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Edition 2 Volume 1 - November 24, 2010

How should Israel respond to the API
The best possible deal  - Saleh Abdel Jawad
What might have been an advantage to Israel in the past is no longer the case today.

What peace process? What peace?  - As'ad AbuKhalil
It is high time to expose the obvious: there has not been a peace process since it started back in the early 1970s.

Why the API was ignored by Israel in 2002  - Yossi Alpher
We must enable the API to emerge from the artificial constraints imposed on it by both sides.

The best policy alternative for Israel  - Alex Mintz and Yosi Ganel
The five reservations could be spelled out in an official letter by the government of Israel to accompany the formal declaration.

The IPI, a pragmatic "yes" to the API  - Yuval Rabin and Koby Huberman
We hope to see brave regional and international leaders translate the API and IPI visions into synchronized progress.

The best possible deal
 Saleh Abdel Jawad

On the night of June 10, 1967, in the wake of the Six-Day War, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan was quoted as saying that he was waiting for a telephone call from Arab leaders. In other words, he expected an Arab initiative in which land would be exchanged for peace.

However the telephone did not ring. That wasn't because the Arab answer was late. It was delivered in the Khartoum Arab League summit resolution of September 1, 1967 and became known as the "Three Nos": no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and no negotiations with it.

In this historic context, the endorsement of the Arab Peace Initiative by the Arab League summit in Beirut in March 2002 reflects a dramatic change in the traditional Arab world's position vis-a-vis Israel. It represents the best comprehensive package one could hope for given political constraints on both parties.

Unfortunately, the military operation in the Palestinian territories two days after the peace initiative's endorsement reflected the Israeli mainstream's "true" response to the Arab peace offer. It's only fair to note that this operation came after two deadly attacks against innocent Israeli civilians in Netanya and Haifa, but this was not the real reason since such attacks were commonplace during the second intifada. The Israeli operation was mainly intended to brake the momentum of the initiative--and it succeeded.

But circumstances change and today Israel should not miss this opportunity. It should declare its willingness to accept the plan as a basis for Arab-Israel negotiations and begin a serious dialogue over its application. What might have been an advantage to Israel in the past is no longer the case today or for the future.

Israel should recognize the geopolitical-strategic changes that have occurred since 2002.

First, the US' occupation and destruction of Iraq and the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime (brought about by pressure from Israel) have ironically changed the regional balance of power in favor of Iran, an enemy much, much tougher than the late regime of the Iraqi dictator.

Second, American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and the deterioration of the US economy are seriously weakening Israel's main ally. While the Yishuv and Israel formerly succeeded at replacing one superpower with another (UK with France and then the USA) it's hard to imagine any real alternative to American power and supremacy.

Third, there is the rise of Hizballah and Syria after the 2006 Lebanon War, which was perceived in the Arab world as an Israeli defeat. While this is clearly an exaggeration, we can't but observe that what Israel succeeded in achieving in six days or six hours against three Arab armies in 1967 was unachievable in 33 days in Lebanon and 21 days in Gaza against several thousand combatants. The days of achieving decisive victory in a number of days seem to be gone forever.

Fourth, the strategic shift in Turkey's policies and alliances in the region means another significant weakening of Israel's position. A continuation of the conflict could lead in the long run to a new front against Israel composed of Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon. In addition Israel should not ignore the deterioration of its image within the international community. The unconditional support of some western leaders should not blind Israel from seeing its real position among the grassroots.

And finally, the continuation of the conflict has had a tremendous impact on Israel's soul and structure. It is now slipping toward an apartheid system vis-a-vis its Arab population, empowering extreme religious fanaticism, and overseeing the destruction of its democratic system.

These interrelated changes result in only two choices for Israel: either to continue in endless wars with uncertain results, or to accept the Arab Peace Initiative as a basis for peace.-Published 24/11/2010 © bitterlemons-api.org

Saleh Abdel Jawad is a political scientist and dean of the Faculty of Law and Public Administration at Birzeit University.

