Over the Next Hill

A Proposal for a Permanent Settlement

Translated from Hebrew by Rachel Rowen


This essay sets forth a new formula for a final status settlement with our Palestinian neighbors in this land.

I must confess that this opening sentence was written after great hesitation. The reasonable reader will undoubtedly view the subject, especially the presumption that one could say something new on it, as a guarantee of boredom. Of course no one considers the subject of little consequence. A final political settlement in this land has been the paramount question facing us for a century. It is a question that we have been discussing among ourselves and over which we have fought with our neighbors since our arrival in the region. Moreover, now that talks on the final settlement are under way, it can no longer be argued that the subject is not pressing. Like it or not, we must set our minds to it. Nevertheless, the subject evokes a gaping yawn. Who today is up to reading another proposal for a final settlement? There is a clear feeling that the issues are all known, that all the positions worthy of hearing have been heard. There are doves, hawks and various shades between the two. The subject may be important, but it does not lend itself to saying anything new. Anyone so presumptuous as to claim a new view is most likely one of those eccentrics in whom the Jewish people has always abounded. It is hard to imagine a new idea that could truly promote solution of the Jewish-Arab conflict suddenly emerging now.

Hence I can only preface this essay with a brief introduction whose purpose is to entice its readers to overcome their healthy instinct and take the trouble to read what is written here, in spite of everything. To this end I must ask the reader to pay attention to a fact which has only recently been noted: since the Six Day War three main plans for a final settlement in this land have been on the Israeli agenda. Today, there is essentially only one, and it does not coincide with any of the previous three. The three principal plans around which public debate focused for nearly thirty years, put briefly without particular attention to nuance, are as follows: 1) insistence on all of the Land of Israel, with settlement of all territories; 2) return to the 1967 borders and evacuation of all settlements; and 3) the third way, territorial compromise and settlement according to “security boundaries.” These, in a nutshell, are the three approaches. There is no need for further elaboration since the subject is well-known.

These three plans have now been demoted, even if they are sometimes paid lip service, and their place taken by a fourth plan. According to this plan, accepted both by the Likud and Labor, the main blocs of settlement in the West Bank and Gaza will remain under Israeli sovereignty and will be connected to us by a network of winding bypass roads. From the first approach it took the map of settlement, from the second, recognition of a Palestinian entity (pretending meanwhile that it will not be a state), and from the third approach, the principle of territorial compromise. In contrast to the third approach, however, the borders of the settlement bloc plan are not supposed to be based on security needs, but on putting the greatest number of Jewish settlers under Israeli sovereignty.

The plan still goes by several names, but “settlement bloc plan” seems to be emerging as the consensus. I myself prefer to call it the “medusa plan,” not that I wish to show disdain, but simply for convenience; simply because if the plan is accepted, we will have a many-tentacled state resembling a medusa. Of course, such an original map is not necessarily intrinsically bad. The only problem is that such a complicated plan cannot serve as the basis for a permanent settlement. At best it could be a “temporary permanent settlement.” It is hard to shake off the impression that those who came up with the idea simply forgot that the objective was to solve the historic conflict between us and our neighbors.

The medusa plan is primarily a pragmatic formula. Its authors embark on negotiations with the Palestinians with approximately the following idea in mind: if we succeed in reaching an accord with our Palestinian partners in the talks, if our supporters and voters do not riot, if we do not get the Americans too irate, and if none of us is assassinated, we have done well enough. To begin with, the final settlement must undoubtedly meet all these requirements. Talks on a permanent settlement are not the time for fanciful ideas and unrealizable dreams. Clearly any settlement must first of all be achievable. But that is not enough; there is one other modest requirement: it must attempt to solve the Jewish-Arab conflict.

Not to laud the virtues of the plan presented here just yet, nevertheless I must say that herein lies the subtle difference between it and the bloc plan: it is not a plan whose objective is to get through the next elections successfully, rather a plan whose objective is to attempt to find a final settlement of the conflict in this land.

What is the formula to which I refer? A succinct summary of it appeared in Ma'ariv, Dec. 28, 1995, in a short article entitled “A Simple Solution to a Non-Simple Problem” which I cite here:

Since our statesmen cannot be expected to tax their brains on matters of little consequence until after the elections, it behooves the rank and file citizens to volunteer to deal with secondary issues such as a final settlement with our neighbors. As far as I know, the formula for a final settlement presented here has not yet been put forward. The innovation is not in any of the components, but in the conception that the final settlement must apply not only to relations between the State of Israel and the Palestinian “entity,” but also to the overall structure of relations between Jews and Arabs in the Land of Israel. That is to say, anticipating what is to follow, it must also apply to relations within the State of Israel.

The solution presented here attempts to be simple and symmetric. It is simple, because only a simple solution can have stability, as required by the notion of a final settlement. A solution based on medusa-shaped maps, enclaves, fences, and bypass roads is a sure prescription for friction. The solution is symmetric because the more symmetric it is, the more just it is. This symmetry must apply, first of all, to the main point: it is inconceivable that the Jews should have a state here, and the Arabs have only an “entity” or “autonomy.”

According to this principle, the point of departure is to divide the country into two sovereign states. When there are two states here, for the sake of simplicity and symmetry one will be able to divide the population into 4 main groups: 1) Jews living in Israel. 2) Arabs living in the Palestinian state. 3) Jews living in the Palestinian state. and 4) Arabs living in Israel. The main innovation in this proposal concerns the status of the latter two groups and the symmetrical relationship between them.

We begin with the Jews living in the Palestinian state. Our position on the final settlement must be unequivocal: no settlement shall be dismantled. It does not stand to reason that Arabs could live in the Galilee and Jews not be allowed to live in the West Bank. But one must remember that the Arabs in the Galilee recognize the sovereignty of the State of Israel. Therefore, Jews who wish to remain in the West Bank will have to recognize the sovereignty of the Palestinian state. We can demand that the Palestinians come to terms with the presence of Jewish residents on their territory, but not with the presence of residents who view themselves as the master.

