Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Arlene Kushner on The Dangers of Kerry's Interim Framework Plan for Israel

From Arlene Kushner:
December 25, 2013

The Only Game in Town

Let me qualify this: The only viable game.  I'm speaking of the Levy Report Campaign. 
I'm not promoting this because I'm working on it. Quite the contrary, I am working on it because I believe it merits enormous promotion.
Why do I call it the only viable game?  Because I see it as the best option for advancing Israel's rights.  It's the hook that provides rationale for Israel's legal grounds, and offers a basis for moving ahead so that the paradigm of thinking can be changed.  No more "occupation."
And so I will continue to talk about this, especially during these terrible times.  As we progress I will ask that you inform yourselves about the Report, share information with others, and otherwise assist us.
For today, a reminder: The Levy Report on Facebook. Like it, share it, promote it. And a small word of caution: Facebook has a page called "About Levy Report" that has nothing to do with us.  Be careful when accessing the page.
And now, a look at these terrible times.
If I have a sense of deja vu, it's because all that I will be writing about indeed has happened before, many times, in various permutations.
It is clear as clear can be that the gaps between the two sides (Israel and the PLO/PA) are so huge that the notion of a negotiated settlement is nothing but a figment of the imagination  of those in the US government. 
Three days ago, Abbas is reported to have put out his red lines on negotiations. These red lines, which do not deviate significantly from what he has been saying all along, would completely undercut what Kerry is aiming to do:
  • No recognition of Israel as a Jewish state (a Netanyahu demand)

  • No demilitarization of a Palestinian state (a Netanyahu requirement)

  • Not a single IDF soldier in the Jordan Valley (something Netanyahu insists upon)

  • Control of all of eastern Jerusalem -- by which is meant everything over the Green Line; there is no "East" Jerusalem -- for utilization as a Palestinian Arab capital (when Netanyahu sees Jerusalem as eternally united)
Read: Abbas expects Kerry’s framework deal next week, has tough demands of his own

John Kerry
Is John Kerry finally realizing that the peace process is not
as easy as he thought? Photo not from original post

When all of the above is said and done, what is most significant is that the PLO does not want a "two state solution" that means end of conflict and end of claims.  The PLO seeks Israel's destruction, whether in stages or all at once, and nothing less.
Of course, this is all of a piece: the demands put out by PLO leaders are maximalist in part, I have no doubt, to ensure that there is no deal. The other part is the fear that Abbas harbors that his throat might be slit if he were perceived as having caved to the Jews -- and I kid not here.
Add to this the fact that a concession regarding a pull back from Judea and Samaria to make way for a "Palestinian state" is not something that could be readily achieved, no matter how willing Netanyahu might be. 
It would probably spell the end of his government, as the nationalists in several parties, including his own, would walk and the coalition would crumble.  He likes to "play the game," and he might well anticipate this end-result, so that he would only have to throw up his hands and say, "Gee, I'd like to, but I just can't do this, my government will collapse."  That is, as he calculates, he might be depending on the response of his coalition.
What is more, there are some safeguards in place: a referendum would be required, for example, if the prime minister were to attempt to give away (Heaven forbid!) part of Jerusalem: and there is a strong national consensus for a united Jerusalem under full Israeli sovereignty.
One highly knowledgeable source with whom I just checked says that he believes Netanyahu will hold fast on the issue of Jerusalem -- an honorable way of playing it -- and that this will be a deal-breaker, no matter what else he might concede.
So what is the problem?  Are we not "home free," so to speak?  Could be that we are. I fervently hope so. 
According to Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian Arab negotiator, as of this past Sunday, in a statement to Al Quds Al Arabi:
"...bilateral negotiations with Israel have been frozen for weeks, and it is currently underway between the Palestinians and the Americans on the one hand and between the Americans and the Israelis, on the other hand."

Read: Erekat: no direct talks with Israel now meeting through U.S.
But there are these rumors that will not go away. 
Keeping in mind that they ARE rumors, not confirmed directly by all parties concerned, this is what is being said:
"The United States intends to unveil a formal framework peace agreement to Israel and the Palestinian Authority by the end of the month, senior Arab League sources revealed to the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. According to these sources, cited by Israeli daily Ma’ariv on Sunday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said during a meeting of the League held over the weekend in Cairo that the Americans are trying to salvage the talks between the parties through the framework agreement...

