NY Times columnist Roger Cohen is certainly right about the “Fierce Urgency of Peace” in the Middle East. And his endorsement of the so-called “Bipartisan Statement” by veteran establishment “wisemen” — e.g., Henry Siegman, Brent Scowcroft, Paul Volcker and others in this regard — is generally correct, but I also see problems.
There is an obvious need for a two-state solution, including an end to Jewish settlement expansion in the territories, an arrangement for two national capitals in Jerusalem and a solution for Palestinian refugees that does not involve an unrestricted right of return to Israel. And yes, the US should be involved in organizing and/or leading an international force to insure such a peace.
One problem is in insisting that Hamas is an essential party to peace. While it is only pragmatic that Hamas is lured into the peace process with a role in a Palestinian coalition government, movement toward peace should not be held hostage to Hamas doing the right thing. Hamas should be offered a voice and perhaps a role, but not a veto, because we cannot know in advance that substantial elements of Hamas will actually play a positive role, even if offered.
Another difficulty is that even though many settlements (if not most) should be removed from the West Bank, it is not realistic to believe that Israel can actually remove most of the 300,000 to 400,000 settlers (depending upon how you count them). Israel mobilized 50,000 soldiers and police to remove a mere 8,000 settlers and 7,000 militant supporters from Gaza in 2005. It simply does not have the manpower to remove hundreds of thousands.
But a carrot and a stick may do the trick for moving tens of thousands. A carrot could be in the form of buying the properties of settlers so they can return to sovereign Israel (as with the “One Home” plan of the former Meretz and Labor MKs Avshalom Vilan and Colette Avital). A stick might be in the form of an Israeli announcement that as of a date certain, the IDF will no longer guarantee the security of settlements within certain areas, perhaps suggesting that they will be under Palestinian security jurisdiction.