Tuesday, June 12, 2001

Letter to the editor

Dear friends at the English edition of Ha’aretz

You may publish this as an op-ed piece or a letter to the editor. The writer, Reuven Kaminer, is a peace activist in Jerusalem and the author of “The Politics of Protest – the Israeli Peace Movement and the Palestinian Intifada.”

Procedure Must Give Way to Substance

Though seemingly reasonable, diplomatic efforts aimed at getting the sides back to the negotiating table, are doomed to failure. Sharon at the negotiating table would be forced to divest his carefully crafted image as a moderate. It is also highly questionable that any Palestinian leadership could agree to an extended cease-fire and a long cooling off period simply in order to create an opportunity to hear from Sharon directly that Israel is unwilling to return more than 40% of the territories, that it intends to keep all of Jerusalem and more of the same.

It is time for a radically different approach by international diplomacy. The United States, Europe, the UN and other interested parties must work out the contours of a final status solution and the steps that must be taken to reach it. This is less difficult than it sounds since the main contours of any reasonable solution to the conflict have been clear to the international community for quite a while. These include return to the 1967 borders, with a possible exchange of territory to allow Israel to annex many of its settlements over the 1967 border, division of Jerusalem on a demographic basis and a serious effort to solve the problem of the Palestinian refugees, including a degree of repatriation that would not seriously impair the demographic character of Israel as a Jewish state.

Whatever the reasons for the present impasse, people of good will, including Palestinians and Israelis, would accept the logic that the time has come to talk about peace, that is about the final status of the relations between Israel and Palestine. Those international forces engaged once again in an attempt to revive the peace process would be well advised, if they are sincere in their efforts, that the procedural approach which is aimed at getting the two sides to negotiate - has exhausted its potential. The international community, if it seeks and end to the conflict and the tensions in the region, can and must come up with the reasonable and fair solution to the conflict. Certainly, there will be room for diplomacy and tact in implementing the will of the international community and allowing the sides to reposition themselves. But then, and only then, will we be on the path that can avert further violence and an eventual full-scale war in the region.