Peres, Kerry, Abbas

We know how to make peace

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The response in Israel and Palestine to Kerry’s words from politicians, pundits and journalists seems so cynical.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said at the end of this round of shuttle diplomacy: “It’s our intention – and we all committed to this, every party – to continue our intensive discussions with the belief that they are constructive and they are in good faith, and that we intend to try to create the conditions for peace so that we can resume negotiations between the parties in a clear and precise, predetermined manner.”

The response in Israel and Palestine to Kerry’s words from politicians, pundits and journalists seems so cynical. One typical response, written on my Facebook page: “Hmmm, I wonder where and when I have heard same thing….” Yes, it is true, we have heard it before, we’ve been there before, tried it, it failed – so I guess it can’t happen.

But Kerry was equally emphatic when he stated that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolvable. That to me was refreshing; I thought I was one of the only ones around making that declaration. I will say it again: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolvable! Not only that; we all know what the solution looks like.

We actually have a pretty good idea of what it will take to reach an agreement. We know what concessions each side will have to make. We can pretty much now put out the map of the borders between the two states. We know what kind of security arrangements are necessary. We know how to deal with Jerusalem, that will be the capital of two states. We know how to confront the sensitive issue of the Holy Places in Jerusalem, Hebron and elsewhere. We know how to best deal with the refugee issue in a manner that will guarantee the validity of the two-state solution and enable refugees to have dignity and the ability to start a new life in their own state.

We know what kind of assistance we will need from third parties for monitoring, verifying implementation, assisting with realtime dispute resolution. We know what steps each side will have to make to begin to create a culture of peace and to fight extremism, incitement and hate language and education.

We also know how to come up with more equitable ways of sharing the scarce water resources of this land. We know what needs to be done to protect our shared environment.

We know how to conserve and preserve our valuable natural resources. We know how to enable the Palestinian state’s rapid achievement of economic growth and how to bring prosperity to all of the people living on this land.

We also know what will happen if we don’t do these things. We have already felt the pains of war. We have experienced terrorism, destruction, injury and death. We have all buried too many of our loved ones over this conflict. We have lived with fear, despair and hatred for too long. This land that we all love so dearly has drunk too much of our blood protecting it from others.

This land belongs to us, we all say, Israelis and Palestinians. We will not give up our rights to this land. Jews have rights to it all.

Palestinians have rights to it all. All of Eretz Yisrael is ours, we say. All of Palestine is ours, they say. We can’t have it all, not us, and not the Palestinians. None of us are leaving. We have fought and died and we are willing to fight and die so that we can both have a piece of land we call home, a land of our own. We both want a territorial expression of our own identity. We will not live under their rule and they will not live under ours.

There is only one solution – division, partition.

There is no other. We will not live in a homogenized state with a non-national identity, and neither will they. A bi-national state is not possible; if it has such difficulty working in Belgium with its cold climate (both meteorologically and culturally) then how could it work in the Middle East? We can’t have it all. We cannot continue to control them. They will not agree to acquiesce to our control. They will not give up their dreams to be a free people in their land. They will not give up on their part of Jerusalem. They will not give up on their territorial demand of 22 percent of the land between the River and the Sea.

That’s right – 22%! Only 22%. That is what they are demanding. That is what they told president Clinton. That is what they told president Bush. That is what they told President Obama. That is what they demanded in the United Nations. That is what the international community recognized in the United Nations. That is what the Palestinian people say to the people of Israel. We are ready to have our state in a part of the land, a small part. We are ready to recognize Israel on 78% of the land. This is what they have been saying to us since November 1988. That is the Israel that they are willing to live in peace with. No more and no less.

They recognize that facts have changed on the ground since they rejected the partition plan in 1947. They recognize that facts have changed since the Six Day War in 1967 when Israel conquered all of the land between the River and the Sea. They recognize that it is impossible to return to the exact borders that were set in the armistice agreements in 1949 and are called the “green line.” They accept the idea of territorial swaps in order to adjust the border so that settlement blocs can be incorporated into the State of Israel.

Then why didn’t they accept Ehud Barak’s offer or Ehud Olmert’s offer? Because both of those were presented at the times as “take it or leave it – it is the best offer you will get” and the negotiations were not complete. All of the issues had not been resolved. It was not yet an agreement that both sides could live with. There were still gaps.

Let’s pick up from where Olmert left off.

We were very close. Those gaps can be closed in a short time.

This conflict is resolvable and yes, we know how to do it. But if we don’t, and if it is not soon, we will face another round of violence. The Palestinian leaders of today who are prepared to make peace with us today will not be around tomorrow. There is urgency, the clock is ticking. This is not a cry of “wolf.” This is for real. Danger looms around the corner. We don’t have to fall into the abyss.

This conflict is resolvable.

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