Opinion: A Comprehensive Middle East Peace Settlement

Simon Hughes said this year,  “We are near to the end of the opportunity of being able to get a peaceful two-state solution because of the extent of the settlements. The separation of Gaza from the West Bank and the increasing encroachment of the settlements mean that an alternative to the two-state model must be explored. We need to be honest and realistic about having a Plan B and a Plan C as well as a Plan A, as an international community.”

Lib Dem policy supports a two state solution. Outlined here is what I believe the International community could support, as a basis for a comprehensive Middle East peace settlement.

A.    Securing the peace with Israel’s neighbours

  • Peace treaty with Syrian National Council based on return of Golan Heights to the post-Assad Syria.
  • Repatriation of Israeli settlers not wishing to remain in Syria and transfer of vacated housing stock to Syrian administration to assist with resettlement of Palestinian refugees wishing to stay in Syria.
  • Negotiation of WMD Free Zone in the Middle East, to include Israel, Iran and the Arab states, that renounces the possession of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons in the region; that brings Israel into the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
    and secures Iranian acceptance of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s additional protocols.
  • Consolidation of existing peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan

B.     Guarantee of Israel’s security

  • Rapprochement between Turkey and Israel with a view to Israel’s accession to NATO, as proposed in Haaretz: Bring Israel into NATO
  • Normalisation of Israel’s association agreements with the European Union and pathway for accession to EU membership.

C.  The Two State Solution

Non-negotiable terms:

  • Independent Palestinian State with the West Bank and Gaza linked by road and rail, based on pre-1967 borders (the green line).
  • Shared capital in Jerusalem – West Jerusalem to Israel, East Jerusalem (the area beyond the Green Line) to Palestine.
  • No automatic right of return to Israel territory for Palestinian refuges. Provision to be made for family reunification, humanitarian cases and work permits based on normal immigration rules.
  • Voluntary repatriation of Israeli settlers not wishing to remain in Palestine.
  • Transfer of vacated housing stock to Palestinian authority to assist with resettlement of Palestinian Diaspora seeking a return to Palestine.

Negotiable terms:

  • The repatriation of returning Israeli settlers could be undertaken over a five-year period. Within two years of signing a treaty, Israel and Palestine would conclude any land swap arrangements that they can mutually agree upon.
  • Joint administration of holy places based on Clinton principles ( The Jerusalem Problem: The Search for Solutions)
  • In the absence of agreement within two years, the default position will be the green line borders.

As Israel goes to the Polls in January and Palestinians consider the ability of their leaders to deliver peace – they would do well to recall the words of Winston Churchill:

“Those who can win a war well can rarely make a good peace and those who could make a good peace would never have won the war.”  

* Joe Bourke is an accountant and university lecturer, Chair of ALTER, and Chair of Hounslow Liberal Democrats.

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  • Richard Dean 28th Nov '12 - 7:36pm

    An interesting and no doubt abbreviated list. But nothing really is not negotiable. Every item on the list will be very hard to get agreement on. Is it really useful to impose conditions? Unless each side accepts the others’rights to exist, be free, and prosper, probably not much will get agreed. But one has to try.

  • Richard,

    the former foreign secretary, David Milliband, on last Sunday’s Andrew Marr show, made the point that a settlement cannot be just left to the parties. It will need the involvement of the International community to set the parameters of a deal and the timetable for getting one.

    “…the Americans are important, but they can’t do it on their own. I think four things are really important. First of all, the old sage we can just leave it to the parties, I don’t think is true. They don’t want compromise more than we want a settlement, and we need the UN Security Council to set the parameters of a deal and the timetable for getting one. Secondly, we can’t ignore Hamas. They’ve dealt themselves into the game. They’re at the table now. We’ve got to recognise that. Thirdly, the responsibilities of the wider Arab states because at the moment Tony Blair is doing hugely diligent work on behalf of the Quartet, … And working incredibly hard at it. But there are no Arabs represented on the Quartet. We need to give responsibility to the Arab states. And there is a final thing and it’s about America. There won’t be a solution without a big American role, but the President can’t do it on his own. I’ve had this thought. Look, who is the person who President Obama could appoint as an envoy who really knows the region, who could really make a difference? It’s President Bill Clinton. I mean he should be the US Envoy to the Middle East. He authored the Clinton Parameters in 2000.

