Michael Koplow at Congregation Darchei Noam, Toronto, May 16, 2017
Transcript of speech
Thank you to Darchei Noam and to Canadian Friends [of] Peace Now for bringing me here to speak tonight. I’m always happy to speak to audiences and this looks like it’s a particularly good one.
As noted I am the Policy Director, not the founder, of the Israel Policy Forum. It was founded in 1993, so I either look much younger than I am, or have to have been some sort of prodigy to have founded it in ’93.
This is an interesting time I think to be talking about two states. We have an Israeli prime minister who is vocally supportive of two states but does not seem to be doing very much to get us there. We have a Palestinian president who has been around a long time, also is vocally supportive of two states, but certainly has not seized the opportunity to say yes to two states when he has been given it. We have an American president, President Trump, who is complicated for all sorts of reasons, but certainly few people I think would have predicted six months ago that he would have been interested in getting to two states. Certainly the platform which he ran did not support it, and when he was elected folks on the Israeli right were very happy to see him in office and Education Minister Naftali Bennett the day after his election predicted that this is the end of the era of the Palestinian State.
So we should be in inauspicious times to be talking about two states. To the contrary there is more churn around the issue of two states now than there has been for a while. And I don’t think I need to reiterate at length why two states is important. I’ll do it very quickly though, because it certainly has to be noted, and I try never to give any talk without briefly addressing why two states is important.
For those of us who care about Israel being both a Jewish state and a democratic state there is no other path. Without a two-state solution these things cannot both be preserved. Without two states Israel can be Jewish or it can be democratic; it is very difficult for it to be both. And so getting to two states is an imperative, and there’s a reason that the two-state solution has been the policy of the American government for close to two decades now. It is the policy of the Israeli government, it is the policy of the Palestinian Authority. Despite the fact that it has been tried multiple times without success, nobody has dropped this policy, for good reason. And so, in this era where people have been trying to get to two states now for a quarter century (we’re coming up to a quarter century since Oslo), how do we get there, and what will the current environment allow?
So I think there are a few factors that have to be taken into consideration when we are thinking about how to get to two states today.
The first is that despite everything going on in the White House, the prospect for bilateral negotiations toward a permanent status agreement right now is not very good. As I noted you have leaders on both sides, Israeli and Palestinian, who support two states rhetorically, have certainly both made efforts to get there in one form or another, but you have two leaders who, for different reasons, are very unlikely to say yes to a deal. I think with Prime Minister Netanyahu he has the ability to say “yes” to a deal, but I’m not sure he wants to say “yes” to a deal. With President Abbas you have somebody who probably wants to say “yes” to a deal but doesn’t have the ability to say “yes” to a deal.
Those factors have been that way for a while and they’re not going to change anytime soon, despite whatever pressure President Trump or outside countries can bring to bear. It’s unlikely that if you throw these parties in a room tomorrow, and you force them to negotiate, that anything constructive will emerge. And in fact, in the past, rounds of negotiations that have not been successful, have been rapidly followed by rounds of violence, which makes the next round of negotiations even harder. And I think that’s an outcome that everybody who wants to get to two states wants to avoid. So that’s variable number one. We’re in an environment that is not particularly conducive right now to successful bilateral negotiations.
Number two is that the status quo does not exist. And this is something that you hear from the Israeli government often, that there’s a status quo right now that it has to be preserved, that Israel cannot afford to take chances toward two states, that it has to go with the status quo until opportunities improve.
There is no status quo; nobody should delude themselves about that. Every single day there are a host of factors on both sides, Israeli and Palestinian, that blow up the status quo and remake it every single day, so that nothing is static. Whether it be Israeli settlements that are indeed growing, and we can talk a little about ways in which that is problematic, and ways in which it is not problematic. Populations on both sides, on the Israeli side it is a majority, on the Palestinian side it is a plurality, still support two states, but those numbers are trending downwards on both sides. The Israelis have very serious security concerns, that do not seem to be improving the longer that lone wolf attacks take place in Israel.