Have no fear. We are not abandoning the settlers to the foe. They may be subjects of a Palestinian state, but they will remain citizens of the State of Israel. What will it hurt them to paste stamps with a picture of Arafat's face on their letters? They will be able to work in Israel, to watch Israeli TV in the evening, and ofcourse to elect our mediocre leaders to Knesset.

Nor are we abandoning them in terms of security. We can demand that the responsibility for the security of the settlements and the roads to them remain in the hands of the Israeli Army as long as that be necessary. But let us not forget that the security situation is closely related to the political situation. If only those Jews who recognize the Palestinian state were to remain in the West Bank, then we would soon see that Jews and Arabs can live together in the West Bank in peace and even friendship. The Palestinians do not hate every settler for being a Jew. They simply do not want to have neighbors who seek to rule them.

This principle must apply symmetrically to the Arabs of Israel. Just as Jews will be able to live in a Palestinian state and define themselves as citizens of the State of Israel, so too every Arab living in Israel must be allowed to define himself or herself as a citizen of the Palestinian state. The Arabs of Israel who chose to be Palestinian citizens will have a parallel status to the Jewish settlers: they will be residents enjoying equal rights in all respects save one---their vote will be cast into the Palestinian ballot box.

On the other hand, any Arab of Israel who chooses Israeli citizenship shall be an Israeli citizen in the full sense of the word. He or she shall be able to vote and be elected to the Knesset, but will also have to enlist in National Service or serve in the Israeli Army. A strange idea? Not necessarily. For we are speaking of true peace, of a historic reconciliation. Whoever does not believe in an end to the Jewish-Arab conflict had better not propose plans for a final settlement.

The proposal set forth here attempts to tailor a simple and symmetric solution to a reality which is not exactly symmetric and certainly is far from simple. It surely has many details to be filled in and needs much polishing, and it does not provide ready-made answers to all the problems. Nevertheless, it has a distinct advantage: all the other proposals are worse.

These are the main points. So what will the reader find in the pages that follow?

Let there be no misunderstanding. The reader will not find a detailed program; here there are no draft constitutions, no maps, regulations, or timetables. I am well aware that the policy-makers and negotiators are not sitting with bated breath, nervously tapping the table, waiting to hear what I have to say.

Therefore, this essay will not deal with details, but with principles. It attempts to convince the reader that the formula I present is not shooting from the hip, that it is reasonable and makes sense, that it can work, and that there are good reasons for adopting it, aside from the fact that the other proposals are worse.

I apologize in advance for the optimism between the lines that follow. But that is how it is: I believe the conflict between us and the Palestinians can be solved.

How can one use the words “final settlement” without believing this?

A Simple Solution to a Non-Simple Problem

The meaning of a “permanent settlement”

I am well aware that nothing sounds more suspect than “a simple solution to a non-simple problem.” Now, with negotiations on a final settlement under way, the time has come to get serious. By us, if a person wants to be taken seriously, he or she had better put forward complex solutions. I would not be surprised to hear someone already saying, “Pardon me, but what about the problem of Jerusalem? What about the refugee problem? What about borders? What about security arrangements? What about demographic factors? What about economics? How can one suggest a “formula for a permanent settlement” without dealing with all these?

Indeed, I have not forgotten these issues, and I promise the patient reader to deal with them further on. I believe in a simple solution not because I make light of the complexity of the problem. Whoever does not understand the complexity of the Jewish-Arab conflict ought not be so presumptuous as to suggest a solution. I shall try to persuade the reader that precisely the complexity of the problem necessitates a simple solution, that the more simple the solution the more stable it will be, and that we must first see the main point and only later get down to details.

First, however, we must agree on the main point, which in my opinion is a trifle: to remember that in the phrase “permanent settlement” the first word is more important than the second.

The talks on the permanent settlement are not another hurdle we must somehow get over with a signed scrap of paper in our hands. The goal is to find a permanent solution to the Jewish-Arab conflict. A permanent solution to a century-old conflict is not something that can be achieved by force, because reconciliation by coercion is not reconciliation. Any agreement that is not symmetric, any agreement in which only we achieve what we want, will not allay the conflict. And an agreement that does not allay the conflict cannot be a permanent settlement even if the Palestinians sign it. In short, we are entering negotiations from a position of strength, and if we succeed in imposing our will on our partners in the talks, we have failed.

Let me slow down a moment, for what I say is not necessarily obvious. Why, indeed, will “any agreement that is not symmetric not allay the conflict?” If the Palestinians sign, what is wrong if “only we achieve what we want”? Why not “impose our will on our partners in the talks,” if that is possible?

Matters will perhaps be clearer if we understand that the very notion of a “final settlement” entails a small upheaval in our way of thinking. A century of fighting has made many of us accustomed to thinking “What is bad for the Arabs is good for the Jews,” or at least that the only question that ought to interest us is “Is it good for the Jews?” The point of departure in negotiations between two parties over any subject is almost always “I shall look out for my interests, and the other side will look out for theirs.” This time, however, we are not dealing with a divorce agreement or with a commercial deal, nor with a cease-fire or armistice, with separation of forces or an interim agreement. This time we are dealing with a final settlement, i.e., with a settlement which is supposed to be stable, which is supposed to put an end to one hundred years of hostility. When the objective is to achieve such an agreement, sometimes one has to adopt a different point of departure. Strange as it may sound, sometimes “our interest is to look out for their interest.” We must see to it that the final settlement is “good for the Jews” but at the same time we must take care that it also be “good for the Arabs.”