  • Geoffrey,

    the key Palestinian demand is the right to self-determination. That can only be achieved within the boders of an independent state that they govern. There are 1.6m Arab Israeli citizens. If all the Jewish settlers choose to remain in Palestine there will be 600,000 Jewish Palestinian citizens. No bad thing, for building trust and forging closer mutual links, that both states will share a mixed population of Arabs and Jews.

  • Nope.

    Much as I’d like to see peace in the Middle East this outline is not the basis for any lasting settlement.

    I don’t like the idea of Israel in Nato in the near term, and I don’t see how Israel could possibly be fast-tracked into the EU ahead of Turkey. Nor do I think Israel would want to join the EU if Turkey was a member or retained candidate status.

    Demilitarisation may seem like the route to security, but that’s not the experience of history. Pacifism simple leaves you at the mercy of the nearest lunatic demagogue.

    The two-state solution is well past it’s sell-by date. The lack of territorial integrity between Gaza and the West Bank means these two areas will never be able to function as a single independent state capable of self-determination. Strategically such a geo-political ‘solution’ fixes one of the primary causes of violence, in that it means Palestinians cannot have control over their own borders.

    The historic position and status of Jerusalem also means this will remain a flashpoint for continuing tension while each side competes for control of the holy sites.

    It is completely unrealistic to start laying down conditions of negotiation between Israel and the future regime in Syria because nobody quite knows what that will look like. Compare with the Egyptian example where trust in democratic leaders took another severe knock immediately after Hillary Clinton’s visit.

    Sorry to sound negative, but events confound the consensus approach with such regularity that it is incredible that anyone holds to it except for the reason that nobody can come up with any better ideas, or they are quickly dismissed.

    I shall also say it seems to me that it is the more radical and violent elements on both sides of this conflict which do most to encourage these unenforcable poroposals because they each quietly gamble this gives them greatest opportunity to press their advantages. And as opinion is still hardening on both sides such a consensual ‘solution’ results in reinforcing the conflict.

    It would be my pleasure to be proved wrong, but if we continue along the same roadmap our grandchildren will face the same problem.

  • Ed Shepherd 29th Nov '12 - 9:16am

    I agree with Oranjepan. I would also add that I don’t understand why Israel should be brought under the protection of NATO. Are we willing to get ourselves involved in World War 3 if another country attacks Israel? Why not bring this new Palestinian state within NATO, too? Or any other state that wants the protection of NATO? Why are Palestinian refugees not allowed to return but Israeli settlers can remain? To be honest, none of this is likely to happen anyway. There is no way Israel will give up it’s nuclear weapons and I can understand why they would want to keep them. Also, how can the Middle East really ever be called a WMD free zone when the nations of the West have hundreds of nuclear weapons that can (and I have no doubt already are) ready to be launched at Arab cities within minutes if the West decides to launch an attack on a nation that displeases it. Let’s face it, only one nation has ever dropped nuclear weapons on another country and it wasn’t an Arab nation that dropped those nuclear weapons.

  • The fundamental problem with these arrangements (and the majority of commentary on Israel) is that they incorrectly assume that Israel is an innocent party and is actually able and willing to have a mature relationship and live at peace with its neighbours and that it hasn’t been damaged by the history of the Jewish people and specifically the events of the last 60+ years.

    The two points given in the guarantee of Israel’s security reinforces the Israeli us-and-them viewpoint regarding the Palestinians and Arabs; it also reinforces the Palestinian/Arab perceptions of the West. No for both of these points the need is also to include the Palestinians – remember the two-states was part of the original plan for the establishment of Israel, hence we need to treat the two states equally and probably because land was forcibly taken away from its pre-existing residents we need to give greater support to the dispossessed…

  • Michael Parsons 29th Nov '12 - 12:42pm

    It seems Israel continues to act in flagrant breach of international law, imposes collective punishment and destroys by bombardment facilities in Gaza provided by international aid such as the airport and sea-port etc, and they are simply saying they are doing this because they can.

    They seem since 1945 to have forgotten nothing and learned nothing; and we need to accept that the situation can only end badly for them.,Those who are horrified at ideas such as involving ourselves with them through NATO and Europe have every reason to protest. I would suggest that the refashioned NATO has little to offer us now anyway and that it is mainly an instrument of US foreign policy (and domination? there are enemies in the West too) and we need to accept that our days of “imperial duty” are long past and come home to attend to and strengthen ourselves pursuing our own needs.

  • I will explain the underlying rationale for each of the three key points in the article in reply to the comments above.

