Memo For Obama [Israel]
by Uri Avnery
December 7, 2008
This article was published in the current
issue of the progressive Jewish-American monthly TIKKUN.
For: the President-Elect, Mr. Barack Obama.
From: Uri Avnery, Israel.
The following humble suggestions are based
on my 70 years of experience as an underground fighter, special
forces soldier in the 1948 war, editor-in-chief of a newsmagazine,
member of the Knesset and founding member of a peace movement:
As far as Israeli-Arab peace is concerned,
you should act from Day One.
Israeli elections are due to take place
in February 2009. You can have an indirect but important and constructive
impact on the outcome, by announcing your unequivocal determination
to achieve Israeli-Palestinian, Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-all-Arab
peace in 2009.
Unfortunately, all your predecessors since
1967 have played a double game. While paying lip service to peace,
and sometimes going through the motions of making some effort
for peace, they have in practice supported our governments in
moving in the very opposite direction. In particular, they have
given tacit approval to the building and enlargement of Israeli
settlements in the occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories,
each of which is a land mine on the road to peace.
All the settlements are illegal in international
law. The distinction sometimes made between "illegal"
outposts and the other settlements is a propaganda ploy designed
to obscure this simple truth.
All the settlements since 1967 have been
built with the express purpose of making a Palestinian state -
and hence peace - impossible, by cutting the territory of the
prospective State of Palestine into ribbons. Practically all our
government departments and the army have openly or secretly helped
to build, consolidate and enlarge the settlements - as confirmed
by the 2005 report prepared for the government (!) by Lawyer Talia
By now, the number of settlers in the
West Bank has reached some 250,000 (apart from the 200,000 settlers
in the Greater Jerusalem area, whose status is somewhat different.)
They are politically isolated, and sometimes detested by the majority
of the Israel public, but enjoy significant support in the army
and government ministries.
No Israeli government would dare to confront
the concentrated political and material might of the settlers.
Such a confrontation would need very strong leadership and the
unstinting support of the President of the United States to have
any chance of success.
Lacking these, all "peace negotiations"
are a sham. The Israeli government and its US backers have done
everything possible to prevent the negotiations with both the
Palestinians and the Syrians from reaching any conclusion, for
fear of provoking a confrontation with the settlers and their
supporters. The present "Annapolis" negotiations are
as hollow as all the preceding ones, each side keeping up the
pretense for its own political interests.
The Clinton administration, and even more
so the Bush administration, allowed the Israeli government to
keep up this pretense. It is therefore imperative to prevent members
of these administrations from diverting your Middle Eastern policy
into the old channels.
It is important for you to make a complete
new start, and to state this publicly. Discredited ideas and failed
initiatives - such as the Bush "vision", the Road Map,
Annapolis and the like - should by thrown into the junkyard of
To make a new start, the aim of American
policy should be stated clearly and succinctly. This should be:
to achieve a peace based on the Two-State Solution within a defined
time-span (say by the end of 2009).
It should be pointed out that this aim
is based on a reassessment of the American national interest,
in order to extract the poison from American-Arab and American-Muslim
relations, strengthen peace-oriented regimes, defeat al-Qaeda-type
terrorism, end the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and achieve a viable
accommodation with Iran.
The terms of Israeli-Palestinian peace
are clear. They have been crystallized in thousands of hours of
negotiations, conferences, meetings and conversations. They are:
13.1 A sovereign and viable State of Palestine
will be established side by side with the State of Israel.
13.2 The border between the two states
will be based on the pre-1967 Armistice Line (the "Green
Line"). Insubstantial alterations can be arrived at by mutual
agreement on an exchange of territories on a 1:1 basis.
13.3 East Jerusalem, including the Haram-al-Sharif
("Temple Mount") and all Arab neighborhoods will serve
as the capital of Palestine. West Jerusalem, including the Western
Wall and all Jewish neighborhoods, will serve as the capital of
Israel. A joint municipal authority, based on equality, may be
established by mutual consent to administer the city as one territorial
13.4 All Israeli settlements - except
any which might be joined to Israel in the framework of a mutually
agreed exchange of territories - will be evacuated (see 15 below).
13.5 Israel will recognize in principle
the right of the refugees to return. A Joint Commission for Truth
and Reconciliation, composed of Palestinian, Israeli and international
historians, will examine the events of 1948 and 1967 and determine
who was responsible for what. Each individual refugee will be
given the choice between (1) repatriation to the State of Palestine,
(2) remaining where he/she is living now and receiving generous
compensation, (3) returning to Israel and being resettled, (4)
emigrating to any other country, with generous compensation. The
number of refugees who will return to Israeli territory will be
fixed by mutual agreement, it being understood that nothing will
be done that materially alters the demographic composition of
the Israeli population. The large funds needed for the implementation
of this solution must be provided by the international community
in the interest of world peace. This will save much of the money
spent today on military expenditure and direct grants from the
13.6 The West Bank, East Jerusalem and
the Gaza Strip constitute one national unit. An extraterritorial
connection (road, railway, tunnel or bridge) will connect the
West Bank with the Gaza Strip.
13.7 Israel and Syria will sign a peace
agreement. Israel will withdraw to the pre-1967 line and all settlements
on the Golan Heights will be dismantled. Syria will cease all
anti-Israeli activities conducted directly or by proxy. The two
parties will establish normal relations between them.
13.8 In accordance with the Saudi Peace
Initiative, all member states of the Arab League will recognize
Israel and establish normal relations with it. Talks about a future
Middle Eastern Union, on the model of the EU, possibly to include
Turkey and Iran, may be considered.
Palestinian unity is essential for peace.
Peace made with only one section of the people is worthless. The
US will facilitate Palestinian reconciliation and the unification
of Palestinian structures. To this end, the US will end its boycott
of Hamas, which won the last elections, start a political dialogue
with the movement and encourage Israel to do the same. The US
will respect any result of democratic Palestinian elections.
The US will aid the government of Israel
in confronting the settlement problem. As from now, settlers will
be given one year to leave the occupied territories voluntarily
in return for compensation that will allow them to build their
homes in Israel proper. After that, all settlements - except those
within any areas to be joined to Israel under the peace agreement
- will be evacuated.
I suggest that you, as President of the
United States, come to Israel and address the Israeli people personally,
not only from the rostrum of the Knesset but also at a mass rally
in Tel-Aviv's Rabin Square. President Anwar Sadat of Egypt came
to Israel in 1977, and, by addressing the Israeli people directly,
completely changed their attitude towards peace with Egypt. At
present, most Israelis feel insecure, uncertain and afraid of
any daring peace initiative, partly because of a deep distrust
of anything coming from the Arab side. Your personal intervention,
at the critical moment, could literally do wonders in creating
the psychological basis for peace.