If, or more likely when, the Israel-Palestine peace talks run aground, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will lay out America's positions on the still-unresolved issues. This is the unanimous expectation of diplomatic pundits, and weak denials from Washington have done nothing to discourage it. Some American sources speak of the envisaged U.S. positions as "bridging proposals" designed to reconcile key Israeli and Palestinian positions.
Israeli peaceniks should be encouraging Mr. Kerry to do just that, at last. To make it clear to the parties and to the world how the U.S. believes the two-state solution can come into being.
Peaceniks should also urge this sincere and indefatigable statesman to take it one vital step further – and anchor his American proposals in a UN Security Council resolution.
The two-state solution is not enshrined in a binding UN resolution, much less the detailed means of achieving it. If it were, Israel's policies and actions (settlement-building, for instance) would be measurable, finally, in terms of its international obligations. And the Palestinian preparations for statehood, too, would also have to answer to international criteria.
Could Kerry get his American proposals through the Council, despite deep-seated Russian and Chinese recalcitrance? No doubt there would be quid pro quos around the world to negotiate with them. But if he did succeed it would be a major diplomatic accomplishment for America as well as a lasting, indeed historic boon for the prospects of permanent peace in this region.
I hasten to air this proposal at this premature, still hypothetical stage because, given the current legislative trends in the Knesset, calling for a UN resolution may become a crime, like calling on people not to buy settlement products. The UN, after all, is an NGO. It purports to promote peace and it is funded by foreign governments.
More importantly, what would a U.S. peace proposition contain? Predictably, Israeli anti-peace advocates in the government and beyond are already busy painting the anticipated American move in shades of black, recalling Lyndon Johnson's vision after the Six Day War of Israeli withdrawal and only tiny border alterations to the green line that then demarcated between Israel and Jordan.
In fact, today's American vision incorporates the central features of the 'Clinton Parameters' (2000) and the exchange of letters between President Bush and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (2004). Both of these documents accepted the principle of the large 'settlement blocks' remaining under Israeli sovereignty. Bush's text spoke of "new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers." It said it was "unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949."
President Bush, of course, never acknowledged the close similarity of his policy to that of his Democratic predecessor (which Israel, under Ehud Barak, had formally accepted). Nor has the Obama administration spoken much about the Bush-Sharon letters, which Sharon trumpeted as one of the highest high points in the annals of American-Israeli alliance.
Sharon was right. And if the same principles were expressed or even implied in a UNSC resolution, that would mark the highest point in Israel's international standing, certainly since Resolution 242 of 1967. For the Palestinians, too, it would mean international recognition and anticipation of their imminent independence.
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