End of Claims

Introduction

 

The purpose of any peace agreement — beyond reaching agreement on specific issues like borders, security, refugees and Jerusalem — is to bring closure — to end all claims from both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

 

End of Claims

 

A cornerstone of Israeli demands in a peace agreement is a Palestinian declaration that the agreement represents an end to conflict and all claims against Israel.

 

President Clinton proposed in his peace parameters in 2000 that “the agreement clearly mark the end of the conflict and its implementation put an end to all claims. This could be implemented through a UN Security Council Resolution that notes that resolutions 242 and 338 have been implemented and through the release of Palestinian prisoners.” Since then, negotiators and experts have formulated similar language. 

 

Israel fears that Palestinians would treat any agreement as temporary, and continue to impose further demands via various mechanisms, including international fora. While Palestinian leaders have in principle endorsed the notion of an end of conflict and claims, some Palestinians question Israel’s commitment to implementing the agreement. Palestinians fear declaration of end of claims could be premature — that it belongs after the full implementation of the agreement, not before implementation begins. Therefore, the declaration of end of conflict and claims itself is relatively uncontroversial, but the timing remains contentious. 

 

Mutual Recognition

 

In recent years, Israel has put a larger emphasis on the need for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Supporters of this recognition argue that the Arab-Israeli conflict stems from an unwillingness of Palestinians and Arab states to accept Jewish peoplehood, Jewish connection to the land, and Israel as a Jewish state. Therefore, ending the conflict necessitates recognition of the Jewish character of the State of Israel. Israelis contend that recognition could help protect Israel from international delegitimization efforts, and importantly, from future challenges to its Jewish character by Palestinian refugees and non-Jewish citizens. Israeli polling has indicated that recognition of Israel as a Jewish state has emerged as a powerful symbol, and if it were addressed, Israelis could be more likely to compromise on other core issues. 

 

In contrast, after showing some willingness in the past to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, Palestinians have hardened their positions, partly as a reaction to what they perceive to be Israel’s hostility toward Palestinian statehood. Today, Palestinians reject recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, emphasizing that they have recognized Israel as a state since 1988, and Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan contain no such recognition. Palestinians fear that recognition of Israel’s Jewish character is a scheme to limit the right of return of refugees, disenfranchise Israel’s substantial minority of non-Jews and could have negative implications for Jerusalem’s Muslim and Christian holy sites. 

 

In 2018, Israel ratified as a Basic Law — similar to a constitutional amendment — that “the land of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people… The State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people… [and] the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.” Palestinian officials criticized the law as “dangerous and racist…[for denying] the Arab citizens their right to self-determination.”

 

In past negotiations, US mediators have explored a formula of mutual recognition which could be acceptable to both sides. Framed in the language of democracy and human rights, both sides could recognize “Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people” and “Palestine as the nation-state of the Palestinian people,” with declared commitments to equal rights for all citizens and minorities. Other possible phrasing could recognize both sides’ “legitimate, historical attachment to the land,” without requiring them to recognize the other’s “right” to the land. Further, another alternative could require both sides to recognize the other’s “right to self-determination in a sovereign state.”

 

 

Referendum

 

One way to ensure legitimacy for a peace agreement would be for Israel and the Palestinians to each hold a public referendum on the proposal. This would empower leaders on both sides to mitigate the political risks of compromise in an agreement, and counter any backlash among key constituencies. Israel’s Basic Law now requires that any relinquishment of sovereignty over territory — such as in East Jerusalem — must receive approval by public referendum (or  two-thirds of the Knesset). And Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has also vowed to put any agreement to a vote. 

 

Supporters of this idea argue that Israeli and Palestinian leaders cannot effectively implement an agreement without backing from their people, and a referendum could grant popular legitimacy to a deal while weakening spoilers who might seek to thwart its implementation. Indeed, hardline leaders on both sides — even within the terror group Hamas — have suggested that they could accept an agreement if it were approved in a referendum. But opponents of a referendum have warned that requiring a vote on an agreement which includes difficult concessions creates yet another obstacle for the two-state solution. 

© 2018 by Is Peace Still Possible? a product of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace.

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