DevMode
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 present circumstances.
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 gaps.
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 developments.
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 unilateral move.
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 arena.
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. <

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