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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Demilitarized Palestine? Just sign this non-aggression pact first

It will go down in history, along with the Oslo Accord and the Camp David treaty, another historic speech of vague validations and vows to break. Cowering to U.S. pressure, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said just about nothing in his much awaited foreign policy speech at Bar Ilan University on Sunday evening, when he called for immediate peace talks without preconditions and a Palestinian state stripped of military capabilities.
No preconditions from the Palestinians, Netanyahu meant to say. Israel, on the other hand, is free to scold its neighbor for starting this conflict and delaying a viable final settlement by refusing to recognize it as a Jewish state. No preconditions, but the Palestinian Authority must first topple Hamas or at least cut off all contact. No preconditions, except these conditions.
It is impossible to hold peace negotiations without preconditions. Such diplomacy is subversive procrastination. Both sides of this conflict have demands, but rather than open up negotiations with these conditions in mind, they deny their respective red lines and allow the peace process to roll in infinite still motion.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority both have preconditions; they need to lay them down and abide by them to get the peace process started again.
The Palestinian Authority must concede to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and in return, Israel needs a concrete plan of withdrawal from parts of the West Bank. It wouldn't hurt to include the Golan Heights on a side draft either, to keep that track busy.
Israel should leave Fatah to engage with Hamas in reconciliation talks, but the Palestinian Authority must agree to hold off elections for a unity government until a final settlement is reached on the West Bank. These negotiations need to be worked out between Israel and a Palestinian Authority free from Hamas influence.
The Old City of Jerusalem (and then later with Syria, parts of the Golan Heights) must be divided appropriately, with free access to the citizens of both countries involved. West Jerusalem and the Jewish Quarter would remain under Israeli control, as its capital, and East Jerusalem and the Muslim Quarter would be Palestinian, as their capital. The rest would be annexed to international supervision, with United Nations troops standing guard.
Following these steps comes the creation of a Palestinian state. Netanyahu declared that he would endorse such an entity if the international community could guarantee its demilitarization. There are a handful of countries out there without an offensive army, Japan and Costa Rica, for instance; Palestine would not be the first.
Should a demilitarized Palestine be established, then Israel would have to compromise for denying a sovereign democracy the right of defense. Israel and Palestine must therefore sign and adhere to a pact of non-aggression as a concession for a demilitarized state.
The Palestinian Authority has thrown the ball into Barack Obama's court, lambasting Netanyahu for sabotaging the peace process. Well, the game has not even started yet because neither team is ready to play. Both Israel and the Palestinians need to get out there, spell the rules of the game, and let the referee blow the whistle.

By Aliyana Traison, Haaretz Newspaper, Israel

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