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  Middle East Endgame: A comprehensive proposal for an Arab-Israeli peace settlement

Amman/Brussels/Washington, 16 July 2002: Three major reports released simultaneously today by the International Crisis Group call for the U.S. to lead the ‘Quartet’ (U.S., EU, Russia and UN) and ‘Trio’ (Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan) in presenting and pushing a comprehensive peace initiative to achieve once and for all, a fair and durable peace between Israel and its Arab neighbours.

ICG agrees that President Bush, in his speech of 24 June 2002, has set the terms of the international response to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the immediately foreseeable period. But we find it difficult to believe that the present Bush Plan can stop the violence and produce the necessary political result within a reasonable time.

ICG Middle East Program Director Robert Malley said: “The ends stated by President Bush are laudable – an end to Israeli occupation, a two-state solution and resolution of borders, Jerusalem and refugee issues. But the means are questionable. No roadmap is on the table, nor any clear international commitment to making it happen. The demand that Palestinians choose new leaders makes it all the more difficult to achieve that goal.  And the insistence on an end to violence as a prerequisite for a meaningful political process treats the violence in a vacuum and plays into the hands of extremists on both sides.”

Based on intensive consultations in the region over many months, the “Endgame” reports set out clear, detailed and comprehensive blueprints for a permanent Israeli-Palestinian agreement, and for peace treaties with Syria and Lebanon as well. ICG argues for this package to be put on the table by a U.S. led ‘Contact Group’ (consisting of the Quartet and Trio) – preferably at a special international conference called soon for this purpose.

“The compromises are there for the taking”, said ICG President Gareth Evans, “But there is so much distrust and despair, as a result of all the months of violence, that it just won’t happen without a major international push. By all means continue with separate security, institutional reform and economic support tracks. But a political track has to be pushed in parallel, and pushed hard, by the key international players.”

The ICG proposal for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement includes carefully considered and researched proposals to resolve some of the most difficult issues between the parties. Security, territorial and refugee issues are considered in greater detail than has been evident in any public discussion so far.

On territory, ICG proposes the borders of the State of Palestine will be based on the lines of 4 June 1967, but with Israel annexing up to 4 per cent of land in the West Bank to accommodate a majority of its settlers; in exchange, Palestine will receive land from Israel of equal size and actual or potential value. ICG proposes that there be a ‘hard’ border between the two states, with Jerusalem physically divided into two capitals, and the Old City and Historic basin sites being the subject of a special regime involving an international presence.

The refugee issue, ICG argues, is capable of being resolved by a formula addressing both the Palestinians’ deep sense of injustice and Israel’s demographic concerns. Both sides would agree that UN Resolution 194 is satisfied by Palestinians receiving financial compensation and resettlement assistance; having the choice between relocation to Palestine, relocation to lands within Israel proper that will be swapped with the state of Palestine, relocation to third countries or rehabilitation in host countries; and returning to Israel on the basis of family reunification and humanitarian assistance programs voluntarily continued or newly established by Israel.

On security, ICG proposes that Palestine will be a non-militarised state, and that there will be a fully mandated and capable U.S-led multinational force to monitor implementation of the agreement and enhance both sides’ sense of confidence and security.

ICG Chairman, President Martti Ahtisaari, emphasised that the goal is not to impose a settlement on the Israeli or Palestinian leaderships. “The idea is to generate so much domestic and international support for a settlement that opposition would become increasingly hard to sustain and the momentum for change gradually would become irresistible. But the presentation of a settlement plan would need to be seen as the beginning, not the end of the active public diplomacy required.”

The third report in the series sets out draft negotiating texts to resolve Israel’s conflicts with Syria and Lebanon. The key issues to be resolved in the context of these peace treaties involve boundaries, water, security and normalisation of bilateral relations. It is vital that the comprehensive settlement strategy should involve not only the Israeli-Palestinian track, but the Israel-Syria and Israel-Lebanon tracks as well, which if left unresolved will inhibit the necessary comprehensive reconciliation between Israel and the Arab world.

“Our recommendations are far-reaching, and we are not naïve about the difficulties involved in getting them accepted in the present political environment”, said Mr Evans, “But nor can anyone ignore the immensity of the pain and suffering going on.”

“There is something deeply disturbing, even tragic, in the endless pursuit of yet another interim or partial cure when the outlines of a fair, lasting and comprehensive settlement are there for all to see”.

Middle East Endgame I: Getting To A Comprehensive Arab-Israeli Peace Settlement
Middle East Endgame II: How A Comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian Peace Settlement Would Look
Middle East Endgame III: Israel, Syria and Lebanon – How Comprehensive Peace Settlements Would Look

Katy Cronin (London) +
email: [email protected]

Ana Caprile (Brussels) +32-(0)2-536 0070
Jennifer Leonard (Washington) +1-202-408 8012
All ICG reports are available on our website www.crisisweb.org

These reports will be published on our website: www.crisisweb.org at 1200 (London) 1300 (Brussels) 0700 (Washington) on 16 July 2002


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