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Israeli Generals Offer New Peace Initiative

“Not a Peace Plan, Not a Roadmap”

The large glossy brochure titled Security First in large white letters against a blue background on top of an Israeli flag looks like it should belong to a hardline group calling, for example, for more Israeli building in the West Bank. The illusion is continued by the text in black which states “Changing the Rules of the Game” followed by “A Plan to Improve Israel’s Security and International Standing.”

But the plan is anything but hardline. Commanders for Israel’s Securiyt is a group of more than 200 Israeli army officials with a rank of Brigadier General or above, or their equivalent in the intelligence services and the police, the plan calls on Israel to announce that is no territorial claims in the West Bank beyond the security barrier, and to take a series of steps to encourage the Palestinian economy and strengthen the Palestinian Authority (PA). Together the group has more than 6,500 years of cumulative security experience, they say proudly.

“This is not a peace plan and it is definitely not a roadmap to salvation,” Rolly Gueron, a former senior official in the Mossad and today a defense consultant. “We believe that terrorism cannot be defeated by force only. We want to reduce the friction between us and the Palestinians, and to leave the door pen for future negotiations.”

While Israel would announce that it has no territorial ambitions in 92 percent of the West Bank, the Israeli army would stay in the entire West Bank until a deal is reached. Israel would also announce that it accepts the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which calls for normalization of relations between Israel and 35 Arab and Muslim countries in exchange for an Israeli pullback to the 1967 lines and a “just” solution for Palestinian refugees, as a basis for negotiations.

The generals say that a two-state solution, meaning an independent Palestinian state next to Israel, remains the only viable solution to Israel’s ongoing crisis with the Palestinians.

“The basis of the plan is to change the dynamic on the ground and to change the political atmosphere,” Danny Rothschild, who served in the West Bank for many years, said. “We will take independent security and political measures that are not dependent on whether we have a partner or not.”

For example, he said, Israel must finish building the security barrier in and around the West Bank. There are still many areas, especially in the southern West Bank, where the barrier has not been completed. In addition, the plan calls to “return law and order” to east Jerusalem, and to offer Jewish “settlers” compensation if they want to leave their homes and move back to pre-1967 Israel.

The group’s founders said that time is running out for a two-state solution, and that while it is impossible to reach a final deal now, it is nevertheless essential to start some kind of process. Along with measures to improve life in the West Bank, it is important to move toward a regional solution, these generals say.

“Our first objective is to restore security to Israelis and prevent the next wave of violence,” Nimrod Novik, a former National Security Council member told The Media Line. “Another objective is to change Israel’s standing in the region as well as in the international community.”

Palestinian officials have repeatedly said they are not interested in any kind of interim solution. The generals would not give details but said they are in discussions with Palestinian officials and they are “very interested” in the plan.

The fact that more than 200 high-level former security officials have signed on to the plan gives it more credence than similar other ideas. While it seems unlikely that many Israelis living in the West Bank will volunteer to leave, the plan’s founders believe that is what will eventually happen.

There are more than 500,000 Israelis living in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, which critics say makes any peace deal impossible. Commanders for Israel’s security says that number is misleading, and that “only” about 20,000 families live in areas of the West Bank outside the security barrier.

When it comes to Jerusalem, the generals call for a separate umbrella administration in east Jerusalem which would run municipal affairs including education and health.

When asked why they are presenting their plan now, Amnon Reshef, the head of Commanders for Israel’s Security, said they want to leave Israel a better place than it is now.

“Each of our members has served the country for so many years,” Reshef told The Media Line. “Once you are retired, you ask youself, “Ok, I devoted my life to security actions whether in the battlefield or the Mossad, and what kind of future are we going to leave our kids and our grandchildren?” We are not naïve. We know peace may take some time but something can should be done right now.”