It is certainly more pleasant to talk about our own “red lines” than about the interests of the other side. But if we are to succeed ultimately in arriving at an agreement that realizes all our vital interests we must remember one more thing; there is one other little interest which we must guarantee, namely, that the settlement stand the test of time. In order for a settlement to hold up, it must be one that not only we like, but that the other side likes as well. How is this achieved? What is the wonder formula that meets the demands of both sides? This, of course, is the sixty-four thousand dollar question that I shall try to answer in the following sections. At this point I only want to remind the reader that for a formula to meet the demands of both sides, it must also meet the demands of the other side.

“The demands of the other side” is a phrase which needs explaining. I do not mean to say that we must agree to all their demands. On the other hand, it is high time to wean ourselves of the notion that we know better what they need. We ought to school ourselves in the idea that their true interest is what they want and not what we think they ought to want. If we make proposals that do not meet their wishes, they will simply reject them, even if they meet their “needs” as we understand them. Therefore, after 29 years, there is no need for us suddenly to our brains at solving their economic problems, building their economy, or paving their roads. Nor is there any point in proposing that they confederate with Jordan if we do not want them to propose that we confederate with Cyprus. These may all be excellent ideas, and perhaps their day will come, but before we arrange confederations for them we ought first to listen to them. Whoever takes the pains to listen will have no difficulty understanding what it is they want. The key word in their vocabulary is not economics, not development, not progress. These issues are important and vital, but the key word is “justice,” or what they call the “legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.”

At this point I must slow down a moment. I know that these words drive some people out of their mind. However difficult it may be, I beg them to grit their teeth and read on.

In order to resolve the Jewish-Arab conflict there is no need to settle the question of who is right. Nor is there any need to adopt the other side's ideology or its formulations and definitions. There is, however, one inescapable condition: an end to the conflict between us and the Arabs cannot be driven through against their will. Surprising as it may be, the Arabs are a party in the Jewish-Arab conflict. Therefore, inconvenient as it may be, one must seek a solution that will set their minds at rest as well. But to set their minds at rest, it does not suffice to meet all their “real” needs; first and foremost one must find a solution that they perceive as fair.

Therefore I have attempted to present a symmetric solution, a solution that tries to be balanced and leaves a sense of mutual respect, not the humiliating feeling of having had no option. I do not wish to discourage the fans of the medusa plan, who at this very moment might be puzzling over maps, wondering how the border can be given just one more little curve; but I fear that their plan does not measure up to these criteria very well. Moreover, I believe that the idea presented here can contribute to resolving the conflict better than the plan of blocs and wiggles, not only because it is mutual and symmetric, but also because it tries to apply these principles to the entire area between Jordan and the sea. In the sections which follow I shall try to show that a plan based on an overall view is preferable to an incidental assembly of improvisations and compromises. A view that sees this land as a single unit is likely to help us overcome some of the principal hurdles on the way to a lasting solution.

As I have said, I believe that the solution must be simple and symmetric. But when one wants an agreement to last in the long run, these abstract principles are not enough. It is not sufficient to decide that we are looking for a “symmetric formula that will meet the demands of both sides.” This formula must be examined close up, attempting to remove all the stumbling blocks beforehand. In looking for stumbling blocks, I do not think one needs a particularly sharp eye to discern that islands of Israeli sovereignty in the heart of Palestinian sovereignty are likely to act as a time-bomb, a prescription for a “short-range permanent settlement.” Whoever still hopes that the Arabs will dissolve into thin air, will leave, or will turn Jewish, and views the final settlement as an intermediate stage on the way to fulfilling some other vision, will of course be glad to have such islands of Israeli sovereignty. But whoever understands that the Arabs are our neighbors and that the time has come at long last to live with them in peace, will have to work to create a simple and clear reality - a Palestinian state whose sovereignty is recognized by all its inhabitants alongside a Jewish state whose sovereignty is recognized by all its inhabitants.

To be convinced of this it suffices to ask, what is the difference between the Chinese in New York and the Serbs in Bosnia? The main difference lies in the fact that the Chinese do not aspire to a Chinese state in New York, whereas the Serbs aspire to a Serbian state in Bosnia. Therefore in Chinatown is full of restaurants and Bosnia full of conflict and bloodshed. National conflict does not erupt simply from the fact that two peoples live intermingled; it erupts only when both lay claim to sovereignty over the same territory. Therefore, the settlements in and of themselves are not an obstacle to peace. The demand of the settlers for Israeli sovereignty in the heart of Palestinian sovereignty is an obstacle to peace.

One can imagine that the above statement would not be met with enthusiastic applause in Bet El or Ariel. Most of the Jewish inhabitants of these regions surely view their demand for Israeli sovereignty as the realization of historic rights and not as an “obstacle to peace.” They did not settle there to live in a Palestinian state, and this possibility appears sheer madness to them. I would be glad to come up with a formula they might find more pleasing, but I fear that if such a formula were to exist, it would not be consonant with Jewish-Arab reconciliation.

This brings us to the primary weakness of the program I am trying to propose. A final settlement between us and the Arabs will affect the fate of us all; but even if it is symmetric, it will not affect us all equally. If the formula presented here is accepted, the settlers will be the ones forced to pay most of the price. Whoever has read this far can rightly argue that I cannot talk of a formula that meets the demands of both sides while at the same time I totally ignore the aspirations of the settlers. In the next section I shall try to correct this imbalance.

Normalization at Home First

Jews in an Arab state

The idea of Israeli settlements inside a Palestinian state indeed sounds preposterous, and any Israeli politician with elementary survival instincts would not dare, at the moment, mention any such thing. I may well be raising this idea three years before its time, nevertheless I ask the reader to bear with me and examine it in all seriousness.

To do so, perhaps one ought to note something strange: we wish to have a warm peace with all our distant Arab neighbors; only with our close neighbors, the Palestinians, do we wish to have a cold peace.