What peace process? What peace?
 As'ad AbuKhalil

With every new US administration, especially toward the last year of the term of a US president, the talk about "Arab-Israel peace" increases. Usually, people are invited to Washington, DC to attend a ceremony of speeches. Arab official expectations usually rise, while Israeli governments get accustomed to resisting any signs of US pressures. Pressures never come, but the perceptions of imminent US pressures are deliberately promoted to bring a level of enthusiasm from Arab official delegations.

It is high time to expose the obvious: there has not been a peace process since it started back in the early 1970s, with the Rogers Plan. It is usually forgotten that National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger scuttled the Rogers plan and Secretary of State William Rogers himself had to resign. What we call a "peace process" is no more than US political and diplomatic cover provided to Israel to give it time to achieve its objectives through war, occupation, and assassinations. The "peace process" was also used in the mid-1970s to give Anwar Sadat enough time to prepare for his trip to Jerusalem.

The long and unending duration of this peace process refutes assumptions about an urgent need (made by every US administration) to end once and for all the Arab-Israel conflict. Usually in a president's second term, efforts by administrations intensify and offers are made to induce Israel to make minimum concessions, while Arab (usually Palestinian) negotiators are pressured and bullied into accepting humiliating conditions forced on them by the US. Yet, the conditions are typically too humiliating and well below the minimum standards of national consensus for any Palestinian leadership to accept. And even when a Palestinian leadership inches toward accepting the humiliating conditions, like the Arafat leadership in the Taba negotiations toward the very end of the Clinton second term, the Israeli government makes it clear it won't agree to the minimum demands of the Palestinian delegation.

The Arab-Israel conflict is not at a crossroads. It has not ended. Yet, supporters of Israel want to believe that the weakening position of the Palestinian leadership (in the rival camps) is enough to predict the demise of the Palestinian national movement. New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner recently wrote that "the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been largely drained of deadly violence in the past few years." Bronner may have not noticed, but Palestinians--civilians and combatants--are being hunted down regularly by Israeli gunfire. Yet, Israel may feel gratified because the Palestinian house is divided and a Palestinian party (the Fateh movement) is now largely funded, armed, and supported by supporters of Israel in the US and EU.

Of course, Arab governments never cease to take US peace seriously--more than a bit too seriously. Ever since the King Fahd Plan (later modified to be re-produced as a Reagan Plan), Saudi Arabia has thrown its weight and money behind US diplomatic efforts in the region, imposing its standards for Arab-Israel peace on Arab governments. The so-called Arab peace plan is a culmination of Saudi efforts to control the Arab state system on behalf of the US in order to facilitate US foreign policy initiatives and to atone for Saudi sins prior to 9/11. It seems that no one is taking it seriously, except the Saudi king and his media propagandists. The Saudi government hoped for some western attention, but none was displayed. The Saudi government even paid for expensive one page ads in key western newspapers, but they were ignored. Now, the Saudi government is relegated to repeating its mantra about the need for basing future talks on this initiative. As for the Arab public, it never identified with that peace initiative. It was seen, rightly, as a calculation of an Arab government desperate for US support and approval.

Israel has a different agenda: its agenda is to stick to that classic Zionist formula: that the Arabs only understand the language of force. As Hannah Arendt observed back in 1951: "All hopes to the contrary notwithstanding, it seems as though the ONE argument the Arabs are incapable of understanding is force."

Israel had a chance to reach an unfair and unjust deal with Yasser Arafat. Instead, it fought him at every corner. Zionism is based on a firm belief in the fundamental inferiority of the (Arab) enemy in every facet. Even the nationalist impulse was ignored by the Zionists in dealing with Arabs. The Arab-Israel conflict is one that will not be solved except in a bloody and total war--and that may come on gradually. The performance of the Israeli army in the face of hundreds of Hizballah volunteers in 2006 may point to a direction that is way out of favor for Israel. Despite the fulfillment of the Zionist dream in the Holy Land, Israel's years may be numbered. Peace may come then, depending on the way the victors fashion their new political state. Published 24/11/2010 © bitterlemons-api.org

As'ad AbuKhalil is professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus and webmaster of the Angry Arab blog.

