A New Peace Plan for Resolving the Israel Conflict

This is the first draft of a peace plan for resolving the human rights crisis caused by the historical and current policies of the state of Israel. [See cover letter] For the most part, this crisis originated in two acts of war:

  1. Events leading up to and including Israel's War for Independence (1947-49) resulted in approximately 700,000 Palestinians leaving their homes and becoming refugees. Israel has ever since refused to permit these refugees to return to Israel, contrary to UN Resolution ###. In 1950 Israel passed its Absentee Property Law to confiscate property formerly held by refugees, and in 1952 Israel's Law of Nationality denied citizenship to refugees. Today there are approximately four million Palestinian refugees, including their descendants. Many still live in "temporary" camps set up by UNHCR, where they are effectively stateless. Their claim of a "right of return" is a central and perhaps irreducible feature of the conflict.

  2. During Israel's Six Day War (1967) Israel seized extensive territory from neighboring countries Egypt (Gaza, Sinai Peninsula), Syria (Golan Heights), and Jordan (West Bank, which Israel calls Judea and Samaria, including East Jerusalem). The Sinai Peninsula was returned to Egypt by treaty in 1979. The rest of the seized territories remain under Israeli occupation. East Jerusalem and Golan Heights were formally annexed. The residents of the occupied territories have not been given Israeli citizenship. The land has been carved up into numerous "Jewish only" settlements, contrary to international law. Approximately 200,000 additional refugees resulted from the 1967 war and the subsequent occupation. The UN has passed numerous resolutions calling on Israel to give up the lands seized in the 1967 war.

While these two points are the most important problems, they are by no means the only concerns that we need to deal with. A viable solution must resolve these critical problems and the various related concerns to the satisfaction of the majority of the people involved, and as such it must be based on our common understanding of what is just and proper.

One more prefatory note: In the title I chose not to refer to this conflict as the Israel-Palestine or Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To do so attempts to limit the scope of the conflict -- to treat this as a local conflict between two groups -- and to limit the options for solution. History offers us little hope that local efforts might succeed or even do much to ameliorate conditions, and even a cursory analysis of political postures within Israel today offers us even less hope. On the other hand, Israel's military and managerial triumphs over the Palestinian people are turning Israel into an international pariah: a state at odds with contemporary notions of international law, human rights, the ideals of freedom and democracy. In short, Israel is not just an Arab problem or a Palestinian problem; Israel has become a world problem, and that, too, is a subject of this proposal.

Historical Prologue

The nature of the conflict has changed over time. From 1920 up to 15 May 1948 Palestine was managed by the UK under a mandate from the League of Nations (subsequently the UN). In early 1947 the UK decided to quit Palestine and turned the problem over to the UN. The UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) proposed to partition Palestine into two states -- one with a small Jewish majority, the other overwhelmingly non-Jewish -- with Jerusalem reserved as an "international area." Of the two principal ethnic organizations in Palestine, the Arab Higher Committee rejected partition while the Jewish Agency accepted it -- but ultimately did not adopt the proposed borders. The UN initially accepted the partition recommendation, but did not provide any military forces to implement it. Rather, the UK left Palestine in a state of civil war between the Jewish Agency, which formally declared the independence of Israel on May 14, 1948, and the Arab Higher Committee, who were then joined by armies from the neighboring states of Transjordan, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and to a much lesser extend Lebanon. The ensuing war came to a close in 1949 with the signing of UN-mediated armistice agreements between Israel and the neighboring nations. The borders established by the armistices remained in effect until the 1967 war, and are currently referred to as the Green Line.

Significantly, the armistices precluded any recognition of a Palestinian state or partition. Israel occupied the whole of Palestine except for Gaza, under Egyptian control, and the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which were annexed by Transjordan. Moreover, over 700,000 Palestinians who had lived in lands that were incorporated into Israel had become refugees. This exile and loss of nationality -- Gaza and the West Bank were effectively under foreign control, even though in their case the foreigners were also Arabs -- came to be known to Palestinians as Al-Nakba (the disaster), an event which looms large in later mythology.

While the Palestinian refugee problem festered, Israel's main concern from 1948 was the threat posed by hostile Arab nations. This threat grew significantly in the 1950s as revolutions in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq replaced the colonial-dominated regimes that fought in the 1948 war with nationalist regimes dominated by younger military officers who desired to overcome the stigma of the 1948 debacle. Israel fought wars against Egypt and Syria in 1956, 1967, and again in 1973, before negotiating a peace treaty in 1979 which returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt -- effectively ending the era when Israel's existence was open to challenge by neighboring states. (Israel and Syria have not signed a peace accord, although negotiations came close in 1999. Syria has made no effort to forcibly recover the occupied Golan Heights since 1973.)

However, following its crushing military triumph in 1967, and especially after the 1979 peace agreement with Egypt, Israel increasingly concerned itself with threats from Palestinians, both in the occupied territories and among the refugee camps. Most obviously, this led to Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, resulting in the expulsion of the PLO's leadership to far-away Tunisia. By the mid-'80s Israel had little to fear from the PLO or similar organizations -- in 1986 the PLO changed its position to recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state while limiting its own ambitions to a much smaller Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. But within the occupied territories Israel's harsh military rule and ever increasing encroachments by Israeli settlers led to a revolt (the Intifada) in 1989. Since then Israel has shifted back and forth between periods of brutal repression and limited concessions, with corresponding shifts in the level of violent Palestinian opposition. The "peace process" initiated by Yitzhak Rabin in 1993-95 was one attempt at conciliation within a framework still dominated by Israel, but it failed, largely due to the ill will of Rabin's successors, and was definitively rejected by Israel with the election of Ariel Sharon in 2001. Recently, Sharon has made some minor concessions, including announcing a plan to pull out of settlements in Gaza. But none of Israel's concessions, even going back to the Oslo Accords, comes close to addressing the two key problems in this conflict.

Meanwhile, world opinion, with important exception of the United States, has mostly turned against Israel. Rejectionist threats against Israel's existence had given Israel's border wars a legitimate air of self-defense, but Israel's dominance in those wars, its achievement of a nuclear arsenal, and the peace treaty with Egypt ended those threats. Terrorist acts by Palestinians, especially in Europe, also generated sympathy for Israel, but Israel's invasion and occupation of Lebanon was a cruel and ultimately senseless act of aggression, the the Intifada within the occupied territories an indictment of Israel's administration.

Two Approaches

There are two approaches to each of the two major problems in the conflict. The need to provide basic human and political rights to the inhabitants of the occupied territories can be dealt with either by separating those territories from Israel and establishing a free and democratic sovereign nation in those territories or by securing full citizenship and political rights for those people within Israel. The need for permanent residency and citizenship for refugees of Israel's wars can be provided either by repatriating those refugees to Israel with restoration of their citizenship and compensation for their losses or by providing the refugees with an acceptable alternative package of citizenship and compensation. The issue of the occupied territories needs to be resolved before the refugees issue can be resolved, largely because the repatriation options differ according to whether there is a one state or two state solution.

While these two approaches may, at least under ideal circumstances, be equally satisfactory, they are not equally practicable solutions. This is because no lasting solution is possible unless it is agreed to by at least the majority population of the affected political bodies. The main obstacle to peace here is Israel, where there is no political consensus in favor of either a one- or two-state result, and where there is a very strong consensus against repatriation of any significant number of refugees. Moreover, there is a militant minority in Israel which advocates "transfer" -- the expulsion of millions more refugees. And there is a tradition of extremist acts of violence meant to halt any Israeli efforts at conciliation -- including the assassinations of UN Commissioner Count Folke Bernadotte in 1948 and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.

