Given the impasse and the tragic deterioration on the ground, a couple of weeks ago both sides asked me to present my ideas. So I put forward parameters that I wanted to be a guide toward a comprehensive agreement; parameters based on eight years of listening carefully to both sides and hearing them describe with increasing clarity their respective grievances and needs.
Both Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat have now accepted these parameters as the basis for further efforts. Both have expressed some reservations. At their request, I am using my remaining time in office to narrow the differences between the parties to the greatest degree possible.
The parameters I put forward contemplate a settlement in response to each side's essential needs, if not to their utmost desires. A settlement based on sovereign homelands, security, peace and dignity for both Israelis and Palestinians...
Here they are. First, I think there can be no genuine resolution to the conflict without a sovereign, viable, Palestinian state that accommodates Israeli's security requirements and the demographic realities.
That suggests Palestinian sovereignty over Gaza, the vast majority of the West Bank, the incorporation into Israel of settlement blocks, with the goal of maximizing the number of settlers in Israel while minimizing the land annex for Palestine to be viable must be a geographically contiguous state. Now, the land annexed into Israel into settlement blocks should include as few Palestinians as possible, consistent with the logic of two separate homelands. And to make the agreement durable, I think there will have to be some territorial swaps and other arrangements.
Second, a solution will have to be found for the Palestinian refugees who have suffered a great deal -- particularly some of them. A solution that allows them to return to a Palestinian state that will provide all Palestinians with a place they can safely and proudly call home. All Palestinian refugees who wish to live in this homeland should have the right to do so. All others who want to find new homes, whether in their current locations or in third countries, should be able to do so, consistent with those countries' sovereign decisions. And that includes Israel.
All refugees should receive compensation from the international community for their losses, and assistance in building new lives. Now, you all know what the rub is. That was a lot of artful language for saying that you cannot expect Israel to acknowledge an unlimited right of return to present day Israel, and at the same time, to give up Gaza and the West Bank and have the settlement blocks as compact as possible, because of where a lot of these refugees came from. We cannot expect Israel to make a decision that would threaten the very foundations of the state of Israel, and would undermine the whole logic of peace. And it shouldn't be done.
But I have made it very clear that the refugees will be a high priority, and that the United States will take a lead in raising the money necessary to relocate them in the most appropriate manner. If the government of Israel or a subsequent government of Israel ever -- will be in charge of their immigration policy, just as we and the Canadians and the Europeans and others who would offer Palestinians a home would be, they would be obviously free to do that, and I think they've indicated that they would do that, to some extent. But there cannot be an unlimited language in an agreement that would undermine the very foundations of the Israeli state or the whole reason for creating the Palestinian state.
Third, there will be no peace, and no peace agreement, unless the Israeli people have lasting security guarantees. These need not and should not come at the expense of Palestinian sovereignty, or interfere with Palestinian territorial integrity. So my parameters rely on an international presence in Palestine to provide border security along the Jordan Valley and to monitor implementation of the final agreement. They rely on a non-militarized Palestine, a phased Israeli withdrawal, to address Israeli security needs in the Jordan Valley, and other essential arrangements to ensure Israel's ability to defend itself.
Fourth, I come to the issue of Jerusalem, perhaps the most emotional and sensitive of all. It is a historic, cultural and political center for both Israelis and Palestinians, a unique city sacred to all three monotheistic religions. And I believe the parameters I have established flow from four fair and logical propositions.
First, Jerusalem should be an open and undivided city, with assured freedom of access and worship for all. It should encompass the internationally recognized capitals of two states, Israel and Palestine. Second, what is Arab should be Palestinian, for why would Israel want to govern in perpetuity the lives of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians?
Third, what is Jewish should be Israeli. That would give rise to a Jewish Jerusalem, larger and more vibrant than any in history. Fourth, what is holy to both requires a special care to meet the needs of all. No peace agreement will last if not premised on mutual respect for the religious beliefs and holy shrines of Jews, Muslims and Christians.
Fifth and, finally, any agreement will have to mark the decision to end the conflict, for neither side can afford to make these painful compromises, only to be subjected to further demands ... And the end of the conflict must manifest itself with concrete acts that demonstrate a new attitude and a new approach by Palestinians and Israelis toward each other, and by other states in the region toward Israel, and by the entire region toward Palestine, to help it get off to a good start.
Sources: Ha'aretz, (January 8, 2001)