Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Arlene Kushner on Kerry's Visit to Israel, Parsing Lapid's Statement and Guessing Netanyahu's Intent

From Arlene Kushner
May 22, 2013

"Peace Process"

The notion that there can be a viable negotiation process that will result in peace with "two states side-by-side" persists whatever the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  And so, no matter how weary we become of the delusion, we must continue to track efforts to make it happen, and combat it as effectively as possible.
As I wrote yesterday, Sec. of State Kerry is due here tomorrow.  And so there is a flurry of activity -- or, more accurately, perhaps, a deluge of words espousing one position or another -- in anticipation of his arrival.
What we have most notably are the words of Minister of Finance Yair Lapid (head of Yesh Atid), who gave an interview to the NYTimes, on Monday in which he declared that he would do everything he can to advance the discourse on peace:
“Israelis want peace and security and Palestinians want peace and justice – these are two very different things, and this is the real gap we have to close."
Let's pause here, to consider this statement.  The Palestinian Arabs do NOT want peace and justice.  They want the destruction of Israel.  The failure to grapple with this reality is at the heart of the position of those who continue to push for negotiations. 
As to "justice": A very basic misconception -- which has been fueled by PLO lies -- is that the Palestinian Arabs are entitled to the land beyond the '67 line, and that "justice" requires our giving it to them.  They have no moral or legal or historical basis for this claim.  The land is Jewish -- as history and legal documentation make clear.

See here for more: In a nutshell: Why eastern Jerusalem, and Judea and Samaria are Jewish
Actually, when it comes to "justice," the question I would like to pose to "two-state" advocates is why they imagine the Palestinian Arabs deserve a state within any parameters.  There are probably thousands of ethnic groups -- groups with legitimate historical reality and distinct cultural traits -- who are without their own state.  And yet the world does not clamor to give them sovereignty over the land on which they live. 
What have the Palestinian Arabs done, even, remotely, to merit that sovereignty?  What would a "Palestinian state" contribute in a positive way to the family of nations?  What have the Palestinian Arabs done to develop a positive, constructive civil society that would form the basis of that state?  Their failure in this regard is all the more striking because they have received so much international support and such huge international funding.
At any rate...
Lapid is far too left for my taste.  At a Yesh Atid faction meeting, he declared, "Whoever thinks we can have peace without a two-state solution is mistaken."  In fashioning the negotiations as some sort of moral imperative -- “even if it’s controversial here, and even if it is hard to trust the Palestinians.” -- I believe he is the one who is badly and dangerously mistaken.
But to certain other members of his party, and to Tzipi Livni, he is not left enough. For he came out in the interview for an undivided Jerusalem:
"We didn't come here for nothing...Jerusalem is not a place; Jerusalem is an idea...Jerusalem is the capital of Israel."
What is more, he opposes changes in "settlement" policy and supports their natural expansion.

