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25 May 2017

New peace strategy requires agreement on the end goal, first

By: Daoud Kuttab
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In his summit speech in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, US President Donald Trump took an important undertaking to revisit how the US policy is designed, including his willingness “to adjust our strategies” if need be.
“We will discard those strategies that have not worked,” he told King Salman and the Arab and Muslim heads of states that came to meet him.
Nowhere is a new US strategy needed more than in the continuously failed US efforts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The US thought has often been that if the parties meet directly, they can resolve their differences
This has failed because when the strong negotiates with the weak, the strong will dictate his position and the weak has either to surrender or to say no.
Instead, what is needed is to begin with the end goal and work the way back.
Everyone knows that a peace deal exists and knows what it looks like, so instead of going back to negotiations about the content of the deal, what is needed is to declare what the deal is all about and then spend the negotiations on how to implement it.
The Trump administration does not need to reinvent the wheel. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson should be asked to simply dust off the various documents that include issues agreed to by both major Israeli parties and the Palestinians.
Then, make a synthesis of these issues into a reasonable and fair plan that is in concert with international law and present it to both parties.
Documents available at the US State Department will show that the basics of a deal calls for a contiguous independent Palestinian state, roughly on the 1967 borders, with some land swaps, Jerusalem as an open city and capital to both states, and a fair agreed-to solution to the refugee problem.
In fact, this is pretty much what the Arab Peace Initiative that has been awaiting an Israeli response since 2002 states.
This plan should simply be presented to the UN Security Council in order to get it legitimised by the world community.
With an end plan in hand, the hard part will begin.
Both sides (government and people) are likely to initially reject it or parts of it, but that is to be expected.
The key for Washington is not to allow this noise to disturb it. The US peace envoy’s job should not be to focus on what the content of the deal is, but to see how to sell it and eventually have it become an agreement between the parties.
Certain caveats might also be needed to get to that point.
A final date for implementation must be quickly agreed to and the talks should be about how to implement that agreement within a set timeframe.
Both negotiating parties must commit not to carry out any act that will prejudice the agreement that is hopefully mandated by the UN Security Council.
Israel cannot allow any settlement activities in the areas of the Palestinian state and must allow Palestinians to develop their potential in all these areas.
This includes opening development in areas C and guaranteeing safe passage to people and goods between Gaza and the West Bank, as agreed to by both parties in the Oslo Accords.
It also obliges the Palestinian government to act in good faith and not delegitimatise the state of Israel in any public pronouncements, and to control radicals.
While Palestinians are abiding by the security coordination, this should not be seen as a licence to settlers to act with impunity.
Israel must control settlers violence, which will most certainly escalate if a peace deal is being implemented.
On May 18, a settler shot dead a Palestinian, Mutaz Shamsa, who was protesting in a village near Nablus in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails on a hunger strike going into its second month.
The parties might need some time to get a clear idea what the deal will look like (rather than return to the talks) and this might require a transitional period of sorts.
The UN, US, NATO as well as other international forces can be made available to safeguard the occupied territories during this transitional period.
The ultimate deal exists today in the archives of the world powers and the UN.
What we need is spend very little time to remove the dust from these documents, synthesise them into a workable document and get the Security Council to legitimise it.
By this reversal of the order of things the end game would no longer be in doubt, and the hard lifting would be in the implementation rather than the content of the ultimate deal.
Reversing the US foreign policy and beginning with an end game would allow everyone to know where the peace process is going.
This would be a much smarter and doable strategy the Trump administration should adopt if it wants to oversee the “ultimate deal”.

* A Palestinian columnist based in Amman, Jordan. - dkuttab@ammannet.net

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