Why the API was ignored by Israel in 2002
 Yossi Alpher

The Arab League peace plan is a missed opportunity. Moderate Arab leaders, beginning with Saudi King Abdullah who initiated the plan, seem to have done almost everything possible to ensure that it finds an unfavorable reception in Israel. With courage and creativity they could achieve better results. But so could Israel.

Israel's problems with the initiative began the day after it was proclaimed, with the Passover feast suicide bombing in Netanya that killed 30 celebrants. That act of Palestinian terror against Israel's holiday of national liberation had tremendous and tragic symbolic importance for Israelis and Jews everywhere. It precipitated a major military operation in the West Bank and quite understandably distracted Israelis' attention from the initiative. There is some evidence that the Islamist extremists that carried it out intended the timing as a rebuttal of the API. Yet the same Arab League that had just offered Israel peace offered not a word of condemnation of the attack. What were Israelis supposed to think?

The concluding paragraph in the League's initiative calls for its leadership to "pursue the necessary contacts to gain support . . . at all levels". Over the years, with the exception of a single grudging trip to Jerusalem by two familiar visitors, the foreign ministers of Jordan and Egypt, the initiative has been presented by its sponsors to nearly every major power and international institution, but not to the country it addresses: Israel.

When the initiative was first published back in the spring of 2002, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was asked for his reaction. "Let [then Crown Prince] Abdullah come to Jerusalem to present it," Sharon said dismissively. And cynically: Sharon was highly skeptical about the prospects of real peace with Israel's Arab neighbors. Yet what could be more natural? Were Abdullah to follow in the footsteps of Anwar Sadat and King Hussein and come to Jerusalem to present his initiative, the effect on Israeli public opinion would be electrifying.

Instead, the impression created over the years is that King Abdullah and the Arab League, rather than suggesting an agenda for discussion with Israel, are either going through the motions without really caring or seek to impose their plan on Israel without debate. Still, in March 2007 half the Israeli public thought the API could form the basis for regional peace negotiations and about 43 percent thought the government of Israel should at least consider embracing the plan. A number of prominent Israelis are prepared to accept the API with changes that the Arab League refuses to discuss. Kadima party leader Tzipi Livni, when foreign minister, stated that she could not accept the initiative only because of its reliance on United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 regarding the refugee issue. Needless to say, prominent among those Israelis who reject the API outright are the 25 percent or so of the public that rejects any peace initiative because of the territorial concessions they refuse to countenance on the Golan and in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Without doubt, the plan constitutes a dramatic and important step forward for the Arab approach. It offers Israel "normal relations", a peace agreement and even "security for all the states of the region". Certainly this is the first time the entire Arab world has even obliquely offered Israel security within a regional framework. While the API is decidedly not presented to Israel as a draft that is open to negotiation and modification, it is not too late for Israel to accept it while listing its reservations or concerns regarding one or two specific issues. Conceivably, this could serve as a basis for discussing with the Arab world some form of phasing of the API, as Egyptian FM Ahmed Abul Gheit at one point proposed: specific aspects of normalization in reward for specific steps toward peace. The Israeli public desperately needs to be made aware of such incentives for making painful compromises.

In co-producing bitterlemons-api.org, I hope that we can provide a useful forum precisely for discussing ideas like this, thereby enabling the API to emerge from the seemingly artificial constraints imposed on it by both sides.-Published 24/11/ 2010 © bitterlemons-international.org

Yossi Alpher is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications. He is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.

The best policy alternative for Israel
 Alex Mintz and Yosi Ganel

A study we carried out at the IDC-Herzliya Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy examined comparatively policy alternatives for the government of Israel with regard to the peace process. We found the Arab Peace Initiative, with five key reservations, to be the optimal policy for Israel.