    A. Securing the peace with Israel’s neighbours

    Israel’s rationale for both occupation of the West Bank and refusal to withdraw to the pre 1967 borders is that it is situated in a ‘tough neighbourhood’., Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen do not recognise Israel as a state.

    Peace Treaty with Syria

    In 1967, the Israeli cabinet voted to return the Golan to Syria in exchange for a peace agreement that was not forthcomong. In the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel agreed to return about 5% of the territory to Syrian civilian control. This part was incorporated into a demilitarised zone that runs along the ceasefire line and extends eastward. This strip is under the military control of UN peace keeping forces.

    Construction of Israeli settlements began in the remainder of the territory held by Israel, which was under military administration until Israel passed the Golan Heights Law extending Israeli law and administration throughout the territory in 1981.The United Nations Security Council has said “the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect.” The international community rejects Israeli claims to title to the territory and regards it as sovereign Syrian territory.

    Talks aimed at a permanent resolution of the conflict between Israel and Syria were held at and after the multilateral Madrid Conference of 1991. Throughout the 1990s several Israeli governments negotiated with Syria’s president Hafez Al-Assad. While serious progress was made, they were unsuccessful.

    While the outcome of events in Syria remain uncertain, The Syrian National Council has been recognised by the US, UK, France, EU as well as Egypt, and Libya. They have established informal relations with Russia and China and receive the support of Turkey,, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

    Earlier this year, the IDF Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz stated that Israel would be willing to take in Alawite refugees, if the situation deteriorated for them in a post-Assad Syria,Gantz: Israel prepared to absorb Alawite refugees .

    Now woud be a good time to make good on this promise with the longer term aim of returning the Golan heights and establishing full diplomatic relations with a democratic Syria,

    WMD Free Zone

    As regards Iran and a WMD free zone there is a good paper available on this A Nuclear Waepons free zone in the Middle East .

    A New York Times article on a survey last year reported as follows:

    “…less than half of Israelis support a strike on Iran. According to our November poll, carried out in cooperation with the Dahaf Institute in Israel, only 43 percent of Israeli Jews support a military strike on Iran — even though 90 percent of them think that Iran will eventually acquire nuclear weapons.

    Most important, when asked whether it would be better for both Israel and Iran to have the bomb, or for neither to have it, 65 percent of Israeli Jews said neither. And a remarkable 64 percent favored the idea of a nuclear-free zone, even when it was explained that this would mean Israel giving up its nuclear weapons.

    The Israeli public also seems willing to move away from a secretive nuclear policy toward greater openness about Israel’s nuclear facilities. Sixty percent of respondents favored “a system of full international inspections” of all nuclear facilities, including Israel’s and Iran’s, as a step toward regional disarmament.

    If Israel’s nuclear program were to become part of the equation, it would be a game-changer. Iran has until now effectively accused the West of employing a double standard because it does not demand Israeli disarmament, earning it many fans across the Arab world.

    And a nuclear-free zone may be hard for Iran to refuse. Iranian diplomats have said they would be open to an intrusive role for the United Nations if it accepted Iran’s right to enrich uranium for energy production — not to the higher levels necessary for weapons. And a 2007 poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes found that the Iranian people would favor such a deal.

    We cannot take what Iranian officials say at face value, but an international push for a nuclear-free Middle East would publicly test them. And most Arab leaders would rather not start down the nuclear path — a real risk if Iran gets the bomb — and have therefore welcomed the proposal of a nuclear-free zone.

    Some Israeli officials may also take the idea seriously. As Avner Cohen’s recent book “The Worst-Kept Secret” shows, Israel’s policy of “opacity” — not acknowledging having nuclear weapons while letting everyone know it does — has existed since 1969, but is now becoming outdated. Indeed, no one outside Israel today sees any ambiguity about the fact that Israel possesses a large nuclear arsenal.

    Although Israeli leaders have in the past expressed openness to the idea of a nuclear-free zone, they have always insisted that there must first be peace between Israel and its neighbors.

    But the stalemate with Iran could actually delay or prevent peace in the region. As the former Israeli spy chief, Meir Dagan, argued earlier this month, Israel’s current stance might actually accelerate Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons and encourage Arab states to follow suit. Moreover, talk of an “existential threat” projects Israel as weak, hurts its morale, and reduces its foreign policy options. This helps explain why three leading Israeli security experts — the Mossad chief, Tamir Pardo, a former Mossad chief, Efraim Halevy, and a former military chief of staff, Dan Halutz — all recently declared that a nuclear Iran would not pose an existential threat to Israel.

