A New Vision for Ending the Arab-Israeli...

A New Vision for Ending the Arab-Israeli Conflict Now

 By Michael Felsen, Middle East Online

4.5.2011
via Middle East Online (click for original)
 
Boston, Massachusetts - As the turbulent winds of the Arab Spring continue to blow, and efforts to bring a September vote in the UN General Assembly to recognise the Palestinian state pick up steam, the urgency of a final status Arab-Israeli peace agreement increases by the day.
 
After decades of false starts, missed opportunities, and “almost-theres”, events in the past few weeks unmistakably demonstrate an increasing acknowledgement by key players – especially in Israel and the United States – of the compelling insistence of “now!” And while the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement injects a new element into the equation, the urgency is unabated.
 
Note the new entry in the Israeli peace camp: in early April, a group of prominent Israelis unfurled an Israeli Peace Initiative (IPI) as a direct and constructive response to the groundbreaking 2002 Arab Peace Initiative (API). The 40 proponents of the IPI include ex-Israeli army chief Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, former head of Mossad – Israel’s intelligence service – Danny Yatom, two former internal security agency (Shin Bet) directors, ex-general and Labor Party Chief Amram Mitzna, and the son and daughter of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995.
 
Hoping to extend a receptive hand to the Arab world, and to spur a response from the Benjamin Netanyahu Administration, the Initiative’s ultimate goal is the resolution of all claims and an end to the Israeli-Arab conflict.
 
The IPI’s two-page document acknowledges “the suffering of the Palestinian refugees since the 1948 war, as well as of the Jewish refugees from the Arab countries.” It accepts the API as a framework for regional peace negotiations and shares its statement “that a military solution to the conflict will not achieve peace or provide security for the parties.”
 
Its substantive terms resemble closely those embodied in a series of earlier iterations, including the Clinton Parameters and the Geneva Accord: an independent, de-militarised Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, with borders based on the 1967 lines, subject to limited one-to-one land swaps; greater Jerusalem as the capital of both states, with Jewish neighbourhoods under Israeli sovereignty, Arab neighbourhoods under Palestinian sovereignty, and special, internationally-supervised arrangements for the Old City of Jerusalem; financial compensation and a limited, agreed-upon return to Israel for Palestinian refugees. The Initiative also puts forward potential cooperative regional security arrangements, as well as economic development projects culminating in a “Middle East Economic Development Bloc”.
 
While the Initiative and its ideas are not new, it represents yet another acknowledgement, by prominent, thoughtful, experienced Israeli leaders, that the time for a comprehensive settlement has arrived. Naysayers, however, will insist that the Initiative’s proponents are naïve or wrong-headed and, for any of a host of reasons, that the conditions for peace are not right.