All Writings
January 11, 1997

The Battle over Israeli and Palestinian National Character

The third and final phase of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations is expected to be more difficult and intractable than the previous rounds that led to the Oslo agreements and the eventual redeployment of Israeli troops from Hebron. This time, however, negotiations will be conducted in a different political and psychological atmosphere, with each party knowing that the final settlement will define the national character of both Israel and the Palestinians. Any single issue on the agenda~the future of Jerusalem, the fate of the Israeli settlements, repatriation of Palestinian refugees, or what constitutes the final borders could entangle the negotiators for years. Palestinian and Israeli extremists who oppose the talks will no doubt also do their best to torpedo the process.

The main issue that has haunted the Hebron negotiations will no doubt beleaguer all future negotiations. Prime Minister Netanyahu's insistence on Israel's right to pursue Palestinians suspected of committing violent acts against Israelis in Palestinian-controlled territory is meant to prevent the Palestinians from exercising sovereignty over their land. The Palestinians, on the other hand, are fearful that conceding on this issue will prejudice future negotiations on the other major issues that will define Israeli-Palestinian relations and the prospect for a Palestinian state.

Therefore, the Palestinians will negotiate on every single issue, including Hebron, with the objective of establishing a Palestinian state, while Netanyahu's team will negotiate with the clear intention of undermining any prospect that may lead to its creation. It is here that the efforts to reconcile differences may prove to be insurmountable. Sooner rather than later, both sides will face the inevitable crossroads: one road pointing to a process that leads to a Palestinian state by a mutual agreement, and the other to a chaotic, violent, and uncertain coexistence that could unravel the entire Arab-Israeli peace process.

Casualty of Ideological Zeal

Netanyahu cannot possibly be oblivious to the impact of his systematic rejection of Palestinian rights, first as opposition leader and later as prime minister. Before the Israeli elections, he rejected Oslo I and II, vehemently opposed the Palestinian right of self-determination, and vowed never to meet with Arafat. Although as prime minister he bowed to pressure and met with Arafat, he repeatedly scorned and humiliated him. In addition, since he came to power, Netanyahu has been confrontational in his actions and rhetoric. He ended a four-year freeze on constructing Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, resisted carrying out Israel's commitment to redeploy Israeli troops in Hebron, demanded Palestinian offices in Jerusalem be closed, refused to release Palestinian prisoners, and started building bypass roads that further isolated Palestinian towns and villages. All this while the economic pressure on the Palestinians was becoming increasingly unbearable, largely because of the continuing closure of the borders. Is it any wonder that Palestinians at first became disillusioned, then angry and defiant, as they watched the prospect for better days fade before their eyes? Notwithstanding Arafat's shortsighted response of calling on his people to demonstrate, almost any incident would have ignited the Palestinian short fuse. The opening of the tunnel in Jerusalem near one of Islam's holiest shrines was seen as the last straw by a wounded and despairing people. It led to bloody clashes resulting in the highest casualty toll for Israelis and Palestinians since the 1967 Six-Day War.

All along, Netanyahu has viewed Oslo I and n as the forerunners for a Palestinian state. For Likud supporters, the establishment of a Palestinian state would render the idea of a greater Israel, the premise of Jabotinsky's Zionist Revisionist ethos, totally irrelevant. Thus, there will be not only very little progress in the peace process, but likely violent confrontations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, unless Netanyahu and his government change their outlook about Palestinian self-determination. This is the crux of the current tension, which will frame the character and substance of future negotiations and relations between the two sides.

The question is, does Netanyahu really believe that his, or any future Israeli government, can rule the Palestinians indefinitely in the face of the tide of nationalism sweeping the world. The eventual creation of a Palestinian state need not deny the Jewish right to exist or even to live in the West Bank. Rather, the two peoples will be able to share a common heritage, be it in Jerusalem, Hebron or Bethlehem. Israelis and Palestinians will remain demographically interspersed regardless of where the final borders may be drawn. There will always be a Jewish presence in the West Bank and a Palestinian presence in Israel proper. Both peoples have lived, and will continue to live, in their common biblical land. These are essential facts that neither Netanyahu nor Arafat can change voluntarily without bringing on a catastrophe. The stark fact is that Israelis and Palestinians cannot be disentangled.

