Negotiations over a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli–Palestinian conflict have reached a dead end. International efforts should focus on a short-term cease-fire between Israel and Hamas that can pave the way for a sustainable armistice, concludes a new policy brief by Nathan J. Brown.
The bitter realities on the ground make an immediate and comprehensive solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict unattainable for now. A new diplomatic approach should be based on three steps: first, a properly negotiated cease-fire; second, a medium-term armistice; and finally, addressing the underlying causes of the conflict during the respite.
A new cease-fire agreement must be attractive to both sides. Hamas can be enticed with border openings, freedom of operation in Palestinian areas, and a freeze on settlements and Israel with a cessation of attacks from Hamas and other groups, combined with a serious effort to halt arms supplies to Hamas.
Both have indicated interest in an armistice, but credibility and trust issues must be addressed. Palestinians need assurances that an armistice will not become a permanent solution and Israel must believe that Hamas will not use the time for a military build-up.
Enforcement mechanisms—settlement monitoring and border inspections—are key to the armistice.
The United States should encourage rather than discourage European and Arab efforts to lead negotiations among Palestinians and between Palestinians and Israelis.
A period of relative stability for five to ten years under the armistice could serve as a platform to address the underlying causes of the conflict. Paramount in this stage will be rebuilding Palestinian institutions and democracy.
“Acknowledging and working with existing realities must not, however, mean accepting them as permanent. The existing situation is not only short on security and justice; it is also unstable. Things can—and might well—get worse unless the United States and other outside actors couple a realistic view of the present with a serious effort to push for a more promising future. But for the present, they should stop banging their heads against the obstacles to an immediate and comprehensive solution of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. Instead, it is time for Plan B.”