Gershon Baskin responds to the scathing attack of Professor Dr. Martin Sherman, the founder of the Israel Institute of Strategic Studies and the first academic director of the internationally renowned Herzliya Conference, against him. Gershon Baskin argues that the denial of the national political rights of one of the peoples living here will continue to prevent peace.
I would like to thank Martin Sherman for his scathing attack against me in his article “The honorable thing to do“.
Although I agree with Sherman’s criticism of President Shimon Peres’s last speech, that it is wrong not to learn from the failures of the Oslo process, it is a great honor to be attacked together with our president and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.
As is typical of those opposed to the two-state solution, Sherman did not offer one constructive idea in his (over 2,200-word) article, “due to constraints of space.” In fact, Sherman has no solution to offer to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that guarantees the continued existence of Israel as the democratic nation-state of the Jewish people. Those who seek to control all the land between the River and the Sea, preventing partition into two states, and to continue to settle in the West Bank heartland, are anti-Zionists and anti-democrats and are leading us to doom, and it is they “who need to bow out of public life” before they achieve their goals.
I must relate to the strangest of his many attacks: Sherman accuses me of not caring about Jewish sovereignty. Wasn’t the State of Israel established in 1948? Haven’t we already had Jewish sovereignty for 64 years? Did I miss something here?
Sherman called me seditious; this is nothing but vile slander. If he believes I am seditious, then let him press charges against me, and against The Jerusalem Post for publishing a seditious article. And what was it that I said (and which he only partially quoted) that he found “seditious”? I had written: “There can be no equality in an Israel which is in conflict with the Palestinians. One million Palestinian citizens of Israel cannot be equal when they are always subject to be questioned about their loyalty. Of course they will be loyal to their own people when their own state is fighting against them, denying them basic rights and refusing to grant equal citizenship to those who were born as citizens.”
The vast majority of Palestinian citizens of the State of Israel are law-abiding. However, their loyalty is nevertheless constantly questioned, for reasons that are understandable yet not acceptable in a democratic state, and it is people like Sherman who are responsible for this, not me.
I lived for two years as a volunteer community worker in the Palestinian-Israeli village of Kafr Qara. I never felt that I was even at risk, and everyone there knew I was a Jewish Israeli. Why doesn’t Sherman ask why, after 64 years of statehood, 20 percent of Israel’s citizens are still discriminated against? How can we as Jews accept that 20% of Israel’s citizens are unequal based on ethnic-national discrimination? There is no excuse for this in a state which thinks of itself as democratic.
It has nothing to do with Palestinian citizens not doing national or army service. They were never drafted, and this was the state’s decision, not theirs. Israel’s Druze citizens do full military service, and are still discriminated against. How can this be tolerable to you, Mr. Sherman, or don’t you care about democracy and democratic values?
The Oslo process failed not because the idea of two states for two peoples is wrong, but because its implementation was carried out poorly, with faulty agreements and continued resistance to deal with the real issues in conflict, preferring to constantly create interim solutions.
Over 1,000 Israelis were killed by Palestinians and more than 8,000 Palestinians were killed by Israelis since the beginning of Oslo. That is not peace and surely cannot be called a peace process. Nor can one deny its failure. As the slogan went: “if this is peace, I don’t want it!” But this was not peace, both peoples do not want it and both sides are to blame for its failure.
MY ARTICLE asked a very basic question: where is the current leadership leading us? I really don’t know. But it is clear to me that if you (and the prime minister) reject the two-state solution, an alternative plan must be offered. When I raise this with the settlers in Hebron, they say “God will help us, God is on our side.” That was also the late Hanan Porat’s answer regarding the disengagement from Gaza.
Is that your answer, Mr. Sherman? Are you a closet messianic? You didn’t answer the question of how Israel can continue to be the democratic state of the Jewish people if we won’t allow the Palestinians to have a state of their own next to us.