However, it is important to note that Israeli popular opinion on a two-state scenario is highly divided and varies according to related issues like security, whereas there is at present no prospect that a majority of Israelis would be willing to extend citizenship rights to a Palestinian population large enough to dilute the democratic political basis for a Jewish State -- which is what the one-state solution entails. This discrepancy in Israeli public opinion is so large that the only practicable solution will be a two-state plan. Moreover, Israeli public opinion also eliminates repatriation as an option for resolving the refugee problem. It is important that we work around these limits imposed by public opinion because there is no alternative. In particular, the threat of using military force to implement a scheme is certain to cause more damage than currently exists. The clearest demonstration of this is the fact that Israel's own overwhelming military force and managerial genius has failed to force Palestinians under occupation to resign themselves to the marginal and subservient roles allotted to them under occupation. On the other hand, Palestinian public opinion must also be honored: it is perhaps more pliant, at least tactically, given the relative powerlessness of the Palestinian people both under occupation and in exile, but the resilience of the Palestinian resistance under such harsh conditions is rooted in a sense of justice and a faith in fundamental human rights which must be satisfied, lest that resistance continue on a path of probable destruction.

Resistance Against Hope

Before we move on to the proposal, it is important that we all understand that both Israeli and Palestinian public opinion are rational outgrowths of long-standing historical processes, and that their very rationality is a major reason why their opposition has proven so intractable.

Israel is a fiercely held anachronism, a nation which runs against the principal political trends of the last half-century -- the idea that a nation is defined by its border and belongs to all the people living therein, who enjoy an inalienable set of human and political rights that no state, representative of a majority or not, can abridge. Israel was created out of the three worst ideas of the 19th century. The first was nationalism: the idea that each group of people could only find and express itself by uniting under a cohesive state. The second was sectarianism: the belief that one's nationality could only be achieved by purification -- by isolation in one's own group, and by rejection of others. The third was colonialism: transplanting one's group to a foreign land that can be dominated and cleared. Combined, these ideas are a framework for endless strife, as Israel's history attests. But it didn't just happen that these ideas should appeal to European Jews. The rise of nationalism in Europe was accompanied by an increase in anti-Jewish discrimination and violence, more often than not justified by the claims that Jews were alien to the nation. Throughout history Jews had been victims of tribal and sectarian violence, and often had moved to escape further violence. Russia, in particular, became increasingly dangerous for its large Jewish population throughout the 19th century, so -- especially after the pogroms of 1881 -- many Jews left Russia for safer havens such as America, but a few argued that Jews should form their own nation, in their own land, which given their legacy should be the land of Zion.

Zionist emigration started in the 1880s while Palestine was still part of the Ottoman Empire. Had the Ottoman Empire survived or broken into independent Arab states it is unlikely that Zionist migration would ever have been large enough or autonomous enough to seize any significant political power in Palestine. But the Zionists found a powerful sponsor in Great Britain, who invaded Palestine and Iraq in 1917 and established colonial regimes there under the fig leaf of mandates from the League of Nations. Britain established Hashemite kingdoms in Iraq and Transjordan while maintaining direct control over Palestine, opening it up to immigration as a "homeland for the Jews." Under the British mandate from 1920 to 1948 the Jewish population in Palestine grew from 10% to 35% -- still a minority, but concentrated in Jerusalem, along the Mediterranean coast, and near the Sea of Galilee. The Jewish settlement had little reason to integrate with the larger Arabic-speaking population -- their use of Hebrew, at best a second language for Jewish immigrants from Europe, increased their isolation. They were protected by the British and were allowed to develop their own proto-state institutions including militias like the Haganah -- the core of Israel's IDF. Meanwhile, Arab challenges to British rule were ruthlessly crushed, especially the 1937-39 revolt, where Jewish militias fought alongside the British -- further polarizing the communities. In response to pressure to grant Palestine independence, Britain's Peel Commission proposed partitioning the country into two states and forcibly transferring the resulting minorities -- a proposal which would have meant displacing many more Arabs than Jews. The Peel proposal was shelved in the wake of the 1937-39 revolt, but was effectively revived by the UN in 1947, with the transfer implemented in the following war.

The Zionist period from 1880 to 1948 was one of intense anti-Jewish activity in Europe, climaxing with Nazi Germany's extermination of six million Jews -- over half of the Jews in Europe, including well over 90% of the Jews in Poland and Greece, a calamity so unprecedented and so unfathomable it was soon called the Holocaust. In 1923 the United States imposed strict immigration limits, closing off the main escape route for Jews from Europe, leaving Palestine as one of the few options available to people who desperately needed a way out. These events were traumatic, but especially for Zionists the trauma reinforced the basic tenets of their beliefs: that antisemitism is endemic in the non-Jewish world, and that the only way Jews can secure their future is to band together as a nation and take responsibility for their own defense. For Zionists in Palestine that defense began at home against their most immediate threat -- the occasional flare-ups of violence from Arabs revolting against British colonial rule and the favoritism the British showed to the Jewish settlers. The Zionists likened those threats to the antisemitic threats Jews have faced for thousands of years, but in the IDF Israel built a force to counter any threat -- a force which they repeatedly used, sometimes with cause, oftentimes without.

The Palestinian view of this history was different, rooted in the tolerant traditions of the Ottoman Empire and its Arabic predecessors. In this perhaps idealized world Jews, Christians, and the majority Muslims lived in relative harmony. Throughout the 19th century the Ottoman Empire was repeatedly stressed by European powers, chipping off major pieces especially in the Balkans and forcing capitulations -- grants of special prerogatives within Ottoman territory, such as for the protection of Christian communities and churches in Lebanon and Palestine. During the World War of 1914-17, Great Britain conspired with the Hashemite Sherif of Mecca to foment an Arab revolt as part of the war against the Ottomans, promising Arab independence after the war. At the same time, Britain secretly agreed with France and Russia to divvy up the Ottoman lands, while Britain also made a commitment to the Zionist Congress to sponsor a "Jewish Homeland" in Palestine. Following the war the Palestinians found themselves under British rule, denied independence and self-determination, while the land was opened to massive Zionist immigration. This was tolerated at first -- Jews had lived in Palestine going back well before the advent of Islam and had always been tolerated by Muslim rulers (although often not by Christian rulers, both in the Roman and Crusader periods) -- but the new Jews came not as immigrants to a Palestinian/Arab state/culture but as foreign colonial settlers whose aim was to displace the natives and set up their own distinct and exclusive culture, economy, and state. This led to various conflicts, ultimately the 1937-39 revolt which Britain with the aid of the Zionist militia put down savagely.

The Palestinians opposed partition in 1947. Jews were still a minority of the overall population (35%), so an integral democratic Palestine would have been predominantly Arab, which would have protected their rights. Partition, on the other hand, would split their population into two separate pieces, one a 40% minority in a Jewish-dominated state, the other a large majority, but in a smaller territory. Transfer, which was not officially part of the UN plan but had been on the Zionist agenda since the 1937 proposal, would uproot large numbers of Palestinians. The subsequent war, with Israel pushing far beyond the boundaries of the UN plan, was a disaster for the Palestinians. The main effect of the entrance of other Arab states in the war was for Transjordan to capture and annex the West Bank and East Jerusalem, denying the Palestinians any state of their own. (Transjordan had had secret discussions with Israeli leaders as well as with Britain on this subject. Transjordan's military was led by a British officer.)

