With the election of the Olmert government this year, a new "convergence" or "realignment" plan was presented. This was a continuation of several other Israeli plans that existed even when the peace process was very active. Last year's disengagement from Gaza and Israel's unilateral plans for the West Bank have changed the course of the political struggle. Articles in the issue try to widen our understanding of what has motivated Israel to adopt a unilateral stance and to evaluate its influence on the prospect for a peaceful solution to the conflict.
It seems that the shift to unilateral withdrawal continues to reflect Israel's refusal to translate de jure recognition of the Palestinian right for a state into de facto peace- and reconciliation-oriented policies. Since the Israeli leadership does not trust the ability of the Palestinian leadership to bring the violent conflict to an end, the unilateral solution seems to them attractive, even if it gives up hope for an end to the conflict.
While many of the articles in this issue of the Palestine-Israel Journal (PIJ) focus on the damage that unilateral withdrawal may cause to the prospect of peace, some try to look for the new chances that the plan may open up.
The articles indicate that, in order to transform unilateral moves into a lever for a better future, the following measures must be taken. Rather than viewing the plans as a final step, Israel must present it as a further measure in an overall attempt to reach peace based on political compromise. The unilateral steps should be agreed upon and coordinated between the two sides. Both sides should commit themselves to the peace process based on two-nation states with slight reciprocal changes to the 1967 borders, two capitals in Jerusalem, the return of refugees to the Palestinian state as outlined in the Clinton parameters of December 2000, and both sides would guarantee the security of the other. If these conditions are met, unilateral plans may be considered as part of the trust-building process.