Jerusalem divided by a series of fences, trenches and walls. The West Bank and Gaza linked by a sunken highway. Palestinians and Israelis trading land that would require 100,000 Jewish settlers to move.
These proposals are part of a 424-age blueprint for Mideast peace presented Tuesday — the most detailed description yet of what an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal could look like.
The plan was released as a new U.S. diplomatic effort was under way to restart peace talks and ahead of meetings next week at the annual gathering of world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
Created by teams of Israeli and Palestinian experts and former negotiators, the blueprint is meant to show it’s still possible to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel, despite many setbacks, said those involved in the drafting.
“If you want to resolve the conflict, here is the recipe,” said Gadi Baltiansky, a leader of the Israeli team.
The core of the plan is a Palestinian state in nearly 98 percent of the West Bank, all of the Gaza Strip and the Arab-populated areas of Jerusalem. By going into the tiniest details, it highlights the staggering challenges and expense of implementing any peace deal.
The blueprint was presented on Tuesday by Yossi Beilin, a former Israeli peace negotiator, and by Mr. Baltiansky, who served as an aide to former Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
The Palestinian participants kept a low profile. The most senior, Yasser Abed Rabbo, now a high-ranking aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, declined comment and did not attend the plan’s unveiling in Tel Aviv.
Israeli officials said the Palestinians planned their own presentation later, but it appeared the Palestinians also wanted to avoid giving the impression their government endorses the plan. Israeli government officials also declined comment.
The blueprint highlights how complex and expensive peace will be.
It had to resort to flow charts to describe a multilayered bureaucracy of thousands of international troops and monitors who would serve as referees. The partition of Jerusalem would require building border terminals inside the city and dividing a major thoroughfare between the two states.
A sunken four-lane highway with bridges and tunnels would be built through Israel to link the West Bank and Gaza, administered by the Palestinians but under Israeli sovereignty. Israeli motorists would have to carry tracking devices on designated transit routes through Palestine to make sure they didn’t go astray.
The document builds on the 50-page outline of a peace deal published in 2003 by the same group, known as the Geneva Initiative. It is also close to the terms of a failed agreement suggested in late 2000 by then President Bill Clinton.
The blueprint goes into detail on issues that were only dealt with in broad strokes in the earlier efforts.
For example, the 2003 plan said the West Bank and Gaza, which flank Israel, should be connected by a corridor running through the Jewish state. The expanded proposal describes a sunken four-lane highway with bridges and tunnels; it would also give the Palestinians the option of adding train tracks, underground fuel pipes and communications cables.
The partition of Jerusalem required perhaps the most creativity.
Earlier efforts called for Jewish neighbourhoods to join Israel and Arab ones to become part of Palestine. However, traditionally Arab east Jerusalem has become a patchwork of Jewish and Arab neighbourhoods since Israel captured it in the 1967 Mideast war and moved nearly 2,00,000 Israelis there.
As a result, the border on the blueprint snakes around neighbourhoods, divvying them between Israel and Palestine. A major thoroughfare that bisects the city would become a binational road, with Israeli and Palestinian motorists divided by a series of fences, trenches, walls and greenery.
A pedestrian overpass in the downtown area, near the famed American Colony Hotel, would link the Palestinian part of Jerusalem with the Israeli sector, passing through a border checkpoint.
Huge multilevel border terminals would be built in the northern and southern areas of the city, and planners included detailed architectural drawings of the crossings.
Both sides would have access to the walled Old City with its major religious shrines, but from separate gates. The border puts the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism, in Israel, while the Palestinians would get the adjacent al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam’s third-holiest shrine.
The document does not have a detailed chapter on the fate of Palestinian refugees and their millions of descendants, one of the toughest issues facing peacemakers. The Palestinian team leader, Nidal Foqaha, said the issue was still too sensitive.
The security annex was the most difficult to put together, Baltiansky said. He said the involvement of senior former Israeli military officials ensured the document addresses Israel’s security concerns.
Israel fears Palestinian militants would overrun the West Bank after a withdrawal and launch rockets at Israel. Gaza was seized by Hamas in 2007, two years after Israel’s withdrawal, and militants there have fired thousands of rockets into southern Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants a future Palestinian state to be demilitarized, and the security annex lists weapons the Palestinian security forces would be banned from having, including tanks, artillery, rockets, heavy machine guns and weapons of mass destruction.
The plan also stipulates that an Israeli infantry battalion of 800 soldiers would remain in the Jordan Valley, on the West Bank’s border with Jordan, for three years after all other Israeli troops have left the Palestinian territory.
“When Netanyahu speaks about a non-militarised Palestine, in this book we write exactly what it means,” Mr. Baltiansky said. “We translate it into a detailed reality.”
The manual is being presented to Israeli and Palestinian leaders as well as top diplomats in the U.S., Europe and Egypt in hopes they will use it as a reference once peace talks resume, organisers said.