The Palestinians remember 1948 as al-nakba, the disaster, but their situation didn't improve afterwards. Non-Jews who stayed in Israel were granted citizenship in 1952 but remained under strict military rule until 1967. Israel confiscated the lands of refugees and prevented them from returning. When refugees attempted to return on their own, Israel arrested them and launched punitive attacks on neighboring villages. (Ariel Sharon's first claim to fame was in leading a particularly bloody reprisal raid on Al-Qibya in Jordan.) Only Jordan offered citizenship to Palestinians, which until 1990 encouraged Israeli politicians to argue that Jordan should be the proper representative of and homeland for the Palestinians. Other Arab nations kept the refugees in squalid camps as a reminder of Israel's obligations. Israel instituted military rule in the West Bank and Gaza following the 1967 war. Israel's 1967 annexation of East Jerusalem did not extend citizenship to its Palestinian residents: they were given non-citizen residency permits, which would be revoked if they left, effectively making them prisoners. After 1967 Israel started building settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. The network of settlements, connected with "Jewish-only" roads, isolated Palestinian villages, confiscated land and water resources, undermining Palestine's agricultural economy. Israel's legal system in the occupied territories was designed to tightly control the population. Also after 1967 the PLO worked to organize a guerrilla war against Israel from bases in neighboring countries. Given the threat of further Israeli attacks, Jordan moved to crush the PLO in 1969. Syria also expelled the PLO. Israel itself invaded Lebanon in 1982, resulting in the expulsion of the PLO from the region, effectively ending any prospects for PLO armed resistance, but also leading to massacres of defenseless Palestinians in the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps. The Intifada of 1989 was met with greater restrictions, including an effort to isolate the Palestinian economy, resulting in lower living standards. The Intifada of 2001 was met even more brutally.

Palestinians have had many different views of their tragedy, and have tried many different tactics -- but none have proven effective. There have always been Palestinians who believe that the only real solution is to expel the Israelis, much as the Algerians expelled the French, or even as Saladin defeated the Crusaders. On the other hand, there have always been Palestinians who recall Islam's long history of tolerance toward Jews and Christians and who appreciate the value of a diverse society, consistent with modern ideals of international law, human rights, self-determination, and democratic governance. In between there have been many other approaches -- one of the most prominent has been a nationalism that rather closely parallels Zionist nationalism, especially in its paranoia. But the practical shortcomings of their past views have left Palestinians relatively open-minded: show them an approach that actually does the right thing -- that satisfies their sense of justice moving forward, that delivers freedom, security and rights -- and you'll win their hearts.

There are two problems in doing that: one is the vicious cycle of dominance, repression, revolt and fear that subsumes thinking in Israeli politics; the other is the practical indifference of the rest of the world to what has become the 20th century's longest-running horror show. The tendency to view the conflict as between Israel and the Palestinians conveniently obscure how much responsibility belongs elsewhere. The League of Nations created the Palestine mandate as a continuation of Europe's legacy of colonialism, in stark contrast to the Wilsonian rhetoric of self-determination that supposedly inspired the creation of the League. The result was that after 1920 every Arab country except for Saudi Arabia was effectively under the thumb of one European imperial power or another, setting the stage for revolt. Great Britain administered the mandate much as it did all of its other colonies, through a policy of divide-and-conquer that set Jews and Arabs in opposition. The idea of partition was Britain's, same as they did disastrously in Ireland and India. The upsurge of antisemitism that drove Jews to Palestine was rarely questioned or checked by western countries, with the US choking off its immigration policy in 1923. The UN plan to partition Palestine was approved by nations ranging from the US to the Soviet Union in a gesture that was meant to sympathize with the victims and survivors of Nazi genocide, but a gesture that paid no attention to the realities of a sorely divided Palestine. Britain made no effort to implement the terms of the partition, and the UN made no effort to keep the peace, leaving the region open to civil war. Numerous UN resolutions on the refugees and subsequent wars and border incidents were never enforced -- in later years the US, having found Israel to be a useful tool in its "cold war" struggle with the Soviet Union, came to routinely veto resolutions counter to Israel's positions, effectively giving Israel a blank check to ignore international law and world opinion.

Peace Plans Come and Go

The closest Israel ever got to negotiating a peace agreement with Palestinians was at Taba in 2001, before Prime Minister Ehud Barak pulled the plug on the negotiations and lost his post to Ariel Sharon. The Taba negotiating teams continued to meet in secret and eventually reached an agreement, now known as the Geneva Accords. The agreement proposed a set of land swaps so that Israel could maintain most of its settlement blocks, along with a complicated division of East Jerusalem. The sovereignty of the resulting Palestinian state would be limited by various security considerations. Refugees would not be permitted to return to Israel, but would be free to enter the new Palestinian state. This agreement was far short of what Palestinians had a right to expect based on UN resolutions and international law. On the other hand, it was summarily dismissed by Sharon, had little popular support in Israel, and did not gain any significant support internationally.

Following the failure of the Oslo Peace Process negotiations under Barak and Yassir Arafat, many other peace plan proposals have been put forth. Crown Prince Abdallah of Saudi Arabia proposed that all Arab nations completely normalize relations with Israel if Israel would simply pull back to its 1967 (Green Line) borders. Abdallah obtained unanimous support for his plan by the Arab League but, despite his frequent visits to George W. Bush's Texas ranch, neither the U.S. nor Israel acknowledged the plan. The only proposal that received any recognition at all was the Roadmap -- sponsored by the US, EU, Russia and UN (the Quartet), it called for armed resistance to end now, and for some sort of agreement to be negotiated eventually between Israel and Palestinian representatives. Even so, Sharon only approved the plan with a long list of reservations, and little fear that any of the Quartet powers would put any practical pressure on Israel. Meanwhile, Sharon builds an illegal "security fence" deep into Palestinian territory in a scarcely challenged effort to impose a unilateral "settlement" which would box most of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem into the world's largest ghetto.

In the absence of a determined international effort to constrain Israel, it is likely that Sharon will succeed in the sense of adding major Israeli settlement areas in the West Bank and Jerusalem to Israel, maintaining security control over the West Bank and Gaza, continuing to exclude Palestinian non-citizens from political and human rights. This will be done at a cost to Israel: occasional bouts of armed resistance, widespread disdain from most people around the world, a probable increase in worldwide antisemitism. Not challenging Israel will also cost the U.S., Europe, and much of the rest of the world. Most obviously, Israel's injustices will continue to inspire jihadist violence, and much more commonly will reinforce political opposition to the U.S. and others believed to be supportive of Israel. Perhaps more important in the long run, failure to challenge Israel undermines international law, showing it and the the world powers to be toothless, hypocritical, and deceitful.

Step One: International Unity

The first step toward solving the problems posed by Israel and Palestine is for the international community to reach a united understanding on a viable course of action, then support it with adequate resources. One problem is that as long as we view the conflict as a local one, to be solved locally, we encourage both sides to think in terms of zero sum games -- i.e., that the only way one side can gain is at the expense of the other. The world community can bring resources into the conflict that can help to solve problems beneficially for both sides. The simplest and most obvious such resource is money, but skills, know-how, stability, and military deterrence are other such resources.

In coming to a united understanding, we must be clear on what is possible and what is not possible. For starters, any plan to militarily intimidate Israel to impose a settlement is unworkable. Even if Israel were not one of the world's most imposing military powers, the sheer destruction of war would do more damage than any reconstruction could hope to compensate for. (This is a lesson that the U.S. tragically failed to recognize before invading Iraq.)