Sooner rather than later, Netanyahu must make the difficult choice. He must decide whether to satisfy his right-wing constituency and thereby shatter the prospects for peace, paving the way to what will surely be the worst-ever blood bath between Israelis and Palestinians. Or he can change the composition of his coalition government and move to establish a constructive dialogue with the Palestinian leadership that could pave the way to a permanent settlement. He must decide soon. After wandering aimlessly for six months, he must tell his people how he intends to deliver on his promise of "peace with security." Thus far he has delivered neither. In six months, he has managed to severely damage relations with the Palestinians, antagonize the Arab states at peace with Israel, embarrass the Clinton administration, and alienate many of Israel's friends. Netanyahu may preach "peace for peace," but all he will be able to negotiate is "land for peace with security." There is no reason to suggest that a Syrian government will settle for anything less than recovering the entire Golan Heights or that the Palestinians will accept indefinite Israeli control. But with Netanyahu at the helm, the Syrians and the Palestinians may be compelled to take Israel's security requirements more seriously.

The Battle Over Israel's National Character

The current acrimonious debate in Israel, between those who support the principle of exchanging land for peace and those who oppose it on religious or ideological grounds, touches upon the very national soul of the country. Unless a clear consensus emerges regarding the disposition of the territories in the West Bank, Israel could face violent internal strife far more ominous to its security than any threat Islamic fundamentalists have ever posed.

The heated debate that engulfs the Israelis is not about the mere exchange of a parcel of land for peace, as was the case with the Sinai or might even be with the Golan Heights. For hundreds of thousands of nationalist religious Jews, Judea and Samaria, the biblical names for the West Bank, are sacred lands that belong to the Jewish people by biblical birthright. These lands represents the very essence of their religious and cultural heritage. Their affinity for the land has provided them with spiritual sustenance, fulfilling a 2,000-year dream. This is not fully appreciated by many secular Jews, and certainly not by a majority of the Palestinians. What Israel faces, then, is not merely a conflict between two strategies to achieve the same result, but a battle over two diametrically opposing ideologies.

The assassination of Rabin was nothing less than a declaration of war by religious fanatics against the government. Some Jewish American and Israeli leaders would like us to believe that Rabin's murder by another Jew was a historical fluke alien to Jewish values and teaching. This is not so. Yigal Amir acted in accordance with his lifelong conviction that the land of Israel belongs to the Jews by absolute biblical right and is not subject to trade or sale by any authority or political process. There are hundreds of thousands of devout adherents to this religious belief, many of whom justify Rabin's assassination by the harm he allegedly brought upon Israel.

The rhetoric of hate from (then) Israel's main opposition party, Likud, poisoned the atmosphere. Irresponsible rabbis have fanned the flames by sanctioning violent acts against Israeli leaders for pursuing the peace process, whose territorial concessions, they claim, "defied the will of God." Another group of rabbis openly advised orthodox soldiers to disobey orders to remove settlements from the West Bank. It was the ideology of such Jewish militants that spawned this assassination, opening the door to a dangerous disruption of the rule of law.

Ironically, Islamic and Jewish fundamentalists, sworn enemies, found common cause in trying to kill the peace process. Jewish zealots, however, pose a far greater danger to Israel's well-being than any marginal Islamic group. Over the years Israel has been able to develop effective means to combat Islamic terrorism, and the Islamists themselves know that they cannot really defeat Israel. The Israeli government, however, does not have the strategy and still lacks the political will to use force, if necessary, to deal with Jewish terrorists. Moreover, most adult settlers have served in the army, and the majority are perfectly capable of waging a war of attrition against both Palestinians and Israeli Jews. There is much talk in Israel about the impending danger and how to avert disaster. Here are some measures that must be considered: First, since Israel is going through revolutionary changes, it is time for Netanyahu to explain the moral and political imperatives that face Israel in its search for a solution to the Palestinian problem. For too long Labor has left the field of public relations wide open for the Likud to exploit, making a mockery of the peace process. Netanyahu must delineate how he believes Israel can rule the Palestinians indefinitely. The West Bank and Gaza are their homes, and there is no other place for them to go. The Oslo agreements offer the only viable formula for coexistence. Netanyahu must sooner rather than later produce an alternative plan acceptable to the Palestinians, instead of engaging in demagoguery.

