Those public opinion pollsters, who wanted to find out the
percentage of Israelis who favor negotiations and prefer an agreed
political solution under the present circumstances, did not
approach me and did not seek my opinion. If they had asked me I
would, without a shadow of doubt, have joined the 76 percent of
Israelis who favor negotiations.
At the same time I also belong to those Israelis and Palestinians
who, without a shadow of a doubt, support unilateral measures under
As I have said, I do not belong to the 24 percent of Israelis who
oppose negotiations. The pollsters did not attempt to ascertain the
motives of those who are against negotiations. I can only assume
that this minority is not prepared to compromise in order to solve
the conflict. The Israel minority and the zero-sum Palestinian
approach are apprehensive at the possibility of a successful
conclusion to negotiations, which would put an end to their
ultimate ambitions and dreams - the Greater Land of Israel, clean
of Arabs for the Israelis - and Greater Palestine, clean of Jews
for the Palestinians.
I support diplomatic negotiations, but at the same time I also
support unilateral measures. There is an apparent contradiction
between these two attitudes, but this is not the case.
My support of unilateral measures is not motivated by a refusal to
reach an agreement, but rather from the concern that an
Israel-Palestinian negotiation attempt under the present
circumstance will not succeed and would only consolidate the
impasse and perhaps even deepen the gap between the sides. In order
to conclude a peace pact the sides have to agree on answers to a
series of problems. I only mention three of the main problems here,
but they lie at the heart of the matter - without compromise and
solutions to these problems - there will be no agreement.
* Any diplomatic agreement will need to define the permanent
borders between the two states. Not since the UN partition plan of
November 29, 1947, have recognized and agreed-upon borders been
determined between the two sides. The Six-Day War opened a window
of opportunity for dialogue and determining borders, however the
opportunity was lost. The Arab side rejected the Israeli initiative
to discuss the principle of land for peace - the basis of the
initiative being the international borders of Mandatory Palestine
and the armistice lines between Israel and Jordan. Israel in the
meantime exploited the 39 years that followed and created extensive
settlement facts throughout the West Bank, which have become
exceedingly difficult to reverse.
* The second problem is finding a solution to the Palestinian
refugee problem. "The Right of Return" has become for the
Palestinians the essence of their belief and their national
ideology. It is difficult to conceive of a Palestinian leader who
would be capable under present circumstances to publicly forego the
demand for implementation of the right of return. On the other
hand, there is practically a wall-to-wall Israeli consensus that
utterly rejects the return of refugees to Israeli territory. For
Israel, the return of refugees represents the existential threat
par excellence to Israel as a democratic Jewish state.
* The third problem - Jerusalem. The Jerusalem problem is not
territorial. Any dealing with the issue, any attempt to offer a
solution touches the most sensitive nerve of the two nations: the
question of ownership and control of the holy places, and the
Temple Mount in particular. By the way, let us not forget that any
suggested Jerusalem solution would have to take into account that
this city is holy and rouses supreme sensitivity among every
Christian, Muslim and Jew, wherever they may be. Furthermore, a
violent flare-up in Jerusalem could have implications far beyond
the local Israel-Palestinian sphere.
Apparently, there is today an agreed mechanism for conducting
negotiations. The Road Map drawn up by the countries of the Quartet
(UN, US, EU and Russia) outlines a clear program to this end.
However, the Road Map (which was accepted with reservations by both
sides) does not offer a solution, it only suggests a way, and
stages. And indeed, the fact is that for some years now the Map
remains on paper only, and each side waves it in order to accuse
the other side of not implementing the process designated in the
Map. This seems to prove that the Map has no real program for
solving the conflict.
In face of this reality, in face of the almost certain impasse
resulting from any attempt to carry out negotiations, the question
immediately arises: what is the conclusion? Is it really necessary
to continue with the interim situation of Israel's occupation of
the territory for another 39 years? Moreover, is there a realistic
chance that the continuation of the present situation will create
better conditions for a solution, for the softening of attitudes
and for the achievement of an agreement between the sides? Perhaps
the opposite is true - the long-term continuation of the present
situation will only deepen conditions that will prevent bridging
The long-term continuation of the status quo will presumably bring
about new Israeli measures to strengthen and expand settlement in
the West Bank. In parallel the continuation of the present
situation will intensify the violent Palestinian struggle against
the Israeli occupation, bringing in its wake unavoidable Israeli
counter-measures with harsh and dangerous consequences for both
sides. The combination of these two scenarios will deepen the
crisis and intensify the split within Palestinian society, with the
potential of an internal and external national disaster.
My conclusion, and operative recommendation, under the present
circumstances, is twofold:
First and foremost, the two sides must do everything in their power
to get together, to talk and conduct honest and true negotiations -
negotiations not meant for form's sake only - but rather dialogue
meant to search for points of convergence, common interests and
ways to enable bridging gaps, or at least narrowing them.
