First, divest yourself of the idea that the peace plan unveiled last Tuesday in the White House is just a trick to divert attention from President Donald Trump’s impeachment or Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s indictment. The document describing it is 180 pages long. It is not a diversion.
I will not pretend to have read all the pages yet, but the broad outline of the proposal, including maps, is contained in the first 40-odd pages. It is a thoughtful attempt to arrive at a solution, and takes into account the failure of previous efforts. There is a huge amount of material here, and I could write essays about the presuppositions and the implications of every page, but will try to limit myself to describing the proposal in general terms and discussing its significance in the long and depressing saga of the “peace process.”
In recent years, proposals have centered around the ideas first expressed in the Clinton Parameters of 2000-01, which envision most of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip as a Palestinian entity, with swaps to allow the large settlement blocs to continue to exist. The new proposal diverges sharply from these plans.
Summary of the plan
The plan (the official name is “Peace to Prosperity: A Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People”) is a two-state solution that preserves the original intention of U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, in which Israel withdraws from some of the territory taken in 1967, while keeping secure boundaries. The Palestinian “state” here is more like Rabin’s vision of something “less than a state,” because Palestine will be demilitarized, and its borders and airspace controlled by Israel for an unlimited period.
The plan is intended as a statement of concepts, albeit a pretty detailed one. It calls for an Israeli-Palestinian negotiation the product of which will be a final “peace agreement” with all the details worked out. During the negotiation period (for a maximum of four years), Israel will freeze construction or expansion of settlements in those areas defined as Palestinian in the plan.
The agreement would create a “state” of Palestine that encompasses most of today’s Areas A and B and some of Area C. Israel will receive most of Area C, including the Jordan Valley. Ninety-seven percent of Palestinians will find themselves in Palestine and 97 percent of Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria will be in Israel. The remainder will be in Palestinian enclaves in Israel, or Israeli enclaves in Palestine. Enclaves will be under civil control of their respective governments, but Israel will be responsible for security in both cases.
Israel will provide land swaps (attached to Gaza along the border with Egypt) which will give Palestine roughly the same area as the pre-1967 “West Bank” and Gaza. There will be a high-speed rail link (on the map it is shown as a tunnel) between the eastern part of Palestine and Gaza, and special roads across the Jordan Valley to the Allenby Bridge with Jordan. Infrastructure will be built to ensure that Israeli and Palestinian enclaves are not isolated. It’s possible that some Israeli Arab communities in the “Arab Triangle” near Umm al-Fahm might be included in Palestine.
In no case will any Jews or Arabs be required to move from their homes, a principle that diverges significantly from previous plans, which included the removal of Jewish settlements.
I’ve included the two “conceptual maps” from the proposal at the end of this post. They show the borders and other features envisioned by the proposal.
Jerusalem will continue to be the capital of Israel, and Israel will continue to provide security for the holy sites of all the religions. The city will not be re-divided along the 1949 armistice line, but the areas east and north of the existing security barrier (“including Kafr Aqab, the eastern part of Shuafat and Abu Dis”) will become the capital of the State of Palestine, and may be renamed “Al Quds” or whatever the Palestinians decide. Arabs living in Jerusalem inside the security barrier will have the option to become citizens of Israel or Palestine, or retain the status of Permanent Resident of Israel (most Jerusalem Arabs chose this status after 1967 rather than becoming citizens).
The “vision” provides for an economic plan to provide for a viable Palestinian state rather than one that relies on international donors. I won’t discuss this here.
Overall security for both states will be Israel’s responsibility from Day One, “with the aspiration that the Palestinians will be responsible for as much of their internal security as possible, subject to the provisions of this Vision.”
Israel will retain control of airspace and electromagnetic spectrum from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Special arrangements will be made to protect Ben-Gurion Airport from nearby Palestinian areas.
The State of Palestine will be expected to take serious measures to prevent terrorism, which should be evaluated in terms “no less stringent” than those applied to Jordan or Egypt.
The Israeli navy will be able to block the import of “prohibited weapons and weapon-making materials” to Palestine, including of course Gaza. Palestine will be demilitarized, and Israel will have the right to destroy any Palestinian facility used for hostile purposes. There is a list of weapons and systems that the Palestinians are forbidden to procure. Palestine will not be allowed to make agreements with any state or organization that threatens Israel’s security.
Any expansion of Palestinian security capabilities will require Israel’s permission. Israel retains the right to “engage in necessary security measures” to maintain demilitarization and fight terrorism, including incursions into Palestinian territory. There will be “early warning stations” manned by Israeli security personnel in Palestine.
Gaza has always been problematic, and with the Hamas takeover in 2007, it became a hostile enclave which has caused several small wars. The plan explicitly calls for the removal of Hamas, saying that Israel will not be required to meet any of its obligations under the agreement unless the Palestinian Authority is in control of Gaza, Hamas and other terrorist factions are disarmed, and Gaza is demilitarized. If Hamas is to “play any role” in the government of Palestine, it must first agree to “explicitly recognizing the State of Israel, committing to nonviolence, and accepting previous agreements and obligations between the parties, including the disarming of all terrorist groups.”
