An Israeli View

A sound Israeli perspective


The Israeli political system is on the verge of massive transformation. Traditional distinctions between left and right, doves and hawks, are no longer valid. From the Likud on the "right" to Meretz on the "left," the vast majority of the Israeli people is converging around the idea of a two-state solution.

Aware of the existential threat caused by perpetuating the current status, there is a growing civil non-partisan movement of Israelis dedicated to a unilateral disengagement from the Palestinians via a substantive attainable plan, aimed at safeguarding the vital interests of Israel as a Jewish, democratic state. Guided by a realistic analysis of the geo-political realities of our region, it seems that unilateral--although coordinated--disengagement offers a viable alternative to the dangerous, endless cycle of violence that prevents any serious peace negotiations.

In the absence of a comprehensive governmental disengagement initiative, Israel’s society, economy, security and major institutions will continue their current decline. For us Israelis this is truly a matter of life and death: if we fail to meet the current demographic challenge, we ourselves will be the agents of the destruction of the State of Israel, and the Zionist dream will thereby come to an end.

Two assumptions should be made from the outset:
First, despite Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's "historic" December 2003 Herzliya speech and his recent statement about a plan to evacuate the Gaza Strip, the Likud Party, currently holding 40 seats in the Knesset, is constrained by its internal central committee whose politics are significantly more right wing and militant than those of Likud’s overall constituency. As a result of this schism, the party has neither the capacity nor the will to bring about a disengagement from the Palestinians in any way that would require more than the relocation of just a couple of settlements. Likud’s official stance suggests that it has no real intention to ever negotiate a permanent status agreement.

Secondly, the international community, led by the United States, the United Nations, the European Union, Russia and moderate Arab states, such as Egypt, Morocco and Jordan, will support any practicable platform offered by Israel within the framework of the roadmap. Such support might include, under particular conditions, the introduction of an international force to the territories. Such an Israeli initiative, being pre-coordinated rather than fully unilateral, has therefore a chance to obtain international legitimacy.

Disengagement between the two peoples has been the underlying logic of the political process since the early 1990s. However, it seems that permanent status is not to be reached in the near future. There is therefore a need for a substantive, well-established plan, one that would be both responsible and attainable, aimed at safeguarding the vital interests of the State of Israel and reinforcing national security in the broadest sense.

A prerequisite for achieving these goals is an initiated unilateral disengagement--to borders dictated by the needs of security and demography--as part of a responsible and sovereign decision of the government of Israel.

The following are the essentials of the plan:


  • The temporary border for this initiated unilateral disengagement will be designed to safeguard Israel’s vital security, political, demographic and economic interests, in addition to the interests of settlement and infrastructure. In this scheme, over 80 percent of settlers in Judea and Samaria will remain within the borders of the State of Israel, while a minimal number of Palestinians will also be included;
  • Israel will receive solid long-term international guarantees that promote the stability of the region;
  • The Palestinians will not have the right of return to the State of Israel;
  • Concurrent with the establishment of the Palestinian state, the historic conflict between the sides will be declared at an end. As a condition for its establishment, Palestine will be demilitarized;
  • Jewish Jerusalem will be the capital of Israel, while Palestinian al Quds will be the capital of the Palestinian state. The area of the holy sites will come under a separate special regime, which will guarantee unimpeded access and freedom of worship to members of all religions;
  • Israel will support any effort towards international/third party involvement in the running of the Palestinian territories until the setting up of a responsible Palestinian government; and finally
  • Negotiations on permanent status will resume parallel to the above process in order to lead to a final comprehensive agreement on all core issues including, but not limited to, the final borders between Israel and Palestine.

Thus a national security and foreign policy plan would be established, combining unilateral disengagement with a call to simultaneously renew permanent status negotiations. It would foster international US-led involvement in the territories and aim at pursuing negotiations, possibly on the basis of either President Clinton’s parameters or the principles of any of the other recent peace initiatives.

Attorney Gilead Sher was one of the senior Israeli peace negotiators during the years 1999-2001. He served as head of the Prime Minister's Bureau from October 2000 until the elections of February 2001. He recently co-authored Legal Aspects of Settlement Evacuation (to be published shortly by Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiations). 




Published on March 2004 ©