It seems that the admirable victory of the 19-year-old Israel fighting for its life in June 1967 has not been translated, as of yet, into serving the core values of a Jewish-democratic state.
I have no question whatsoever on the Jewish People's right to self-determination in its own state in Eretz Yisrael. Nor have I any doubt that the Palestinian People has the right to self-determination in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Israel has reached globally outstanding achievements in myriad fields – science, culture, academy, hi-tech, economy, agriculture, literature, medicine, security, resilience, while absorbing millions of immigrants.
However, these fifty years also saw an incremental erosion of our founders' vision, an on-going internal struggle over Jewish and human values and the identity of the Israeli society.
At this point in Israel's history, it is more critical than ever that we end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Zionism never aspired to govern another people. Time is running out as irreversible anti-Zionist trends are having the upper hand within Israel and elsewhere. Fifty years on, it is crucial to draw Israel's borders alongside a demilitarized Palestinian state in order to secure the democratic nation-state of the Jewish People.
There are slim chances of reaching a full-fledged permanent status agreement in the foreseeable future. The gaps in the historical narratives of Israelis and Palestinians are wide. The two peoples distrust each other, are too far apart on the core contentious issues, and the respective leaderships are reluctant to move ahead.
In order to eventually get there, we need a pro-active approach to resolve the conflict throughout a territorial division of the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea into two nation-states. I refer to a balanced and graduated political initiative with transitional phases.
It is time for Israel to initiate, change course, stop being dragged and cornered. We cannot continue being hostage to Palestinian rejectionism, terrorism and extremism. At the same time, we need to see that a political horizon for the Palestinians is also a road map for genuine Israeli independence. We must reverse the trend towards a one bi-national state, which would be neither Jewish nor democratic.
Israel must draw its borders while disengaging from the Palestinians, by expending efforts on renewing the negotiations – regionally, bilaterally and independently.
If, indeed, the Trump Administration aims at leading an international effort to facilitate Israeli-Palestinian peace, it should take into consideration lessons drawn from past failures and adopt a three-pronged approach.
Any process should comprise bilateral negotiations, however, not as an exclusive course of action. It should simultaneously promote tracks of regional dialogue within the framework of the Arab Peace Initiative, and independent constructive steps. Such steps will allow preserving the conditions for a two state solution through the gradual creation of a two-state reality. They can take the form of political interim agreements, gradual processes with transitional phases along with a pragmatic, uncompromising approach to counter terror, violence and any form of extremism. And, finally, tangible traction on the ground should be simultaneously promoted, enabling a bottom-up progress to sustain any political dialogue.
50 years on, the international community should differentiate between the main settlement blocs, Jerusalem, and the settlements in the rest of the West Bank. About eighty percent of the settlers reside in the main blocks that would be incorporated within the final borders of Israel under any arrangement.
Trump should aim for a firm commitment by the Palestinians not to internationalize the conflict by condemnation of Israel in international fora, or promoting boycott campaigns, and to fight incitement to violence and glorification of terrorism against Israelis and Jews. President Trump and the international community should encourage meaningful economic access for Palestinians to Area C in the West Bank, territory that makes up 60 percent of the West Bank, and concretize plans for the reconstruction of Gaza, based on rock-solid security arrangements and within the framework of a regional diplomatic effort.
Process-wise, it is essential to change the “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” paradigm of Camp David, Taba, Annapolis and the Kerry round into “what has been agreed should be implemented”. Such approach would provide the ground for an agreement on boundaries, security, statehood and economy. Add to that mutually coordinated independent Israeli and Palestinian steps in line with a two states reality. Subsequently the negotiations over Jerusalem and the Refugees will continue in a state-to-state fashion as well as within a regional framework.
Saving the Zionist enterprise requires courage, leadership, and national responsibility. Otherwise, Israel is bound to face imposed arrangements, de-legitimization, demonization, international isolation and the erosion of its core values.
Therefore, the two-state-for-two-people reality that preserves the conditions for an eventual solution, is indispensable. It is in the benefit of a Jewish-democratic Israel, and consistent with the Zionist vision. It is attainable throughout a series of transitional phases, interim agreements and independent steps, all compliant with a continuous negotiation process. An internal Israeli dialogue and a participatory process are also essential, to amend schisms within the society.
Gilead Sher heads the Center for Applied Negotiations at the Tel Aviv Institute for National Security Studies INSS. He is a former Israeli chief and co-chief negotiator at the Camp David summit and the Taba talks, and served as former Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s chief of staff and policy coordinator. Sher is an Israel Defense Forces colonel (res.). He co-chairs the nonpartisan organization Blue White Future and chairs Sapir Academic College.