Israel should provide monetary compensation for settlers who voluntarily leave the West Bank and build housing for them inside the Green Line in order to advanced the stalled peace process, one of US President Barack Obama’s closest Middle East advisers said Wednesday in Jerusalem.
Dennis Ross, who last November left the White House after two years as a senior director of the National Security Council, called on Israelis and Palestinians to each take six concrete steps to demonstrate commitment to a two-state solution.
“Israelis don’t believe that Palestinians are really committed to a two-state outcome. And Palestinians don’t believe that Israelis are committed to a two-state outcome,” Ross said in a speech at the Presidential Conference in Jerusalem.
“If we’re going to give peace a chance, if we’re going to move on peace, we need not just a political process, we need to change the dynamic. What is currently required is more than mere confidence-building measures,” he said. “We need to change the dynamic in a way where we restore belief.”
The first step Jerusalem should take to demonstrate it is serious about a Palestinian state in the West Bank is to publicly announce that the government will provide financial compensation to settlers who are prepared to leave their current homes and to move to Israel proper. “That would send a very clear signal to the Palestinians,” Ross said. Israel should furthermore start building “significant” housing units for Israelis willing to leave the West Bank – “whether in the Galilee or the Negev” — he said. Settlers removed from the Gaza Strip in 2005 were not properly absorbed inside the Green Line and Israel should avoid repeating that mistake, he suggested.
Ross then quoted Intelligence Affairs Minister Dan Meridor as questioning the logic of building new Jewish settlements outside the major settlement blocs. “Of course, the size of the blocs is still to be negotiated. But if you’re building outside the blocs, the message you’re sending is [that you aren’t] really believing in a two-state approach,” Ross said.
‘It’s time to stop saying that those killing Israelis are martyrs. Stop celebrating those who kill Israelis as martyrs’
Ross’s fourth suggestion for Israel is granting Palestinians more accessibility to Area C, which is under full control of the Israeli army. “Palestinians have very limited economic access and activity there.”
Easing restrictions would send a message that Israel is not trying to rule over the Palestinian people, he said. He also suggested that Jerusalem allow more Palestinian police presence in Area B and consider decreasing the number of military incursions into Palestinian-controlled Area A. Israel should consider drafting security guidelines — “if the Palestinians meet them, no more incursions. If the Palestinians don’t meet them, the incursions are still justified,” he said.
Ross, who today serves as a counselor for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, also suggest six steps the Palestinians should take to convince Israel they believe in the two-state solution.
The first is putting the State of Israel on the map. “You can’t find Israel on a map anywhere in a Palestinian textbook, anywhere on the Palestinian websites. It’s time, if you are in fact committed to a two-state solution, that Israel be seen on a map,” Ross said. “I once asked a Palestinian negotiator: how come Israel doesn’t appear on any map? He said, well, we don’t know what the borders are going to be. I said, you know what you want them to be. Put Israel on a map!”
Secondly, Ross said the Palestinians need to start talking about two states for two peoples and recognize the Jewish people’s historic connection to the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem. It was also necessary that Palestinians end incitement, Ross continued. “It’s time to stop saying that those killing Israelis are martyrs. Stop celebrating those who kill Israelis as martyrs. That sends an unmistakable message.”
While he acknowledges that the idea of compromise “runs against the grain” of many Palestinians and that they see themselves as victims, they need to realize that difficult concessions are required of them. “It’s time for Palestinian leaders to prepare their public for the fact that both sides have to make hard decisions.”
The leadership in Ramallah should also begin to build adequate housing for Palestinians in refugee camps, Ross said. “It’s the logical thing to do. Palestinians shouldn’t have to live in terrible conditions,” Ross said.
Lastly, he called on the Palestinians to continue creating their state. “Build the institutions of your own state because if you’re building your own state, you’re not going to encroach on Israel,” he said. “The most important set of institutions to build are [those that defend the] rule of law. Build those kinds of institutions so you have the kind of state you want to have. The more you build that kind of state, the more you will see in Israel a recognition that there really is a commitment to a two-state outcome.”