The White House has made clear, as recently as last Thursday's press briefing by Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, that President Barack Obama's visit to Israel this week "is not about trying to lay down a new initiative" for Arab-Israeli peace. Yet over the last 13 years, there have been only two rounds of substantive negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians and two realistic peace proposals: former U.S. President Bill Clinton's 2000 "Clinton Parameters" and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's 2008 proposal, neither of which was accepted by the Palestinian leadership.
The Palestinians have opted for a unilateral strategy, bypassing negotiations with Israel to seek unconditional U.N. recognition of the "State of Palestine." They hope that the international community will deliver Israeli concessions without forcing them to make the reciprocal ones that a negotiated agreement with Israel would inevitably require. It is not at all clear that even a negotiated peace agreement would win the support of the Palestinian people, let alone be implemented in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, where Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), cannot even visit. Moreover, the PA continues its efforts towards reconciliation with Hamas, a terrorist group armed by Iran, which has sworn to destroy Israel.
We Israelis cannot continue to wait for the Palestinians. Israel must take charge of its future as a Jewish, democratic, secure, and legitimate state. A poll conducted in December 2012 indicated that some 80 percent of Israelis still support a credible peace agreement with the Palestinians. We therefore propose that Israel lay down an initiative -- one that will breathe new life into the peace process.
Israel should begin by once again presenting the Palestinians with a generous and realistic proposal along the lines of the Clinton Parameters and Olmert's comprehensive 2008 offer. If, yet again, the Palestinian leadership is unwilling to resume credible negotiations, Israel should pro-actively take constructive, unilateral, internationally coordinated steps towards a two-state reality, meaning the de facto -- if not yet de jure -- existence of two nation-states for two peoples. This process could lead to the resumption of negotiations. Israel should attempt to coordinate with, or at least inform, the PA of such steps, but proceed independently even in the absence of approval.
Unilateral Israeli action would create tangible progress toward a two-state solution and generate momentum towards re-establishing negotiations. As such, Obama should support it. Such a plan contradicts neither U.S. commitment to a bilaterally negotiated solution nor U.S. opposition to unconstructive, unilateral actions that could impede negotiations, such as terrorism and international legal actions against Israel.