Archive for July, 2011

Sarkozy is closer to Israel’s position than Obama

Sunday, July 31st, 2011
French President Nicolas Sarkozy with PM Netanyahu in Paris, 2009

French President Nicolas Sarkozy with PM Netanyahu in Paris, 2009

This is interesting, but probably will make no difference:

At a press conference in Madrid last week, [French] Foreign Minister Alain Juppe publicly declared that “there will be no solution to the conflict in the Middle East without recognition of two nation-states for two peoples. The nation-state of Israel for the Jewish people, and the nation-state of Palestine for the Palestinian people.” Then, lest anyone overlook the statement’s significance or think it a mere slip of the tongue, his ministry yesterday circulated copies of it.

This is truly groundbreaking. Until now, no EU country has been willing to state publicly that an Israeli-Palestinian agreement must recognize Israel as the Jews’ nation-state, though the EU routinely details the concessions it expects Israel to make…

So what made Sarkozy get off the fence and approve Juppe’s public declaration of support for a Jewish state? It’s not that he suddenly joined the Zionist movement; neither have most of the countries favoring such language. Rather, they have finally grasped that no agreement is possible without satisfying Israel’s minimum requirements. No Israeli government will ever sign a deal that mandates full withdrawal to the 1967 lines, lacks adequate security provisions or doesn’t acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state. The major Israeli parties differ on precisely where the border should run and precisely what security arrangements are required, but they all agree on these basics.

Sarkozy, however, has now gone one step further: He’s realized since Israel won’t sign a deal without such provisions, Europe does need to start publicly  demanding these concessions of the Palestinians. Otherwise, they will keep deluding themselves the world will eventually force a complete Israeli capitulation.

Evelyn Gordon, Commentary

You will recall that President Obama also referred to “Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people” in his May 16 proposal. But he did not insist that the Palestinians agree to it before Israel withdraws to pre-1967 lines! This makes his statement no more than window-dressing.

Gordon notes that Sarkozy does intend that recognition must be part of any agreement — putting him closer to Israel’s position than Obama — but so far the rest of the Europeans have not gone along. She writes that

According to Israeli officials, EU foreign policy czar Catherine Ashton adamantly opposes any mention of Israel as a Jewish state, as do Spain, Portugal, Britain, Ireland, Belgium, Slovenia, Austria and Luxembourg. In contrast, such language is favored by Germany, Denmark, Holland, Italy, Romania, Poland and the Czech Republic.

The Palestinians have explicitly rejected Sarkozy’s initiative, as I wrote on Thursday. They think that they have already made a great concession by agreeing that they will permit something called Israel to exist at all, at least until they can change it into an Arab-majority state by settling the descendents of Arab refugees there. And the Quartet did not accept Sarkozy’s formulation either, in deference to the Arabs.

There is a gulf between Israel and the Arabs that cannot be crossed by any creative compromise, because it’s simply the question of will there or won’t there be a Jewish state. This has always been true — recall President Clinton’s unsuccessful struggle to get Arafat to fulfill his Oslo commitment to remove parts of the PLO charter calling for the destruction of Israel — but now it is clearer than ever.

Expect, therefore, that the Palestinians will pursue a unilateral path to statehood. If this train isn’t derailed by unilateral Israeli action — for example, the annexation of part or all of the territories — it will ultimately get to the Security Council, and President Obama will have to decide to cast a veto or not. Either course will be difficult for him, and I don’t think a veto is a forgone conclusion.

There is another possibility, which is not to be discounted. That is that the next war — most think that a conflict between Israel and at least Hizballah and Hamas is inevitable — will be of such character as to significantly change the facts on the ground. The settlement of that war will then determine whether 1)  there will remain a weak, attenuated Israel with a Gaza-like terror state next door, or instead, 2) there will be a healthy Jewish state in control of its historical homeland, with Hizballah and Hamas finally broken, without the capability to threaten it.

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