MEMO FOR OBAMA
For: the President-Elect, Mr. Barack
The following humble
suggestions are based on my 70 years of experience as an underground fighter, special forces soldier in the 1948 war, editor-in-chief of a
newsmagazine, member of the Knesset and founding member of a peace movement:
(1) As far as
Israeli-Arab peace is concerned, you should act from Day One.
(2) Israeli elections are due to take
place in February 2009. You can have an indirect but important and constructive
impact on the outcome, by announcing your unequivocal determination to achieve
Israeli-Palestinian, Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-all-Arab peace in 2009.
(3) Unfortunately, all your predecessors
since 1967 have played a double game. While paying lip service to peace, and
sometimes going through the motions of making some effort for peace, they have in
practice supported our governments in moving in the very opposite direction. In
particular, they have given tacit approval to the building and enlargement of
Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories, each of
which is a land mine on the road to peace.
(4) All the settlements are illegal in
international law. The distinction sometimes made between “illegal” outposts
and the other settlements is a propaganda ploy designed to obscure this simple
(5) All the settlements since 1967 have been
built with the express purpose of making a Palestinian state – and hence peace
- impossible, by cutting the territory of the prospective State of Palestine
into ribbons. Practically all our government departments and the army have
openly or secretly helped to build, consolidate and enlarge the settlements –
as confirmed by the 2005 report prepared for the government (!) by Lawyer Talia Sasson.
(6) By now, the number of settlers in the West Bank has reached some 250,000 (apart from the
200,000 settlers in the Greater Jerusalem area, whose status is somewhat
different.) They are politically isolated, and sometimes detested by the
majority of the Israel
public, but enjoy significant support in the army and government ministries.
(7) No Israeli government would dare to confront
the concentrated political and material might of the settlers. Such a
confrontation would need very strong leadership and the unstinting support
of the President of the United
States to have any chance of success.
(8) Lacking these, all
“peace negotiations” are a sham. The Israeli government and its US backers have
done everything possible to prevent the negotiations with both the Palestinians
and the Syrians from reaching any conclusion, for fear of provoking a
confrontation with the settlers and their supporters. The present “Annapolis” negotiations
are as hollow as all the preceding ones, each side keeping up the pretense for
its own political interests.
(9) The Clinton
administration, and even more so the Bush administration, allowed the Israeli
government to keep up this pretense. It is therefore imperative to prevent
members of these administrations from diverting your Middle Eastern policy into
the old channels.
(10) It is important for you to make a complete new
start, and to state this publicly. Discredited ideas and failed initiatives
– such as the Bush “vision”, the Road Map, Annapolis and the like – should by
thrown into the junkyard of history.
(11) To make a new start, the aim of
American policy should be stated clearly and succinctly. This should be: to
achieve a peace based on the Two-State Solution within a defined time-span (say
by the end of 2009).
(12) It should be pointed out that this aim is
based on a reassessment of the American national interest, in order to extract
the poison from American-Arab and American-Muslim relations, strengthen
peace-oriented regimes, defeat al-Qaeda-type terrorism, end the Iraq and
Afghanistan wars and achieve a viable accommodation with Iran.
(13) The terms of Israeli-Palestinian peace
are clear. They have been crystallized in thousands of hours of negotiations,
conferences, meetings and conversations. They are:
- A sovereign and viable State of Palestine
will be established side by side with the State of Israel.
- The border between the two states will be based
on the pre-1967 Armistice Line (the “Green Line”). Insubstantial
alterations can be arrived at by mutual agreement on an exchange of
territories on a 1:1 basis.
- East Jerusalem, including the Haram-al-Sharif (“Temple Mount”)
and all Arab neighborhoods will serve as the capital of Palestine. West Jerusalem, including the
Western Wall and all Jewish neighborhoods, will serve as the capital of Israel. A
joint municipal authority, based on equality, may be established by mutual
consent to administer the city as one territorial unit.
- All Israeli settlements – except any which
might be joined to Israel
in the framework of a mutually agreed exchange of territories - will be evacuated
(see 15 below).
- Israel will recognize in principle the right of the refugees
to return. A Joint Commission for Truth and Reconciliation, composed of
Palestinian, Israeli and international historians, will examine the events
of 1948 and 1967 and determine who was responsible for what. Each
individual refugee will be given the choice between (1) repatriation to
the State of Palestine, (2) remaining where he/she is living now and
receiving generous compensation, (3) returning to Israel and being
resettled, (4) emigrating to any other country, with generous
compensation. The number of
refugees who will return to Israeli territory will be fixed by mutual
agreement, it being understood that nothing will be done that materially
alters the demographic composition of the Israeli population. The large
funds needed for the implementation of this solution must be provided by
the international community in the interest of world peace. This will save
much of the money spent today on military expenditure and direct grants
from the US.
- The West Bank, East
Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip constitute one national unit. An
extraterritorial connection (road, railway, tunnel or bridge) will
connect the West Bank with the Gaza
- Israel and Syria will sign a peace
agreement. Israel will
withdraw to the pre-1967 line and all settlements on the Golan
Heights will be dismantled. Syria will cease all
anti-Israeli activities conducted directly or by proxy. The two parties
will establish normal relations between them.
- In accordance with the Saudi Peace Initiative, all
member states of the Arab League will recognize Israel and
establish normal relations with it. Talks about a future Middle Eastern
Union, on the model of the EU, possibly to include Turkey and Iran, may be considered.
(14) Palestinian unity is essential for peace.
Peace made with only one section of the people is worthless. The US will
facilitate Palestinian reconciliation and the unification of Palestinian
structures. To this end, the US
will end its boycott of Hamas, which won the last
elections, start a political dialogue with the movement and encourage Israel to do
the same. The US
will respect any result of democratic Palestinian elections.
(15) The US will aid the government of Israel in
confronting the settlement problem. As from now, settlers will be given
one year to leave the occupied territories voluntarily in return for
compensation that will allow them to build their homes in Israel proper.
After that, all settlements – except those within any areas to be joined to Israel under
the peace agreement - will be evacuated.
(16) I suggest that you, as President of the
United States, come to Israel and address the Israeli people personally,
not only from the rostrum of the Knesset but also at a mass rally in Tel-Aviv’s
Rabin Square. President Anwar Sadat
of Egypt came to Israel in 1977, and, by addressing the Israeli
people directly, completely changed their attitude towards peace with Egypt. At
present, most Israelis feel insecure, uncertain and afraid of any daring peace
initiative, partly because of a deep distrust of anything coming from the Arab
side. Your personal intervention, at the critical moment, could literally do
wonders in creating the psychological basis for peace.
This article was published in the current issue of
the progressive Jewish-American monthly TIKKUN.