White Paper – A New Paradigm for the Israeli-Palestinian Political Process:
Promoting Two States for Two People via Constructive Unilateralism with
January 6, 2012
Blue White Future (BWF) is an Israeli organization committed to a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the concept of Two States for Two People. We believe this arrangement best serves the interests of all inhabitants of the region, Jews and Arabs alike, and also best serves the goals of justice, self determination, security and stability. At present, processes leading to such a resolution are stalled. To break this impasse, BWF is proposing a new paradigm based on constructive unilateralism combined with political negotiations and active support from the international community.
The current situation
The turmoil in the Arab world and the Middle East generally illustrates how problematic it is to make predictions in the Middle East. Amidst these unprecedented and dramatic changes, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains stalemated. Meaningful negotiations in the foreseeable future appear highly unlikely.
The chances that negotiations under an internationally-promoted formula will yield substantial progress are very slim. This is because the parties are less likely now to reach the point to which Abbas and Olmert have gotten in 2008, and even in 2008 they have failed to reach a deal. Compared to the Abbas-Olmert attempt, the Israeli coalition is by far more hawkish, and, due to the turmoil in the Arab world, the Palestinian leadership can no longer rely on the support of the pragmatic Arab countries. The imminent collapse of an attempt to resume talks is likely to be more damaging to the future prospects of an agreement than the 2008 cessation of talks. Thus, the working hypothesis now should be that the parties will not reach a negotiated agreement in the near future.
At the same time, the status quo remains untenable. The situation has worsened in the course of the last fifteen years and the conflict appears more intractable than ever. There is ideological hardening on both sides. Time is running out for those who seek a secure, Jewish and democratic Israel within recognized boundaries alongside a demilitarized, independent Palestinian state.
For Israel, therefore, it is more critical than ever to mitigate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and carve out a reality of two states for two peoples. Absent a resolution of the conflict, and given the continued settlement activity and increased settler violence, even if condemned by the government, Israel faces growing international isolation which will affect its economy and its security to an unacceptable extent. A closer look at the essential national objectives of the Palestinians suggests that only little tangible benefit lies in yet one more international resolution on their behalf. Loss of Palestinian hope may lead to increased violence. Both sides stand to lose by continuing the status quo.
Since President Clinton’s parameters were articulated in late December 2000, numerous political initiatives designed to end the conflict have led to very similar solutions. That a settlement nonetheless remains elusive is disheartening but underscores the urgent need to construct a new paradigm for the process, one that will be more suitable and relevant to the current realities. This new paradigm should provide each party with hope and a sense of progress and accomplishment, and should not preclude, at an appropriate time, swift movement towards a negotiated agreement.
Different types of unilateralism
Unilateral moves by the parties have been strongly criticized in many arenas, and on occasion have been blamed for inflaming the conflict. However, there is a need to distinguish between constructive and destructive unilateral moves. This distinction is the basis of the new paradigm being proposed by Blue White Future.
A constructive unilateral move is a move by either party that helps to further the achievement of two states, and is in line with the two-state vision as described in the many blueprint proposals for a two state solution. A constructive unilateral move will not become an obstacle once the parties resume negotiations. Conversely, a destructive unilateral move is a move that is not in line with such vision, makes a reality of two-states more remote, and becomes an obstacle when the parties resume negotiations.
Unilateral moves are not new to the parties, but they have typically not been viewed as constructive. Had they been judged by this criterion, much of the controversy surrounding them would not have arisen.
A famous unilateral move was the Israeli disengagement from Gaza and Northern Samaria in 2005, which was generally applauded by the international community because it was in line with the two-state vision. At the same time, it was viewed as an obstacle by the Palestinians, because of the lack of coordination and context. Another example of constructive unilateralism is the Palestinian commitment for security enforcement in the west bank, sharply reducing terrorist activity in the area.
In contrast, settlement activity east of the security barrier is rightfully considered unilateral activity that does interfere with the implementation of a two state reality, and thus is destructive. Needless to say that rocket firing from Gaza is destructive.
Another interesting example for unilateral move is the Palestinians approach to the UN with a statehood bid, and other UN-affiliated organizations, such as UNESCO. These approaches were met with strong opposition from the US and a lukewarm response from the international community. The opposition, orchestrated by Israel, used the unilateral nature of the move as its central argument.
While it is true that this move was done out of context of any negotiations, it is obvious that under a two-state vision a Palestinian state will be created and it should be accepted into various forums of the international community. The Palestinian move is unilateral, but if and when the parties return to the negotiation table, the fact that the Palestinians have declared a state, and even that it received international recognition, should not in itself become an obstacle to progress in the negotiations.
Principles of the BWF paradigm
The underlying principle of the new paradigm calls for gradually creating a reality of two states by performing a series of gradual constructive unilateral steps.