No one, it seems, disagrees that a stable peace must be a warm one: peace with exchange of ambassadors, open borders, tourism, commerce, culture and sports. There is even a fine word for this: normalization. We complain that the peace with Egypt is too cold, and we explain to Assad that we shall not cede an inch until he commits himself to the essence of peace. With respect to Qatar and Oman, we all understand very well that a scrap of paper does not suffice. It is perfectly clear that peace must be founded on the reality of peace, on concrete facts that cannot be erased with a wipe of the hand, on mutual interests, on a sense of trust which is built gradually, on interaction between citizens, not only diplomats.

This principle, for some reason, fails to apply only when it comes to the Palestinians. Here we suddenly believe that peace has to be cold. For them we have altogether different formulas: “us here and them there,” “good fences make good neighbors,” “reduce the friction,” “build bypass roads.” The catch-phrases are many and varied, but they have one theme in common: the goal is not to solve the conflict, but to find of way of continuing to live with it.

I would have no argument with all this if it were a question of proposing an interim settlement. Sometimes transitional periods are needed to build trust and overcome deep-seated residues. But according to these proposals, even in the final settlement the inhabitants of Ofra will bypass Ramallah and the inhabitants of Elon Moreh will not pass through Nablus. Can such a thing be called a peace plan? Does the Arab inhabitant of Nazareth have a bypass road around Afula, or the Arab resident of Yafo have a bypass road around Tel Aviv? How can one believe, even for a second, that peace can be based on the absence of friction? Does someone need to be reminded that peace is the absof conflict and not the absence of friction? Therefore, the question is not whether we shall achieve what we want, but whether, to begin with, we know what we want.

This question should be of interest first and foremost to the settlers. If anyone ought to be truly interested in having permanent peace in the territories it should be those people who have built their permanent homes there. If I were in their shoes, I would demand a plan that would guarantee good relations with my neighbors, not defense against them, a plan that would assure peace of the only true kind, the warm kind, peace of drinking a cup of coffee in the Old City of Jerusalem or of shopping in the bazaar of Hebron. For peace without good neighborly relations between Jews and Arabs everywhere in this land is not exactly peace.

As I have said, we all want normalization with the entire Arab world, from Morocco to Qatar. We all know to say that true peace in the Middle East is a strategic necessity. No one likes to think about it, but the prospects of a Middle East with nuclear warheads and without peace sends a chill up the spine. Although the focus of this essay is our relations with the Palestinians and not with the entire Arab world, nevertheless it would be well to remember that the two are related. A feeble solution to the conflict with the Palestinians is likely to jeopardize normalization with the rest of the Arab world. Therefore, one must begin with normalization at home, normalization in the holy land first. In the nuclear age, drinking a cup of coffee in the Old City of Jerusalem and shopping in the bazaar of Hebron are almost a strategic necessity.

Miracles should not be expected. A plan that tries to bring about a cold peace will not bring warm peace. I do not wish to cast aspersions on decent people, but it seems to me that if the fans of the settlement blocs plan believed that islands of Israeli sovereignty in the heart of a Palestinian state are a prescription for friendly relations with our neighbors, they would not be looking for ways to “minimize friction” with them. Whoever bases his program on separation and bypass roads is preparing for intifada and not for peace. There is nothing one can do but say again that only a settlement which appears fair to both sides can assure good neighborly relations. What is more, if there are good neighborly relations there will be no need for separation and bypass roads; and if there are not good neighborly relations even bypass roads will not be secure. It is ostensibly clear that the originators of the blocs plan do not imagine that under the final settlement Israelis will not be allowed to visit Nablus or Jenin. The question, however, is not how the agreement looks on paper, but how life will look after the agreement. Although I would not presume to teach the settlers what it means to love the Land of Israel, nevertheless I find it difficult to understand how bypass roads go with the right of the Jews to feel at home anywhere in the Land of Israel. Are not Jericho and Bethlehem also part of the Land of Israel? How can one be in favor of a final settlement which means living in the Land of Israel without being able to see it?

I would like to leave the subject of the blocs program for the moment. Perhaps it is an attractive idea; and if we insist on it, we might, God forbid, achieve it. As I have said, the question is not only one of reaching an agreement, but of what life will be like after the agreement. In my view, a plan based on a medusa-shaped map, with roads to bypass our neighbors and proud pockets of Jewish sovereignty is an illusion. The question is not whether we shall come to understand this, but when we shall come to understand it.

Let us return to the seemingly preposterous idea of Jewish settlements in a Palestinian state. Recall that I suggested this idea not because it is the greatest nationalist aspiration of the Jewish people or the realization of Katzover and Levinger's dreams. I know that the founders of Sebastia did not stake their claim with the Palestinian Covenant or a picture of Arafat foremost in their hearts. I suggested this because I believe it to be the key to a stable peace and good neighborly relations, and because the other proposals, unfortunately, look just a bit too much like Bosnia.

True, the idea of living in a Palestinian state is not exactly thrilling or just what one wanted, but one should understand that the specter is not so terrifying. The settlers will not be living in the Diaspora and will not be enslaved to a foreign ruler. They will not have to give up a single token of Israeli identity. Their “Palestinian identity” will be reflected at most by having to obey a few traffic laws, in the license plates on their cars, in their supply of electricity and water, and perhaps in sewage levies and postage stamps. In all other respects they will remain as they have always been, citizens of the State of Israel and residents of the Land of Israel, living in settlements which are Israeli in every respect. They will be able to travel freely on both sides of the border, will work and spend their leisure time in Israel, will serve in the Israeli Army, will vote in the elections, will continue to take part in the political, economic and cultural life of the state, and will enjoy state services in education, health and religion. In short, they will remain an integral part of us.

Nevertheless, one thing must be made clear. There is a bitter pill that every settler will have to swallow. Those who wish to remain in the West Bank or Gaza will have to respect the agreement, even if they had better ideas once upon a time. They will have to take a symbolic step, recognizing the political facts of life even if these do not exactly match their view of the world. They will have to obey local laws, to register in the Palestinian registry of inhabitants, and perhaps accept resident papers or something of the sort. There is not a state in the world that can permit itself to have inhabitants that do not recognize its sovereignty. This is not a sign of humiliation, but a small and necessary gesture of respect for one's neighbor. Whoever's Zionist conscience or Jewish pride precludes him or her from doing this will, pardon me for saying, have to relocate.