"'The Americans are determined to present an agreement by the end of December and have already chosen a location for the signing ceremony for the framework agreement,' Abbas reportedly told Arab diplomats, according to Israel Hayom."

Read: Report: U.S. Will Present Framework Israel-PA Peace Agreement by End of Month
The Palestinian Arab news agency Maan, citing Arab League sources, says this is due to happen on December 31.  Gil Hoffman of the JPost says this may happen "as early as next month."
Neither the US nor the Israeli government has confirmed this.  In fact, Erekat, in the statement to Al Quds Al Arabi cited above, also said (rough translation):
"...the Americans are still confined to unwritten ideas, noting that this is within the framework of the negotiating style of the U.S. that is based on trial balloons...not written ideas, in order to see trends and test the pulse.  (Emphasis added)
Trial balloons feed rumor.
According to Israel National News just days ago:
"Kerry's staff rented 50 rooms at a luxurious Jerusalem hotel for January, in order to 'attack' Netanyahu and demand that he accept the US plan, reported Yidiot Aharonot on Friday.
Attack? Demand?  Threaten, perhaps?
The main focus of Kerry's demand, according to this report, would be that Israel dismantle all communities in the Jordan Valley.  (More on this below.)
What we are seeing -- and this is apparent on the face of it -- is a persistent Kerry who refuses to pack it in, and is determined at all costs to make something happen that allows the US to appear to have achieved a diplomatic success.
Since even he must see the difficulties (read: impossibility) of attempting to finalize an agreement by April, something interim, in the way of a "framework," might appeal to him.
Never mind that the Palestinian Arab leadership has said it would not accept an interim deal and, furthermore, would not agree to extend the time for negotiations.
For Israel, a "framework" understanding is fraught with dangers.  Israel's policy has always been that nothing is decided until everything is decided.  If, for example (again, Heaven forbid), Israel says at the table, OK, in the context of a final agreement, we will agree to remove from Judea and Samaria all communities that are not part of the major settlement blocs.  Then, if there is no final agreement, the PLO cannot come back to Israel and demand that she remove all communities that are not part of major blocs.
But if there is an interim agreement -- a "framework" -- which, by definition is not a final agreement, then what happens if Israel agrees to something?
Always, in the context of these faux negotiations, there is worry about setting precedents that will come back to haunt us later.
There are a couple of major reasons why the current situation promotes anxiety: The first can be summed up in one word: Coercion.  (As in "demand" above.)
Kerry and Obama both play dirty pool. We know this. And we know that, in the interests of their own diplomatic/ political interests they are quite capable of squeezing Israel and making threats.  So, always, in the back of our minds is concern about what the terms are, what is being said behind closed doors.
And then the companion concern is one of Netanyahu's resilience or lack there of: a concern about his caving under pressure.  Were we confident of his ability to say NO, then there would be less anxiety.
But for all of the talk and worry, we're not seeing a whole lot of caving at the moment.
Yesterday, it was reported that Netanyahu might condition advancing peace talks on the release of Pollard.
According to the JPost, citing a Monday night report by Channel 2 diplomatic correspondent Udi Segal:
"Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will ask US President Barack Obama to commute the life sentence of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard at a critical stage of the diplomatic talks with the Palestinian Authority...

"The Channel 2 report, which the Prime Minister's Office would neither confirm nor deny, suggested two possible alternatives for when Netanyahu could insist on Pollard's release: when US Secretary of State John Kerry announces his framework for concluding an agreement...or when Israel releases the final round of 26 Palestinian terrorists in April."

Read: Netanyahu May Condition Advancing Peace Talks on Pollard Release
We never should have agreed to release a single terrorist from prison -- the entire procedure is immoral.  But we seem to be on that path to continue doing so, with Netanyahu so far having refused to budge. Should he now predicate the release of the final group on Pollard's release, that would be quite fine.
But, with regard to Kerry's framework, what is suggested here?  Would Netanyahu consider making concessions that should not be made?  This is only talk. But it is worrisome talk, especially in light of what I wrote above regarding the dangers of a "framework" agreement.
At any rate, Obama has since declared that there is no connection between negations and the release of Pollard, who will not have his sentence commuted any time soon.
It's all so amorphous and vague -- a scenario based on unsubstantiated reports and speculation.
To further complicate our attempt to understand this situation, also yesterday, came a report that "Kerry's security proposals accept most Israeli positions."
The "security proposals" are with regard to what Kerry has already advanced. This is not the "framework" deal that is being referred to.
According to this report, which cites army radio, Kerry would give full security control in the Jordan Valley to Israel, at least for some years. Of course, security control for a duration is not the same as retention of residential communities and Israeli sovereignty over this area.
It's all a matter of how the story is framed, isn't it?

