Sunday, April 26, 2009

"A Reflection"

Arlene Kushner

I would like to go back to the positions espoused by PM Netanyahu and FM Lieberman -- which I referred to Friday with relief and satisfaction -- in order to consider the possibilities and the ramifications in a bit more detail. I've received comments from some readers regarding the fact that our government should "just say no": Should tell the international community that negotiating with the Palestinians is not in our best interest and that we will not do so.

There's no question about the fact that when our government finally works out its policy with regard to dealing with Palestinians -- which will be done within the month, before Netanyahu goes to Washington to meet with Obama -- there will be those who will see our prime minister as having softened and started down the road to something that he shouldn't be doing. For it's likely that he will be agreeing to some form of negotiations with the Palestinians under certain conditions.


But, as I see it, our government has an incredibly tough job to do.

I most certainly believe that we must speak up for ourselves and stand strong -- I hope this is obvious. The world won't respect us unless we respect ourselves and defend our rights.

We've demeaned ourselves seriously over the last few years with an eagerness to make one-side concessions. This cannot and will not be undone in a day. There is a process. We cannot operate in a vacuum and cannot go back in time some 18 years (not all at once, certainly).

The painful reality is that we've had governments that lost their way. Governments that caved and appeased.


But there's more involved than simply appeasing. There has been a failure by these governments to tell our narrative -- to promote our history and our legal rights. It was so bad that at certain times there were orders coming from our foreign ministry -- mostly notably when Shimon Peres headed that ministry -- blocking the release of negative information about the Palestinians. If the people knew the worst, you see, they wouldn't have supported the "peace process."

But while we were being "reticent" in the name of peace, the Palestinians were doing their utmost to promote their narrative and their spin on history. They have no respect for truth in this regard, play the "victim" to the hilt, and have been very effective.

So what we have today is a world that believes there is a "people" called the Palestinians, who were indigenous in this land, and have an absolute right to a state here. Many have been erroneously convinced that the '67 armistice lines represent our "true" borders, and, unquestionably, there is a good percentage of those in the international community that also perceives the "refugees" as having a "right of return."


There has been a breathtaking tendency within the Western world to cut the Palestinians slack, and an eagerness to fund them at unprecedented levels without demanding genuine accountability. For reasons that are not rational, the world is caught up in the notion that this group of Arabs is particularly deserving of support -- while the Kurds (a genuine people seeking a state), the suffering people of Darfur, as well as many others, receive far less in the way of attention and assistance.

There are, additionally, self-righteous leftists who are actually willing to accept that terrorism committed by Palestinians isn't really terrorism, but rather, as the Palestinians explain, simply a response to the "occupation."

Perhaps the most terrible part of it all is that there is some part of the Israeli populace that has forgotten who it is and buys into at least some of the Palestinian narrative, as well. Tzipi Livni espoused a position that was self-demeaning drivel. But a lot of people, we must remember, voted for her.


With all of this is yet one other factor. Our various governments signed on/consented to agreements -- starting with Oslo. We cannot pretend this didn't happen. Within a democracy there is a level at which each government must honor what came before. Our current government is examining the parameters here, which are complex. Verbal agreements -- anything promised by Olmert, for example -- are not binding. The Road Map may not be binding because it had a time frame that has elapsed.


So, here we have Netanyahu and his government, who must try to analyze what a proper stand is, minimize damage, and forthrightly protect Israeli interests.

We have stepped back from full control of Palestinian population areas in Judea and Samaria (while we still move in for security purposes). They control their local affairs such as schools and municipal governments, and have broader representation via the PA, which maintains radio and press. And we have permitted them to develop their security/army forces, which receive American assistance. We are not about to move back in militarily, throw out the PA, and assume complete control of these areas now.

So what do we do?


The first thing I'm seeing, which is what I applauded, is that our leaders are starting the process of changing the paradigm of thinking on this issue. "This isn't about settlers," said Lieberman. "The West Bank is disputed territory," declared Netanyahu. They're both absolutely right. These things and a thousand others must be said again and again, until perceptions begin to shift.

Oslo didn't call for a full Palestinian state. (Surprised?) UN Resolution 242, after the Six Day war, didn't even mention Palestinians. There is a requirement in various agreements that the Palestinians cease incitement, but their textbooks still promote Jihad. An on, and on, and on.


I certainly cannot speak for particulars -- not only am I not on the inside, they haven't been defined yet. But the broad sense of what I'm seeing is that Netanyahu envisions some sort of autonomy for the Palestinians that is short of full sovereignty. He wants to retain control in a variety of dimensions -- their borders, their airspace, etc. -- and insists on demilitarization. His position is that a full sovereignty would threaten our security -- as indeed it would.

This, at some point, theoretically would require negotiations with the Palestinians.

But what Netanyahu is talking about is reciprocity. I would be very shocked and disappointed if he went the route of "showing good faith" and conceding something to the Palestinians. There's reason to believe that he intends to demand that they get their act together and do the things they're supposed to do (and we might easily start with those textbooks). In addition, I would hope, there would be an insistence that the Palestinians show willingness to compromise -- that's one part of reciprocity.

It has been made clear that Jerusalem will not be on the table, nor will the relinquishment of areas necessary for security. No return to '67 lines, certainly, or dismantlement of major settlements. And no deal of any kind until the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Thus do I say that a proposed autonomy would "theoretically" require negotiations. Because no PA negotiating team would sit down with an Israeli government that won't at least consider meeting their stipulations -- which are maximalist in the extreme. To put it simply, if they did they would be endangering their lives.


Is it within the realm of possibility that as the Palestinians scream and yell that Israel is not sincere about wanting peace (something Abbas is already doing) they will successfully prevail on the international community to heavily pressure Israel -- and that Netanyahu will then cave?

