The peace process has failed again, and it's time for Israel's neighbors to shoulder the burden of dealing with the Palestinians.
- By Danny DanonDanny Danon is a member of the Knesset and formerly served as Israel's deputy minister of defense.
Yet another attempt to end the century-long conflict between the Palestinians and the Zionist movement has come to an end. Once again, Israel’s willingness to go the extra mile over the past nine months has been met with an unwillingness to budge by the Palestinians. Instead of putting forth a genuine effort to resolve this conflict, the Palestinians continuously issued new demands in return for the dubious concession of merely entering the negotiating room. They then essentially sabotaged U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s valiant efforts by entering a pact to form a new government with the terrorists of Hamas — instead of taking a chance on a peace accord with Israel.
Now is the time to take advantage of this latest failure and shift the paradigm of the conflict in a whole new direction. Since the 1993 Oslo Accords, the onus to resolve the plight of the Palestinians has fallen on Israel. We have engaged in umpteen rounds of negotiations with Palestinian representatives, negotiations that have not moved the two sides any closer to peaceful coexistence. In addition to direct negotiations, Israel also enacted a costly unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and attempted many times to use third-party negotiators to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough. These attempts were also met with failure.
There is no reason that Israel alone should shoulder this burden. Going forward, Jordan must become a full partner in negotiating the final status of the Palestinian Authority. Similarly, a regional agreement must be reached with Egypt recognizing the existing political reality since Israel completely withdrew all military and civilian installations from the Gaza Strip. There is no reason that, in the future, a resident of Ramallah should have to travel to Europe via Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport instead of flying out of Amman, or that Gaza’s electricity should be supplied by a power station in the Israeli city of Ashkelon instead of Egypt’s Rafah.
The relationships between the Palestinians and their Arab neighbors are strong and deep. The ties between the Arab residents of Judea and Samaria and the Jordanians are well documented. Similarly, the Arab residents of Gaza have always enjoyed a close relationship with Egypt. It is through Egypt that these Palestinians have historically furthered their education and conducted business with the international community.
Such an initiative would not be a return to the old "Jordan is Palestine" plan of earlier decades. We have no intention of forcing unwanted change on the Jordanian kingdom. We value our relationship with the Jordanian and Egyptian governments, and we work very closely with them on a variety of matters of mutual concern in our tumultuous region. The ties between our countries are so strong that we have been able to successfully weather breakdowns in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the regional instability of the Arab Spring, and even uncomfortable incidents such as the killing of a Jordanian judge at a border crossing this year.
Instead, it should be up to the Jordanians, Egyptians, and Palestinians — in agreement with Israel — to determine the final configuration of their joint entities. A number of possibilities exist that could allow all sides to maintain their own national identities while creating an umbrella framework that safeguards the interests of all parties involved.
It would be unwise at this point to publicly project the desired result of such negotiations. History has shown us that the most successful negotiations in our region occurred when the public was not aware in real time of the topics being discussed. Nevertheless, there are three main parameters that Israel insist on in such a process.
First, Israel must be a full partner in this dialogue. While it should be up to the Jordanians and Egyptians to formulate the exact nature of their relationship with the Palestinians, Israel has too many interests at play to be excluded from the negotiating room. Whether it’s regarding water and energy resources or general economic development, Israel’s involvement will serve not only our interests but has the potential to greatly benefit our regional neighbors as well.
Second, whatever agreement is reached regarding the political entity to be established in Judea and Samaria, it must be clear from the outset that any new entity that is created in the region between the Jordan River and Mediterranean will remain completely demilitarized. This includes, of course, the Gaza Strip, which now serves as a base for unending missile attacks on Israeli population centers. The security forces taxed with fighting terrorism and ensuring general law and order should be robust, but the number of security personnel and arms in this region must be closely monitored. We cannot allow a return in Judea and Samaria to the days of the Second Intifada, when Palestinian security officials turned against us — using the weapons we donated to them to attack our citizens.
Finally, while the mechanisms governing the flow of goods and populations across the Jordan River will be decided by the Palestinians and Jordanians, the Jordan Valley must remain fully under Israeli control — and Israeli security forces will need to retain an active presence at all border crossings. We cannot repeat the mistake of the Gaza disengagement, in which Israel left the border between Gaza and Egypt only to see it become the main smuggling route for missiles aimed our cities. Such a mistake this time would not only result in more rocket fire at Israeli population centers, but would also place strategic targets — like our only international airport — under direct threat.
After 20 years of failed attempts at reaching a two-state solution, now is the time to try something new. The Arab residents of Judea and Samaria may become full citizens of Jordan and Egypt, with voting rights, or instead the Jordanians and Egyptians may decide to set up some sort of loose confederations with the Palestinians. Either way, the Palestinians’ political aspirations will be met via Jordan and Egypt, not through Israel.
I realize that many experts today make the claim that the two-state solution is the only option on the table if we want to ensure that Israel will remain a Jewish and democratic state. I do not accept this hypothesis. Our region is an extremely dynamic one: A few short years ago, none of the world’s leading statesmen or academics predicted the turmoil that the Middle East would undergo. Old orders are dismantled and new realties appear on almost a daily basis. Even those who oppose my views now may very well realize this plan’s merits in the not-too-distant future.
As an Israeli who has paid a personal price in this conflict and as a father who wants a better future for his children, I firmly believe that this outline for a regional peace agreement must be considered. History has shown that the path of negotiations has offered little of value, and this is unlikely to change. But with a sound strategy and careful diplomacy, this new model can succeed. And with that success, the generations-old hope for peaceful coexistence — defined by safety and dignity for all the people — will become a reality.
Uri Friedman is deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. Before joining FP, he reported for the Christian Science Monitor, worked on corporate strategy for Atlantic Media, helped launch the Atlantic Wire, and covered international affairs for the site. A proud native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he studied European history at the University of Pennsylvania and has lived in Barcelona, Spain and Geneva, Switzerland.| In Box |