US President Barack Obama’s Cairo speech and subsequent remarks by him and other senior US officials have made it clear beyond any doubt that the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is two states for two peoples. There is no other solution. Today only three countries in the world are in opposition to it: Iran, Libya and Israel.
I am not so sure that the people of Israel really wish to belong to this club of rejectionists. The creation of an independent, democratic and peaceful Palestinian state is in the interest of the Jewish people, the State of Israel and the Zionist movement. It is high time that the Israeli government take up the challenge of presenting its own peace initiative that will work with the international community, rather than against it, and fulfil the will of the international community to bring about an end to the conflict.
The initiative must, of course, not only present the real and perceived threats that could arise from the creation of a Palestinian state, but also propose constructive and pragmatic solutions for confronting those threats. The international community led by the United States, Israel’s closest ally and the most powerful nation in the world, will be quite forthcoming in assisting an Israel which is willing to cooperate with it in bringing about an end to the conflict.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has pointed to at least four real threats that a Palestinian state would pose to the security of the State of Israel and its people. There are practical solutions to all of them. The Palestinian people and the international community fully understand that there are real threats. None of the threats are existential. A Palestinian state cannot challenge the power of Israel—militarily, economically or in any other way.
The fears of Palestinian militarisation, rockets fired from the West Bank, the smuggling of weapons can all be mitigated by a government that is cooperating with the international community and the Palestinian people in creating the Palestinian state, rather than constantly opposing the inevitable. The international community is more than willing to commit huge resources—human and financial—to assist in the process of creating a peaceful and democratic state next to Israel.
International police, civilian and military forces deployed in the West Bank and at the external borders of the Palestinian state, led by a US executive management with European and other personnel working hand-in-hand with Israeli security officials, can design and implement security systems that will prevent what Israel fears in a much more effective way than continued occupation.
The peace initiative must indicate its agreement to the principle of partition of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea on the basis of the 22% -78% divide (the amount of territorial divide created by the armistice lines of 1949).
Furthermore, Israel must come to terms with the reality of Jerusalem belonging not only to it and the Jewish people. We must wake up to the reality that there are two Jerusalems, not one undivided, united Jerusalem as we have been requested to believe since 1967. The parts of Jerusalem where Palestinians live must become the capital of the Palestinian state.
The areas where Jews live in Jerusalem will be the capital of the State of Israel, recognised by the entire international community. Today, not one country in the world recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It is time for the world to recognise our capital.
It is time for us to recognise that Jerusalem can and will be the capitals of two states—Israel and Palestine.
There are positive concrete developments happening on the ground today and they must be continued, encouraged and expanded. The mission of US Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton in training additional Palestinian security officers and their deployment throughout the West Bank has significantly improved the state of law and order as well as counterterrorism activities in areas where they are deployed.
Israel has allowed its Palestinian citizens to enter several West Bank cities on the weekends to assist in economic development. Now it should allow them to enter with their private cars so that their buying power can be increased beyond what they can carry in their hands.
The issue of settlement growth, natural or otherwise, is a tactical issue hardly worth the energy being invested in it. The real issue is the final borders of the State of Israel on the east. A decision on which of the settlements will be annexed and which will be vacated will determine the route of that border. Once agreement has been secured with the Palestinians and the Quartet, Israel will be free to continue expanding and building in those areas that will fall under its sovereignty.
This is the issue which will continue to cause the greatest degree of tension with the United States. It would, therefore, be much more constructive and productive for the government to initiate its own plan for ending its occupation and for the creation of two states for two peoples.
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.