There has of course been an incredible amount said and written about Annapolis and the upcoming peace process. But everyone makes it so complex. It is actually quite a simple equation. If both parties truly want to see a peace deal then the terms of the deal are known. Everyone knows it in their heart but no one is brave enough yet to give up the song and dance and just get on with it.
For peace to be achieved, for peace to be successful and lasting, for peace to lead to regional stability and development, these are pretty much the only terms possible on the core issues, give or take:
Israel returns to her 1967 borders with agreed adjustments and border realignments.
Almost all of the settlements will have to be vacated with an international financial plan to facilitate this. The hugely built-up areas around Jerusalem are admittedly going to be an extremeley difficult point requiring some innovative thinking.
Jerusalem will have to be a shared capital with some innovative, perhaps even experimental, plan to share sovereignty over and responsibility for the city as well as to guarantee its free and open nature for citizens of every country in the world.
Naturl resources and infrastructure
Natural resources, in particular water, and other types of infrastructure as well will have to be shared equitably.
Security and stability along the border will have to be as guaranteed as possible. It may be necessary, and in some ways perhaps even desirable, to allow international observers to play some role on both sides of the border. Demanding 100% watertight security is unrealistic. There is no place in the world where any police force, army or border force maintains 100% security.
The PA has to embark on a measurable, internationally supported and monitored plan to modernize and legitimize her political, financial and security institutions, in her own image to be sure but up to international normative standards of transparency, integrity and accountability.
Israel would be well advised to embark on her own process of finally developing and embracing a constitution that clearly guarantees equal rights to all its citizens and preferably establishes a multi-ethnic constitutional high court. This primarily geared to guaranteeing equal rights and equal redress to all its citizens, Jews and Palestinians alike. A Palestinian state should not be asked to accept a neighbor that treats its family members and ethnic relatives as anything less than first class citizens.
Israel should agree to a certain number of returning Palestinian refugees in the framework of family reunification. The international community, along with Israel’s active participation, will have to support and finance a return and rehabilitation program for the large majority of Palestinian refugees who either return to Palestine or choose to stay with full rights in their current host countries and places of residence. In any case this must entail the end of people living in the squalor and hopelessness of refugee camps.
It’s that simple. The basic framework can be written down on one sheet of paper, signed by Israel and the PA, witnessed and endorsed by every nation that wishes to lend its political and financial support to this endeavor. It’s a shame that Annapolis wasn’t made into such a truly historic and celebratory moment.
Fortunately I am not the only one who believes that the only viable solutions to the core issues are well known. In a recent opinion piece in Ha’aretz, Akiva Eldar wrote:
"Before beginning talks about a final-status agreement, the government must outline its opening positions on each of the core issues. If it adopts the approach that the Palestinians must make do with the security fence as a political border, agree to Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount and erase the right of return entirely, we can spare the Peace Administration's budget."
It's truly not that difficult. A large number of working groups; intense exchange, discussion and diplomacy; many arguments, tears and laughter; and one year later you got yourself a Palestinian nation and the beginnings of an evolving peace.
Is such a peace process a scary prospect? Of course! Does such a peace require great desire, sacrifice and courage on both sides? Absolutely! Would such a peace have the potential to achieve that which everyone says is so important and long overdue in the Middle East – i.e., a stable, vibrant, flourishing Israel and Palestine? Undoubtedly!
Only two simple questions remain and they have nothing to do with borders, security, sovereignty or refugees. How much does each side and all her respective constituents really want peace and to what extent are they emotionally ready for peace? In other words, shall we continue to dance or shall we finally sit to down dinner? The rest is simply in the details.