The Israel/Arab conflict is reaching a new point of inflection. The status quo which has been in place more or less since the early ’90’s (when the PLO returned to the territories from Tunis) is about to be replaced by a new reality. This change could be peaceful, or — more likely — it could be mediated by the most vicious war in Israel’s history. But possible outcomes could be very different, depending primarily on the actions of the Israeli government.
The Hamas/Fatah arrangement, as I wrote recently, is designed to facilitate the creation of a state of ‘Palestine’ in the territories without recognition of Israel, end of conflict, or security arrangements. Such a state would immediately be in confrontation with Israel over settlements, etc., and would be a base for terrorism or outright war. If it were recognized by enough UN members, Israel’s self defense would be seen as aggression against the new state, and could be met with sanctions or worse.
But the Arab plan faces an obstacle: the US, and to a lesser extent, the Europeans, require that a Palestinian Authority that includes Hamas must agree to the three conditions of recognition, accepting prior agreements (Oslo) and renouncing violence. Hamas has never been prepared to even pretend to agree to these things.
The Arab strategy to overcome this is described brilliantly by the pseudonymous “Eldad Tzioni”:
So this is the game:
The PLO is the party that negotiates with Israel, and the party that officially recognizes Israel.
The PA [Palestinian Authority] is only responsible for governing the Arabs in the territories, not with any foreign relations.
The PA, despite claims of being democratic, reports to the PLO.
The fake Hamas/Fatah reconciliation is meant to only address the PA, not the PLO. They won’t hold any elections until after September, if ever.
So the PLO will claim to still recognize Israel and be peaceful, as it will claim that from its perspective nothing has changed.
The instant that Palestine is declared a state that is recognized by the world, in part because of these assurances that it is a peaceful state that recognizes Israel, Hamas and Fatah (and all the other terrorist parties that decide to join the government) will immediately take over the PLO’s foreign affairs, as that is what nations do. The PLO’s foreign affairs role will be superseded by “Palestine.”
Which means that the very minute that Palestine is recognized as a state, it will be by definition a terror state that no longer recognizes Israel! And indeed it will not need to. The entire peace process since Oslo has been a sham in order to gain territory, with peace being a tactic, not a strategy.
As I wrote yesterday, the introduction of Hamas into the PA means that the ‘peace process’ is over. Israel can no sooner make peace with Hamas than it could have with Hitler. The Oslo accords require recognition, etc., and so the day Hamas joins the PA, the PA will have abrogated the Oslo agreements. But Oslo created the PA. And Oslo recognized the PLO as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”.
This means that the PA will be illegitimate, and the status of the territories will revert to the way it was defined by UNSC resolution 242: the entire area is disputed, until the parties can agree on secure and recognized boundaries. And it means that Israel will not be required to negotiate with the PLO — something that was illegal under Israeli law before Oslo, by the way.
This gives Israel freedom of action from a legal point of view, I think. Of course, in the real world nations do whatever they can get away with. Force rules and diplomacy provides fig leaves. So Israel can’t depend on support from other nations just because it makes a convincing legal case.
I think that Israel needs to act preemptively to establish facts on the ground before the September declaration of ‘Palestine’, in order to ensure its continued security. Here is an example of a proposal for the kind of actions Israel might take:
- Annex the large settlement blocs, the Jordan Valley, the ‘high ground’, and anything else that is necessary for security.
- Re-emphasize Israel’s commitment to a unified Jerusalem under Israeli rule.
- Publish a map which clearly defines the boundaries of the state.
- Make a clear statement — and implement it — that Israel will work to provide full civil rights to its Arab and other minorities, but will not give them national rights. The Palestinian Arab state will be outside the borders of Israel, which is defined as the state of the Jewish people.
Naturally the Arabs and their supporters will scream bloody murder, including threats of war. Israel’s leaders and supporters must keep in mind that the replacement of Israel by an Arab state is and always has been the goal of the major Palestinian Arab factions. What has happened now is that the mask has dropped, and it will not be productive for Israel to pretend that there is still a possibility of a compromise peace.
The possibility of a major war today is greater than it has been for some time. Now to the threat from Hizballah and Hamas, we must add the possibility that Bashar al-Assad will deliberately provoke or join a conflict in order to divert attention from his violent suppression of domestic opposition, and also the possibility that Egypt will facilitate the supply of weapons to Hamas in Gaza.
But it seems to me that war will come if and when Israel’s enemies see the possibility of victory — that is, when it appears to them that Israel’s deterrent and defensive capability can be overcome. Israel’s ‘provocative’ actions would have little to do with it — the existence of any Jewish state is sufficient provocation.
The best way to prevent war, therefore, is to maintain the strongest possible defensive and deterrent posture. Proposals for appeasement, like the so-called ‘Israeli peace initiative‘, would have exactly the opposite effect. Naturally, the ‘peace camp’ is frantically coming up with new ideas along these lines. The good news is that they will be contemptuously dismissed by the Arabs, who are going for the whole enchilada.
Israel is facing a very difficult period in the near future. The way to traverse it successfully is to take a stance that is positive rather than apologetic or conciliatory.