Mapping a Unilateral Path to Peace

Some interesting voices from the Israeli defense establishment are calling for unilateral action as a necessary primer to Israeli/Palestinian peace that began formerly on April 23rd with Ami Ayalon and company in a New York Times Op Ed; “Peace Without Partners:”

Ayalon and his partners,  Orni Petruschka and Gilead Sher, and their new organization; Blue White Future;, call for a “constructive unilateralism,” to move beyond the lack of trust on both sides that continues to squelch the momentum toward two states and a negotiated peace agreement.

Five weeks later at a conference at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv Defense Minister Ehud Barak reinforced the call by stating;

“On the peace process. We are 94 members of Knesset [in the coalition]. This is an opportunity to advance the peace process, an opportunity which may not repeat itself, in my opinion, in the next ten years. Waiting and inaction lead to the mere illusion of quiet. We’re on borrowed time. We will get stuck in a corner, or we’ll arrive at a wall, and we’ll pay a price… some people today prefer to settle in a coma…

Inaction is not an option.

We must try and achieve a comprehensive agreement; it is of the utmost importance. We must aim to discuss all of the core issues, putting an end to the conflict, and an end to mutual claims. If this appears to be impossible, we need to think of an interim agreement, and even unilateral actions.”

This occurred at INSS as a corollary to a paper by General, (Ret.) Shlomo Brom; “Israel-Palestine: Policy Alternatives Given the Infeasibility of Reaching a Final Status Agreement,” enunciating the opinion of INSS Director, Amos Yadlin, that Israeli progress is necessary even if formal negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis is currently impossible.

The constructive unilateralism referred to above is transformed into a process of “coordinated unilateralism,” that removes comparisons with South Lebanon and Gaza by outlining a process far short of two party negotiations that however creates “substantive steps, starting with meaningful signals of limiting and halting the settlement enterprise…and not being dependant on third parties.”

The response has been predictable. Hussein Ibish writes in Peter Beinart’s Blog; Open Zion in the Daily Beast that;

“There are unilateral steps both sides could take that are constructive, just not those that seem to prejudice the outcome of key issues.”

He then goes on to outline some steps not so dissimilar to the steps recommended by General Brom, but returns to the fundamental need for negotiations and not unilateralism.

Caroline Glick responds in her Jerusalem Post column;

“So according to Barak and his associates, to prevent Israel’s isolation by securing US support, Israel ought to ignore the lessons of the Lebanon withdrawal, the phony peace process with the PLO, and the withdrawal from Gaza and move full speed ahead with policies that will make it impossible to defend the country.”

While the left is against half measures that could gum up the works of a non-working peace process, the right is against any movement towards peace with a partner it deems unacceptable and in fact might instead underline the sentiment; build baby build!

But in 2012 in the midst of the continuing Arab revolution, with Iran busy firing up its centrifuges, Syria descending into civil war and the United States in an ugly election season it seems to me that half measures represent a way forward, (beyond an unsustainable status quo),  if serious people can simultaneously manage to create a process of governmental and popular bridge building that feeds the prospect of a return to negotiations and an understanding and acceptance of the concessions necessary on all sides to enable two ancient peoples to live in peace.


The words here represent the beliefs of the author and should not be construed as the policy of the Interfaith Community for Middle East Peace.


About the Author
Larry Snider is President of the Interfaith Community for Middle East Peace, an NGO based in Philadelphia that brings the faiths together to learn about and from each other and to build a new constituency for Middle East Peace.