President Barack Obama is reported to have said to his advisors last week that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would never make the concessions necessary for a peace accord. Well, we in the peace movement say, "duhhh."
If the president really understands this, it is time for him to go over the heads of the leadership in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza and directly to the Israeli and Palestinian people, with a full-blown peace accord that would show what the U.S. could enthusiastically support.
President Obama is in trouble not because of his recognition that negotiations between Israel and Palestine start from acknowledging Israel's 1967 borders but because that suggestion doesn't make sense except in terms of a much larger vision of the terms of an agreement, which we in the peace movement have been urging him to publicly embrace. The key to such an agreement must be its willingness to demand sacrifice from both sides, and a compassionate and caring attitude toward the needs of both sides.
Here is what a peace plan must involve for it to have any chance of swaying hearts and minds on all sides:
1. The peace treaty will recognize the state of Israel and the state of Palestine and define Palestine's borders to include almost all of pre-1967 West Bank and Gaza, with small exchanges of land mutually agreed upon and roughly equivalent in value and historic and/or military significance to each side. The peace plan will also entail a corresponding treaty between Israel and all Arab states — including recognition of Israel and promising full diplomatic and economic cooperation among these parties — and accepting all the terms of this agreement as specified herein. And it should include a 20-to-30-year plan for moving toward a Middle Eastern common market and the eventual establishment of a political union along the lines of the European Union. This might also include eventually building a federation between Israel and Palestine or among Israel, Palestine and Jordan.
2. Jerusalem will be the capital of both Israel and Palestine and will be governed for all civic issues by separate elected councils in West Jerusalem and East Jerusalem. The Old City will become an international city whose sovereignty will be overseen by an international council that guarantees equal access to all holy sites. Its taxes will be shared equally by the city councils of East and West Jerusalem.
3. Immediate and unconditional freedom will be accorded all prisoners in Israel and Palestine whose arrests have been connected in some way with the occupation and/or resistance to the occupation.
4. An international force will be established to separate and protect each side from the extremists of the other side who will inevitably seek to disrupt the peace agreement. And a joint peace police — composed of an equal number of Palestinians and Israelis, at both personnel and command levels — will be created to work with the international force to combat violence and to implement point No. 6 below.
5. Reparations will be offered by the international community for Palestinian refugees and their descendents at a sufficient level within a 10-year period to bring Palestinians to an economic well-being equivalent to that enjoyed by those with a median Israeli-level income. The same level of reparations will also be made available to all Jews who fled Arab lands between 1948 and 1977. An international fund should be set up immediately to hold in escrow the monies needed to ensure that these reparations are in place once the peace plan is agreed upon.
6. A truth and reconciliation process will be created, modeled on the South African version but shaped to the specificity of these two cultures. Plus: an international peace committee will be appointed by representatives of the three major religious communities of the area to develop and implement teaching of a) nonviolence and nonviolent communication, b) empathy and forgiveness, and c) a sympathetic point of view of the history of the "other side." The adoption of this curriculum should be mandatory in every grade from sixth grade through high school. The committee should be empowered to ensure the elimination of all teaching of hatred against the other side or teaching against the implementation of this treaty in any public, private or religious educational institutions, media, or public meetings.