The practical implication of this principle is that not a single Jewish settlement will be taken down, but that those who might really jeopardize the peace will have to go. Whoever is not willing to come to terms with the existence of a Palestinian state will not be able to live there, and any political formula that allows such a person to remain in the territories will lead to neighborly relations `a la those of the physician Goldstein and the engineer Ayash. It is not the settlements that are an obstacle to peace; it is the extremists who are an obstacle to peace. Of course any person is free to think that Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel is a more important principle than peace. But, it cannot be helped saying, those who have principles which they hold to be more important than peace are an obstacle to peace. Not many may be aware of it, but good neighborly relations exist between settlers and Palestinians in numerous areas, even today. As I have said, I believe that if only those Jews who respect Palestinian sovereignty remain in the territories, we shall see that proper relations between settlers and Palestinians can become the norm. These rosy forecasts surely will not be realized over night. No formula can bring peace with the wave of a wand, because deep-seated hostility and distrust of many years do not disappear instantly and normalization does not occur of itself. Neighborly relations have to be built and nurtured, and this may take a bit of patience.

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Therefore I do not propose basing the personal security of the Jewish settlers on my optimistic predictions, but rather on the Israeli Army. There is no point in going overboard with detailed amateurish proposals for security arrangements, but it is clear that we cannot allow ourselves to use others as our guinea pigs. The peace mpass a probationary period, a period of warming up; during this time we must make it clear to our fellows that as long as security conditions necessitate it, the responsibility for the safety of Israeli citizens must remain in the hands of the Israeli Army. Again, the key word must be respect for the neighbor. Security must be arranged in coordination with local forces, and our soldiers will have to adjust to behaving as the guests and not the masters. Presumably the setters will be in no rush to do this tomorrow morning, but if they express their consent to living in a Palestinian state, the main psychological barrier separating them from their neighbors will be taken down. Such a gesture would make it clear to the Palestinians that building a Jewish neighborhood does not necessarily eat away at their sovereignty. It is likely to change the Palestinian posture beyond recognition and to pave the way for a most essential process - direct negotiation between settlers and Palestinians on the details of the final settlement. The Jewish settlers will undoubtedly be able to achieve far more by negotiating with their neighbors than by lobbying in Jerusalem.

It has always been maintained by us that one cannot have normalization without direct negotiations. That means not only through secret, unofficial contacts, but also through open, official contacts. This rule applies to relations between settlers and Palestinians, as well. It is necessary not only to solve everyday problems but also, primarily, to shape the principles for a final settlement. New rules of the game must be established for a long list of items such as water, electricity, sewage, health, roads, economic enterprises, culture and delinquency. It is fitting that those directly affected enjoy official status and be involved in all the details.

The settlers must also play an active role in the deliberations to define exactly how far the Palestinian authorities may interfere in their lives and in deliberations on the “autonomous” status of the settlements (which one might perhaps, with certain humor, call “autonomy talks”). Of course they must also participate in the negotiations on the most delicate issue of all - the land. I do not believe there can be true peace without the Palestinian state having ownership of the land of the state. But one must try to purchase land from them, to define municipal areas and to arrive at agreements that will insure thickening of the settlements and construction. In my opinion, the agreed point of departure should be a symmetric overall view of the rights of Arabs and Jews in Israel and in the Palestinian state, on which I shall elaborate later. The settlers, however, must bring up their demands not by demonstrating at major intersections in Israel, but by participating in negotiations with the Palestinians. The issues must be resolved now, so that in another 20 years we do not see Jewish settlers having “Land Day” demonstrations opposite the offices of the Palestinian Lands Authority.

Should the miracle happen and the settlers understand that the objective of a final settlement is to have peace and not to shut themselves up in fortified targets, they can play a role of inestimable importance. They can organize reconciliation meetings with their neighbors, friendship associations, youth exchanges, lectures, plays, exhibits, sports competitions, joint fairs, joint enterprises, and most important of all today, they can work to bring Judaism and Islam closer together. I do not wish to get carried away, but they can serve as a “bridge to peace.”

On this optimistic note, I bid farewell to the settlers and move on to discuss the Arabs in the State of Israel. As I have said, this section was accidentally written three years before its time. Therefore, whoever thinks the suggestions presented here are a lot of nonsense should reread what I have written in the year 2000.

Over the Next Hill

Arabs in a Jewish state

What do Arabs of the State of Israel have to do with an essay which is supposed to be about a final settlement with the Palestinians? Where did the strange idea come from that the final settlement ought to change the structure of relations between Jews and Arabs inside the State of Israel as well? The internal affairs of the State of Israel are not, as we all know, on the agenda of the final settlement. Why complicate life with superfluous proposals that no one ever asked for? Is that the way to look for a simple solution?

If the objective of the negotiations is only to attain a scrap of paper over which we and the Palestinians agree, then such suggestions are without doubt superfluous. There is no reason to add extraneous troubles to the obstacle course ahead of us. But, as I have said, this essay views the peace process as one which is supposed to bring peace. If this is the object of the process, then the main question is not how to arrive at a settlement, but how life will look after the settlement. Thus, this essay deals with a trifling matter that the politicians are too busy to bother with - the reality that will exist after peace.

When dealing with reality after peace, the idea of letting the Arabs of Israel define themselves as Palestinian citizens ceases to be strange. If Jews can live in a Palestinian state and define themselves as Israeli citizens, then Arabs should not be denied the right to live in the State of Israel and define themselves as Palestinian citizens. This sounds peculiar at the moment simply because it is still over the next hill. Whoever does not believe in an end to the conflict would not wonder what life will be like here with no conflict. Whoever continues to waste time over the question of whether there will be a Palestinian state cannot, to be sure, contemplate what might happen after a Palestinian state is established.

