How the Obama Administration can Jumpstart the Peace Process

If the Obama administration is looking to jumpstart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process by devising its own proposal to bridge outstanding gaps between the parties, it would do well to focus on the public statements of both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas.

A good place to start would be Netanyahu's most important foreign policy address, which he delivered at Bar Ilan University in June 2009 shortly after taking the premiership. There, he laid out two conditions for reaching agreement: demilitarization and recognition.

Concerning the former, he argued "any area in Palestinian hands has to be demilitarized, with solid security measures." This demand was nothing new. Every Israeli leader, at every round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, has called for a demilitarized Palestinian state with detailed security arrangements.

It is fortunate then that this something Palestinians have already agreed to. In remarks delivered to the Jewish community in France just before the most recent round of negotiations in September 2010 for instance, Abbas suggested, "we want the Israelis to feel secure." Referring to the 2008 negotiations covered in the Palestine Papers, Abbas reiterated, "I agreed with Mr. Olmert that a third party, whether NATO or any other party would be stationed in the Palestinian territories for a long period of time until the Israelis feel confident."

In this vein, the Geneva Accords put forward a model that describes a demilitarized Palestinian state with two early warning stations for Israel. Reaching a mutually acceptable security arrangement is therefore quite possible, but should be part of a comprehensive and detailed agreement, not a precondition for negotiations.

Concerning his second condition, recognition, Netanyahu suggested that "Palestinians must truly recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people." Though common wisdom would suggest this is a sticking point, finding a mutually acceptable formula need not be impossible.

Indeed, this is precisely what the Geneva accord has done in a formula that has won acceptance by both Israelis and Palestinians. It states that "this agreement marks the recognition of the right of the Jewish people to statehood and the recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to statehood, without prejudice to the equal rights of the Parties' respective citizens." And it stipulates that "the Parties recognize Palestine and Israel as the homelands of their respective peoples."

Of course, the Geneva model offers more than just arrangements on security and recognition. It offers a detailed, mutually acceptable formula for a comprehensive final-status agreement. That is, two states with mutually recognized capitals in the areas of Jerusalem under their respective sovereignty, and a border based on the 1967 Green Line with agreed 1:1 swaps.

According to the latest polls, moreover, a package deal of this type is supported by solid majorities of the public in both societies. If it can be accepted by Israeli and Palestinian leaderships, and their respective publics, it can be accepted by the entire world.

To be sure, there is no question that the conflict between our two peoples is complex and any final-status proposal will be hotly debated and likely contested. But the gaps are bridgeable, and to move forward it suffices to take Netanyahu and Abbas by their public words.

Gadi Baltiansky is the Director General of H.L. Education for Peace -- Geneva Initiative, based in Tel Aviv, and former spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

Nidal Foqaha is Executive Director of the Palestinian Peace Coalition -- Geneva Initiative, based in Ramallah.