A group of prominent Israelis, including former heads of Mossad, Shin Bet and the military, are this week putting forth an initiative for peace with the Arab world that they hope will generate popular support and influence their government as it faces international pressure to move peace talks forward.
By ETHAN BRONNER | APRIL 4, 2011 | The New York Times
Called the Israeli Peace Initiative, the two-page document is partly inspired by the changes under way regionally and is billed as a direct response to the Arab Peace Initiative issued by the Arab League in 2002 and again in 2007. It calls for a Palestinian state on nearly all the West Bank and Gaza with a capital in much of East Jerusalem, an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, and a set of regional security mechanisms and economic cooperation projects.
“We looked around at what was happening in neighboring countries and we said to ourselves, ‘It is about time that the Israeli public raised its voice as well,’ ” said Danny Yatom, a signer of the document and former head of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service. “We feel this initiative can bring along many members of the public.”
Another member of the group, Yaakov Perry, a former head of Shin Bet, the internal security agency, said he sent a copy of the document on Sunday to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who replied that he looked forward to reading it. The official unveiling is set for Wednesday in Tel Aviv, but a copy was made available to The New York Times.
“We are isolated internationally and seen to be against peace,” Mr. Perry said in a telephone interview. “I hope this will make a small contribution to pushing our prime minister forward. It is about time that Israel initiates something on peace.”
Mr. Yatom has been a member of Parliament from the Labor Party, and Mr. Perry, now a banker, has recently joined Kadima, the main opposition party. Like all 40 people who signed the initiative, they are politically to the left of Mr. Netanyahu and most of his rightist government.
But the group was selected to seem as mainstream as possible. It includes scholars, businesspeople, and the son and daughter of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995. While polls show that the Israeli public has moved right in recent years, many political analysts argue that the public worries about the country’s diplomatic isolation and is open to a peace deal.
The initiative’s goal is resolution of all claims and an end to the Israeli-Arab conflict. It acknowledges “the suffering of the Palestinian refugees since the 1948 war as well as of the Jewish refugees from the Arab countries.” It says it shares the statement of the Arab Peace Initiative “that a military solution to the conflict will not achieve peace or provide security for the parties.”
The two-state solution envisioned for Israel and Palestine resembles the Clinton parameters of 2000. Palestine would be a nation-state for the Palestinians, and Israel “a nation-state for the Jews (in which the Arab minority will have equal and full civil rights as articulated in Israel’s Declaration of Independence).”
The document calls for the 1967 lines to be a basis for borders, with agreed modifications based on swaps that would not exceed 7 percent of the West Bank.
Jerusalem’s Jewish neighborhoods would go to Israel, and Arab neighborhoods to Palestine; the Temple Mount, known as the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims, would be under no sovereignty, although the Western Wall and Jewish Quarter of the Old City would be under Israel. On Palestinian refugees, the plan suggests financial compensation and return to the state of Palestine, not Israel, with “mutually agreed-upon symbolic exceptions” allowed into Israel.
Regarding Syria, the proposal calls for Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, with agreed minor modifications and land swaps in stages taking no longer than five years.
Mr. Yatom said one goal was to be heard in neighboring states. “We want to signal to moderate Palestinians and Syrians that there is a new horizon and light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
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A version of this article appears in print on April 5, 2011, on page A6 of the New York edition with the headline: Prominent Israelis Will Propose a Peace Plan.