Ron Kampeas, of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, calls our attention to the recent release of a January 2011 letter to President Obama concerning the Israel-Palestine conflict from (what Kampeas calls) a group of retired poo-bahs. Referring to President Obama's May 19 speech at the State Department on the Arab Spring and Israel-Palestinian conflict, Kampeas entitles his blog entry Nice speech, but where are the consequences?
Released through the New York Review of Books, the letter proposes a six-part framework for a permanent status agreement (reproduced below). On behalf of the authors, former Representative Lee Hamilton, a Democrat who chaired the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and was vice chair of the 9/11 Commission, "welcome[d] the President’s declaration in his speech of May 19 that . . . resolution of the Israel–Palestine conflict [is] 'more urgent than ever.'” While the signers of the letter agree with President Obama that "no peace can be imposed on the parties," they also submit that " there is little prospect of them ever reaching an agreement if their negotiations are not framed by a set of reasonable principles of fairness and international legality." Additionally, they strongly maintain that the President should have included a "reference to consequences. We believe the cost-benefit calculations of neither party will be changed without that understanding." (Emphasis added).
The letter is signed by former David L. Boren, a former Democratic Senator and current president of the University of Oklahoma; Zbigniew Brzezinski National Security Adviser to Jimmy Carter; Frank C. Carlucci, a former Republican Secretary of Defense; Ret. Adm. William J. Fallon, former commander of American forces in the Middle East; Chuck Hagel, a former Republican Senator from Oklahoma; Lee H. Hamilton, Gary Hart, a former Democratic Senator from Colorado; Rita E. Hauser, an international lawyer, old-time Republican, and philanthropist; Carla Hills, U.S. Trade Representative under the first President Bush; Nancy Kassebaum-Baker, a former Republican Senator from Kansas; Ret. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Thomas R. Pickering, former career ambassador, including to the United Nations and Israel, and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs; Paul Volcker; and James D. Wolfensohn, President Clinton's choice for President of the World Bank, and subsequently Special Envoy for Gaza Disengagement for the Quartet on the Middle East.
The signers "strongly support America’s commitment to Israel’s security." But they rightly note that " that commitment cannot justify obstruction of legitimate international efforts in the Security Council and in other international institutions to halt illegal behavior that the US itself has long opposed." Also, although "[i]t has been said that terms for a peace accord cannot be imposed on the parties[,] . . . surely the United States can declare the principles that will henceforth determine what this country will support and what it cannot and will not support." Indeed,
Because of our long and unique history of deep friendship with the state and people of Israel, only our country has the ability to help bring this conflict to a close. Only the US can provide the parties with the credible security assurances they will need to make compromises in their positions that a peace treaty will require. No other country can do that. Therefore, if we do not put forward a clear framework for a fair and workable two-state solution to the conflict, the peace process will in effect have been abandoned, for all other approaches have been tried—over and over again—and have failed.
Here, then, is the six-part framework submitted to President Obama:
PROPOSED FRAMEWORK FOR A PERMANENT STATUS ACCORD
1. The US will oppose any effort to challenge or undermine the legitimacy of the State of Israel within internationally recognized borders.
2. The US will work for the establishment of a sovereign and viable Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, subject only to agreed, minor and equal land swaps to take into account areas adjoining the former Green Line heavily populated by Israelis. Unilateral changes to the 1967 borders will not be accorded US recognition or legitimacy.
3. The US will support a solution to the refugee problem that is consistent with the principle of two states for two peoples and addresses the Palestinian refugees’ sense of injustice, providing them with meaningful opportunities for resettlement and financial compensation. Proposals that undercut the principle of two states for two peoples—such as proposals for unlimited entry of Palestinian refugees into the State of Israel—will be opposed by the US.
4. The US believes both states must enjoy strong security guarantees. In this context, the US will support the establishment of a nonmilitarized Palestinian state together with security mechanisms that address legitimate Israeli concerns while respecting Palestinian sovereignty. The US will support the presence of a US-led multinational force to oversee security provisions and border crossings.
