Two peace plans, both missing a piece

By Vic Rosenthal

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Amir Peretz have both come up with peace plans. By now, every imaginable permutation of Israeli withdrawals and Arab promises has been presented by somebody.

Livni’s plan, as described by Ari Shavit in Haaretz:

Apparently the idea is as follows: to promote a diplomatic process by means of a package of gestures that includes transferring money to the Palestinians, releasing prisoners and bringing in the Egyptians to help stop the arms smuggling on the Philadelphi route. Then, to conduct negotiations with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas about the second stage of the road map and about the establishment of a Palestinian state within interim borders. Then, to convene the moderate Arab countries to give him backing. And then, to hold elections in the PA in which the moderates will have a reasonable chance because they will be able to offer the Palestinian public a clear and existing political horizon.

And only then, if the moderates do in fact win, to return to the first stage of the road map, to deal with the dismantling of the terror infrastructure and to begin to move forward toward the evacuation of the settlements, a reduction of the occupation and the establishment of a real Palestinian state, while ensuring Israel’s security needs and receiving international guarantees that Israel will be recognized as a Jewish state and will not be asked to absorb Palestinian refugees.

And Peretz (also from Haaretz):

Peretz’ plan combines the Saudi peace initiative and the so-called road map for Middle East peace, and includes three stages. In the first stage, which would last six months, a new security and economic policy would be formulated. This would include the release of captured Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, the evacuation of unauthorized West Bank settlement outposts, and the stabilization of the cease-fire.

In the second stage, which would also last six months, would be comprised of negotiations on final status principles and the expansion of Palestinian sovereignty.

The third stage would consist of negotiations on the details of the final status agreement, and would last 18 months

Peretz also adds that he will only negotiate with ‘moderates’. And immediately we can see a major flaw: how will he achieve quiet (his ‘stabilization of the cease-fire’)? Does Abbas have the power to prevent suicide bombings? Can he stop the Kassams, and the soon to-be-used Katushyas? I think he honestly would like to, but he’s entirely impotent. And how can Israel negotiate a final settlement with him? Hamas will not honor the Oslo agreements signed by its predecessor government; why should it accept this one? Abbas has no popular base — his support now comes entirely from the US, Israel, and gunmen whose livelihood he provides — so why does an agreement with him have any validity?

The Livni plan is perhaps slightly more sophisticated, having the interesting plot twist of giving the ‘moderates’ something to make them attractive to the Palestinian voters, and at the same time developing the framework of the settlement off line, so to speak, before a final commitment is made. But it also contains elements of fantasy.

Since the Peace Process began with Oslo, we’ve seen a repeating cycle: we offer the Palestinians big things if they will only stop terrorism; they take what they can get but terrorism continues. So we offer them more; they take what they can get and terrorism continues. Now we seem to be learning that stopping terrorism is itself an obstacle to the process. Livni pays what amounts to lip service to ending terrorism at the beginning of the process, suggesting that the Egyptians would be helpful in stopping the smuggling (have they so far? And what would they gain by doing so?)

Livni’s plan will go over well in the US, involving as it does payoffs to ‘moderates’ and the involvement of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia (the ‘moderate’ Arab states). But it’s unimaginable that any deal worked out with Abbas and acceptable to Israel will be acceptable to the radicalized Palestinian public. The final stage, which requires Abbas to win an election, is impossible. And the continuing terrorism perpetrated by Hamas or its proxies will be intolerable to Israelis (there is an implication in both plans that is not well spelled out: that with funds from the US and help from Israel, Abbas will succeed in crippling Hamas. This is unlikely).

Livni also expects countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia to accept a refugee solution which does not require Israel to absorb them. But they’ve never given a hint that they would agree to such a ‘Zionist’ conception. We should keep in mind that their priorities have always placed hurting Israel before helping the Palestinians.

One problem with both plans is that they do not explicitly require that terrorism must stop before Israel makes concessions. It is insane to agree to sit down and talk with someone while his associates are murdering your family in another room.

Just as the Arabs use violence as part of their negotiating strategy, we must make stopping it part of ours. Any peace plan must have an initial component in which we demand that terrorism stop. If it continues, then it must be suppressed by force — as much force as is necessary. This stage must precede all prisoner releases, funds transfers, and discussions about borders and refugees. There is a web site with a banner that reads “There is only a military solution”. I would say “There is no solution which doesn’t have a military piece”, even if it’s only a credible threat.

Only when our family is not being murdered can we begin to talk. Only when we maintain our honor as a state (and our credible deterrent) can we have successful negotiations.

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