A promissory note for peace
Prof. Sari Nusseibeh, the president of al-Quds University and the co-author of the Ayalon-Nusseibeh plan also known as "the People's Voice" has proposed a new way to advance the dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Nusseibeh suggests the following: Ehud Olmert would issue a promissory note to the Palestinian people in which he would state the willingness of Israel to accept the six points of the Nusseibeh Ayalon declaration (see below) as the basis for peace with any Palestinian government that would be democratically elected.
The idea of this proposal is to enable political movement that would be acceptable to both sides and would facilitate a process of dealing with the internal Palestinian situation. Mahmoud Abbas or any other Palestinian leader who supports peace would present the promissory note to the Palestinian public as a cashable document waiting in the bank to be claimed by the Palestinian people. The Palestinian candidate would invite the Palestinian people to join him in his trip to the bank to cash the note.
New Palestinian elections would be called, hopefully with a party led by a significant people backing the Nusseibeh-Ayalon plan. This plan would become the focal point of the elections. Nusseibeh is convinced that any Palestinian party that backs it after it is declared by Olmert to be Israel's offer will win the elections.
Even if this is not the case, and this is where the primary risk is, if the Palestinian public rejects the offer and re-elects parties that are opposed to peace, we will all know better where we stand. International pressure would most likely be removed from Israel as it will then most likely seek to unilaterally withdraw to security borders and the Palestinians will then have to figure their own way forward with the international community knowing that peace is not on their agenda. If on the other hand, a party and government is formed which supports this plan, then there is a clear way to make rapid progress forward.
THE AYALON-NUSSEIBEH Statement of Principles contains the following:
1. Two states for two peoples: Both sides will declare that Palestine is the only state of the Palestinian people and Israel is the only state of the Jewish people.
2. Borders: Permanent borders between the two states will be agreed upon on the basis of the June 4, 1967 lines, UN resolutions, and the Arab peace initiative (known as the Saudi initiative). Border modifications will be based on an equitable and agreed-upon territorial exchange (1:1) in accordance with the vital needs of both sides, including security, territorial contiguity, and demographic considerations. The Palestinian state will have a connection between its two geographic areas, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
After establishment of the agreed borders, no settlers will remain in the Palestinian state.
3. Jerusalem: Jerusalem will be an open city, the capital of two states. Freedom of religion and full access to holy sites will be guaranteed to all.
Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem will come under Palestinian sovereignty, Jewish neighborhoods under Israeli sovereignty.
Neither side will exercise sovereignty over the holy places. The State of Palestine will be designated Guardian of al-Haram al-Sharif for the benefit of Muslims. Israel will be the Guardian of the Western Wall for the benefit of the Jewish people. The status quo on Christian holy site will be maintained. No excavation will take place in or underneath the holy sites without mutual consent.
4. Right of return: Recognizing the suffering and the plight of the Palestinian refugees, the international community, Israel, and the Palestinian state will initiate and contribute to an international fund to compensate them.
Palestinian refugees will return only to the State of Palestine; Jews will return only to the State of Israel.
The international community will offer to compensate toward bettering the lot of those refugees willing to remain in their present country of residence, or who wish to immigrate to third-party countries.
5. The Palestinian state will be demilitarized and the international community will guarantee its security and independence.
6. End of conflict: Upon the full implementation of these principles, all claims on both sides and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will end.
THESE ARE certainly principles that, I am convinced, the overwhelming majority of the current Israeli government could accept as well as the majority of Israelis.
The government of Israel would not be required to take any action on the plan until there is an elected Palestinian government that also supports the plan. The issuance of a promissory note by Israel provides Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian national movement with an acceptable argument to call for new elections in order to gain the support of the Palestinian people.
This would also be a positive way of confronting the internal Palestinian strife. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, if necessary, could also call for new elections and win a new mandate if the Palestinian public responds positively.
Public opinion polls on both sides indicate that positive movement toward peace would be supported by majorities of citizens. The current weakness of both political systems could be substantially strengthened if they were both on a clear course of peace that is acceptable and supported by both peoples.
The road map process has not proven itself capable of moving both peoples toward peace. A new plan is called for and the one presented by Nusseibeh has a very good chance of success. It would certainly provide both peoples with a new sense of hope.
The writer is co-ceo of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information. www.ipcri.org
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