This relentless conflict breaks our hearts.
We understand that this a highly personal and complex issue. But it is also violent, oppressive, frustrating and futile. Over the past decades, escalating damage and destruction have proven that the price of not having a peace process is devastating, for both Israelis and Palestinians.
We believe that the United States has the leverage necessary to bring pressure to bear on both sides in order to make significant progress toward a peace agreement. The Clinton Parameters, offered to both sides by President Bill Clinton on December 23, 2000 are a solid place to resume talks. We fully recognize that these parameters are far from a done deal for either side – for example, the Palestinian right of return to Israel, concerns about lack of land contiguity, Israel’s continued settlement building in the West Bank, and sovereignty over the Temple Mount remain major points of contention – but we are convinced they can serve as a starting point for further negotiations.
As President Clinton said at the time, "I believe this is the outline of a fair and lasting agreement. It gives the Palestinian people the ability to determine their future on their own land, a sovereign and viable state recognized by the international community, al-Quds as its capital, sovereignty over the Haram, and new lives for the refugees. It gives the people of Israel a genuine end to the conflict, real security, the preservation of sacred religious ties, the incorporation of 80 percent of the settlers into Israel, and the largest Jewish Jerusalem in history, recognized by all as your capital."
Our approach would be to first initiate direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. However, if these talks fail, 1787 supports a U.S.-led United Nations Security Council resolution. UN Security Council-endorsed parameters, if passed, would then become international law. The time has come to resolve this destructive, heartbreaking situation.
The solution should provide for Palestinian sovereignty over 94-96% of West Bank territory, with a land swap of 1-3% to partially compensate for the land Israel annexes for its settlement blocs. Other territorial arrangements such as permanent Safe Passage will need to be worked out (the swap of leased land could also be considered). The final maps should include 80 percent of the settlers in blocs, contiguity of territory for each side, minimize annexation and the number of Palestinians affected.
The challenge is to address legitimate Israeli security concerns while respecting Palestinian sovereignty. The key lies in an international presence that can only be withdrawn by the agreement of both sides. Israeli withdrawal should be phased over 36 months while the international force is gradually introduced into the area. At the end of this period, a small Israeli presence in fixed locations would remain in the Jordan Valley under the authority of the international force for another 36 months. This period could be reduced in the event of favorable regional developments that diminish the threats to Israel. On early-warning stations, Israel should maintain three facilities on the West Bank with a Palestinian liaison presence; the stations would be subject to review after three years, with any change in status to be mutually agreed. For defining what would constitute an “emergency,” formulations should be used that refer to “an imminent and demonstrable threat to Israel’s national security that requires Israel to declare a national state of emergency.” The international forces would need to be notified of any such determination. On airspace, the state of Palestine will have sovereignty over its airspace but the two sides should work out special arrangements for Israel training and operational needs. While Israel wants Palestine to be defined as a “demilitarized state” and Palestine wants to be defined as “a state of limited arms,” both should think in terms of a “non-militarized state.” This would be consistent with the fact that, as well as a strong Palestinian security force, Palestine will have an international force for border security and deterrence purposes. Whatever the terminology, both sides will need to work out specific understandings on the parameters of the Palestinian security forces.
On Jerusalem, the most promising approach is to follow the general principle that what is Arab in the City should be Palestinian and what is Jewish should be Israeli. This would apply to the Old City as well. Regarding the Haram/Temple Mount issue, there are two approaches that could formalize Palestinian de facto control over the Haram while respecting the convictions of the Jewish people. Under each, there could be an international monitoring system to provide mutual confidence: (1) Mutual agreement could provide for Palestinian sovereignty over the Haram, and for Israeli sovereignty over either “the Western Wall and the space sacred to Judaism of which it is a part” or “the Western Wall and the holy of holies of which it is part.” There would be a firm commitment by both not to excavate beneath the Haram or behind the Western Wall. (2) Alternatively, the agreement could provide for Palestinian sovereignty over the Haram and Israeli sovereignty over the Western Wall and for “shared functional sovereignty over the issue of excavation under the Haram or behind the Western Wall.” That way, mutual consent would be required before any excavation takes place in these areas.
The issue of Palestinian refugees is no less sensitive than Jerusalem. In 2000, Clinton believed that Israel was prepared to acknowledge the moral and material suffering caused to the Palestinian people as a result of the 1948 War and the need to assist the international community in addressing the problem. He also believed that the Palestinian side was prepared to join in such an international solution. The fundamental gap seems to be how to handle the concept of the right to return. Because of the history, it would be hard for the Palestinian leadership to appear to be abandoning the principle. At the same time, the Israeli side cannot accept any reference to a right of return that would imply a right to immigrate to Israel in defiance of Israel’s sovereign policies on admission or that would threaten the Jewish character of the State. Any solution will have to address both of these needs. It will also have to be consistent with the two-state approach that both sides have once accepted as the way to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If these parameters are revived, a new State of Palestine will about to be created as the homeland of the Palestinian people, just as Israel was established as the homeland of the Jewish people. Under this two-state solution, the guiding principle has to be that the Palestinian state will be the focal point for the Palestinians who choose to return to the area, without ruling out that Israel will accept some of these refugees. Both sides should adopt a formulation on the right of return that will make clear there is no specific right of return to Israel, itself, but that does not negate the aspirations of Palestinian refugees to return to the area. There are two alternatives: (1) Both sides recognize the right of Palestinian refugees to return to historic Palestine. (2) Both sides recognize the right of Palestinian refugees to a homeland. The agreement would define the implementation of this general right in a way that is consistent with the two-state solution. It would list the five possible homes for refugees: 1) The State of Palestine, 2) Areas in Israel being transferred to Palestine in the land swap, 3) Rehabilitation in host country, 4) Resettlement in third country, 5) Admission to Israel. In listing these five options, both sides would make clear that return to the West Bank, Gaza, or the areas acquired through the land swap would be a right for all Palestinian refugees, while rehabilitation in their host countries, resettlement in third countries, or absorption into Israel would depend upon the policies of those countries. Israel could indicate in the agreement that it intended to establish a policy so that some of the refugees could be absorbed into Israel, consistent with Israel’s sovereign decision.
Source: Dennis Ross. "The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace." New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2004