Originally published in The Huffington Post on 7/23/13
Secretary John Kerry is reported to making progress in restarting the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Many analysts and high-ranking officials involved in this and previous rounds of give and take between the two sides assert that “everyone knows what a final agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians would look like,” as Bill Clinton put it. Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat stated that “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. I believe it is known by now. It is no secret. The Palestinian state will be established on June 4, 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the capital, living side by side with the state of Israel.” Uri Avnery (founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement) has written that “the terms of Israeli-Palestinian peace are clear”: a “sovereign and viable” Palestine; a border based on the pre-1967 lines with agreed-upon “land swaps”; a divided Jerusalem with Palestinian sovereignty over Arab areas; evacuation of settlements outside Israel’s borders; and Israeli recognition of the “principle of the right of the [Palestinian] refugees to return.” No mention is made in these and numerous other such statements — that Oslo agreements and President Obama assume that the new Palestinian state will be a demilitarized one; that in the past Palestinian negotiators accepted this assumption, and the Israel governments — past and present — consider this assumption a vital one.
For a long time, the right-wing parts of the Israeli political spectrum objected to the very notion of a Palestinian state. When finally Prime Minister Netanyahu stated Israel’s willingness to accept a two-state solution in June 2010, he added that “Israel cannot agree to a Palestinian state unless it gets guarantees it is demilitarized.” President Obama’s “Cairo II” speech in May 2011 referred to the Palestinian state as a “non-militarized” one. Much more is at issue here than the positioning of some Israeli troops along the Jordan River.
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