Going Directly to Israelis and Palestinians (NY) TIMES OP-ED) By SHLOMO BEN-AMI, THOMAS C. SCHELLING, JEROME M. SEGAL and JAVIER SOLANA 05/31/12)
NEW YORK TIMES
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With no prospect of meaningful negotiations between the Palestinians
and the Netanyahu government, a new approach to peace is needed, one
that focuses on the Israeli and Palestinian people themselves. Though
not a perfect analogy, let’s call it UNSCOP-2 because the work of
UNSCOP, the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, in 1947,
is the closest precedent for what is needed today.
UNSCOP was charged with coming up with a solution to the Palestine
question, and after visiting the region to hold hearings, and then
traveling to Europe to interview Holocaust survivors, the committee
called for two states, one Arab and one Jewish. It produced a
detailed plan that included an economic union, a map of the proposed
border and a separate international regime for Jerusalem. This
proposal was embodied in the historic Partition Resolution (UNGA 181)
approved by the U.N. General Assembly in November 1947.
Here is how we might proceed today:
• The U.N. Security Council (or the General Assembly if the United
States does not support this approach) will establish a special
committee composed of distinguished international figures acting in
their own capacity. Possibly it would be headed by a former American
statesman or senator.
• UNSCOP-2’s first task would be to determine if there is any
possible peace agreement that would be acceptable to a majority of
both the Israeli and Palestinian people.
• The committee would go to the region where, over a period of
several months, it would conduct a transparent inquiry into the
possibility of genuine peace.
First and foremost, it would listen to the Israelis and the
Palestinians. Its hearings would be televised. It would conduct
public opinion research and study the record of past Israeli-
Palestinian negotiations — in particular, the Clinton Parameters and
the progress made at Taba and in the Olmert-Abbas round. UNSCOP-2
would seek new ideas for resolving the most difficult issues, such as
• Assuming the committee concludes that there is sufficient popular
support on both sides for a specific peace agreement, it would then
develop a draft treaty which it would forward to the Security Council
for further action.
• In a departure from 1947, no effort would be made to impose this
treaty. Rather, the Security Council would call on Israel and the
Palestinians to use the UNSCOP-2 proposal as the starting point for
negotiations in which the two sides would seek to determine if they
can agree on any mutually acceptable improvements. The United States
could be invited into the process to play the role of honest broker.
Would the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government accept
this people-based process? Governments always resist relinquishing
control, and they may reject this proposal. Nevertheless, the process
should go forward even if one government, or both, fails to embrace
it. We should not make any assumptions in advance about how the two
governments will respond once UNSCOP-2 has carried out its task.
Once UNSCOP-2 successfully identifies a set of compromises that both
peoples can support, perspectives may shift. Possibly, in response to
a directive from the Security Council, both sides will accept the
UNSCOP plan as the basis for resumed negotiations. If that is not
possible, the Security Council will have to consider its next step.
One option then would be for the Security Council to pass a
resolution which embodies the UNSCOP plan and calls on Israel and the
Palestinians to announce their acceptance. Were this to happen,
provided that UNSCOP-2 has identified a solution that is accepted by
majorities on both sides, both governments would be under enormous
internal pressure to say yes. Should either Israel or the
Palestinians be the first to agree to the proposed treaty, the
pressure on the other side from its own people would grow even
Agreement may not be immediate. However, an end-of-conflict plan that
emerges from this process will have the staying power of historic
resolutions such as 181 and 242. Supported by majorities on both
sides, it will be an offer that political leaders cannot indefinitely
Shlomo Ben-Ami was Israel’s foreign minister, 2000-2001. Thomas C.
Schelling was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2005 for his
work on conflict and cooperation. Jerome M. Segal directs the Peace
Consultancy Project at the University of Maryland’s Department of
Philosophy. Javier Solana was the European Union’s High
Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, 1999-2009.
(Copyright 2012 The New York Times Company 05/31/12)
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