    While full elimination of nuclear weapons is improbable without peace, starting the inevitably long and arduous process of negotiations toward that end is vital.

    Given that Israelis overwhelmingly believe that Iran is on its way to acquiring nuclear weapons and several security experts have begun to question current policy, there is now an opportunity for a genuine debate on the real choices: relying on cold-war-style “mutual assured destruction” once Iran develops nuclear weapons or pursuing a path toward a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East, with a chance that Iran — and Arabs — will never develop the bomb at all.

    There should be no illusions that successfully negotiating a path toward regional nuclear disarmament will be easy. But the mere conversation could transform a debate that at present is stuck between two undesirable options: an Iranian bomb or war.”

  • Guarantee of Israel’s security


    A major blockage in the peace process has been the argument put forward by Israel that the pre-1967 armistice line does not leave them with defencible borders. It is not accepted by the International community as a good argument for the continued occupation of Palestinian territory or any other territory for that matter.

    Nevertheless, putting aside the fact that occupying high ground in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley is of liitle strategic value in an age of Drones, precision guided missiles and assymetric warfare. the legimate concerns of Israels goverment for the scurity of its borders do need to be addressed.

    The UK and the Internatiional community has a responsibilty in this area. It was General Allenby’s entry into Jersusalem and the Balfour declaration of 1917 that made the concept of a jewish homeland in Palestine a realistic possibilty. The 1936 Peel Commission recommended the partition of the country between Arabs and Jews.The UN’s 1947 plan for the partition of the Palestinian manadate led to David Ben-Gurion’s proclamation of the State of Israel that was recognised by both the US and Russia and subsequently admitted as a member of the United Nations.

    As the Haretz article notes:

    “Israelis may have to face up to the fact that despite their potent military, the threats against their country are at such a level that Israel must become a member of a regional security system. Moreover, they also have to realize that as long as the Palestine issue remains unresolved, the survival of Israel as a Jewish state will continue to be challenged, as is the case now with Iran.

    Israeli membership in NATO is a type of a bold, long-term structural solution to the ongoing crisis in the Middle East that policy makers should seriously consider as the foundations of a new security system in the most volatile region of the world.

    “A bomb or to bomb” – the popular Hebrew expression meaning living with a bomb or bombing Iran – need not be the only options available.

    European Union

    Trade between the EU and Israel is conducted on the basis of an Association Agreement. The European Union is Israel’s major trading partner The agreement with Israel incorporates free trade arrangements for industrial goods, concessionary arrangements for trade in agricultural products, and opens up the prospect for greater liberalisation of trade in services, and farm goods, Relations between the Parties, as well as all the provisions of the Agreement itself, are based on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guides their internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement.Upgrading the Association Agreement is currently on hold following a vote in the European Parliament to postpone the issue in December 2008, due to continuing settlement-building and the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Goods from Israeli settlements in the Israeli-occupied territories are not subjected to the free trade agreement, as they are not considered Israeli.

    Normalising EU relatiions with Israel will require on the part of Israel, a freeze on settlement-building and the lifting of the blockade of the Gaza Strip. I would concur with Orangepan that Israel should not be fast-tracked into the EU ahead of Turkey, but their may be mileage in linking a rapprochment between the two countries as part of their preparations for meeting EU conditions.

  • C. The Two State Solution(/h1>

    The two state solution is the expressed desire of the Internationa community and the Palestinian Authority and is the basis of the roadmap to peace. Howver, Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud party continue to give the proposals only alukewarm reception at best.Netanyahu slams Abbass support for a two state solution

    As the article notes, President Abbas may be flexible on the right of return of Palestinian refugess:

    “Palestine for me is the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the capital, this is Palestine, I am a refugee, I live in Ramallah, the West Bank and Gaza is Palestine, everything else is Israel.”

    President Shimon Peres praised Abbas’s statements. ”His brave words prove that Abu Mazen (Abbas) is a real partner for peace,” Peres said.

    “Abbas’ statements should be taken seriously,” he said. “They are in line with the positions of most Israelis, who support the two-state solution.”

    With the right men in place to support President Peres a lasting peace may be in reach. As I note in the article, – as Israel goes to the Polls in January and Palestinians consider the ability of their leaders to deliver peace – they would do well to recall the words of Winston Churchill:

    “Those who can win a war well can rarely make a good peace and those who could make a good peace would never have won the war.”

