A Time For Bold Action

Now that the Geneva Initiative has grabbed the spotlight, while making no practical difference on the ground, Ariel Sharon has a chance to take bold action that can actually improve the lives of Israelis and Palestinians.

First, Israel should end the half-hearted measures against the illegal outposts in the West Bank and launch Operation Clean Sweep. One night, Israeli special forces should dismantle every illegal outpost and arrest all of the people who are living in them. They should be kept in jail for as long as the law allows. Afterward, no outpost should be permitted to stand for more than 24 hours.

Second, Sharon should tell President Bush that he plans to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip. He should explain the security and humanitarian hardships this entails and make clear that Israel expects the United States to back its actions to insure its security after it acts, and that Egypt will be expected to take measures to put an end to smuggling into the Strip.

Third, Israel should give the Jews living in the Gaza Strip a specified amount of time (tied to the completion of the West Bank security fence) to get their affairs in order, and then they will be ordered to evacuate. Each family will receive a financial compensation package for the hardship. Though this will undoubtedly be controversial, it will in the long-run be useful in sending a message to Jews living in the isolated areas of Judea and Samaria of what the future holds for them.

Fourth, after the Jews are evacuated, Gaza should be sealed up like Alcatraz. No one goes in or out until peace is achieved. Any provocations, such as the firing of rockets from Gaza, will be met with overwhelming force.

Fifth, settlers in isolated settlements in Judea and Samaria should be offered compensation similar to that given to Jews in Gaza if they move either within the Green Line or to consensus settlements. Failure to do so within a proscribed period will lead to forfeiture of any future compensation and possible seizure of their property.

Sixth, the Palestinians should be told the value Israel places on any homes that are evacuated. The Palestinian Authority will pay that amount to Israel or a similar amount will be deducted from any amounts owed to the Palestinians.

Construction of the security fence will be accelerated. Israel may continue to discuss the route with the Bush Administration, but should not allow disagreements to delay the project. The fence will be built according to the security and political needs of the nation and run as close to the 1967 border as possible while making accommodations to incorporate the consensus settlements.

Sharon should announce that Israel will redeploy all Israeli troops and citizens behind the fence when it is completed and defend this as its new border until such time as the Palestinians are prepared to enter negotiations. Israel will then be prepared to consider alterations to the border, moving or demolishing the fence, and other measures to facilitate coexistence. The Palestinians will be free to declare independence in Gaza, which will no longer be quarantined, as well as the West Bank, with the understanding that no violations of Israeli sovereignty will be tolerated. Any Palestinian on the Israeli side of the frontier will be free to move to Palestine.

For its part, American Jewry should be mobilized to educate the public and U.S. government officials about the virtue of this plan, and explain how these unilateral moves will improve the lives of Israelis and Palestinians.

This may not end the conflict, but the stalemate will be permanently broken. Israel will have fully satisfied the terms of UN Resolution 242 and will no longer be controlling the lives of any Palestinians who wish to live in Palestine. Both Israelis and Palestinians will have the opportunity to focus their energies on state building and coexistence.

It’s just a suggestion. Then again, we could just keep generating peace plans and hope for the best.