This will not be a one-shot affair. The dialogue, meeting and
negotiation should be continuous, and the participants must be
prepared to withstand the ups and downs of negotiation. What is
most important in this context - if we are indeed willing to give a
real chance to negotiation and dialogue - is that we cannot rely
solely on overt negotiations, which are accompanied by public
interest on both sides and by constant pressure on the
decision-makers and those conducting the negotiations. I suspect
that only covert negotiations, which are completely free of
political pressure, will have a chance of producing results.
On the other hand, and here is my second conclusion, the status quo
cannot be allowed to remain in the state of stagnation that has
characterized it over the past four decades. In the absence of a
diplomatic breakthrough, not only is there a place for unilateral
measures from both sides, but it seems that these measures would be
the only way out that could lead to progress and positive
I have to clarify and emphasize that what we are dealing with here
are unilateral measures, not a unilateral solution. There is no,
and there cannot be, a diplomatic solution unless it has been
agreed to by both sides.
From the Israeli point of view, two unilateral measures are
relevant, and they are connected and dependent on each other.
The first step would be to ensure optimal separation between the
two populations - adopting the "we're here, they're there"
approach. This unilateral step would require the evacuation of all
the Israeli settlements spread throughout the West Bank, excluding
the densely populated, and more or less homogeneous,
concentrations, which contain almost no Palestinians.
The second step is to complete the security wall along the
separation line - a wall that is meant to significantly increase
the security situation within Israel and in the settlement blocs
over the Green Line.
These two are ad hoc measures, meant to answer immediate needs, but
by no means should they be seen to be an attempt to impose a
unilateral solution or settlement. This reservation comes not
because of political and legal considerations, which do not support
such a move (for correct and relevant reasons), but because of
practical considerations: there is no way that such a unilateral
move would be accepted by the Palestinians, or internationally as a
permanent solution to the conflict. Furthermore, any Israeli talk
describing such a move as a "solution" or as delineating "permanent
borders" would only intensify Palestinian opposition to such a
It is possible to talk of two relevant unilateral measures from the
Palestinian point of view as well - both political steps.
First, would be a formal declaration of the Palestinian opening
position regarding diplomatic negotiations with Israel. The
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has recently come out with such
an initiative. This is a unilateral Palestinian initiative directed
as an ultimatum to the Hamas government in order to force it to
acknowledge the sovereign existence of Israel. The initiative is
also meant to refute the Israeli claim that there is no Palestinian
partner for negotiation.
The second unilateral Palestinian measure could be the declaration
and establishment of a sovereign and independent Palestinian state.
The borders of the state would correspond with a formal declaration
of the permanent Palestinian borders (the June 4, 1967 lines). In
the initial stage, the state would include all of area A according
to the Oslo agreement, and all areas evacuated by Israel (according
to the disengagement and convergence programs).
The possibility of declaring the establishment of a Palestinian
state was already placed on the Palestinian agenda ten years ago.
Various considerations led to the idea being put on hold at the
time, but there is no reason not to resuscitate it now as a
practical possibility. This declaration would be provisory, with
the Palestinian state announcing explicitly that it does not
consider the step as waiving any territorial or other claims that
it would present to Israel at the opening of negotiations.
In conclusion, since the Middle East reality is so dynamic, it is
impossible to prophesy how an Israeli or Palestinian unilateral
initiative would play out. Things are liable to change and turn
completely around in the space of a day in Israel, among the
Palestinians, in the regional arena and in the international
It is not inconceivable that the unilateral measures themselves
will contribute - on both sides - to sweeping away illusions and
unrealistic expectations. The measures could serve to emphasize
that the passage of time is playing to the detriment of both sides.
This could bring about the realization of the need for softening
attitudes and the efficacy of getting on with dialogue and
negotiation from more moderate positions.
I am expressing my own opinion from the Israeli point of view and
interest as I understand them. The main factor I have taken into
account in advocating unilateral measures is the egocentric Israeli
interest. I do not place special security importance on Israeli
military control over all the territory of the Land of Israel.
However, I do note with great concern the negative implications -
moral, social and political - of continued stagnation, of our
continued rule over the lives of millions of Palestinians who do
not want us.
Furthermore, under the present situation there is an appalling
contradiction between Israel's unequivocal opposition to the return
of Palestinian refugees to Israeli territory and the existence of
territorial loopholes that allow the uncontrolled de facto
residence within Israel of tens of thousands of Palestinians. This
is the genuine and realistic threat that looms over the political,
Jewish and democratic existence of my country. Today the only way
to prevent this danger is by means of unilateral measures.