No one denies that the condition of the Arab residents of the State of Israel today does not evoke envy. They are, ostensibly, citizens who enjoy equal rights; but the reality in which they live is far less rosy. I shall not dwell on the reasons for this, but it is clear that their embarrassing condition stems in no small part from the unpleasant fact that their country is fighting against their people. We would do well to remember that this unfortunate situation will cease to be after the Jewish-Arab conflict is settled. Moreover, establishment of a Palestinian state will, for the first time in their lives, give them the possibility of choice. They will be able to do something that, for technical reasons, they have not been able to do thus far: define themselves as Palestinian citizens. Thus the proposal made here gives the Arabs of Israel what it gives all inhabitants of this land, the right to self-determination.

Before proceeding further, perhaps we should recall exactly what it is that I am proposing. It is essentially something quite simple. Every young Arab in Israel who reaches the age of 18 shall be able to choose between Israeli citizenship and Palestinian citizenship. If he or she chooses Israeli citizenship, that person will be an Israeli citizen in every respect, with all the rights and responsibilities entailed. He or she will serve in the Israeli Army or National Service, will receive all the benefits of having served in the army, and of course will be able to vote and be elected to Knesset. If we make the somewhat self-righteous assumption that the Arabs of Israel enjoy equal rights as citizens today, then the change is not that great. But in actuality, a completely different situation will emerge. Prejudice, it is true, is not eradicated by legislation, but in a setting where “Arab” will no longer be synonymous with “enemy,” in which all the citizens of the state will serve in the Israeli Army and Jews will live in a Palestinian state, there is reason to hope that evidence of discrimination against the Arabs of Israel will gradually diminish.

Israeli Arabs who choose to hold Palestinian citizenship, whether at age 18 or later, will vote in the Palestinian elections instead of voting for Knesset. In all other respects they will be abto enjoy the best of two worlds: they will be exempt from army service and reserves duty, but in all other respects will remain residents of the State of Israel enjoying equal rights and responsibilities. I shall not endeavor to formulate various specific legislation on the subject, but this is more or less the general idea.

Needless to say, this idea must be acceptable first and foremost to the Arabs of Israel. I do not wish to make predictions, but it is hard for me to imagine a reason they would deny themselves the right to carry a Palestinian identity card. What reason could they have for such self-imposed proscriptions? What in the world would make them want to deny themselves rights? But even if the Arabs of Israel accept the idea in principle, one should not necessarily conclude that many of them will jump on the find of Palestinian citizenship. The Arab population in Israel has interests of its own which someone has to represent in Knesset, and the Arab parties will surely not encourage their voters to give up their rights to the vote. Presumably most people would prefer to have an impact on the political life in their own country than on life in the neighboring country.

Nevertheless, it is not inconceivable that in time many Israeli Arabs will find various reasons for wanting Palestinian citizenship - national recognition, natural identification with the internal problems of the Arab state, a desire to have an impact on the education, economy, or human rights there, or perhaps simply a desire to excuse themselves from serving in the Israeli Army. Why not? What harm is there in a little more freedom, self-determination, a bit more equality and greater political rights?

It is not, however, simply a matter of the right to choose Palestinian citizenship. A permanent settlement must recognize the right of Israel’s Arabs to define themselves as Palestinians in every regard. We must get used to thinking simply and symmetrically. Just as no one expects the Jews who will live in the Palestinian state to bring up their children on Arab culture, so too, we cannot require the Arabs living in Israel to be brought up on Agnon and Ben Gurion. This is all very well, but the question remains. What is the rush? Is not one problem at a time enough? Why tie these matters to the talks with the Palestinians on a final settlement? If someday there are Arabs in the State of Israel who want Palestinian citizenship, that can be discussed in due time. Would it not be better first to solve the problems on the agenda instead of worrying about the problems of the next century?

But this is precisely the point. It goes without saying that first one must solve the problems on the agenda - settlements, borders, the demand for a Palestinian state, refugees, and Jerusalem. Just one little question remains open - how are these issues to be resolved? Strange as it may sound the idea of letting the Arabs of Israel have Palestinian citizenship, if we brought up now as part of the total picture, might help solve these difficult problems. In order to solve the problems on the agenda, it is not enough to bring an impressive list of red lines and Israeli interests to the negotiating table. It is not enough to be “cautious and responsible,” to “show determination,” or to “insist on our interests.” If we really want to solve these problems we must come to the negotiating table with an overall view.

It is Indeed Possible

The road to a final settlement

When one thinks of the list of subjects to be dealt with and of the declared opening positions of the sides, resolving the conflict with the Palestinians appears at first glance to be an impossible mission. Therefore, if one wants to sound credible here, one must be pessimistic.

But it is precisely because the situation looks so dreadful that I am far from pessimistic. The cost of failure is so great, that if negotiations become deadlocked, sooner or later new approaches will presumably have to be sought. If we try to solve the problems one at a time, we really do face a long and rocky road. But who says the final settlement has to be an assemblage of solutions to a handful of problems? The proposal presented here takes exactly the opposite tack - first agree on several simple principles, and then, from these principles, derive the solutions to the problems on the agenda.

I am not trying to do the impossible. I know very well that the distance between the ideological formulations of both sides cannot be bridged, but I do not believe that one must try to bridge it. The territory has essentially already been divided and the sides have more or less come to terms with the fact that if they insist on realizing all their “rights,” on repairing all the damage of the past and punishing all those to blame, then peace will never be achieved. Therefore, the task that I take upon myself is far more modest. I am not trying to find a “just” solution to the Jewish-Arab conflict. A fair one would do well enough for me.

