The current conflict between the Palestinian people who live under occupation and the occupying state of Israel is one that cannot be ended with a win-lose solution. As such, many in both Palestinian and Israeli society are convinced that this conflict cannot be brought to a close through sheer force. Unfortunately, there is a trend in Israel that has grown strong over the last two years, which behaves and builds its policy on the belief that it is possible to end the conflict through military force and then follow that victory with a solution meeting this camp’s aspirations to maintain the occupation on the one hand, and provide security for Israel on the other. In theory, therefore, the way out of this vicious cycle is clear, despite that we are missing the major component of an Israeli party willing and capable of getting out of this circle.
The belief that a war against Iraq will be a mechanical kind of operation, starting and stopping within a currently predictable timeline is not a clear-headed estimation. It is possible that the United States may become preoccupied for a very long time with the consequences of the war against Iraq, and will therefore have no time to allocate to the Arab-Israeli conflict directly after the war. This means that the conflict may escalate, taking the form of increasingly tragic and bloody chapters.
On the other hand, if we assume that the international community, led by the US, is actually willing to provide the suitable atmosphere for a comprehensive solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, then I believe that solution must be a complete package deal. This does not contradict the need for gradual implementation, which will ultimately lead to ending the occupation and enabling the Palestinian people to practice self-determination and establish their state.
This goal should be understood from the beginning. The two peoples, Palestinians and Israelis, are living in a state of acute frustration regarding the possibility of finding a solution. Therefore any vision or idea that does not give the two peoples a feeling of hope that it is possible to achieve peace and security will not find the required sympathy and support among the respective publics. Probably the most important step in the first stage is to stop the deterioration in the relationship through a plan that has a time frame of no more than three months, during which both parties will implement their commitments fully as follows:
Both the Israeli and the Palestinian parties will cease all military operations of any kind, and in any place, for two weeks.
Israel will withdraw from the Palestinian cities in three weeks and Palestinian Authority apparatuses will take over full responsibility for security in these regions.
Israel will halt its implementation of assassinations and pursuit of wanted members of the military wings of Palestinian factions. A special annex can be made of their names, as was done in 1994 with the names of wanted Palestinians from the first Intifada in order to give these elements a sense of having a national and personal stake in implementing a state of calm.
Palestinian security and civil institutions should be given the opportunity to carry out their duties and achieve steps that will strengthen the Authority’s presence and implement the agreed-on reforms (or those intended to reform Palestinian institutions, at the forefront of which is conducting presidential, legislative and municipal elections).
Israel will end all its measures, including imposition of the siege and closure, and allow Palestinian citizens the freedom of movement to go about their normal lives. Israel will stop confiscating land, and the construction of what it calls “the defensive wall.” Israel will release all Palestinian funds.
With the implementation of the above steps, the situation will revert to that existing prior to September 28, 2000, which will mark completion of the first stage. Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) will then entrust two documents to the Quartet, in which the PLO will pledge to reach a final and comprehensive solution in a period not exceeding one year on the basis of United Nations Security Council resolutions 242, 338, and United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 pertaining to the refugee problem. Israel will pledge to reciprocate, and will also cease all settlement activities and the confiscation of land. The state of complete calm will continue during this period. Then intensive negotiations will take place under the sponsorship of the Quartet, to reach a final resolution that will lead to the following:
Ending the occupation through a full Israeli withdrawal from all settlement and military manifestations in the territories occupied in 1967, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Realizing security for both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.
Solving the issue of the Palestinian refugees, justly and in accordance with the international law resolutions.
During the negotiations, Israel will take the initiative to gradually release the prisoners. The administrative detainees, the young and the sick will be released first within the framework of an ongoing process. The issue of prisoners should then be decided through the framework of a final agreement that will lead to the release of all prisoners.
I understand fully that the ideas suggested here do not match the current regional and international atmosphere. These concepts also flagrantly contradict the ideology governing the behavior of the extreme right wing in power in Israel today. However, I am confident that any other model, one dictated by Israel’s weight in the balance of power, will not lead to a comprehensive solution for the conflict. There is a possibility that contingency plans based on the gloomy atmosphere might be implemented, but they will not lead to a real return to the negotiations table, nor achieve freedom and security for Palestinians and security and peace for the Israelis.
Qadura Fares is a Fateh representative from Ramallah in the Palestinian Legislative Council.