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Home arrow Blog arrow September 2008 arrow September 16, 2008

September 16, 2008
WAWA Blog September 16, 2008: Encountering Peace: From Oslo, back to Oslo:UPDATE: Sept. 22, 2008    
Posted Sept. 22, 2008

Tzipi, you can do it

By Gershon Baskin

September 18, 2008

Tzipi Livni, Prime Minister elect. We have great expectation from you.  We can’t help it. Our disappointments from your predecessor are so great and the challenges before you so immense, we need you to succeed. If you do, your success will be the success of all of us, and if you fail, your failures will impact our lives for negatively for years to come.

There are very few Heads of State around the world who have to face the kind of decisions that are in front of you.  It is hard to imagine why a sane person would even desire to be in your place. But those of us who grew up in an ideological movement and were educated that we have a “mission” in our lives, can understand the notion of “din hat’neuah”  - the judgment and determination of the calling of “the movement”.  The decision to lead is ingrained in your soul, in your spirit and the belief that you are “the right person at the right time in the right place” is the driving force that brought you into the seat of Israel’s Prime Minister. For you, it is not ego, for you it is the drive of mission and commitment, that is how you were brought up and it is obvious from the kind of person you have become.

Your tasks are many, and most of them extremely complex.  First you must create unity in your party and then form a stable government.  That’s the easy part! Your main mission and most important task is the one you have already been working on for months – reaching an agreement with the Palestinians.

Now, you are the boss.  You don’t have to take instructions from someone else. You are the leader and it is your responsibility to fulfill the mission that every single Prime Minister before you has failed in doing.  You already know how complicated it is.  You already know the demands of the Palestinian negotiators.  You also know the implications of failure. This is certainly the proverbial “moment of trust” for you and for this country.

You will certainly face pressures from everyone around you.  The military and security forces will impress upon you the great risks involved. There is no possible peace agreement with the Palestinians that does not involve risks. There will be threats that if you negotiate Jerusalem you will lose coalition partners.  There is no possible agreement with the Palestinians without including Jerusalem in the deal. There will be those who will tell you to work on the economic side of the Palestinian issue – improve their lives and then later work on the political side.  There is no Palestinian partner for improving the quality of the occupation – there is only a Palestinian partner for ending the occupation.

There will be those who will advise you to move ahead with the Syrian track because the strategic advantages of peace with the Syrian is much higher than with the Palestinians and the issues are far less complicated.  They will say that Israel does not have the capacity to move ahead with peace on two fronts, so chose the Syrian track. The truth is that there is no real possibility for peace without moving forward on both tracks.  Each track has the ability to “spoil” the other track.  Pursuing both tracks is the right way forward.  Moving ahead on both tracks also fulfills the clauses of the Arab Peace initiative which opens the door for Israel to all 22 Arab states and at least to 50 Islamic states as well.  The potential payoff is larger than what anyone who sat in the PM’s chair has ever allowed himself to imagine.

There will be many who will tell you that you don’t have the legitimacy to negotiate peace.  They will talk about the slim majority of your victory.  They will say that you weren’t elected by the general population. They will say that you didn’t get a mandate to negotiate peace.  They will say that Kadima’s mandate was for a plan of unilateral disengagement that after the Qassams of Gaza has no legitimacy anymore.

Don’t’ listen to them.  If you are sitting in the seat of the Prime Minister and you have a government holding the confidence of the Knesset, you have all the legitimacy in the world.  You have the legitimacy to make war, to send the IDF to fight, to send the GSS to assassinate Palestinian combatants.  You have the legitimacy and the authority to kill, you certainly have the legitimacy and the authority to negotiate peace, including negotiating the future of Jerusalem.

You will probably have to continue to negotiations in complete silence and secrecy. That is the only way to reach an agreement. Your close relationship that you have already developed with the Palestinian team headed by Abu Ala’ will help you to reach an agreement.  The Palestinians are ready to recognize the Jewishness of Israel, as you demand, if you include guarantees for the rights of the Palestinian minority in Israel.  The Palestinians will tell you that they are convinced that they can deal democratically with the problem of Hamas if they can present a fair agreement to their public. They will have to do that of face the possibility of losing the West Bank as well.

The Israeli public, skeptical as it may be, will also support an agreement with the Palestinians that will include a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem as long as stands as there is a fair chance of providing Israel with the long-term security that we so badly need.  That security is mostly predicated on removing ourselves from occupying the Palestinian people and risking the end of the possibility of the two state solution. The Palestinian Authority has begun to serious combat terrorism.  They will continue and succeed if the political process moves forward steadily and with speed. There is no chance of a partial agreement or an interim agreement – those will only empower the extremists.

The time for peace with the Palestinians is now.  The time for decisions is now. Move ahead with the Syrians too.  Call for the Government of Lebanon to join in as well after you announce your intention to transfer the disputed area of the Sheba farms to the United Nations, after appropriate security arrangements are made.

Lastly, bring home Gilead Shalit.  There is no way to bring him home without making huge concessions to Hamas.  He and his family have suffered enough.  The moral and ethical code of the IDF and of the State of Israel is that we don’t leave soldiers behind.  It is time to bring him home.  You can do it.

This is your time.  This is the time for all of us.  We are behind you and with you – as you as you move forward.  Be ambitious, be practical, be bold, be sincere, be yourself.