Yes, it is. We remain deeply hopeful, but not at ease. Vigilance is the order of the day.

(King Abdullah of Jordan told the Post that Netanyahu is "saying the right words" with regard to peace with the Palestinians --

The possibilities are absolutely nil that Netanyahu would cave to a degree that would actually satisfy the Palestinians. Certainly he wouldn't sign off on return to '67 lines, division of Jerusalem, etc. etc. Thus I don't see any danger of a Palestinian state actually being formed.

What I do fear, however, is the possibility of erosion of that newly emerging strong stand on behalf of Israel. We cannot re-educate our own people and shift the paradigm of thinking internationally unless we are consistent in demanding our rights and expressing our national dignity.


I will add here -- as a point of information -- that there have been other proposals for dealing with the Palestinians beyond giving them a state, the most notable being (former MK and Rabbi) Benny Elon's "Right Road to Peace," which envisions an autonomous area, with local self rule and ultimately enfranchisement via Jordan. This is a plan that I thoroughly endorse.

In this plan, Israel retains sovereignty over all the land to the Jordan River. The Palestinians would be treated as a group living inside of Israel that is entitled to local autonomy and has citizenship elsewhere. This is more desirable than the Netanyahu plan, which, as I understand it, would grant land areas to the Palestinians for their autonomy.

Elon's plan also calls for the complete dismantlement of UNRWA and resettlement of the "refugees" in other places. The necessity of doing away with UNRWA is frequently overlooked, but it is one I will return to. It is years ago that I first wrote, in a major report on UNRWA, that there can be no peace here until the refugee issue is resolved -- UNRWA promotes and sustains that refugee status.


Additionally, there have been proposals that Jordan federate with/annex Judea and Samaria -- or, more accurately, the parts of it that would be Palestinian areas, and that Egypt do the same with respect to Gaza. There is some solid rationale for this, as these countries controlled these respective areas from 1949-67, and the cultural linkages are strong. Terrorism would then be dealt with by the forces of the respective states involved. And the Palestinians would not have to develop an independent economy.

The stumbling block, of course, is a reluctance on the part of Jordan and Egypt. As well, there is a serious issue of having an extended Egyptian border adjacent to us: Gaza has always been seen as a roadblock to Egyptian infiltration into Israel in time of war.


I turn now, as promised, to a look at what Sec. of State Clinton is saying.

Last week she met with the House Foreign Appropriations Middle East Subcommittee, with regard to the Obama administration's allocation of $840 million for the Palestinians. The policy she enunciated was this:

Were a unity government of Hamas and Fatah to be established, the US would work with that government only if it agreed to abide by Quartet stipulations, and all the ministers appointed to that government were on board with these stipulations.

However, there would be no requirement that Hamas itself, as a party to the unity government, also declare itself in conformity with those stipulations.

Can you believe it? Believe it.

This is exactly what Fatah leader Mohammad Dahlan told Hamas not long ago: Join us in a unity government. We won't ask you to recognize Israel or past agreements. Only the unity government will have to do this.

I mocked this convoluted approach when Dahlan said it, and I mock it now. It's game playing.

Some of the Congresspersons meeting with Clinton were less than enamored with her suggestion.

Mark Kirk (D- IL) wanted to consider an amendment to the allocations that would prevent this "flexibility." He said he had just spoken with King Abdullah of Jordan, who had told him that Hamas ministers follow orders from Teheran.

Adam Schiff (D-CA) said to Clinton, "it seems to me unworkable to have Hamas organizing terrorist attacks against Israel at the same time it has the power to appoint ministers to a coalition. "

Nita Lowey (D-NY) expressed similar concerns.


Clinton suggested that Obama wanted to pursue this policy not just in the matter of allocations, but also with regard to "peace negotiations."

Obama is really eager to push those "peace negations" along. And so, if a unity government were to be established, we would be asked to negotiate with it even though one of its constituent parties still embraced terrorism.

Demonstrates a deep and enduring commitment to our security, does it not? Mitchell, when he was here, assured us this would be the case. Right?


Fatah and Hamas are actually coming together in Cairo again today for one last effort at establishing that unity government. According to Khaled Abu Toameh, chances of success are considered slim, as neither side is prepared to adjust its stance and wide gaps remain.

A key source of disagreement is the eagerness by Fatah to demonstrate acceptance of previous agreements with Israel. While Hamas, for its part, accuses Fatah of being a pawn of Israel and the US, with Fatah coordinating with the US in the training of security forces.

Both Hamas and Fatah are accusing the other of arresting members of their party.


And one last word about Hillary, who also said:

"For Israel to get the kind of strong support it's looking for vis-a-vis Iran, it can't stay on the sidelines with respect to the Palestinians and the peace efforts...they go hand-in-hand.

"If there is such an approach, then a lot of the Arab countries are saying to us there will be a sequencing of support that will strengthen the region's response to Iran."

This is the sort of blackmail that we can expect from the Obama government. On the face of it, it's nonsense. The Arab countries aren't doing Israel a favor by supporting efforts against Iran. They're doing themselves a favor -- they're plenty frightened. In fact, while they would be loathe to say so publicly, there are Gulf states that would be glad to see Israel take on Iran.

Israel's readiness to establish a Palestinian state would be irrelevant to the Arab states in this context. Especially is this so as most of the Arab states don't really care a wit about the Palestinians. Their pressure for a Palestinian state is simply a technique for weakening Israel.

Apparently State Department spokesman Robert Wood reflected an understanding of what nonsense Hillary had spoken, when he said on Friday that "these are two separate issues, and we believe they can be dealt with simultaneously...we must and can deal with these issues, these separate issues, very seriously."

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