Sunday, March 3, 2013

By Dennis Ross: : For Mideast Peace, Suspend Disbelief

 Dennis Ross is a counselor to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who was the United States’ chief negotiator for the Arab-Israeli conflict from 1993 to 2001 and a special assistant to the president for the Middle East and South Asia from 2009 to 2011. In  today's Sunday New York Times, he presents a 14 point agenda for building trust and confidence on both sides of the Palestinian/ Israeli conflict

What Israelis Can Do

Show That We Have No Intention of Expanding Into a Future Palestinian State
1. Declare that Israel will build new housing only in settlement blocks and in areas to the west of the security barrier. This means that Israel would build only in about 8 percent of the West Bank and no longer in the remaining 92 percent.
2. Be prepared to offer compensation to any Israeli settler ready to relocate to Israel or to designated blocks.
3. Commit to beginning the construction of housing within Israel or the blocks for all those settlers ready to relocate. 

Show That We’re Serious About Ending Control Over Palestinians
4. In “Area C,” which represents 60.1 percent of the West Bank’s territory and in which Israel retains civil and security responsibility, Palestinians would be permitted economic access, activity and ownership.
5. In “Area B,” which covers 21.7 percent of the West Bank and in which Palestinians have responsibility for civil affairs and for law and order — but not for dealing with terrorism — the presence of Palestinian police and security forces, and their duties, would be allowed to increase.
6. In “Area A,” which accounts for 18.2 percent of the West Bank’s territory and in which the Palestinians have civil and security responsibility, the Israel Defense Forces still carry out incursions for security reasons. Because these operations are a reminder of Israeli control and grate on the Palestinians, the I.D.F. could specify clear security criteria, which, if met by the Palestinian Authority, would end the incursions. 

What Palestinians Can Do

Show That We’re Serious About Accepting Two States
1. Be willing to speak of two states for two peoples and to acknowledge there are two national movements and two national identities.
2. Pledge to put Israel on Palestinian maps. Today, most Palestinian maps don’t show Israel at all. They do often show Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
3. Make clear the commitment to building the state of Palestine, without encroaching on Israel, with a particular focus on the rule of law.

Show That We’re Going to Be Good Neighbors to Israel
4. Commit to ending incitement; stop glorifying as martyrs those who kill Israelis; stop blaming Israel for every evil; stop denying the Jewish connection to Jerusalem.
5. Prepare the Palestinian public for peace; Yasir Arafat used to speak about the “peace of the brave.” Declare that the peace of the brave means that both sides, not only Israel, have hard decisions to make for peace.
6. Address the question that Mahmoud Abbas once posed: where does it say that Palestinians should live in squalid conditions? In the West Bank, this would mean building permanent housing in refugee camps and that those families who wished to move out of the camps would be permitted to do so.

What They Can Do Together

Two Crucial, Mutual Steps
7. Commit to an exchange of classrooms or regular youth exchanges starting as early as third grade. The complete absence of contact now means that children on each side are being socialized to demonize and dehumanize the other.
8. Publicly acknowledge when the other side does something positive. For example, the Israeli government should acknowledge that the Palestinian security forces do their job professionally and fulfill their obligations. And the Palestinian Authority should acknowledge when Israel has helped it meet its obligations by advancing tax revenues early, or that Jerusalem’s Hadassah hospital treats Palestinians in need at no cost.

Starting a Virtuous Cycle
These 14 points represent an agenda for discussion that could lead to coordinated actions and change the dynamic between Israelis and Palestinians — and maybe, by restoring hope, show that the government of Mr. Abbas still offers a pathway for Palestinian national aspirations.
These points could, for once, create a virtuous cycle. Such progress is vital if there is to be any hope that the two sides will actually address the core issues of the conflict.
We don’t need more dead ends. It is time to show Israelis and Palestinians that something is possible other than stalemate. Otherwise disbelief and failure will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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