  • Re: A. Securing the peace with Israel’s neighbours
    “Israel’s rationale for both occupation of the West Bank and refusal to withdraw to the pre 1967 borders is that it is situated in a ‘tough neighbourhood’.”

    It was known prior to the establishment of the state of Israel in Palestine that this was and would be a touch neighbourhood in which to establish a Jewish state, but still the founders of modern Israel went ahead. So in some respects Israel made their own bed and now have to lie in it.

    Although I do wonder whether a contributor to this problem is the legacy of foreign occupation and control in the Middle East.. Perhaps, like other conflicts a change of people and mindset is necessary, as Joe implies by his Churchill quote.

    Finally, to put the 60+ years of conflict around the establishment of the modern state of Israel into perspective, we shouldn’t forget the long fight that resulted in the creation of the modern independent Irish state in 1922 and the long road to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, which marked a significant step on the road to a final resolution to the status of the 6 counties that constitute N.Ireland – something that is still ‘work-in-progress’.

  • Joe,
    there’s a number of lengthy points to be made about why the current proposals cannot work and we shouldn’t support them, but I’ll try to restrain myself.

    Firstly, it is the very idea of the peaceful nation state that is flawed. Modern nations only reached peaceful accomodation with each other by integrating into mixed, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-national unions – segregation created the conditions for conflict. So the premise that peace will suddenly break out if Israelis and Palestinians agree and secure military borders is a complete nonsense – that simply provides launching posts for renewed violence.

    Secondly, peace will only come through unity – but Israel is too weak to unify the region and too strong to allow any other force to do so. Meanwhile shared control of the holy sites is impossible while there is no unity on issues of access etc. Personally I support a ‘Vatican-style’ solution. On top of this the EU’s four freedoms are inconsistent with refugee status desired by each side.

    Furthermore, with the integration of economies and via rapidly evolving communication the era of the nation state is quickly passing into irrelevance (if it ever was). I find it impossible to trust opinion coming from such a volatile region because they are so polarised into obsolete positions by events as to be meaningless.

    Equally, and in very real terms, Gaza and the West Bank are two separate and independent territories because they are controlled by Hamas and Fatah respectively and are supplied from opposite directions – even currently we are looking at a three-state situation.

    We know aggressive nationalism doesn’t work, we know desecularisation doesn’t work, and we know supporting social and economic inequality doesn’t work. Add this all together and there is only direction to take, but nobody has mentioned it so far because the situation hasn’t become serious enough yet. And that’s the most worrying thought.

    Frankly, as liberal democrats we should be supporting solutions based on liberal democratic principles. But since we still struggle to win the debate at home it’s not really a surprise we haven’t yet won the debate on the international stage.

  • Orangepan,

    it is clear that you have thought deeply about this issue and highlight some fundamental faultlines in the proposed solutions for the Israel/palestine dispute, as well as the new complication of a split between Fatah and Hamas.

    I don’t disagree with your view that a two state solution will not stop all violence. It will however remove a great deal of the underlying source of tension between Israel and its Arab Neighbours.

    I will post in two sepate comment why I think this is so. This comment refers to the Arab peace plan of 2002.

    The Arab League Peace Plan of 2002 sponsored by the most influential Arab leader in the region, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, lays out the terms for full recognition of Israel by the league. King Abdullah has called for full Israeli withdrawal from all the Arab territories occupied since June 1967, in implementation of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, reaffirmed by the Madrid Conference of 1991 and the land for peace principle, and Israel’s acceptance of an independent Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in return for the establishment of normal relations in the context of a comprehensive peace with Israel.

    Recognising that a military solution to the conflict will not achieve peace or provide security for the parties, the council:

    1. Requests Israel to reconsider its policies and declare that a just peace is its strategic option as well.

    2. Further calls upon Israel to affirm:

    a. Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights to the lines of June 4, 1967 as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon.

    b. Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian Refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194.

    c. The acceptance of the establishment of a Sovereign Independent Palestinian State on the Palestinian territories occupied since the 4th of June 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

    3. Consequently, the Arab Countries affirm the following:

    a. Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all the states of the region.

    b. Establish normal relations with Israel in the context of this comprehensive peace.

    4. Assures the rejection of all forms of Palestinian patriation which conflict with the special circumstances of the Arab host countries.