We have to match the possible solutions to the conflict against the practical limits that public opinion imposes. But we also have to produce results that satisfy the basic requirements of all of the concerned peoples. For the Palestinians, this means that they must wind up living in nations where they enjoy full political and human rights with economic opportunity for all. For the Israelis, this means that their state must remain demographically Jewish, and that such a state be recognized and at peace with the rest of the world. The latter point imposes two strict limits on our options: 1) it means that Israel cannot be expected to accept the return of any significant number of Palestinian refugees, so other arrangements have to be made to satisfy their rights; 2) it means that Israel will not permit Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza to gain full citizenship within Israel, so Israel must give up control of the West Bank and Gaza in order to secure the rights of all people living there under a new democratic state; 3) while polling indicates that many Israelis would willingly give up the West Bank and Gaza if doing so would result in a peaceful, secure resolution, far fewer Israelis are willing to give up any part of Jerusalem, especially given that a majority of the actual population of what was formerly East Jerusalem is now Jewish. Each of these points make it harder to satisfy the legitimate demands and needs of the Palestinians.

The question of how to accomplish a fair and viable resolution will be addressed stepwise in the balance of this document. The one point that needs to be made here is that the critical path step is for Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories. To do this will require a united effort on the world's nations and international organizations such as the U.N. Unity is necessary not just to raise sufficient resources to tip the conflict into something resolvable. Unity is necessary because Israel is likely to need a credible threat to its economic livelihood if it chooses not to submit to international demands. Such a threat would not be credible if Israel could count on important allies -- most of all the U.S. -- to cover for its losses.

The question of how to form this political unity is large and cannot be addressed here. Suffice it to say that without unity this approach will not work. And without this or a similar program imposed from outside, the only political body that can possibly resolve the conflict would be an initiative from Israel itself, which appears to be politically impossible. If Israel is left on its present course the conflict will be left to fester forever, a living testament to inequity and injustice and the inability of the world powers to live up to any sort of democratic, peaceful, humanitarian ideals. So for now I'm finessing the tough question of how to achieve unity with the assertion that it has to happen otherwise the future is hopeless. But it is, and recognizing that will move us toward the required unity.

Unity is not just a question of consent. Unity needs to be assured and demonstrated. Since the critical path is for Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories, we need to be able to convince Israel that withdrawal will not jeopardize legitimate concerns such as the security of its citizens. We recognize that Israel has a democratically elected government which legitimately reflects the preferences of the people who live within its 1967 borders. And we expect all of the world's nations to respect that, which includes recognition of Israel and its 1967 borders, and a promise that any remaining disputes that nations may have with Israel will resolved in good faith without recourse to war, subversion or violence. Moreover, all nations should be secure against individual acts of terrorism, and all nations should collaborate in investigating and bringing to justice all individuals involved in such acts. We recognize that Israel has real and legitimate concerns about terrorism, especially arising within the occupied territories that we demand they withdraw from, so we need to incur an obligation to make extraordinary efforts to protect Israel from terrorism once they withdraw.

As such, international unity needs to develop two organizations which must be in place and ready to act before Israel withdraws:

  1. There needs to be an international security force ready to deploy in the occupied territories when Israel withdraws. Once this happens, the international security force is responsible for maintaining border security with Israel, for investigating any alleged acts of terrorism, and for coordinating with Israel and other countries to make sure that any such acts are punished. This is a necessary promise to Israel, and must be established as credible before we can expect withdrawal. The force needs to be part of a larger organization that will provide technical and legal expertise for reconstruction and dealing with the refugee crisis.

  2. There needs to be a large fund available for financing the reconstruction and refugee efforts. The fund can also be used to indemnify Israelis against any terrorist acts that originate outside of Israel's area of control and manage to slip through the security forces. In the event any such acts occur, this will provide a means of recourse other than Israel's usual practice of retaliation, which would be considered an act of war. (Note that Israelis will not be indemnified against acts of terror that originate within Israel's area of control.)

These steps provide the basis for a credible ultimatum to Israel. Without them and a firm unified resolve to stay the course Israel will have little more reason to take these proposals seriously than they've shown regarding the Road Map.

Step Two: Confronting Israel

Once unity prevails and these two organizations are formed the world community will be ready to confront Israel. This should be done through a U.N. Security Council resolution, with the force of international law, which specifies a specific set of acts by Israel and a set of penalties if Israel fails to comply. The date on which this resolution is passed starts a clock which is used to trigger penalties for non-compliance.

The actions demanded of Israel are as follows:

  1. Israel is given six months from the start date to develop a plan accepted by the international community to withdraw all of its forces from Gaza and the West Bank, excluding Jerusalem, and turn those territories over to the international security force, which will proceed to organize them into an independent state of Palestine. Israel is further required to cede a secure corridor for ground transportation (rail and auto) between Gaza and the West Bank. Israel is not required to remove any settlements or settlers: any settlers who choose to stay in their homes will become full citizens of Palestine, but will no longer be subject to or have any interest in Israel.

  2. Israel will be given a choice of two options for resolving sovereignty over annexed East Jerusalem. The first option is that Israel may ask the U.N. to manage a plebiscite in East Jerusalem to decide whether the city should be permanently annexed by Israel or turned over to Palestine. The voting would take place three months after complete withdrawal by Israel from Gaza and the West Bank. The only people eligible to vote in this election are the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, which have a distinct legal status within Israel. If these voters opt to stay within Israel, the world community will recognize annexed East Jerusalem as within of Israel's legitimate borders. If not, Israel will have an additional three months after the election to withdraw from East Jerusalem and turn the city over to the international security force.

  3. Israel will be granted six months following the resolution of Jerusalem to negotiate with Syria a mutually acceptable withdrawal of Israel's forces from the Golan Heights with sovereignty returned to Syria. If Israel and Syria fail to do so, the dispute will be referred to the World Court for binding arbitration. If Israel fails to accept and implement this arbitration, it will be subject to the same penalties as apply to the previous steps.

Israel will not be required to accept any refugees or to contribute anything to compensating refugees. Terror indemnification and security guarantees will remain in place for a minimum of five years after creation of a Palestinian state, and may be extended as necessary. Secondary issues, such as water rights, are subject to negotiation between Israel and other concerned policies. The future relationship of Israel and Palestine is to be negotiated between sovereign and independent nations, and not to be prejudiced by these demands. Anything not specifically demanded of Israel at the time of the U.N. resolution is not subject to introduction at a later date and is not subject to penalties.

Permissible penalties include economic sanctions designed to isolate Israel's economy from the rest of the world. These may include freezing any Israeli assets abroad, as well as limits imposed on trade to and from Israel. Various incoming trade items may be exempted for humanitarian purposes, subject to inspection. There is no desire to starve Israel into compliance, or to withhold goods critical to public health. The intent is that the penalties should be as non-injurious as possible while still stimulating the desired behavior. The penalties are only determined by present behavior; they are not intended to punish previous behavior. No demands will be made of Israel for any sort of reparations, even for the resettlement of refugees or compensation for expropriated property.

Israel will be under no threat of arms, although the world community reserves the right to respond to Israeli resistance under two conditions: 1) if Israel militarily attacks any other country, the world reserves the right to respond in kind, up to and including use of nuclear weapons; 2) if Israel initiates a genocide against Palestinians under its control, the world reserves the right to take forceful action to halt any such genocide. The world can only undertake any such action subject to a subsequent U.N. Security Council resolution. We do not consider either condition to be at all likely.

The various time periods reflect the order in which various steps should be taken. The initial period gives the Israeli people some time to think about the changed situation and to adjust politically. The subsequent periods are deliberately short to emphasize the seriousness and urgency of resolution. Such time periods may be extended if there are good technical reasons to do so, but that depends on good will.

If Israel rejects these demands, the result will be the long-term isolation of Israel from the world economy, but that will be the limit of the penalties. In that case, resolution stops here, although it could start again if Israel were to decide to resume the process.

