Advertisement

Prominent Israelis, Palestinians issue new proposal to revive Mideast peace efforts

Former senior Israeli official and peace negotiator Yossi Beilin
Yossi Beilin, a former senior Israeli official and peace negotiator, joined other figures in the region in proposing a new solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
(Tsafrir Abayov / Associated Press)
Share

Israeli and Palestinian public figures have drawn up a new proposal for a two-state confederation that they hope will offer a way forward after a decade-long stalemate in Mideast peace efforts.

The plan includes several controversial elements, and it’s unclear whether it has any support among leaders on either side. But it could help shape the debate over the conflict and will be presented to a senior U.S. official and the United Nations secretary-general this week.

The plan calls for an independent state of Palestine in most of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, territories Israel seized in the 1967 Mideast War. Israel and Palestine would have separate governments but coordinate at a very high level on security, infrastructure and other issues that affect both populations.

Advertisement

The plan would allow the nearly 500,000 Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank to remain there, with large settlements near the border annexed to Israel in a one-to-one land swap.

Settlers living deep inside the West Bank would be given the option of relocating or becoming permanent residents in the state of Palestine. An equal number of Palestinians — likely refugees from the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation — would be allowed to relocate to Israel as citizens of Palestine with permanent residency in Israel.

The initiative is largely based on the Geneva Accord, a detailed, comprehensive peace plan drawn up in 2003 by prominent Israelis and Palestinians, including former officials. The nearly 100-page confederation plan includes new, detailed recommendations on how to address core issues.

The Israel-Hamas war has helped catalyze a newfound sense of Palestinian solidarity that could mark a new moment in the Middle East, activists say.

June 8, 2021

Yossi Beilin, a former senior Israeli official and peace negotiator who co-founded the Geneva Initiative, said that by taking the mass evacuation of settlers off the table, the plan could be more amenable to them.

Israel’s political system is dominated by the settlers and their supporters, who view the West Bank as the biblical and historical heartland of the Jewish people and an integral part of Israel.

The Palestinians view the settlements as the main obstacle to peace, and most of the international community considers them illegal. The settlers living deep inside the West Bank — who would likely end up within the borders of a future Palestinian state — are among the most radical and tend to oppose any territorial partition.

Advertisement

“We believe that if there is no threat of confrontations with the settlers it would be much easier for those who want to have a two-state solution,” Beilin said. The idea has been discussed before, but he said a confederation would make it more “feasible.”

Amnesty International says Israel has maintained ‘a system of oppression’ over the Palestinians that meets the international definition of apartheid.

Feb. 1, 2022

Numerous other sticking points remain, including security, freedom of movement and, perhaps most critically after years of violence and failed negotiations, lack of trust.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry and the Palestinian Authority declined to comment.

The main Palestinian figure behind the initiative is Hiba Husseini, a former legal advisor to the Palestinian negotiating team who hails from a prominent Jerusalem family. Other contributors include Israeli and Palestinian professors and two retired Israeli generals.

Husseini acknowledged that the proposal regarding the settlers is “very controversial” but said the overall plan would fulfill the Palestinians’ core aspiration for a state of their own.

Documents about the massacre at Deir Yassin and other possible atrocities remain classified, apparently to cover up their “unpleasant” contents.

Nov. 1, 2021

“It’s not going to be easy,” she added. “To achieve statehood and to achieve the desired right of self-determination that we have been working on — since 1948, really — we have to make some compromises.”

Thorny issues like the conflicting claims to Jerusalem, final borders and the fate of Palestinian refugees could be easier to address by two states in the context of a confederation, rather than the traditional approach of trying to work out all the details ahead of a final agreement.

Advertisement

“We’re reversing the process and starting with recognition,” Husseini said.

It’s been nearly three decades since Israeli and Palestinian leaders gathered on the White House lawn to sign the Oslo accords, launching the peace process.

Several rounds of talks over the years, punctuated by outbursts of violence, failed to yield a final agreement, and there have been no serious or substantive negotiations in more than a decade.

Israel’s current prime minister, Naftali Bennett, is a former settler leader opposed to Palestinian statehood. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who is set to take over as prime minister in 2023 under a rotation agreement, supports an eventual two-state solution.

But neither is likely to be able to launch any major initiatives because they head a fragile coalition spanning the political spectrum, from hard-line nationalist factions to a small Arab party.

On the Palestinian side, President Mahmoud Abbas’ authority is confined to parts of the occupied West Bank, with the Islamic militant group Hamas — which doesn’t accept Israel’s existence — ruling Gaza. Abbas’ presidential term expired in 2009 and his popularity has plummeted in recent years, meaning he is unlikely to be able to make any historic compromises.

Frustrated by years of on-and-off peace talks with Israel, Palestinians are losing hope for an independent homeland, and some are proposing a radically different cause: a shared state with equal rights for Palestinians and Jews.

May 8, 2008

The idea of the two-state solution was to give the Palestinians an independent state, while allowing Israel to exist as a democracy with a strong Jewish majority. Israel’s continued expansion of settlements, the absence of any peace process and repeated rounds of violence, however, have greatly complicated hopes of partitioning the land.

The international community still views a two-state solution as the only realistic way to resolve the conflict.

Advertisement

But the ground is shifting, particularly among young Palestinians, who increasingly view the conflict as a struggle for equal rights under what they — and three prominent human rights groups, one of them Israeli — say is an apartheid regime.

Israel vehemently rejects those allegations, viewing them as an antisemitic attack on its right to exist. Lapid has suggested that reviving a political process with the Palestinians would help Israel resist any efforts to brand it an apartheid state in world bodies.

“Oslo” chronicles the negotiations that led to the 1993 Peace Accords. But it can’t bring itself to examine what started the conflict in the first place.

May 29, 2021

Next week, Beilin and Husseini will present their plan to U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Beilin says they have already shared drafts with Israeli and Palestinian officials.

Beilin said he sent it to people who he knew would not reject it out of hand. “Nobody rejected it. It doesn’t mean that they embrace it.

“I didn’t send it to Hamas,” he added, joking: “I don’t know their address.”

Advertisement