New Call in Israel for Two-State Solution

Conal Urquhart

A group of prominent Israelis, including heads of the Army and security services, hope to revive the peace initiative by announcing details of possible treaties with the Palestinians, Syria and Lebanon.

The Israeli Peace Initiative, a two-page document, states that Israel will withdraw from the land it occupied in 1967 in both the West Bank and the Golan Heights, and pay compensation to refugees. The document has been given to Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister, who has said he will read it with interest.

Bridging the divide: A section of Israel's separation barrier that divides the West Bank village of Walajeh (left) and the nearby Jewish settlement of Har Gilo outside Jerusalem. — Photo: AP

The authors of the document say it is partly inspired by the revolutions that have taken place in West Asia. It presents an opportunity for Israelis to participate in the “winds of change” blowing through West Asia, they say.

“We looked around at what was happening in neighbouring countries and we said to ourselves, ‘It is about time that the Israeli public raised its voice as well.’ We feel this initiative can bring along many members of the public,” Danny Yatom, the former head of the Israeli external security agency, Mossad, told the New York Times.

The group aims to generate public support for a peace agreement that will force the Israeli government to re-engage with the Palestinians, who have suspended meetings in protest at continued settlement building in the West Bank. Palestinians see such building as an attempt to create “facts on the ground” that obstruct negotiations.

Yaakov Perry, a former head of Shin Bet, the internal security agency, said he hoped that the plan would galvanise the Israeli government in this time of change around West Asia.

“We are isolated internationally and seen to be against peace,” he told the New York Times. “I hope this will make a small contribution to pushing our Prime Minister forward. It is about time that Israel initiates something on peace.” The Israeli Peace Initiative recognises the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, which was sponsored by the government of Saudi Arabia, as “a historic effort made by the Arab states to reach a breakthrough and achieve peace on a regional basis”. The Israeli initiative endorses the Arab statement that “a military solution to the conflict will not achieve peace or provide security for the parties”.

The initiative lays out the framework for peace agreements between Israel, Syria and the Palestinians. It calls for a sovereign and independent Palestinian state based on the borders between Israel and Jordan in 1967 but modified to ensure territorial contiguity for the Palestinian state. Some settlements would be placed under Israeli control.

Compensation would be paid to refugees and their host countries by Israel and the international community, according to the initiative, but the refugees would be able to return only to the Palestinian state, with a few exceptions who would be allowed to return to what is now Israel. The plan also calls for a road link between the West Bank and Gaza, which would cut across Israeli territory but would be under Palestinian control.

It also calls for Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights over five years in order to achieve peace with Syria and a peace agreement with Lebanon.

Dan Meridor, the Deputy Prime Minister, speaking at an event in Jerusalem, said he had not yet studied the document. “The paradigm is clear, that is a two-state solution, but the other elements should be negotiated, not dictated,” he said.

Referring to the uprisings elsewhere in West Asia, he said: “Some people say that we should wait for the aftershocks to happen, for everything to settle down, but I don’t believe we can wait.” — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

Many military and security personnel join group pushing for peace treaties with Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinians.


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