There’s a new peace initiative in town. It is similar to the Clinton-Barak proposals of 2000, with the Golan Heights thrown in. It is framed as an Israeli response to the Arab (or Saudi) Peace Initiative. My feeling is that although it was officially created by a group of Israelis, including former security officials and relatives of former PM Itzhak Rabin, it is in essence the Obama Plan. And it is much worse than the Clinton-Barak proposals because of the influence of the Arab initiative.
Some things I noticed:
It begins thus:
Reaffirming that Israel’s strategic objective is to reach a historic compromise and permanent status agreements that shall determine the finality of all claims and the end of the Israeli Arab conflict…
This principle will not be a part of any permanent agreement signed with any Palestinian Arab faction, because it contradicts their national goals as set out in their founding documents — the assertion of Arab (and in the case of Hamas, Muslim) control over the entire area from the Jordan to the Mediterranean.
…the Israeli Palestinian conflict shall be resolved on the principle of two states for two nations: Palestine as a nation state for the Palestinians and Israel as a nation state for the Jews (in which the Arab minority will have equal and full civil rights as articulated in Israel’s Declaration of Independence).
“A nation state for the Jews” is not the same as ‘a Jewish state’. We know that the Arabs will not agree to recognize a “Jewish state”. Is a “state for the Jews” different? Apparently it is something less. It makes my head spin.
Regarding the Arab minority. It says the “will have equal and full civil rights…” Don’t they already? If not, what civil — as opposed to national rights don’t they have? Will they get additional rights that they don’t have today?
The state shall be demilitarized, exercising full authority over its internal security forces. The International community shall play an active role in providing border security and curbing terrorist threats.
‘Demilitarized’ will need to be defined, as will a mechanism for ensuring demilitarization. Count me very, very skeptical about the possibility of doing this in the real world. Regarding the ‘active role’ of the ‘international community’, will it work as well as it did in disarming Hizballah?
The borders shall be based on the June 4, 1967, lines, with agreed modifications subject to the following principles: the creation of territorial contiguity between the Palestinian territories; land swaps (not to exceed 7% of the West Bank) based on a 1:1 ratio, including the provision of a safe corridor between the West Bank and Gaza, under de facto Palestinian control.
I must ask: what is special about these ‘borders’, which are simply the 1949 armistice lines, which both Israel and the Arab states clearly did not accept as borders, and which UNSC resolution 242 implied were not ‘secure and defensible’? How did illegal Jordanian occupation for 19 years create an Arab claim on them? Israel has occupied them for longer than that, if occupation is a criterion for ownership.
How was it decided that ‘Palestine’ must have “territorial contiguity” but Israel not?
If 1949 lines plus 7% territorial swaps define the borders, many Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria will find themselves in ‘Palestine’. What will happen to them? The document doesn’t say, but Mahmoud Abbas has announced that no “continued Israeli presence, military or civil” will be allowed in ‘Palestine’. Will these new Jewish refugees be compensated? Will they be made to leave their homes by force? Will even one Arab be required to leave Israel?
Jerusalem is to be redivided. In Jerusalem,
The line shall be drawn so that: Jewish neighborhoods shall be under Israeli sovereignty; the Arab neighborhoods shall be under Palestinian sovereignty.
This sounds practical in principle, but in practice it may be impossible. The result will be more Jews and important Jewish sites ending up in ‘Palestine’. And I ask the same questions that I asked in the preceding paragraph.
the Temple Mount shall remain under a special no-sovereignty regime (“God Sovereignty”), with special agreed-upon arrangements, ensuring that Islamic holy places shall be administered by the Moslem Waqf, and Jewish holy sites and interests shall be administered by Israel. The implementation of these arrangements will be supervised by an Israeli-International committee
I love this. If only God would make his sovereignty manifest here there wouldn’t be a problem! But since Israel ceded day-to-day control of the Temple Mount to the Waqf in 1967, the Arabs have trampled Israeli sovereignty and priceless archaeological relics underfoot; how much more would they do so with an “Israeli-International committee” supervising them!
The solutions for the Palestinian refugees shall be agreed upon between Israel, the Palestinians and all regional parties in accordance with the following principles: Financial compensation shall be offered to the refugees and the host countries by the international community and Israel; the Palestinian refugees wishing to return (as mentioned in UNGAR 194) may do so only to the Palestinian state, with mutually agreed-upon symbolic exceptions who will be allowed to return to Israel.