There is no status quo. And Israel, if it wants to remain Jewish and democratic, really can’t afford to wait, to kick the can down the road, to wait for a partner that it finds more amenable, to wait for a perfect security situation. This is not a luxury that Israel has in the long term; time is not on its side.
And number three is that if you are going to convince Israelis to take risks to get to two states, you fundamentally must take Israel’s security concerns seriously, and grapple with them in a real way. There is no question to me that Israelis have been seriously scarred by the second intifada, and legitimately so. If you are Israeli and you lived through the second intifada, you’re no more than a couple of degrees removed from having friends or family members who were killed or injured in terrorist attacks, you’re no more than a couple of degrees removed from having friends or family members who have been killed serving the IDF in the service of the state.
Israelis the last three elections have all followed the same pattern, where they tell pollsters before the election that socio-economic issues are the most important thing on the table, they’re going to vote for parties that address their concerns over housing, that address their concerns over the price of cottage cheese. They go into the voting booth, they vote for who they vote for, they come out, it’s generally a coalition that is right or centre-right, and they tell the exit pollsters that they got into the booth and they know what they said before, but once they had to pull the lever they really couldn’t vote for anybody but the party that best addressed their security concerns. That’s valid. I don’t think anyone in this room should judge Israelis for doing that. I think that many of us, if we lived in Israel and voted in Israel, very well may make a similar decision. The point is that until those security concerns are addressed in a real way, Israelis are not going to want to take the chances on creating a Palestinian state in the West Bank.
So given those constraints, as I said, how do we get there? So my organization, Israel Policy Forum, has partnered with a group called the Commanders for Israel’s Security. CIS is the group founded by General Amnon Reshef. Some of you may know the name; he’s the legendary hero of the Yom Kippur War who commanded the Armoured Corps and crossed the Suez. General Reshef has formed this group of as I said 270 retired Israeli generals. To give you a sense of what that means, 270 retired Israeli generals encompass somewhere between 80 and 85 percent of all living retired Israeli generals. That is a consensus that really doesn’t…, I think that you’d be hard pressed to find a consensus like that on any other issue anywhere, in Israel, in the U.S., anywhere.
In fact, an alternative group, that is against two states, tried to form retired Israeli generals; they were able to get eight, and they disbanded before they could actually form.
So this is something that the Israeli security establishment is united on. And the purpose of Commanders for Israel’s Security is to really push one very simple message, which is that without a two-state solution, Israel’s security is being fundamentally damaged, and will never be complete.
The Commanders have developed a set of proposals called Security First, that aim to do two things, given the various constraints that I’ve already laid out. They aim to, first and foremost, improve Israeli security immediately, today, and second, but equally, preserve the two-state option, because again you can do all you want to improve Israeli security today, but if you let the two-state option slip away, then it’s done, Israeli security will be fundamentally damaged now and forever.
And these proposals they’ve put together are premised on, as I said, not being able to successfully negotiate. They are a set of unilateral measures that Israel can take right now to improve its security and preserve two states. So what does that mean? These measures fall into three baskets: political, economic, and security. And the beauty of them is that even measures that sound like they’re primarily about security incorporate political and economic measures, and the political ones incorporate security and economic, and economic incorporate political and security as well.
So I’ll give you a few examples so you can get a sense of what I’m talking about. The idea is that by taking these measures and instituting this program Israel can get to a place where negotiations actually can be successful, and I’ll talk a little bit about that with you.
So one example of a policy that’s in this Security First plan is to complete the security barrier on the West Bank. So most of you will be familiar with the security barrier. It was built in the Second Intifadah by Prime Minister Sharon in an effort to stop suicide bombings coming from the West Bank, and it was by all accounts extremely successful.
