Israel is obsessing over the settlement freeze, ignoring a dangerous Palestinian plan to unilaterally declare statehood with EU backing.
The Israeli government has dithered about the issue of the settlement freeze, as though it is the most important foreign policy issue. The government announced a non-freeze - no new housing units would be built, except for the ones that would be built. Then it announced that an additional 300 or 400 units would be built. Then it developed that most of these units were already planned and approved. What was the point of announcing these non-additional additional units, other than to annoy the Americans and give the Palestinians a cause for complaint?
The issue of settlement freeze was a red herring roadblock to negotiations thrown up by the Palestinians who evidently have their own reasons for evading negotiations. 300 or 400 extra settlement units are not going to determine the future of any area in the territories, and they should not determine the fate of the peace talks. If it is ever settled, Israel, the Palestinians and the United States will need to deal with Palestinian refusal to grant any Israeli claims in Jerusalem, refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish national home and insistence on the "right" of descendants of Palestinian refugees to "return" to Israel by the millions (most never lived in Israel) in order to destroy Zionism and the Jewish state. Those should be the priority issues.
Meanwhile, the threat of a unilateral Palestinian state looms large and potent, and eclipses the petty obsession with settlement units. In July, the unfortunately irrepressible Javier Solana offered support of the EU for unconditional acceptance of a Palestinian state as a member of the UN in two years, if negotiations fail. At the end of August, the "moderate" Palestinian Authority announced that it would declare a state in two years, regardless of negotiations. Solana welcomed this provocation as well. Of course, the Palestinians only have to continue insisting on impossible peace conditions in order for the peace process to fail. Then the approval of the European Union and perhaps the United States for a unilaterally declared Palestinian state would have a suitable excuse. There is little evidence that anyone in Jerusalem is considering the issue seriously. The Israel Foreign Ministry did indeed "blast" Solana's statement, but there is no evidence that any action was taken to reverse the EU position. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman likewise protested the Palestinian announcement, but if the government is considering the problem, nobody knows about it.
According to Akiva Eldar, the plan has gone one step further. With the support of the United States, open or otherwise, the European Union and perhaps the US are going to put forth a "peace" plan that would recognize the 1949 armistice lines as the permanent border of Israel and "advance" (or coerce) a peace plan that would require Israeli withdrawal, but does not specify any Arab concessions whatever:
Due to the Palestinians' reservations over establishing a state with temporary borders, as was proposed during the second stage of the road map, this step will probably be defined as "early recognition" of Palestine.
It is understood that this will be accompanied by a public American and European declaration that the permanent border will be based on the border of June 4, 1967. Both sides may agree to alter the border based on territorial exchanges.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's refusal to discuss Jerusalem and the Palestinian refugees in the initial negotiation stages will not be allowed to delay the announcement of an independent Palestinian state.
Likewise, Netanyahu's demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, and that the Arab world embark on normalizing ties with Israel, will not constitute preconditions to an "early recognition" of Palestine. .
Eldar gives the impression that only Benjamin Netanyahu, who is presumably a narrow-minded reactionary, objects to flooding Israel with "returning" Palestinian refugees and only Benjamin Netanyahu insists that Israel is the national home of the Jewish people. Nobody except Netanyahu cares, especially not Eldar or Ha'aretz newspaper.
Ironically, the same Akiva Eldar, having delivered himself of the news of an enforced American-European "peace" that ignores Israeli rights, proclaims in an op-ed:
"The American designers of policy ... tend to sew the peace process according to the measures of the Israeli coalition."
What Israeli coalition would accept the nightmare plan that Eldar outlined?
Eldar's "plan" may be a bogey-man canard, product of his feverish imagination or the wishful thinking of Palestinians. The Palestinian plan for unilateral statehood, and Solana's support of the plan, are, however, facts in evidence. They coincide with the doctrine of Arab governments and analysts that the "peace" process consists of forcing Israel to give up all the territories taken in the Six Day War with no Arab or Palestinian concessions of any kind. The Palestinian unilateral state declaration, its quiet acceptance by the EU and possibly the United States and the the increasing diplomatic isolation and delegitimization of Israel all help to implement this plan.
The Palestinian state would be declared presumably after "reunification" of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas governments, on the basis of non-recognition of Israel as per the Egyptian plan that was leaked recently. Whatever the results of elections in this reunited Palestinian entity, it is improbable that Hamas would give up power voluntarily. Therefore, the threatened unilateral Palestinian state would be a Hamas state. The Palestinians would be free to pursue the "liberation" of Palestina irredenta with the blessings of Mr. Solana and the UN, since East Jerusalem as well as all settlements would be considered "occupied territory" and an incursion into the territory of the Palestinian state. Both rockets and UN resolutions initiated by the Palestinian state would rain down on Israel, until Israel was forced to bow to all Palestinian demands including "return" of refugees. At the very least, the plan is a device to force Israel to agree to all Palestinian demands, since almost anything is less bad than a unilaterally declared state, that has no treaty of any kind with Israel.
It seems absurd to pursue negotiations when the outcome has already been determined, but given US pressure, it does not seem Israel has much choice. The Palestinian state is still two years away, but the plan might be put forward by the EU or the United States in the near future.
Given the momentous implications of this plan, it is almost impossible to understand why Israel is ignoring it, and why Israeli policy is totally focused on the relatively minor issue of the settlement freeze.
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Replies: 2 Comments
Assuming the Palestinians are unwilling to make peace, and the offer of a independent state + peace with Israel is not going to get them to give up their desire to eliminate Israel, isn't it better for Israel to deal with a recognized Palestinian state with which it has territorial disputes than with partially occupied Palestinians who are treated as if they are fully occupied?
The threats and pressures on Israel will remain the same but the occupation will no longer be used as a tool to undermine the legitimacy of Israel.
In a way this is what even moderate right wing Israelis want, the ability to claim we are not occupiers while keeping as much as possible? Conversely, don't the Palestinians want to prolong the occupation and avoid peace so as to undermine Israel itself?
, Tuesday, September 15th
The Palestinians have no unity. Neither Fatah nor Hamas will accept being ruled by the other. That said, any unilateral Palestinian declaration of independence would render the Oslo Accords null and void. If the Palestinians want to take unilateral measures, there is no reason Israel should refrain from taking its own steps. The world, Akiva Eldar and Haaretz may not care - but Israel should declare at a minimum, Yesha will be annexed if the Palestinians renege on their undertaking to resolve the dispute between them and Israel by peaceful means. A unilateral move is not a one-way street.
, Monday, September 14th
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