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.

June 8, 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

No to Palestine!

Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat says the Palestinian Authority is making an effort to elicit international support for declaring statehood, Al-Ayyam newspaper reported Saturday, November 14th. According to Erekat, the PA intends to promote this issue in order to bring it for a vote at the UN Security Council. The Palestinians’ frustrations are understandable to a certain extent. The Oslo Peace process, begun in 1993, has not delivered to them the independent state that they want. This brings several questions to mind.

First, the Palestinians’ frustrations are largely of their own making. They have never negotiated in good faith, they have never recognized Israel as the legitimate expression of the Jewish People’s right to their own independent state, they have constantly resorted to violence at every opportunity, and their leadership continues to make statements regarding Palestinian plans to erase Israel from the map completely.

Second, the Oslo peace process specifically forbids the declaration of a Palestinian state without negotiations with Israel and a peace agreement with Israel. This latest ploy is just more evidence of the Palestinian leadership’s inability and unwillingness to abide by signed agreements. If a situation displeases them, they tear up past agreements and resort to terrorism and murder.

Third, Oslo does not guarantee a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. The 1967 borders are actually based on the armistice lines of 1949 between Jordan and Israel. Those lines were internationally recognized as a temporary accommodation based on the military situation on the time. The international community, Israel and Jordan accepted that the “Green Line” would eventually be replaced by a negotiated border acceptable to both sides.

“A Palestinian state cannot be established without a peace agreement,” Israeli President, Shimon Peres,  told reporters. He continued, “It’s impossible and it will not work. It’s unacceptable that they change their minds every day. Bitterness is not a policy.” Peres is right. The international community should take note of this, not just in regard to Palestinian issues, but also toward a host of other issues, such as: Iran’s nuclear proliferation; Saudi Arabia’s treatment of migrant workers and women; Pakistan’s sponsorship of terrorism against India; Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism in Gaza and Lebanon; and Sudan’s persecution of Christian and Animist tribes in southern Sudan.

The fact of the matter is that Islam as a whole is an aggressive, militaristic, racist religion incapable of interacting honestly or peacefully with other faiths. To give Islam one more platform (a Palestinian state) to wage global jihad is not just a mistake, it is a criminal act against western Judeo-Christian culture and society.

November 15, 2009 Posted by | Middle East | , , , , | Leave a comment

Just six more months?

Just six more months until US President Barack Obama’s misguided peace initiatives stop.  Why six months?  Mid-term elections in the US, that’s why.  Memorial Day weekend at the end of May 2010 will signal the start of the referendum on Obama’s presidency.

The Republican’s will pull out all the stops in order to maintain the balance in the Senate and trim the Democrats’ majority in the House of Representatives.  The GOP will certainly beknocking on a lot of Jewish doors in states like California, Florida, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.  Large Jewish populations that have been less than thrilled with his feeble attempts to twist Israel’s arm while sucking up to demagogues, dictators and tyrants in the Arab world.

Democrats will need Obama on the campaign trail with them. They need to “rousing message of hope” to buy them one more precious term grazing at the public trough.  So, the Obaminator will have less time to spend bowing and scraping to Saudi Arabia, less time to hold Hosni Mubarak’s shaky hand, less time to play checkers with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  The consolation being that he’ll still be in the lime-light that he so dearly loves!

November 14, 2009 Posted by | Middle East, Obama | , , | Leave a comment

A Rude Awakening

Good Morning Israel-nam!
Israel is slowly awakening to a new reality in Washington. Since 1967, when Israel defeated five Arab armies in the short span of six days, the country has enjoyed a special relationship with America. For forty years, that relationship has grown deeper and stronger. Israel has been the beneficiary of diplomatic support, economic assistance, trade treaties and the ability to purchase major weapons systems that have made it the preeminent power in the Middle East.

It also means that for over forty years Israeli leaders have enjoyed relative freedom in their foreign policy decision-making. The election of Barack Obama as president may have ended this situation.

Now, to the dismay of many, the United States is staking out a foreign policy position that for the first time is in apparent opposition to Israeli interests. In the waning months of the Bush administration, the US rebuffed Israeli requests for modern re-fueling tankers and the installation of Israeli technology in the F35 Joint Strike Fighter.

President Obama has ignored the feelers that various European governments have put out towards Hamas. It has also been silent on European linking of enhanced Israeli participation in the EU and implementation of a two-state solution to the Palestinian issue. In fact, President Obama has linked the resumption of dialogue on a two-state solution to American support vis-à-vis the growing Iranian nuclear threat. Israelis are, for the first time, experiencing the “stick” of the “carrot and stick” approach of diplomacy.

A New Reality?

Is this a new reality? Tremendous pressure is being exerted on Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to utter the words “two-state solution.” To his credit, he has said little, eschewing press conferences on the subject in order to spend time constructing a new policy. Regardless of the level of support that it ultimately receives, the effort might be stillborn.

There is no negotiating partner on the other side of the table. Despite several months of Egyptian-sponsored “unity” talks, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are just as far apart as they were in July 2006 when Hamas fighters seized control of the Gaza Strip in a violent coup d’etat.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has already given several speeches in which he has stated that past negotiations with the Palestinians have not yielded the promised peace. Instead, they have resulted in Israel ceding territory to Palestinian control and getting more terrorism in return. Israel is now faced with a Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and a West Bank under partial PA control. Hamas will not recognize Israel in any form at all. The PA will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Mr. Liberman is taking every opportunity to give his counterparts in Europe, Russia and China an earful on this situation.