Second, Netanyahu must tell the settlers what is in store for them. For too long they have been left in limbo not knowing what to expect or when. Although for political and tactical reasons Netanyahu cannot divulge the framework of the final agreement (as Peres could not), nonetheless he must be clear on the future of the disposition of at least some of the settlements. As the opposition leader, Netanyahu could criticize without offering solutions. But as the leader of the nation, he has a responsibility to articulate a clear policy for his people's future.

Third, many rabbis, who have a very important function in Jewish life, forget that their mission is to heal, comfort, guide and console, not incite their disciples to commit acts of violence against fellow Jews. As spiritual leaders, rabbis have a special obligation in wielding their influence. Since they enjoy the credibility to speak to the extreme right, it is their moral duty to make a clear statement that Halachah (holy law) unambiguously permits the return of land should it mean that Jewish lives can thereby be saved.

Fourth, the security services can no longer play down the threat from right-wing and Jewish-settler extremists. They must make the psychological adjustment to bring the same intensity to dealing with Jewish extremism that they apply to other anti-Israeli elements. It should be remembered that it was internecine conflict that brought down the second Jewish commonwealth nearly 2,000 years ago.

Creating the Political Conditions For a Palestinian State

Arafat, on the other hand, should adopt a strategy to realize his national objective that is strictly limited to nonviolent means. He needs to finally grasp the necessity of reining in violence as a prerequisite for the continuation of the peace talks. Neither Hamas nor the Islamic Jihad are likely to cease their terrorist activities against Israel, but it is now expected that the Palestinian Authority (PA) will be guided by the principle that negotiations and terrorism cannot go hand-in-hand. While rejecting Israel's "right to pursue," Arafat must enhance his credibility in the eyes of that majority of Israelis who seek a permanent peaceful solution, including the possibility of a Palestinian state. He must learn to condemn anti-Israeli violence quickly and unequivocally and take all necessary measures to prevent it, regardless of source or circumstances. Nothing is more abhorrent to the Israeli public than seeing their blood shed on the altar of the peace process. Netanyahu came to power largely because of the suicide bombings that claimed the lives of innocent Israelis; he will continue to ride the same public sentiment, should the Palestinians foolishly foster it.

The Palestinian leaders, including Arafat, have warned that the temptation on the Palestinian side is to resort to violence-another intifada. Although even sporadic violence is objectionable, it may be unavoidable. As a strategy, however, violence will only play into the hands of Netanyahu and his right-wing supporters, who will use it to justify Israeli intransigence and demand quick and stiff retaliatory measures.

Once out of control, violence will undermine the very basis on which the Palestinians' legitimate claim for statehood rests. The PA must take every measure possible to protect hot-headed Palestinians from self-inflicted wounds. Repeated nonviolent Palestinian demonstrations joined by hundreds of thousands of Israelis must be the "weapon" of choice. Occasional strikes, including hunger strikes, should follow, thereby focusing international attention on the Palestinian plight.

Second, Arafat must deliver on the resolution passed by the Palestinian National Council and amend on paper the PLO covenant, removing all the clauses that call for Israel's destruction. He will reap tremendous psychological benefit from the Israelis, many of whom are beginning to see Arafat for the first time as a reliable partner in the peace process. Netanyahu, rightfully, will continue to hammer on this sensitive issue. Arafat must understand that unless the PLO charter is rewritten, there will be insurmountable right-wing opposition to any meaningful concessions made to the Palestinians that bring them closer to a statehood.

Third, the PLO must also learn to moderate its language when making demands about all pending issues, especially the future of East Jerusalem. Regardless of the legitimacy of the Palestinian claim, this is a hot-button issue, evoking extreme passion on all sides. Many confidence-building measures should be undertaken before trying to engage the Israeli public with this most sensitive of all issues. The Palestinian school of thought that advocates making Jerusalem an omnipresent issue misses the point. Rather than softening, it hardens the Israeli position, not only on the Jerusalem question but on other issues relating to national identity and national security.

