Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Moment of Historical Courage is Calling on Netanyahu

The negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority ended, when PA President Abbas quit the talks at the moment of truth. Presented with far-reaching Israeli offers, he turned his back, as he has done before. The settlement freeze that Netanyahu reluctantly accepted at the beginning of Obama’s Presidency to bring the Palestinians to the negotiation table did not lead to anything – anyhow, wouldn’t negotiations in themselves be in the interest of all concerned?

President Abbas (whose term of presidency in fact expired in 2009) took unilateral steps (though I believe Israel should have welcomed the independent Arab State of Palestine), and has now formed a unity government with Hamas. 

One might wonder about the motives of President Obama in favoring terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah as part of governing bodies - naivete, shadow, tactics...?

It must be clear to all that the technocrats provide a fa├žade (or a farce) of legitimacy of a Hamas backed government.

While both these groups explicitly have the destruction of Israel on their agenda, also the charter of Abbas’s Palestine Liberation Organization calls for the end of Israel.

And honestly, when repeatedly declared that peace is possible only with Abbas and no one else on the Palestinian side, I doubt the validity of a one-man peace.

In the absence of democracy, I believe such a Palestinian government is a more truthful reflection of Palestinian sentiments than one-man Abbas. If the different militias are disarmed, the thousands of rockets aimed at Israel are assembled, so that the Palestinian Authority has one security force, not allowing for Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others to carry weapons or fire rockets, this would prove governing (if not elected) authority.

I am no great admirer of Netanyahu either. During the Oslo process, he participated in the incitement that took place against Rabin and the government, and during his terms as PM he repeatedly reaffirmed his right-wing and pro-settlement identity.

While on the one hand he punishes the Palestinians by allowing more building in settlements (much of which will fortunately not materialize, but merely serves as provocation), reports have it that he is contemplating far-reaching unilateral disengagement.

This may be your chance, PM Netanyahu! Unilateral disengagement fell in ill repute after the exit from Gaza, mainly because the illusion was that withdrawal from occupied territory would cause a positive response from the Palestinians, while it caused rains of rockets.

Just like Palestinian unilateral steps don’t bring peace, neither will territorial withdrawal. However, occupying another people, thus preventing the Palestinian Arabs from fully taking responsibility for statehood, causes chronic problems in Israeli society (cf. The Hero and His Shadow, Requiem).

My simple suggestion is thus:
  1. Declare the small area along the 1948 ceasefire line in which 80% of settlers live (and which in any peace agreement will be part of a land swap) to be part of Israel,
  2. Declare a complete settlement freeze beyond this area, where the majority of settlements, in which however a minority of settlers live – offer settlers who are willing to evacuate the possibility of compensation; the earlier they evacuate, the greater the compensation,
  3. Declare willingness to swap land for the areas held on to, at a future negotiated peace, but not until then,
  4. Unlike the full withdrawal from Gaza, military occupation (for instance to ensure that rockets are not fired from the West Bank into Israel’s Ben Gurion International airport) will remain until security arrangements and partial or full peace agreements are reached – only the civilian aspects of occupation, that is the settlements, will be evacuated until such times,
  5. Declare recognition of an Arab Palestinian State, whether independently in the West Bank and Gaza, or in federation with Jordan, and the willingness to establish joint financial and other projects to make such a state viable, in whatever shape the Palestinians themselves decide.

I am convinced additional creative suggestions can be brought to your attention, Mr. Netanyahu, but do act now to a de facto withdrawal from occupied territory, and divert the enormous waste of financial resources from settlements to affordable housing for the young inside Israel. You have the support of an overwhelming majority of Israel's population, and this will give you a well-deserved place in the annals of the history of modern Israel.

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