Ami Ayalon, a former head of Israel’s internal security agency, is a founder of Blue White Future, a nonpartisan political movement committed to a two-state solution for Israeli-Palestinian peace. He was here this week for a town hall meeting organized by J Street’s $1 million national “The 2 Campaign” to build the “great constituency” Secretary of State John Kerry has called for to promote a two-state solution.
Q: On Sunday, the Arab League refused Israel’s demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. What’s your reaction?
A: For me such recognition is necessary in order to create a viable agreement. … As long as we are fighting, it is not very important. But once we say we want to live here side by side it is very important for us that they understand and recognize us the way we understand ourselves.
The Arab League argues that such recognition “aims to annul the right of return and compensation for Palestinian refugees.” Is that true?
I agree with the fact that once it is a Jewish state we have the right to maintain our majority. … The idea of creating a Palestinian state on the other side of the border is to create a safe home for Palestinian refugees.
When it comes to compensation, I believe they should be compensated and that Israel should participate in an international fund that will provide it. When we created our state, they left their homes as a result of the war, and I think we should help them.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he will tell President Barack Obama Monday that he does not wish to continue the U.S.-brokered peace talks. What would you suggest instead?
I think the peace process the way we saw it in recent years led us nowhere. This is why I support [Secretary of State John] Kerry’s attempt to come up with a framework [for peace].
Should the framework be enforced?
No, I think it should be an American paper that represents the Quartet’s view [Russia, the European Union, the United Nations and the U.S.] and is accepted by the international community.
Everybody understands what the parameters will be if they are accepted. We see in polls taken over the last 10 years that we can live with two states for two people — Jewish and Palestinian — with borders based on the 1967 lines along with territorial swaps based on demography, security and contiguity. In Jerusalem, the Jewish neighborhoods would be under Israeli sovereignty, Palestinian areas under Palestinian sovereignty, and holy places should be a combination — Palestinians would be the guardian of the Haram al-Sharif [Temple Mount], Israel the guardian of the Western Wall, and at Christian holy places the status quo would be maintained.
Regarding security, Palestine would be demilitarized and the international community would guarantee its safety and the security of refugees. Palestinians should return only to the state of Palestine and Jews only to the state of Israel. Settlers who remain in Palestinian territory should negotiate with the Palestinians and remain only with Palestinian approval and conditions.
Would Israelis agree to those terms?
I believe between 65 to 80 percent of Israelis can live with it — it depends on how you put the question. It would also have to go to a national referendum. I would like to see a referendum for the Palestinians.
Why is this set of principles a game changer?
Because we would be shifting from direct negotiations as a precondition to every agreement to a different paradigm in which each side would be able to move independently as long as it brings us closer to this set of principles. It make it easier for the Israeli prime minister to say we want to negotiate, but we will not be the hostage of any Palestinian negotiators or of Jews who are against the idea of two states. He can declare that until the Palestinians agree, we have no sovereignty claims east of the security fence, and that is why we are not going to build east of the fence or in Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem.
Once there is a statement of principles, it is in Israel’s interest to say at the U.N. that Palestine should be declared a state. I prefer to negotiate our borders with a state. And once they have a state, they have something to lose.