The phrase “fair solution” may be a bit less pretentious than “just solution” but it is not void of content. A fair solution must be based, first and foremost, on mutuality and symmetry. Being mutual does not mean only that the other side honor its commitments; it also means mutual willingness to give up “just rights.” Being mutual means that if we demand that the other side give up homes taken from them in the 1948 war, we should not demand that they give us homes taken from us in the 1929 riots. Being mutual means that even if the past cannot be amended, from this moment on the other side becomes an equal partner. Such mutuality is a simple and fair condition on which a stable agreement can be founded. An agreement that does not comply with this condition, even if reached, will not last long.

Five main subjects are included on the agenda of the final settlement: settlements, borders, the demand for a Palestinian state, refugees, and Jerusalem. The first three have already been mentioned here. Each of the solutions I have proposed to these problems in my opinion can stand on its own; but I believe their weight will be inestimably greater if we present them to our partners in the negotiations as part of a symmetric package deal that applies to all of the land between Jordan and the sea.

I have gone into greater length on the question of the settlements primarily because I see that as the decisive issue over which the final settlement will stand or fall. The solution that I have proposed - that the settlers recognize the Palestinian state and live in it as citizens of Israel - is, I believe, essential not only because any other idea will lead us inexorably to Bosnia; it is essential, in my view, because only such a solution will create a simple and symmetric situation where Arabs will be able to live in a Jewish state and Jews in an Arab state, where the Arab residents of Nazareth will be able to hold Palestinian citizenship and the Jewish residents of Hebron will be able to hold Israeli citizenship. This symmetry is, in my opinion, an essential condition for solving the Jewish-Arab conflict.

I have dwelled somewhat less on the question of borders, but the main points have been made. I did not try to draw precise maps, but I did say that a clear and non-winding border must be drawn between Israel and the Palestinians, placing most of the settlements under Palestinian jurisdiction. I proposed this solution not only to remove barriers between neighbors, and not only to make it clear to the Palestinians that the settlements do not threaten to gnaw away at their borders; I proposed it also because the issue of borders must be solved by a symmetric, overall approach which views the Palestinians as equal partners and takes their aspirations into consideration. Let us not fool ourselves; a crooked and wise-guy map with tentacles reaching into the neighbor's yard will never be accepted as a fair solution. If we want a solution that will prevent territorial conflict between us and our neighbors, we must give them a little place in the sun and not squeeze them into a procrustean bed.

The phraPalestinian state has appeared repeatedly in this essay because without such a state the symmetric solution proposed here would have no meaning. I saw no point in taking issue with the various objections to this idea that are raised today because I view it as a matter which has already been decided. I have no doubt that within a few years no one will remember the heated debate which still rages over this semantic question, just as no one today remembers that the main argument once voiced against establishing a Palestinian state was that if such a state were to arise it might, God forbid, fall into the hands of Yassir Arafat. As far as I am concerned, a Palestinian state is almost a fait accompli, and the only question still up to us is whether we will be the first or the last to call it by its name.

Our symmetric point of departure provides for a simple solution to one other complex issue - that of refugees. I think the Palestinians, too, are well aware that as long as Israel defines itself as a Jewish state it will never open its doors to the refugees of 1948. But if we wish them to respect the Jewish character of the State of Israel, we must respect the Arab character of the Palestinian state. Therefore, if we wish to reject the Palestinian demand that the refugees be let back into our territory, we must give up our demand to establish new settlements within their territory. We may, however, continue to demand development of existing settlements; but to maintain symmetry we must at the same time see to the development (or refrain from discriminating against) Arab villages in Israel.

According to the same logic of symmetry, we may not deny, nor need we deny, their right to take in refugees on their own territory. Of course we have the right to make this conditional on solving problems of water and ecology, so that this additional population not hurt us. But as long as we reserve the right to take in Jewish immigrants, we cannot expect our neighbors to cede their right to take in Palestinian refugees. Contrary to the predictors of gloom, I am willing to risk predicting that if we consent to this, we shall see that we have made a mountain of a mole hill. The important thing here is the principle. The less we try to dictate their internal affairs, the better. We must get used to the idea that our neighbors deserve sovereignty and not a caricature of sovereignty. In this respect, whatever does not directly affect us is none of our business. We may demand that they be demilitarized, fight terrorism, uphold agreements, provide conditions for development of our settlements and proclaim clearly that the conflict is over and that they have no more claims against us. No one expects us to give up such vital interests as these, but if we wish the Palestinians to view the agreement with us as a final settlement and not as stage 1 in a multi-stage program, we cannot and ought not interfere with what goes on in their country.

The examples that I have brought thus far of what I call a “simple, symmetric and fair” solution are intended to present the basic conception; they do not claim to be a detailed prescription to be followed without departing from it one jot. I do not believe that there is a simple magic formula that will solve all the problems between us and our neighbors with the sweep of a hand. I do not believe the solution must be simple and symmetric, come Hell or high water. Above all the solution must fit the reality, which as we all know is neither simple nor symmetric. When the reality is complex and lop-sided, there is no substitute for a little good will and common sense. Therefore, it is easy to see that these proposals, even in their basic formulation, are not exactly symmetric. For example, I do not propose that the settlers vote for the Palestinian parliament just because the Arabs of Israel vote for the Knesset. It is also clear that security arrangements must first of all provide security and not necessarily be “simple and symmetric,” if only because Israel must maintain a strategic balance with the entire Arab world and not just with the Palestinians. We are making peace in order to sleep in peace and quiet, not to bring Palestinian tanks and fighter planes to our doors; and our neighbors will have to consent to demilitarization, just as the Egyptians did in their day. They will also have to consent, in my opinion, to a temporary presence of the Israeli Army on their territory because attacks on the settlers or trust-building actions `a la Baruch Goldstein will not enhance the stability of the peace. The aspiration towards symmetry must give the general direction, not specific instructions for handling each and every detail. Therefore, as negotiations progress, the solutions will surely be even less simple and symmetric. I do not believe, for example, that every Jewish settlement that was established a few feet over the Green Line must be added to the Palestinian state at any price. It would be better to include a settlement in Israel whenever that can be done without too many squiggles on the map, provided this be done on a reciprocal basis, such as by territorial exchange, giving them empty territories from the Israeli side of the border in exchange for Israel settlements across the Palestinian side. Mutuality does not necessarily mean artificial insistence on precise symmetry. But a solution which is not founded on an honest desire for maximal symmetry will not stand the test of time.

