Jerusalem, June 20 – Former American peace negotiator to the Middle East peace process Dennis Ross called on the Israeli and Palestinian leadership to take bold steps to rebuild their people’s belief in the peace process.
“There is such fundamental disbelief on both sides,” Ross told the annual Israeli Presidential Conference hosted by Israel’s President Shimon Peres. He said the situation was beyond the help of confidence-building measures because the people on each side believe the other does not want the two-state outcome.
“If we’re going to give peace a chance…. we need to change the dynamic,” Ross said. “This is not about restoring confidence, it is about restoring belief.”
Ross called on the leadership of both sides to drastically change the messages they give to their own people, proposing six changes for each side to demonstrate they believe in a two-state outcome.
Ross called on the Israeli government to:
· Offer compensation to Israelis who want to voluntarily leave the West Bank
· Build housing for those Israelis who want to leave the West Bank
· Stop building outside of the settlement blocks it intends to keep within final borders
· Give Palestinians wider economic access and activity in Area C, to prove that Israel does not want to rule the Palestinians.
· Give Palestinian police more authority and presence in Area B.
· Come up with an agreed set of security criteria in Area A so Palestinians will know what steps to preclude Israeli army incursions against terrorists.
He called on the Palestinian leadership to:
· Put Israel on the map, noting one can’t find Israel on a map anywhere in a Palestinian textbook or Palestinian website.
· Palestinian leaders must start to talk about two states for two peoples.
· End incitement and stop saying that those who kill Israelis are martyrs. That sends an unmistakable message.
· Start preparing the Palestinian people for the inevitable compromises, and that the time for hard decisions is coming.
· Stop Palestinians from living in terrible conditions and invest in poor areas.
· Continue to build their own state and build institutions, with the most important being those of the rule of law.
Ross called on both sides to not take unilateral steps saying his ideas were suggestions only so that each side could define their own steps.