Step Three: Establishing Palestine

When Israel gives up from an occupied territory, it invites the international security force into that territory and withdraws from the territory. The new forces assume responsibility for security, while organizers start to establish civil government, local and nationwide. (The Palestinian Authority is an Israeli institution, so it is dissolved and replaced, although the replacement may be substantially similar.) The new Palestinian government will have its sovereignty limited in several respects:

  1. The international forces and their courts are responsible for border security and counterterrorism.

  2. Internationals will be responsible for enforcing strict standards against political corruption.

  3. There will be a bill of rights and an appeals court that can overrule any lower court ruling if that ruling is held to violate the bill of rights.

  4. Palestine will have no armed forces. It's security will be guaranteed by the international forces.

  5. Current residents of the occupied territories, including Israeli settlers, will be entitled to citizenship. Hebrew will be an official language, along with Arabic.

The world community feels entitled to limit Palestinian sovereignty in these ways because it will be the one responsible for freeing the occupied territories from Israeli control, and it will provide much of the economic assistance needed to reconstruct Palestine. These limits are partly meant to reassure Israel that ceding the occupied territories will enhance rather than threaten Israel's security, and partly meant to reassure the world community that Palestine will be a worthwhile investment -- at least in the sense that Palestine will be a pluralistic society based on equal rights. This may disappoint people who yearn for an Islamic state, but in several respects it is closer to the historic goals of Palestinian national movements, which have generally taken secular stands and included strong participation from Christians. In particular, this approach fits with Palestinians' historic rejection of partition schemes which would artificially divide Palestine into exclusive Jewish and non-Jewish nations. Any effort to establish an Islamic state in Palestine would reflect and reinforce the sectarian inequality of Israel. Although it's too late to put "One Palestine, Complete" back together again, the new Palestinian state should make a moral statement that such a result would have been worthwhile.

To do this, it is important that independent Palestine welcome a Jewish presence. In part, this is because Jews have lived in Palestine since well before the advent of Islam. In part, we wish to establish the principle that Jews are welcome to live anywhere, especially in predominantly Arabic-speaking lands. But this also provides an elegant way of dealing with the problems posed by Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. Such settlements are illegal -- Israel has no claim to them, and we wish not to weaken the law on this point. On the other hand, we also wish not to compound the injury by creating a new class of refugees. People should be entitled to continue to live in their established homes, even when the land underneath them changes nationality -- that is a fundamental aspect of the Palestinians' "right to return." Allowing settlers who wish to stay as citizens of the new Palestinian state satisfies these goals. The only problem is that as a practical matter it is likely that most settlers will choose to return to Israel. This can be dealt with by allowing settler property to change hands until it is ceded -- in effect, replacing Jews who wish not to stay with those willing to do so -- and by opening immigration quotas to Jews (not necessarily just from Israel) to compensate for any losses, or indeed to increase Jewish immigration.

There are many transitional issues that will need to be dealt with, such as the status of private property held by non-citizens of Palestine. In general, these issues will be left for resolution by the Palestinian government, not dictated by the world community. The intention is that the new Palestinian government will have complete sovereignty except in narrow areas as noted above. Over time, these limits may be reduced further, especially as fears are reduced by experience.

Step Four: Jerusalem

Within days following the June 1967 Israel moved to significantly expand and annex East Jerusalem. Ever since then, united Jerusalem has commonly been referred to inside Israel as its "permanent capital." Since 1967 there has been extensive Israeli settlement in the annexed Jerusalem area, such that today the majority of the population living there is Jewish. For these reasons, as well as the special role that Jerusalem has played in Jewish history and religion, most Israelis have come to think of East Jerusalem as distinct from the resolution of the West Bank and Gaza. We recognize that distinction both for tactical and strategic reasons. Nonetheless, we must emphasize that from the standpoint of international law the annexation and settlement of East Jerusalem by Israel is illegal.

The tactical reason is that we do not wish to muddy the issue of Israel withdrawing from the West Bank and Gaza by tying that decision to the more politically unpopular issue of Jerusalem. The strategic reason is that it may be advantageous to leave all of Jerusalem as part of Israel. However, this is not something that Israel alone can decide -- as stated above, Israel has no legal claim to East Jerusalem, and Israeli settlers who moved to East Jerusalem since 1967 have no legal rights on that basis. Therefore, the decision as to whether to legitimize the annexation of East Jerusalem, separating it legally from the new Palestine, can only be made by the legitimate residents of East Jerusalem, who reasonably do have a natural right to decide which nation they shall adhere to.

There are various reasons why Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem might prefer one outcome or another. In particular, Israel now and for the forseeable future offers significantly greater economic opportunities. On the other hand, those economic opportunities are unlikely to be persuasive unless the voters are given full citizenship and equal rights within Israel, which they have not received since 1967. Indeed, it is possible that Israel has treated the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem so badly over the years that no amount of politicking can change the outcome. But it is intriguing to consider the prospect: if Israel wishes to keep Jerusalem whole and legal they would have to make a sharp turn from past policies to a new set of policies sufficient to convince a large number of Palestinians that their future would be preferable with Israel. Such a "change of heart" on Israel's part would go a good ways toward long-term peaceful stabilization of the conflict.

If Palestinians in East Jerusalem choose to stay with Israel, this would be a small case of the "one state" solution. The main difference between the small case and the large case is that adding the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem to the population of Israel would not significantly shift Israel's demographics: Israel would remain an overwhelming Jewish nation. It is certainly true that Palestinians outside of Jerusalem would look unfavorably on a unified Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty, and indeed the loss of a major city like Jerusalem will be an economic hardship. But the long-term economic prospects for Palestine depend heavily on developing good relations with Israel. A mutually satisfactory Jerusalem solution promises to improve relations between the two countries, whereas a confrontational one does not. Likewise, even modest increases in the non-Jewish minority within Israel and the Jewish minority within Palestine are likely to improve relations.

Step Five: Refugees

Palestinian refugees, especially those going back to the 1947-49 war, have been victimized both by Israel's refusal to permit return to their homeland and by the U.N.'s inability to enforce its own resolutions on the subject. Those refugees have a valid legal claim either to be repatriated or to be compensated for their losses. That this victimization has occurred for such a long period of time, spanning several generations, only adds to the tragedy. Long-term residency in refugee camps has only served to deepen the problem, in many cases adding to the instability of the region and the intensity of the conflict. On the other hand, it is impossible to force Israel, or any other nation, to permit people to immigrate whom that nation prefers not to admit. Moreover, we should admit that Israel's reasons for refusing refugees the right of return have been rooted in past injustices against Jews that had been exacerbated by the unwillingness of many nations to permit the Jewish immigration. Moreover, Palestinians were not innocent in this, given that a major demand of Palestinian political leaders during the British Mandate period had been to limit or halt Jewish immigration to Palestine.

We wish to affirm that Palestinian refugees have a legal right of return. On the other hand, seeing that the practical prospects for return are negligible, the world community has an obligation to step in and do what it can to alleviate the problem. This will be done by providing generous compensation to refugees to resettle, and by lobbying all nations to accept the Palestinian immigration. People who accept this compensation will not be required to drop their legal claim to return to Israel, although they may have to sign a contract that states that their compensation will become a loan if/when they actually do return to Israel. From a practical standpoint, the legal claim may be worthless, since Israel will not be subject to penalties if it fails to honor the claim. The claim exists merely in case Israel changes its policies.

Like Israel, the new state of Palestine will not be required to accept refugees, although it will be urged to do so, like all other nations. There is no presumption that just because a refugee came from pre-1948 Palestine they must return to new Palestine.

One goal of the refugee resettlement program will be to close down the existing refugee camps and to discontinue the UNHCR program for Palestinian refugees. There may continue to be a registry of legal claims.

