Fri, April 22, 2011 | Rubin Reports | By Barry Rubin
What Will Happen on the “Peace Process,” Why It Will Fail, Why It Will Do Harm
There is confusion on two points regarding the Israel-Palestinian “peace process.”
First, will the Europeans give unilateral recognition to a Palestinian state without any commitments at all to Israel. There are conflicting voices in Britain, France, and elsewhere about what these states intend. The fact that such recognition conflicts with every commitment they have made to Israel for twenty years doesn’t seem to figure in their debates.
Second, is there going to be a U.S. plan for resolving the conflict that will be offered with confident smugness and end up by making things worse? Reportedly, though it might not be true, there are four principles in the projected U.S. plan:
— Israel accepts a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders.
Let’s see, the main highway from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will be closed and the corridor connecting Jerusalem to the rest of the country reduced to a very narrow neck that can be cut by a Palestinian state whenever it chooses. Tens of thousands of Israelis will be displaced from settlements within one mile of the pre-1967 borders. A lot more can be said on this but these are two immediate points.
But there’s another detail here. What might it be? Ah, yes, the second to last president of the United States agreed that Israel would get to negotiate its own borders with the Palestinians. Later, that same president proposed minor border changes involving about three percent of the West Bank but allowing Israel to protect its security and keep a large portion of settlers where they were without taking property belonging to individual Palestinian Arabs. In exchange for these promises, Israel made concessions and took risks.
The last president before this one promised — in exchange for more Israeli risks and concessions — that the United States would support the incorporation of “settlement blocs” along the lines mentioned above — into Israel.
In the autumn of 2009, the Obama Administration promised Israel, in exchange for the settlement freeze and other steps, to accept the settlement bloc idea.
Now the Obama Administration proposes to abrogate all of these promises, raising the question of why should Israel believe any of its future promises.
— The Palestinians giving up their demand that refugees or their descendants return to Israel.
This would, of course, be a concession in Israel’s favor. But the Palestinian Authority would never and could never accept this. It won’t happen. “President” Mahmoud Abbas opposes it, his public overwhelmingly rejects it, and Hamas would make too much political advantage from such a concession. Forget it.
— Jerusalem would be the capital of both states.
While Israel would not want to make such a concession, it is possible. Prime Minister Ehud Barak even proposed this in 2000. But if Israel gets nothing in exchange such a concession is unthinkable.
— Security guarantees for Israel.
Sounds good but there are four problems.
First, while borders and Jerusalem, major concessions for Israel, are demanded ahead of time, the guarantees for Israel would only be defined later. The Israeli concessions are front-loaded; the concessions from the Palestinians will never come.
Second, such ideas as a non-militarized Palestinian state, a ban on foreign military forces being allowed in there, Israeli early-warning stations along the Jordan, or other such things, are not going to be accepted by the Palestinian Authority.
Third, who is going to be making these guarantees? The United States and Europe? The United Nations? Yet the first have repeatedly broken promises to Israel and the second is going to remain passionately and unfairly anti-Israel no matter what concessions Israel makes and after a Palestinian state is created.
Consider the last very big promises regarding security guarantees:
In 1993, the United States and others guaranteed the Oslo process. But when in 2000 the Palestinians didn’t live up to their commitments, refused to negotiate, and launched a war of terrorism against Israel, the West did nothing.
In 2006, the United States, others, and the UN guaranteed Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, promising to keep Hizballah from returning militarily to southern Lebanon, block arms smuggling to Hizballah, and even help to disarm that terrorist militia. But since then not only have these promises not been kept but there has been no serious attempt even to try.
In 2008, when Hamas tore up the ceasefire and attacked Israel, the main Western and UN response was to blame Israel for defending itself.
These are not encouraging precedents.
Fourth, any commitment the Palestinian Authority makes does not bound Hamas which rules almost half the Palestinian people and territory. There is absolutely no way the United States, Europe, or UN will make Hamas observe a peace agreement. And they won’t even try.
How can anyone even pretend to negotiate a peace agreement that doesn’t bind the co-government of that people and territory? Moreover, as we are now seeing in Egypt, if a new Palestinian government comes to power by election or coup it will feel totally vindicated in disregarding any agreement made by its predecessor.
This, then, is the context of a proposed new U.S. peace plan. Might the U.S. government, the mass media, or the “experts” acknowledge and respond to any — even a single one — of these points? One hopes a lot but doubts even more.
About the author,
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist for PajamasMedia at http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is http://www.gloria-center.org/. His PajamaMedia columns are mirrored and other articles available at http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com/.