March 25 , 2011
The Palestinians and Peace
For the last decade a constant refrain from the Israelis is that while they wanted to make peace with the Palestinians, they have “no partner”. By this they mean that the Palestinians, at the end of the day, are not willing to agree to any sort of reasonable deal. With this argument they have pushed aside for the last ten years all efforts to end this conflict.
Nine years ago, the Arab League made a standing offer to Israel of recognition and a peace treaty with all the Arab states in exchange for a withdrawal to the 1967 border, the creation of a Palestinian state, and a just and mutually agreed resolution of the refugee issue. This eminently sensible and more than fair offer has been completely ignored by a succession of Israeli governments.
The Israelis have argued that the Palestinians themselves are not interested in real peace and have not offered anything in all of the negotiations that have taken place, most recently in late 2008 when Ehud Olmert was Prime Minister in Israel.
It turns out the truth is not that at all. Al-Jazeera television got its hands on a trove of Palestinian diplomatic memos that show the details of what the Palestinians have offered to Israel. In terms of borders, they have asked for a state based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as the capital. But they have also been willing to let Israel hold onto settlements built in East Jerusalem, and instead would take as compensation equal land elsewhere.
On the critical issue of the refugees, the Palestinians have not insisted on an actual right of return for the millions of refugees and their descendants. These people have their origin in the 700,000 Palestinians who were ethnically cleansed from their homes in 1947 and 1948 during the creation of Israel and the war that year. While in public the Palestinians have asserted that the refugees have a right of return, the memos showed they only asked that Israel accept 10,000 refugees per year for 10 years to be resettled within Israel, the rest would be resettled in the new Palestine or in third countries.
What the Palestinians have not been willing to do is allow a peace that does not create a real Palestine. The Israelis for example have demanded that the eastern border of Palestine, the Jordan River valley separated Palestine from Jordan, be under Israeli control with Israeli military bases forever. In addition, the Israelis want all of East Jerusalem, including Al-Aqsa and the Arab neighborhoods to remain under Israeli control. Finally, the Israelis want to hold onto large sections of the West Bank, in particular the two largest settlements, Ma’ale Adumim located to the east of Jerusalem, and Ariel in the northern West Bank.
These settlements house tens of thousands of Jewish settlers. If Israel kept Ma’ale Adumim, then Palestine would have its two main cities, Ramallah and East Jerusalem, separated permanently by a stretch of Israeli territory. To keep Ariel, a large tongue of land would have to be transferred to Israel, chopping up the northern West Bank. No Palestinian would agree to either of these.
What the leaks have shown is that a reasonable peace agreement has been on the table for years, and it is Israel that is the recalcitrant party. Netanyahu has shown that he has no interest in a two-state solution, and is perfectly happy with the status quo, with ever more settlement building and occupation for decades to come. But the rest of the world is losing patience with Israel. In the last few months a number of states in Latin America have recognized Palestine. In Europe, many of the nations have upgraded the diplomatic status of the Palestinians, signaling their support for Palestine. The Palestinians got a UN Security Council vote condemning Israeli settlements 14-1, the only no vote being the American veto, and that has exposed how totally isolated Israel has become diplomatically. In September we may see a diplomatic showdown. The Palestinians intend to get a UN Resolution recognizing Palestine within the 1967 borders. If they get that, the next step would be a push for sanctions on Israel to enforce the resolution.
While most in the Israeli government continue a path of ignorance, a few realize that a diplomatic “tsunami”, in the words of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, is heading their way. President Obama is the only thing that stands in the way for Israel, and when his patience runs out, then time will be up for the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Comments can reach me at Nali@socal.rr.com.