September 2002 – JPL helped organize a letter to President Bush from prominent Israelis. Former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, former Chief of Staff of the Israeli Army Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, and Professor Yuli Tamir (all three ministers in the government of Ehud Barak) wrote President George W. Bush, asking for the United States to lead the international community in developing a permanent-status solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and then encouraging the parties to accept it.
There is solid and stable support for such an approach from Israeli Jews, and public-opinion research from the Steinmetz Center at Tel-Aviv University points to that fact: in September 2002, the Steinmetz Center released a poll showing that some 67% of Israeli Jews support an active American effort to formulate a detailed peace agreement for the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, and then for the US to recruit international support to convince both parties to accept this agreement. In April of this year, 65% of Israeli Jews said they supported an international peace conference that would formulate a binding agreement, provided it is accepted by both sides.
The rationale for this kind of approach is spelled out in considerable detail in a report recently published by The International Crisis Group (ICG), “Middle East Endgame: A Comprehensive Proposal for an Arab-Israeli Peace Settlement.” Robert Malley directs the ICG Middle East Program and Itamar Rabinovich, former Israeli Ambassador to the US and Chief Negotiator with Syria, is an ICG board member.
Clearly, Israelis are disenchanted with current US policy. There are two levels of request from Israel – from the Israeli public and from three top Israelis taking the lead in writing to President Bush.
It is highly unusual within Israel for public figures of this stature to make such a request of an American president. Ben-Ami, Lipkin-Shahak, and Tamir are not calling for the United States to act as mediator and renew negotiations; rather they are requesting a more directive US foreign policy.
This letter from influential Israelis, the data on Israeli public-opinion, and the report from the International Crisis Group show that there is a growing convergence that something new and different is needed from the United States.
Externally Directed Permanent Separation
In the beginning of 2002, the Jewish Peace Lobby came out with a new initiative – Externally Directed Separation. The initiative was first published in the United States in “The Nation” and then in “The New York Times.” It was later published in Israel in both Hebrew & English in “Ha’aretz.” The plan described in the three pieces, drafted by Dr. Jerome M. Segal, seeks to end the territorial dimension of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the intervention of the UN Security Council under American leadership.
This plan has clear advantages over the various unilateral separation proposals under consideration, because:
- it involves withdrawal to a permanent stable line
- in exchange for land it gets an end to the territorial dimension of the conflict, as well as other concessions from the Palestinians.
This plan understands something very fundamental: no settlement can be reached through traditional bilateral negotiations. Israelis and Palestinians cannot do it alone.
The big step here involves the imposition of a territorial settlement by outside powers (essentially along the lines of the Clinton Parameters) This is no longer politically impossible. Israelis are seeking diplomatic alternatives.