Israel should place, for the first time, a very broad range of core issues for discussion on the negotiating table, from the Temple Mount to the Triangle to compensation for decades of Arab warfare.
The Palestinian Authority has made an entire series of new demands as their price for extending peace talks with Israel. The demands essentially amount to “giving away the whole store.” The Palestinians demand that Israel up front completely capitulate to the Palestinian endgame.
The demands reportedly include an Israeli letter stipulating that the 1967 lines will be the border of the Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital; the release of at least 1,200 prisoners including the biggest terrorists of all (Barghouti, Sa’adat and more); the lifting of the military blockade on Gaza; ending Israeli construction in eastern Jerusalem, and the reopening of Palestinian institutions there, such as Orient House; an end to IDF incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas A of the West Bank to carry out arrests; another settlement freeze; thousands of Palestinian family reunification certificates, and more.
I say that if the Palestinians are going to make these far-fetched demands, it is time for Israel to open up a broad range of issues for discussion as well. Let’s put it ALL on the negotiating table; all of Israel’s rights and demands.
Here are series of serious and important issues that Israel should insist on in any future negotiation with the Palestinians, including several items meant to be Palestinian “payment” for Israeli agreement to the renewed talks.
* Regional solutions: A core principle of any framework for renewed negotiations must be consideration of new approaches to solving the conflict. This includes shared sovereignty in the West Bank; establishment of a Palestinian-Jordanian federation; a three- or four-way land swap involving Egypt and Jordan; and, possibly, a combination of all these approaches. Arab states must be willing take responsibility for solving the conflict and invest tangible resources in “regional” solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
* Finality: Israel should demand a Palestinian letter stipulating that the Palestinian Authority recognizes that the purpose of negotiations is the termination of all claims between the parties, and that any potential agreement will have to contain an “end-of-conflict” declaration. Nothing less. Only a crystal clear message from the Palestinians that the conflict is permanently and fully over will merit the ceding of territory by Israel.
* Gaza: Israel should stipulate up front that implementation of any accord that might be reached with Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority will be contingent on extension of the accord to Gaza, which means that Hamas will have to be sidelined or sign-on to an eventual deal. Israel should not be in the business of birthing two Palestinian states.
* Settlements: As a precondition of Israel’s re-entering talks with the Palestinian Authority, Palestinian leaders must acknowledge the legitimacy and permanency of Israel’s major settlement blocs, and acquiesce in the natural growth of these cities and towns. After all, all seasoned and reasonable observers of the Middle East know that in any possible agreement, these blocs will fall under full and exclusive Israeli sovereignty.
* The Temple Mount: The Palestinians must be willing to negotiate shared sovereignty over the place most holy to the Jewish People. For starters, as a pre-condition of Israel’s joining the talks, Jewish prayer must be facilitated on the vast Temple Mount plaza. A small synagogue tucked away on the fringes of the plaza won’t overshadow the two large Moslem structures on the Mount, but will demonstrate Palestinian recognition of the Jewish People’s ancient ties to the holy site and to the holy land. Furthermore, a new arrangement must be agreed upon for the joint conduct and supervision of archaeological digs on the Mount.
* The Triangle: Land and population swaps should be foursquare on the table, including transfer of “The Triangle” from Israel to a Palestinian state. Arabs towns such as Kafr Qara, Umm al-Fahm, Tayibe and Qalansawe (southeast of Haifa, alongside the 1967 Green Line near the northern West Bank) should be on the chopping block. The hundreds of thousands of Israeli Arabs who live there anyway insist on calling themselves “Palestinians.” Thus their move to Palestinian control and citizenship will add to the demographic integrity and stability of any Israeli-Palestinian accord.
* Compensation: Israel has suffered decades of war, war crimes, terrorist violence, and economic boycotts launched by the Palestinians and Arab states, causing significant suffering and deprivation in Israel. The peace agenda should include compensation to Israel from the Palestinians and Arab states for this, with compound interest.
After all, the Palestinians could have had their state alongside Israel as far back as 1947, when the UN voted for partition and the creation of two states. But they and the broader Arab world rejected the plan then, and have rejected three concrete Israel offers of Palestinian statehood over the past 20 years.
Economic reparations to the citizens of Israel should take a central place of importance in any renewed peace talks, in addition to negotiation of the required Arab state compensation to Jews expelled from Arab lands.
* Peace education: An absolute prerequisite to the talks should be introduction of an intensive, broad-based and sustained peace education plan in the Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. The hearts and minds of Palestinians have to be prepared for peace. Incitement against Israel, anti-Semitic sermons against Israel, and the glorification of violence against Israel – has to end. And eventually, denial of the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel has to be replaced by a nuanced, albeit difficult, recognition of the Zionist dream that goes all the way back to the Bible. Otherwise – no concessions and no withdrawals!