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2 negotiators with peace plan experience have a plan to kickstart peace talks


The horrors going on in the Holy Land right now make peace seem like a dream. But Yossi Beilin and Hiba Husseini say that a political solution for lasting peace is the only path out of this violence. Husseini is a former legal adviser to the Palestinian peace process delegation. Beilin is a former Israeli justice minister who helped devise the Oslo process in the 1990s that many hoped would bring peace and lead to a Palestinian state. It didn't. Earlier this year, the pair proposed a new peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians, two states that would make up what they call the Holy Land Confederation - no land swaps and cooperation that allows free movement between the two nations. Beilin started by telling me that this moment, however horrible, presents an opportunity.

YOSSI BEILIN: I believe that the chances for negotiating peace today is paradoxically bigger than just a month ago. The problem is much higher on the agenda that people in Israel understand much better that it is - by not solving the Palestinian state and by talking about peace, so-called normalization with other Arab countries, you are not solving the Palestinian problem. You may do something which is of importance, of course, but this is not a substitute for direct talks between us and the Palestinians.

FADEL: Hiba, I want to ask you the same question. When you look today in the state of war, is peace possible with Palestinian statehood on the other side?

HIBA HUSSEINI: I mean, what's the other option, really? More and more human pain and suffering, prolonged war, reoccupation of the Gaza Strip by Israel, continuing the division of West Bank and Gaza, ignoring East Jerusalem, the holy sites? I mean, our Confederation proposal was called the Holy Land Confederation on purpose. It was not by coincidence. It was really a statement to Israelis and Palestinians and to the world that this conflict can and should be resolved. And we cannot go back to the status quo of October 6.

FADEL: Yossi Beilin, you're considered the architect of the Oslo Accords, a pair of agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, or PLO, aimed to achieve peace and provide Palestinians the right to self-determination. Why did those agreements fail?

BEILIN: Because of the extremists on both sides who were ready to sacrifice their lives in order to thwart our efforts. I think that we, including myself, were, in many ways, intoxicated, if I may say so, by the big majorities we saw in the public opinion polls supporting the Oslo Agreement. It takes few people to harm these efforts. We never thought about the massacre in Hebron, and we never thought about the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. And on the other hand, the suicide bombers of Hamas who opened the doors of hell in '94 made it more and more difficult to believe in peace and to support peace. And we found ourselves with governments on both sides which were against the Oslo Agreement.

FADEL: And that includes Netanyahu's government?

BEILIN: Of course.

FADEL: Hiba, do you also feel this way about the reason these agreements failed?

HUSSEINI: Yeah. To a large extent of - I agree with Yossi, definitely. At the same time, a lot of Palestinians felt disappointed and let down. So they have seen their lives - the quality of their lives deteriorating instead of improving. In the meantime, Israel, their neighbor with whom they're supposed to be having a peaceful relationship, is developing, moving into high-tech, agro business, growing access to the international world, and we are stuck under occupation. So from a Palestinian perspective, to many, Oslo was not a success.

FADEL: The extremists in both communities that don't agree with coexistence, that - they're still going to be part of both societies. How do you deal with that? And I'm talking about Hamas. I'm talking about armed settlers. I'm talking about the most right-wing cabinet ministers or the right-wing members of Israeli society. What do you do?

BEILIN: We have to know exactly whom are we speaking about. And I believe that on both sides, the security authorities are knowledgeable about these groups. They are - the good news is they are not very big. Of course, in the long run, it is education. But if we are speaking about the short run, the coming years, it is first and foremost to follow them, to find them and to arrest them, if needed.

FADEL: Hiba?

HUSSEINI: Well, there are going to be spoilers, no doubt about that, I mean, as it happens in every society. The mainstream gave the spoilers the opportunity to grow. So these are mistakes that should not be repeated. We cannot allow the minority - extreme minority - to spoil for the majority who are pluralistic, who want peace, who want to have a welfare and live in peace. They - see, the majority do not accept violence on either side...

FADEL: Yeah.

HUSSEINI: ...But we have allowed them to grow because we have ignored the problem. We cannot allow the problem to be ignored. I mean, there are laws. I mean, when somebody commits a crime, I mean, somebody, let's say, in the U.S., commits homicide, he or she are arrested, and they're tried, and they are imprisoned. Here, they are left to grow and keep growing into bigger and bigger groups. We have to stop this.

FADEL: You've proposed, together, a path forward, a possible path towards peace and a true solution. Do you think people will listen?

BEILIN: Now they will.

FADEL: Because of this war?

BEILIN: Because of this war, yeah. They wanted to deceive themselves and to say, OK, we can continue and go on like that. And they know today that it is totally - but totally impossible.

HUSSEINI: People have to listen, whether it's our idea or other ideas, but people have to listen to the urgency in addressing this conflict, so I think this is the time.

FADEL: Yossi Beilin and Hiba Husseini. Together, they proposed a new approach to reach a long-lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians with two states. Thank you for your time.

BEILIN: Thank you. Thank you for having us.

HUSSEINI: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SVANEBORG KARDYB'S "HAV") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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