The study utilized a computerized scenario analysis and compared the following six policy alternatives:

  1. halting peace talks with the Palestinians;
  2. continuing direct talks with the Palestinians;
  3. unilateral withdrawal of Israeli forces from the West Bank while keeping the large settlement blocs, plus security arrangements;
  4. negotiating with Syria;
  5. accepting the API as is; and
  6. accepting the API with the following five reservations: the Palestinian state should be demilitarized, with security arrangements; Palestinian refugees would be allowed to return only to the Palestinian state (and/or only a small number would be allowed to live in Israel); terror against Israel would be immediately halted and terrorist infrastructure would be dismantled; Jerusalem would be discussed separately; the large settlement blocs would be preserved as part of a land swap.

These six policy alternatives were assessed across six decision criteria that enter into the calculus of decisions of the Israeli government in the short-term and in the long run: security, economic considerations, demographic factors, regional implications, US-Israel relations, and standing in the international community.

The methodology used in this study is based on the Applied Decision Analysis procedure. It allows for the computerized analysis of policy implications and weights assigned to various dimensions, and sensitivity analysis. This method, which was developed by the first author at Yale University, is used by researchers and analysts for the analysis of decisions, problems and dilemmas across the globe.
Based on the ADA methodology, each decision dimension was assigned a weight between 1 and 10. The weight represents the importance of the dimension in the calculus of decision of the Israeli government. For example, the security dimension was assigned a weight of 9-10, given the importance of this dimension to policy-makers in Israel. But the "standing in the international community" dimension scored only 2, because it is much less significant to policy-makers.

The implications of each alternative on the different dimensions received a rating between (-10) and (+10), according to the influence of the alternative on the dimension for Israel. For example, if Israel chooses to adopt the Arab Peace Initiative with the five reservations listed above, it is reasonable to assume that the security situation will improve. Therefore the security dimension for this alternative got the grade of +2. It did not score a higher grade because Iran will still try to influence both Hizballah and Hamas to spoil any agreement.

The results of the comparative analysis of scenarios, alternatives and dimensions of a range of policy alternatives for Israel across the six decision dimensions found that the best policy option for Israel is accepting the API with five reservations. This alternative received the highest score overall and by a wide margin and is the only alternative to score well on almost all dimensions. The second best alternative was "continuing the direct talks with the Palestinians", followed by "unilateral withdrawal", and "direct talks with Syria". The worst policy option for Israel is "halting the negotiations with the Palestinians". In addition, "accepting the API as is" is unacceptable due to the low score of the plan on the security and demographic dimensions.

It should be pointed out that a comprehensive sensitivity analysis that includes varying the importance of the dimensions and the implications of alternatives on the six dimensions did not change our main findings.

Another insight of our analysis is that peace talks with both the Palestinians and Syria are preferable to negotiations on each track separately. While the costs are enormous, the benefits from following the API prescription of comprehensive peace are potentially very big for Israel.

In conclusion, we found that the optimal alternative for Israel is declaring that Israel accepts the API conditionally with five reservations. These could be spelled out in an official letter by the government of Israel to accompany the formal declaration, just as Israel did with its reservations to the roadmap.

To counter the Iranian threat and Iran's ambitions for regional expansion and hegemony, there is a need for the United States to form a formal or informal coalition with Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and the Palestinian Authority. The basis for this alliance is the Arab Peace Initiative with reservations.-Published 24/11/2010 © bitterlemons-api.org

Prof. Alex Mintz is dean of the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy at IDC-Herzliya and editor-in-chief of the journal Political Psychology. Yosi Ganel is a graduate student at the Lauder School of Government at IDC-Herzliya.

The IPI, a pragmatic "yes" to the API
 Yuval Rabin and Koby Huberman

Since 2000, the peace process has been oscillating between stops and starts. Whether Israelis and Palestinians resume talks for another 90 days, and definitely if talks fail, it's time to face the inevitable conclusion: permanent status agreements are unlikely to be achieved through bilateral negotiations without a regional context, either as a cementing element or as fallback. A new approach is therefore needed to ensure that the process reaches its destination while the impact of the spoilers is gradually minimized.

