Gershon Baskin believes that the most obvious change in the past 20 years is the total lack of trust that exists today across the conflict lines.
When I established Israel Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives (IPCRI) in March 1988 I proposed two very radical ideas. I put forward the endgame and said: the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is two states for two peoples.
Let’s start from the end and then figure out how to make it happen. If, as I believe, the conflict is a territorial-identity conflict – each side is willing to fight, kill and die for a territorial expression of their identity – and the territory in question is the same piece of land, then the only solution is partition. That partition must be based on mutual recognition of the legitimate demand for self-determination of both peoples. The second radical idea I proposed was that both sides should work together in a joint institution in joint working groups of professionals to figure out how to make this solution work and materialize.
The failure of the Oslo process has not changed the fundamental realities of the conflict. The issues in conflict remain the same and the solutions are still very similar to what they were even 20 years ago.
The most obvious change in the past 20 years is the total lack of trust that exists today across the conflict lines; it is a lot more difficult to get the officials on both sides to sit at the same table.
What made the establishment of IPCRI successful in 1988 is what will enable a renewal of a genuine peace process with much higher chances of success – because we actually have the ability to learn from the mistakes of the past. The essential ingredient is what has been absent from the peace process from its beginning – agreeing on the endgame up front.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that he accepts the two-state solution, yet he is not ready implement policies that will bring it to fruition.
Enough empty words. It is time to translate the twostate solution into parameters that have some real meaning. It is time to declare that the two-state solution will be based on the armistice borders of 1949 with agreed-upon territorial swaps that recognize the strategic and defensive needs of Israel and the reality on the ground.
It is time to agree, as stated in the Declaration of Principles from September 1993, that both sides will negotiate, in good faith, the future of Jerusalem and the future of the Palestinian refugees. Netanyahu came close to saying this in the United Nations in September this year: “Israel welcomes the spirit of the Arab peace initiative” were his exact words. The Arab Peace Initiative calls on Israel to withdraw from all of the territories it captured in June 1967, “attain a just solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees to be agreed upon in accordance with the UN General Assembly Resolution No 194; accept the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since 4 June 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital.” These are the parameters for Israeli Palestinian peace. This was clear back in 1988 when I founded IPCRI and it is even clearer today. And even Netanyahu knows it.
It would be virtually unimaginable for Netanyahu to admit out loud that he recognizes that the end of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that would end the conflict and all claims will be based on this formula.
His government would disintegrate before he would finish uttering the words. That is why Netanyahu and Israel needs the UN Security Council to pass a resolution during the 70 days that will remain after US elections on November 8 and before January 20 when President Barack Obama will leave the Oval Office. There is no chance that a new US president will enable such a resolution to pass without a US veto, and that is why this is a window of opportunity to save Israel and the Palestinians and increase the chances of a negotiated agreement between them.
Neither the UN nor the US can impose an agreement on the Israelis and Palestinians. Any agreement must be negotiated between the parties. But no genuine negotiations are likely to take place without an agreement on the endgame up front.
The negotiations are about the details, the maps, the mechanisms for security, the way in which Jerusalem will be shared as an open city, the capital for two states, on compensation and possible symbolic repatriation of refugees, and all other issues that the parties need to agree on. The UN Security Council resolution should unequivocally state that Israel is the democratic nation-state of the Jewish people in which all of its citizens enjoy full and equal rights and that Palestine is the democratic nation-state of the Palestinian people in which all of its citizens enjoy full and equal rights. And it should also definitely state that with this resolution the parties will immediately commence with direct negotiations to end the conflict and all claims and to establish genuine peace.
Since we all know that this is the only solution to this conflict and that until now the parties have not been able to agree to even renew negotiations for many reasons, the international community can be most helpful by offering endgame parameters that will enable both sides to return to the table. President Obama began his eight years with a statement of intent to secure Israeli-Palestinian peace. So far he has not succeeded. Now he has one last chance to make a lasting mark and to give the warring parties another real chance to make it work.
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.