CHICAGO: Why is the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians so difficult to resolve when everyone knows exactly what a fair compromise must contain?
Two states, one Palestine and one Israel, with a sharing of Jerusalem, and the dismantling of most Israeli settlements. For settlements Israel keeps, Israel would give Palestine an equal transfer of land.
There are many other issues that have also been discussed in numerous negotiations over more than 16 years since Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat both shook hands at a White House ceremony I was proud to attend.
But the one hurdle has always been the issue of the Palestinian refugees and how to address their legitimate grievances.
I recognize how difficult both goals are and I am not naïve. But, I also know that the price of doing nothing and allowing the current situation to continue is far more irresponsible.
My proposals include much of what we all have already embraced, but it includes two new strategies:
The first is to change how we approach peace. Instead of taking “baby-steps to struggle through each of the many difficult obstacles, we would instead both go right to the end game and declare the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Palestine would set up temporary government offices in the Arab sectors of East Jerusalem understanding that the Old City would become “shared , with Israel controlling the Jewish section and Palestine controlling the Arab section.
Establishing two states immediately within the context of a preliminary peace agreement would undermine those who seek to prevent peace based on compromise.
The second component is the most important. It is called the “Settler-Refugee Exchange Program . This is the spirit of how we can make peace based on two-states a reality.
The plan is simple and works like this:
Israel will return most of the existing settlements in the West Bank. For those settlements it chooses to keep, Israel would give Palestine a “dunam-for-dunam exchange of land.
Additionally, Jews living in settlements that will come under the control of the Palestinian state, would be given the option of: a) remaining there as Israeli citizens (but living under Palestinian Law); b) remaining there as Palestinian citizens with full rights; or c) leaving and accepting compensation for their lost homes.
Finally, under my plan, Israel would be required to accept the return of one Palestinian refugee for every settler remaining in the annexed settlements. Israel would treat those refugees as equal citizens of Israel and assist them with resettlement and homes.
There are about 500,000 Israeli settlers living in 171 settlements and 102 outposts in the West Bank. The United Nations estimated that 750,000 Palestinians became refugees after the 1949 Armistice Agreement and that number has swelled as a result of natural family growth to more than 4.6 million living in camps throughout the Middle East.
In exchange, the Palestinians would surrender their Right of Return, which although based on the international rule of law, has been impossible to implement.
Israel and the Arab countries would exchange apologies for the harm they caused to each other. A compensation fund created by Israel, the Arab World, the United Nations and the United States, would be set up to compensate both Palestinian refugees and also Jews who lost or abandoned homes in Arab countries.
I believe all this is doable, which is why I have declared my candidacy for president of a future Palestine. Not everyone believes I can win, and maybe by throwing my hat in the ring I am throwing “my tongue in my cheek . But all jokes aside, most people recognize that two states for two people is the answer. It is up to our leaders to find the courage to implement it.
Ray Hananiais the 2006 winner of the New America Media’s “Best Ethnic American Columnist . He is a political analyst, satirist and former national president of the Palestinian American Congress. His platform is outlined on his campaign website: www.YallaPeace.com. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).