In 2002, the Arab states presented the Arab Peace Initiative as their "end game" vision, introducing a transformational shift toward a comprehensive, regional and "future-based" process rather than a fragmented, bilateral and incremental one. Like many Israelis, we perceived this as a historic event. Still, we do not intend to explain the difficulties Israeli governments have had with the API or why it was not accepted. Instead, we propose that Israel respond with a pragmatic "yes" by presenting its own parallel "end game" vision--as an Israeli Peace Initiative or IPI rather than an attempt to "fix" the API.

The IPI should articulate Israel's own long-term vision, to be achieved after successful and gradual implementation of all permanent status agreements. Publishing such an IPI would demonstrate a transformational shift in Israel's strategy, realizing that only by ending the regional Arab-Israel conflict will Israel achieve its fundamental interests, attain its security goals and eliminate existential threats. Such a vision should also demonstrate that these long-term fundamental interests (such as security, identity and acceptance in the region) are achievable in accordance with the API core concepts, with bridgeable gaps.

With that in mind, in 2008 we started to draft an IPI proposal, based on three principles: our interpretation of Israel's genuine strategic interests; our assumption that Israeli leaders will be ready to make "all possible concessions" only when they can show Israelis that this is "in return for the end of all conflicts"; and our determination to adopt existing proposals and solutions already negotiated in the past 19 years since Madrid, without reinventing the wheel.

The detailed IPI text will be published soon in English, Hebrew and Arabic; it contains four vision chapters, starting with regional end-of-conflict scenarios. The Israeli-Palestinian scenario is a viable Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders and one-on-one land swaps, Jerusalem as the home of two capitals and special arrangements in the holy basin, an agreed solution for the refugees inside the Palestinian state (with symbolic exceptions), mutual recognition of the genuine national identities of the two states as the outcome of negotiations and not as a prerequisite, reiteration of the principles underlying Israel's 1948 declaration of independence regarding civic equality for its Arab citizens, and long-term security arrangements with international components.

The Israeli-Syrian end-of-conflict scenario is based on phased withdrawals from the Golan Heights to finally reach the 1967 borders with one-on-one land swaps, coupled with tight security arrangements to curb terrorists and paramilitary organizations. Regarding Lebanon, the scenario articulates mainly security arrangements, as international borders have already been established. The other three IPI components present regional security mechanisms addressing common regional threats, a vision for regional economic development, and parallel evolution toward regional recognition and normal ties.

As we are just pragmatic businesspeople, we intentionally left many issues for the experts and diplomats, e.g., water, symbolic exceptional solutions for refugees in Israel and the impact of long-term permanent security arrangements on nuclear weapons in the region. For similar reasons, we are not in a position to suggest the exact diplomatic processes that will turn the API and IPI into actionable platforms and a synchronized process. However, in the past 18 months we have shared the evolving IPI text with Arab figures in various forums and were encouraged to hear them welcoming the very fact that Israelis are responding to the API, regardless of the IPI's precise language. When talking to them and Israeli experts, we presented our idea to form a regional framework agreement as a synthesis between the API and the IPI. In fact, the two initiatives could become "vision deposits" that provide a declaration of principles or alternatively a framework agreement.

The ideas in the IPI are not what we Israelis have been dreaming and hoping for, as they represent a major shift from our collective ideology. Accordingly, Israeli society will find them difficult to digest. But we believe Israeli society can face up to these challenges and that our democratic system will win, because the IPI captures the mutual sacrifices needed to end all conflicts and to achieve the true strategic interest of the State of Israel: a secure homeland for the Jewish people, enjoying full regional recognition.

We hope the IPI creates an intensified dialogue and some rethinking both in Israeli circles and the region. More importantly, 15 years after Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination, we hope to see brave regional and international leaders translate the API and IPI visions into practical and synchronized progress.-Published 24/11/2010 © bitterlemons-api.org

Yuval Rabin is a businessman; Koby Huberman is a strategy development expert, a businessman and a social entrepreneur. They are the coauthors of the IPI.

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