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Opinion

Opinion

Opinion: Israeli offers advice to Obama

March 12, 2013

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Israel, I fear, is on a suicidal path: It could cease to be the democratic home of the Jewish people.

This is why I greatly appreciate President Obama’s decision to come to Israel despite all the serious issues he faces in America. His visit could mark the beginning of a new era in the struggle to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Because it is crucial to make the most of it, I am taking the liberty of offering four suggestions to the president as he prepares for his trip.

First, he must avoid ambiguity. We Israelis appreciate direct talk. Overly positive or opaque pictures created deep disappointments for us in the 1990s. We understand that maintaining the status quo will lead us into the abyss. We also realize that guiding us away from the abyss will entail painful concessions. We need to be shown a clear picture of both the tough road and the better future ahead.

Second, he should espouse the following clear principles for the endgame: Two states for the two peoples with mutual recognition; borders based on the 1967 lines with equitable swaps to enable the settlement blocks to remain under Israeli sovereignty; Jerusalem should remain an open city, capital of two states, with Palestinian sovereignty over Arab neighborhoods, Israeli sovereignty over Jewish neighborhoods and a special shared regime for the administration and guardianship of the holy sites; a demilitarized Palestine with international guarantees of its security; Palestinian refugees returning only to the Palestinian state or resettling in third countries with compensation; declaration of end of conflict by all sides.

These principles are in line with the Clinton parameters, the Arab League peace initiative, the Geneva Accord and the proposal I put forward in 2002, with Palestinian scholar Sari Nusseibeh, that nearly half a million Israelis and Palestinians have signed.

Third, it’s important to make sure the parties talk about an agreement, not a process. Over the last 20 years, negotiations seemed to be the end, not the means. That approach has taken us further from the destination we seek. The famous “road map” is a case in point.

Fourth, Obama should adopt a new approach: constructive and coordinated unilateralism. This is not an oxymoron.

Bilateral negotiation is the only way to reach an agreement, but the U.S. should support any step, by Israel or the Palestinians, even if done unilaterally, that moves us closer to a reality of two states for the two people. And conversely, the U.S. should oppose any step that takes us further from this outcome.

A few examples: The United States should support the Palestinian statehood bid in the United Nations, to enable a discussion about borders between the two states. It should not object to the establishment of a Palestinian unity government of Fatah and Hamas, provided that government is based on the two-state vision. It should support Israel when and if it announces that it does not see its sovereignty being applied east of the security barrier, and when and if it enacts a voluntary evacuation and compensation law to encourage settlers to relocate from the West Bank.

I offer these ideas as an Israeli citizen, but I also strongly believe they are in America’s interest. A clear process that will lead to an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is a precondition for the creation of a regional coalition that will address Iran’s nuclear weapons program, and terrorism, violence, fundamentalism and nuclear proliferation throughout the Mideast. Rightly or wrongly, Obama’s ability to jump-start the peace process has become a test of his leadership in the eyes of many Israelis, Palestinians and Arab moderates.

Israel has won many battles to secure the Zionist dream of a democratic homeland for the Jewish people, but it seems to be losing the war. We need a two-state solution to fulfill this dream. Israel eagerly awaits Obama’s visit.

— Ami Ayalon is a former director of Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security agency, and a co-founder of the nonpartisan Israeli political organization, Blue White Future, www.bluewhitefuture.org. He wrote this for the Los Angeles Times.

Comments

IKU57 1 year, 1 month ago

Obama needs all the advice he can get, from anyone willing to give it to him considering the world thinks less of America now then in his first term. Do the world think less of America than when Bush was President?

http://www.politico.com/story/2013/03/world-poll-image-of-us-declines-88816.html?hp=l6

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jafs 1 year, 1 month ago

jhf.

From a quick search, it appears that your portrayal of Hamas is a bit off - they've agreed in principle to a 2 state solution, and are combined with Fatah, the more moderate group.

Also, they see Israel as an occupying force, and themselves as defending forces - a position I have a bit of sympathy for, and aren't willing to become "demilitarized" and thus incapable of self defense.

No state would willingly give up their right and ability to defend themselves - it's not natural. If Israel wants to "conquer" the Palestinians and then impose their conditions, that's one thing. But, they shouldn't expect to get the fruits of that sort of activity in negotiations.

And, of course, engaging in that obvious an attempt to wipe out the Palestinians would be risky.

I hope they figure something out, but I fear that they won't - it's similar to my feeling about our destruction of the natural environment.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 1 month ago

This is an excellent read on the situation in Israel/Palestine, primarily since 1948. As the title indicates, it's primarily about Israel, but it does a good job of covering pertinent details about what was happening contemporaneously with its Arab neighbors, as well as the US and European countries.

It's not a romanticized fluff piece of anyone involved in this saga, whether Arab, American or especially Israeli, so I don't expect that uncritical supporters of Israel such as jhawkins would ever read it, at least not with any degree of objectivity.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0374281041

Fortress Israel: The Inside Story of the Military Elite Who Run the Country--and Why They Can't Make Peace by Patrick Tyler

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Paul R Getto 1 year, 1 month ago

This is all about two things in the end. Water rights and the preservation of the phoney history that there actually was an Israel back in the day, ie. the Judeo-Christian tradition. Read this book....

"This work by Thompson is cranky in its own right as has been pointed out by others. He is dismissive of those who do not agree with him. However, to a large degree, his analysis has energized the discourse both scholarly and otherwise on the Bible and history."

http://www.amazon.com/Mythic-Past-Biblical-Archaeology-Israel/dp/0465006493/ref=la_B001IXRORU_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1363125324&sr=1-1

WARNING...it is scholarly and has no pictures.

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juma 1 year, 1 month ago

Fifth: If Israel wants to do what it wants then STOP taking (stealing) billions$$$ from the US taxpayer. Many years ago Arafat said there will only be a settlement when Israel stops acting like America's spoiled child. Agree that we cut ALL aid ASAP until Israel wakes up to the world.

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jafs 1 year, 1 month ago

There are a lot of good ideas here, and I applaud an Israeli for proposing them.

Buried in them, unfortunately, is this "demilitarized" Palestine idea. I might support it if we included a "demilitarized" Israel - anybody think Israel would go for that?

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 1 month ago

Very encouraging position-- but Israel has steadfastly refused to return to anything resembling the 1967 borders, and its current leadership would never accept that.

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Paul R Getto 1 year, 1 month ago

Well done, Sir and good points.

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