I’ve heard suggestions that Israel should be looking east for allies, rather than toward the US and Europe. Judging by the four point “peace plan” proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping while both PM Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas were in China, maybe that wouldn’t be such a good idea. Do we really need another plan that doesn’t mention recognition of Israel as a Jewish state?
Here are the four points, with a few comments interspersed. You can decide for yourself if this represents a positive breakthrough.
First, the right direction to follow should be an independent Palestinian State and peaceful co-existence of Palestine and Israel. To establish an independent state enjoying full sovereignty on the basis of the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital is an inalienable right of the Palestinian people and the key to the settlement of the Palestinian question. At the same time, Israel’s right to exist and its legitimate security concerns should also be fully respected.
Just in case we have any question about whether the Chinese are taking sides, the ‘Palestinian people’ have “inalienable rights” to specific territory while Israel has only a “right to exist.” The word ‘legitimate’ is ambiguous, too — does it mean that Israel’s concerns are legitimate, or does it mean that only ‘legitimate’ concerns should be ‘respected’?
As we know, there are no “1967 borders,” only 1949 armistice lines which neither side accepted as having any permanent significance, and which were understood by the drafters of UNSC resolution 242 as needing to be replaced by “secure and recognized” boundaries. And if ‘full sovereignty’ includes militarization and control of airspace, then that is simply inconsistent with Israel’s security.
Second, negotiation should be taken as the only way to peace between Palestine and Israel. The two sides should follow the trend of the times, pursue peace talks, show mutual understanding and accommodation, and meet each other half way. The immediate priority is to take credible steps to stop settlement activities, end violence against innocent civilians, lift the blockade of the Gaza Strip and properly handle the issue of Palestinian prisoners in order to create the necessary conditions for the resumption of peace talks. Comprehensive internal reconciliation on the part of Palestine will help restart and advance the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.
Ending violence against innocent civilians, if this means stopping Arab terrorism, would be great. But keep in mind that the PLO promised — when it signed the Oslo accords, and received weapons, money and training for its ‘police force’ — to do just that. PLO-supported terrorism continued, before, during and after the murderous second intifada, under Arafat and Abbas, on both sides of the Green Line, and is even increasing today, giving rise to fears of a third intifada. So any agreement must include a way to ensure that the PLO would honor it, as well as a way to restrain Hamas and the other extremist factions.
I recall the ill-fated ‘Road Map‘, whose full name was “A Performance-Based Road Map to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” It called for “ending terror and violence” and stopping incitement as part of Phase I. Supposedly there would not be a Phase II if this didn’t happen. Of course it didn’t. Along the way, the idea of conditioning Israeli concessions on Palestinian performance seems to have been given up.
Regarding ‘settlement activities’: the argument has been that even if a ‘settler’ adds a bedroom onto his house within an existing settlement, then he is somehow creating facts on the ground which prejudice a future agreement with the Palestinians. This is illogical, considering that a) the settlement blocs where most Jews live are expected to remain part of Israel under any reasonable agreement, and b) there is established precedent for Israel withdrawing from inhabited settlements. But more important: Arabs, too, are building ‘settlements’, especially in Area C, the part of Judea/Samaria that is supposed to be under full Israeli control. Will they agree to stop their ‘activities’ as well? Because they are the ones creating facts on the ground today.
“Comprehensive internal reconciliation” is a lovely phrase, which means at least the integration of the belligerent, racist and genocidal Hamas into the Palestinian government. Since Hamas is the strongest and probably most popular force among the Arabs of the territories, it would probably lead to a complete takeover. The proper response to Hamas by all civilized peoples should be to reject and isolate it, not invite it to participate. I should add that removing the blockade to permit the import of missiles and other weapons is hardly conducive to peace.
The Chinese also seem to see a release of prisoners as a reasonable precondition. Perhaps they are used to the idea of political prisoners from their own case, but most security prisoners in Israeli jails are there for terrorist acts, of which they have been convicted according to due process (the Chinese could learn something from this).
Third, principles such as “land for peace” should be firmly upheld. The parties concerned ought to build on the existing achievements that include the principle of “land for peace,” the relevant UN resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative to advance the Middle East peace process across the board.
The idea of Land for Peace is pernicious. It could be rewritten, “your land or your life.” The contrapositive equivalent is “no land, no peace.” It ignores Israel’s historic rights under international law, assumes that Israelis or Jews do not have the right to live in the territories, and asserts that the penalty for doing so is war and terrorism. The Arab peace initiative makes precisely this kind of statement, placing blame for the conflict entirely on Israel and expecting Israel to bear all of the burden of resolving it.
Fourth, the international community should provide important guarantee [sic] for progress in the peace process. Relevant parties of the international community should have a greater sense of responsibility and urgency, take an objective and fair position, make vigorous efforts to encourage talks for peace, and increase assistance to Palestine in such fields as human resources training and economic development.
May I paraphrase: “Israel should be coerced by the ‘international community’ into agreeing to a disadvantageous settlement. Said community will also provide aid to ‘Palestine’, which as always will be used for weapons or to fatten the Swiss bank accounts of its leaders.”
The Chinese proposal gives nothing to Israel except a vague ‘right to exist’ — which of course is in not question regarding any other nation — and echoes PLO demands about borders, Jerusalem, and prisoners. Indeed, it could have been dictated by Mahmoud Abbas.
It almost certainly was. So what was Bibi doing in China?