ENGAGING IN DIPLOMACY ON DAY ONE
Source: Israel Policy Forum, December 4, 2008, http://www.israelpolicyforum.org. distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) with permission from Israel Policy Forum for publication.
The Annapolis process, which is a continuation of the Roadmap for Middle East peace (which itself is a continuation of the Oslo process), has run its course. It has not succeeded. One can try to improve it, but in all probability, that would be a mistake. The answer might be to change the approach. The argument in Washington over whether to go first for the Syrian or the Palestinian track is useless. Instead, we should start thinking about regionalising the solution. This means adopting the framework of the Arab Peace Initiative.
The Arab Peace Initiative proposes to neutralise the effects of non-state actors while enabling the fulfilment of Israel‚s dream from the day it was created to achieve normalisation in the region.
The bilateral talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians are not going to work in the present circumstances. The negotiations are stuck in the bilateral track. The solution should be regionalised, and the process internationalised, under the leadership of the new US administration with the Arab League and the Quartet for Middle East Peace (the EU, the UN, the United States, and Russia). One way that this would help the process is by creating a cover for an agreement.
Even if there is political will on the part of Israeli and Palestinian leaders to reach an agreement, there is not the political capacity to implement one. We cannot do it alone. There must be more assertive international involvement ˆ to the point of intervention ˆ to bring the negotiations in line with the deteriorating situation on the ground. As discussed by the incoming National Security Advisor, General James Jones, the implementation of an agreement may depend on placing forces on the ground.
For 15 years, we have all been locked in the topics initially crafted in the Oslo framework-borders, refugees, Jerusalem, security, and settlements. We should contemplate reframing certain elements of the agenda in a way that is conducive to an agreement.
The prospect of achieving a two-state solution is slipping through our fingers. The future of Israel as a democratic state with a Jewish majority is at stake. The alternative is institutionalised inequality and escalating violence-gifts to non-state actors like Hamas and Hezbollah.
There is no time left. President-elect Obama takes office on 20 January. The Israeli elections are on 10 February. That‚s 21 days. Don‚t do anything for 21 days. But on the 22nd day, the day after Israel‚s elections, start working. Israel‚s existence depends on a Palestinian state standing beside it. In many respects, what happens to us in Israel is in America‚s hands.
*Dr. Naomi Chazan is President of the New Israel Fund.