The problem is that the security barrier was never complete. The security barrier has four gaps, two big ones, totalling 39 kilometres, and the reason the security barrier was not complete obviously is not for security reasons, it is for political reasons. The two big gaps are, not coincidentally, opposite Ma’aleh Adumim, and opposite Gush Etzion, which are two of the big blocks which Israel is expected to keep in any deal with the Palestinians, and the political reason for not completing the barrier is that once you complete that barrier, it means that Ma’aleh Adumim and Gush Etzion cannot expand any farther east. And so for political reasons that barrier has not been completed.
Now, that’s a big deal security-wise. It’s actually a nightmare for the Israeli security establishment. Every single day, 50,000 Palestinians enter Israel with work permits to work in Israel. 50,000 Palestinians every day enter Israel illegally, without work permits, to come into Israel and the vast bulk of them, 99% of them, are there to work, but some of them are not. In Israel, in the last ten years, there has not been one terrorist attack committed by a Palestinian who was there with a legal work permit. Every single terrorist attack in Israel in the last decade committed by a Palestinian from the West Bank has been a Palestinian who strolled through one of these gaps in the fence. Israel has no way of knowing who’s there, it has no way of tracking them. If somebody does come through and commit an attack, it has no way of finding them, no way of sending them back. It’s an enormous security nightmare for the Israelis on an ongoing basis, and certainly as the — I don’t want to call it Intifidah, because it’s not — as the spate of lone-wolf stabbings and car rammings and shootings over the last year and a half has continued, this has become an even bigger problem for the Israeli security establishment. So the first thing the Commanders are calling [for] is to complete this barrier and improve Israel’s security today.
Concurrent with that, and this is where we get to the political measures and the economic measures, in [addition to] completing the barrier the Commanders’ plan also calls for Israel to renounce any claims on sovereignty to territory east of the barrier, freeze any building at all east of the barrier, and to declare that the barrier itself is not a permanent border, that when there are negotiations, the barrier will be a barrier; it won’t be a border, a border is subject to negotiation. I should also add that the Commanders’ plan reroutes the barrier in a way that does not cut off Palestinian farmers from their land that would be on the wrong side of it.
So you immediately improve Israeli security, and you also send a message to the Palestinians that there is a political horizon, that Israel is not going to keep building on lands that will be part of a future Palestinian state, that Israel does not want to claim sovereignty over land that will be part of a future Palestinian state. That Israel is serious about a two-state solution, even if the current government feels that there is nobody to negotiate with.
On the economic side of things, as I noted, you have 50,000 Palestinians coming into Israel every day with work permits, you have 50,000 Palestinians coming into Israel every day without work permits. It’s very clear that the Israeli economy not only can support 100,000 Palestinians working every day, they need the 100,000 Palestinians working every day, because the Palestinians who are coming in largely work jobs that Israelis do not want. And so concurrent to closing the barrier, the plan also calls for issuing another 50,000, or if the economy supports it, another 75,000 work permits, so that you’re not actually cutting off any Palestinians who are working in Israel. This is obviously [not only] a boon for the Israeli economy, but it’s a boon for the Palestinian economy as well. Because you don’t want to cut off people who are working in Israel, but you also want to make it easier for them to get higher wages, get legal wages, that they can send back to the West Bank. So this is something that will certainly help both economies while improving security and while providing a political horizon for the Palestinians.
QUESTION: When you use the word Palestinian, is it the same as you would use Arabs?
ANSWER: No. The difference is that Palestinians are citizens who live between the river and the sea and who think of themselves as Palestinian nationals.
QUESTION: So when you say how many Palestinians are working, and have a permit for working, you don’t mean Arabs.
ANSWER: I don’t mean Palestinian citizens of Israel, I do not mean Israeli Arabs. I mean Palestinians from the West Bank.
The second measure has to do with zoning. So most of you will be familiar with the fact that after the Oslo Agreement in 1993, the West Bank was divided into three areas: Area A, Area B, and Area C. Area A is under full Palestinian administrative and security control, Area B is under Israeli military control but Palestinian administrative control, and Area C is under full Israeli control. People tend to think of Areas A, B and C as kind of a circle, right, here’s A, here’s B, and here’s C. But it doesn’t work that way. Area C encompasses anywhere that there is an Israeli presence. So every settlement is part of Area C, every IDF outpost is part of Area C, every road that Israelis traverse is part of Area C. So Area C sort of winds its way through the West Bank, and in doing so it cuts Area B up into lots of little islands, 169 islands, to be precise.