Palestinian refugees from the 1947-49 war and the post-1967 war and occupation are not the only refugee considerations that figure into the conflict. In many, perhaps most, cases Jewish immigrants to Israel or to pre-1948 Palestine should also be considered refugees. In many cases, Jews immigrated to Israel for lack of any other real alternative; especially in the pre-1945 period this may have been to escape from severe persecution, ultimately the Holocaust. In the post-1948 period many Jews immigrated to Israel from Arab countries, in cases like Iraq and Yemen almost totally emptying nations of their Jewish residents. In many cases their emigration was compelled and resulted in expropriation of their property. There is no practical way to undo the wrongs of the past, especially as we go back through many decades and several generations. However, it seems reasonable at this point to accept the general proposition that both Jews and Palestinians have historically been victims of such overwhelming injustices for so long that they should be accorded special rights in terms of their options to move to countries of their choice. This, of course, runs up against the rights of nations to refuse immigration, but it is still a point that should be given broad popular support throughout the world. At the very least, it is important for the security of Jews and Palestinians that at any time they should have ample options. In the future this sort of right might be generalized, but for the present the specific cases of Jews and Palestinians should be clear.

Work on resolving the refugee problem can start at any point along the timeline, including before the initial resolution. The item is included in this particular sequence because the full set of options is only known once the new Palestine has been established.

Step Six: Syria

In the June, 1967 war Israel invaded Egypt and Syria, occupying the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt and the Golan Heights in Syria. The common assumption ever since then was that Israel would eventually return those territories in exchange for a lasting peace agreement. In the case of Egypt, that happened in 1979. That has not yet happened with the Golan Heights, although negotiations in 1999 between Syria and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak reportedly came very close to just such an agreement. The Syrian situation is somewhat complicated by the fact that the Golan Heights are almost exclusively occupied by Israeli settlers at present, and that the territory has formally been annexed by Israel. However, both of those facts were true before the Barak negotiations, so presumably are not major sticking points.

U.N. Security Council resolutions following the 1967 war require that Israel return the conquered territory to Syria, and we reaffirm that. Other issues are harder to specify, including the status of settlers and refugees, security concerns, and water rights. These should be resolved by negotiations between the two nations, but if they fail to do so in a timely fashion, we propose that the dispute be arbitrated. If Israel rejects arbitration it will be subject to penalties as noted above. We further insist that Syria disclaim any plans or intentions to force the return of the territory, leaving the resolution to arbitration by the world community including penalties for non-compliance. If Syria refuses to do so, the world community may subject Syria to similar penalties.

The Syrian issue is considered to be less urgent than the new Palestinian state, and as such its position on the timeline is later. In actuality, this issue can be resolved at any time the two nations choose to do so.

A related issue is a border dispute between Israel and Lebanon, or perhaps between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon. I'm not sure what the details are, but this too needs to be squared away, perhaps by arbitration of the border and the introduction of international forces to police Lebanon's side of the border. It is in Lebanon's interest to participate in this because the international forces provide Lebanon with its best defense against the threat of Israeli retaliation over border disputes. The goal is to establish a fair border and cease fire from both sides.

Step Seven: Reconstruction

Political independence of Palestine is a step, not an endpoint. Peace will not be secure until Palestinians build a stable civil society and a prosperous economy. They start at a considerable disadvantage, in that their social, economic and political bonds have been profoundly damaged by Israeli occupation. It will not be possible to overcome such damage instantly, but we do need to quickly establish reasonable hopes for long-term progress. This will require substantial investments of aid and expertise, which need be budgeted for from the start.

In the short term, many projects will focus on rebuilding key infrastructure. Security barriers used by Israel to partition the occupied territories must be removed. Israeli settlements need to be integrated into Palestinian communities. (E.g., the Jewish-only roads that connect the settlements need to be integrated into the new Palestinian road system.) The transportation corridor between Gaza and the West Bank must be built. The seafront in Gaza should be developed, especially for shipping. The airport in Gaza should to be upgraded for international connections. Public utilities, including electricity and telecommunications, need to be expanded. Housing is a major need.

For the long term, major investments in education and public health will be critical. Palestine will be a small, densely populated country with sparse natural resources. Prospects for its economy depend on establishing high skill levels. This will take decades to reach fruition, which makes it all the more urgent to lay the foundation and spur the process. But these are just examples: primary control over the reconstruction budget should be left to the Palestinian people through their elected government.

Political strictures against corruption are an important part of Palestine's reconstruction program. Corruption wastes resources and perverts political planning and processes. The goal of these strictures is to establish that government is about public service and that those who work for government are indeed public servants. But the strictures also set expectations for how the private sector should deal with the Palestinian government. We expect honesty and transparency in all matters. The intended effect here is that the economic development of Palestine should proceed in a manner which satisfies a maximum cross-section of the Palestinian people, who can control this process through their election of representatives. There should be no special privileges for development approaches preferred by foreign powers, such as the "Washington Consensus" development approach of the IMF.

We cannot make any assumptions about cooperation with Israel, other than that neither Israel nor Palestine will be able to exert force upon the other. It is, however, quite possible that Israel will remain hostile to Palestine -- that the borders will be barricaded, trade and investment prohibited, key resources like water hoarded, cross-border environmental damage tolerated, etc. Palestine could also lose the economic engine of a major city if Jerusalem chooses to stay with Israel. World diplomatic efforts may help ameliorate Israeli hostility, but we cannot count on such efforts succeeding.

Issues will remain between Israel and Palestine that can only be decided by them mutually. Water is one such issue. Each nation normally enjoys rights to water on its land, but rivers flow from nation to nation, and normally most nations involved come to some sort of understanding about how such resources are to be managed. Air space is another such issue where joint management would be preferable to each nation restricting its own air space. But such issues depend on levels of cooperation that cannot be imposed externally.

View and Prospects

This peace plan is designed both to resolve the major outstanding conflicts between Israel, the Palestinians under occupation and exile, and their neighbors. It is also designed to facilitate better behavior moving forward: that Israel should show more respect for Palestinians and vice versa, and that the world community should redeem itself after many years of failure to bring peace and justice to the region. We make minimal demands on Israel, which are clearly in line with established international law. We make more extensive demands on Palestine and the Palestinian exiles, but these are justifiable given the investment that is clearly needed for reconstruction and reconciliation. We also make demands that the world community as a whole act constructively and cooperatively and put aside the normal pursuit of self-interest that warps so many efforts at aiding the so-called developing nations.

The political compromises in the peace plan are certain to draw opposition from diehards in all corners. The following sections try to anticipate most of these issues.

Views and Prospects: Palestine

The peace plan offers complete independence from Israel for Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank. East Jerusalem would remain with Israel only if a majority of its Palestinian residents chose that option. The resulting Palestinian state would be defended by international forces and largely rebuilt by contributions from the international community. The government would be limited in a few respects: there would be guarantees of basic human rights, and there would be strong limits against corruption. The purpose of these limits is to ensure that the government will remain accountable to its subjects.

The peace plan can be implemented without any formal Palestinian consent. We regard the Palestinian Authority as an Israeli political body, which will be formally dissolved on independence, with a new state constituted in its place. We also regard any acts of resistance against Israeli occupation, including acts of terrorism, as matters that have no effect or consequence on the peace plan. The key point here is that we will not allow extremist groups or individuals to sabotage the peace plan -- as they were able to undermine the Oslo Peace Process and the Road Map. The peace plan is not an agreement between Israel and Palestine. It is a clean handoff of territory from Israel to international forces, followed by a grant of independence, subject to certain limits, of that territory to its people. The result is two nations with a defined border, isolated pending subsequent negotiations (if any) between independent states.

