Longtime State Department official Dennis Ross has devoted the last three decades to promoting plans intended to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace. Those plans weren’t favorable to Israel, but they at least paid lip service to idea that the Palestinians needed to make some concessions.
Now, however, Ross has a new plan, which doesn’t involve even a single Palestinian concession.
One of Ross’s earlier plans was unveiled in the Washington Post on February 26, 2016. There he and David Makovsky proposed that Israel stop building “in 92 percent of the West Bank” in exchange for U.S. action to oppose “Palestinian efforts to delegitimize Israel” and to support “normalizing Israeli-Palestinian contacts.”
That didn’t offer Israel much in return for its concessions, but at least it was something.
In Ross’s next plan, presented as a New York Times op-ed on December 1, 2016, he said Israel should halt construction in those areas in exchange for the Palestinian Authority “acknowledging there are two national movements requiring two states for two peoples and by ending its efforts to delegitimize Israel in all international forums.”
The concessions Ross proposed in those plans were not exactly symmetrical. He called for Israel to make concessions that would be very hard to reverse, but the concessions he suggested the Palestinians make could easily be reversed.
For example, if Israel halted construction for a while, and then, in response to Palestinian actions, announced that it was resuming construction, Israel would be denounced throughout the world and perhaps even face sanctions. The Palestinian Authority, however, never faces sanctions, no matter what it does. So if it stopped delegitimizing Israel in international forums for a while, it could easily resume doing so at any time, without fear of consequences.
But again, at least in Ross’s previous plans, Israel would have received at least something in exchange for its concessions. Not so this time.
In a Washington Post op-ed on January 13, Ross, together with former Clinton administration official Stuart Eizenstat, presented what they call a “Plan B for Middle East Peace.” They proposed three major concessions that Israel would make: halt all construction in the disputed territories outside three settlement blocs; allow many more Palestinian workers to enter Israel, despite the security risks that would entail; and permit vastly increased Palestinian construction and development in disputed areas.
In exchange, what would the Palestinian Authority do? Absolutely nothing, according to the Ross Plan. He and his coauthor did not list a single concession the PA should make. Not disarming or outlawing terrorist groups. Not extradition of terrorists to Israel. Not a halt to anti-Jewish incitement or an end to naming streets after terrorists.
Keep in mind that even those steps would not represent Palestinian concessions, because they are all required by the Oslo accords. By contrast, Israel would be making concessions that go above and beyond its Oslo obligations. Those accords do not require Israel to limit settlement construction in any way or to allow large numbers of Palestinian workers to enter the country.
But Dennis Ross has dispensed with the idea of insisting that the Palestinian Authority honor its Oslo obligations. And now he has given up even on the minimal Palestinian concessions he previously recommended concerning “delegitimization efforts.”
By giving up on the Palestinians making reciprocal concessions, Ross is, in effect, giving up on peace. You can never have real peace unless there is genuine reciprocity, real give and take. But what Ross proposes now is simply that the Israelis give and the Palestinians take.
The only hope for peace is to insist that the PA make specific, concrete, irreversible concessions to match the concessions Israel has made. Only then is it possible that the Palestinians will come to their senses and face the reality that Israel is here to stay. Israel and its supporters will no doubt continue to pursue that kind of real peace, even though Dennis Ross has given up on it.