BigMo’s Blog

Politics and Economics in Israel

One More Peace Plan

I am going to toss my hat into the ring on the issue of “jump-starting” Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. There is no deficit of peace initiatives floating around out there, and at worst, I will simply have to buy another hat.

Both sides seem to be content with negotiating with the media and courting public opinion. Neither side wants to make the next move. It is important to remember that since 1982 the Palestine Liberation Organization (the forerunner of the Palestinian Authority) was sitting in Tunis, after having been militarily defeated in the First Lebanon War. Israel made the first move in 1993, allowing Yasser Arafat and the PLO to set up shop in the West Bank as a legal entity for the first time ever.

So, without further introduction, my peace plan.

  • A Palestinian state within secure and contiguous borders;
  • Recognition of the 1948 Egyptian-Israeli armistice lines as the borders of Gaza;
  • Recognition of the 1948 Jordanian-Israeli armistice lines from Al Burj eastward to the Dead Sea as the permanent border of Israel and the Palestinian area of Judea & Samaria; there would be border modifications (i.e. land-swaps) in the areas Eshkolot, Sansana, Tene, Shaniand Mezadot Yehuda;
  • A corridor between the Palestinian area in Judea & Samaria and Gaza, under Palestinian control, albeit with Israeli sovereignty, will be stipulated. The route of the corridor, as well as overall engineering design, environmental impact and construction will be in accordance with Israeli laws and regulations;
  • A six-month moratorium on residential building in areas of Judea & Samaria that are outside the “Greater Jerusalem Basin”;
  • Designation of the “Greater Jerusalem Basin” to include all of 1948 Jerusalem, as well as the neighborhoods of Gilo, Har Homa, East Talpiyot, Ramat Eshkol, French Hill, Ramat Shlomo, Ramat Allon, Pisgat Ze’ev, Neve Ya’akov, the Etzion Bloc and the Great Ma’ale Adumim area. The Arab villages of Anata, Hizma, Ar-Ram, Az-Za’ayyem, Sur Bahir and Al-Balad should be excluded from the Basin, as should the settlement of Atarot. This will ensure a contiguous area within the Greater Jerusalem Basin.

Additional points that might considered under this include establishing:

  • Performing a census of the population;
  • Issuing special identity cards for the population;
  • Establishing regulatory mechanisms for the administration of 1) Antiquities & Archeology, 2) Residential building, 3) Commercial building, 4) Education, 5) Energy, 6) Environment, 7) Telecommunications, 8) Tourism, 9) Transportation, 10) Labor and Social Affairs, 11) Justice, 12) Freedom of access to religious sites, 13) Industrial regulation, 14) a Coordinating Administration responsible for the overall functioning of the other areas listed.
  • Security will be under the exclusive domain of the Israeli government.
  • A plebiscite to be held in six months, in which all persons of voting age with a valid Greater Jerusalem Basin identity card will participate, to decide as to whether the Greater Jerusalem Basin will be under full Israeli sovereignty or continue to exist as outlined above.
  • Removal from the jurisdiction of the UN General Assembly any and all questions pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and transfer of responsibility for said consideration to the UN Security Council. Israel-Palestinian issues shall also be removed from the agenda of all other bodies of the UN and UN-affiliated bodies, such as the International Labor Organization, Red Cross and UN Human Rights Commission.

The Palestinians must recognize the “Right of Return” as a non-starter. If the areas that the Palestinian Authority is claiming sovereignty over in the Judea & Samaria, a.k.a. the West Bank are to be free of Jewish settlements – in other words, Judenrein – then the Palestinians must accept the fact that mass immigration into Israel is not politically acceptable. In order to spur accept of this fact, the UN must dismantle UNRWA (by far the UN’s greatest failure in terms of managing refugees).

The Israeli government tomorrow could propose this. Similarly, the Israeli government could wait until September and propose this as a resolution in the UN General Assembly. Overall, a resolution of this sort would represent an achievement for Israeli diplomacy. Such a resolution – sponsored by Israel – would simultaneously create a separate identity for Jerusalem and at the same time ensure its indivisibility. It would enshrine the democratic principle of “one-man, one-vote,” while at the same time pre-empting Palestinian attempts to alter demographic realities. It would also give the Palestinians victories to in terms of Jerusalem and settlements.

