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Israelis and Palestinians have both suffered greatly from their long-standing and seemingly interminable conflict. For nearly a century, international leaders, diplomats, and scholars have debated the issues and attempted to resolve this conflict. The world has changed greatly during this period, as have the security challenges facing the Middle East. Many of the disputed issues have remained largely the same, and stubbornly intractable. The time has come to end the conflict, and unlock the vast human potential and economic opportunity that peace will bring to Israelis, Palestinians and the region as a whole. Over the decades, many proposals and ideas have been put forward, but elements of those plans were unachievable given the realities on the ground and in the broader Middle East. While no plan will give either side all of what it wants, what follows is our view of the best, most realistic and most achievable outcome for the parties.
Palestinians have aspirations that have not been realized, including self-determination, improvement of their standard of living, social betterment, and a respected place in the region, as well as among the nations of the world. Many Palestinians desire peace and recognize the enormous economic opportunities and social benefits that await them if relations with the State of Israel can be normalized. Gaza is a very complicated situation. It is under the control of Hamas, a terrorist organization, and, as a result of Hamas’ policies, is approaching a humanitarian crisis. It is time to help the Palestinians achieve a hopeful and prosperous future and enable them to join the community of nations.
The State of Israel has made peace with two of its neighbors. It made peace with the Arab Republic of Egypt in 1979 and it made peace with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 1994, two countries with which the State of Israel had fought multiple wars and numerous border skirmishes. The State of Israel has also exchanged sizeable territories for the sake of peace, as it did when it withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula in exchange for peace with the Arab Republic of Egypt. While Israeli citizens have suffered greatly as a result of violence and terrorism, Israelis still desire peace. These two peace agreements, now 40 and 25 years old, have endured and bettered the lives of citizens in Israel, Jordan and Egypt.
The conflict between the State of Israel and the Palestinians has kept other Arab countries from normalizing their relationships and jointly pursuing a stable, secure, and prosperous region. One reason for the intractability of this problem is the conflation of two separate conflicts: a territorial, security and refugee dispute between Israel and the Palestinians and a religious dispute between Israel and the Muslim world regarding control over places of religious significance. The absence of formal relations between Israel and most Muslim and Arab countries has only exacerbated the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. We believe that if more Muslim and Arab countries normalize relations with Israel it will help advance a just and fair resolution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, and prevent radicals from using this conflict to destabilize the region.
In 1993, the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization reached the first of several interim agreements, known collectively as the Oslo Accords.
Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, who signed the Oslo Accords and who in 1995 gave his life to the cause of peace, outlined in his last speech to the Israeli Knesset his vision regarding the ultimate resolution of the conflict. He envisioned Jerusalem remaining united under Israeli rule, the portions of the West Bank with large Jewish populations and the Jordan Valley being incorporated into Israel, and the remainder of the West Bank, along with Gaza, becoming subject to Palestinian civil autonomy in what he said would be something “less than a state.” Rabin’s vision was the basis upon which the Knesset approved the Oslo Accords, and it was not rejected by the Palestinian leadership at the time.
One of the most significant understandings within those agreements provided for security cooperation between the Israel Defense Forces (the “IDF”) and the Palestinian Authority Security Forces (the “PASF”). While not perfect, and subject to periodic disputes and even suspension, the security cooperation in recent years has greatly enhanced the stability of the West Bank for both Palestinian and Israeli residents. The ability of the IDF and the PASF to work cooperatively together provides hope that security challenges can be bridged in a final Israeli-Palestinian Peace Agreement.
The Oslo Accords, however, left numerous key issues unresolved pending the completion of permanent status negotiations, including, among other items, borders, security, refugees and Jerusalem. Those agreements did not create an effective path for neutralizing the kinds of crises that emerged during the implementation of Oslo, including waves of terror and violence. Many intelligent and dedicated people have devoted lifetimes in search of the “ultimate deal,” but what is required, a comprehensive agreement has been elusive, and waves of terror and violence have set back the process significantly. Only a comprehensive agreement, coupled with a strong economic plan for the Palestinians and others, has the capacity to bring lasting peace to the parties.
REALISTIC TWO-STATE SOLUTION
The principles set forth in this Vision for Peace, Prosperity and a Brighter Future (collectively, this “VISION”), are designed for the benefit of Palestinians, Israelis and the region as a whole. This Vision addresses today’s realities, and provides the Palestinians, who do not yet have a state, with a path to a dignified national life, respect, security and economic opportunity and, at the same time, safeguards Israel’s security.
A realistic solution would give the Palestinians all the power to govern themselves but not the powers to threaten Israel.
This necessarily entails the limitations of certain sovereign powers in the Palestinian areas (henceforth referred to as the
“Palestinian State”) such as maintenance of Israeli security responsibility and Israeli control of the airspace west of the Jordan River. This Vision creates a realistic Two-State solution in which a secure and prosperous State of Palestine is living peacefully alongside a secure and prosperous State of Israel in a secure and prosperous region.
Today, that concept seems so far from reality. Gaza and the West Bank are politically divided. Gaza is run by Hamas, a terror organization that has fired thousands of rockets at Israel and murdered hundreds of Israelis. In the West Bank, the
Palestinian Authority is plagued by failed institutions and endemic corruption. Its laws incentivize terrorism and Palestinian Authority controlled media and schools promote a culture of incitement. It is because of the lack of accountability and bad governance that billions of dollars have been squandered and investment is unable to flow into these areas to allow the Palestinians to thrive.
The Palestinians deserve a better future and this Vision can help them achieve that future. Palestinian leaders must embrace peace by recognizing Israel as the Jewish state, rejecting terrorism in all its forms, allowing for special arrangements that address Israel’s and the region’s vital security needs, building effective institutions and choosing pragmatic solutions. If these steps are taken and the criteria set forth in this Vision are satisfied, then the United States will support the establishment of a Palestinian State.
This Vision is security-focused, and provides both self-determination and significant economic opportunity for Palestinians. We believe that this design will enable this Vision to be successfully implemented. This Vision also provides positive benefits to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Arab Republic of Egypt and countries throughout the region.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR REGIONAL COOPERATION
The Middle East has gone through dramatic shifts since the beginning of this conflict. In confronting common threats and in pursuing common interests, previously unimaginable opportunities and alliances are emerging. The threats posed by Iran’s radical regime for example, have led to a new reality, where the State of Israel and its Arab neighbors now share increasingly similar perceptions of the threats to their security. If peace can be achieved, the economic and security cooperation between the State of Israel and its Arab neighbors can create a prosperous Middle East that is connected by a common desire for security and economic opportunity. If implemented, this Vision can lead to direct flights between the State of Israel and its neighbors, the transport of people and commerce and the unlocking of opportunities for millions of people to visit religious sites sacred to their faiths.
ECONOMIC VISION FOR A PROSPEROUS FUTURE
We developed a detailed economic vision for what the future for the Palestinians could be if there were peace. There has been a false notion that the lack of opportunity for the Palestinian people is Israel’s sole responsibility. Solving the final status issues, in the manner described in this Vision, would create the necessary conditions for investment to start flowing into the region. We estimate that combining this political solution with the economic vision for investments and government reforms that we have laid out will lead to historic economic growth. We estimate that the Palestinian GDP, which has been stagnant, could double in 10 years, create over 1 million new jobs, reduce the unemployment rate below 10 percent, and reduce the poverty rate by 50 percent. This plan is ready to be implemented in the event that peace can be made on terms consistent with this Vision.