Read: Lapid clarifies stance after 'NY Times' interview 
But let me not inadvertently lend the impression that the government is solidly for that "two-state solution."  There are many within the coalition who are opposed to the formation of a Palestinian state.  This is certainly true of Habayit Hayehudi, headed by Naftali Bennett, and including members such as Uri Ariel and  Urit Struck.  Just yesterday, Struck, pictured below, declared,
"Two states for two nations is not the official government position.  It's not in the coalition guidelines..."  (Emphasis added)
Urit Struck
Credit: JPost
It is also so within Likud -- Tzipi Hotovely, Danny Danon, Ze'ev Elkin (who is now a deputy foreign minister), Ofir Akunis (who advanced legislation requiring a referendum for a deal), Gideon Sa'ar, Miri Regev, Yariv Levin, and others oppose that state. 
And within Yisrael Beitenu -- Uzi Landau, Yair Shamir (son of former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir), etc.
Avidgor Lieberman, head of Yisrael Beitenu and currently chair of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, once supported the "two-state" concept.  But he said at a committee meeting yesterday that Abbas has lost his legitimacy, and that it is impossible to solve the conflict now -- it can only be managed.
Avidgor Lieberman
Credit: Forward
"There's no magic solution to the conflict with the Palestinians.  Why are foreign ministers always here?  Why are they so obsessed with the Palestinian issue?" (emphasis added)
Lieberman's questions are good ones.
About the prime minister himself, I will simply say this now.  It is his MO to "play the game," something I've written about often enough.  It is not his style to cross the Americans confrontationally for the most part.  This can be dangerous, as it leads him down a slippery slope, and he may (inadvertently?) set precedents that will be regretted later.
And yet, it remains important not to assume that in playing that game he is necessary stating his true intentions.  I'd be a millionaire many times over if I knew what his true intentions were. (I was told by one analyst yesterday that probably Netanyahu's closest advisors don't know his true intentions.) And so I reject rumors that are afloat -- as they were bound to be -- suggesting that he has caved; while they might contain some kernel of truth, they are based on no documentation that I am aware of.
I cringe at some of the things that he says, I recognize that sometimes he talks tough but doesn't follow through, and yet, I am mindful, for example, that he came out in support of a referendum on a "peace deal."  At that time it occurred to me that he might see this as an out: "Gee, I was really for this, but the electorate is not in favor." 
And he is holding out for parameters for that Palestinian state that he knows full well will never be accepted on the other side. I do not think he trusts the Palestinian Arabs or believes they would negotiate in good faith -- and in this respect differs substantially from Tzipi Livni.  (Yes, I fully recognize that, infuriatingly, he appointed her to head negotiations; but he also appointed the tough, right wing Elkin as deputy foreign minister -- at a time when Lieberman is absent and there is no real foreign minister.  So, go figure.) 
My last thought here is that he is under the most incredible pressure right now, with regard to Syria, Russia, Iran and more.  Tough decisions have to be made concerning when to hit armaments, even armaments from Russia, in Syria and when and if to hit Iran.  I see him doing a very credible job in this respect, at least to date, and wonder if it's appropriate -- not to turn a blind eye, but -- to cut him a bit of slack with regard to criticizing his policies on "peace negotiations." 
Unless we know all of the parameters -- and we most certainly do not -- there is no way for us to know if he is taking a stance supportive of Obama with the understanding or the hope that there's a quid pro quo in terms of Obama's support for us if we hit Iran.  All speculative, I realize. But not entirely irrelevant. It may seem to him like a very unwise time to directly confront Obama, and I'm not sure he'd be wrong. 
(Rest assured, if Netanyahu -- please, may he not -- were to take a stance that is outrageous, I'd be raising my voice, figuratively, his need to make decisions on Iran not withstanding.)
Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ya'alon have already decided on one "good will gesture" before Kerry's arrival:  The territorial limit into the Mediterranean for Arab fisherman from Gaza has been increased to six miles.  In March, Ya'alon had cut the limit back to three miles after 14 rockets had been launched from Gaza.  (The three-mile limit had been imposed after the Cast Lead operation in 2009, was increased as part of the ceasefire following the last operation, Pillar of Defense, and then was cut back again in March.)
I'm really not fond of these "gestures," in particular when they involve removing checkpoints or otherwise loosening security.  But our government acts as if they are expected, and in this instance I'm not aware of risks to Israel incurred. 
There are a couple of positions vis-a-vis the formation of a Palestinian state that require a closer look. 
One such position states that even though Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem are all Jewish -- legally and historically -- once we document this fact, we ought to show our willingness to act for peace by surrendering it to the Arabs.  Livni says something like this, and Max Singer, of the Hudson Institute, just wrote a column on this notion in last week's JPost Magazine.
This very perverse position makes me want to tear my hair out.  Who but Jews would ever espouse such a stance:  Oh, I can prove it's mine, incontrovertibly, but to keep matters quiet, to be nice, I will give it away.  What's ours is ours.  And it ought to be retained by us.  Especially as what would be surrendered would be the very heart of the Jewish heritage.  This would speak to a lack of national pride.
This need to please, to make sacrifices, to step back instead of defending our rights -- this, I firmly believe, is the legacy of 2,000 years in galut (diaspora).  And it's not a healthy attitude. What is more, in demonstrating such a position we would be seen as weak by the Arabs and the gesture would not bring peace in any event.
Then there is the even more horrendous notion just advanced by Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, who proposed it in a talk on Friday at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC: first create a Palestinian state, and then make peace. Peace, he suggested, must be made between two equal states negotiating with each other.
I would remind him that the whole purpose of proposing a Palestinian state was to bring peace, within a "land for peace" concept.  It turned out to be a failed concept.  But what he's suggesting here is having Israel surrender land without securing peace.  Even far leftists here in Israel understand that there would be establishment of a Palestinian state only with an "end of conflict" agreement.
A slightly less horrific version of what Erdogan has suggested has come from Israeli politicians, including, most recently, Lapid:  That is, create an "interim" Palestinian state with "temporary borders" until all issues can be resolved.  Lapid proposed a three year time frame for determining permanent borders.  The idea is to give the Palestinian Arabs something, to move past the status quo.  But it's a non-starter.
Suppose all issues cannot be resolved, in three years or in 10, and we've already given them some sort of state.  If all issues are not resolved, they'll claim the "right" to "resistance." 
The Palestinian Arabs will never go for this -- out of concern that all they'd ever get in the end would be those "temporary" borders. Their position is just the reverse. Before negotiations are even begun, they want Israel to acknowledge the '67 line as the basis for those negotiations.
Lapid has called upon President Obama -- whose administration is seeking new approaches -- to endorse this idea.  Lapid, however, also calls for Obama to endorse former president Bush's position of 2004, recognizing that some settlement blocs would be retained by Israel.
I believe I've mentioned this before, but with Kerry's arrival imminent, I wanted to point out again that the so-called Arab League Peace Plan has not been modified -- in spite of wide-spread impressions to the contrary. 
A League delegation, which was in Washington a few weeks ago to negotiate changes in the plan, said that it might be possible to amend it so that "minor" land swaps would be instituted.  But that suggestion then had to pass muster with the full League, and it did not.
Arab League head Nabil Elaraby has stated clearly that there have been no amendments to the 2002 plan.
And so, if you read something that suggests that Israel should be more forthcoming because now the Arabs have "moderated" their plan -- reject it out of hand. For, there has been no modification. 
But even if there had been, it would have been such a minor modification that the entire plan -- which was presented on a "take it or leave it" basis and included "right of return" -- was still not anything for Israel to remotely consider.
I will mention here that this is not the first time that the Arabs have lent the impression that they have modified a document, when in reality they have not. The most notable example: Arafat's widely accepted claim that he was removing clauses calling for Israel's destruction from the PLO charter. They're still there.
And the latest word from our "peace partner"?  On Monday, PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat, told a UN committee:
"Today in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem ... I can sum up the situation with one word - apartheid. Worse than that which existed in South Africa." (emphasis added)
This is not even a subtle misrepresentation, it is a bold lie -- and very typical of what we see from the PLO/PA. Does he really think anyone believes this?  In eastern Jerusalem (there is no "East Jerusalem"), live some 250,000 Arabs.  They have residency cards, are provided full rights and can move about all of the city -- in stores, restaurants, hospitals, etc. -- with no prohibitions and no danger.  Some apartheid.
Replied Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor,
"The more the Palestinians continue to fertilize the soil with hatred toward Israel, the smaller the chances that the seeds of peace in the Middle East will sprout roots."
© 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. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.

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