published Monday, April 11th, 2011

A Mideast peace proposal

While some things and places in the Mideast and in the Arab world are changing dramatically, others are not. Against a background of social and political unrest in the region, peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians remain moribund. A new peace proposal from a group of prominent Israelis, including former leaders of the nation’s vaunted internal and external security services, and a former military chief of staff, is making the rounds. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should use the document to his and his nation’s advantage.

The proposal is not a radical one, but contains elements that have been discussed previously by Israeli and Palestinian diplomats. It is valuable, however, because it has the support of highly visible individuals from various political backgrounds. That might give Netanyahu room to maneuver in a nation where government by coalition is the rule.

There’s much to recommend in the proposal. In essence, it would create a Palestinian state in the West Bank and in Gaza with only a few areas to be retained by Israel. It would create a divided Jerusalem, require Palestinian refugees to resettle in their new state rather than within Israel and end all Arab claims against Israel. In return, Israel would be guaranteed full peace and territorial integrity. At this writing, Netanyahu has not commented publicly on the proposal.

It should not be ignored, though. Something or someone is needed to jump-start Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The longer the current stalemate lingers, the more difficult it will be to resume talks. Indeed, if nothing is done soon, it is possible that the Palestinians could bypass direct talks in favor of seeking U.N. support for statehood. If granted, that would put Israel in a difficult negotiating position and possibly erode international support for the Jewish state.

Direct Israeli-Palestinian talks remain the best path to Mideast peace. Reopening that dialogue has proven difficult, but the new peace proposal could serve as a catalyst for resumption. Netanyahu should act promptly to see if that is the case.

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