Nonetheless, it would be helpful if Palestinians were to endorse this peace plan and take constructive steps, wherever possible, toward its realization. One such step would be to refrain from any violent or provocative acts, especially during the actual transfer. Better still would be to expose and isolate any group that takes a violent approach while the peace plan is making progress. We should encourage as much Palestinian participation in the planning for independence as is possible.

Once independence is achieved, Palestinians will participate in the democratic election of their government. Some aspects of the peace plan may draw criticism from Palestinians -- the possible loss of East Jerusalem, the rights of Israeli settlers to accept Palestinian citizenship, the lack of an option for refugees to return to Israel, maybe even the common desire for an Islamic state. We need to explain these limits carefully, and work with all critics who are willing to work within a democratic system. After independence, the greatest danger could come from anyone who resorts to violence -- against Israel, against Palestine, against the international forces.

The situation for Palestinians in exile is tougher, since the peace plan offers compensation but not return to Israel. This is softened a bit by the international community reaffirming that a right to return is just, and by offering compensation without signing off the right to return. But by leaving up to Israel the actual decision on each return case, and not threatening any further sanctions or penalties when Israel fails to honor the right of return, the right itself is toothless. This is likely to be unpopular, but it's not clear how unpopularity might hurt the program. All refugee issues will be settled on an individual basis. Those opposed to this settlement can hold out, perhaps indefinitely, but this is the only deal possible.

Views and Prospects: Israel

The peace plan offers Israel security against terrorism and war and an opportunity to normalize relations and raise its standing with the rest of the world. It also demands that Israel give up all territories seized in the 1967 war and occupied since then, and that Israel live in peace with its neighbors. We can expect widespread opposition within Israel to these demands. In large part, this is the consequence of a political faction in Israel which believes that the only answer to Israel's security and territorial ambitions is invincible military force. The peace plan opens up new options and can potentially revitalize those political groups within Israel who have long favored a "two nation" settlement based on return to the 1967 borders with sufficient security guarantees. We expect, therefore, that as the international community comes together in support of the peace plan, a similar movement in favor of the peace plan will gain ground in Israel. However, we do not expect that Israel will join the peace plan without a credible sanctions threat to back it up.

The comment on political factions within Israel merely points out that the Israeli people have it within their power to make this peace plan easier or harder on them. We wish to encourage Israel to make it easier. But we cannot insist on any particular regime or balance of power within Israel. The demands that the peace plan makes of Israel are strictly limited as above: to turn the occupied territories over to the international forces, to provide for safe transit between Gaza and the West Bank, and to refrain from attacking any other nation. These demands could be granted by a government that intends to keep an impregnable "iron wall" between Israel and Palestine, or by a government that wishes to work toward close long-term cooperation. As far as the peace plan is concerned, either result is acceptable.

The most probable scenario is that Israel will at first resist the peace plan, then at some later point will accede to it and quit the occupied territories. The resistance period may be long, involving extensive sanctions, or it may be short. Even after official resistance ends, significant numbers of Israelis will continue to resist unofficially, with many adopting nonviolent resistance tactics, especially when the occupied territories are finally handed over, and some possibly resisting violently. At present, many Israelis believe that their possession of other people's lands is justified by conquest, or perhaps even by the will of God, but such beliefs were formed at a time when such strategic allies of Israel as the U.S. never challenged them -- at least not effectively. It remains to be seen to what extent world opinion will move Israeli opinion.

The most critical period for Israeli opposition to the peace plan will be before international unity is reached. Israel's initial approach will no doubt be to continue what Sharon has been doing: to retrench Israel's settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem behind a "security fence" that locks Palestinians behind prison walls. This "fence" cuts deep into the West Bank; effectively it annexes parts of the West Bank. This will be presented as a fait accompli, justified by the Palestinians' alleged bloodthirst, and it will become accepted fact unless the international community takes a strong position against it, and counters with something like the present peace plan. Beyond this initial course, it isn't clear how else Israel may choose to resist. Realistically, the difference between Israel defying the peace plan and submitting to it is limited to the West Bank settlements -- are they worth more to Israel than the costs of sanctions and worldwide ostracism that keeping them would entail?

The most extreme forms of resistance would be for Israel to threaten war and/or genocide as a response to sanctions. There is very little chance that this would happen, especially if doing so would entail Israel attacking the United States. It is certainly the case that Palestinians in the occupied territories would suffer under sanctions, but it is unlikely that would constitute genocide, and possible that careful management of the sanctions will keep them from becoming debilitating.

More likely, Israel will attempt to negotiate some form of compromise, perhaps along the lines of the Geneva Accords, where there are territory swaps to keep border settlements with Israel, and a complex division of East Jerusalem rights and sovereignty. It's impossible to list all of the negotiation stances that may be possible. The main effect, and probable purpose, of opening up such negotiations would be to delay implementation of the peace plan. We should resist any such delaying tactics. We do not deny that the need for negotiations between Israel and Palestine once the latter has secured its independence.

Once Israel agrees to turn over the occupied territories, two significant questions will arise that will preoccupy public opinion in Israel. One is whether the settlers should stay with their homes and become Palestinian citizens or leave their homes and return to Israel. The other is whether and how Israel might mount a campaign to convince Palestinians in East Jerusalem to vote to join Israel instead of Palestine. These questions challenge basic assumptions of Zionism and are certain to be controversial. The peace plan doesn't care how Israel handles these issues, as long as the land is given up to the international forces as required by the plan.

Israel's policy, both in Sinai and most recently in Gaza, has been that when giving up settlements Israel forcibly moves the settlers to Israel and demolishes the settlements. This runs against the peace plan offer that settlements and settlers can stay, but is consistent with the Zionist belief that Jews are only safe within the Jewish state of Israel. The peace plan does not prohibit Israel from doing the same this time, but urges Israel to leave the settlements intact and allow the settlers to make their own decisions.

Views and Prospects: Arab Nations

It is important for all major Arab nations to support the letter and spirit of this peace plan. They must agree to abide by the security provisions, including forgoing any use of military force or any support for clandestine subversion or terrorism against Israel. They will in turn be given assurance of protection against unprovoked Israeli attack. For Egypt and Jordan, these assurances are unnecessary given the prior existence of peace treaties between them and Israel. Sections of the peace plan regarding Syria and Lebanon require explicit commitment by those countries.

The letter of the peace plan requires that nations behave in certain ways. The spirit of the peace plan goes further in urging nations to take further steps toward reconciliation and cooperation that cannot be dictated. In particular, upon successful implementation of this peace plan, we urge all nations, especially Israel's neighbors, to recognize the Israel as the legitimate government of its territory and people, and to normalize relations with Israel same as it does with any other peaceful nation. We also urge all nations, especially Israel's neighbors, to permit reasonable numbers of immigrants from Israel and Palestine and their respective diasporas, especially those displaced from past wars or the present peace plan. In particular, this should include an invitation to return to anyone who emigrated to Israel in the confusion following the 1948 war. International funds may be available to assist in any desired immigration.

Those Arab nations that currently include Palestinian refugee camps need to work with the international community to resolve as many refugee issues as possible. This particularly affects Lebanon, where Palestinian refugees have few rights and have frequently been entangled in civil war and domestic strife.

The peace plan is consistent enough with the current positions of most Arab states that we expect little opposition on the key points here. On the other hand, extremist political factions like Al-Qaeda are likely to continue their efforts to provoke war in the region. It is the united policy of the international community to marginalize any such efforts and to work together to prosecute any crimes such people commit.

