Negotiations and tough compromises are the only way to achieve two states for two peoples.
By Louise Ellman MP
The Middle East is going through huge changes, with dictatorial regimes being challenged and swept away – in some instances relatively smoothly and yet in others, tragically bloodily. Israelis and Palestinians have certainly felt its effects. Israel's security is now being challenged on all fronts, increasing the public's demand that a two state peace settlement brings security and that the West Bank be prevented from becoming another Gaza-style terrorist enclave. And in the Palestinian territories, the Arab Spring has inspired a groundswell of support for justified sovereignty.
Whilst the Palestinian people are understandably frustrated with the lack of political progress towards statehood, the Palestinian leadership - from Oslo to Camp David, Taba and Annapolis - must take its share of culpability for failing to reach agreement.
Whilst negotiations are difficult and will entail challenging compromises for both sides, there is no short-cut to meeting the aspirations of both peoples. Only through negotiations and tough compromises can the two sides agree borders, the future of Jerusalem and the status of Palestinian refugees. And it is only by honestly presenting the necessity of negotiations and compromise to their own peoples, that the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships can initiate the public debates that need to take place.
This debate has been taking place in Israel for many years, with even the leadership of the Likud party now, publicly, accepting that Israel's long term needs can only be met through two states for two peoples. Most Israelis accept this. Deep concern over security remains, especially with Hamas' recent terror attacks, the storming of the Israeli embassy in Cairo and Turkish threats to sail warships to Gaza. And there is still disagreement over Jerusalem and the scale of settlement withdrawals that will need to take place.
This is not yet the case in the Palestinian territories. All too often the debate, when it does happen, is framed in terms of degrees of defeat, with all compromises cast as capitulation. The adherence to the 1967 borders, for example, without admitting the need for mutually agreed land swaps, only draws the two sides further apart. Similarly, a refusal to accept that Jerusalem should not be split in such a way that the holiest site in all of Judaism becomes a part of Palestine, makes Israelis understandably concerned for their future. The centrality of the 'right of return' to current Palestinian discourse puts a disturbing question mark over Palestinian commitment to two states.
A negotiated two state solution is long overdue. Renewed peace talks to achieve a lasting peace are essential, with two states for two peoples, based on 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps; with Israel as the homeland for the Jewish people and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people.
It is critical that the on-going efforts by the EU, Quartet Representative and US succeed in producing a resolution that will take Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table. That is the constructive way forward.
Louise Ellman has been Labour Co-operative MP for Liverpool Riverside since 1997. She is also vice-chair of Labour Friends of Israel.
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