I thought, and certainly President Obama thought, that Israel and Palestine were pursuing a two state solution.
The key issues to be resolved with regard to this 60 year conflict are as follows:
1. Borders and security
2. End of belligerence
3. Status of Jerusalem
4. Refugee issues
5. Israeli settlements on the West Bank/Judea-Samaria
It’s very easy to get confused with long litany of “peace agreements” , accords, understandings etc. We have Oslo, Geneva, Camp David, Taba, Annapolis, road map, Saudi Plan and so on.
Despite Ehud Barak offering Yasser Arafat 95-7% of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and compensation for refugees, not only was the offer rejected, without a counter proposal, to the dismay of all involved, including the Saudi Ambassador, but Arafat issued orders for the Second Intifada covering his own inability to confront the possibility of a just peace and leading to the deaths of thousands of Palestinians and Israelis.
Now the Netanyahu government is turning away from seeking a final status solution, including the two-state solution and instead is following a course to ameliorate the conditions on the West Bank and to improve the infrastructure and living standards of Palestinians.
At the same time it is saying that it will honour all previous agreements. It’s getting very confusing. Clearly, the Netanyahu government has decided to follow its own agenda in the apparent belief that there is no current partner for peace. Netanyahu is, therefore, giving the distinct impression that he has accepted a sort of de facto annexation of the West Bank as part of Israel but with Palestinian autonomy.
Whilst Netanyahu kicks the two-state solution into the long grass, Mahmoud Abbas and the PA continue with their own maximalist agenda: Jerusalem is Muslim only and Jews have no claims to it or to any of Palestine (that means Israel too).
Let’s take a look at some recent pronouncements:
Yesterday the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser issued the following:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today (Wednesday), 28.5.09, convened the Ministerial Committee on Improving the Situation of the Palestinian Residents of Judea and Samaria. At the start of the meeting, he said that advancing economic projects for the Palestinian population of Judea and Samaria would a better economic, social and political reality and would improve the Palestinians’ quality of life and personal welfare.
Note “would be a better… reality”. This means better than pursuing any further peace negotiations which both Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman have rejected as having a history of leading not to peace but to Israeli concessions and Palestinian violence.
The communique continues:
Defense Minister Ehud Barak presented economic projects in the PA, including: The establishment of an industrial zone in the Mukibleh-Jenin area of northern Samaria, the establishment of an industrial zone for the processing and marketing of agricultural produce in Jericho, the establishment of an industrial zone in the Hebron-Tarkumiyeh area, the establishment of an industrial zone in Bethlehem, environmental protection projects (waste disposal and sewage treatment sites) and the establishment of a Palestinian city near Ramallah. He noted that approximately 100 projects in various fields in the PA areas of Judea and Samaria are currently in various planning stages.
And so it continues. The strategy here appears to be that an economically stronger Palestine with greatly improved living standards would lead to the de-radicalisation of certain elements with Palestinian society on the West Bank. This in turn would lead to the easing of security arrangements and a better quality of life.
Although I can only applaud the improving of Palestinian economic conditions and easing of restrictions, if they result from this strategy, I also have an impression that this is the language of quasi-annexation. It certainly does not address Palestinian self-determination or any of the agenda items at the top of this page.
Yesterday Arutz 7 reported :
Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe (Boogie) Yaalon believes that the time has come for Israel to “free itself from the failed paradigm” of the “two-state solution.” Yaalon spoke Tuesday at a meeting of MKs dedicated to finding an alternative to the creation of a Palestinian Authority-led Arab state.
While the creation of a PA-led state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza is perceived as a necessity both in Israel and worldwide, such a state would not solve the Israel-PA conflict, said Yaalon. In fact, he said, it is doubtful that the possibility of creating such a state exists, due to Arab and Muslim reluctance to take any step that would imply recognition of Israel or compromise on Arab claims to the entire Land of Israel.
Meanwhile President Obama is advancing his “peace plan” although we only know vaguely what it entails. The Jerusalem Post reported:
US President Barack Obama’s statements about how to advance the peace process do not differ significantly from those of his predecessor, George W. Bush, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told The Jerusalem Post…
He denied reports in the Hebrew press that Obama had drafted a Middle East peace plan calling for a democratic, contiguous and demilitarized Palestinian state whose borders would be determined by territorial exchanges with Israel.
According to the reports, the Old City of Jerusalem would be established as an international zone. The initiative would require the Palestinians to give up their claim of a “right of return,” and Europe and the US would arrange compensation for refugees, including passports for those residing abroad.Arab countries would institute confidence-building measures to clear the air with Israel. When Palestinian statehood would be achieved, diplomatic and economic relations would be established between Israel and Arab states.
“I don’t know of any Obama plan that has been finalized,” said Ayalon, who has been briefed on the closed-door meetings between Netanyahu and Obama. “Don’t believe the headlines. What was in the papers was mere speculation, and there is no substance to it,” he said.
So what IS the plan?
