The art of a successful negotiation is to ascertain at the onset what your adversary wants and attempt to accommodate those needs in a way that benefits one’s own self interests. Unfortunately the history of Arab-Israeli negotiations has been to disregard what the Arabs have been saying whilst hoping that “generosity” would make everything acceptable.
From the time that Rabin gave Yasser Arafat the city of Jericho in return for the recognition of the state of Israel, the die was cast. The words here are chosen carefully. The words Israeli and Palestinian were not used. This was an arrangement by individuals without regard to the views of the majority of either the Jews or the Arabs around the world, nor even to Palestinians or Israelis at “home.” At that moment, the creation of “the state of Palestine” was inevitable even though the Israelis tried very hard not to come to that realization for quite some time.
That, of course, has been one of the problems. Whatever the shortcomings of Arafat, he has had one vision for the future and the Israelis have only had a series of crumbling hopes. They have not listened and not learned. Neither, of course, has the United States government – whose idea of negotiations at every step has been to ask the Israelis to concede more and more and more. Both the Israelis and the United States have always been amazed that Arafat continues to turn them down and turn to violence instead. But if they had been listening, it was inevitable. They never read Mein Kampf, and they have never listened to the Palestinians.
Now Barak comes along and everyone believed that with his amazing “generosity” Arafat would finally be tested as to his true intentions. But the Israelis and the United States were not listening. What they offered did not test Arafat’s intentions. His intentions may be benign or evil – they have yet to be ascertained. He may in fact have one of two motives.
- He has a secret intention of totally destroying the state of Israel over a very long period of time.
- He might genuinely want a just (in his eyes) peace.
At the moment, there is no way of determining which one is correct, and one of the main goals of this proposal is to ascertain the answer to that fundamental question. We know the concerns of Israel: true peace with dependable and true security. We need to find what the Palestinians want.
There are three main areas of concern. The boundaries of a viable Palestinian state and the future of the settlements, the Haram al Sharif and “the right of return.” If these problems can be solved whilst maintaining the concerns of Israel, then the Palestinians’ true motives can quickly be ascertained. If their true motives include the total destruction of the state of Israel, then all bets would immediately be off. Thus, one needs to know the answer to that quickly and accurately so Israel can make the appropriate response.
A. The problems
From the beginning, the Israelis have been forced continually to cede more and more of the West Bank to the Palestinians. From 50 percent through varying small increments (almost on a monthly basis), they are now up to around 95 percent. For Arafat, violence and stalling obviously pays. Why criticize a man who doesn’t see generosity but sees weakness? His is the correct position under the circumstances. That he is abused for being the better negotiator is absurd. If the United States and Israel wish to carry a weak hand, it is for history and their people to judge them. Who, in the face of Israeli weakness would not have taken full advantage of it?
We are now at a negotiating stage referred to as “90 plus.” But listen to the Palestinians who have remained steadfast in their position. They want 100 percent of the West Bank and Gaza based on United Nations resolutions and have never changed their position. Their claim is that they gave all their concessions when they recognized Israel in the rest of the area. Someone therefore needs to change the paradigm of the negotiations.
The question of settlers is just as confusing. Israel started off by adding little enclaves in strategic positions throughout the West Bank and Gaza. People who moved there were considered heroes by the Israelis. Gradually, they have conceded, more and more of the enclaves have to be withdrawn and many settlers are now considered the source of the problem. Thus the Israelis over the years have again shown steady weakness in the face of a foe who has been steadfast.
B. The solution
There has to be a change of paradigm. The Palestinians have accepted the concept of security for the Israelis, which they know involves a presence on the West Bank. The question is in the nature of that presence. Thus we change the whole tone of the negotiations by formulating a concept of “100 percent minus.”
What does this mean in reality? The Palestinians are given sovereignty over a complete and whole state according to their stated goals and positions. They are then in a position to negotiate a defense agreement on equal terms with Israel. That new state would exist de facto only when the legitimate defense and security needs of Israel are guaranteed – even if it means by a leased presence or international forces. No agreement would be put into effect until such time as Palestine adheres fully and completely with all their previous commitments on arms, incitement, education, etc. The time period for that to occur would be up to the Palestinians. The quicker they put it into effect, the quicker they would have their total state.
What about the settlers? Today in Israel, there are millions of Arabs living as Israeli citizens. The Israelis have pretended, until recently, that they are not quite the same as Palestinians. Well they are. They are Palestinians who have Israeli citizenship. It is proposed that they be given a form of dual citizenship, as would the Jewish settlers in Palestine. Palestinian towns in Israel and Jewish townships in Palestine would have at least the autonomy that is usual in the USA. They would have their own local police, their own education system, etc. Thus another brick of symmetry is added to the two states living side by side.
Many on both sides would wish to leave to return to their “own” state, but many would wish to stay and, as will be seen, that can also be the solution to “the right of return.”
What about Jerusalem and especially the Old City? The Temple Mount will be dealt with in the next section.
In 1948 – and until the 1967 war – the Old City and East Jerusalem were under Jordanian rule. The Palestinians maintain that under United Nations resolutions 228 and 442, they should have all the territory that was captured by Israel in that war, even though the United Nations were very careful not to include the word “all” when it referred to the return of territory.