Fourth, the Palestinian leadership should try to make the Clinton administration its best advocate with the Israelis. America's stakes in the Middle East are extremely high, and President Clinton, who has invested so heavily his time, energy and resources in the peace process, can be expected to exert tremendous pressure on both sides to move the peace talks forward. The international community, on the whole, is supportive of Palestinian aspirations for a nation-state, and the Americans can be persuaded to follow suit, provided that the Palestinians do not torpedo their own prospects through a strategy of violence. America's strategic interests in the region are best served through stability, and the Palestinians must appear to reinforce rather than undermine it.

Fifth, the pressure on Netanyahu will also be exerted by the rest of the Arab states, especially Egypt and Jordan, who signed peace treaties with Israel, as well as those Arab countries in the Gulf and North Africa who have just begun to develop economic and other ties with Israel. Disenchanted with Netanyahu's policies, many of these Arab states have already cooled relations with Israel, and several major joint projects have been put on hold. The Israeli economy is beginning to feel the effect of reluctant foreign investors, who view with alarm continuing Palestinian strife and the potential for political instability.

Netanyahu's claim that a Palestinian state will pose a mortal danger to Israel may well have no basis in reality. But only the Palestinians themselves, as they enter the negotiations on the four major issues that will determine their future, can disabuse the Israeli public of this misleading notion.


Continued intransigence by Netanyahu and more violence against Israelis could unravel the whole peace process and tear the Middle East apart, with the following possible scenarios unfolding one by one.

The first victims will be the Palestinian people. They could now lose almost everything. The territories would be sealed off indefinitely, perhaps even reoccupied, and a more repressive Israeli military regime would be reestablished. Palestinian youths would once again be out in the streets, and the violence between Palestinians-probably aided by their own police force-and Israeli soldiers could make the intifada look like child's play. Thus the Palestinian dream of a statehood could be shattered. For Arafat, it is now a matter of do or die. Perhaps for the first time he really recognizes the potentially tragic consequences for his people's future and himself if he cannot stop anti-Israeli terror and if punitive Israeli antiterrorism measures begin to be implemented.

The second casualty will be the Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations. Syria's ultimate intentions remain highly suspect to Israel, and no Israeli prime minister, regardless of his political leanings, can return to the negotiating table unless he can convince his people of a definite change of attitude in Damascus. Moreover, to combat terrorism Israel will not hesitate to hit targets in Syria. For self-preservation alone, Asad will be compelled to counterattack. Such a scenario would make the recovery of the Golan only a remote possibility, instigating further Syrian belligerency which will prompt renewed Israeli retaliation. In Lebanon, Israel will be even less inhibited than usual in striking massively against Hezbollah's targets. This might induce Syrian intervention.

The third casualty will be the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty, which, unlike Oslo I and n, is regarded highly by most Israelis. Although Jordan's King Hussein will take stem measures against terrorism emanating from his own land, Israeli-Jordanian relations will not be immune to the changing landscape in the West Bank and Gaza. More than 60 percent of the Jordanian population is of Palestinian origin, and however loyal they may be to the Hashemite Kingdom, they have close affinities to their brethren in the territories. A breakdown of the peace process may not automatically prompt anti-Israeli violence stemming from Jordan, but it will certainly put the peace treaty on ice, shattering the Israeli and Jordanian dream of a joint economic renaissance.

In Egypt, the collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would encourage the Islamic Group and other Islamists to intensify their antigovemment campaign, further weakening President Mubarak's hold on power. Although it is unlikely to happen soon, the fall of the secular regime in Egypt and its replacement by an Islamic government could have a domino effect on the entire region, ending all hopes for an Israeli-Arab reconciliation in the foreseeable future.