    5. Calls upon the Government of Israel and all Israelis to accept this initiative in order to safeguard the prospects for peace and stop the further shedding of blood, enabling the Arab Countries and Israel to live in peace and good neighborliness and provide future generations with security, stability, and prosperity.

    6. Invites the International Community and all countries and Organizations to support this initiative.

    7. Requests the Chairman of the Summit to form a special committee composed of some of its concerned member states and the Secretary General of the League of Arab States to pursue the necessary contacts to gain support for this initiative at all levels, particularly from the United Nations, the Security Council, the United States of America, the Russian Federation, the Muslim States and the European Union.

    Zvika Krieger is as a senior vice president at the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. He is surely right, when writing in the Atlantic ten years on from the Arab league inititive Lost moments the arab peace initiative 10 years later/ he says “..the offer certainly provided an opening for unprecedented relations between Israel and its neighbors, and Israel’s refusal to engage with it was a tremendous missed opportunity.”

    Any Isreali/Palestinian settlement ultimately has to satisfy the neighbouring countries hosting the Palestinian Diaspora.

  • The second point is a focus on what ordinary Israelis and Palestinians seek, not encumbered by having to concern themselves with the electoral mathematics of coalition governments in Israel or power bases and support within radical Islam.

    The Geneva initiative model agreement was “negotiated” by Israelis and Palestinians with years and years of experience as senior officials, ministers, negotiators and generals. The Geneva Initiative cartographers for instance had sat opposite each other as official negotiators on territorial issues for close to a decade until they joined the Geneva Initiative, and the drafters had faced each other in previous official roles at the Taba talks.

    The Palestinians include ministers, members of the PLO Executive Committee, key figures from the younger generation leadership of the Fatah Movement, former Palestinian prisoners, and experts on the conflict.

    Numbered amongst the Israelis are the former Chief of Staff of the Israeli army, ex-head of the Shin Bet and Deputy Head of the Mossad – retired generals and police chiefs, current and former ministers, parliamentarians from an array of different political parties, business people and academics, and many others. They have been joined by citizens from all walks of civil society.

    The basic principles of the Accord are:

    – End of conflict. End of all claims.
    – Mutual recognition of Israeli and Palestinian right to two separate states.
    – A final, agreed upon border.
    – A comprehensive solution to the refugee problem.
    – Large settlement blocks and most of the settlers are annexed to Israel, as part of a 1:1 land swap.
    – Recognition of the Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and recognition of the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.
    – A demilitarized Palestinian state.
    – A comprehensive and complete Palestinian commitment to fighting terrorism and incitement.
    – An international verification group to oversee implementation.

    On the issue of holy places, the accord provides:
    – The parties will commit to safeguarding the character, holiness, and freedom of worship in the city.
    – The parties view the Old City as one whole enjoying a unique character. Movement within the Old City shall be free and unimpeded subject to the provisions of this article and rules and regulations pertaining to the various holy sites.
    – There shall be no digging, excavation, or construction on al-Haram al-Sharif / the Temple Mount, unless approved by the two parties.

    The Geneva iniative is a worked through proposal for a two-state solution that can satisfy the demands of moderate Israelis and Palestinians and is close enough to the Arab league peace plan to secure recognition of both states by their Arab neighbours.

  • Thanks Joe, that’s all good stuff. However it must be said that that’s a big plan to enact simultaneously between two sides with so little trust.

    My question therefore regards which point defines the fundamental starting point for a breakthrough in negotiations and how do we let the relevant parties develop the terms of debate from there without fringe groups and extremists resorting to violence to attempt to tip the balance of influence in the public arena? Can’t we preemptively neutralise tension by offering a framework for acceptable choices, such as, for example, the possibility of enhanced sub-national assemblies and (as I stated above) the possibility of a ‘Vatican-style’ option for the holy sites?

  • Roland in his comments above notes “to put the 60+ years of conflict around the establishment of the modern state of Israel into perspective, we shouldn’t forget the long fight that resulted in the creation of the modern independent Irish state in 1922 and the long road to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, which marked a significant step on the road to a final resolution to the status of the 6 counties that constitute N.Ireland – something that is still ‘work-in-progress’.

    Negotiations with Sinn Fein/IRA began in earnest (albeity secretly) under John Major and were ultimately concluded by Tony Blair in the Good Friday agreement. It is hard to imagine that such negotiations during the Thatcher administration.

