A Civil Society Contract for Peace


Gershon Baskin, Ph.D. *

If my analysis of the Israel-Palestine situation is correct, we can expect the current deadlock to continue for years to come. Both the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority are locked into intractable positions that assert a belief that the consequences of changing those positions would be more severe than the present status quo of action – reaction, or escalation – brief relaxation – and escalation again. The vicious cycle of unending violence and terrorism continues with no end in sight.  Military operations conducted by Israel create a public illusion that terrorism can be beaten by force. The Israeli public is blinded by its fear and anxiety from seeing the suffering of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian people are untouched by the terror that Israelis feel in their streets as a result of terrorist suicide bombers. There is no leadership on either side.  The media on both sides beats the drums of war in the name of patriotism.  Public debate and political opposition supporting options for peace are virtually non-existent on both sides.

Since October 2000, I have been saying that our only hope is vested in the possibility that for fears of spill-over of the violence to the rest of the region, the international community would throw us a life-saver and drag both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority off of the sinking ship. When we speak about the international community, we mainly mean the United States. From recent talks that I conducted with senior US officials from the State Department and the White House, two things are clear: the senior officials and advisors know what needs to be done, and they also recognize that the President will not do these things.  What needs to be done is to build international support with a U.N. Security Council mandate for an imposed peace plan built around the Taba+ - Clinton Principles – and the Saudi initiative coupled with international forces and observers to separate and buffer between the sides and on the external borders of Palestine to insure implementation and enforcement of the arrangements and agreements.  The international community must set up the framework and impose upon the Israelis and the Palestinians a timetable to workout the details of the Israeli withdrawal and the removal of settlements, to provide for real security measures aimed at preventing terrorism from the Palestinian side and Israeli incursions into Palestinian areas. But this will not happen, it seems, because there is no political will for this to happen in the White House. So it seems, that Israelis and Palestinians will continue to suffer and violence will parade on bringing about many more losses of innocent lives.  Is this our only choice or are there other options to consider?

I believe that the political deadlock will not change, and the ability and efficacy of the public to change and influence public policy on this issue will remain minimal or nil. There is no chance that the government of Israel or the Palestinian Authority will win this war. Israel cannot defeat terrorism and the Palestinians will achieve no political gains from the militarism of their struggle and the use of terrorism. The Palestinian Authority may be virtually non-existent as a result of the Israeli operations and the physical infrastructures of the society of the terrorism may have been hit badly or destroyed, but the primary resource of a terrorist infrastructure are the human resources, and these are only growing from day-to-day.

When governments fail it is the job of civil society to take responsibility and to play a more substantial role.  This is a proposal for the creation of a CONTRACT between Israeli and Palestinian civil societies. As in all contracts both sides must obligated to fulfill its end of the deal.  Here are the terms of the contract:


Israelis will obligate themselves to foster support within Israel for real peace with the Palestinians on the basis of the June 4, 1967 borders with Jerusalem as shared capital, the removal of settlements, the creation of real cooperation for regional economic development, a fair sharing of water resources and a readiness to offer fair financial compensation for the loss of properties belonging to the 1948 refugees. 


Palestinians will obligate themselves to foster support for real peace with Israel recognizing the Jewish character of the State of Israel, based on the June 4, 1967 borders with Jerusalem as a shared capital. Palestinians will support the basis of the Saudi proposal offering Israel a “welcome mat” to the Arab world in exchange for withdrawal from the occupied territories. Palestinians will work to extract all public support and positive sentiments for terrorism against Israelis – not as a tactical move, but as a moral imperative espousing the belief that attacks against innocent civilians for political gains must be abhorred and not tolerated. The phenomenon of suicide bombers must be uprooted from Palestinian society and condemned publicly.  

Arranging the Chairs on the Deck of the Titanic

While our governments are leading us towards doom and destruction, the leaders of civil society must stand up together and take the following oath in good faith:

Israelis and Palestinians together

Israelis and Palestinians together will obligate themselves to the rooting of peace education in both societies, to support public and open contacts between individuals and institutions in both societies.  Civil society leaders will speak openly, together and separately, against violence, against terrorism and in favor of real peace and democracy for both peoples. Israelis and Palestinians will obligate themselves to create wide public understanding of the reality that real peace is the only real option that both societies have.  Israelis and Palestinians will openly not support the current policies of their governments that offer no hope and destroy the belief peace is possible.  We must all say that in the present political constellation, neither the Government of Israel nor the Palestinian society are partners for peace. In the absence of governmental partners for peace, civil society institutions must create those partnerships.

* Gershon Baskin is the Israeli Co-Director and founder of IPCRI, the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information