Starting at the end, what will the “symbolic exceptions” symbolize? That Arab refugees have a ‘right of return’ in principle that is not actualized for practical reasons? Why isn’t it actualized, then? When will it be? Is this not inconsistent with the idea that the Arabs renounce all further claims against Israel?
Further, why should Israel have any part in compensating them? Compensating them for what? The Jewish refugees from Arab countries are mentioned, but there’s no mention of compensating them. The implication is that it is Israel’s fault, rather than the Arab leadership, both in Palestine and the Arab nations, that is responsible for the flight of the original refugees, and their continued inability to find permanent homes.
The document also calls for Israel to surrender the Golan Heights to Syria. There is no mention in this section of what Syria will do in return except follow the principles of the UN charter and international law, and there is no justification. Just like Czechoslovakia in 1938, Israel is told to give it up. But the best guarantee of peace between Israel and Syria, one which does not require international peacekeepers, is the highly strategic Golan Heights. A true ‘peace’ agreement would leave it in Israel’s hands.
Further, there is an overriding practical reason that Israel must keep the Golan: many analysts will tell you that if Israel had not held the Golan in 1973, Syrian armies would almost certainly have reached major population centers in Israel. Judging by Syrian treatment of captured Israeli soldiers — horrendous beyond belief — Israel might have been driven to use its last-ditch nuclear deterrent in that case.
The parties will create regional security mechanisms, addressing shared threats and risks arising from states, terrorist organizations, marine pirate groups, and guerrilla organizations. to ensure the safety and security of the peoples of the region.
All of Israel’s conflicts, even the oft-questioned 1982 Lebanon War, have been defensive in nature, albeit on occasion tactically preemptive. The Middle East is full of crazy Arab propaganda about Israeli intentions to conquer the entire Middle East, commit genocide against the Palestinian Arabs, etc., but it is not possible to honestly accuse Israel of expansionism. On the other hand, all of the terrorist groups are supported and encouraged by Arab nations and Iran. So it is impossible for me to imagine that there can be a “regional mechanism” whose effect will be to protect Israel.
Last but not least:
Israel, the Arab States and the Islamic States commit to implement gradual steps towards establishing normal relations between them, in the spirit of the Arab Peace Initiative, which shall commence upon the launching of peace negotiations and shall be gradually upgraded to full normal relations (including diplomatic relations, open borders and economic ties) upon the signing of the permanent status agreements and throughout their implementation.
The “spirit of the Arab Peace Initiative” is precisely this: that until Israel completely meets all Arab demands — full withdrawal to 1967 lines, refugee rights, etc. — then and only then will the Arabs grant “full normal relations.” While the original Arab League initiative doesn’t clearly define “normal relations”, neither in that document nor this one is recognition of Israel as Jewish state included.
Even insofar as Israel gets anything from this initiative, consider what is being offered: Israel is required to surrender all of its strategic, concrete advantages, including the Golan Heights whose security implications are immense, give up the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, evacuate its citizens from land from which it will withdraw, admit that it is responsible for the plight of the Arab refugees (which admission will have serious legal consequences at some point). In return, there will be no recognition of a Jewish state, and something called ‘normal relations’.
And what, in all this, guarantees Israel’s security after it pulls back to close to what have been called ‘Auschwitz borders’? Treaties, promises and international peacekeepers — peacekeepers which have been tried more than once in the Middle East and have never succeeded in keeping the peace! Indeed, UN troops in Lebanon have protected the terrorist Hizballah against Israel.
As far as treaties are concerned, consider that not one of the candidates for president in Egypt has said that he would not abrogate the peace treaty with Israel. Even the American-backed ‘moderate’ Mohammad el-Baradei said recently that under his presidency, Egypt would fight alongside Hamas if Israel invades Gaza!
This is not an ‘Israeli peace initiative’. It is the Arab initiative with a few tweaks that the Arabs will try to negotiate away anyway. It is blueprint to pressure Israel into giving up the means to defend itself.
Its proponents will tell you that it is intended to preempt a unilateral declaration of ‘Palestine’, which would be worse. Would it? I don’t think that’s clear.