Warning that attempts to maintain the status quo in the occupied territories could lead to war, a prestigious Israeli think tank called Wednesday on the government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to negotiate with the PLO and to leave open the option of an eventual Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Outlining what it said was a “realistic path” to peace in the Middle East, the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University endorsed the idea of eventual Palestinian sovereignty but said it should be preceded by a 10-to-15-year period of “confidence building” during which the Palestinians would exercise self-rule in the occupied territories.
The proposal, less notable for its originality than for its attempt to graft Arab demands and Israeli concerns into a workable compromise for peace in the Middle East, was contained in an annex to an exhaustive, six-month study of Israel’s options in dealing with the intifada, the 15-month-old Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Upcoming Shamir Visit
Its release, timed to precede Shamir’s visit to Washington next month, also coincided with the 15-month anniversary of the intifada, which was marked by the start Wednesday of a two-day general strike in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Only sporadic violence was reported after a day of widespread violence Tuesday in which one Palestinian was killed and more than 30 were wounded by Israeli troops.
“The uprising impelled us to prepare this report and we felt it imperative to complete it before the Israeli government and the new U.S. Administration announced their plans for the area,” said Joseph Alpher, deputy director of the Jaffee Center.
“This is not a peace plan but a 10-to-15-year process for progress to peace which should be acceptable to 60 to 70% of Israelis . . . and probably lead to Palestinian state sovereignty,” he added.
The process envisioned by the Jaffee Center academics, who include a number of former officials from both the Israeli government and military establishment, entails substantial concessions from both sides.
Israel, the report said, must halt the building of new Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, reconcile itself to the emergence of “some form of a Palestinian state” at the end of the process and accept the fact that “no settlement of the conflict is possible without direct negotiations with authoritative representatives of the Palestinians.” In both the current and foreseeable future, “only the PLO or, at the very least, Palestinians identified with the PLO, meet this criterion,” it added.
For their part, Palestinians living in exile must renounce their “right of return,” giving up all claims to the homes they left behind Israel’s pre-1967 war borders, and agree to enter into a negotiating process that is “open-ended"--that is, a process whose outcome is not subject to preconditions by either side.
They must also accept a transitional period of autonomy that is at least twice as long as the five-year period envisioned in the decade-old Camp David accords, which the Arab world unanimously rejects.
However, Jaffee Center director Aharon Yariv, a retired major general and former head of army intelligence, said the Palestinians must accept the fact that Israelis will require a long period of “confidence building” before they will accept the establishment of a Palestinian state.
“Most Israelis would not now accept the possible end-product of the scenario (a Palestinian state). But if Palestinians are not prepared to accept a 10-to-15-year transition period, there won’t be any scenario at all,” he said.
Israel, for its part, “can set conditions on its agreement, but it is going to have to talk to the PLO to solve the problem under the present circumstances,” added Alpher, who headed the 20-member team of Israeli and American academics that produced the study.
The report focused on the implications of various scenarios for Israel and skirted such questions as the role of an international peace conference favored as a negotiating format by the Arab states or the part that the Soviet Union should play in the peace process.
However, it indicated that the United States would have to play a central role, both in mediating the negotiations and in supporting whatever security arrangements Israel required. Substantial Western financial help would also be needed, both to offset the economic impact that giving up the territories would have in Israel and to help ensure that the fledging Palestinian state could survive, it said.
The Israeli government had no immediate reaction, but several analysts said beforehand that they did not expect the report to be well-received by Shamir, who steadfastly refuses to negotiate with the PLO or to consider the creation of a Palestinian state.
Shamir, who has made it clear he will not go much beyond the old Camp David autonomy formula, is said to be putting together his own ideas for the peace process in a bid to recapture some of the diplomatic momentum seized by the PLO late last year when its chairman, Yasser Arafat, publicly renounced terrorism and accepted Israel’s right to exist. The prime minister’s aides have said that he will unveil them in Washington next month.
However, the limits that Shamir has placed on a settlement were strongly criticized by the Jaffee Center study as designed only to perpetuate a dangerous status quo that in the long run will undermine both “the foundations of Israel’s society and its deterrence (capability) . . . thus raising the specter of war.”
The report considered and rejected in turn six possible options for dealing with the intifada, ranging from autonomy to annexation and forced deportation of the 1.7 million Palestinians living in the territories--an extreme option that it said would jeopardize Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt, tear apart Israeli society from within and make another Arab-Israeli war “inevitable.”
Conceding that its recommendations entailed “a mix of risks and opportunities,” the report said that, while other options might have been preferable for Israel, “they are not feasible” any longer.
PEACE FOR ISRAEL: A NEW PROPOSAL
Tel Aviv University’s Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies evaluated the six most commonly discussed options for a political settlement in the Israeli-occupied territories and rejected each. In their place, the center proposed a fresh approach to peace, starting with the principle that each side “must act to accommodate the other’s basic needs.” Among other things, the study said, the Israelis must accept:
That remaining in the territories indefinitely will exact a heavy price and constitute a strategic disadvantage.
That security can be maintained without physical control over all the territories.
That given Israeli security measures, an eventual Palestinian state need not constitute a threat, either strategic or terrorist.
That no settlement is possible without direct talks with the Palestine Liberation Organization.
In turn, the study said, the Palestinians must accept:
Recognition of a Jewish state plus renunciation of the Palestinians’ “right of return.”
An open-ended peace process in which Israel offers no commitment as to the ultimate settlement.
A transition stage of at least 10 years in which there is no Palestinian state and Israeli security measures are tested.
That a final settlement will involve territorial concessions by Israel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and permanent security arrangements.