By Barry Rubin
Israel has put forward a serious peace plan which deserves international support from anyone sincerely wanting to solve the Israeli-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli conflict.
The Israeli Cabinet’s five-point proposal, passed on June 28, calls for:
- “The need for explicit Palestinian recognition of the State of Israel as the national state of the Jewish people.
- “The demilitarisation of a Palestinian state in such a manner that all of Israel’s security needs will be met.
- “International backing of these security arrangements in the form of explicit international guarantees.
- “The problem of refugees must be resolved outside the borders of Israel.
- “The agreement must be an end to the conflict. This is to say that the Palestinians will not be able to raise additional claims following the signing of a peace agreement.”
If these conditions are met, Israel will recognise an independent Palestinian state. Note that the plan claims no territory on the West Bank or even east Jerusalem.
This program should be quite uncontroversial and represents what Israel needs to get to justify taking risks, making concessions, and believing the result will be a real, lasting peace.
Why, then, is this plan so unacceptable to the Palestinian leadership? Supposedly, Palestinians are so victimised by “occupation” and eager to have their own state of their own that this would be a small price to pay.
Regarding point one, if they are giving up all claims on Israel why should they care how it is defined? The Palestinian Authority’s (PA’s) constitution defines Palestine as a Muslim, Arab state and their intention is to expel all Jews. If there are going to be two states for two peoples why not accept that Israel is for the Jewish people? The answer: because the Palestinian leadership certainly does not intend to let Israel live permanently as a Jewish state.
Point two simply means that a Palestinian state would have military forces similar to what it has now. Since the PA already has the highest proportion of security forces to civilian population in the world, that should be sufficient. In addition, the Palestinian state wouldn’t invite in other armies – like Iran or Syria. But, after all, that’s in the interests of a peaceful, stable Palestine since such forces would threaten the government’s existence and provoke war with Israel.
Point three says that despite the “international community’s” poor record of keeping promises made to Israel in exchange for its past concessions, Israel is ready to take a chance to achieve peace.
As for point four, a real Palestinian nationalist movement would be demanding such a provision. Don’t Palestinian nationalists want Palestinians to live in Palestine to help create a strong, prosperous state? No. Instead, the PA demands that any Palestinian who ever lived or whose ancestors ever lived in what’s now Israel must be let in to live in that country. This is a formula for massive violence and Israel’s destruction.
Point five is a no-brainer, right? Any peace agreement must be final. But, of course, almost all PA leaders regard getting a state as only a first step toward wiping out Israel. So they want to weasel out of even a two-state peace agreement ending the conflict.
With no mention of keeping east Jerusalem or settlements, it should be clear that Israel’s government has formulated a strategic stance far from being hardline.
All those who say peace is easily obtainable should note: it is in theory but because of Palestinian positions it isn’t in practice. If more evidence is needed, consider the June 22 policy speech of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, which proves my point.
First, Fayyad complains that Netanyahu presents an “Israeli narrative” of the conflict – isn’t that his job? – while Palestinians have their own “narrative”. But then Fayyad said he wouldn’t talk about it!
Why won’t he present that narrative? Because doing so would reveal too much about Palestinian responsibility for making peace impossible.
Israel’s narrative is clear: Jews want and merit a state; the conflict is due to Arab refusal to accept that state’s existence. But if Palestinians accept Israel as a Jewish state, there’s no bar to a two-state solution. This Israeli narrative doesn’t block a two-state resolution.
In contrast, the Palestinian narrative is that Jews have no right to a state and all the land is Palestinian, Arab, and (for most) Muslim. This Palestinian narrative prevents a two-state solution since the conflict could only be settled not by Palestine’s creation but by Israel’s extinction.
That’s what Fayyad cannot admit. For this same reason he can’t say Palestinians will resettle all refugees in Palestine, won’t try to build the biggest possible army or bring in foreign troops, or will end the conflict permanently.
Second, Fayyad said something amazing: the reason the peace process failed is the misconception “that it is always possible to exert pressure on the weaker side in the conflict as if there is no limit to the concessions that it could offer.” He believes that so far this has been the PA.
That’s nonsense. Israel withdrew from most of the territory, let the PA bring in tens of thousands of Palestinians, establish its rule, build security forces, receive billions of dollars in international subsidies, and more. In exchange what did the PA do? Say to foreigners – but not in its textbooks, mosque sermons, media, or speeches to its own people – that it accepted Israel’s existence. And also stopped some selected terror attacks.
But now Fayyad and his colleagues advocate precisely the approach against Israel he says blocks peace. They view Israel as the weaker side, in relation to the West, and want those countries to force it into unlimited concessions.
By feeding the PA’s false belief that the West will press Israel into giving them a state without restrictions, Palestinian concessions, or even PA implementation of past promises, Western governments help sabotage any chance for peace. Instead, they should think seriously about supporting Israel’s moderate and workable peace plan.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Centre and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); and A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books, go to http://www.gloria-center.org.