Yossi Alpher
Bitterlemons (Blog)
July 11, 2011 - 12:00am

Some three weeks ago I published, together with Colette Avital, Shlomo Gazit and Mark Heller, the following components of a proposed "win-win" United Nations resolution regarding Palestinian statehood:

* Reaffirm support for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of two states for two peoples and the right of the Jewish and Palestinian peoples to self-determination, without prejudice to the rights of all citizens and minority groups. Recall, in this context, UN General Assembly resolution 181 of 1947 that called for the establishment of a Jewish state and an Arab state.
* Acknowledge institutional and security reform, economic development and state-building efforts--especially in the West Bank, under the leadership of President Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, which have helped lay the foundations for Palestinian statehood--and endorse the position articulated by the World Bank and the United Nations that the Palestinian Authority is "well positioned for the establishment of a state at any point in the near future".
* Accordingly, support the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 lines with its capital in East Jerusalem in parallel with Israel's recognized capital in West Jerusalem, and with mutually agreed territorial swaps and modifications, subject to negotiation--a state that will live side by side with Israel in peace and security.
* Recognize that extending the authority of a Palestinian state to the Gaza Strip will depend on effective control there by a legitimate Palestinian government that exercises authority in the West Bank, is committed to the Quartet principles and the Arab Peace Initiative and respects the commitments of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
* Call for both states to engage in good faith negotiations on the basis of this and previous relevant resolutions and agreements in order to resolve all outstanding issues between them, beginning with the issues of borders, settlements, water and security arrangements. Specifically, security arrangements--including multi-layered international, regional and bilateral guarantees--should confront and neutralize threats and enable the phased withdrawal of Israeli forces from a demilitarized Palestinian state with an effective internal security force and without compromising Israeli security.
* Note the importance of the Arab Peace Initiative, endorsed by the Arab League in 2002, and call for regional states to assist in creating an atmosphere conducive to negotiation and agreement, including by intensifying efforts to advance coexistence and normalization of relations between Arab League members and Israel.

This proposal has generated a number of objections and questions from serious observers. Here I attempt to deal with some of them.

"Wouldn't a negotiated two-state solution be better?" Absolutely, but the current leaders of Israel and the PLO are too far apart on the substantive issues for a compromise to be conceivable. Besides, the United States, the only likely third party intervener, is also not interested in the kind of hands-on involvement and pressures that would be necessary to generate a peace process. The win-win resolution is not as good as a negotiated end-of-conflict solution, but it's a positive step forward because it transforms the conflict into a manageable two-state relationship.

"Why doesn't the resolution mention the Jerusalem holy places and the refugee issue?" Because the Palestinian leadership, in applying to the UN for recognition, does not refer to these final status issues. Herein lies the greatest attraction of this win-win route: at the UN, the Palestinians are prepared to settle for the partial, territorial solution that they reject at the negotiating table. The refugee and holy places issues, which are currently intractable deal-breakers, will still have to be negotiated, but at a later time and between clearly delineated states, thereby rendering these issues far more manageable.

"The Palestinians get a state, 1967 borders and a capital in East Jerusalem. What's in the resolution for Israel?" Recognition of Israel as a Jewish state; long-delayed recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel's capital; ample security guarantees; a commitment to negotiate all further outstanding issues; and a call for the Arab states to reward Israel with aspects of normalization.

"But you've left the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall in Palestinian territory." That's where the provision for land swaps, the postponement of discussion of holy places and the determination that all issues will be solved through negotiations are relevant.

"Still, why the 1967 lines as the point of departure for land swaps?" Like it or not, repeated negotiating failures have fixed the green line/armistice line as the basis for agreement in international eyes. But they have also fixed the concept of land swaps as a way of dealing with Israel's demographic, national-symbolic and tactical security needs. And the win-win formula leaves adequate room for Israel to insist on its strategic security requirements in negotiations.

"How do you intend to deal with Hamas and Gaza?" Under the draft win-win resolution, Israel can deal separately with Gaza unless and until the Hamas leadership there accepts internationally-sanctioned principles of a two-state solution.

"Why should Israel rely on the United Nations?" Sixteen years after Oslo, the bilateral negotiating track has failed. In recent years, Israel has displayed increasing readiness to rely on UN intervention, e.g., the deployment of UNIFIL in southern Lebanon in 2006 and the commission to investigate the 2010 flotilla affair. Finally, we should ask ourselves what's better, the Palestinian version of UN recognition, which will surely be approved if left unchallenged, or a win-win version like this one.

"And who will push your win-win concept at the UN?" Countries in Europe and elsewhere that favor recognition of a Palestinian state but have no desire to harm Israel's basic interests. For domestic political reasons, the US is probably not among them.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017