Yossi Beilin was a member of the Israeli Knesset for twenty years, and the former chairman of Israel’s Meretz party. Yossi has held ministerial positions in the governments of Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak. Identifying Israel’s national interest as being best served by achieving a fair, just, and comprehensive peace in the region, Yossi made peace his personal and national mission. He is a leading proponent of the Peace Process between Israel and her neighbors. Most notably, he is the initiator and architect behind the 1993 Oslo Accords as well as the Geneva Initiative. Over the years, Yossi has worked on the issue of Jewish continuity and relations between Israel and Diaspora Jewry. He is the creator of the ‘Birthright’ program, which over the years has brought tens of thousands of Jews to Israel.
I believe in two states. Since the facts on the ground are such, I think the only practical solution is land swaps, which would allow around 80% of the Israelis that live beyond the 67 line to stay in their homes.
There are several models— the Beilin-Abu Mazen Understandings, Geneva Initiative, Washington Institute, and the maps presented in formal negotiations by Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) and Ehud Olmert. The compromise should be something around those, which are all very similar.
The Israeli settlements shouldn’t have been built in the territories at all. They were established against the international law in order to prevent the partition of the land, and they shouldn’t be allowed to succeed in their attempt. They contribute nothing to Israel’s security, but became the bogeyman for consecutive Israeli prime ministers.
Since the number of the settlers is in the hundreds of thousands, the idea is that the densely populated settlements adjacent to the ’67 border would be annexed to Israel (in the context of land swaps), and the settlers to the east of the new border will have to decide whether to take compensations and move elsewhere, or to stay in their homes as residents of the Palestinian State, and citizens of Israel. The same number of Palestinian citizens should be allowed to stay in Israel as Israeli residents.
If there is peace, then this is the best guarantee for security. If there is no peace, the military presence in the West Bank cannot prevent rockets just as it didn’t prevent rockets from Gaza when the military presence was there. The number of Israeli casualties from rockets went significantly down when they left Gaza. Security depends on the cooperation between the two parties—not upon the size of the land. The security concern is more about foreigners who can invade Palestine, so we need security between Palestinians and Israelis. Withdrawal would be gradual and would take time, so we will see if it works or not. There would be an international presence with an Israeli component for a few years in the Jordan River area, with gradual phasing out of the Israeli presence. In any case, Israel is so much stronger than all of its neighbors combined so I think there is an exaggeration in the description of the security needs.
The city is practically divided now, and it should be formally divided. The Arab parts of Jerusalem should be the Palestinian capital, and the Jewish parts should be capital of Israel with special arrangements for the Old City—international status, joint status, whichever, but a status that allows both people to enter the Old City. Since the Old City is closed by a wall, it can be open space within. This means if an Israeli enters the Jewish part, they can also enter the Muslim quarter freely, but they can’t exit into the Palestinian side…the same for the Palestinians. Every Israeli and Palestinian should be able to go to the Old City and pray wherever they want, but not go into the other state.
Personally, I have no interest in praying at the Temple Mount, but those who want to pray there should be able to pray there—why not? If there is peace between the two sides, there is no problem to go and pray. For sensitive places like Hebron, we will have to wait until we have peace. We don’t have to put more “explosives.”
There will be a multinational force in the Old City and they can make technical arrangements for prayer. For example, Jews from 9-10 am and Muslims from 11-12 pm, but the principle is everyone will be free to go wherever they want in the Old City. Also, they don’t pray at the same place. Muslims pray at the mosque. So this can be taken into the technical arrangements.
I think the Palestinians should not give up the right of return, but should agree not to implement it. The problem of the Palestinian refugees should be solved through the return to the State of Palestine and compensation, without changing the nature of the state of Israel in a way that would be incompatible with a two-state solution. The reality is that it also applies to the descendants. Most who left in ‘48 aren’t here anymore. Those who live in refugee camps, mainly in Lebanon, are second and third generation—their problem should be solved. A symbolic number should be allowed back in. It should be justified not as a right of return but with other reasons—humanitarian, family reunification, personal issues. Palestinians will also be able to say that some refugees are going back to their land. What counts is that the number will be symbolic, and not be 0. Numbers that were discussed were between 10,000-100,000. Any number between 30,000 – 50,000 over several years makes sense.
For me there is nothing more right than to have a state for the Jewish people. A state to which the Jewish people will have the keys to its doors. That is, Jewish people decide who enters and who doesn’t. Of course, inside the doors, all citizens should be equal with equal rights (Jews and non-Jews), but history showed us that the Jewish people deserve their own state. However, since in the ancient land of Israel there is another people, the Palestinians, the options are either to be a Jewish state on the entire land without democracy, which I oppose; a democratic “one state” without a Jewish Majority, which I oppose; or a Jewish and democratic state on part of the land, while the other part of the land will be for the Palestinians. It will be up to them if they want to be a state of their own, be a part of another state, a federation with another state, or in a confederation with Israel.
It is not my ideology to have a Palestinian state. It is my ideology to have a state for the Jewish people, and that’s why I want to divide/partition the land, so we will have a state with a solid Jewish majority, and what they do in their land is their business.
With regards to those who say a “one-state” wouldn’t threaten the Jewish majority because of recent demographic trends, the army says there are 2.7 million Palestinians in the West Bank, so I believe them. A true Zionist doesn’t want to annex 2.7 million Palestinians to Israel. This would take control away from our keys.
Zionism is the national movement of the Jewish people that calls for a state to which the Jewish people have a key. If there is a Jew in Argentina, Ukraine, or France who wants to immigrate, the Jewish people will allow them to and they won’t depend on others. This state will be in the land of Israel, but not all the land of Israel.
I am against a boycott against myself. I don’t think Israel as a state should be boycotted. The BDS movement fails to make the difference between Israel and the Occupied Territories, which in my view is a big mistake. I don’t support a boycott against settlements either, but I can understand people who don’t want to buy settlement products because they don’t want to encourage this enterprise. Those who boycott Israel is a different story because they don’t recognize my right to exist.
Israel, per say, is not an apartheid state. But, in the Occupied Territories that are not part of the State of Israel, there is for sure a different regime for Israelis and Palestinians and a different set of rules and laws which create a situation of discrimination. So those who want one-state between the Jordan and Mediterranean without granting equal rights to all residents of this area basically support an apartheid state. This is one of the reasons why I oppose this one-state idea. So, Israel as it is now, is not an apartheid state, but it has a very problematic regime in areas that are not part of Israel but are controlled by Israel.