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Kerry and Netanyahu. 'Participating in this theater of the absurd unwillingly' Photo: Noam Moskovich
Kerry and Netanyahu. 'Participating in this theater of the absurd unwillingly' Photo: Noam Moskovich
 
Ami Ayalon Photo: Yaron Brener
Ami Ayalon Photo: Yaron Brener
 
 

Israel must change structure of peace process

Op-ed: New Israeli initiative should be based on independent steps, alongside willingness to continue negotiations.

Ami Ayalon
Published: 04.07.14, 12:27 / Israel Opinion

Although in recent days the peace negotiations appear to be headed to a final collapse, the latest proposals for preserving them – implementing the fourth batch of the prisoner release, the possibility of freeing Jonathan Pollard and the release of hundreds of additional prisoners in the coming months – clarify in the most reliable manner that the negotiations have become a goal in itself.

 

 

None of those involved in the process in Israel, in the United States and in the Palestinian Authority believe that continuing the negotiations in their current format will lead to a peace agreement. Nevertheless, all the partners are participating in this theater of the absurd unwillingly, as if they have no other choice.

 

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The process in its current outline has failed because it was built on the erroneous premise that the negotiations will make it possible to build mutual trust, and bridge the existing gaps between the sides' different stances. According to this premise, progress will only be made as a result of negotiations and mutual agreement.

 

But the current outline has failed, and will fail in the future too, because opponents to an agreement on both sides control the process, and make it fail. Every terror attack, every Palestinian attempt to appeal to international bodies, every act of violence by settlers against Palestinians and every settlement construction increase the mistrust and lead to regression in the peace process.

 

The insistence on continuing the process in its current format will not bring us closer to an agreement. On the contrary: The ongoing failure will increase international pressure and violence on the Palestinian street, which is losing its faith in the process and in its leadership.

 

But that does not mean we must sit idly by and give up on the option of fulfilling Zionism. As a person who believes that Israel's future as a safe, Jewish and democratic country is at stake, my friend and I at the Blue White Future movement are convinced that we must continue pursuing the goal of peace, but change the structure of the process.

 

The majority of the public in Israel is familiar with the principles of the future agreement: Border lines based on the 1967 lines with a land swap; Palestinian refugees will return to Palestine only; security arrangements Israel is okay with, as well as the presence of international forces and a gradual IDF withdrawal after the agreement is signed; keeping Jerusalem's Jewish neighborhoods under Israeli sovereignty and the Arab neighborhoods under Palestinian sovereignty; and freedom of access and worship in the holy sites.

 

Israel must work independently to advance a political reality which brings us closer to the Zionist vision of a Jewish and democratic state without being held captive by the process' opponents in the Israeli society and Palestinian society.

 

Therefore, Israel must take new diplomatic initiative, based on independent steps alongside a willingness to continue the negotiations. The Israeli government must announce that it welcomes ongoing negotiations, but that at the same time it is working independently to create a political reality based on the future agreement's lines. In light of this, the government will declare that Israel has no aspirations for political sovereignty east of the security fence's route, but that the final border will be determined in future negotiations.

 

The practical move required by such a declaration is a law to allow every settler living east of the security fence to return into Israel's borders in exchange for proper compensation and a respectable reception. Such a proposal would have a high response rate. According to in-depth research conducted among these settlers only recently, almost one-third of them are in favor of voluntary evacuation even before a peace agreement.

 

In addition, the government would be required to halt construction east of the fence's route and in Jerusalem's Jewish neighborhoods. There will be no forced eviction of a single settler and no change in the IDF's deployment until an agreement is signed, so as not to repeat the mistake of the pullout from Gaza which created a void and allowed Hamas to take over.

 

This policy would convey clear messages to three target audiences. To the international community, it would prove that we are pursuing an agreement and will work both as part of the negotiations and independently in order to advance it.
To the Palestinians, this policy would show demonstrate that Israel is working independently to create a two-state reality, not by giving in to violence or international sanctions, but out of faith that it is in its national interests to see a Jewish and democratic Israel.

 

Our leaders have always said that we have no one to rely on but ourselves. We can do that without depending on the Palestinians' desires and without being held captive by the extremists. Now is the time for the real leadership test which will determine the State of Israel's face and future.

 

Ami Ayalon is a former Shin Bet director and one of the founders of the Blue White Future movement

 

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