What’s the problem with that? There are lots of problems with that, but a pressing one is that if you are a member of the Palestinian Authority security forces, and you want to cross from one part of Area B to another part of Area B, and to do so you necessarily have to cross Area C, you need a permit from Israel to do so. Now, if the Israelis call you up and they call up the Palestinian Authority security forces quite often, because the Palestinian Authority security forces are Israel’s most reliable partner at the moment in combatting terrorism and crime in the West Bank, if you call up the P.A. security forces, and you say “Hey, we Israeli intelligence, we have information that there is terrorist activity taking place in this part of Area B, go get them,” and there don’t happen to be P.A. security forces in that Island, one of the 169, P.A. security forces have to actually apply to Israel for a permit, wait for the permit to clear, wait for approval, and then they go. As you might imagine, that can take days. And if you are the IDF, and you have intelligence that’s on the ground now, and the P.A. security forces have to apply for a permit and then they have to wait to get it, you can imagine that this creates huge security problems for Israel. To give you a sense of the scope of this, last year alone P.A. security forces requested 15,000 permits, in one year, from the IDF to cross from one part of Area B to another part of Area B.
But it’s not just about counter-terrorism. The Oslo Accords also established specific locations where P.A. police stations could be, and those have also not been updated. So the P.A. placed police stations wherever they are, but as a result of this it means that there are 700,000 Palestinians in Area B who don’t have regular police presence: they can’t call the police to stop a robber in their house, they can’t call the police if there’s a murder, they can’t call the police if somebody’s loitering. They can’t do it because there’s no police presence where they live, and again, to have police presence, the police have to get a permit to go to where they are.
At the end of January I was in the northern West Bank on a delegation, and we were driving along a road in the northern West Bank, through a Palestinian village, right next to the Balata refugee camp, and we were with an IDF colonel. The road we were on was Area C, because it was a road. So Area C at that point was ten meters wide, seven meters wide. Both sides were Area B. The IDF colonel told us that in that town, the only day in which there are Palestinian police is on Yom Kippur because on Yom Kippur they know that they can come in, do their thing, cross from one part of Area B to another part of B, and there won’t be IDF around, there won’t be settlers around, they can do it. And so they have one day a year where they go in, investigate all the crimes, they listen to complaints, one day a year.
From just a basic law and order perspective, it’s a really bad idea to have 700,000 Palestinians who don’t have regular police presence; you’re simply never going to build a functioning Palestinian state in that manner. It’s not in the Palestinians’ interest, it’s not in the Israelis’ interest. And from an economic perspective, I don’t think it needs to be stated, when you have 169 different islands like this, it makes routine economic activity far more difficult. Ordinary Palestinians don’t need a permit to cross from B to B if they are not P.A. security forces, but it still very much hampers all sorts of commerce.
So, how do we fix this? As I said, Areas A, B and C were set in 1993; they have not been revisited since. If you rezone ten and a half percent of Area C to Area B, you reduce these 169 islands down to 43 islands. Not perfect, but it goes a long way toward alleviating some of this problem, and the beauty of this is that to do so, you don’t need a vote in the Knesset; you either need a vote in the security cabinet (may be tough), or you just need the signature of the IDF commander on the ground in the West Bank, without any political input at all. So literally with the stroke of a pen you can rezone ten percent of C to B, and, like I said, reduce this from 169 islands of B down to 43.
Now, you may be asking what’s that going to do to the Israelis who are in this part that’s going to be rezoned, and the answer is nothing, because nothing in any of these plans requires the removal of one Israeli settler or one Israeli soldier. The two rules that we have used in factoring this ten percent are that nothing can be rezoned that is within 500 meters of the security barrier, because that then becomes an Israeli security issue, and nothing can be rezoned that is within 500 meters of any existing settlement or IDF outpost, because again that becomes a security issue. Keeping those two rules in mind, you can still rezone ten percent and reduce 169 islands down to 43 islands.
