The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

Encountering Peace: From Oslo, back to Oslo

Sep. 16, 2008

September 13 marked 15 years since the gala signing celebration of the first Oslo agreement on the White House lawn. It certainly was a day of hope. Fifteen years later hardly a mention of the anniversary was made in the local or the international press - on both sides of the Green Line.

Oslo was a failed peace process, and not only in the minds of Israelis; most Palestinians also share the assessment. The reasons for the failure are many, and there are many people who own responsibility for Oslo's tragic fate. It is very easy for one side to place the blame on the doorstep of the other, but in truth, the failure of the process has its roots on both sides as well as among various international actors, including the US. Much has been written on what went wrong and on who is to blame; this is not another one of those articles.

DESPITE WHAT many people believe or would like to believe or perhaps even hope, Oslo is not yet dead and the chances for Israeli-Palestinian peace have not totally faded away. If and when the possibility of peace does fade away, the Palestinian people will no longer be calling for an independent Palestinian state in the June 4, 1967 borders, they will be calling for democracy and "one-person one-vote" between the river and the sea. When and if that happens, we will begin to witness the beginning of a new era which I would call "the era of the demise of the Zionist enterprise." I only hope that our leaders and their leaders will have to wisdom and the sanity to prevent us from jumping off the brink into that abyss.

The only way to prevent the next round of violence, which will signal the beginning of the end of the two-state solution, is to reach an agreement as soon as possible. It may not be possible before the end of the Bush administration, but the parties should already indicate their commitment to go beyond that deadline into the beginning of the next US administration. Both sides will have to make concessions on fundamentals, crossing lines that were painted "red" for them in the past. There is a package deal that can be reached and agreed upon.

The Palestinian state will have to be established on about 96 percent-97% of the West Bank and all of Gaza (once the political regime there changes). Israel will have to give up most of the West Bank, including the "Ariel finger," and should consider accepting a fair monetary price from the Palestinians for Ma'aleh Adumim - two areas that take up huge tracks of land in the West Bank. Most of the settlers will be able to remain in the areas where they live today.

The parties have already accepted the principle of a 50-50 split of the "no-man's" land areas alongside of the Green Line. Finding 3%-4% of land inside of the Green Line for a swap is not so problematic. The Palestinians already understand and are willing to wait a period of at least five years for Israel to vacate all of the settlements that will be transferred to them. They are also ready to offer citizenship to settlers who may wish to remain within their state.

PART OF the package includes recognizing that Jerusalem will be the capital of both countries. The Palestinian capital will be in the Palestinian parts of east Jerusalem and Israel's capital will remain in west Jerusalem. The Palestinians understand that the Jewish neighborhoods within the municipal boundaries that were built after 1967 will remain under Israeli sovereignty. They account for about 1% of the West Bank.

The Old City will be shared under a special regime, perhaps with international involvement, or through the division of sovereignty within its walls. The Palestinians will have sovereignty over the Muslim, Christian and Armenian Quarters and Israel will have sovereignty over the Jewish Quarter. The Jewish Quarter is already physically separated from the other quarters by internal checkpoints. The Palestinians will have sovereignty or guardianship over the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif and Israel will have sovereignty or guardianship over the Western Wall. Both sides will agree not to dig, excavate, renovate or construct anything on, around or underneath the "Holy Compound" without mutual agreement.

All of the mainstream rabbinic authorities agree that no Jew should enter the area of the Temple Mount until the messiah comes. Until that time, the Temple Mount will be turned over the Palestinians de jure instead of just de facto as now. When the messiah comes, we can all agree to place the issue of sovereignty in his/her hands.

Both sides will guarantee the right of access and prayer at holy places within their sovereign areas for members of the relevant faiths from the other state.

PALESTINIAN REFUGEES will go home to the state of Palestine. Perhaps Israel will accept some humanitarian cases of family reunification. There will be financial compensation available for all Palestinian refugees for real property loss claims and for suffering. The State of Israel will participate in an international fund for that purpose.

Palestinians and Israelis will recognize the Jewishness of Israel and the Palestinianess of Palestine. Both sides will agree to ensure the equal rights and opportunities for minorities within their state. Palestinian Israeli citizens will remain within the State of Israel, as part of their birthright and Jewish citizens of Palestine will be welcome to remain within the Palestinian state as long as they wish.

It may take years to implement the agreement. Everything will depend on the security situation. Both sides will end up agreeing to an international force being stationed within the Palestinian state for an agreed designated period. That force will be composed of and led by European nations.

It is quite clear that both sides will have to allow their people to vote for the agreement - for it to be ratified by the people.

Fifteen years have passed since that hopeful day on the White House lawn. We are no longer drunk with hope. We are much more sober about our difficult reality and the fact that there are still too many fanatics out there who would prefer mutual destruction to making compromises and concessions for peace. So far those fanatics have won, and in their winning they have transformed the Israeli-Palestinian relationship into a "lose-lose" unbreakable embrace. The chance of a "win-win" mutual liberation is still possible - but the price will be no less than what is written above. There is simply no other way - either we both win, or we both lose.

The writer is the co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information.

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