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Although we may not find it very pleasant, this principle also applies to the hardest problem of all: Jerusalem. If we truly and honestly wish to solve the conflict with our neighbors, we shall have to find a symmetric solution to the problem of Jerusalem. The very idea that the solution to this problem must also be acceptable to the Palestinians upsets some people. But it cannot be helped; the question of Jerusalem is on the agenda of the negotiations for a final settlement with them and therefore, like it or not, any solution will have to be acceptable to them, too.

Jerusalem is really the most difficult problem of all. A solution on Jerusalem acceptable to both sides does not seem to be in the offing. No Israeli politician who wishes to survive would dare suggest at this time that the Palestinian state have a foothold in Jerusalem. But have no fear. Experience of the past few years has shown us that sooner of later reality penetrates the consciousness. Let us not forget that only a few years ago no Israeli politician who wishes to survive would have dared utter the words “Palestinian state.” I know my optimism does not sound very convincing, but I believe that one day we shall understand that we will not be able to persuade a billion Moslems that Jerusalem is situated at Abu Dis, and we shall have to realize that only one final settlement is feasible in Jerusalem: Jewish Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and Arab Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.

A symmetric solution to Jerusalem is not necessarily tantamount to the destruction of the Third Temple. Jerusalem can remain a single undivided city, open both in the direction of Israel and the direction of the Palestinian state. It will remain the eternal capital of the Jewish people even if it is not host to an eternal conflict between Jews and Arabs. We will be able to continue singing “Jerusalem of Gold” even if we do not impose our rule on one hundred and sixty thousand Jerusalemite Arabs. Moreover, if the residents of East Jerusalem cease to feel like second class citizens, we might even be able at long last to realize what we have been trying to accomplish for decades: unite Jerusalem. If the Arabs of Jerusalem cease being our enemies, at long last we will be able to wander through the alleyways of the Old City.

A symmetric solution to the question of Jerusalem is possible, but certainly not at once. It is easy to see that the positions at the moment cannot be bridged. There are delicate questions whose solution requires a lengthy process of building trust; it is hard to believe that the sides could reach a joint formulation on the of Jerusalem without several years of peace, neighborly relations and security. Rushing the matter and trying to resolve everything now is likely to lead to a big blow-up. If that is how things are, it would be unwise to make signing the other clauses of the final settlement contingent on solving the question of Jerusalem. For negotiations to succeed, sometimes the difficult questions must inevitably be put off for last. This is the reasoning behind the Oslo plan being divided into interim stages and a final settlement. The question of Jerusalem is indeed on the agenda of the final settlement, but perhaps the way to that end should be changed slightly: one should make do with an interim agreement for the time being and establish conditions that will facilitate serious and relaxed discussion of the final settlement for Jerusalem after the rest of the clauses of the peace treaty have been concluded.

The peace process cannot be completed without solving the problem of Jerusalem, but the problem of Jerusalem cannot be solved without peace. Not only because peace is necessary in order to soften positions and bridge differences, but also because the exact formula for an agreement on Jerusalem depends to a large extent on the nature of the peace. A united city of Jerusalem, completely open in all directions, is possible only if the peace is a warm and true one. A city of Jerusalem not surrounded by fences would make building fences in other places senseless. Whoever wished to penetrate into Israel could do so via Jerusalem. Therefore, a Jerusalem open to all is not consonant with a fortified peace based on fences, blocs of sovereign settlements and bypass roads. Whoever wishes to consistently follow to the end the notion of a “separate peace,” with “us here and them there,” and with “good fences making good neighbors” ought to be in favor of dividing Jerusalem or severing its Arab residents from the neighboring Palestinian state.

I have already expressed my view that the plan of settlement blocs is a peace plan that does not believe in peace, a plan that does not try to solve the conflict, rather seeks to find a way of continuing to live with it. The idea of Jerusalem being wide open is based on a totally different concept, on a view that the time has come to begin living together instead of hiding behind barricades and living in fear of one another. I have also said that the blocs plan is a prescription leading to a Bosnia, and that a symmetric solution will bring us peace. But just as I did not suggest that the security of the settlements be based on my optimistic forecasts, so too I do not suggest basing the final settlement in Jerusalem on them. First there must be a period of running-in, of warming up the peace. The nature of the relations that develop between the two states is what will determine the exact nature of the agreement over Jerusalem. A truly symmetric solution to the problem of Jerusalem may appear impossible today, but I believe that a few years of normalization and good neighborly relations will transform the impossible into the inevitable.

I have been talking about Jerusalem as if all the other issues in this symmetric agreement were already in my pocket. But one could easily show that all the other proposals I have presented are still far from the current positions of the sides. All I can suggest to the anxious reader in this respect is to wait patiently. The present positions are not only far from my proposals, they are also far from each other and presumably will lead us, sooner or later, to nothing.

Therefore I believe that the day for the ideas presented here will ultimately come, and in time the sides will opt for symmetric solutions. They will adopt these solutions not because they are perfect, but because they will have realized that there is no other way. The Arabs will understand that Jewish settlements cannot be uprooted and that Arab refugees cannot be repatriated to non-existent villages. They will realize that what has been done cannot be undone, that they must look ahead, not back. I do not know when it will happen, or what price we shall have to pay until it does, but in the final analysis we too will understand that the past will not return and that henceforth we and the Palestinians must be equal partners.

We do not live alone in this land. For a century we have been determining the facts. From today on, we must march forward together.