The Palestinian unity government is going to pose a severe and mounting challenge to Israeli diplomacy. Palestinians are leveraging on US problems in Iraq and European and Arab concerns about Iran to mount an organized campaign for international support and recognition. They are demanding support for what is, essentially, a government that openly declares its intention to ultimately destroy Israel, while upholding the right to terrorism and setting impossible and unacceptable conditions for a temporary cease fire ("Hudna").
Recognition of the Palestinian Unity government by European governments is a triple threat. It is a short term political victory for the Palestinians. It pressures Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians under their terms, and it lends legitimacy to the Hamas program
for eventual destruction of the Jewish state.
The Palestinians have a strong hand. Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia, are anxious to displace Iranian influence with the Palestinians and will support the Palestinians at their upcoming summit conference. At the same time, they will push their Arab peace plan, which, in contradiction to the Palestinian unity platform, calls for recognition of Israel, though likewise, at an unacceptable price - the return of Palestinian refugees, which would mean the end of the Jewish state. Because of the urgency of getting Arab cooperation in dealing with Iraq and Iran, and of course, the leverage provided by Arab oil and trade opportunities, Arab support for the Palestinian cause will carry weight with European governments and cannot be ignored by the US either. The UN of course, is usually inclined to go along with any measure that is bad for Israel.
Until now, Israel has succeeded in isolating the Palestinian authority, at least formally. The isolation is more a formality than a reflection of reality. President Abbas and other figures have been negotiating with the United States and European countries either openly or through back channels. Though the Palestinian government does not get direct aid from European countries or the United States, it has nonetheless gotten over a billion dollars in aid in 2006 through a charade of mechanisms that circumvent the Hamas government. Now, even these formalities are crumbling. The US Consul in Jerusalem met with Palestinian finance minister Salam Fayyad, and Norway has announced that it is extending recognition to the Palestinians.
Realistically, preservation of the current stalemate is intolerable to the US, European countries, Russia and the Arabs. All want to see "progress" toward a resolution of the conflict. Israel is going to be under increasing pressure to negotiate with the Palestinians, as they gain increasing recognition. Stonewalling is not going to serve Israel's interests. The Arabs and Palestinians have set forth "peace plans" of their own. The Arab peace plan is surrender for peace. The Palestinians do not even propose peace in return for surrender. Neither plan is acceptable to Israel. The Palestinians and Arabs have been clear about their demands, and cagey or recalcitrant concerning what they would give in return. Israel has clear about its requirements, but likewise cagey about what it would give in return. The Arab and Palestinian plans are not meant as practical peace plans but rather as rhetorical devices to isolate Israel as "inflexible." They both call for return of Palestinian refugees to Israel, which would swamp Israel with an alien and hostile population and mean the end of Jewish self determination. They both call for return to precise 1967 borders. This would involve the ethnic cleansing of about 450,000 Jews from the environs of Jerusalem and from the West Bank. At the same time, the Palestinians insist on a racist exclusivist state in the West Bank and Gaza, that could not, as a practical matter, allow the settlement of Jews in those areas. These proposals are unfair, inhumane and impractical. Nonetheless, the "plans" are touted as legitimate and reasonable solutions, and serve as a fig leaf for countries like Norway that want an excuse to deal with the Palestinians. Israel is going to have to come up with a peace plan.
Not vague talk about a "political horizon" or equally vague promises about painful concessions and making life better for Palestinians, but a concrete and clear, public plan. The plan must be based on the Quartet peace plan and consistent with it, and should be offered as a basis for active US and European intervention in the peace process. Arab states who really want peace should be able to accept such a plan as well.
There is such a plan out there. In fact there are several of them. The principles already have the approval of the United States government and would be acceptable to Europeans and moderate Arabs. They would possibly be acceptable to moderate Palestinians, though not to the Hamas. Everyone in the West understands that the solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict will have to look something like the Geneva Accord, the Clinton bridging proposals and the Ayalon-Nusseibeh plan. All these have in common several features: Recognition of two states for two peoples, real peace, a real end to violence exchange of territories, a solution for the refugees outside of Israel and a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem. Israel made such proposals in negotiations in Washington in 2000 and in Taba in 2001. They were never made public officially and the maps that Israel proposed were leaked, but never made public. That permitted Jimmy Carter to lie about the proposals in his book.
This time there must be no mistake and no possibility of misunderstanding. The Israeli proposal must not be muttered in back rooms so it can be derided as "Bantustans." It must be public. The Israeli proposal must have two parts. The principles of an end to violence and incitement and recognition of Jewish self determination as well as Palestinian self determination in two independent states are not negotiable. Israel is not going to commit suicide for any peace proposal. "Right of Return" of refugees would end Jewish self determination. The maps should be public as well, though these should be negotiable within reasonable limits. The US and EU must back this plan, which is consistent with all of their public pronouncements, the Quartet proposals and the Clinton bridging proposals, and they must intervene actively to enlist Arab support for the plan. If the Palestinians accept this plan, then they have essentially accepted the conditions of the quartet as well as those of Israel and committed themselves to peace. If they reject the conditions, then it is they who will be isolated by world opinion and seen as obstructing peace. Ami Isseroff
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Replies: 1 Comment
I think you are right about the coming diplomatic challenges facing Israel and about the most effective strategies for responding to them. I have one idea for you: I think you could be much more persuasive if - instead of talking about a right of Jews to self-determination - you spoke about the right of Jews (and all human beings) to provide their own civil protection when that civil protection is not promised credibly (or promised at all) by the surrounding powers. That's a clear-cut human rights issue. The argument should be quite persuasive to U.S. citizens, at least those who know the political theory underlying the founding of the US government.
Jesse Freeman, Wednesday, March 21st
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