By Vic Rosenthal
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, whom many consider the most likely person to be Prime Minister after Olmert, spoke to a public meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense committee today (quotations from Ha’aretz, interspersed with my comments):
…Livni said Monday that an Arab peace plan is no substitute for direct negotiations with the Palestinians, and urged Arab leaders to prod the Palestinians into making concessions with Israel.
The plan is not intended seriously by the Arab states, who do not see an end to the conflict with Israel (other than one which includes an end to Israel), as in their interest. On the other hand, there must be Palestinians who grasp that their situation can only get worse without a solution. Mustn’t there?
She added that it would not be possible to end the conflict with the Palestinians with a military incursion into the Gaza strip. Instead, she said, a military action would only cause damage and bolster extremists who want to see the diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority fail.
The situation in which Palestinian terrorists can depopulate an area of the country — which will grow as the range of their rockets increases — cannot be allowed to stand, for psychological and political reasons in addition to military ones. A solution has to be found, and if the only one possible is an incursion, then there needs to be an incursion. Will it bolster extremists? Far less than allowing them to operate with impunity is doing.
The foreign minister went on to say that “in order for Israel to exist as a democratic Jewish state, in a way that does not contradict itself, we must achieve a situation in which there are two sovereign states.”
In a two-state situation, Livni explained, the Palestinians would be able to evoke the right of return and enter a Palestinian state, not Israel.
She seems to be invoking the demographic argument; that is, only by giving up the territories will it be possible for Israel to have a Jewish character and still give full rights to all of her citizens. But there are some very big problems that can’t be swept under the rug:
Can a tiny Palestinian state in the poor land of the West Bank and overpopulated Gaza be economically viable? Is it possible for a Palestinian leadership to arise that could govern this state as anything other than a base for attacks against Israel? If there were such a leadership, would the extremists permit it to function? What about the Israeli Arabs? Will they be happy under Jewish control or will they demand yet another partition? Does this ‘solution’ just postpone the demographic problem rather than solve it?
Livni said that it is imperative that all the committee members agree on the method with which to go about negotiating with the Palestinians. A permanent solution however, she said, is not realistic at this time. “The fact is,” she said, “that at the head of the Palestinian government stands an extremist religious terror organization.”
Indeed. So she recognizes that there is nobody with whom to negotiate a two-state solution. Then what is the object of negotiating? The danger of doing so is that the US and Europeans will force Israel into making dangerous concrete concessions that can’t easily be taken back while we know a priori that with Hamas as a ‘partner’ there is no hope for a settlement. Only Hamas, not Israel, could benefit.
Livni also said that the foreign ministry is making efforts to prevent the Hezbollah from rearming itself, and to free the captured soldiers. She said that Israel can currently protect itself from the Hezbollah threat using tools provided by United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Hezbollah has rearmed, and there has not been a single sign of life from the soldiers since they were captured. And finally, unless the ‘tools’ she mentions include a short-range missile defense system, this simply cannot be true.