As has been widely reported, it is expected that the American Middle East Plan will be unveiled in the coming days. Ahead of its impending release, we offer a manual by which one can evaluate any plan. Two states
Not all peace plans are created equal. It is unclear if the American plan will outline ‘final status’ parameters in an effort to sketch a conflict-ending agreement, if it will focus on an interim process that guides the sides forward, or if it will combine the two. Experience and history have shown that any interim process will likely fail if the destination is not clear.
With this in mind, we present the following keywords: their inclusion in a plan would increase its effectiveness; their exclusion would decrease its chances of success.
The Trump administration’s refusal to endorse the two-state solution as America’s official position, the suspicion about the Israeli leadership’s commitment to the two-state solution, together with the steady decrease in Israeli and Palestinian public support for it — all make the explicit spelling of a two-state solution a sine qua non of any reliable process.
Put simply: an official endorsement of Palestinians statehood is a necessary (but indeed insufficient) precondition for any meaningful success in a peace process.
In order to address collective and individual concerns, hopes and fears, any plan should raise the importance of dealing with the past that prioritizes building a culture of peace. Examples should include studying the other’s narrative, acknowledging the suffering of the other and preventing its reoccurrence, addressing concerns about justice and demonstrating a real desire for building a sustainable peace. This should be reflected in education system, legislation, specific institutions and public statements.
In this context, it should be mentioned that both Jews and Palestinians deserve recognition of their basic peoplehood and their right to fulfill their self-determination in a nation state of their own, while ensuring full equal rights for all citizens, including minority groups.
1967 lines with swaps; settlement freeze
As both peoples view the entirety of the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea as their homeland, the partition of the land into two states is the absolute basic pillar upon which a two-state solution stands.
In the interim, any meaningful forward motion hinges on the ability to freeze settlement expansion so a future partition will be feasible. As for final status, the mechanism that bridges the Palestinian need for an independent state along the 1967 lines and the Israeli need to reduce the number of settlers slated for evacuation, should be based on equal land swaps.
Two capitals in Jerusalem
Israelis and Palestinians — Jews, Muslims, and Christians — hold national and religious claims to the city, but their focus is the Old City where religious, cultural, and historical equities abound.
In the interim, a settlement freeze in the West Bank should also apply to Jewish takeover of existing Palestinian houses. Not least, a wise plan must reestablish the religious Status Quo on the Holy Esplanade (the Haram ash-Sharif/Temple Mount plaza).
For final status, special arrangements need to be introduced within the Old City to account for the significance of the space. As for the urban areas of Jerusalem, as a derivative of land swaps, Israel and Palestine can establish their respective capitals there: the Jewish areas (most of West Jerusalem and the Jewish settlement-neighborhoods of the east) will come under Israel sovereignty, and the Palestinian areas will come under Palestinian sovereignty.
Security and sovereignty
A thoughtful plan will address security needs in a way that respects the sovereignty of both sides. In the interim, the focus should be on a gradual, benchmarked, performance-based process that reestablishes the integrity of areas A (full Palestinian civil and security responsibility) and B (Palestinian civil responsibility), as well as securing Palestinian livelihood in area C. The plan should also suggest clear and concise measures to combat terrorism in all its forms.
In final status, security measures should address the security concerns of both sides, including Israel’s special security needs — its perceived threats from the region and its vulnerability from the West Bank — in a way that anchors them in a regional security architecture as envisioned in the Arab Peace Initiative. Not least, these arrangements should spell out the conditions, and timeline, under which there will be a full and final withdrawal of Israeli military forces from Palestine.
A serious plan should address the issue of Palestinian refugees in a just and agreed manner. It should also not ignore the question of Jewish refugees from Arab countries.
In the interim, humanitarian and political neglect of refugees — which can ultimately threaten the viability of a final status agreement — should be addressed. While a detailed solution is not a necessary component of a plan at this point, references to symbolic and practical issues alike — such as rights, acknowledgment, residency and citizenship, and compensation —will send a clear message that this significant issue is very much on the table.
Gaza, West Bank continuity
A viable plan must address the political and economic conditions for mid-and long-term sustainable development in the Gaza Strip, and prioritize its linkage to the West Bank in order to build a functional Palestinian state. Any policy that further isolates the two territories and continues to stifle economic, political and cultural exchange will diminish the chances of realizing a lasting peace.
Meanwhile, if left unaddressed, deteriorating dynamics in the Gaza Strip will continue to undermine the viability of any peace process. Immediate steps need to be taken to address relieving basic humanitarian conditions. Short-term plans need to focus on rehabilitation of infrastructure in Gaza.
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As has been widely reported, it is expected that the American Middle East Plan will be unveiled in the coming days. Ahead of its impending release, we offer a manual by which one can evaluate any plan.
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