Israel’s Political Options Vis-à-Vis the Palestinians

In this Policy Paper, prepared for the 2006 Sderot Conference, the Reut Institute presents the political options that are currently available to Israel vis-?-vis the Palestinians.

Executive Summary

1. This document defines the political options available to Israel vis-a-vis the Palestinians at the present time, given the difficulty of ending control over the Palestinians and the instability of the status quo.

2. Israel’s “three demands” policy, along with the absence of a political agenda, is liable to bring about a strategic "surprise" in the form of the collapse of the Palestinian Authority (PA), its dissolution, a third Intifada, a new political initiative, or the escalation and intensification of military activity in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

3. The possible ramifications of such a change are the increase of the military, economic and civil burden imposed upon Israel and the threat to its national security.

4. Therefore, Israel has an interest in formulating a political agenda aimed at ending control over the Palestinians, which will mitigate the damage to its national security and receive international legitimacy.

5. Stabilizing the system is a prerequisite for any political option. It is based upon the cessation of violence, the strengthening of moderate elements, and the reconstruction of the PA as a political address. These measures are not necessarily conditional upon a specific political framework.

6. This document presents a number of considerations for examining Israel’s political options: the political rationale, the security rationale, the potential for Palestinian partnership and international legitimacy. On the basis of these considerations, this document examines seven political options that are derived from three possible approaches to the conflict:

  • a. Conflict Resolution – According to this approach, the political objective is end of conflict and finality of claims between Israel and the Palestinians. Its implementation means the establishment of a Palestinian state and resolution of all outstanding issues between Israel and the Palestinians in the framework of a permanent status agreement.

  • b. Conflict Management with the Political Goal of Ending Responsibility - According to this approach the political goal is end of occupation prior to the end of conflict, and its transformation from a conflict between ‘conqueror’ and ‘occupied’ to a borders dispute. The possible options are the (1) establishment of a Palestinian state prior to a final status agreement (2) implementation of the Convergence Plan and upgrading the political status of the PA towards statehood (3) establishment of an international trusteeship.

  • c. Conflict Management with no Political Goal according to this approach, the level of conflict should be reduced without fundamentally altering its basic elements. The possible political options are: (1) stabilization of the system (2) redeployment by agreement (3) unilateral re-deployment.

7. The conclusion of the Reut Institute is that among the possible approaches and goals, the preferred options are:

  • a. Conflict Management with a Political Goal of Ending Responsibility:

    • 1. The Establishment of a State prior to a Permanent Status Agreement – Although the establishment of a Palestinian state prior to a permanent status agreement carries a security risk, it will yield Israel a significant political achievement. It will end Israel’s responsibility over the Palestinians and will allow Israel to divide the permanent status agreement into smaller agreements as well as, ostensibly, diluting the refugee issue. This option requires a combination of bilateral agreements and unilateral actions. On the one hand, understanding that Israel has a sustainable unilateral option is likely to urge the Palestinians to strive for a political agreement. On the other hand, only negotiations that are conducted in good faith and fail, may allow Israel to unilaterally implement the Convergence Plan and to upgrade the political status of the PA to that of a state.

    • 2. International Trusteeship Ostensibly, this is the only option that has the potential to reach the goal of End of Responsibility while also maintaining the principle of a de-militarized Palestinian entity.
  • b. Conflict Management without a Political Goal: Redeployment by agreement – This goal does not carry a significant political achievement; however, it may achieve a balance between reduction of the level of confrontation and violence and the need for efficient security control.

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