Team of Israelis, Palestinians offers recipe for peace

tel aviv  |  Israeli and Palestinian activists this week presented the most detailed vision yet of what a peace deal could look like — more than 400 pages crammed with maps, timetables for troop withdrawals and even a list of weapons a non-militarized Palestinian state would be barred from having.

The manual, which has no official standing, was put together over the past two years by Israeli and Palestinian experts, ex-government officials and former negotiators. It builds on the 50-page outline of a peace deal published in 2003 by the same group, known as the Geneva Initiative.

It was released as a new U.S. diplomatic effort was under way to restart peace talks and ahead of meetings next week at the annual gathering of world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

“If you want to resolve the conflict, here is the recipe,” said Gadi Baltiansky, a leader of the Israeli team.

The core of the detailed plan is a Palestinian state in nearly 98 percent of the West Bank, all of the Gaza Strip and the Arab-populated areas of Jerusalem.

Yet the plan also highlights how complex and expensive it would be to implement a peace deal.

For example, it had to resort to flow charts to describe a multilayered bureaucracy of thousands of international forces and monitors who would serve as referees. Partition of Jerusalem would require building border terminals in the city and dividing a major Jerusalem thoroughfare between the two states, with a wall in the middle.

Both sides would have access to the walled Old City with its major religious shrines, but from separate gates. The border puts the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall in Israel, while the Palestinians would get the adjacent Al Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam’s third-holiest shrine.

Also, a sunken four-lane highway, with bridges and tunnels, would be built through Israel to link the West Bank and Gaza, administered by the Palestinians but under Israeli sovereignty. Israeli motorists would have to carry tracking devices on designated transit routes through a Palestinian state, to make sure they won’t go astray.

Implementation of such a peace deal would also require trust, good will and compliance with tight timetables — none of which has characterized the past 16years of failed peace efforts.

Not only is the plan complicated and expensive, but also its proposed borders would require the removal of 100,000 of the West Bank’s 300,000 Jewish settlers. There is also the reality on the ground that Hamas militants remain in control of the Gaza Strip.

There’s no chapter on the fate of millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants because the issue is still too sensitive to address in detail, said Nidal Foqaha, a leader of the Palestinian team.

Nonetheless, the activists stressed the progress that had been made and said the plan could serve as a ready-made model for the two sides to work off.

Next week, President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attend the U.N. General Assembly, but it’s not clear whether they can find enough common ground for a three-way meeting.

The ready-made peace treaty was to be given to Israeli President Shimon Peres this week. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and senior European officials have already received copies, and Abbas is expected to receive one soon.

The blueprint was presented Sept. 15 in Tel Aviv by Yossi Beilin, a former Israeli peace negotiator, and by Baltiansky, who served as an aide to former prime minister Ehud Barak.

The Palestinian participants kept a low profile. The most senior, Yasser Abed Rabbo, now a high-ranking aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, declined comment and did not attend the plan’s unveiling in Tel Aviv.

Israeli officials said the Palestinians planned their own presentation later, but it appeared the Palestinians also wanted to avoid giving the impression their government endorses the plan. Israeli government officials also declined comment.

The document, which goes into detail on issues that were only dealt with in broad strokes in the earlier efforts, is close to the terms of a failed agreement suggested in late 2000 by then-President Bill Clinton.

For example, the 2003 plan said the West Bank and Gaza, which flank Israel, should be connected by a corridor running through the Jewish state. The new, expanded proposal describes a sunken highway with bridges and tunnels; it would also give the Palestinians the option of adding train tracks, underground fuel pipes and communications cables.