Another characteristic of the proposal is that it does not preclude resumption of negotiations at any time by the parties. The negotiations option remains open and both sides acknowledge that a permanent status agreement can only be achieved through negotiations. However, until the conditions are ripe, the parties will move forward each on its own constructive accord.
The parties should strive to simultaneously move forward in the unilateral and bilateral tracks: trying to resume negotiations with the goal of reaching an agreement, while continuing with a unilateral process which does not depend on reciprocity and is based solely on each party’s decisions and interests with the support of the international community.
Finally, either party can implement the suggested model independently of the other, i.e. there is no need for mutual consent. Thus, it is in Israel’s interest to start creating a reality of two states, and it should do so on its own accord. The international community can provide invaluable assistance by embracing the BWF paradigm and encouraging the parties to act in accordance with it even before the parties themselves have done so.
Suggested steps for Israel
Israel should prepare for a reality of two states for two people, most notably by declaring that it does not have claims of sovereignty over most of the occupied territories, and by planning and acting accordingly, including preparing for the relocation of settlers residing east of the separation barrier to Israel proper. Specifically, its policy should include the following components:
- Israel should consistently strive for a permanent agreement according to the principles of the Clinton parameters and other like-minded proposals, while pursuing an unconditional track, independent of any progress that may take place through negotiations.
- Israel should refrain from building new settlements and from expanding existing settlements east of the separation barrier and in Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. Construction could continue in the settlement blocs and in the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem.
- Israel could consider transferring areas east of the barrier to Palestinian control in a gradual, monitored and supervised manner. [Note that this part requires coordination and therefore is optional].
- Israel should enact a law that allows for voluntary evacuation, compensation and eventual absorption of settlers presently residing on the eastern side of the security barrier, to encourage settlers who wish to relocate within the green line or within settlement blocs, regardless of whether an agreement with the Palestinians is concluded.
- Israel should prepare a national plan for the absorption of the settlers who would relocate to Israel proper, whether before or after an agreement is signed. Such a plan should have urban, vocational, social, psychological and other appropriate components.
By implementing the above steps, Israel would be demonstrating it does not view the areas east of the security barrier as part of Israel in the longer term. It can do so without compromising Israel’s security in any way.
There will be several audiences for this message, with certain emphases of the message provided to different constituencies:
- The international community – First and foremost, Israel may rebuild the trust that has been gravely damaged in the last few years, and will be relieved of political isolation.
- Palestinians – The message to the Palestinians will be twofold: first that Israel does not object to the concept of a Palestinian state, as it is taking steps to enable the establishment of such a state. However, by continuing construction in the settlement blocs Israel will also convey a message that it is preferable for all parties to return to negotiations, because the reality of two states might end up being such that the security fence will eventually become the border between the states. Moreover, the new paradigm may result in greater support by the international community for constructive unilateral steps taken by the Palestinians (see below).
- Israeli public – The Israeli public will hear a clear message from its government concerning its support for a two-state solution. It will also be an integral part of the process as it will be asked to provide the relocating settlers with a social safety net that will facilitate their absorption. The national absorption plan will call on the Israeli public to assist the settlers and to view them as “missionaries” who have accomplished their mission, a mission they were requested to undertake by numerous and varied Israeli governments. It is hoped that such activity will begin to mend the rifts that have divided Israeli society around the issues of settlements and settlers for decades.
- Settlers – The settlers will understand that Israel does not intend to claim sovereignty in the areas east of the security barrier. They would thus start thinking about their own future. It is expected that many settlers will take advantage of the voluntary relocation and compensation law.
Role of the international community
The international community can adopt the BWF paradigm even before the parties themselves. By adopting the distinction between constructive unilateralism (i.e., one that is in line with a two state vision and hence moves the parties closer to a two-state reality) and destructive unilateralism (one that creates obstacles to the two-state solution), the international community can decide to support specific unilateral steps taken by each of the parties. Thus, steps like the Palestinian bid for statehood and the Israeli disengagement from Gaza could be supported, but attacks from Gaza and settlement activity east of the security fence would be condemned.
In addition, the international community can serve as a motivator for the parties to move forward with constructive unilateralism while also preparing the conditions for a bilateral track. The international community can help promote the paradigm within the Palestinian authority, and also support the BWF efforts in Israel to encourage the Israeli government to embark on a proposed series of constructive steps. This will enable parallel progress, which in turn is more likely to bring the parties back to the negotiation table.
The BWF paradigm for the political process fosters constructive unilateralism in the Israeli-Palestinian context. It contemplates that both parties, as well as the international community, will embrace constructive unilateralism while rejecting destructive unilateralism. Furthermore, it calls for a dual track progress – a constructive unilateral track and a bilateral track. Such a paradigm can provide a way out of the currently deadlocked process and will benefit all parties. It is a way to revive the process until conditions are ripe and the parties can re-establish meaningful negotiations to enable them to achieve the desired goal of two states for two people.