Reports have been circulating over the course of the last few days that the true fear on Balfour Street (the Prime Minister’s Residence) about the speech US Secretary of State Kerry just gave was that his plan would be adopted by the Quartet, followed by adoption of his framework in the Security Council. Word has it that the seemingly disproportionate reactions to UNSC resolution spread by the Netanyahu administration were meant to stop that from happening. Now that we have heard the Kerry speech, the Israeli government should work day and night to get the Kerry Plan adopted by the Quartet and then by the United Nations Security Council.
For 70 years, we have been trying to get the world to solve the refugees problem and to make it clear that there will be no “right of return” for the Palestinians in a final peace agreement. Kerry’s plan was clear and specific. He said the US and other countries would help pay for the resettlement of the refugees and for compensation, and they would not return to Israel. The second part of his plan calls for the acceptance of Israel as the Jewish State, and according to Kerry, return of the refugees would endanger that.
Kerry also proposed that a key component of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement would be the end of conflict — which has been the impassioned plea of Israeli governments for a generation. He also called for peace between Israel and the entire Arab world, an initiative we all have desired. Yes, Kerry’s plan requires a return to 1967 borders (with adjustments based on what has happened since then), but that has been a condition of every peace agreement we have ever accepted and the Palestinians have not.
Finally, one area in Kerry’s proposal that makes many people uncomfortable is the sharing of Jerusalem, something that is partially a fact, anyway. Yes, losing sovereignty over any part of our holy city and ancient capital is painful, but for peace? Or, even minimally, in exchange for a Security Council Resolution stating that Palestinian refugees will be resettled elsewhere? Achieving that alone would be priceless.
Instead of our government attacking Kerry and Obama for daring to present such a pro-Israeli plan, they should give thanks. The diplomatic victory we could achieve by embracing the Kerry plan is enormous. In all likelihood, the Palestinians will choose rejection, once again. It is doubtful they are ready to agree, either to ‘no return of the refugees’ or to an ‘end of conflict’. If the Palestinians do reject the Kerry initiative, then we will appear to be the flexible partner; willing to go the extra mile for peace. If, in the improbable event that they accept, would peace be such a bad thing? Kerry’s plan may be irrelevant — and is clearly too late — but Israelis who are so enthusiastically counting down the days until the Trump Administration begins may one day regret ignoring a man who tried his best.