They are demanding 22 percent of that area, not 50% or more. They rejected the partition plan in 1947, fought against us in 1948 and recognize that their bad decision cost them territory. The demand they presented last year at the United Nations was for 22% of the land, not one inch more. They have never demanded more in negotiations with us, either. They, and the world, recognize Israel in 78% of the land, even though the partition plan, which we accepted, offered us considerably less.
Yes, there are risks in moving forward on peace with the Palestinians, but for one, Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas is not Yasser Arafat; there is no duplicitous vagueness about the absolute rejection of terrorism by Abbas.
We can and must learn the lessons of the failed peace process (which I have been writing about for years). We will undoubtedly make new mistakes, hopefully much less severe than those we (Israel and Palestine) have already made. The amazing thing about human beings is our ability to learn from our mistakes and hopefully not make the same ones again. But the idea of partition was not a mistake, it was just never implemented.
Bush’s Road Map for Peace was the first attempt to apply lessons learned from failure. Lesson one was that it is performance and implementation that are important, not promises and declarations. The Road Map process was based on measurable benchmarks. Achievements had to be made, measured and verified before moving on to the next stage.
The Road Map included a “monitor”- a third party that would determine whether the parties had fully implemented their obligations. Unfortunately, in Bush’s version, the monitor, an American general, was not permitted to publish his reports, so the leaders were not accountable to their people for their failures. This was a mistake, and in the future, monitors’ reports must be publicized.
The Road Map required the Palestinians to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism, dismantle and re-build their security forces, subject them to the rule of the law and ensure that they are fighting against terrorism. According to Israeli security officials, those benchmarks were met in the territory under PA control (not Gaza). Israel was supposed to freeze all settlement building, remove unauthorized outposts and re-open closed Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem such as the Chamber of Commerce. It did none of those.
WE ARE still in an interim period, 19 years after the Declaration of Principles (DOP) was signed in 1993. We never signed a peace agreement with the Palestinians. The DOP was an agreement for an interim period of five years during which time we were supposed to negotiate and reach peace. Those negotiations require both sides to come to terms with mutual recognition, Palestinian statehood, (Israel already exists and was recognized by Arafat), security arrangements, borders, Jerusalem, refugees and natural resources.
None of that has been agreed on. There has never been a declaration of peace between us. There is no peace and today there is no peace process. The failure of those negotiations is owned by both sides.
Remember Yitzhak Rabin? He was murdered by a right-winger for implementing that partial agreement. Rabin implemented his obligations under the agreement, and so did Arafat, then. I was an advisor to a special Israel team on the peace process that Rabin created from the intelligence community.
It is impossible to know what Rabin would have done on the day after he was assassinated, but I believe that the day he was killed was the day the peace process began to die. His successors (including Shimon Peres) helped to destroy Oslo by not implementing Israel’s obligations and by doubling the number of settlers in the West Bank (since 1993), trying to make the creation of a Palestinian state there impossible.
Even Ehud Barak, the leader of the “peace camp,” built more settlement housing in his term of office than Netanyahu did in his first short term. The understandings between the parties broke down as a combination of non-implementation of obligations: non-withdrawal from territory by Israel and use of violence by Palestinians. Israel ceased it willingness to partition the land, and the Palestinians resorted to terrorism. Both sides reneged on the agreement to partition the land.
There are many myths about the negotiations, the offers, the rejections and the blame. The offers made by Barak in Camp David were far-reaching, but not sufficient to reach an agreement. Israel claimed it was the best offer the Palestinians would ever get, but in Taba, some six months later, Israel offered more.
If Camp David was the best offer, something is wrong with common sense logic. No Palestinian could have agreed to the Camp David proposal, which granted them 89% of the West Bank, cut into three cantons by east-west Israeli corridors under Israeli sovereignty and Israeli control of the external borders of Palestine – nothing more than a sovereign cage.
The negotiations on Jerusalem and refugees were not complete and the parties agreed to return to the table. Between Camp David and Taba, the negotiators met 52 times even though the second intifada had already started! The American bridging proposal (The Clinton Parameters) came on December 23, 2000, less than a month before Clinton left office. The Clinton parameters were used by both sides in the Taba negotiations in January 2001.
