Teleconference: The Renewal of the Israeli-Palestinian Political Process

Reut President Gidi Grinstein discussed several strategies for the political course of action facing Israel following the recent violence in Gaza and the new Obama Administration's attempts at renewed diplomatic steps in the Israeli-Palestinian political process.

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The main insights discussed in the briefing include:

Israel's Conundrum vis-à-vis the Palestinians

Today, Israel, the US Administration and the Palestinians are simultaneously reassessing the fundamental concepts of the political process.
The State of Israel is facing a fundamental dilemma concerning its control over the Palestinian Territories. There are two approaches which address this concern:

  • Controlling the Territory - The approach claims that Israel faces security threats when withdrawing from areas under its control. The logic of addressing this security threat is to continue to control territory.

  • Withdrawing from the Territory - This approach claims that the primary threat is a political one and derives from the long term consequences of controlling millions of Palestinians.

Operation Cast Lead is an example of this conundrum and it is thus difficult to evaluate whether or not the operation was a success.

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Political Process - PSA or Statebuilding?

Two logics can be applied to the way the political process should take place.

On the one hand, Israel could pursue a political process that aims to bring about a comprehensive Permanent Status Agreement (PSA) which seeks to resolve all issues (Package Approach). This approach creates an ‘All or Nothing' dynamic which can be problematic, by leaving the idea of Palestinian statehood until after a PSA is reached.

On the other, Israel could embrace a political process that has the logic of systematically transfering powers and responsibilities to the Palestinians. The ultimate objective is creating a Palestinian State within provisional borders that will act as a stepping stone towards reaching a PSA (statebuilding).

Hence, through statebuilding, the parties would not push for a PSA and postpone the need for the Palestinian and Israeli Parliaments to ratify an agreement, a difficult scenario for the presently fragmented Israeli government and a Palestinian political arena which faces deep structural and constitutional problems.

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What Might Break the Deadlock?

Icebreakers to the conflict could include:

  • The 'Clinton Ideas' - The current US administration returning to the December 2000 guidelines as parameters towards an agreement.

  • "Economic Peace" + Political Component - The incoming Netanyahu administration's idea of Economic Peace is supplemented by a political component, making systematic progress towards Palestinian statehood by handing over responsibility from Israel to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, leading to a Palestinian State in a few years.

  • "Natanz for Natan" - Framed by Aluf Ben from Haaretz, this approach calls for the American President and Netanyahu to strike an agreement in which the US committs to stopping the Iranian nuclear project and, in return, Israel agrees to withdraw from areas in the West Bank and to provide for significant progress in the political process.