In a normal world, the renewed launch last week of the Arab League's peace initiative, with additional accommodation to Israel's needs, should pose a real challenge for Jews and Israelis alike. The continued willingness of all Arab nations to reach a full peace agreement with Israel is something that has not received anything close to the right amount of attention and public debate in Israel as well as in the Jewish world that such a radical proposal deserves.
Strikingly, Dani Dayan's piece in Open Zion this week emphasizes and crystallizes the total rejectionist nature of the nationalist and religious right. This right has been against any resolution of the conflict, have done everything in their power to make it irresolvable, and are sentencing Israelis to a fait acompli of eternal varying-intensity war. They are shrewd and soft spoken but they are driven by religious or national fervor and do not want or believe in peace. Interestingly enough, so many of them have forgotten the Jewish mitzvah of Bakesh shalom ve'radfehu ("ask for peace and chase it").
Let's quickly review the main principles of the Arab Peace Initiative:
The price that Israel will have to pay is: (1) a complete Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the June 4, 1967, line and the territories in southern Lebanon which are occupied; (2) reaching a just solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees to be agreed upon in accordance with the U.N. General Assembly Resolution No 194; and (3) accepting the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since June 4, 1967, in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital.
What Israel gets in return is that all Arab states will commit to the following: (a) Consider the Arab–Israeli conflict over, and sign a peace agreement with Israel; (b) Establish normal relations with Israel within the framework of this comprehensive peace. This does deserve a re-emphasis, to say peace and normalization with all Arab states!
In this most recent attempt, the Arab League is willing to accept the fact that, contrary to international treaties, Israel has settled over 500,000 Jews in the occupied territories. Therefore, accepting the principle of land swaps will allow the vast majority of the settlers to remain in sovereign Israel, leaving roughly 150,000 settlers deep in the West Bank/Judea and Samaria to be dealt with in some unspecified way in the future. Of particular importance is that fact that the initiative does not envision a Palestine empty of Jews.
The Initiative does not speak of the Palestinian refugee's Right of Return but a much softer version of a "just solution to the problem of the Palestinian refugees." The Palestinians have already agreed to a de-militarized Palestine. Furthermore, there is reason to believe that they will allow for other security measures, such as Israeli early alert systems to remain in the Jordan valley.
To the vast majority of Jews and Israelis, this should be the realization of a dream: end of the conflict, plus peace with all Arab states in the region, plus normalization, plus acceptance by Iran, which accepted the API in 2007, plus a de-militarized Palestine!! What more do we want? Well, according to the Netanyahu government, it’s not what we want.
Netanyahu's government's reaction to this new tweak in the Arab Peace Initiative must, as was pointed out by a Haaretz editorial, raise some very serious questions. It seems that the Israeli government is revoking its agreement to divide the land according to the 78 percent-22 percent split agreed upon in the Oslo Accords. This is an international agreement signed by Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn in 1993. It is also the most widely accepted principle accepted by the entire world and which if revoked by the Israeli government could have far reaching consequences to Israel's standing with the international community.
This must be taken into account by world Jewry. A complete lack of a peace on the horizon, with Israel clearly to blame, can unleash yet another deadly round of violence that could affect Jews the world over. The fact that Israel will be seen as the hard line party refusing a resolution, may also lead to the international community’s reassessment of its position vis a vis Israel. That too may have implications on Jews around the world. A critical result of Israel's stance is that it is on the de facto road to a one state solution. The implications are that Israel is going to cease to be Jewish or democratic.
In fact, it will probably cease to be both. On the likely assumption that Israel will not grant full civil rights to 2.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank, it is clear that it will not be able to maintain its democratic nature. However, the question must then be asked whether a "Jewish" state that does unto others what it does not want to be done unto itself can be considered Jewish at all.
A very good Palestinian friend of mine once told me that the Palestinians are used to losing. They have lost quite a few times in the past and they may and probably will lose another couple of times in the future. However, statistically, eventually the Palestinians will win. Is this the path that we, Jews, wish to take? Many times in the past, we have all heard that the window of opportunity is closing. It could be that this time it really is. This is what Secretary of State Kerry believes, and it is what Jews around the world, and particularly American Jews should be concerned about. For this reason, they should be pressing their government to help ours to make the right decision.