QUESTION: What change in the percentage of the 700,000 residents?
ANSWER: It’s a good question, I don’t have that number off the top of my head, but I think it cuts it down to between 100,000 and 200,000 who still do not have regular police presence. Like I said, this is not a perfect solution by any means, but it’s a monumentally helpful one in the contours of what can be accomplished now.
There’s another rezoning issue which I actually think is even more important: this one has to do with housing. Again because Areas A, B and C were set in 1993, and they haven’t changed, they stayed the same but the situation on the ground has not. We hear a lot about, from the Israeli government, “natural growth in the settlements,” and the idea that you have to accommodate settlers who have babies, you don’t want to tell somebody who’s living somewhere in the West Bank that they can’t build a porch, they can’t build a mirpeset, on their apartment, or they can’t build a house for their children, and that’s a legitimate issue that has to be dealt with.
But on the Palestinian side this is the case as well. And so because Area B is under Palestinian administrative control, if you are a Palestinian and you want to build a house in Area B, you go to the P.A. and you get a permit from the Palestinian Authority. If you are in Area C, which is under full Israeli control, despite the fact that many Palestinians do live in Area C, your permit has to come from Israel, from the IDF.
In 2014 Palestinians were granted exactly zero permits to build in Area C. In 2015 Palestinians were granted one permit to build in Area C. In 2016 they were again granted zero permits to build in Area C.
They built nonetheless because, as I said, villages that were in Area B in 1993 have grown. And now you have villages that are partially in Area B and partially in Area C, and people have built in them. And so consequently, because they built in them, but they don’t get permits, there are 11,000 structures in Palestinian villages that are now in Area C, housing about 220,000 Palestinians, that are under, currently, demolition orders. The Israeli government has been demolishing them at a not-infrequent rate.
Now again, from a security perspective, to put 220,000 Palestinians on the street for no reason other than they don’t have a permit, again, these are not, not one of these structures, and not one of these demolitions, is because of terrorist activity; it’s literally all because of permitting. To put 200,000 Palestinians on the street, without homes, because they don’t have the proper permit, especially because Israel doesn’t really grant the permits, is a security nightmare. Those 200,000 Palestinians are not going to be well-behaved, happy residents of the West Bank. They are quite rightly going to be angry. They are far more likely to take up terrorist activity against Israeli civilians, to commit violence against Israeli soldiers. That’s not something that the Israeli security establishment wants to see in a million years.
From a political perspective, if you are trying to empower the Palestinian Authority as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and you want to see the P.A. be controlling the Palestinian government and not Hamas or groups that are even more radical, the worst thing you can do is to demolish these homes and send the message to Palestinians that the P.A. is basically impotent, that they cannot stop the Israeli government from demolishing homes at will.
And from an economic perspective, to put 200,000 Palestinians out on the street means 200,000 people who are very likely not going to be working, they’re not going to be in the workforce, they’re going to be worried about how they get homes. This is a huge problem, it’s one that isn’t talked about very often, but it’s a political and humanitarian catastrophe that is in the making.
Using the same two criteria, that you’re not going to rezone anything that is 500 meters from a settlement, 500 meters from an IDF outpost, or 500 meters from the security barrier, you can rezone 3.3% of Area C to Area B and eliminate every single one of those demolition orders. Again, this rezoning just requires a signature on the part of the IDF commander in the West Bank, you eliminate those demolition orders overnight, it doesn’t involve moving one soldier, one settler, one settlement; it’s simply a signature on a piece of paper, and you alleviate what is a massive security and humanitarian nightmare. So it’s another example of one of these unilateral steps that Israel can take now that improves security and really preserves the two-state option by demonstrating that it is serious about two states and demonstrating that it does not have designs on land that right now has no Jews on it.
