How can anyone believe that peace between Israelis and Palestinians is possible today when each side simply does not trust the other? And to make matters worse it is not only the governments who have exhausted their diplomatic skills, but the people who have exhausted their faith on a puzzle that seems insoluble. Now add the dynamic of the Arab Spring, the recent terror attacks in Israel, the continuing settlement construction and tightening of Israeli laws, the Unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas, the Nakba Day border crossings from Syria and Lebanon, the unfolding Flotilla fiasco and the Palestinian effort to unilaterally gain statehood through the United Nations and you have more than enough problems to paralyze any peace process.
As understandable as that may be, it is no longer possible to stand pat with so many things in a state of unpredictable flux. While Israel can ask for and continue to obtain multibillion dollar military aid packages from the U.S. insuring its strategic advantage, it is no longer sufficient to truly protect its citizens from the weapons that surround it or the people living within or beyond its enhanced borders. The Palestinian Authority can continue to gain international support for a state that will ultimately not be attained without the agreement of Israel. Hamas can continue to control Gaza at the expense of its people, fire rockets into the Negev and wait for the next flotilla to further delegitimize Israel without securing one more inch of land for its people.
There is another way. It involves changing realities on the ground and having the courage and the wisdom to know intuitively that this is the moment to craft a deal that carefully balances giving everyone something they desperately need against costs that no one so far has been willing to risk. Neither the U.S. nor the principals themselves has demonstrated the ability to negotiate the final status issues directly whether one begins with the contours of the map or not.
The deal is a formula that must work on three levels. For the governments; Israel must agree to a one year comprehensive settlement freeze, the Palestinian Authority must agree to suspend unilateral measures toward statehood as well as its BDS campaign for one year and Hamas must agree to a year-long Hudna, (Truce), under which it will insure that no offensive military activity emanates from Gaza.
For the people in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza; they must actively take part in an internationally sponsored year long dialogue project that brings them together to interact respectfully, learn more about each other and to consider what peace would look like and mean the day after the governments sign an agreement.
After sixty days of settlement freeze, suspension of unilateral measures and BDS activity and a Hudna, the three governments will begin negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and Hamas meeting to work out the terms of a Unity Government and Israel and the PLO sitting down directly and begin to hash out the terms for a Final Status Agreement.
The publics will each be encouraged by their respective governments to take part meaningfully in the on-going dialogue project with the hope that as people move closer they will increasingly acquire a renewed faith in the possibility of achieving a real peace with freedom and security guaranteed to all.
A breakthrough of this magnitude while critically necessary will be extraordinarily difficult. The trade-offs are extraordinary and the challenges are truly great for each party. It will take statesmanship by the leaders, the sophisticated guidance of a newly heartened Quartet, the strong endorsement of the Arab League, inspired international involvement, the growing recognition by both peoples that peace can only be realized with massive popular support and the will of Allah-Hashem-God who may smile upon the wishes of his children to finally realize peace in his Holy Land.
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