Yossi Beilin’s pro-Israel and pro-peace plan for Mideast

REUTERS/Loay Abu Haykel
Yossi Beilin: “My dear friends, to want peace, and not be willing to pay the price for it, is the same as not wanting peace.”

Yossi Beilin, a long-time stalwart among Israeli peaceniks, is touring the United States to promote an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal and J-Street, the burgeoning organization of American Jews who want to be pro-Israel and pro-peace. The Beilin speaking tour came through St. Paul Monday night, specifically at Mt. Zion Temple, where he gave a wise, funny, tragic overview of where things stand in his homeland.

Beilin, in case you don’t follow such matters, was one of the heroes of the Oslo Accords, having participated in the secret peace negotiations that led to one of the high points in the endless search for a peace deal.

The players on both sides know the shape of the only peace deal that can be made, Beilin said. “It’s so obvious,” he said.

The deal amounts to four points that were on a J-Street handout that was distributed at the event. I’ll reproduce them at the bottom of this post.

The trouble is, the high-drama negotiations taking place in Israel are so tragically flawed that “to call them negotiations would be a big exaggeration,” Beilin said.

Israelis and Palestinians won’t talk to each other, so U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is there, since both parties are willing to talk to him. And instead of talking of the shape of the peace deal they could make (which they already know), they are discussing whether there is a magic number of Palestinian prisoners Israel would be willing to release to convince the Palestinians to continue negotiating.

The Binyamin Netanyahu government of Israel and the Mahmoud Abbas-led Palestinian Authority know each other so well, know what each side will and won’t give to get a deal, Beilin said, expressing his frustration. “With them, we are trying to make peace. With them, after in many ways we already did it. So why don’t we do it?”

Both sides want peace. Neither side is willing to pay the price to get peace, he said. “My dear friends, to want peace, and not be willing to pay the price for it, is the same as not wanting peace,” he said.

Personally, Beilin said, he hates the idea of another “interim deal.” He wants the final deal. But the parties aren’t ready to pay the price, so, according to his own philosophy, which is to deal with the possible, he suggests that the parties make an interim deal, which would mean Israeli recognition of a Palestinian state in some portion of the West Bank larger than the portion controlled by the Palestinian Authority, with the final borders to be determined later.

What about Gaza, which is controlled by the far-less reasonable Hamas? Let the Gazans see what peace and statehood looks like in the West Bank and hold out the hope that they will eventually want to get in on that kind of deal, he said.

Stumbling blocks

Beilin was dismissive about one of the currently fashionable stumbling blocks: the demand by Netanyahu that Abbas recognize not only the existence of Israel and its borders, but recognize that it is a “Jewish state.” Netanyahu made this demand to be “provocative,” Beilin said, and it worked, and it was equally a “stupidity” for the Palestinians to refuse. Beilin wondered aloud: Does Netanyahu trust the word of the Palestinians so much that if they would repeat that Israel is a “Jewish state,” Israel would be assured of its security?

Too many Israelis have convinced themselves that the long, bitter history between themselves and the Palestinians is entirely about the unimaginable unwillingness of the Palestinians to the basic Zionist project. “We have to understand that they never invited us,” Beilin said. “We imposed ourselves on them.”

Beilin hailed J Street and its “pro-Israel, pro-peace” formula as having the potential to change the American political dynamics around the Mideast conflict. All presidents heretofore have believed that there was only political pain to be found by pressing Israel to make a deal. Thanks to J Street, it’s possible to imagine future presidents believing that there could also be political pain by not pressing both sides to end the conflict.

J Street’s peace project is called “The 2 campaign,” which stands for “two states for two peoples.” In its literature, it describes the deal that is doable and just, in these four summary points:

  • Bases borders on pre-1967 lines with agreed-upon land swaps and provides robust security guarantees;

  • Evacuates settlements outside Israel’s future borders while compensating the estimated one in five settlers who relocate to make peace possible;

  • Establishes the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and Palestinian neighborhoods as the capital of the future state of Palestine. Holy sites would be internationally protected and accessible to all; and

  • Resolves the Palestinian refugee issue through resettlement in the future Palestine or third countries, compensation and a symbolic level of family reunification in Israel itself.

