The Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7th were brutal and unacceptable, and Israel has every right to defend itself against savage terrorism. That said, it’s critical that Israel and the entire world remember that the enemy in this conflict are Islamic extremists, not the innocent Palestinians who Hamas uses as pawns in its atrocious war games. As such, Israel must abide by the international laws of war — as we're certain they will — and always remember that the lives of Palestinian children and Israeli children are all precious.
There will be plenty of opportunities soon to debate how we got here, how this heinous war could have been prevented, and how the U.S. should navigate its relationships with Israel and Palestine in the future. For now, it’s enough to say that small groups on both sides of this conflict have subjected millions of innocent people to death and destruction. Whatever the outcome of these future discussions, there is no doubt that the end conclusion will be that there is no greater security measure for everyone involved than peace.
The relentless conflict between Israel and Palestine has been violent, oppressive, frustrating and futile for decades. Escalating death, damage and destruction have proven that the price of not having some version of peace is devastating for both Israelis and Palestinians. To 1787, it is unnecessary and unwise to get pulled into the finger-pointing and the blame game when it comes to this issue (we're speaking of the longstanding issues between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, obviously not Hamas, which has destroyed any chance of being a legitimate governing force). The bottom line is that this conflict needs to reach some sort of resolution…and the United States has the leverage necessary to bring pressure to bear to make significant progress toward that goal.
The following is not 1787 taking sides in any way. We're just pointing out one of the levers we have: The Congressional Research Service reports that “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II…in 2016, the U.S. and Israeli governments signed their third 10-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on military aid, covering FY2019 to FY2028. Under the terms of the MOU, the United States pledged to provide – subject to congressional appropriation – $38 billion in military aid ($33 billion in Foreign Military Financing grants plus $5 billion in missile defense appropriations) to Israel. This MOU followed a previous $30 billion 10-year agreement, which ran through FY2018.”
Through the years, there have been many back-and-forth negotiations between the parties, but we believe the Clinton Parameters, offered to the Israelis and Palestinians by President Bill Clinton on December 23, 2000, are a solid place to resume talks.
Although this deal got closer than many of the others, there is no question there are really tricky issues involved — 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, just to name a few. But my hope is that these parameters 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.”
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