Negotiating For What? – OpEd


Insisting that the Palestinian Authority engage in negotiations rather than appeal to the United Nations for recognition is based on the belief that an agreement that will end the conflict is possible. However, both sides know that Israel cannot offer anything that will satisfy Palestinian demands and that the Palestinians refuse to agree to minimal Israeli requests.

Why then pretend they will? If the emperor has no clothes, why call for a fashion designer?

The idea that creating a second Arab Palestinian state will solve the problem not only defies reality, it prevents other options and undermines Israel’s legitimate claims.

Why not consider other options? Because anything less than a Palestinian state and full sovereignty negates the Arab resistance movement that has sought Israel’s destruction for the last 63 years.

Variations of a “two-state solution” – “land for peace,” which produced the Oslo Accords and fueled Palestinian demands for statehood – assumed the conflict was over territory (“the occupation”), not Israel’s existence. And both Israeli and Arab negotiators at the time were careful to avoid core issues, which would have blocked an agreement and since then have remained to haunt and destroy.

After Israel broke the terrorist infrastructure, allowing modest cooperation, despite ongoing terrorism – and with Arafat no longer around – there seemed to be hope. But Hamas’ rise, a massive campaign of de-legitimization financed by Arabs and many European countries, a hostile US Administration, and spreading unrest throughout the Arab world have radically shifted the balance against Israel. Nothing can be taken for granted any more – even solemn peace treaties and international agreements.

The lid is off and the pot is boiling over.

The belief that Palestinian Arabs deserve a state is a powerful idea; if so, why not give it to them? And if negotiations will not lead to that state, why engage in them? For Israel, the illusion of negotiations buys time in the hope for recognition and acceptance; for the Arabs, negotiations only postpone their goal – Palestinian statehood and Israel’s elimination.

Alternative to 2-state plan

The problem is what constitutes that state; what are its permanent borders, can it be stable and will it end claims against Israel and end the conflict? Arab leaders have refused to commit to any answers – leaving the problems open, and the possibility of future violence a clear and present danger.

The only way Israel can rescue itself from this self-defeating position and avoid another policy failure is by offering an alternative to the “two-state” plan for another Palestinian state. This assumes that Israel must act in its self interest, independent of what Palestinian Arabs do, or don’t do. It removes decision-making from the prison of false promises and addictive hopes to doing what is necessary to ensure Jewish survival.

Policy makers need to confront what is, not what they would like. That means understanding what Arab and Palestinian leaders really want, and how they try to get it.

For Arabs, it is about recognition and legitimacy for Hamas as a negotiating partner; it is about “the Nakba” of 1948 – the establishment of Israel and “the occupations” of 1949, and 1967. It is about core issues: “the Palestinian Right of Return,” “al Quds” (Jerusalem), and complete Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria – for starters.

Since the Oslo Accords, Israeli diplomats, led by Shimon Peres, made a Palestinian state the cornerstone of Israeli policy. That has been a proven mistake. It led directly to the Palestinian bid for international recognition. Instead of reducing Palestinian Arab demands, it inflated them. Instead of moving towards accommodation, it led to conflict. Rather than promote reality, it encouraged the fantasy of Israel’s demise.

As visions of a new Middle East sink into quicksand swamps of revolutions and counter revolutions throughout the Arab world, those concerned about Israel’s survival must focus not only on the dangers of a Palestinian state, but Israel’s needs.

Israeli policy can remain committed to peace without another Palestinian state. This requires a paradigm shift, a bold and imaginative new direction based on Jewish and Israeli – not Palestinian – sovereignty. This policy entails refuting charges of “illegal occupation,” “illegitimate settlements,” racism, apartheid, and ethnic cleansing. These accusations cannot be avoided by shifting attention to Israeli achievements in technology and science.

Shifting the focus from external form – statehood and symbols – to internal substance – values, purpose and transparency – moves the question to fundamentals: Will a Palestinian state be a force for stability and safety, or a combustible mixture primed to explode?

Advocates for another Palestinian state need to explain why those who are concerned about Israel’s survival and regional peace need not be worried. Only then can negotiations become a play instead of a ploy.

Moshe Dann

Moshe Dann is a writer and journalist living in Israel.

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