For Israel, a country that has fought five wars and endured countless terrorist attacks and sacrificed its best youth for its national dream, the collapse of the peace process would have a devastating effect on popular morale. Cynicism could replace hope, and Israel would become a fortress, shielding its citizens from a region that has gone mad. The Israelis would return to where they were in the 1950s and 1960s, when relations with their neighbors were measured by the number of casualties across borders carved out by hatred and fear.

Finally, for the United States, which has championed the Arab-Israeli peace and invested heavily in resources and prestige to bring it about, the unraveling of the peace process would severely undermine the region's political stability, which is the foundation on which American strategic interests rest. Iran and Iraq will be emboldened to intimidate U.S. allies in the Gulf, threatening oil supplies to the West, a development of menacing potential. President Clinton, who went all out promoting the peace, could find his crowning achievement in foreign affairs snatched away. The extraordinary steps taken by the administration to save the peace underscore the gravity of the situation. President Clinton is also sending a strong message to the Israeli and Palestinian leaders that, although the United States stands firmly behind them, they too must do whatever it takes to prevent a total breakdown of the peace process.



The crisis in the Middle East, precipitated by the spate of suicide bombings in Israel and the advent of a right-wing government in Israel, involves the highest stakes for America. The peace efforts of the last three administrations stand to be wiped out, with devastating consequences for the United States and its allies in the region. This explains why President Clinton reacted so swiftly, taking various measures including cosponsoring (with Egypt's President Mubarak) an international conference on terrorism in Egypt, to be attended by many world leaders, and supplying Israel and the Palestinian Authority with antiterrorist technical assistance and advance-detection technology, hi an unprecedented move, the president also dispatched top CIA officials to Israel to coordinate intelligence gathering with the Palestinian Authority. In addition, he decided to visit Israel to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Israelis, thereby demonstrating America's solidarity with its long-time ally.

hi reaffirming the unshakable U.S. commitment to Israel's security, President Clinton has made it clear that "if Israel is prepared to take risks for peace, we are determined to do our best to reduce the risks and increase the security of those who do that." However, the American-Israeli special relationship is not a one-way street. With the United States fully committed morally, politically and militarily to Israel's security, the new leadership can hardly ignore America's strategic interests in the region. Successive American administrations have invested heavily in the welfare and well being of Israel. Never in the history of relations between two states has one nation transferred to another as much wealth as the United States has provided for Israel. And no American administration has invested so much time, energy, and political and financial capital, in Israel and in the peace process, as has the Clinton administration. Israel's economic prosperity, military prowess and standing in the international community have been made possible because of the scope and continuing nature of American support. This is not to suggest that Israel must be entirely compliant with American whims, especially at the cost of jeopardizing its security. It does mean, however, that Netanyahu cannot seek questionable security measures or resort to ideological fanaticism to justify any intransigence on his part. From the American perspective, the Arab-Israeli peace is critical to Middle Eastern stability, and stability is the prerequisite for U.S. strategic interest in the area. If Netanyahu were to keep his campaign promises and retain Israeli control over the entire West Bank and the Golan Heights, he would shatter the prospects for peace. Similarly, the expansion of existing settlements or the building of new ones will destabilize the peace and therefore dangerously strain U.S.-Israeli relations. The pressure that was exerted by the Bush administration on the previous Likud government to end settlement activities contributed directly to the defeat of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, a fact that should not be lost on the Netanyahu government. Since the capture of the territories in 1967, the United States has consistently supported U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 calling for the exchange of land for peace. Both the Israeli-Egyptian treaty made possible by the direct involvement of the United States and the Israeli-Jordanian peace, vigorously promoted by President Clinton, are based on the concept of land for peace. As a full-fledged partner in this process, America can persuade Israel to give up territory in exchange for peace with real security but it will not pressure the Israelis or jeopardize their security for less.


Contrary to the prevailing views held by Likud and other right-of-center political parties, a Palestinian state will not pose a mortal danger but rather enhance Israel's national security and contribute significantly to regional stability.