The Taba negotiations were not completed because they took place days before elections and public pressure forced Barak to call them off. Then Sharon won the elections, and he had no intention of allowing a Palestinian state to be created in the West Bank and Gaza.
The unilateral disengagement of Gaza by Israel was not an act of peace; it was an act of despair by Sharon who refused to negotiate with Abbas, calling him a “chick with no feathers.” The de-legitimization of Abbas and his moderate camp empowered Hamas and the radicals and their narrative is victorious in the region, not the legacy of negotiations and diplomacy but the “victory of resistance,” the victory of terrorism.
More than 650 rockets were shot from Gaza into Israel before the disengagement and the Hamas victory, even when we were in control and the settlements and army were still there. We will unfortunately probably continue to experience rockets from Gaza until we manage to conclude a real peace agreement with the Palestinian people.
OLMERT AND Abbas made great progress towards reaching an agreement. The Olmert offer was never rejected by Abbas, counter to Israeli mythology. Those negotiations did not continue after Olmert made his “last offer” (and refused to allow Abbas to have the proposed map to study).
They did not meet again, Olmert was indicted for corruption, and after continuous rocket fire from Gaza, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead. After that, Abbas could not continue the negotiations. Both men today believe that if they had had more time to negotiate they would have reached an agreement.
When an agreement will be reached in the future, it will include a Palestinian state in 22% of the land (including Gaza). In Gaza it will be implemented only after there is a regime there that accepts all aspects of the agreement. If Israel wishes to annex some 5% or more of the West Bank in order to accommodate some 80% of the settlers under Israeli sovereignty, it will have to give up equal territory from Israel proper.
Israel has consistently demanded and the Palestinians have consistently agreed that Palestine will be demilitarized. Abbas has agreed to a continued Israeli military presence along the Jordan River and on the peaks of the mountain ridge in designated military locations over a period of time to be negotiated. The Palestinians have agreed to the presence of a multi-national force in the West Bank, which could be led by NATO. They have agreed to discuss possible Israeli participation in that force.
The security aspects of the agreement must be ironclad. Abbas has demonstrated over the past years his determination to enforce a zero-tolerance policy regarding terrorism under his authority. That is certainly one of the lessons learned, as well.
Those agreements must be tested over time and must be monitored by third parties, reporting on implementation and breaches. Israeli withdrawals will be gradual over a number of years and implemented in accordance with the continuation of security implementation. Violations must be dealt with immediately in a way which is agreed on by the parties as part of the agreement, not as an afterthought.
How do we ensure the Palestinian state will not be taken over by fanatic Islamic groups? The best way to ensure Palestinian moderation and support for peace has always been by ensuring that the peace process turns into peace. There must be full implementation of obligations under the agreements (unlike what happened to each of the five agreements signed by the two sides).
There must also be real economic benefits to peace, which there weren’t in Oslo, at least for the Palestinians; Israel which profited tremendously, as did some Palestinian officials, who set up systems of corruption which have not been entirely eliminated until today.
The battle against corruption in the Palestinian Authority must continue and must be part and parcel of progress toward peace, which means that Israeli officials and former officials engaged in shady deals with the Palestinians should be brought to justice along with their corrupt counterparts in Palestine.
Confrontation of the governments’ responsibility for fighting a “culture of hate” and fostering a “culture of peace” must be as important as the delineation of borders. Tzipi Livni and Abu Ala agreed to establish a technical committee for this purpose.
They did not succeed, as the whole Annapolis process failed. Dealing with incitement, state-sponsored, religious-based, or as a part of culture, must be dealt with effectively by governments for peace to be real. This includes confronting textbooks and classroom environments. It must be done on both sides.
At the present time there is only one solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which ensures the existence of a democratic Jewish nation-state: two states for two peoples.
Any other proposal rejects the idea of a democratic Jewish nation-state, either rejecting the Jewish nation-state part or the democracy part. It also ensures the continuation of an acute and often bloody conflict between the two peoples living between the River and the Sea. The denial of the national political rights of one of the peoples living here will continue to prevent peace.
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.