Such a resolution – sponsored by Israel – would effectively eliminate the Quartet, the UN General Assembly and subsidiary bodies of the UN from initiating one-sided diplomatic and political proposals. This would compel both sides to the negotiating table. If not, a new status quo will be established – one given the imprimatur of the UN. If the Palestinians refuse to return to the negotiating table, Israel can still hold the Jerusalem plebiscite. Given that Arabs – both Christian and Muslim – currently living in the area already prefer Israeli rule, the outcome of the plebiscite will confer legitimacy on continued Israeli sovereignty, albeit in a different legal context.

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June 8, 2011 Posted by | Middle East | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Britain’s Iraq Inquiry – Lesson Learned?

The British Iraq War Inquiry has been dragging on since July 2009, and it’s ending is almost in sight. It’s chairman, Sir John Chilcot, hopes to issue a report by year’s end. It is increasingly clear that whatever tangible results that report may contain, they are likely to become lost in yet another wave of political bickering. Initially, its aims were laudable, even though controversial in some circles. Chiefly, to consider:

“ . . . the UK’s involvement in Iraq, including the way decisions were made and actions taken, to establish, as accurately as possible, what happened and to identify the lessons that can be learned. Those lessons will help ensure that, if we face similar situations in future, the government of the day is best equipped to respond to those situations in the most effective manner in the best interests of the country.”

The Inquiries scope was too large to begin with, spanning the summer of 2001 to the end of July 2009, covering the run-up to the conflict, the military action and its aftermath. Quite a few commentators, as well as reasonably-minded laymen, have lamented that fact that the terms of reference had not been more neatly compartmentalized.

Perhaps as a result, the Inquiry has devolved into a series of rancorous, ill-informed partisan debates. Each side (and there are several) fields battalions of analysts, bloggers, political pundits and would-be future candidates to deride the claims of its opponents and testimonies of witnesses. If the amount or ordinance lobbed into Iraq during the war had been equivalent to the amount of verbiage expended attacking and defending political positions, not a man, woman or child would have survived.

At some point, some “brilliant” parliamentarian will no doubt conclude that what is actually needed is a public inquiry on how to manage public inquiries!

Of course, such panels are necessary from time to time. When a course of action yields less than optimum results, it is worthwhile to step back and ask, “Why?” Democracies in particular need them in order to maintain the citizenry’s faith in the mechanisms of government. The Americans did this after 9/11. Up to that point in time, America spent something on the order of $20 billion or more annually on intelligence gathering and analysis. No matter: nineteen terrorists managed to highjack four aircraft and inflict a hitherto unimaginable amount of death and destruction on America.

America’s inquiry into those events resulted in a 900+ page report that contained over one hundred recommendations. To date, many of these have been implemented. Partially due to the implementation of these recommendations, but mainly as a result of the zealousness of law enforcement, there has been no repeat attack of such scale. However, many of the recommendation still have not been implemented. The reasons for non-implementation are numerous, including entrenched bureaucracies, limited budgets, legal challenges and the fluidity of events since the report was issued.

The difficulty of implementing lessons-learned is something that the British public, I suspect, is about to realize.

June 3, 2011 Posted by | Middle East | , , , | Leave a comment

Lost in Translation: Tony Blair on Obama

On 25 May, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair gave a speech to an audience of business leaders at London’s Royal Institution, stating that US President Barack Obama is “frankly worried about the position that Israel is in.” Of course, Blair currently serves as the Quartet’s (the U.S., the EU, the United Nations and Russia) senior mediator. His American counterpart, George Mitchell, resigned last month. Blair described Obama’s initiative as “an attempt to fill a vacuum which he sees as dangerous, particularly dangerous for Israel in the run-up to September,” when the UN is expected to take up the issue of Palestinian statehood. [1]

Later that same day Blair gave an interview to Britain’s Channel 4 News, saying that it was too early to tell how the recent Fatah / Hamas reconciliation would affect the peace process, but that “it could be positive if there is a genuine reconciliation around principles that promote peace”.[2]  Really? Unless Hamas gives up all of its core principles such as the establishment of an Islamic state and the destruction of Israel, the reconciliation is unlikely to resemble even vaguely that looks like a commitment to peace.

Obviously, this is Blair’s attempt to shore-up the American administration shoddy performance during the last two weeks of May. In the short span of two weeks, Obama once again failed to impress the Arab world,[3] alienated American voters who support Israel’s positions 2:1, and Netanyahu himself[4] delivered a backhand comeuppance in front of an exuberant US Congress. Blair’s insistence on Obama’s already rejected plan was a great example of keeping on the same page with the US, but hardly anything more.