A third one that I’ll come to, and it is in the news again today, is this idea of a regional deal, between Israel and the Arab states. So the benefits of this I think are pretty obvious. Again, to go through the political, the economic, and the security. From a security perspective, everybody has heard a lot about the confluence of interest between Israel and Sunni states in trying to contain Iran in the region. That is certainly a dynamic that is going on, there’s no question that Israel would benefit from greater and open engagement with Gulf states on Iran; it’s something that goes on now behind closed doors, but it is necessarily limited.
From a political perspective, obviously having Israel integrated into the Middle East in a real way, and having diplomatic relations with Arab states, aside from Jordan and Egypt, would be a boon to Israel politically. And having the Sunni Arab states involved in negotiations in support of the Palestinians would be a boon to the Palestinian Authority in its own effort to create a Palestinian state.
From an economic perspective, Israel is literally leaving billions of dollars on the table, every year, by not having more markets in the Middle East that it can export goods to, that it can have trade relations with. Right now there is a huge project going on between Israel and Jordan. It’s called the Red-Dead Pipeline. It’s a pipeline that’s designed to take water from the Red Sea in the Gulf of Aqaba and bring it up to the Dead Sea. For a couple of reasons: a) If any of you have been to the Dead Sea recently, the Dead Sea is really disappearing, so this is an effort to bring it back to life, because of erosion. But also Jordan is the second-poorest country on earth in terms of water resources, and this is an effort to bring water to Jordan, and in the process Israel will build a bunch of desalination plants, and make money off it while helping the Jordanian economy. This is a project that’s going on now, it’s a ten billion dollar project.
I was in Amman in January, and heard directly from the Jordanian royal court that every single time there is any issue with Israelis, whether it be chatter over moving the embassy, issues in Jerusalem over the Temple Mount, new settlements that are announced or that are legalized. There is massive public pressure on the Jordanian government to stop the Red-Dead Pipeline, a project I should note that benefits Jordan far more than it does Israel, given the difference in their economies, and given the importance of water to Jordanian, not just economy, but literally Jordanian lives. But that pressure is so enormous that there have been a few times where work on the Red-Dead Pipeline has actually stopped. This is something that if Israel has a water peace deal with the wider Arab world, this is something that can be avoided and you can have these types of projects in other countries. It’s also the reason that you hear Prime Minister Netanyahu talk very often about this idea of a regional solution.
The problem is that when the Prime Minister talks about a regional solution, he talks about it in a very different way than the Arab states talk about it. The Arab states talk about it on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative. The original Arab Peace Initiative said that they would’t engage with Israel until Israel actually had a deal with the Palestinians. They revised it in 2008 to say that they wouldn’t engage with Israel until Israel began to engage with the Palestinians. And so you have this idea of a dual track, where Israel simultaneously negotiates on one track with the Palestinians, on the other track with the Arab states. It will go a long way toward integrating Israel into the region, and go a long way toward actually supporting the P.A. and getting a Palestinian state.
Now this is something that obviously does involve negotiations with the Palestinians, but it doesn’t involve a successful permanent status arrangement. It involves undertaking serious and real negotiations with the Palestinians, and in the process reaping the benefits from the Arab world. If anyone saw the article in today’s Wall Street Journal, there’s been a renewed push by Arab states where they actually put tangible proposals on the table, where they said that if Israel were to begin negotiating with the Palestinians, they would provide all sorts of things, such as Israeli overflight rights, other economic deals. And so this is something that is out there, that the Israeli government can do, and again, it doesn’t involve having to successfully conclude a permanent status agreement. But this is again something that will improve Israel’s security today, and preserve the two-state option down the road.
There are a lot of other proposals as well; I want to make sure that I don’t go too long, and leave time for questions. But there are other proposals as well that deal with improving the economy in Gaza; that deal with what is really a real horrific situation in Jerusalem in terms of the economy of East Jerusalem neighbourhoods and the autonomy that Palestinians have in East Jerusalem.