Gershon Baskin    -    Co-CEO, IPCRI

Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information
P.O. Box 9321, Jerusalem 91092
Tel: +972-2-676-9460   Fax: +972-2-676-8011
Cellphone: +972-(0)52-238-1715

Encountering Peace: From Oslo, back to Oslo
bY Gershon Baskin , THE JERUSALEM POST
September 16, 2008

September 13 marked 15 years since the gala signing celebration of the first Oslo agreement on the White House lawn. It certainly was a day of hope. Fifteen years later hardly a mention of the anniversary was made in the local or the international press - on both sides of the Green Line.

Oslo was a failed peace process, and not only in the minds of Israelis; most Palestinians also share the assessment. The reasons for the failure are many, and there are many people who own responsibility for Oslo's tragic fate. It is very easy for one side to place the blame on the doorstep of the other, but in truth, the failure of the process has its roots on both sides as well as among various international actors, including the US. Much has been written on what went wrong and on who is to blame; this is not another one of those articles.

DESPITE WHAT many people believe or would like to believe or perhaps even hope, Oslo is not yet dead and the chances for Israeli-Palestinian peace have not totally faded away. If and when the possibility of peace does fade away, the Palestinian people will no longer be calling for an independent Palestinian state in the June 4, 1967 borders, they will be calling for democracy and "one-person one-vote" between the river and the sea. When and if that happens, we will begin to witness the beginning of a new era which I would call "the era of the demise of the Zionist enterprise." I only hope that our leaders and their leaders will have to wisdom and the sanity to prevent us from jumping off the brink into that abyss.

The only way to prevent the next round of violence, which will signal the beginning of the end of the two-state solution, is to reach an agreement as soon as possible. It may not be possible before the end of the Bush administration, but the parties should already indicate their commitment to go beyond that deadline into the beginning of the next US administration. Both sides will have to make concessions on fundamentals, crossing lines that were painted "red" for them in the past. There is a package deal that can be reached and agreed upon.

The Palestinian state will have to be established on about 96 percent-97% of the West Bank and all of Gaza (once the political regime there changes). Israel will have to give up most of the West Bank, including the "Ariel finger," and should consider accepting a fair monetary price from the Palestinians for Ma'aleh Adumim - two areas that take up huge tracks of land in the West Bank. Most of the settlers will be able to remain in the areas where they live today.

The parties have already accepted the principle of a 50-50 split of the "no-man's" land areas alongside of the Green Line. Finding 3%-4% of land inside of the Green Line for a swap is not so problematic. The Palestinians already understand and are willing to wait a period of at least five years for Israel to vacate all of the settlements that will be transferred to them. They are also ready to offer citizenship to settlers who may wish to remain within their state.

PART OF the package includes recognizing that Jerusalem will be the capital of both countries. The Palestinian capital will be in the Palestinian parts of east Jerusalem and Israel's capital will remain in west Jerusalem. The Palestinians understand that the Jewish neighborhoods within the municipal boundaries that were built after 1967 will remain under Israeli sovereignty. They account for about 1% of the West Bank.

The Old City will be shared under a special regime, perhaps with international involvement, or through the division of sovereignty within its walls. The Palestinians will have sovereignty over the Muslim, Christian and Armenian Quarters and Israel will have sovereignty over the Jewish Quarter. The Jewish Quarter is already physically separated from the other quarters by internal checkpoints. The Palestinians will have sovereignty or guardianship over the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif and Israel will have sovereignty or guardianship over the Western Wall. Both sides will agree not to dig, excavate, renovate or construct anything on, around or underneath the "Holy Compound" without mutual agreement.

All of the mainstream rabbinic authorities agree that no Jew should enter the area of the Temple Mount until the messiah comes. Until that time, the Temple Mount will be turned over the Palestinians de jure instead of just de facto as now. When the messiah comes, we can all agree to place the issue of sovereignty in his/her hands.

Both sides will guarantee the right of access and prayer at holy places within their sovereign areas for members of the relevant faiths from the other state.

PALESTINIAN REFUGEES will go home to the state of Palestine. Perhaps Israel will accept some humanitarian cases of family reunification. There will be financial compensation available for all Palestinian refugees for real property loss claims and for suffering. The State of Israel will participate in an international fund for that purpose.

Palestinians and Israelis will recognize the Jewishness of Israel and the Palestinianess of Palestine. Both sides will agree to ensure the equal rights and opportunities for minorities within their state. Palestinian Israeli citizens will remain within the State of Israel, as part of their birthright and Jewish citizens of Palestine will be welcome to remain within the Palestinian state as long as they wish.

It may take years to implement the agreement. Everything will depend on the security situation. Both sides will end up agreeing to an international force being stationed within the Palestinian state for an agreed designated period. That force will be composed of and led by European nations.

It is quite clear that both sides will have to allow their people to vote for the agreement - for it to be ratified by the people.

Fifteen years have passed since that hopeful day on the White House lawn. We are no longer drunk with hope. We are much more sober about our difficult reality and the fact that there are still too many fanatics out there who would prefer mutual destruction to making compromises and concessions for peace. So far those fanatics have won, and in their winning they have transformed the Israeli-Palestinian relationship into a "lose-lose" unbreakable embrace. The chance of a "win-win" mutual liberation is still possible - but the price will be no less than what is written above. There is simply no other way - either we both win, or we both lose.

The writer is the co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information.

Copyright 1995- 2008 The Jerusalem Post -


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