The plan calls for Israel to release Palestinian (not Israeli Arab) prisoners held in Israeli jails, except those convicted of murder or conspiracy to commit murder.
There will be no “right of return” to Israel for people with Palestinian refugee status. Those registered as refugees with The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) will have the option of absorption into the State of Palestine or their present host countries, or to a limited extent, to other Organization of Islamic Cooperation states that agree to take them. Once the agreement is signed, Palestinian refugee status and UNRWA will cease to exist.
The Palestinian state will not necessarily be created upon the signing of the agreement; the transition from the P.A. to the State of Palestine will occur only after the Palestinians have created a Western-style democracy and legal and banking systems, and have stopped incitement and education for hatred in its schools and other institutions. Palestinians will be required to “create a culture of peace” which will not glorify terrorism or martyrdom, and will not deny the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state.
The agreement will include mutual recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people and Palestine as the nation-state of the Palestinian people. It will end all claims between the two, and this will be proposed as Security Council and General Assembly resolutions in the United Nations.
During the period of negotiations or for a maximum of four years, Israel will commit not to build or expand settlements in those areas of Judea and Samaria that are proposed to become part of Palestine. This “settlement freeze” does not apply to settlements in the Jordan Valley, eastern Jerusalem inside the security barrier, or other areas that are expected to become part of Israel. It does apply to Israeli enclaves in Palestinian areas. This is different from previous “freezes” which were applied to the entire area across the Green Line.
At the same time, Palestinians will agree not to join international organizations without permission from Israel, will end legal actions (e.g., in the International Criminal Court) against Israel, and end the “pay-to-slay” program.
The United States will agree to reopen the PLO mission in Washington and provide various kinds of aid.
What do the Palestinians think?
Of course they vehemently reject it. They couldn’t possibly accept the plan without almost as many caveats are there are items in it. The proposed Palestinian “state” is no more a state than is Vatican City. The requirements to end what we consider incitement (and they consider education in the fundamental principles of the Palestinian Movement) will be unacceptable to them. Pay-to-slay is inviolable. The “right of return” has always been sacrosanct. Hamas will never disarm. And Palestinians have never been prepared to admit that Israel belongs to the Jewish people, not one inch of it.
What does the left think?
Leftist organizations in Israel and the United States oppose the agreement because of the small size of the proposed Palestinian state and the limitations on its sovereignty, and—in the case of the American left—because they hate the president and have to oppose anything he does.
What does the right think?
Many members of the Israeli right oppose any Palestinian state, because they believe that the restrictions on sovereignty and militarization ultimately aren’t maintainable, and that the result of allowing its creation would be another terror entity on our border. They also disagree in principle with any concession of territory that’s part of the Land of Israel. But some think it’s worth the gamble in order to restart building in at least part of Judea and Samaria, and to obtain sovereignty in the Jordan Valley and other parts of Area C.
What do I think?
The plan can’t possibly be translated into a deal the Palestinians would agree with, even as a pretense. It pays lip service to the idea that Palestinians want normal lives in a well-run, economically flourishing state. Certainly there are those that do want this, but the leadership and what the late Barry Rubin used to refer to as “the young men with guns,” who determine what happens on the street, do not feel this way.
In Palestinian politics and culture, nothing overrides the prime objective, which is the removal of the Jewish presence from the land that Palestinians believe belongs to them alone. Anyone who says different may be held accountable by the young men with guns. To accept the plan would be to betray their Palestinian identity and their Islamic religion in return for an attenuated, emasculated “state” that would be dependent on the hated Jews.
Having said that, I think the authors of the plan understand Palestinian political culture, and what they want to do is help the West to stop appeasing it. The proposal breaks the sterile consensus that has developed since Oslo, in which the conflict is seen as entirely Israel’s fault, nothing is expected from the Palestinians and “solutions” are just different approaches to forcing Israel to make concessions. One example of this is that for the first time since 2000, the proposal rejects the holiness of the 1949 armistice lines, and calls for secure borders instead. In my opinion, the paradigm shift embodied in the proposal is its most important and worthwhile feature.
The objection that a Palestinian state, once created, would not remain benign and demilitarized is definitely a concern, but it will not become relevant for some time. Judging by the conditions placed on the Palestinians by the plan, it’s hard to imagine that the state will actually come into being. Accepting the deal now would allow to Israel to take actions immediately, like building in areas that are expected to be part of Israel, annexing the Jordan Valley, and applying Israeli law to existing Jewish communities.
The significance of the deal, therefore, is not that it will ever be fully implemented. It is that it will change people’s thinking about the conflict, and free Israel from the chains of the Oslo/Clinton paradigm.
Israelis, therefore, should welcome the change in direction and take the opportunities offered, even if they have problems with specific parts of the program.
The prime minister promised to bring the program to the Cabinet for approval on Sunday, and I will be happy to see this.
How the proposal views the final configurations of Israel and Palestine:
Victor Rosenthal was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., lived on a kibbutz through the 1980s and returned home to Israel in 2014 after 26 years in California. He writes at the Abu Yehuda blog.
This article was first published at AbuYehuda.com.