The following summarises the lead position of members of the Next Century Foundation’s working group on a peace settlement between Israel and Palestine, but it does not represent a consensus endorsed by all present, nor does it represent the view of the Next Century Foundation. This blog embodies significant elements of the non-paper that has been written by The Next Century Foundation on the strategies and core principles which could be embodied in a secure and final peace settlement between Israel and Palestine.
With new political realities emerging, The Next Century Foundation has formulated a non-paper as a result of discussions in Working Group meetings that we hold. This non-paper raises concerns about potential strategies for progress and addresses three different issues that we find are vital to a peace settlement: Land Swaps, The Status of Jerusalem and the Refugee Crisis.
Finding the way forward
There is a new alarming reality: the US are incapable of expending any real effort towards foreign policy, as a result of a ‘Cold Civil War’ they continue to battle with, as President Biden attempts to hold the US together, effectively resulting in the US prioritising domestic politics. Consequently, whilst the international community, alongside Palestine and Israel, expect the US to take a leading role in the search for a solution towards progress, numerous US voices have made it abundantly clear that the US are simply not in a position to do so. Responsibility, therefore, must be shifted to other influential actors, such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco.
In addition to this, the ineptitude of the incumbent governments of Israel and Palestine represented a grave concern across all those present in the working group meeting. With regard to Israel’s government, the fact that the current Prime Minister Bennett even views the current government as a ‘political accident’ is of profound importance. The coalition government at present is simply too difficult to manage in order for any progress to be made or consensus to be reached. In addition to this, there is clear reluctance from the international community to engage with the current Palestinian Authority, as it is deemed illegitimate in the absence of elections. Both these factors significantly undermine the opportunity for both sides to initiate talks on any peace settlement. With these crucial points in mind, the Next Century Foundation proposes that the Palestinian Authority should hold national presidential (and ideally also parliamentary elections) in Palestine immediately, with Israel and the international community jointly facilitating these elections to ensure their fairness and freedom.
Additionally, a common consensus was evident with regard to acknowledging the charismatic influence of Palestinian youth. Various Palestinian youngsters have demonstrated the unique ability to engage the international community, and so the Next Century Foundation suggests that the voices of Palestinian youth be heard across the globe, to truly understand the will of the Palestinian people.
Regarding the status of Jerusalem, disagreements continue. Whilst there seems to be international and regional consensus that East Jerusalem should represent the capital of the future Palestinian state and that West Jerusalem should belong to Israel, Israel’s government demonstrates reluctance toward this arrangement. Understanding religious, cultural and historical complexities in Jerusalem, The Next Century Foundation proposes that Israel and Palestine should share the de jure sovereignty of Jerusalem, regardless of the de facto position. The Next Century Foundation thus urges the international community to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of both Israel and Palestine.
Concerning the refugee crisis, the Next Century Foundation aligns with and endorses the proposal from Israel’s former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. This includes the idea that Palestinians should be allowed to enter Israel only on an individual humanitarian basis and the entry will not be under the names of “rights of return” or “family reunification”. Additionally, 1,000 Palestinians should be permitted to enter Israel each year, for five years, with the situation then pending review. Further, Palestinians living outside Palestine must have a right to choose to emigrate to the West or to accept compensation in lieu. Most significantly, however, the number of Palestinian refugees actually allowed to return to land that is now within the State of Israel must be based upon an agreement between the Palestinian Authority and Israel’s government.
The issue of land swaps is extremely specific and detailed, but the Next Century Foundation emphasises the need for all land swaps to be based on the principle that a maximum of up to 6% of the current West Bank be exchanged for land abutting the Gaza Strip a contiguous Palestinian state will be established alongside the state of Israel, with the use of a road link between Gaza and the West Bank. There are five key settlements in this regard (see our map above), the most contentious of which is Ariel and the access corridor to Ariel. We suggest that real politic demands that Ariel be included in the land swap, though we realise that is hugely contentious given its position in the middle of the West Bank.