Read: Report: Kerry's security proposals accept most Israeli positions
With regard to Kerry's security proposals, Caroline Glick provides a very incisive critique in "Kerry's oh-so-'90s security nonsense" (emphasis added):
"Kerry has proffered us security arrangements, which he claims will protect Israel from aggression for the long haul. They will do this, he argues, despite the fact that his plan denies the Jewish state physically defensible borders in the framework of a peace deal with the PLO.

"There are several serious problems with Kerry’s arrangements. But in the context of Kerry’s repeated claims that his commitment to Israel’s security is unqualified, their most glaring flaws are rooted in their disregard for all the lessons we have learned over the past two decades.

"Kerry’s security arrangements rest on three assumptions. First, they assume that the main threats Israel will face in an era of “peace” with the Palestinians will emanate from east of the Jordan River. The main two scenarios that have been raised are the threat of terrorists and advanced weaponry being smuggled across the border; and a land invasion or other type of major aggression against Israel, perpetrated by Iraqis moving across Jordan...

"...first we need to ask whether a threat from across the border would really be the only significant threat that Israel would face after surrendering Judea, Samaria and much of Jerusalem to the PLO.

"The answer to this question is obvious to every Israeli who has been awake for the past 20 years, since Israel started down the 'land for peace' road with the PLO.

"The greatest threat Israel will face in an era of 'peace' with the Palestinians will not come from east of the Jordan. It will come from west of the Jordan – from the Jew-free Palestinian state.

"The Palestinians don’t give us peace for land. They give us war for land. Whether they support the PLO, Hamas or anything in between, the Palestinians have used every centimeter of land that Israel has given them as launching bases for terrorist and political attacks against Israel...

"Our most peaceful periods have been those in which we have been fully deployed in Judea and Samaria. The more fully we deploy, the more we exercise our legal and national rights to sovereign power in those areas, the safer and more peaceful Israeli and Palestinian societies alike have been.

"The only way to be smart, we have learned, is by being right. The only way to secure peace is by insisting that our rights be respected. We won’t get peace for land. We will get war – not from the Iraqis or anyone else to our east, but from the Palestinians. And since the Palestinians are the people Kerry is intending to empower with his peace plan and his security arrangements, both his peace plan and his security arrangements are deeply dangerous and hostile...

"...US security guarantees are about as useful as a three dollar bill."

Read: Kerry’s oh-so-’90s security nonsense
Just today we have reassurance that Israel is standing strong, and not caving, with regard to Kerry's proposals.  This addresses the very concerns raised by Glick, and more (emphasis added):
"Israel and the U.S. are divided over security considerations for a future peace agreement with the Palestinians. The U.S. accepts the Palestinian position that their state must be sovereign within its territory, meaning Israel would not be permitted to conduct anti-terror operations in Palestinian cities, as it does now.

"Israel opposes this and seeks to preserve the right to thwart terror and kill terrorists in the future Palestinian state. Israel also demands the right to conduct hot pursuits of 'ticking bombs' within the Palestinian state. In other words, the Israel Defense Forces would be able to enter Palestinian territory to pursue terrorists who are either about to commit a terror attack in Israel or are escaping after having carried out a strike on Israel. The Palestinians oppose this, claiming it would be a violation of their sovereignty.

"The Israeli defense establishment, including Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, also opposes an Israeli withdrawal from the Jordan Valley.Israeli defense officials say that situating an advanced security apparatus in the Jordan Valley would be useless if Israeli forces were unable to operate on the ground there."

Read: Israel sticks to its guns on security demands
And this is where I'm going to leave us today.  There is a good deal to say, with regard to dangers from across the border in Jordan, should the monarchy fall and Islamists move in.  Ironically, the Jordanian king himself prefers an Israeli presence at his border -- for he is aware of the risks of a radicalized Palestinian Arab state that might move in on him. 
Looked at from either direction, Israel is the stabilizing force that makes peace possible.
We're been enduring a spate of terror attacks, as well, not unrelated to what I have written about here.
But I want to end by noting that my Christian readers and friends today are celebrating (or perhaps have already celebrated) Christmas. To each of you I wish a good holiday and an interlude of peace.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 

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