Bryan Schwartz
Law Professor, Author of "Consoulation: A Musical Mediation"
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Time now for the diplomatic offensive

Israel should rush to present a sweeping reconstruction plan for Gaza and accept the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative

Israel is constantly on the defensive. It must respond to not only military threats, but political assaults such as the viciously defamatory BDS movement, the obsessive focus and perverse hectoring of the UN Human Rights Council (\with a “Goldstone II” ahead), and efforts by the Palestinian Authority to achieve statehood without reaching an agreement with Israel. .

Let Israel instead now initiate a massive diplomatic offensive.

The distinguished statesman and former IDF Chief of General Staff Shaoul Mofaz has developed a plan whereby Gaza would benefit from an enormous economic development package in return for demilitarization. Perhaps to that could be added fostering the emergence of a government in Gaza that accepts the existence of Israel and disavows terrorism. In any event, Israel could proactively and openly present a massive prosperity and reconstruction concept for Gaza… Israel can also take the opportunity to remind the world of the historic truth: that it pulled its settlers and troops out of Gaza in 2005 (and withdrew four settlements in the West Bank as well), hoping for peace and prosperity in Gaza, leaving thousands of greenhouses behind. Instead, it saw as a result the election of the openly and avowedly genocidal terrorist group Hamas, the greenhouses destroyed and indiscriminate rocket and other terrorist attacks on its citizens.

On Mid East peace generally, Israel could publicly accept the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative This could have an electrifying effect on the friendly neighbours and the wider world. The basis of the Arab proposal is land for peace, based on the 1967 borders, and a just resolution of the Palestinian refugee issue. Everyone on the inside knows that Prime Minister Netanyahu has already negotiated with the PA on the basis of the 1967 borders and land swaps. Much of this information has already been published in places such as The New Republic, yet it has achieved no resonance in world opinion. Israel is taking on all the negotiating risk of being so forthcoming — it is revealing concessions it is eventually prepared to make to the PA and the United States mediators — yet Israel gaining virtually none of benefit in international opinion. So Israel should, with appropriate clarifications, accept the Arab Peace Initiative in principle in a much more open and dramatic manner.

At the same time, Israel put forward the necessary understandings that accompany its acceptance. There must be adjustments in the border, and the Palestinians will receive compensation in a variety of ways, to be negotiated — land swaps, possible transportation link between the West Bank and Gaza, the designation of areas in Israel that can hold a referendum and choose for themselves whether they want to stay in Israel or join the new Palestinian State.

The issue of the just resolution of the Palestinian refugee issue is part of the Arab Peace Initiative. Let Israel pro-actively advance some paths to resolution. It can try to switch the focus from “you can’t all come to Israel” to realistic international efforts on finding a positive solution – a right of return to a Palestinian state, settlement with full citizenship for Palestinians in a variety of states in the area and beyond. The Clinton proposals from Camp David already set forth these ideas. Israel can here again can take the opportunity to state the historical record that is so badly understood. It can explain that Israel in fact has admitted hundreds of thousands of Arab refugees under its family reunification program. It can also make the world better aware that a huge part of its population is descended from Jews who were ethnically cleansed from the Arab world without compensation

Israel could also define the strategic arrangements it needs to be able to arrive at a definitive agreement based on the Arab Peace Initiative. Let the perceived problem shift from “Israel has to be forced to end its land grab” to the true issue which is “help Israel find ways that it can live in peace behind secure and recognized borders.” Concepts can involve the permanent demilitarization of the PA, the ability for at least some decades for Israel to station troops or detectors in Palestinian territory, at least for an interim period, and the re-establishment of control in Gaza by a Palestinian authority that accepts the existence of Israel and disavows terrorism…

Israel could take some of the “anti-settlement” venom off the table by various confidence building measures. These could include steps such as as closing settlements that are not authorized by Israel itself, curtailing activities in areas that by any reasonable estimate will not remain in Israel after a final agreement and perhaps some settlement freezes during periods of actual direct negotiations with the PA..

The foregoing proposals – presenting a vision of the future while providing the truth about the past — might all be rolled into a documented styled the “Israel Regional Peace and Prosperity Initiative.”

This initiative would not immediately lead to resolution of all or even some of the issues. But in the meantime, the massive diplomatic offensive could change the climate of world opinion. It could be so clear and dramatic that it would cut through all the anti-Israeli media bias It could shore up forces in the neighbour countries and around the world that want to support Israel and live in peace with it.

Imagine if Prime Minister Netanyahu were invited to a meeting of the Arab League to present his acceptance of the Arab peace proposal. Could there be a better chance, ever, to cut through the miasma of slander about Israel’s honour and intentions and to reinforce moderate forces in places like the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates? The formal and public articulation of ultimate objective, moreover, might make it easier for some, like the Palestinian Authority, to overcome their reluctance to accept interim measures that promote trust and cooperation pending a final outcome. Sooner or later, the proposals might result in legally binding and final peace agreement.
In the future, Israel’s enemies may acquire more effectively murderous weapons. Its diplomatic position might be weakened by the increased prominence of anti-Israel – in many cases, anti-Jewish – sentiment in both the left and right wing camps of the United States, Europe and beyond. Jihadist forces could make further advances in the region, even flipping Egypt back to Brotherhood control.

Right now, Israel has emerged from its combat with an outright anti-Jewish and avowedly genocidal enemy with a reaffirmation of the effectiveness of it armed forces and of the resolve of its determination of its people. Public confidence in the current government is high. Israel has, among its current crop of senior politicians and diplomats, a number of extraordinarily forceful and eloquent advocates, including its Prime Minister. An array of strong personalities within Israel, from a broad range of the political spectrum, might rally behind a proposal. Some of its neighbours would especially welcome rapprochement with Israel as they face the rise of jihadists in the region and the threat of a nuclear Iran

Another risk is that the United States will publicly put forward a framework agreement of its own that will undercut Israel’s ability to frame and present its own initiative, or that the Palestinian Authority will achieve broader recognition internationally without in return addressing Israel’s security needs.

Even if the will is there, it would take some time and diplomatic preparation for Israel to put together a comprehensive initiative, and the government has been intensely stressed and pre-occupied with the immediate crisis.

But if not soon – very soon — when?

Readers interested in more information about some the ideas here might wish to also see my article on “Israel Peace Initiative” in April 5, 2011, in the Winnipeg Jewish Review, and the independent and the far more significant release of “Israel Peace Initiative” proposal from forty highly distinguished Israelis on April 6, 2011.

About the Author
Bryan's Jewish-themed musical "Consoulation: A Musical Mediation" premiered in the Spring of of 2018; Bryan Schwartz graduated with a doctorate in law from Yale School and holds an endowed chair at the University of Manitoba Law School. He is the author or editor of over twenty books and collections of essays. He also created and helps to deliver an annual summer program at Hebrew University in Israeli law and society, now in its ninth year. . As a practising lawyer, Bryan has argued a number of cases at the Supreme Court of Canada, advised governments, and served as an arbitrator at the provincial, national and international level.