Editorial View - By Menachem Ben

[Comments are welcome at our Dialogue Corner]

New Just Peace

Is there a peace plan that could be acceptable to both Israelis and Palestinians? Is it possible to provide both sides with their security and national needs? Can the refugee problem be solved, as well as the question of the settlements, while removing from Israel the Palestinian demographic threat?

In my opinion, such a plan exists. It complies with all international demands, from the 242 and 338 UN resolutions, through the "Bush Vision" for two states, to the "Saudi Initiative" and the "Roadmap" - yet, it can also satisfy the Israeli settlers. Don't believe it until you read the following proposal:

1) A Palestinian State will be established next to Israel, exactly in the 1967 boundaries, but no single settler or settlement will be removed.

2) No Arab settlement or Arab civilian will be relocated throughout the land of Palestine / Israel.

3) All Palestinians who currently live in Israel (sometimes referred to as "Israeli Arabs") will become Palestinian citizens, with voting rights to the Palestinian Parliament, but they will continue to have residents' rights in the State of Israel (such as Social Security benefits). The same rule will apply to Israeli citizens who live in the West Bank and Gaza: They will all receive residents' rights in the State of Palestine, but continue to be Israeli citizens with the right to vote to the Knesset. Thus, for example, Mr. Azmi Bshara of Nazareth would be able to become the President of Palestine, while Rabbi Joel Ben-Nun could be elected Israel's prime minister, without leaving his home in the West Bank. The same will apply to Israelis in East Jerusalem. Naturally, they will remain Israeli citizens, but will also have the rights of Palestinian residents. Their civil affairs (such as education, building permits etc.) in the boundaries of their neighbourhoods will be handled by the Israeli municipality of Jerusalem, and the civil services to East Jerusalem Palestinians will be provided by the Palestinian municipality of Al-Quds.

4) All Arab settlements in Israel will be under Palestinian civilian sovereignty, while all Jewish settlements in the State of Palestine will be Israeli civilian sovereignty. This means that education, construction and planning, tourism, transport, health and all other social services will be applied according to the natural national sovereignty for each settlements throughout the land of Israel / Palestine.

5) All uninhabited lands in the State of Israel (in the Negev, Galilee etc.) will remain under full Israeli sovereignty, just as all vacant areas in the State of Palestine will be under full Palestinian sovereignty. The Negev Bedouins will be given generous portions of the Negev, while most of it will remain Israeli.

6) An international force, perhaps called 'The Holy Land Army', will be responsible for guarding all religions' holy sites, as well as for protecting all international borders. It will separate between Jordan and Palestine, as well as between Israel and Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt. This army will be deployed in the holy places of Jerusalem, Hebron, Nablus, Bethlehem, Nazareth and at the gates of the Temple Mount. Palestinian police will guard the area of the Mosques, while Israeli police will keep the peace at Western Wall.

7) To avoid friction and chronic disputes, it should be agreed in principle that the boundaries of all settlements will run along the present local authorities' demarcation lines, both in Israel and in Palestine. The basis for expanding the area of any settlement must be reciprocal: Give us a mile in Palestine for an Israeli settlement and take in exchange a mile in Israel for an Arab-Palestinian settlement.

8) Each of the two sovereign states, Israel and Palestine, will be exclusively authorised to determine who will be entitled to receive its citizenship and immigrate to its territory. Israel would absorb immigrants as it pleases and so will Palestine. Refugees would be allowed to return also to the Palestinian settlements inside Israel (such as Nazareth, Um-Al-Fahm, Tayba etc.), and become Israeli residents and Palestinian citizens. This means that they will not have the right to vote to Israel's Knesset.

9) Taxes paid by Palestinian residents of Israel and Israeli resident of Palestine will be divided between the local sovereignty and the national sovereignty. For example, a Palestinian citizen who is an Israeli resident in Tayba, will pay part of his tax to the government of Israel and another part to the government of Palestine. The ratio between the two parts will be equal to Palestinian resident of Israel and Israeli residents of Palestine.

10) A Palestinian citizen will not be allowed to live or work in Israeli settlements, and an Israeli citizen will not be allowed to live or work in Palestinian settlements, unless they receive a special permit from the settlement's council. Visits of Palestinians in Israeli settlements and of Israelis in Palestinian settlements will require a visa from the relevant authorities. For example, it should not be allowed for Israeli extremists to live in Palestinian Hebron, or for Arab Palestinians to live in nearby Kiryat-Arba. It would also be unacceptable for noisy and impolite Israeli tourists to flood Ramallah against the wishes of its residents. Similarly, it would be unhelpful for Palestinian tourists to flock to the beaches of the Sea of Galilee. Only the authorities of Israel and Palestine would be entitled to set the number of desirable tourists.

11) The Israeli army, assisted by the international force, will protect Israeli settlements. Obviously, the Palestinian police will also have to defend its resident, Israel's citizens. In the first phase, Palestine will be demilitarised from heavy weaponry. In the second phase, Israel will also disarm and become demilitarised, under the protection of the international 'Holy Land Army'. This will fulfil the prophecy: " and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."

Can anyone find anything wrong with this plan?

Menachem Ben, 25/November/2004


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