Toward reengagement

Together with ten Israelis and Palestinians I was recently privileged to write an action plan for the implementation of Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

What is this plan all about? What are its objectives?

The plan, which was drafted in Greece and is called the "Athens Plan", is based on the need to transform Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s disengagement plan from a unilateral program that may bring about chaos, humanitarian crisis and domination by Hamas in Gaza, into a bilateral, Israeli-Palestinian plan, supported by the international community. As such it may serve as a positive model for future measures, wherein both terror and occupation will be ended.

What are the advantages of this specific plan?

First, it is a very practical program. It does not deal with future borders or other problems related to a final status agreement. The Athens Plan can be fully implemented next week if all parties involved agree. The plan is concrete, practical and comprehensive. It combines the military measures that must be taken, with the economic measures that are required to change the lives of 1.4 million residents of the Gaza Strip: trade, agriculture, housing, transportation, etc.

Secondly, it is a genuine co-production of Israelis and Palestinians. The plan was prepared through a process of brainstorming, discussions by sub-groups (economic and political), and finally a joint effort to iron out the disagreements in the wording of the final version. The fact that all 11 participants are mainstream and not fringe figures in their respective societies indicates that the plan is based on a real convergence of national interests and on a constructive compromise wherever interests or concepts contradict one another.

Last but not least, on each issue, in each domain, the plan details for Israel, for the Palestinian Authority and for the Arab states and international community what they should do.

Why is this plan good for Israel?

First, its successful implementation ensures that the Gaza Strip will not be a Hamastan, a base for terror and incitement, but a place where law and order prevail and terror activity ceases, so that Israeli soldiers are never again in Gaza. Secondly, it prevents the outbreak of a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, a crisis for which Israel will be blamed and from whose consequences it will suffer.

Most important, if the Athens Plan is successfully implemented, the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank will be a model for the future. Israel will be able to continue handing over additional areas of the West Bank, subject to the cessation of terror and followed by economic development.

Even the initial implementation of such a plan will change the atmosphere, increase tourism and investment in Israel, and revive hope after four years of war.