    Similarly, in Israel, it is hard to see a breakthrough coming during a Netanyahu administration that is frantiacally increasing the pace and density of Jewish settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank Israel to build 3,000 settler homes after UN vote

    Whether this is a consequence of a personal belief of Netanyahu in a stategy of creating facts on the ground, pressure from hardliners in his Likud party or the need to mollify the religious zealotry of coalition partners such as Shas, I am unsure.

    Certainly, a governing coalition of centre-left parties, after the January elections, that included Kadima, labour, Yisreal Beiteinu or Meretz would put a very different complexion on negotiations with the Palestinians and the prospects for a two-state solution.

    On the Palestinian side, I think Abbas will gain some merit from his successful efforts to upgrade Palestinan status at the UN. I think the UK would have been better to support the bid without pre-conditions as it was always going to be accepted by the wider International Community. Given a willing partner to work with on the Israeli side, that is capable of making the necessary compromises, Abbas seems capable of reciprocating in kind.

    Hamas has to be brought to the point by Egypt (as did the IRA ultimately) of recognising that there is no military solution and that a political wing (renouncing the use of violence and expelling Islamic Jihad) represents the only prospect of improving the lot of Palestinans in Gaza.

    I think the idea of sub-national assemblies within a unitary metropolitan authority and a ‘Vatican-stlye’ option for the holy sites could be a workable proposition in Jersusalem.

    One thing that Israel could usefully do as a goodwill gesture now, is to set up non-discrimanatory humanitarian aide on the Golan heights, for Palestinian and Syrian refugess fleeing the violence in Syria. This would help to relieve the pressure on Jordan and Iraq, while providing a safe haven for Christian, Druze and Alawite Syrians caught in the crossfire of a sectarian civil war.

  • Michael Parsons 1st Dec '12 - 6:58am

    If we liberal democrats support international law, we have a problem, surely,since Israel does not accept its international agreed and lawful borders of 1967 it is a State without recognised borders; and has no right to resist Arab repossession of all the lands, If Israel can claim the West Bank etc Palestine can claim Haifa and even Tel Aviv surely.it would seem, and as good world citizens we should agree with them,
    The situation is resolving itself slowly following Israel’s resounding defeats in Lebanon and currently in its Gaza bombardment and withdrawal; but as I said, this does not augur well for them.. Dare we say it, a buffer-state from which it seems God as Lord of History seems to have arranged that they have been repeatedly removed (10 tribes, Babylon, Rome etc) is not very promising territory.

  • Michael,

    I agree with your comment that Liberal Democrats must stand fast in support of International Law. In the context of the Israel/Palestine dispute. I also agree with David Milliband comments last week, that a settlement cannot be just left to the parties. It will need the involvement of the International community to set the parameters of a deal and the timetable for getting one. My view is that the non-negotiable terms for a two-state solution, outlined in the article above, should be the basis for a negotiation that would centre around a limited number of points – namely mutually agreed land swap agreements and access/joint-administration of Jerusalem’s holy places as proposed by the Geneva initiative.

    If either Israel or the Palestine authority refuse to come to the table on this basis than the green line borders should be recognised by the International community as the sovereign territory of the independent states of Israel and Palestine and a United Nations peacekeeping force (blue helmets) put in place to man border crossings/checkpoints and oversee implementation.

    I hope the situation will be resolved in the aftermath of theJanuary elections, but I don’t see the alternatives of a one state or three state solution as having any real prospect of longevity.

    The most pressing problem in the middle east at the moment is the calamitous situation in Syria. Nato is about to deploy patriot missiles on the Turkish border with Syria. Like it or not the US and its Nato partners will need to be ready to secure the chemical and biological weapons that the Assad regime maintains as the country’s security disintegrates.

    Israel has an important role to play here that could serve its own national interest.

    Firtly, Israel can allow the Magen David Adom Society, International Red Cross and Red Crescent to establish aid camps in the Golan Heights to assist refugess fleeing the violence in Damascus and Deraa.

    Secondly, a rapprochement between Israel and Turkey could see Israel participate in efforts to enforce the arms embago on Syria via NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue .

    Thirdly, If Israel acts expeditiously the opportunity exists to resurrect the negotiations for a peace treaty, with the Syrian National Council based on return of the Golan Heights, that Netanyahu and Assad reportedly conducted in 2010 Netanyahu agreed to full Golan Heights withdrawal ,

    These initiatives would be trust building measures that can lay the ground both for Israel’s closer cooperation with Nato and negotiation of a WMD free zone in the middle-east.

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