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IDF checkpoint in West Bank Photo: AFP
IDF checkpoint in West Bank Photo: AFP
 
 

Time has come for 2 states

Op-ed: Israel must separate from the Palestinians to preserve country's Jewish, democratic character

Gilead Sher
Published: 01.29.13, 11:09 / Israel Opinion

In about a month and a half Israel's 33rd government will be sworn in, and, regardless of the make-up of the next coalition, it must succeed in determining the country's borders.

 

The campaigns have ended, so the truth can be said: The issue of Israel's borders is the most important of all. Israel must separate itself from the Palestinians and determine borders that will secure a democratic, egalitarian, legitimate and just state that will maintain a Jewish majority for generations to come.

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It does not matter if we are convinced of our right to control the territories. This is an existential matter, because in order to preserve the state that was established here before us we must first determine the geographic borders, and then address the rest of the pressing issues: Morality, equal share of the burden, basic rights, separation of religion and state and rule of law. We will not have welfare, education, equality or national resilience until we separate from the Palestinians.

 

Sixty-five years after its inception, Israel still does not have a constitution or recognized borders for all of its territory - both of which are crucial for securing its identity in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence. The demographic reality that is taking shape in the area west of the Jordan River jeopardizes our national identity and internal solidarity, which were strong during Israel's early years.

 

Unilateral steps are fine

From a geopolitical perspective, the status quo is as dynamic as ever, and it is enough to mention the Iranian nuclear threat and the rise of political Islam alongside the extremism and collapse of regimes in the Arab world. If we continue to be dragged along the path of lack of initiative, the likelihood of ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of two states for two peoples will be reduced even more. In the meantime, we will become more and more isolated in the world, until the international community, hypocritical and self-righteous as it may be, will eventually disassociate itself from us entirely.

 

The outline for a peace agreement has been known to us all for more than 12 years, since the days of Bill Clinton and his plan for two states for two peoples. The core issues of the conflict – Jerusalem, refugees, borders, security – will not dissipate on their own just because we are ignoring them and dragging our feet on the way to a solution. On the contrary, these problems will intensify and will become more difficult to resolve. Eleven years have passed since the Arab League presented its peace initiative, but to this day Israel's governments have not fond the time to discuss it. Now, in light of the developments in the Arab world, Israel should signal that it is willing to consider regional negotiations with the tumultuous and bleeding Arab world.

 

If it is established, a Palestinian state will be demilitarized, will not be allowed to have and army or form military alliances; its airspace will be controlled by Israel, and international forces will help the sides keep the peace. It is safe to assume that by that time Israel will have a multi-layered rocket and missile defense shield in place that will thwart attacks from any range.

 

The conflict with the Palestinians can be solved, but even if I'm wrong, we must still strive to achieve it, because the stalemate is a dangerous illusion.

 

Apart from engaging in peace negotiations, Israel must independently prepare to separate itself from the Palestinians and gradually create two nation states. True, we will have to evacuate settlements while preserving the large settlement blocs, which contain 80% of the settler population, and we must absorb those settlers who will return to Israel – some 100,000 – regardless of whether a peace agreement is reached. The IDF will remain in the territory until the security responsibility will be handed over to an element that is acceptable to us (we learned this lesson in the aftermath of the Gaza disengagement of 2005.)

 

No one will be glad to see settlers evicted from their homes, but it will be necessary for preserving Israel's future as a democratic state with a Jewish majority; as a legitimate and moral state that's existence is not dependent on controlling another nation. If the government acts responsibly and with integrity, the evacuation of settlers may even unite the people of Israel.

 

Unilateral steps are legitimate as long as they advance a two-state solution and are fully coordinated with the US.

 

Attorney Gilead Sher is co-chairman of the Blue White Future movement and a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University

 

 

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