We need a totally new Middle East peace plan

Again and again we hear that "everyone knows" what the final peace agreement between Israel and Palestinians will look like.

It was drawn up at Camp David in 2000 and will involve a sovereign Palestinian state covering the West Bank and Gaza; a divided Jerusalem; the return of a symbolic number of Palestinian refugees to 'Israel proper'; and a demilitarised Palestinian state.

All that is missing is leaders brave enough to sign on the dotted line.

But I am increasingly convinced that conventional wisdom is wrong. If Israel and the Palestinians could not sign the agreement in 2000, after coming so incredibly close, and if they could not sign a similar agreement when given a second chance in 2008, under Ehud Olmert, perhaps it is not the leaders who are the problem - but the peace plan?

We must be open to other solutions

Unlike most Israelis, I do not blame Ehud Barak for failure to deliver peace. I fully believe that, like Oslo, Camp David had to be tried; Israelis had to make a comprehensive offer to the Palestinians to satisfy themselves they had done everything possible to settle the conflict.

The price, however, has been to trap both nations in a paradigm which has outlived its usefulness. We have become incapable of imagining any other solution other than the one advanced by Mr Barak and Bill Clinton, and this rigidity may be costing us a real chance to escape the quagmire.

There are other proposals out there. Israel's former national security adviser, Giora Eiland, for example, has suggested a three-way swap of territory between Israel, the Palestinians and Egypt, which would enable a larger and more viable state in the Gaza Strip, and let Israel retain most of its settlements.

He has also floated the idea of a Palestinian confederation with Jordan, while others have suggested a 'United States of Palestine', with various areas (such as Gaza) governing themselves under one federal government.

Let me be clear, I am not suggesting that these are the correct solutions; merely that we need to be more open to entirely new ways of thinking about the eventual settlement.

It should be said that the alternative that the Palestinians are floating with increasing frequency is the one-state solution, which would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state, and must be resisted at all costs.

We have spent enough time reworking, rehashing and revisiting Camp David, all to no avail. It is time to move on.

Miriam Shaviv is the JC's foreign editor

    Last updated: 9:21am, October 6 2010

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