How can Israel, Palestine return to a two-state solution? - opinion

A PALESTINIAN protests outside Jerusalem. The international community and some Israelis and Palestinians are once again talking about the two-state solution.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

As long as the leaders continue to speak about separation, I will not believe that their real intention is peace. Peace begins with engagement, not disengagement.

Due to its very diverse makeup, I don’t believe that the new government of Israel is capable of carrying out permanent-status negotiations with the Palestinians. I also don’t believe that the state of internal Palestinian affairs makes negotiations from their side possible. For some strange reason, the international community and some Israelis and Palestinians are once again talking about the two-state solution
It is not clear if this is still a viable solution, but for the sake of argument, let’s say it is. In order for us to be able to get back to realistic thinking regarding two states, there are a number of conditions that need to be met. The following are some of those conditions (not in order of importance – they are all important).
We need to change the vocabulary and the paradigm of peace. Once again, Israeli leaders are speaking about separation, divorce, disengagement, etc. We all remember “us here and them there.” This has never been a paradigm for peace. There will be no peace which is based on cement walls and barbed wire fences that prevent or limit contact between the people on both sides of the conflict. 
We do need effective measures for guaranteeing security, but peace will only be built though significant cross border cooperation. As long as the leaders continue to speak about separation, I will not believe that their real intention is peace. Peace begins with engagement, not disengagement. 
The only disengagement we need is the disengagement from the mentality and the reality of occupation. Throughout the Netanyahu years, there were processes leading to the deep disengagement that we have now, and everyone knows that it is not a reality of peace. Naftali Bennett, Yair Lapid, Esawi Frej and President Isaac Herzog have begun to reengage, and that is the right thing to do. Now it has to become the strategic choice of both official Israel and official Palestine.
There can be no Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for any solution unless the Palestinians put their own political house in order. Since its inception in 1994, I have never seen Palestinian governance weaker, less popular and more broken. The problem is not only the split between the West Bank and Gaza that might allow for separate negotiations for separate arrangements between the parties and Israel.
This in itself is very unlikely because not only did Israel and the PLO agree that the West Bank and Gaza are one unified political entity (which they clearly are not), the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank seems to be falling apart, and Hamas is certainly not yet prepared to negotiate directly with Israel (nor Israel with Hamas). Until there is political change in Palestine, it seems difficult to find the right leaders to negotiate with.
Once there is a strengthening of legitimate leadership in Palestine, hopefully elected by the people, the Palestinian side will need to come out strongly against the popular calls for anti-normalization. Yes, I agree that Palestinians should not normalize the occupation, they must resist occupation. But they must now seek engagement with Israel and Israelis that is aimed at building cross-border cooperation seeking peace, not occupation and status quo. This requires a new definition of anti-normalization. 
THE REDEFINITION should be defining actions that cooperate with the occupation or work toward its end. There must also be significant toning down of the anti-Israel rhetoric in Palestinian media. Even I have a difficult time listening and watching it because it is so full of hate. I understand where it comes from, but if we are going to renew some kind of peace process, then the process of making peace must be legitimized in public and the hate language needs to end. 
The same is required of reviewing and amending textbooks. Everyone knows that what we teach our children is what we really believe, so we need to determine how much we are really interested in making peace and then take action in our educational systems as well.
Any two-state solution will need to determine borders based on the Green Line. That means annexation to Israel of some of the settlement blocs and a territorial swap on a 1:1 basis. The discussion of territorial swaps to enable most of the settlers to remain where they are but under Israeli sovereignty must be established in an Israeli proposal of the land areas within Israel proper. The amount of available land inside of Israel will determine the scope of possible Israeli annexation of settlement blocs. 
The ball is in the Israeli court on coming up with a map. It could be based on the map that Ehud Olmert presented to Mahmoud Abbas in 2008, but I am quite sure that needs to be updated. Even with a maximum swap of some 5%-6% of the West Bank, it is likely that 80,000-100,000 Israeli settlers will still be outside of the annexed settlement blocs. There is a possibility that some of them will agree to relocate to Israel proper or to the annexed settlement blocs. But still tens of thousands of them will not. 
Here it will be in the Palestinian court to come up with proposals for either granting Palestinian citizenship to those Israelis, or permanent residence in Palestine. There will need to be a lot of discussions on the issue of the security for any Israelis who might become residents or citizens of Palestine. This will require discussions between Israel and Palestine and the international community, and of course, representatives of the settlers must also be at the table. 
It is hard to imagine that this could occur, but it is one of the conditions for even imagining a two-state solution. The idea of a Palestinian state without a Jewish minority has never been acceptable to me. As odd as it may seem, a Jewish minority in a Palestinian state will help us create real peace. Former Palestinian prime minister Dr. Salam Fayyad once said to me, “We will treat our Jewish citizens exactly as Israeli treats its Palestinian citizens.” To me, that sounds like a good catalyst for full equality in both states.
The writer is a political and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to the State of Israel and to peace between Israel and her neighbors. His latest book, In Pursuit of Peace in Israel and Palestine, was published by Vanderbilt University Press.

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