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Comments (13)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 04/01/2014 - 11:49 am.

    Not invited

    “We have to understand that they never invited us,” Beilin said. “We imposed ourselves on them.”

    Well, yes… and yet, though my expertise regarding Jewish history is minimal, at best, it also occurs to me that Jews have a historic claim to the area that’s much older than that of the Muslim population. I don’t know that that’s an excuse for some of the bad treatment Palestinians have suffered, but for an old history teacher, it’s something not to be ignored, either. The modern Jewish state is a western invention, and from what little I know, it seems to have been imposed on the residents of Palestine after the Holocaust without much consultation with the existing residents. Perhaps a comparison with the method by which Minnesota was settled by Europeans at the expense of Indians is not entirely out of line.

    I share Beilin’s distaste for yet another “interim” settlement when what’s really needed and desired is something permanent, or as permanent as human endeavors are likely to be, but I’m reminded from time to time of how happy I am to be living in a situation where rockets do not fall in the neighborhood, nor helicopter gunships make occasional raids, and while we have our own tribal suspicions here in the Twin Cities, for the most part, we don’t assume that the people who live in different neighborhoods would like to kill us.

    I’ve no idea whether Beilin’s proposal stands a chance of being adopted, or of living for more than 5 minutes afterward, but being pro-Israel and pro-peace only seems oxymoronic. Civil society cannot survive perpetual war without severe damage to its institutions and its people.

    • Submitted by Raj Maddali on 04/01/2014 - 04:02 pm.

      In all niceness Mr Schoch

      The world is made up of people who are other than Judeo Christian. Just hoping you’d recognize that in your historical thoeries.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/04/2014 - 05:23 pm.

      We’re talking about foundation myths,

      not history.
      If you want some good history, read Bennie Morris’ history of 1948.
      Semitic peoples have lived in the Middle East for millenia, and they’re all closely related (Jews and Palestinians are genetically closer to each other than either are to Northern Europeans).
      The Arabs were not invented by Mohammed; their history did not start at 600 C.E.
      So, we’ve got two groups of people with equally valid claims to the same piece of land since both groups have continuously inhabited Palestine for at least 3000 years, with different groups predominating at different times.

      So the argument is about whose foundation myth trumps whose.
      There is some point to the Minnesotans/Israelis analogy.
      The difference is that the Germans and Scandinavians who invaded Minnesota had someplace else to go; we (European Jews) really didn’t.
      And, as I said, Northern Europeans had not previous history of occupying North America (Vikings may have explored some limited areas, but didn’t set up any permanent habitation).

      Now, if Roosevelt and Churchill had allowed unlimited emigration by European Jews into The United States and Britain, the situation would have been different, and Palestine would probably have remained under Arab control.

      Like most history there’s a shortage of saints and devils; just people.

      As far as “The modern Jewish state is a western invention”:
      If by ‘modern’ you mean post 18th century, then this is necessarily true, since most Jews in this period lived in Europe (the Sepharad is an interesting exception).
      So, the movement referred to as Zionism originated in 19th century Europe (I won’t get into the various definitions of ‘Zionism’).
      BTW — I’m a member of J-Street.
      On the other hand, if you mean continuous habitation with aspirations for statehood, it’s -much- older.

      Again, read Bennie Morris: it’s serious well documented history.

  2. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 04/01/2014 - 02:57 pm.

    Yeah, but who’s buying political influence ?

    Political campaign contributions in the U.S.:

    by J Street: $ 15,220

    by AIPAC: tens of millions (see list at link below)

    These two organizations are not in coordinated agreement. Who do you think those Senators and Congressmen are going to vote with ?



  3. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/01/2014 - 09:44 pm.

    I am wondering

    I am just wondering how many Palestinians will agree with the last point…. According to all the polls, a tiny minority.