Recent polls suggest that the majority of Israelis consider the creation of a Palestinian state to be only a matter of time. Since the Gaza-Jericho agreement went into effect, day by day the Israelis have witnessed the growing embryo of a Palestinian state. All the symbols of statehood are being displayed. Heads of state and foreign ministers have been paying official visits to the Palestinian Authority for all Israelis and Palestinians to see. Arafat speaks of a Palestinian state on Israeli television as if it were already an accomplished fact, and Israeli officials no longer react to such statements with indignation, if they react at all.

Those Israelis who oppose a Palestinian state should know that only by brutal force could Israel prevent its emergence, and then at a terrible cost: renewed violent conflict with the Palestinians and condemnation from the entire international community. Adopting a wait-and-see attitude w ill only aggravate the internal Israeli debate and allow right-wing extremists to make further inroads among the West Bank settlers. In reality, all Israel can do at this juncture is delay the inevitable by perhaps three or four years and risk losing any opportunity to influence the character of the new state, an entity with which Israel will share not only common borders but a demographically interdispersed population that must coexist either way.

The creation of a Palestinian state in cooperation with Israel will yield many other significant advantages. First, contrary to the Likud's claim that a Palestinian state will pose a mortal danger to Israel, a demilitarized state is considerably less dangerous to Israel's national security than a restive movement bent on self-determination and serving as a magnet for militants. Likud leaders have yet to argue convincingly how a demilitarized ministate squeezed between Israel and Jordan presents a more awesome danger than the combined Arab states. Furthermore, why would the Palestinians challenge Israel militarily and destroy their newborn state, for which they will have toiled and sacrificed their best youth for five decades? The principal requirements for a Palestinian state, to which the PLO has agreed, are that the state be democratic, secular and demilitarized. Luxembourg provides an excellent example of a small nation that lives in peace, neither threatened by nor threatening to its neighbors.

Second, government support of a Palestinian state would considerably ease the thorny issue of many Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Since there is no clear policy, the settlers will continue to defy the government, hoping to forestall or prevent altogether the transfer of land to the Palestinian Authority.

Although negotiations about final borders will be fierce, the Israeli government will evidently insist on retaining those settlements that surround Jerusalem. The political and judicial status of the remaining majority of the settlements will be negotiated within the framework of a Palestinian state. Palestinian officials have repeatedly said that they expect-and are open to accepting-many Israeli settlers to remain, like their Palestinian counterparts living in Israel, as permanent residents or citizens of their respective state.

Third, whereas it is not expected that all Palestinians in and outside the territories will readily accept a state limited to most of the West Bank and Gaza, once the dream of statehood becomes attainable, Hamas, Jihad and others will lose much of their popular support. A Palestinian state will cut deeply into their financial backing and their ability to recruit for a cause that will become increasingly irrelevant. They will be compelled to abandon violent resistance and instead join the process of political accommodation to stay in the game. Hamas's violent attacks in the past have caused severe economic hardship for the Palestinians and have moved the PLO further from its objective of West Bank control. This explains why Hamas and Jihad were pressured by the PLO to dramatically reduce their attacks against Israel in recent months.

Fourth, future regional stability will largely depend on the triangular relationship among Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians. It is in the interest of both Jordan and Israel that the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza become independent but equal partners in establishing any future bilateral relationship with Jordan. As the Jordanian population is already more than 60 percent Palestinian, Jordan would rather deal with a full-fledged state than a loosely held, disaffected, self-ruled entity yearning for statehood. A Palestinian state will become the center of the Palestinian national expression and a magnet for Palestinian intellectuals. This would ease the political pressure that the Palestinian majority in Jordan could bring to bear.


Prime Minister Rabin contributed more than any other Israeli to the emergence of a Palestinian state, with his historic handshake with Arafat. Now the question is no longer whether a Palestinian state will be created but under what circumstances and when. How might such a state coexist with Israel, considering that the Israelis and the Palestinians continue to claim the same land and are demographically interdispersed both in Israel and in the territories? The problem is that neither Israel nor the PLO has been able to project a wide view of how a two-state solution might work. Both have been engaged in wishful thinking; ignoring the fact that, in the end, the final outcome will be determined by the realities on the ground.