Views and Prospects: United States

The United States is the critical nation in forming international unity to resolve this problem. This is partly because of the military and economic might of the United States, and partly because the U.S. has long maintained a uniquely supportive relationship with Israel. On the rare occasions when the U.S. has sought to steer Israel toward peace it has been uniquely successful. On many other occasions, U.S. protection and support of Israel has permitted and emboldened Israel to defy international opinion, including many U.N. resolutions. Even if all other nations in the world were to support the peace plan, Israel would be able to hold out indefinitely given U.S. support. So U.S. participation is absolutely essential to the plan's success. It is also the most difficult political hurdle the peace plan faces.

U.S. political support for Israel has remained rock solid at least since the 1960s, especially in Congress, which routinely trips over itself in a contest to see who can deliver the most lavish aid and the most emphatic resolutions on Israel's behalf. Part of this comes from a general feeling that most Americans have that Israel and the U.S. are fundamentally similar countries -- each based as a haven from oppression elsewhere, each built by settlers, each opposed by relatively primitive native populations who first had to be subdued in order for progress to be achieved. Part also comes from remembrance of the Holocaust and the resolve to never again to allow anti-semitism to rear its ugly head. And part comes from a widespread distaste that many Americans have for Arabs, for various reasons ranging from the difference in religion to Al-Qaeda terrorism. These three points resonate widely in the U.S., but they are relatively shallow reasons to justify such an unusual level of support for a nation that is in at least one way the polar opposite of the U.S. After all, America is a land formed from immigrants from all over the world, where at least in theory all are equal, including the Native Americans. On the other hand, Israel is a nation for one people to the exclusion of all others, including natives whose ancestors lived on the land for hundreds or thousands of years.

But more than these general issues, there are three politically influential groups that provide deep and passionate levels of support for Israel:

  1. The neoconservatives and their allies who support a strong defense and foreign policy establishment. These groups established a strong working relationship with Israel during the Cold War, especially after the 1967 war when Israel could demonstrate the superiority of U.S. armaments against Soviet-armed Egypt and Syria as a counterweight against U.S. losses in Vietnam. Israel proved to be willing to carry out clandestine U.S. operations like the Iran-Contra scandal. Following the Cold War Israel's usefulness to the U.S. waned, but neoconservatives greatly admired Israel's willingness to defy world opinion and flex its military might. The neoconservatives came into exceptional positions of power during the second Bush administration, where their Global War on Terror was inspired by Israel's model.

  2. Christian fundamentalists, who also gained an unprecedented level of power during the second Bush administration, have a deep affinity for Israel and especially Israel's settler movement. There are a number of reasons for this, the most peculiar being that many see the triumphal return of the Jews to the holy land as a necessary step toward the realization of the "end of times" prophecies in the Book of Revelation. As with the neocons, the fundamentalists don't merely support Israel -- they support the most militant anti-Arab factions within Israel.

  3. Most American Jews identify with Israel and offer blanket support for Israel's government, often regardless of political party or ideology. The Jewish population in the U.S. is small compared to the U.S. population as a whole, but many Jews are relatively affluent and influential, especially when they reinforce positions held by neocons and fundamentalists. It also matters that Jews mostly vote Democratic, whereas neocons and fundamentalists lean strongly toward the Republicans -- the effect is to form a bipartisan consensus that helps to choke out any political discussion contrary to Israel's positions.

These three groups amount to at most a small minority (maybe 25%) of the U.S. electorate, but they exercise exceptional power because they complement the broader prejudices noted above, and because there are no effective interest groups to counter their position. Effective lobby groups like AIPAC and an extensive propaganda network help to reinforce Israel's political position in the U.S. One aspect of this is an almost automatic instinct to attack anyone critical of Israel as anti-semitic.

I believe that the key to splitting this pro-Israel coalition is to separate the Jews and their liberal allies from the neocons and fundamentalists. Bush and the Republicans are deeply and perhaps hopelessly entwined with the latter groups, resulting in disastrous policies both domestically and worldwide. The neocons have led a fruitless Global War on Terror including a tragic effort to occupy Iraq. Uncritical support for Sharon quickly led to more strife and more terror within Israel and the occupied territories than had been seen in the previous 33 years. Israel's brutality alienated the rest of the world, and U.S. support for Israel undermined any hope that the U.S. might have had for sympathy and support from Arabs who themselves are the main targets of Al-Qaeda terrorism.

One reason I see hope here is that many U.S. Jews still try to defend Israel by arguing for a two-state solution with strong security guarantees to put a stop to terrorism. That is not Israel's position under Sharon and the Likud. That is the position of this peace plan. That is not something that Israel, even without Sharon, can attain on its own. That is something that a unified world community can make happen. The key to doing that is to persuade the U.S. to join in. American Jews can make that happen, not so much by their own political clout, but by stripping away the legitimacy that their blanket support of Israel gives to the neocons and fundamentalists -- groups who see Israel as a tool for advancing their own power, who have little if any actual interest in the well being of Jews. Take this legitimacy away and the much larger mass of Americans, who know little about the conflict but generally mean well, are most likely to follow.

The odds that Bush himself might follow aren't good, but he has on occasion temporarily wavered in his support of Israel. He has close ties to oil-rich Arab elites at a time when shortfalls in global oil production can cause much damage to the U.S. economy. The neocons have totally discredited themselves, with Iraq a lost cause and Iran a lost dream. His Global War on Terror is becoming a drag on the economy, and what he owes the fundamentalists has always taken a back seat to what he owes the rich. The U.S. is becoming increasingly isolated and increasingly impoverished; ultimately the U.S. will have to reconcile with a world that has grown relatively stronger in rejecting American leadership. But even if he doesn't shift, Bush will be an ex-president in 2005.

Views and Prospects: Europe and Elsewhere

The Roadmap was the first major effort of the world community to come together to help solve the conflict. Although sponsored by "the Quartet" -- the U.S., Europe, Russia, the U.N. -- it was largely an exercise by the U.S., who in any case was the only country with any hope of steering Israel toward peace. Its failure warns Europe, Russia, the rest of the world against depending on the U.S. to solve this problem. The next step is for Europe, Russia, and the rest of the world to renew their efforts, taking a leadership role this time. The peace plan depends first on their leadership, then second on them pressuring the U.S. to join them in finally resolving this conflict. They need to do so for many reasons, not least being the need to check America's tendency to wrecklessly go its own way.

The world faces a crossroads today. We are approaching tough limits in resources -- in land, water, fuel. We have produced immense wealth for a few, and stark poverty for many. We have disturbed the environment in ways we scarcely understand. We have never been packed more tightly together, more instantaneously connected. The global institutions that the U.S. led to create at the end of the World War have become corrupt and ineffective, yet they've never been needed more. In the next decade we will, by intent or default, take a fateful step. Either we figure out how to live together on a more modest, more equitable sustainable budget, or we break into isolated castles of great wealth surrounded by continents of bitter poverty. More simply put: peace or perpetual strife. Israel is either the last vestige of colonialism or the model for the future: a state surrounded by walls trying to stem the tide of its victims. And increasingly the U.S. is Israel writ large, ruled by an oligarchy walled off from the masses, projecting terrifying power all around an increasingly hostile world. The question is not which future works, least of all works best for us. The question is which future do we want to live in.

The Israel conflict is the crux of this future. Either we work together to solve it, or we let it continue to degenerate, as it has done so clearly ever since Sharon's rise to power. The peace plan detailed here offers hope of a just, equitable, stabilizing, and hopeful solution. The question is whether the world sees the problem clearly enough, and feels the need urgently enough, to make it work. The laissez faire solutions have all failed.

Change History

  1. 17 August 2005: Initial draft written.