Friday, January 11, 2008

The bottom line on Israeli-Palestinian peace (from George Bush, Sari Nusseibeh, & Ami Ayalon)

The fact that George W. Bush says something does not necessarily make it wrong. In fact, the following passage from his speech in Jerusalem yesterday gets right to the heart of the matter:
There should be an end to the occupation that began in 1967. The agreement must establish Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people, just as Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people. These negotiations must ensure that Israel has secure, recognized and defensible borders. And they must ensure that the state of Palestine is viable, contiguous, sovereign and independent.
This is essentially the same formula proposed in the important joint statement issued in 2002 by the Palestinian intellectual and political activist Sari Nusseibeh and the Israeli politician (& former head of Shin Bet) Ami Ayalon: "Two states for two peoples."

The Nusseibeh-Ayalon initiative remains the most cogent statement of the crucial principles on which any just and viable Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement will have to be based, so their proposal (below) is worth revisiting. (Some brief but usefully illuminating commentary by Doni Remba, who in 2002 was President of Chicago-area Peace Now, is at the beginning HERE).

The big questions, of course, are whether and how we can get from here to there. And any viable Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement will probably have to be linked to a larger Arab-Israeli peace settlement, which makes matters even more complicated. (An overall settlement, by the way, should include fair and equitable solution for both Arab and Jewish refugees who have been caught up in the Arab-Israeli conflict since 1948.) But commitment to these basic principles is an essential starting-point.

Jeff Weintraub
The Nusseibeh-Ayalon Agreement: Final Draft
September 3, 2002

The Palestinian people and the Jewish people each recognize the other's historic rights with respect to the same land.

The Jewish people has for generations wanted to establish the Jewish State in all the Land of Israel, while the Palestinian people has similarly wanted to establish a state in all of Palestine.

The two sides hereby agree to accept a historic compromise based on the principle of two sovereign and viable states existing side by side. The following Statement of Intentions is an expression of the will of the majority of the people. Both sides believe that through this initiative they can influence their leaders and thereby open a new chapter in the region's history. This new chapter will be realized by calling on the international community to guarantee security in the region and to help in rehabilitating and developing the region's economy.

The People Vote - Statement of Intentions

1. Two states for two peoples: Both sides will declare that Palestine is the only state of the Palestinian people and Israel is the only state of the Jewish people.

2. Borders: Permanent borders between the two states will be agreed on the basis of the June 4, 1967 lines, UN resolutions and the Arab peace initiative (known as the Saudi initiative).

· Border modifications will be based on an equal territorial exchange (1:1) in accordance with the vital needs of both sides, including security, territorial contiguity, and demographic considerations.

· The Palestinian State will have a connection between its two geographic areas, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

· After establishment of the agreed borders, no settlers will remain in the Palestinian state.

3. Jerusalem: Jerusalem will be an open city, the capital of two states. Freedom of religion and full access to holy sites will be guaranteed to all.

· Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem will come under Palestinian sovereignty; Jewish neighborhoods under Israeli sovereignty.

· Neither side will exercise sovereignty over the holy places. The State of Palestine will be designated Guardian of the Temple Mount for the benefit of Muslims. Israel will be the Guardian of the Western Wall for the benefit of the Jewish people. [JW: This is the one point on which some fiddling with the details might be OK--but if it works, fine.] The status quo on Christian holy sites will be maintained. No excavation will take place in or underneath the holy sites.

4. Right of return: Recognizing the suffering and the plight of the Palestinian refugees, the international community, Israel, and the Palestinian State will initiate and contribute to an international fund to compensate them.

· Palestinian refugees will return only to the State of Palestine; Jews will return only to the State of Israel.

5. The Palestinian State will be demilitarized and the international community will guarantee its security and independence.

6. End of conflict: Upon the full implementation of these principles, all claims on both sides and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will end.