Both peoples already live in their biblical land, and no major shift of population can realistically be contemplated by either side. What must be established, following a transitional period of three to four years of self-rule, are the political borders. These borders would provide political demarcation of the territories in which Israelis and Palestinians would exercise their respective authorities. Because of interdispersement and the improbability of a major shift in populations, the political borders would not neatly separate Israelis and Palestinians. Indeed, Palestinians living in Israel under Israeli rule would undoubtedly continue to live in Israel, while many Israelis living in the West Bank might end up in a Palestinian state, regardless of where the borders are eventually drawn.

Acceptance of this principle by both Israelis and Palestinians will considerably ease the territorial dispute. Although both sides are keenly aware of the need for territorial compromises, no Israeli government would survive the ensuing political storm should it contemplate dismantling a large number of settlements, even for the sake of peace. And no Palestinian authority would give up nearly 50 percent of the West Bank, even for the sake of statehood. It may very well be that the final borders will be drawn along the eastern mountain ridge, leaving the settlements that surround Jerusalem under Israeli control and the densely populated Palestinian area to the west under Palestinian control. The right of the Jews to live in biblical Jericho, Bethlehem or Hebron, is viewed by the majority of Israelis as a natural right that links them directly to their heritage.

As a result, 75,000 to 100,000 Israelis, scattered in a few dozen settlements, may end up within the Palestinian state. Under this condition, the fate of these settlements would not be different from that of hundreds of Arab villages in Israel proper, with a population of over 900,000, whose inhabitants own their own land and have been living in harmony with the Israelis under Israel's sovereignty.

The right to purchase land by either Jews or Palestinians in each other's territory would be regulated to insure that no sizable transfer could occur. The right of those Israelis and Palestinians who already own land beyond their respective political borders should not be jeopardized by this arrangement. Israelis and Palestinians should maintain their separate national identities and political authorities, while both share their respective homeland.

Israel and the Palestinian state would provide legal jurisdiction for residency and citizenship. Jewish settlers living in the Palestinian state might, for example, opt to retain their Israeli citizenship, and therefore be barred from voting or running for office in their place of residence; or they might chose to become citizens of the Palestinian state; or perhaps they might be granted dual citizenship and be eligible to exercise political and civic rights in Israel and in the Palestinian state. A certain ratio between Israelis and Palestinians living in each other's territory must be established, in order to prevent either side from attaining a demographic majority in the other's state. The tragic examples of Lebanon and Bosnia point the way toward preventing ethnic strife.

Palestinians living in Israel and Jordan as citizens of their respective countries would naturally identify emotionally and intellectually with their own political entity. In this connection, the acceptance of dual territorial claims would make it possible for both sides to maintain their own national identities without uprooting themselves to establish residence in an area where they could exercise their political rights, In addition, the existence of more than 900,000 Palestinians in Israel makes it particularly important to maintain open channels to Palestinian cultural and religious centers in the West Bank, to create a national core of identity for all Palestinians regardless of their place of residence.

Thus for any two-state solution to work it must: a) sustain Jewish and Palestinian majorities in their respective political domains, b) allay Israel's security concerns, c) establish Jewish rights to settle in the West Bank, d) guarantee universal access to the holy places and assure absolute freedom of worship, e) provide equitable sharing of natural resources, especially water, and f) provide the basis for close and expanding socioeconomic relations and freedom of movement of people and goods across the borders.

Maintaining Israeli rule over a significant part of the West Bank will not be tolerated by todays Palestinians and certainly not by the next generation. Equally, to exclude a Jewish presence from the ancient homeland will not be accepted by a country that has sacrificed so much to realize a 2,000-year-old dream. If this generation forfeits its rights, the next will not. hi order to stand the test of time, a two-state solution must be fair and equitable, and meet the national aspirations of both peoples.

One other critical requirement is that the Palestinian state be founded on democratic principles sustained by democratic institutions and constitutionalized human rights. Despite individual Palestinians' desire for democracy, the Palestinian community still lacks the social, economic and political structures, as well as the middle class, needed to sustain democracy. Palestinian Arab society remains fragmented, unable to undertake unified political action other than resistance, violence, defiance and terrorism.

