How specific will they be in their suggestions?
Yossi Beilin deserves
credit for the great idea of Birthright trips for young
Jewish-American adults. However, despite his good intentions, his Oslo
dream of the same era has not had the same success, with Israel still dealing
with many of its less desirable consequences.
In an article this month in
Israel Hayom, “When has the two-state solution been tried?”, Beilin still
remains married to the failed core concept of the Oslo Accords – that a peace
agreement comes before the details have been spelled out.
According to Beilin,
because Israelis and Palestinians cannot agree on even what the word peace means,
or how differently Israelis and Palestinians define a demilitarized Palestinian
state, it is better to remain ambiguous in terminology, avoiding specifics that
will sink a deal from the start.
From Beilin’s perspective,
even the word peace is a “loaded” word for both parties. I would suggest using
the term “end of conflict agreement” in its place, where all claims are clearly
specified and resolved, to minimize what’s left up for grabs when Israel’s
existence is on the line.
Former Labor MK Einat Wilf, who worked with both Beilin and Shimon
Peres, wrote in The Atlantic last year, “What doomed the Oslo Accords is also
what made them possible… constructive ambiguity.”
According to Wilf, the paradigm of Oslo was that “an interim period of trust-building was required
remain[ing] ambiguous about the core issues… rather than force the
sides to adopt positions and make concessions… this constructive ambiguity,
imbued in each element of the accords, proved to be utterly destructive.”
For those who believe the
only way for Israel to remain both democratic and Jewish is through the
two-states-for-two-peoples solution, ignoring this core failure of the Oslo
Accords without proposing and publicizing a security-centric alternative –
which takes into account the painful experiences of Israel’s last 25 years –
would be the best way to lose the support of the majority of the Israeli public
and many pro-Israel Americans.
Since Oslo, Israelis have
lived under the siege of the Second Intifada, witnessed the results of the
failed Gaza Disengagement and today are experiencing the aftermath of the Arab
Winter, which transformed the Middle East into a much more dangerous and
unpredictable place, with Iran on its doorstep.
Would Beilin leave the
definition of two states ambiguous, too?
Not a good idea, as two
states to the Palestinians means an Arab state and a binational state, without
a Jewish state. Can any Israeli leader today from the Right or Left sign a
peace agreement that doesn’t spell out what two states specifically means?
According to Wilf, the
parties should “approach the negotiations not as a marriage, but as a
divorce… spell out every detail. In place of destructive ambiguity, we need
Beilin uses the peace
treaties with Egypt and Jordan as a precedent for a future Palestinian
agreement, claiming that those treaties succeeded because their wording was
ambiguous, lacking specifics.
However, making peace
treaties with nations like Jordan or Egypt is very different from dealing with
a Palestinian Authority that has failed to create the foundations of a future
state, despite being the highest per capita recipient of aid in the world.
Their continued demand for a right of return to Israel and willingness to pay
terrorists and their families at the expense of their law abiding citizens,
while never preparing their populace for any of the compromises that peace will
require, make specifics an imperative, and ambiguity a liability.
When the Palestinian
narrative is primarily based on grievance and dispossession, without a positive
vision for the future, this is a prescription to doom even the best of plans.
Hopefully the plan addresses this conundrum.
negotiator Saeb Erekat recently said Israel offered more that 100% of the
disputed territory with land swaps and east Jerusalem as its capital 11 years
ago, during negotiations with prime minister Ehud Olmert. The Palestinian answer
was not yes. Yet, this is what the Palestinians have been telling the world
that they want. Here, specifics exposed the issue as not territorial, but as
The problem is that after
years of telling your people that Israel has no right to exist and that Jews
are occupiers of your land, that when you are offered what you have demanded
and reject the offer, you expose your real goal, which is not an end of
With the Trump peace plan
just around the corner, this is a good time to ask if Jared Kushner and Jason
Greenblatt’s plan has learned the lessons of Oslo.
How specific will they be
in their suggestions?
Will specificity without ambiguity suffocate the process before it begins? If individual issues of the plan are not an existential threat to Israel, then a level of flexibility is warranted.
Perhaps the best we can
hope for at this time is to empower the Palestinian people economically, with
the hope that the years of incitement could be overcome with Palestinian
prosperity that will lead them to demand that their leadership evolve to obey
the rule of law – offering freedom of speech and press, none of which has been
present since Oslo. Only then could an election be contemplated, as a premature
election could lead to an Islamist takeover in short order.
If the Palestinian
Authority were to transform into a responsible organization, then a peace
agreement could be presented with an end of conflict agreement, addressing
every issue with as little ambiguity as possible. It would use the wording of
UN General Assembly Resolution 181 that acknowledges both an Arab and a Jewish
state. Perhaps then, this conflict would reach the level of the cold peace
Israel enjoys with Egypt and Jordan today.
The Trump plan might be
dead on arrival for this Palestinian leadership, but if it garners some Arab
support from Egypt and the Gulf states, it might become a foundational block
for the future – a path if not toward full peace, at least to a very long-term
ceasefire. It isn’t sexy, and it doesn’t satisfy those who blame Israel’s
occupation of the disputed territory as the core problem, but the status quo
plus Palestinian economic empowerment may be the only path available at this
Whatever the “deal of the
century” is, let’s hope that the plan is long on specifics, and short on
The writer is director of MEPIN, the Middle East Political Information Network. He regularly briefs members of the Senate, House and their foreign policy advisers. He is a regular columnist for The Jerusalem Post, and a contributor to i24TV, The Hill, JTA and The Forward.