JERUSALEM (AP) — A group of more than 200 Israeli military and intelligence officers criticized the government for a lack of action in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Friday and issued a detailed plan they say can end the impasse.
The report's publication closely follows a week of turmoil in Israeli politics that saw the appointment of a defense minister who is an outspoken skeptic of peace efforts with the Palestinians.
With peace talks in a deep freeze the plan by Commanders for Israel's Security on Friday called to "preserve conditions" for negotiations with the Palestinians. It urges a combination of political and security initiatives together with delivering economic benefits to Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem simultaneously.
It calls for a freeze on settlement building, the acceptance in principle of the Arab Peace Initiative and the recognition that east Jerusalem should be part of a future Palestinian state "when established as part of a future agreement." The Israeli opposition and much of the international community have long argued for these proposals.
Commanders for Israel's Security is a group comprised of more than 200 retired military generals and intelligence officers, veterans of decades of regional strife who are seeking to resolve the conflict. War veterans are well-respected in Israel, and their input has previously shifted debate.
The group's chairman, Amnon Reshef, a fabled Israeli war hero and a former commander of its armored corps, said the plan "refutes the fear mongers" who claim there is currently no Palestinian peace partner or that conditions are not right for negotiations. He said such an argument, which is common in Israel after years of conflict and failed talks, "should not serve as an excuse for passivity and inaction."
Reshef warned "the current status quo is an illusion" that endangers a two-state solution to the conflict.
The report widens a growing rift between the government and the country's military leaders. The former defense minister Moshe Yaalon was forced out after backing the military in a series of disagreements with political hard-liners. His ultranationalist successor, Avigdor Lieberman, is largely at odds with the military he now commands.
In March, military leaders criticized a soldier who was caught on video fatally shooting an already-wounded Palestinian attacker in the head — and he is now on trial for manslaughter. While Yaalon backed the military, Lieberman went to the court to offer his support to the soldier.
France is preparing to host a conference next month aimed at restarting peace talks that collapsed in 2014. The U.S.-led quartet of international peace mediators is set to release a report shortly expected to be critical of Israel.
Israel is struggling to combat eight months of Palestinian attacks, mostly stabbings, shootings and vehicular assaults, against civilians and security personnel that have killed 28 Israelis and two Americans. About 200 Palestinians were killed in that time, mostly attackers, Israel says. The assaults have been less frequent in recent weeks, but have not entirely stopped.
Reshef said his groups' plan aims to preserve conditions for future peace talks with the Palestinians while bettering Israel's national security, regional and international ties in the interim. "In our experience we know that you cannot defeat terror only by military means, you have to improve the Palestinians quality of life," he said.
The group of military veterans said it hopes the plan will be considered by decision-makers and by the general public in Israel as well as in the U.S., where a campaign with the Israel Policy Forum, an NGO, will be launched next week.