An examination of the Arab-Israeli conflict from a historical perspective and in light of current developments leads one to the clear conclusion that Israel is in need of a new diplomatic paradigm. Time is not on our side. "Managing" the conflict based on the concept of "more of the same" will not do. No interim arrangement featuring "a kind of Palestinian state on a portion of the territory of Judea and Samaria" will prevent the constant erosion of Israel's situation.
That is also the verdict with respect to the "Mofaz Plan," which continues to focus on the Palestinian issue, with the added element of "opening the road to diplomatic arrangements and regional peace," instead of thinking first about a regional framework.
The significant security dangers do not stem from the Palestinians or Syria, and Iran alone is subject to containment as well as deterrence. However, the continued basic hostility on the part of Islamic forces to our existence as a Jewish state and our exclusive control over Jerusalem's holy sites is thriving in Islamic regions and is fraught with long-term existential dangers.
As a result, forfeiting the limited bargaining chips that we are holding for an agreement only with the Palestinians and Syrians without concessions in relations with Islamists would be a historic mistake.
The Israeli peace plan must be shaped to meet the interests of the rulers of the moderate Arab states, as well as Asian Islamic states and the superpowers, led by the United States. It should be based on the Arab peace initiative but with changes.
The suggested paradigm includes readiness to withdraw from almost all of Judea and Samaria and the Golan Heights, along with land swaps and security arrangements. Israel would also agree to shared governance or functional division of sovereignty in parts of Jerusalem, while agreeing to priority status for a central Muslim authority at Islamic holy places and a Palestinian capital within the area of greater Jerusalem.
Israel will be ready to express sorrow over Palestinian suffering, without taking responsibility for it, and will contribute proportionally and symbolically to a comprehensive regional resolution in the Middle East and a comprehensive global solution to the refugee problem.
All of this would only come about in return for peace agreements with most of the Arab states, agreement which would be clearly reflected in reality through the presence, for example, of an Israeli embassy in Riyadh, a city which is an Islamic religious center, and where the puritanical Wahhabi sect of Islam developed.
This would constitute a major ideological-psychological and cultural-religious turning point in the conflict. Such a shift is worth far-reaching concessions on Israel's part. Anything less does not justify concessions unless one is speaking of interim stages on the path to a comprehensive Middle East peace.
The same conclusion is reached from a historical and procedural analysis. Arab-Muslim animosity against Israel is rooted in profound historic developments. The probability that such developments would change for the better on their own in the 21st century thanks to modernization, democratization and Westernization as well as economic interests and realpolitik alone is small.
It is very doubtful if a more localized agreement with the Palestinians and Syrians would on its own bring about the needed change, in that creating a change in direction of historical developments requires major intervention.
A two-state solution at one stage or another would be part of a comprehensive settlement. As part of a wider Middle East peace agreement, it has different significance and also ensures stable moderation on the part of the Palestinian state.
Perhaps it also will make possible the existence of Jewish communities within such a state.
Such a plan would push the Goldstone Commission report and the question of the candidacy of Mahmoud Abbas in the Palestinian elections to the side.
It would block the possibility that a declaration of the establishment of a Palestinian state would be accorded international recognition without Israel getting anything in return. It would also make efforts to deal with the Iranian nuclear program easier.
With respect to domestic considerations in Israel, a comprehensive peace plan would permit the building of a broad consensus on wide-ranging concessions in return for a clearly historic achievement which would shape the future and be accompanied by credible security arrangements.
There is no room for illusions. It is reasonable to assume that the 21st century will be full of violence, but we must make every effort that such violence doesn't actually strike our region. In any event, Israel must maintain its military strength, which can ensure its existence and permit it to prosper even in the face of continued conflict. Paradoxically, a clear showing of such capabilities will also advance peace and reinforce its stability.
Imagine what would happen if on the prime minister's next visit to Washington, he made a surprise presentation, without coordinating either with the United States or with his coalition partners, of a move toward peace similar to what is suggested here.
It would constitute a major historic turning point for the better. The matter is in our hands.
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