5. The US believes that Jerusalem should be home to both states’ capitals, with Jewish neighborhoods falling under Israeli sovereignty and Arab neighborhoods under Palestinian sovereignty. Arrangements should be arrived at between the parties regarding the Old City that provide for each side respectively to control its holy places and to have unimpeded access by each community to them.
This framework is consistent with President Obama's state of "what everyone knows" :
a lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples. Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people; each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.
The framework, however, fills in important gaps. Although its points may be implicit in the principles the President expressed, they bear public restatement.
Setting out the basic elements of the only plausibly Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement is not rocket science. As the President said, "everyone knows" this, even if current Israeli and Palestinian leaders, many members of Congress, and some bitter-enders here at Daily Kos refuse to acknowledge the fact.
Stating "what everyone knows" is not enough, however. The parties need ways and means to bridge the gaps that publicly divide them. An emphatic international effort led by the United States is the answer. But as we approach the 2012 elections, many wonder whether the President is willing to invest political capital on this issue.
If we are serious about the importance of peace, state hood, and security, for Palestinians, Israelis, and the international community, then we should be encouraging the President to to make that investment in the future. Success, even, I believe, an honorable failure, will repay the investment many-fold.
Finally, it is significant that the "retired poo-bah's" framework also is consistent with the recent Israeli Peace Initiative (pdf), whose signers include "former heads of Mossad, Shin Bet and the military," including "Danny Yatom, a signer of the document and former head of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service," and "Yaakov Perry, a former head of Shin Bet, the internal security agency." The "conflict resolution principles" are:
The key principle of all regional peace agreements shall be Israeli withdrawals, guaranteed security, normal relations and end of all conflicts, while recognizing the security needs of all parties, the water resources challenges, the demographic realities on the ground, and the interests and needs of the followers of the three monotheistic faiths; Furthermore, the Israeli Palestinian conflict shall be resolved on the principle of two sates for two nations: Palestine as a nation state for the Palestinians and Israel as a nation state for the Jews (in which the Arab minority will have equal and full civil rights as articulated in Israel’s Declaration of Independence).
The "parameters" for settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- the initiative also addresses Lebanon, Syria, and other issues -- are:
1. Statehood and Security – A sovereign independent Palestinian state shall be formed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on territories from which Israel withdrew. The state shall be demilitarized, exercising full authority over its internal security forces. The International community shall play an active role in providing border security and curbing terrorist threats.
2. Borders – The borders shall be based on the June 4, 1967, lines, with agreed modifications subject to the following principles: the creation of territorial contiguity between the Palestinian territories; land swaps (not to exceed 7% of the West Bank) based on a 1:1 ratio, including the provision of a safe corridor between the West Bank and Gaza, under de facto Palestinian control.
3. Jerusalem – The greater Jerusalem area shall include the two capitals of the two states. The line shall be drawn so that: Jewish neighborhoods shall be under Israeli sovereignty; the Arab neighborhoods shall be under Palestinian sovereignty; special arrangements shall be implemented in the Old City, ensuring that the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall shall be under Israeli sovereignty; the Temple Mount shall remain under a special no-sovereignty regime (“God Sovereignty”), with special agreed-upon arrangements, ensuring that Islamic holy places shall be administered by the Moslem Waqf, and Jewish holy sites and interests shall be administered by Israel. The implementation of these arrangements will be supervised by an Israeli-International committee .
4. Refugees – The solutions for the Palestinian refugees shall be agreed upon between Israel, the Palestinians and all regional parties in accordance with the following principles: Financial compensation shall be offered to the refugees and the host countries by the international community and Israel; the Palestinian refugees wishing to return (as mentioned in UNGAR 194) may do so only to the Palestinian state, with mutually agreed-upon symbolic exceptions who will be allowed to return to Israel