One of the plans that Barak is supposed to have accepted is one in which both the Old City and the Arab areas of East Jerusalem would be given to the Palestinians, less the Jewish quarter in the Old City and the “Western Wall.” This despite many pledges by Israel never to divide Jerusalem again. One thing is clear, however – once one side concedes one idea, it is difficult if not impossible to ever retract it. It is, therefore, inevitable that Jerusalem be part of the “100 percent minus” paradigm with negotiations regarding the complete openness of the city to everyone. The Vatican has sovereignty over Vatican City but its arrangements with the government of Italy make certain that there are no artificial boundaries between the two.
The Temple Mount – Haram al Sharif
A. The problem
Like many other religious problems, this is the hardest of them all. Physical danger to leaders who mess with it would come not only from fundamentalist factions but ordinary people who have a visceral connection with the center of their religion. Both sides have both good and bad arguments to keep the site under their sovereignty – and their sovereignty alone. They will never agree. Remember, it was Moshe Dayan who handed over the site after its capture by the Israelis to the Islamic Waqf in 1967. That act was the start of all the major Israeli problems in Jerusalem. However, without a solution, all the rest of the issues cannot be resolved.
There appears to be only one possible solution, and that is outlined on the Bible Mysteries website.
The evidence seems extremely convincing. “The City of David” over the Gihon Spring is not only the logical place where the Temple of Solomon should have been built, it is the place in the Bible so described.
C. The solution
If the above is correct – and we suggest there be assembled a conference of the leading academics in the field of biblical archaeology, rabbis and political leaders of all sides to investigate the thesis thoroughly – then the problem is solvable by a sacrifice on both sides. The sovereignty of the Temple Mount can be handed to the Palestinians but, in return, they would have to hand over the Arab area known as “the City of David” south of the Temple Mount. There the Israelis can build their third Temple.
The “right of return”
A. The problem
The underpinning of Arafat’s support amongst the Palestinian people since the beginning of his leadership has been his promise that he would enable them to “return home.” This is the reason why Arab states have tried not to absorb the Palestinian “refugees” and condemned them to camp living for more than a generation. No Arab leader likes either Arafat or the Palestinians. Their financial support has been predicated on the hope and belief that he would get all his people out of their hair eventually. For Arafat then to state categorically that after all these years the efforts of the Palestinian Diaspora has been for naught would be signing his own death warrant.
On the other hand, the whole rationale for the state of Israel being a Jewish state would be destroyed if 3 to 5 million Arabs suddenly were allowed to settle in greater Israel – especially if they were granted Israeli citizenship. It is the only thing that the Israeli people have in complete agreement. Both the extreme left and extreme right agree that an unlimited right of return is suicide.
B. The solution
We have already suggested that for peace now to be a reality, there must be two states, existing side by side with intricate defense agreements to protect the national security needs of Israel. There also has to be a situation where Arabs can live in Israel and Jews in Palestine with special status for each that will be the subject of negotiations between the two parties. From this arrangement comes a solution to the problem of the Palestinian “right of return.” By definition, and by treaty, each side would have the right to an unlimited right of return of its own people. Jews from the Diaspora to Israel, Palestinians to Palestine. Many, many Arabs would perhaps want to leave Israel to become fully integrated into a Palestinian state and many Jews would probably want to leave the “settlements” to return to Israel. On the other hand, many relatives of Arabs wishing to continue to live in Israel would want to join them. The same would also apply to Jews living in Palestine (which would include East Jerusalem). Thus a series of negotiations could be instigated where reciprocal agreements would be worked out to expand the numbers of Arabs in Israel and Jews in Palestine. As each group would have a special status especially with regard to voting, this would not affect the essential Jewishness of Israel nor the Arab nature of Palestine, whatever the numbers agreed upon. The advantage is that each side has an incentive to be “generous” to the other for its own self interest.
For the Palestinians it is essential for their economic well-being that there be a free flow of people from Israel to Palestine and back. That they have not responded to this factor before now is due hopefully to the fact that they were only allowed a percentage of their needs and felt that until those needs were met, nothing else mattered as much. If in fact their real motive for any peace treaty is the eventual elimination of the state of Israel, this will become apparent within a very short period of time and the only solution then would be total war.
It must also be understood that the process is likely to take many, many years, unless there is complete and early compliance by the Palestinians. With a just and certain future for all their demands, they will no longer have any excuse for violence or incitement. Should their leadership immediately call publicly – and at every opportunity – for peaceful reconciliation, then the process could move faster. There will be no more excuses for any bad behavior.
We look forward to the debate on the key issue, the true site of the early temples in Jerusalem.
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Michael S. Sanders is well known as an explorer and biblical scholar. Today, Mike serves regularly as an adviser to Middle East experts and commentators. Sanders’ long-term experience as a resident of the Arabian Gulf – and his friendships and business relationships with leaders and influential businessmen in the region – add to an intimate and fresh perspective on the origins and solutions to the ongoing crisis.