Dear Abbas, Answer Kerry, and Establish a Palestinian State Now

By Yossi Beilin


Via Haaretz (click here for the original

It is not on anybody's agenda. Political leaders who refer to the old Israeli-Palestinian conflict begin their reference to the issue by saying that in the current situation, the "two-state solution" is not realistic. They say this in order not to be considered naïve or irrelevant. 

You say that it all depends on the Israeli side, but the one who can lead the decision toward such a solution more than anybody else is you, Mr. President. Accept Kerry's parameters from March 2014, and on this basis, declare your readiness to negotiate the implementation of the second phase of the "Road Map to Peace," which your predecessor adopted without any reservations: a Palestinian state with provisional borders. 

You are committed to peace with Israel, based on the partition formula  adopted by the United Nations 69 years ago, which was accepted by the Jewish establishment and rejected by the Palestinians and the whole Arab world. But you cannot deliver the Gaza Strip and its Hamas leadership, so any agreement with you will be implemented – for the time being – in the West Bank only.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu changed his mind, and since 2009 he has been committed to the partition formula. But he is not ready to pay the price for such a solution, which was delineated in the famous Clinton Parameters, and – in a much more detailed way – in the informal Geneva initiative.

For you it will be a national and a personal tragedy if you end your presidency without real hope for a Palestinian state, with much less democracy in the Palestinian Authority, much more corruption, and deep internal ruptures. As it seems today, you will end your long-overdue term complaining about Israel (rightly so, in many cases), while very few people in the world will have the patience to listen to you. 

You know that the world is not interested in our conflict today; the sacrifices that both sides made seem minor against the background of the atrocities around us, which are threatening the stability of the Middle East and even of Europe. You see who might succeed U.S. President Barack Obama, and you understand how risky a decision to wait for the next American president could be. You look at Europe, and you see how helpless it is. You also know that the French initiative will not change the world, and neither will Obama's parameters, which may or may not be proposed between November 2016 and January 2017. The time to move is now, and it is – in many ways – in your hands.

This is the opportunity: Israel cannot allow the approaching moment in which a Jewish minority dominates a Palestinian majority, directly or indirectly. The Palestinians don't want to miss the chance to establish their own state, and President Obama (who apparently gave up on us) will be enthusiastic to facilitate any initiative that comes from the region, in order to save this chapter in his legacy.

Fifteen years ago, an Israeli Likud government and an Arafat-led PLO accepted the "Quartet" Road Map for the Middle East, which became UN Security Council resolution 1515. It included three stages; the second one was the establishing of a Palestinian state within provisional borders, and the third stage was negotiations on a permanent solution between the government of Israel and the new government of Palestine. When I talked with you about it a few years ago, you said that you would not go for it, unless there is a clear vision for the permanent solution and a timetable to get there. Go for it now.

In March 2014 you were offered such a vision by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. You still owe him an answer. Give it to him. I've never seen Kerry's plan, but I imagine that it is not too far from what all of us know about the solution: The border between the two states will resemble the 1967 border, with mutual swaps; Arab Jerusalem will become the Palestinian capital; Jewish Jerusalem will be the recognized capital of Israel; the Palestinian state will be non-militarized; and the two states will be recognized by each other as the homelands of each people, without prejudice to the minorities who live in both countries.

It may be difficult for you to swallow and it may difficult for Netanyahu to accept but both of you know deep in your hearts that, generally speaking, there is no other solution. I would suggest an element of a confederation between two fully independent and sovereign states, which will make it easier for you to accept Israeli citizens who may wish to stay in the West Bank as Palestinian residents, and will make it easier for Netanyahu to accept a certain number of Palestinian citizens as Israeli residents. I believe that agreeing on a timetable toward the permanent agreement will be possible, though not easy. 

With a vision – which may be a Quartet vision, to be noted but not adopted by the two sides –  and with a timetable, negotiations can take  very few months on the provisional border and on the security arrangements between the two states during the period of peace treaty negotiations.  The two-state solution, which seems today as an unrealistic option, may become a very real one. It depends, very much, on you.