Toward A Win-Win
Strategy For Palestine

By Terrell E. Arnold

The sudden shift of gears represented by President Bush's April 4 Rose Garden speech provides a critical opening to end the Palestinian dispute once and for all. His first requirement was that the fighting must stop. While not so graphically put, he insisted that both the terror of Israeli military raids and the terrorism of suicide bombings must end. He was more even-handed than any American President in memory in lambasting all parties to the conflict, including Arafat for not curbing terrorism, Syria and Iran for sheltering groups or sponsoring attacks, but especially in insisting that the Israelis must withdraw their troops and stop settlement activities in occupied territory.

In broader remarks about the economic and political development of Palestine, President Bush outlined possible steps that could lead to evolution of a win-win strategy for all concerned, including the United States. In painting the picture of a just settlement in which two states, Palestine and Israel, lived side by side, he foresaw a transformation through trade, development and democracy where the players become economic partners. But to get there, much has to be done. To really achieve a win-win outcome, the United States must even handedly hold Israeli and Palestinian feet to the fire on living by the rules.

The first step, obviously, is to stop the current conflict. . With some reluctance, perhaps, the President recognized the practical reality that Palestinian terrorist attacks would not stop until the Israelis stopped attacking the Palestinians and withdrew. Such, indeed, is the true situation where military forces of a recognized state attack a stateless group that has no constituted military, but insists on fighting back.

The next step is to stabilize boundaries. The President was clear in saying that Israeli settlement activity in occupied territories must stop. He did not clearly state, however, that the settlements must be dismantled in the process of fixing the boundaries, and that is a matter that must be settled soon or the friction will continue. Israeli hopes for the future must be confined to peaceful use of existing lands, but not to any growth at the expense of neighbors. The Palestinians and other states of the region must also respect the boundaries that are finally fixed.

The United Nations must lead immediate efforts to provide relief and to restore the infrastructure damaged or destroyed by Israeli attacks. In the West Bank and the Gaza Strip today there are more than 3,000,000 Palestinians, from many of whom Israel confiscated property. The United States and other governments should help the UN enforce Resolution 194 that requires Israel to compensate them. More immediately critical, the UN should intensify and expand programs to provide job training and employment opportunities for young Palestinians who are the majority of the population. These young people are easy marks for recruitment by extremists, and special efforts are needed to give them skills, opportunities and hope.

Free and assured access to the outside world is critical to the future development of Palestine and to the psychological well being of its people. In the past, through control of traffic routes between the West Bank, Israel and the outside world, Israel has put the Palestinians in virtually a vassal state. That cannot continue; the Israelis cannot be allowed to bring the Palestinian economy to its knees every time Israelis feel threatened. Palestine leadership, on the other hand, must establish and maintain effective disciplines among its people for free passage to become a sustained reality. The key to this is for both Israel and Palestine to recognize and deal with each other as equals.

Both Israel and Palestine need to look at leadership for the future. In no viable future can Israel afford leadership that is dedicated to war and expansion. But the Palestinian problem is more serious. Leaders of insurgencies seldom, if ever, make good statesmen and administrators, and Palestine needs both. Those who worked with Barak on the peace process may be candidates, but among three million Palestinians there may be pleasant surprises. Arafat and Sharon both appear to represent the past in this equation.

Prince Abdullah's Arab League plan contains key steps toward this future. Fair treatment of Israel by other states of the region is a critical part of any plan likely to succeed. In the same vein, refusal of other regional states to harbor anti-Israeli activists is not only an important element of any successful plan; it is a much more likely prospect if the Palestine issues are settled. President Bush's April 4 speech and the Saudi plan are thus a starting design for the United States to achieve credibility on Palestine, especially in the Middle East. The overall design is win-win for everybody, but everybody must leave some chips on the table. ___
The writer is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer and former Deputy Director of the State Department Office of Counterterrorism

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