be viable, it must also include peace with Syria (meaning the full return of the Golan Heights in exchange for all of Israel’s security demands) enabling the normalization of relations with the entire Arab world.

If peace is not achieved during 2011, the current moderate, practical and constructive Palestinian leadership will be replaced. The leadership contest will bring forward those who present a more extremist platform; the two-state solution will no longer be part of their political philosophy. The leaders competing for the top posts will say – I supported the two-state solution, I worked for it and even took part in the negotiations, but Israel said no, so today we say no more. We demand citizenship in a single democratic state – one person, one vote, one state from the river to the sea.

This is not fantasy and this is not a threat.

In the meantime, Netanyahu is seeking to postpone tough decisions. Yes, of course he supports negotiations. There is nothing better from his point of view. But making decisions? That’s an entirely different matter.

Borders in three months? Absurd. Will Netanyahu tell some 80,000 settlers that they have to leave their homes, or stay in the Palestinian state under Palestinian sovereignty? Those people are potential Likud voters; how could the prime minister tell them that? It is far easier to blame the Palestinians for refusing to negotiate while settlement building continues.

BUT PRIME Minister Netanyahu, when the clock strikes midnight and there is no longer President Abbas to negotiate with and the Palestinian leadership says to you, “We don’t want to negotiate any more,” the peace process as you know it will be officially over. They will say “We want peace, but we no longer want the small piece of land you are willing to give us. You can keep your state, you can keep all the land, we agree. Now give us citizenship, the right to vote and the right to enjoy Israel’s democracy.”

You will then have to decide if the state for the Jewish people will continue to be a Jewish state or a democratic state. There will be no possibility to claim it is a Jewish and democratic state. The bells of freedom and democracy will ring, and you know very well that the world will choose democracy.

I have been a peace activist for more than 30 years. Over that time I have heard many people warn that we have reached the end of the road on the two-state solution. I never joined the chorus. But today I lead it, and as a believer in the idea of a state for the Jewish people (and all its citizens), an Israeli patriot and a lover of Zion, I see the possible end of our shared dream just around the corner. At five minutes to midnight, there is no time to wait for negotiations; it is time to put the real peace offer on the table, one that you know the Palestinians and Syrians can accept. By doing so, not only will you win the Nobel Peace Prize, you will be saving the State of Israel.

Gershon Baskin

Gershon Baskin

Gershon Baskin is one of the most recognizable names in the Middle East Peace process. His dedication to creating a culture of peace and environmental awareness, coupled with his impeccable integrity, has earned him the trust of the leaders of all sides of the century old conflict. Few people have such far-reaching and positive impacts on promoting peace, security, prosperity and bi-national relationships.
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.
Gershon Baskin