First, it should be established that the Palestinians most likely would not have pursued the ICC if it were not for the fact that they were forced into a corner by the Security Council’s refusal to accept their statehood bid, years of occupation, and of course the weak American response to Palestinian grievances. In addition, in no way are the Palestinians punishing the Israeli people by doing this. They are simply trying to provide leverage to themselves.
With this in mind, Israel should not be contemplating how to punish the Palestinians, but rather they should be wondering how they can better work with them. Israel needs to realize that the Palestinians have been taught for years through Israeli settlement building and occupation that they get near nothing from working with the Israelis. Unlike during Rabin’s administration, where he took concrete steps to show that Israel was serious about peace, Netanyahu has expanded settlements. During Olmert’s administration, despite his conciliatory approach, settlement expansion continued at even greater rates than under Netanyahu. How then can Israel expect to convince the Palestinians to not go to the ICC when for years they have been telling them through their actions that “good behavior” will get them only more occupation and suffering?
Therefore, Israel must take some immediate unilateral steps to improve the lives of the Palestinians in order to enhance the power of moderates in Palestinian society. Israel should take the following steps (not necessarily in any particular order):
1. Reverse the recent decision to cut off funds to the PA: This move by Israel only affirms the views of more pessimistic Palestinians that Israel cannot be trusted. This move will only embolden hardliners within Palestinian society who wish nothing more than eternal war with Israel until the Palestinians win by force (highly unlikely). In addition, if the PA becomes bankrupt or is low on funds, then the security cooperation with the PA which Israel relies on could very well be compromised. In addition, extremists would be more able to overthrow Abu Mazen, leading to potential catastrophe.
2. Immediately End Settlement Building-How can Israel expect the Palestinians to be willing peace partners if they continue to steal Palestinian land while they are negotiating with them? By doing this, Israel is causing the Palestinians to link negotiations and suffering. When this happens, hope lessens and extremists on both sides benefit. Israel needs to freeze permanently all settlement building including in East Jerusalem outside of certain parts of the old city and perhaps other parts. When this happens, Palestinians will be more content with negotiating with Israel. While of course people should be allowed to fix their homes, they should not be allowed to expand on them. In addition, if they want more hospitals, schools, and other buildings, then they should move to Israel proper or become Palestinian citizens.
3. End Subsidies for Settlements and Provide Subsidies to Live in Israel excluding the Territories: Israel should make it economically easier to live in Israel than in the West Bank. People living in the West Bank should have to pay higher taxes, whereas people living in Israel proper should be given tax cuts. In addition, settlers in the territories should be offered refunds for the housing they lived in and should be assisted in their move to Israel proper(less if they live in Israel proper).
4. Clear All Illegal Settlements-The IDF for years has been humiliated (it is their fault partly) by the expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank not even authorized by Israel!
5. Start to close down certain “legal” settlements: Settlements authorized by Israel are still not legal under international law. Settlements which can be closed down realistically should be gradually shut down and eventually removed.
6. In Ariel, start to let Palestinians move in: Ariel will probably involve some sort of dual citizenship situation or something of the sort. The reason for this is that Ariel is a city with a large population which threatens the contiguity of a future Palestinian state. Its presence was a major sticking point if not the only one between Ehud Olmert and Abu Mazen during their failed talks. Palestinians should be subsidized to live in this city so as to make it easier for it to eventually be either shared by Israel/Palestine, kept as an island city by Israel, annexed by Palestine, or some other solution.
7. Ease the blockade on Gaza: Gaza’s blockade should be limited strictly to military materials. In addition, a solution should be worked out with the Palestinians so that a third party monitors imports/exports.
8. Give Palestinians freedom of movement-The Palestinians should be allowed to move freely within the West Bank without checkpoints. There should be no designated spaces or areas of any kind for settlers only. In addition, an interim permit system should be set up where Israelis and Palestinians who pass a background check are allowed to move freely between Israel and the West Bank by simply scanning their ID cards or showing it at a checkpoint between Israel and the West Bank. Other reasonable security measures involving quick scans can take place.
9. Apologize -Israel and Palestine have a lot to apologize for to each other. However, Israel as the more powerful party can take the first step by apologizing for their part in legitimate Palestinian grievances–including in 1948.
10. Integrate Palestinian and Israeli Infrastructure- Schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, etc. should all operate under one network in the West Bank, not two. This will foster mutual understanding.
11. Improve Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel-The Occupation is easier to maintain when Arabs and Jews in Israel are separated in many areas, although they are integrated in some. Tolerance and mutual understanding needs to be taught in integrated Israeli and Palestinian schools.
If Israel takes these steps, then they will be praised around the globe and peace will be closer than before.