The Available vs. the Desirable in Post-Election Palestinian-Israeli Relationship (2005)

Authors: Gershon Baskin, Hanna Siniora, Yossi Ben Ari, Khaled Duzdar

On December 16-17, 2005, a joint Palestinian-Israeli group of experts, researchers, NGO leaders, peace movements activists, media people, current government officials and past military officers, convened at the Jericho Intercontinental Hotel. The main goal of the meeting was to explore the issue of the urgency of the "two state solution" in order to advocate it to both politicians and publics, as well as within the international community.

The meeting was held under the sponsorship of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, and led by IPCRI (Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information); PANORAMA (the Palestinian center for the dissemination of democracy and community development); the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies; and the international organization Search for Common Ground.

This paper, which summarizes the understandings and ideas raised at the Jericho meeting, was about to be widely distributed on the morning of January 5th, 2006. Due to P.M. Sharon's re-hospitalization the night before, and its expected political consequences, we postponed the issuing of the document. Undoubtedly, the new political era will require reevaluation of our analysis and recommendations, after the fog disperses on both sides. But, since we believe that most elements of the proposed program will be valid at any future political configuration (especially if "Kadima" party wins the elections and sticks to it's "political program principles"), we found it necessary to share the groups' views with you, hoping that they will be found interesting and will have the potential to enrich future political planning.

Going back to the Jericho meeting: It was immediately understood that under the current realities the chances for an Israeli-Palestinian reciprocal negotiation followed by a political settlement, are scant. Therefore, if some progress towards a resolution of the conflict is to be achieved, the two sides should take a two-phase political initiative; based on a defined timetable.

In the first phase, Israel will implement a coordinated unilateral disengagement (CUD) from West Bank territories. In the second phase, three years after the completion of the first phase, the parties will return to the negotiation table, discuss and arrange the details of yet another agreement- either a permanent settlement to end the conflict or, if this is not feasible, another interim agreement. The basis for this plan is a mutual understanding that the principle guiding the resolution of the conflict is a "Two state solution".

The main potential weakness of this model/plan lies in the fact that at least in the coming years the likelihood of a negotiated political process is very slim. It is clear that a peace process leading to agreements must be a negotiated process. In the absence of a negotiated process, it is important not to allow the Israeli-Palestinian relationship to slip into stalemate which would undoubtedly result in a new round of acute violence. It seems that the most likely scenario for any progress in the coming years is based on unilateralism. Palestinians hold the view that unilateralism contradicts the basic idea of achieving peace. On top of it, there is a Palestinian fear that the plan's first phase involving another Israeli disengagement and withdrawals from various parts of the West Bank would become final and that excluding the Palestinians from the process would result in irreversible decisions.

Hence, it is highly important that the overall planning and the planning of the first phase in particular is designed in a trust worthy manner, attractive and one that serves Palestinian strategic interests. Planning should also involve the strengthening of the Palestinian side, as continued steps towards the establishment of the Palestinian state.

This paper analyzes what should be expected between Israel and the Palestinians after the parliamentary elections on both sides, with regard to the political process. The paper elaborates the steps both sides should take so that the first phase of the program can start to be implemented within a reasonable period of time (starting at the spring-summer of 2006).