Indeed there is a new reality in the Middle East. There is an Israeli government that is not afraid to admit that past concessions have only been rewarded with more terrorism and increased anti-Semitism from the Arab and Muslim world. It is also an Israeli government that is might not be afraid to test the resolve of the new American president. While President Obama peddles “soft power,” there’s very little sign that anyone in the region is buying.

Perceiving the Other’s Reality

As Mr. Liberman has been arguing, too many diplomats and leaders speak in slogans that no longer have any basis in reality, if they ever did at all. Slogans like “two-state solution,” “settlements,” “occupation” and “right of return” have peppered the speeches of Arab, European and other world leaders for far too long. These phrases have created a reality all their own, regardless of the often pitiless truth of the situation. This creates a unique opportunity for Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu. However, each has to be able and willing to appreciate the other’s perception of reality.

US troops will be ending their combat role in Iraq on June 30. No one is so foolish as to believe that Iraq will magically become a secular democracy on July 1. There are too many interested parties (Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Turkey) to allow that to happen. The best that Mr. Obama can hope for is that bloodshed that results does not rise to a level that requires US troops to re-enter Iraqi cities. If Iraq were to descend into a full-fledged civil war or the regime were toppled, American policy and power would be severely damaged.

Likewise, an armed confrontation – either American/Iranian or Israeli/Iranian – would result in a temporary spike in world oil prices. Despite the barrels of ink spilled during the 2008 American election campaign, America still has a petroleum-based economy. Or rather, what is left of the economy is petroleum based. A spike in oil prices, even a temporary increase of two or three months, would result in more damage to the American (and world) economy.

There are other problems that are contending for Mr. Obama’s attention, too. Too many to list here.

In 2008 Americans were fed-up with the $4/gallon gas prices at the pump and the 4000 dead that the war in Iraq had cost them. Mid-term elections for Congress are a short sixteen months away. Mr. Obama benefited from the American public’s frustration and won the presidency. He knows very well that if that situation returns, someone else will benefit from it in 2012.

Binyamin Netanyahu needs to understand that Barack Obama is in the first year of his first term. He will have to deal with this new American president and the problems he inherited for at least another three years, or as long as his own coalition lasts.

To be continued . . .

May 5, 2009 Posted by | Middle East | , , , | Leave a comment

Enter, Stage Right

The Minister from Moldova
Who is he? Is he the twenty-year-old immigrant from the former Soviet Republic of Moldova? Is he the student of International Relations and Russian Studies? Perhaps he is the nightclub bouncer and manager. We know that he is no longer Prime Minster Binyamin Netanyahu’s campaign manager and chief of staff; he promoted himself. Is he savvy politician who has touched on the nerves of practically every segment of Israel’s population?

Avigdor Liberman is Israel’s new Foreign Minister and has already broken the mold in less than two weeks in office. He certainly lacks the craven need for attention that characterized Tzipi Livni’s term in office (and that of Likud party stalwart David Levy). He doesn’t have the patient, Old World smoothness of former Foreign Minister, now President, Shimon Peres. Mr. Liberman has been likened to a “breath of fresh air,” a “purgative,” and the proverbial “bull in the china shop.”

Human beings seem to have a need to label things, other human beings in particular. So, in all likelihood, he will continue to be all of these things until he successfully defines himself – or someone else does so for him.

Slogans

Mr. Liberman believes, rightfully so, that much of the public discussion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been conducted in the form of slogans. “Peace for Land” and “Two State Solution” are the two most often heard slogans. We cannot know what diplomats and world leaders say behind closed doors, press leaks not withstanding. However, in their public pronouncements these same diplomats and world leaders speak to the public in slogans. This has several ill effects.

First, it gives credence to these slogans. If everyone is saying them, then they must be true. This is the curse of conventional wisdom. It results in the general public outside of the Middle East remaining ignorant about the complexities of the issues involved.

Second, it reinforces the perception that these slogans actual constitute a well thought out policy. Crafting an approach to any problem, large or small, requires an understanding of the people involved, what has been attempted in the past, the setting in which the problem must be solved and the tools available for addressing it. Slogans do none of these things, and therefore are tantamount to political laziness.

Third, parroting slogans over and over leaves no room for discussing alternatives. While there are not many alternative solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it must be acknowledged that there are some. Many of these have been rejected out-of-hand by one side or the other. And just as often, the alternatives themselves are offered in terms of slogans. Anyone truly interested in seeing the conflict peaceably resolved should reject all slogans. Furthermore, much of the “negotiating” that takes place via television screens and press releases must also be rejected.

More Slogans?

So far, there has not been much in the way of new initiatives from the Netanyahu government. Whenever asked for specifics, all that the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister or their advisers will say is that they are conducting a policy review. As Martha Stewart would say, this is a good thing! Hopefully, what is being discussed behind closed doors is the entire panoply of alternative proposals and counter-proposals. The previous Israeli governments of Ehud Olmert, and even Ariel Sharon, were actually weak in terms of developing policy.

Two things have emerged, however. Mr. Liberman has been making a concerted effort of dismantling the expectations built upon previous diplomatic “accomplishments” such as the Wye River Accords and Annapolis (November 2007). His contention is that neither the cabinet nor the Knesset endorsed by vote the contents of these conferences. Hence, they do not have any standing as agreements or treaties. He has also been making a concerted effort at re-establishing the April 2003 “Road Map.”

Unfortunately, some of this has already started to take the form of slogans. We are likely to hear “Security, Development and Stability” or some form there of, being repeated more and more in the lead-up to the Prime Minister’s scheduled May 18th visit to the White House. The linkage between these three concepts is genuine. However, repeating them ad nauseum will only result in their becoming part of the pantheon of slogans that dominates all discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

April 29, 2009 Posted by | Israel, Middle East | , , , | Leave a comment