The Quartet would like Israelis (not necessarily including Netanyahu) to believe that a “diplomatic tsunami” will hit Israel in September. Netanyahu has dutifully flown from one European capital after another expressing his dismay that such a resolution would even be brought to the floor of the UN General Assembly (UNGA). Yet, the Israeli Prime Minister knows that this is already a fait accompli. The Palestinian Authority has committed itself to this; they have the backing of the 22-member Arab League and the backing of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Congress (OIC).[5]

However, we are forced to ask a simple question: hasn’t Israel already been hit with dozens of UN tsunamis? Since 1947, the UN has passed over 200 different resolutions regarding Israel or regarding Israel and its neighbors.[6] The vast majority of these have been against Israel, including such memorable UN classics as:

 

  • UNGA 138 condemning Israel for bringing Nazi mass-murdered Adolf Eichmann to trial (after all, he only killed Jews)
  • UNGA 3379 equating Zionism with racism
  • UNGA 38/9 condemning Israel for bombing Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor at Osirak
  • UNGA 38/85 condemning Israel’s consideration of building a canal linking the Mediterranean Sea and Dead Sea (obviously, Zionists are not even allowed to consider matters, let alone act on them)

A diplomatic tsunami? Really? The truth of the matter is that one day after any UNGA resolution recognizing the Palestinians’ right to an independent state nothing will really change, except for the worse. Any UNGA resolution is likely to trigger a series of political, economic and security sanctions – by Israel against the PA. It is also likely to trigger a third Intifada – rebellion by the Palestinians. This would most likely bring about a total collapse of the entire Palestinian enterprise.

As Yediot Ahronot (Israel’s largest daily paper) columnist, Sever Plocker has pointed out, “The second Intifada contradicted and disproved two basic assumptions, axioms almost, which were commonly accepted at its outset and end. The first one: Economic prosperity brings peace. The second one: Terrorism cannot be defeated by force.”[7] Indeed, there was an economic expansion was underway prior to the second Intifada; it did not lead to a clamoring for peace. Militarily, the PLO was defeated, broken.

While the Palestinian economy in Judea and Samaria has prospered under the tutelage of Salam Fayyad, it has not resulted a clamoring for peace from the Palestinian middle-class. Despite America and Jordan training PA forces, five battalions will offer a few days of resistance and then be slaughtered by a vengeful IDF. Israel has grown adept at fighting irregular forces in both the small villages and urban landscapes that predominate in Judea & Samaria.

Mr. Blair and Mr. Obama can make all the speeches they want. They can wring their hands in mock concern all they want. However, we need to put things in perspective. The PA is based in the city of Ramallah, in the West Bank. It has been there since 1993. From 1982 until 1993, it called itself the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and was based in Tunis, Tunisia. Did some deus ex machina transfer it to Ramallah? No, it was created by the 1993 Oslo peace accords between Israel and the PLO. In other words, the Palestinians’ greatest diplomatic achievement was obtained by negotiating with the Israelis.

Since then, there have been a dozen minor agreements. There has also been one Intifada in which the PLO tried to gain by force when Israel rejected its sham diplomacy. This September, the PLO will again attempt to gain through maneuver that for which it refuses to negotiate. Of course, it would be unfair to blame Mr. Blair for the Palestinians’ obstruction and duplicity. As the Quartet’s ambassador, he does not formulate policy. He does not control a vast aid budget, nor can he levy sanctions. He cannot bestow the prestige of attendance at a Royal wedding.

However, he does have an obligation – a moral obligation – to speak the truth. The situation will only change when the Quartet develops the intestinal fortitude and political will to confront the truth: the Palestinians refuse to negotiate with Israel because they do not want peace with the Jewish state. If Mr. Blair were to speak this truth, instead of acting as Mr. Obama’s faithful interpreter, he might well lose his job. Then again, if he were to speak this truth, he will likely save thousands of lives.

[1] http://www.washingtonpost. com/world/business-not-bombs-mideast-envoy-tony-blair-addresses-economic-foundations-of-peace-process/2011/05/26/AGHT1oBH_story.html?wprss=rss_world

[2] http://www.tonyblairoffice.org/news/entry/tony-blair-changes-in-region-make-negotiation-more-urgent-not-less/

[3] https://themiddleeasthotspot.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/cairo-ad-nauseum/

[4] https://themiddleeasthotspot.wordpress.com/2011/05/26/netanyahu%E2%80%99s-consistency-an-historical-message-for-the-future/

[5] http://www.oic-oci.org/topic_detail.asp?t_id=5229&x_key=Palestine

[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_Nations_resolutions_concerning_Israel

[7] http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3558676,00.html

June 1, 2011 Posted by | Middle East | , , , , , , | Leave a comment