    The other question of course who can guarantee that Hamas will not cease power in the new Palestinian state?

    And who will be stupid enough to become a sitting duck tasked with protection of the Old City?

    • Submitted by Raj Maddali on 04/02/2014 - 08:12 am.

      Similarly Wondering

      When Israeli will agree to anything. Every day there is a new settlement. Shall we blame Hamas for that ?

  4. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 04/02/2014 - 10:44 am.

    Hope for peace a thin line of sunrise on the horizon?

    Yossi Beilin is a powerful voice which reminds me of Martin Buber’s attempts to achieve peace. May he be successful although the finer points I would have to research since I know little but a few portions of his peace road to justice for the Palestinian also – a rare recognition achieved by too few voices on this issue

    Yes it is the Palestinian who is too often; consistently ignored; is not recognized in the total picture… too often is considered secondary as if their fate is not just as significant?

    I do hope also, any plan for peace that succeeds, destroys the long cages of passages like elongated prisons that separate and are a humiliating process for the Palestinian and in tandem, the check points that dehumanize rather than unite neighbors in the land of shifting sand and far too much blood shed already…

  5. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/02/2014 - 07:13 pm.


    Actually, we can blame Hamas for new settlements. If Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza ended up in a happy ending, I am sure there wouldn’t be that many settlement construction, if any. Unfortunately, Gaza shows what most Israelis are afraid of, and not without reason.

    By the way, I forgot one other thing last time: Why can’t Jews, if they want to, live in future Palestinian state?

    • Submitted by Raj Maddali on 04/03/2014 - 05:37 pm.


      Every settlement in Gaza was replaced with one in the West Bank. Planned long before any withdrawal. Israelis are afraid of one thing. The truth of their settlement nightmare.

      If any Jew wants to live anywhere in that entire land, then shouldn’t any Palestinians be granted the same right. I’m all for it.

  6. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/03/2014 - 07:40 pm.


    I don’t know if they were replaced one to one (and I don’t think you know it either) but I said that if Hamas didn’t seize power in Gaza and made it into staging ground for attacks on Israel, there would be no desire to build new settlements in the West Bank. I think the connection is obvious.

    And I am sure Mr. Maddali understood what I meant but I can reiterate: Jews are already living in the settlements which eventually may end up being in the Palestinian territory. So why do they need to leave? On the other hand, Palestinians living in Israel will stay – no one will kick them out. But the ones who don’t live there should not come.

    • Submitted by Raj Maddali on 04/04/2014 - 05:36 am.


      Dov Weinglass admitted as much. For you to admit it would be having to admit yet another rope a dope scheme by Israelis. Every settlement has come with yet another set of excuses.

      Why avoid the question ? If all Jews want to live anywhere why can’t all Palestinians. Why dance around this question. I did not ask if some or a few. Thats how non-racist laws are made. A single law for all. Why avoid it.

  7. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/04/2014 - 07:25 pm.


    What do I have to admit? That Israel built as many settlements in the West Bank as it gave up in Gaza? But I don’t know that so I can’t admit it. Neither do I dispute that since, again, I don’t know. But that is irrelevant to my point which was that Hamas’ grabbing power in Gaza influenced Israel’s actions very strongly. So this is what Raj has to admit.

    I do not avoid any questions. When I said that Jews can stay in the settlements, it is only because they live there now. When Palestinian state is formed, they will have the full right to let Jews in (or not). Each state has the right to decide who to let in and who to keep out so a question about Palestinians living where they want is irrelevant except Israeli Palestinians, who, as Israeli citizens may live anywhere there. And so can Palestinians in their future state (but not in another state of Israel). The interesting thing is of course how come some of the Arab states do not let Palestinians live outside of refugee camps…

    Interestingly, Raj is bringing racism card here, the one he was so vehemently opposed in another post thread. I am sure if he tries to go beyond his own prejudice and preconceived opinions (the thing he urges others to do in his education posts), he can understand what I am talking about – he has knowledge and logic to do it..

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