Israeli peace activists are mourning the death of veteran peace activist Vivian Silver from Kibbutz Be’eri, who we now know was killed on October 7th. When I told my Palestinian colleague Ziad AbuZayyad about that, he said and we are mourning the death of many Palestinian professors and doctors in the Israeli bombing of Gaza. Enough is enough! We have more than fulfilled the Biblical injunction of an eye for an eye, many times over.
It’s time for a cease-fire. However after the October 7th massacre carried out by Islamic fundamentalist Hamas whose declared goal is the elimination of the State of Israel, no Israeli government could accept an unconditional cease-fire. Hamas would declare that a victory. Therefore a cease-fire has to come with conditions, a package deal.
1) Stop the Shooting and Return the Hostages
The first element would be to stop the shooting. This has to be accompanied by a return of all the Israeli hostages, perhaps an “all for all” arrangement with the release of all the Israeli hostages and all the Palestinian prisoners held in Israel, or at least the women, children and the elderly.
2) Remove the Hamas Leadership to Qatar
The second element would be an arrangement for the Hamas leadership to leave Gaza, perhaps to Qatar where many of the leaders already are. This should be based on the 1982 model of how Yasser Arafat and his PLO people were evacuated from Beirut and transferred their headquarters to Tunis.
3) An Interim International Regime for Gaza
Since no Israeli or American government can accept a situation where Hamas will continue to rule Gaza after the fighting stops, it will be necessary for a temporary international regime to be set in place. This could be a UN trusteeship similar to the one that was arranged for Cambodia in 1989, some type of international force or a temporary arrangement backed by the Americans, the EU and the moderate Sunni governments in the Arab League.
4) Eventually, a Rejuvenated PLO would rule Gaza
In the final analysis, it is clear that there has to be a Palestinian government in Gaza. The only candidate for that is the PLO-run Palestinian Authority. However, it is also clear that Mahmoud Abbas and the PA would not be ready to enter Gaza on the back of Israeli bayonets. That’s why an international interim arrangement is necessary.
Clearly the current Israeli government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, would not be ready to recommend such a proposal. Therefore it has to come from an international factor, the American government, the EU, The Arab League, the UN or a combination of factors.
President Biden Should Propose a Peace Plan
With the 2024 elections coming up, it is in President Biden’s interest to recommend such a proposal. He has demonstrated his welcome support for Israel’s right to exist and defend itself. However, in significant parts of the American electorate he is seen as not being sufficiently supportive of Palestine rights as well. He is losing the support of Arab Americans, who are particularly important in a swing state like Michigan and other locations. And he is also losing the support of progressive younger generation Democrats. As a strong advocate of a two-state solution, it is in Biden’s interest to promote such a cease-fire and package deal for the benefit of both the Israelis and the Palestinians. As Tom Friedman wrote in The New York Times, ‘It’s time for a Biden peace plan”: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/14/opinion/israel-war-biden.html
Despite Russia-Ukraine, America-China, the economy and the climate, the international community can no longer ignore the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Europe in particularly cannot afford another flow of Muslim refugees that could potentially destabilize their countries. And the Arab governments that have relations with Israel have to demonstrate to their people that they are also concerned with Palestinian rights. The same is true for the Israelis, who can no longer get by with just managing the conflict, or attempts at “economic peace”.
Reviving a Peace Process based on the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative
After such a cease-fire is arranged, it will be necessary to revive a diplomatic process which will lead to an end to the occupation and a two-state solution, based upon a 4-5% land swap which will include 80% of the settlers. The 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, in which all of the Arab states declared they would recognize Israel and establish normal relations with it after a Palestinian state is established in the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as its capital, together with an agreed upon solution for the refugee problem, should be the basis for such a solution. Unfortunately no Israeli government has every placed the proposal on its agenda. A two-state solution is still viable, if there will be a political will to carry it out.
A New Israeli Government and a Rejuvenated PLO
This will require a change in government in Israel, and a rejuvenation of the PLO which is the address for negotiations according to the Oslo Accords (Hamas is not a member of the PLO), the election of a younger leadership, perhaps Marwan Barghouti, who could become the Palestinian Nelson Mandela, as we look for an Israeli de Klerk.
Crises always create the possibility for new approaches, new policies. It’s time to end the fighting and to begin the quest for a resolution of the conflict.