Ayalon said his Israel Beiteinu Party would oppose the internationalization of Jerusalem and the relinquishing of Israeli sovereignty in the “holy basin” around the Old City. He said the party would also insist that Israel not take in a single Palestinian refugee, citing legal, moral and historical grounds.
Tzipi Livni now leader of Kadima said in the Knesset:
“We will not be able to keep Jerusalem if we say no to everything, or if out of fear we adopt unwillingness as a policy and frozenness as an ideology,” Livni said. “I believe that it is possible, through proper management, to make the world understand the things that are important to us, and with them we can keep Israel as a national home for the Jewish people and Jerusalem as its eternal capital.”
Wow! She thinks she can make the world “understand” – that’s more ambitious than a peace settlement given the world’s hatred of the only democratic and free country in the Middle East.
And she seems to fear not just losing Jerusalem but Israel itself as the home of the Jewish people!
Silvan Shalom, Vice Premier puts it most succinctly:
“There aren’t two Jerusalems. Jerusalem will not be divided. Jerusalem will remain the eternal capital of Israel. It’s not a promise. It’s a fact. Jerusalem will not be a topic for compromise.”
Now if you think that’s all a bit uncompromising let’s look what the PA are saying.
Again in the Jerusalem Post, reacting to rumours of a Obama’s “peace plan” President Mahmoud Abbas said:
One PA official said Abbas and his aides were currently studying which, he added, included “several positive points.” The official stressed, however, that some of the proposals mentioned in the plan were completely unacceptable to the Palestinians. These proposals, he said, included the talk about resettling Palestinian refugees in Arab countries, swapping lands between the future Palestinian state and Israel, creating a demilitarized state and granting the Old City of Jerusalem the status of an international city.
“The Palestinian position on these issues is very clear,” explained another PA official. “We insist on the right of return for all refugees on the basis of United Nations resolution 194, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with all of East Jerusalem, including the Old City, as its capital.”
The official said the PA had, in the past, rejected the idea of establishing a demilitarized state and swapping land with Israel.
“The only way to achieve real and lasting peace is by forcing Israel to withdraw from all the territories that were occupied in 1967,” he said.
The interpretation of resolution 194 is highly problematical. 194 does not offer a “Right of Return” nor does it mention Palestinian refugees exclusively. See this article for a full discussion.
The Palestinian position is still maximalist in that it demands ALL of Jerusalem and ALL refugees returning to Israel. As Alan Dershowitz so succinctly puts it:
… the only justification for Palestinians opting to exercise their right of return would be a macropolitical, rather than a microhumanitarian, one. It would be part of a large-scale, carefully orchestrated plan to return millions of Palestinians to Israel in order to overwhelm the Jewish state with a Palestinian majority. (The Case for Peace, John Wiley and Sons, inc. p. 47)
No Israeli government can ever agree to that and the Palestinians know it.
As for Jerusalem, the PA has and continues to make obnoxious statements which deny that Jerusalem was ever Jewish, that the Temple was was not built there, the Torah was altered to lay false historic claim to the Holy Land and all Jewish claims to Israel are bogus. This is nothing less than the negation of Jews and Judaism by denying there clear and evidenced historical connections to the Land of Israel.
June 1st 2008 worldnetdaily.com reporter Aaron Klein provided the following report:
“Jerusalem is Muslim. The blessed Al Aqsa mosque and Harem Al Sharif (Temple Mount) is 100 percent Muslim. The Israelis are playing with fire when they threaten Al Aqsa with digging that is taking place,” said Abbas’ chief of staff Rafiq Al Husseini.
WND also reported March 15th 2007:
The Jewish Temples never existed, the Western Wall really was a tying post for Muhammad’s horse, the Al Aqsa Mosque was built by angels, and Abraham, Moses and Jesus were prophets for Islam.
All this according to Sheikh Taysir Tamimi, chief Palestinian Justice and one of the most influential Muslim leaders in Israel. Tamimi is considered the second most important Palestinian cleric after Muhammad Hussein, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.
… Tamimi, who preaches regularly from the Al Aqsa Mosque, claimed Jews have no historical connection to Jerusalem or Israel and that the Jewish Temples never existed.
“Israel started since 1967 making archeological digs to show Jewish signs to prove the relationship between Judaism and the city and they found nothing. There is no Jewish connection to Israel before the Jews invaded in the 1880′s,” said Tamimi…
“About these so-called two Temples, they never existed, certainly not at the Haram Al- Sharif (Temple Mount),” Tamimi said.
This is the same Sheikh Tamimi who ranted against Israel in front of Pope Benedict as I reported here.
Previously, a leader of the Waqf, the Islamic authority which manages the Temple Mount, was dismissed for stating the Jewish temples existed on the site of the Al Aksa mosque and that denying it is purely political.
The PA is supposed to be “moderate”. Maximalist positions are not moderate. In fact maximalist Palestinian positions and historical revisionism by its lay and religious leaders only give fuel to the current Israeli government to claim there is no point in pursuing solutions using old formulas which have always been rejected.
So we now have two entrenched positions.
Meanwhile President Obama seems to be moving ahead like someone driving a buggy without the horses.