With the sudden renewed talk about the possible relaunch of peace negotiations, it would be wise to do some more serious thinking about the lessons we should have learned from previous attempts.
There are no iron-clad guarantees of success of peace treaties between nations and peoples in conflict, even after years of negotiations between them. There are iron-clad guarantees that conflicts unresolved produce more suffering, death and destruction. Peacemaking carries risks; not making peace involves much greater risks. That is why I persist and insist that Israel and the Palestinians move back into peacemaking modes of operation, and why I have spent so much time and effort over the past decades trying to learn from the lessons of our earlier experiences and those from other conflict zones. Learning the lessons of the past means mainly figuring out how to de-risk future peace processes because the most fundamental aspect of renewing peace efforts must be placed on issues of life and death – individual security and national security, for both sides.
Individual security and national security must be mutual and the central core to any future agreement. Without security, there can be no agreement on any other issue.
This is the complete opposite of the zero-sum game – either both sides lose or both sides gain. For peace to be real, both sides have to ensure the security of their people and their nation. In my view, because of the centrality of security and the certainty that every other aspect of any agreement between the parties will rise or fall on this, there is no possibility to sub-contract security out to a third party. No foreign soldier should have to risk their life protecting our peace if Israelis and Palestinians are not willing to do this together. Israelis and Palestinians should not have to deposit their security in the hands of others.
Israel doesn’t trust the Palestinians to provide security for Israel, and nor should it. The Palestinian likewise have no trust in Israel promising to provide security for Palestine.
The only way to ensure a long-term presence of Israeli security technology and personnel across the border is for there to be joint Israeli-Palestinian security mechanisms.
The only way to ensure that any Israeli security apparatus remaining within the Palestinian state is not a continuation of the occupation is for that apparatus to become jointly controlled and operated. There must be joint command and control within specific geographic locations and with specific tasks. This does not replace the separate security personnel and mechanisms on each side. I am not suggesting merging the IDF with the Palestinian security forces nor disbanding it post-peace. The essence is that the primary cornerstone of the peace agreement is joint security obligations with detailed mechanisms.
These joint mechanisms will be especially crucial in Jerusalem – the capital of both states, which must remain an open city. A third party can assist in these mechanisms to resolve disputes and to ease their development, but the burden of security responsibility must be shared by both parties together.
Recognizing the regional threats, it would be wise to develop wider regional security mechanisms as well – first along the Jordan River between Israel, Palestine and Jordan.
Then along the Israel-Gaza-Sinai border – joint security mechanisms with the Egyptians and the Palestinians in Gaza (predicated of course on the understanding that no agreement will be implemented in Gaza unless the regime that controls Gaza is full party to that agreement).
The second most fundamental cornerstone of any future agreement is that making peace must involve the people and not just the governments. Translating that into reality on the ground means that peace must have a positive and real impact on people’s lives and that people must be engaged in peacemaking. The peace treaty must be directed toward enabling and encouraging people to work together, to trade, invest, study, research, to enjoy each other’s culture and more. Peace must mean building bridges and not more walls, fences and barbed wire.
Security arrangements at first may require that physical boundaries be built into the agreements, but there must be an agreed process for the removal of those barriers to the greatest extent possible and as soon as possible. The better the security reality over time, the more the walls can be lowered and the barriers removed. There will never be peace if people feel that they are living in cages, even if those cages are sovereign.
Included in the people-centered peace making must be directed efforts by the governments on both side to encourage and enhance a culture of peace and a determined fight against incitement and the culture of hatred.
After years of failed peace processes and non-implemented agreements, the entrenchment of hatred in both societies is very difficult to eradicate. The removal of threats and fear will be the first step in that direction. The governments have a lot of tools at their disposal to foster a culture of peace. It begins with leadership serving as an example and must follow through with the allocation of real resources for its success.
More lessons and principles for real peacemaking will following in the coming weeks.
The author is co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post and the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad Schalit. His book Freeing Gilad: the Secret Back Channel has been published by Kinneret Zmora Bitan in Hebrew and as The Negotiator: Freeing Gilad Schalit from Hamas by The Toby Press.