This is somewhat of a digression, but my favourite statistic having to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and I don’t think favourite because I like it, it’s a terrible statistic, but in some ways it’s the most telling. Many of you I’m sure have been to Jerusalem, seen Jewish neighbourhoods in West Jerusalem; they’re filled with parks and playgrounds. There is not one municipal playground in any Arab neighbourhood in East Jerusalem, not one.
Now, why is that stat so instructive? It’s not just about the difference in the way the Jerusalem municipality treats Jewish neighbourhoods and Arab neighbourhoods and inequalities; that’s a tremendous problem and everybody understands that. But to link it back to security, because I like to link all these things back to security as a way to demonstrate why this should appeal even to the Israeli right. When you have kids who get out of school in the middle of the afternoon, and they have nowhere to go, they have no parks, they have no playgrounds, there are no Head Start programs, there are no subsidized after-school programs, there’s no Boys and Girls Club (actually there is one, it’s an organization called Kids for Peace; you guys should all check it out). But aside from that one there are no Boys and Girls Clubs. The easiest thing for Palestinian kids to do is to go out in the street and throw stones. And so these things that look like they are economic issues and quality of life issues, they all come back to security as well.
This is a taste of some of the stuff that is in these proposals. I should note [that] you can read all of these on a web site that we created dedicated to these proposals, twostatesecurity.
Going forward, we’re in this environment where President Trump wants to get the parties together. I think that one way of making sure the negotiations, when they happen, will be successful, is to implement this plan first. And not just this plan on the Israeli side, but to implement similar plans that the Palestinians have to undertake, and that the Arab Quartet has to undertake. It has to deal with Israeli concerns on their side. The Israelis have a real concern over incitement; I think that there’s no reason why as Israel is rezoning parts of the West Bank and issuing more work permits and engaging with the Arab states, there’s no reason why the Palestinians on their side can’t improve their government, can’t improve their governance, can’t cut down on incitement. There’s no reason why the Arab Quartet, as I mentioned, cannot begin to engage with Israel in a more robust manner.
I think that if you were to take these steps, what I’ll call “coordinated unilateralism,” if everybody were to take unilateral steps in coordination, they don’t involve negotiations, because negotiations are very easy to break down, and once they break down, that’s it. If you do these things and you build trust between the sides and you demonstrate that there is a political horizon and things actually can get better on the ground, it will be the best thing you can do to make sure that when negotiations happen, and they should happen in a relatively short period, that they have a chance of being successful, that they can actually build on success that has already been demonstrated on the ground, rather than throwing the parties together with no trust, with no track record of successful cooperation outside of the security realm, and really almost ensuring that the process fails.
This is the program that we in the Israel Policy Forum have been pushing, both in Israel and in North America. As noted, General Amnon Reshef, who is the founder of Commanders for Israel’s Security, will be here in October. When he comes I urge you to come and listen to him talk about these issues as well. He has a bit of a different spin on this, mainly because he is a famous general and I am not. But we really think that these plans are the best chances of success for getting to two states.
Again, I’ll end with what I started with. There is no other way to keep Israel Jewish and democratic than to get to two states. This is not something that can or should be compromised on, and it’s not something that can afford to wait. And if Israel keeps on kicking the can down the road, because it doesn’t believe it has a suitable negotiating partner, it’s going to find itself in a much worse position five, ten, twenty years from now than it is at the moment. Zionism as an ideology was founded as an ideology of activism, of not being beholden to the forces of history, but of making your own history. And I think that these plans fit squarely into the Zionist ideal. But what it says is that Israel shouldn’t have to be bound by whatever structural constraints, either real or imagined, are on it; it can take action now to control its own destiny, and I think it’s imperative that it does so.
I thank you all for listening, and I hope that you look at these plans and take them seriously. I think that if these things are implemented, we will see Israel remain Jewish and democratic for the rest of our lives.
And so with that, I’m happy to take questions on anything I spoke about, anything Israel-related, anything related to my president to the south. So fire away.