Under the best of circumstances, Palestinian factionalism and rivalry will continue to challenge the emerging political order for several years to come. Arafat can either rise to the historic occasion and strengthen the democratic foundations of a new state or remain true to his instincts by being arbitrary, exclusionary and undemocratic. Arafat is known for his secretive approach to governing, his dependence on an elaborate security apparatus, his control of finances to maintain his grip on power, and his preference for surrounding himself with loyal cronies. He has often trampled on democratic principles; recently, he ordered a newspaper closed and a Palestinian editor jailed for printing stories with which he disagreed.

With such a potential for abuse, democratic elections alone, such as held last January, momentous though they may be, will not prevent human-rights abuses or guarantee personal freedom as long as any elected body can abuse (or even abolish) the whole political system that brought it to power.

Unlike successive American administrations that were remarkably shy about pushing democracy in the Middle East, the Clinton administration must now be directly engaged to ensure the ultimate success of the Palestinian experiment. Supporting Palestinian democracy would be a major contribution to regional stability and thereby to American national interests.

The United States, with Israel, should persuade Arafat to mobilize the legislative council to enact a new Palestinian national charter-a "Bill of Rights" institutionalizing human rights and guaranteeing individual freedom. A national charter can provide the basis for the development of democratic institutions on which the Palestinians can erect their iuture state. Only such basic laws can enhance the legitimacy and credibility of the Palestinian Authority, provide for a legal and smooth succession to power, and ensure long-term regional stability.

In future elections, political parties- including Hamas-that win a majority vote will then be bound by the national charter. For example, their leaders will have to respect religious diversity and will be unable to abolish the law of the land in order to impose Islamic law except by a national referendum. These political parties, in other words, will understand they can share power only through democratic means and must respect the constitutional rights of the individual citizen. As a successiiil democracy, the Palestinian state would offer a model to Egypt, Algeria and other Arab nations still threatened by radical Islamists.

The Clinton administration must take the lead in persuading other Western nations, Israel and donor states to insist on linking all future Palestinian economic and diplomatic assistance to democratization. Such a linkage has proven its effectiveness in the past, and substantial American resources can be brought to bear to influence events in this direction. Moreover, the United States must impress upon the Palestinian leadership that American support for a Palestinian state is conditional upon a continued commitment to democracy and human rights. As an added incentive, Israelis would be far more inclined to eventually support the creation of a democratic Palestinian state. Moreover, any agreement between that state and Israel would have greater legitimacy in the eyes of both peoples.

The Palestinians have a historic opportunity to begin their political organization from scratch. To emerge from the shackles of occupation, they need a new brand of intifada, a peaceful shaking off of their self-enslaving habits. With the active support of Israel and the United States the Palestinians must insist on a free democratic society in which human rights are constitutionally enshrined rather than subject to the whims of elected officials, whatever these officials' political beliefs or religious teachings. Only then will democratic elections become meaningful and elected officials learn to respect both the public and the limits of their own power.


The human dimension evolving from the long and tough negotiations between the two sides has made it possible for Israelis and Palestinians to know and appreciate each others' innermost feelings and emotions. Each party has witnessed the other's deepest fears, anxieties and concerns. Both sides have been traumatized by five decades of a bloody conflict that not only claimed tens of thousands of lives, but robbed many more of basic human needs-trust, dignity and compassion. Growing numbers of Israelis and Palestinians now realize that driven by a conviction of "do or die," they killed each other because the choices were reduced to "you" or "I." Following four years of painstaking negotiations, they can at last look at each other and recognizing similar weaknesses, feel the same pain, and share the same anxieties for the future. Notwithstanding the position of Netanyahu and his party, this recognition has led them to believe that only coexistence, under separate political authorities, will restore them to sanity and dignity.

There are still many fanatics, Palestinian and Israelis alike, who will battle the wind in their refusal to accept the historic verdict to coexist in peace. To them we must say, give up! The sons of Abraham have come together; they have come home to share what providence has given. It is this recognition, more than anything else, that will eventually compel both sides to accept a political settlement. This recognition that neither will live in peace without the other and neither will rule over the other gives hope to the future success of the negotiations.