A Peace Directive – A new Policy for the

Government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon

(Positive unilateralism aimed at multilateral engagement and peace)

Presented by Gershon Baskin*


* Note:  In light of the so-called “far reaching” new Israeli initiative of unilateral disengagement from Gaza and the enthusiastic embrace of P.M. Sharon by President Bush, one can only but dream about what a real peace initiative might look like and what effects it might have.


May 31, 2004


To what extent is the absence of any kind of a peace process the direct outcome of a lack of a political directive to create and build a peace process?  To what extent can a peace process be created or invented as a result of a political directive?  To what extent is the failure of the Oslo peace process a direct outcome of the lack of a full commitment to the translation of Israeli-Palestinian peace into real terms – developed at the policy level and implemented on the ground by civilian governmental and military actions in clear explicit positive and constructive political directives?


Imagine what would happen if the Prime Minister of Israel initiated a directive to the government and to the military that 100% effort would now be invested in reaching peace. Imagine if the Prime Minister instructed all of the Ministers of the government to submit within a four week period concrete implementable plans within the mandate of each Minister’s ministry to create a peace process. What if at the same time the Prime Minister personally coordinated and oversaw a full fledged program of coordination between the civilian ministries and the security apparatuses – the IDF, Shabak, the Police – aimed at advancing peace with the Palestinians. What would happen if the Government of Israel decided that peacemaking is the primary directive of the government and that that directive would be translated into policy and concrete plans of the government and the society?


Imagine that as a counter balance to the Ministry of Defense, that would continue to plan for the worst case scenarios and keep the country on-guard against external threats, that the Prime Minister created a Ministry for Peacemaking – an executive body that would be responsible for advancing, coordinating, directing, initiating all governmental efforts towards peacemaking. Joining forces with civil society, within the Ministry of Peacemaking a Deputy Minister would be appointed to coordinate and work with non-governmental efforts aimed at building bridges and cooperation with the Palestinian side. Imagine all of the combined efforts of the society would be enlisted to advance peacemaking.


How long would it take to turn the present course of events around? Imagine if all the genius and energies in the State of Israel were directed at winning the challenge of making peace. The best minds, the most creative thinkers, the financial resources necessary would be viewed as a direct investment in the immediate future (that would return the highest profits that any investments have ever paid) turning all of these efforts towards constructive peacemaking that would impact on the immediately improvement of life for Israelis, the Palestinians and the region.


Private sector initiatives would be launched and supported to build partnerships of investments and bridges of peace building.  The State would utilize all of the resources and mechanisms available in order to encourage these investments – including tax incentives, risk insurance, provision of assistance in the development and the placement of technology in advancing and facilitating the efficient and speedy movement of people and goods across borders. The government would use its influence to work with the Manufacturers Associations and the Chambers of Commerce so that these will not view the developments as threats to their own narrow interests.  


The peace directive must also include planning of programs that will impact upon internal social and economic problems. Economic benefits will come through real investments in peacemaking that will include concentrated developments in physical infrastructures that peace will require. The political directive would include operational plans to ensure that the fruits of peace would be felt by all citizens, Palestinians and Israelis, as soon as possible. Direct involvement and investments from the private sector in this initiative are crucial. Support for these efforts from the European Union, the United States and other potential sources of aid should be included in the initiatives. The initiatives should not be conditional or dependent on outside financial aid.  There is enough available capital in the world that could be attracted to concrete investments, if the conditions and the environment are appropriate. One should not underestimate the importance of “marketing” the initiative to the publics concerned and to the international community. But marketing must be dependent and conditional on real changes and events and not on virtual ideas not translated into reality.


The Ministry of Foreign Affairs would be directed to launch an international campaign to gather support and backing for the new policy directives of the government. Instead of waging propaganda battles across the globe, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would no longer have to create “spins” to make Israel look good (or less bad than the Palestinians) in the international media. Israel would be engaged in campaigning the international community and the international media to support the new peace directive.


Palestinian civil society and Palestinian politicians would respond with skepticism – which would be warranted. It will take time for Palestinians to judge whether or not the new directives were real. Israel would have to take some initial risks in order for this program to succeed. Third party involvement would be crucial, especially in the early stages. The direct involvement of Egypt and Jordan would be most helpful and would strengthen already existing peace with them. The Quartet is also a useful body to advance the directives. Imagine a meeting of the principals of the Quartet – held in Jerusalem – where Israel would announce a Declaration of Intent to make full peace with the Palestinians. The Declaration would be a formal undertaking of the Government of Israel, in an international arena, followed by Declarations of the Palestinians and the Quartet Principals to do everything possible to make this succeed.


The first step following the Declaration Assembly would be the full release of Arafat from the Muqata’a. Arafat would either accept or reject the new Israeli peace directive. As the directive is transformed into reality, the Palestinian public and their leadership would be broad on board by popular demand. Israel would announce its intention to withdraw from all of Area “a” within a four week period. Check points within area “b” will also be removed during this period.  As the security situation improves, other restrictions would also be removed by Israel. Egyptian, Jordanian and other foreign advisors and consultants would be invited by the Palestinians to assist them to rebuild their security infrastructure. The Palestinian security and political apparatuses would work swiftly to restore full law and order to the Palestinian territories. An international conference would be planned and convened within three months of the launch of the program to re-gather donor assistance for the Palestinian territories. National elections for the Palestinian Authority and local elections for new municipal government would be held within six months of launching the program.  Israel will announce its intention of continuing to implement the peace directives in partnership with whoever would be elected in the Palestinian areas.


A major Israeli-Palestinian-International effort will be launched and coordinated by the Ministry of Peacemaking and a similar body on the Palestinian side to work on the development of a culture of peace.  This effort will focus on the media and education and will work on the development of a positive agenda and work plan to translate the peace directive into a new reality visible to all people in a very short time frame.  This effort would be granted the highest priority and substantial financial resources would be granted to this effort immediately.


Is this vision an empty naïve dream? Perhaps, but nevertheless, one cannot deny the possibility that this could become a reality. Throughout the past almost four years of Israeli-Palestinian war with great suffering, death and destruction, a majority of Palestinians and Israelis still hope for peace based on the two-state solution. Most Israelis and most Palestinians do not believe that real peace is possible, because they have seen a peace process failed, but the desire for real peace has not evaporated. The main quality that seems most lacking for this kind of initiative to be transformed into reality is the absence of leadership with a real vision of real peace to lead the region into a new future. 


It takes great statesmen to make decisions that seem from the outset so unlikely to succeed. It takes great courage, vision, and imagination to turn the course of negative events perceived so fatalistically in such a dramatic way. There have been very few leaders in the world who have made such a significant impact on the course of events and have created, almost overnight, a new and promising future for their people and for the world. Mandela and De Klerk are examples of such leaders.


Are Sharon and Arafat up to the task? It seem that they are not, but as long as both of them are in power the answer should not be one of total rejection and dismissal. An initiative for a peace directive cannot and should not be seen as a bi-lateral one. There is no real possibility for dependences or conditionality of immediate reciprocity and mutuality.  This will come as the initiative gathers steam. The initiative must be launched by Israel. One should not expect an immediate positive response from the Palestinians and their leadership; this will come when the initiative begins to be translated into reality. The peace directive should be advanced with such a high level of determination that it will be impossible to object to the dynamic changes of reality on the ground. This policy requires a complete turn-around of the current trends. It is the kind of determination that Prime Minister Sharon has demonstrated in other periods of his history. There is perhaps no other personality in the Israeli political arena other than Sharon who has a better chance to show the kind of determination to implement this plan.