Israel Should Act Now

If two-state solution fails, no good options will remain.

Wed, 07/24/2013
Gary Rosenblatt
Gary Rosenblatt

My first response on learning of Secretary of State John Kerry’s announcement of the “basis” for a resumption of peace talks between Jerusalem and the Palestinian Authority was the old saw, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.”

As the next round of the seemingly endless Mideast peace saga begins to play out, however haltingly, I can imagine Kerry taking pride in making good on his pledge, on taking office in January, to bring the two parties together for negotiations when all the experts said it wouldn’t happen. But I can also picture Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas each reassuring their key, and skeptical, aides this week: “Don’t worry, nothing will come of it.”

And that’s the problem.

In the past two decades, various rounds of these peace talks, from Oslo to Wye River to Camp David to Annapolis, came to naught because the Israelis and the Palestinians were at the table for the wrong reason, primarily to avoid being blamed by the United States for being the obstinate party. And they focused far more on holding to their demands than allowing for concessions, particularly on the Palestinian side.

Mideast experts have long asserted that if the U.S. wants an agreement more than the parties themselves want one, the talks will fail. President Barack Obama said it himself the last time the Israelis and Palestinians came to talk peace, almost three years ago, when he noted: “The U.S. can’t want a peace deal more than the parties.”

Those talks lasted three weeks.

Has anything changed this time around?

It doesn’t seem so, other than the fact that Kerry has done an impressive job of getting both sides to this point by bringing the Arab states into the discussions, calling for economic incentives for the Palestinians and persevering. But the prospects of an actual deal seem particularly remote, given the players and their circumstances.

Netanyahu’s truest intentions on this front remain a mystery even to those who work closely with him. He has endured criticism from those to his political right since publicly endorsing a two-state solution several years ago but has given little indication since then of expending his political capital by going any further down the peace path. And why should he, his supporters ask?

They note that the Arab world is imploding, most notably in Syria and Egypt, with Jordan and Lebanon fearful of further fallout. Why push for talks now with a Palestinian Authority that can’t guarantee any agreement it might sign, and with Hamas breathing down its neck from Gaza?

That’s precisely the time to make a deal with the PA, say critics from the left, including prominent voices in Washington. The situation may be grim and the prospects bleak, but they will only get worse as the options diminish, goes the argument.

Surely Netanyahu is looking at the calendar, noting that September marks the annual United Nations General Assembly meetings. If there is no progress by then on the peace talks, Abbas may go forward, in those friendly confines, with legal action against Israel in the International Court of Justice for alleged war crimes. And most importantly, Iran’s push toward nuclear weapons continues even as another round of fruitless negotiations looms. The Israeli prime minister may be motivated to sit down with the Palestinians in return for much-needed U.S. support for whatever military plan Jerusalem may have to deal with the nuclear danger. But is he ready to make the “painful compromises” Israeli leaders often speak of?

On the PA side, Abbas is tired, and may be looking for some legacy of accomplishment before leaving the public arena. But he doesn’t want to go down in history as the leader who caved on the refugee issue, giving up the sacred Palestinian pledge to return to the land. He has little trust among his people, and some of his closest aides in the Palestine Liberation Organization and PA are opposed to going back to the table without preconditions.

So far we have heard talk of Israeli willingness to release a significant number of Palestinian prisoners, including those with blood on their hands, and of the PA for the first time acknowledging the right of Israel to exist as “a Jewish state.” These are tough concessions for the leaders on both sides, but not insurmountable.

If Netanyahu and Abbas address their respective peoples and make a strong case for peace talks as crucial for their own national goals, security and dignity, they have a chance, however slim, of succeeding. This may be their last opportunity to do so. The danger for Israel is that if the two-state solution fails now, it may be relegated to the dustbin of history, with conditions sliding inexorably toward the fatal one-state solution where demographics would achieve for the Palestinians what war, terror and political maneuvering have not until now. That is to say, an Arab majority in the land will lead to a no-win choice for Israel between being a Jewish state or a democratic one. But not both.

There are many good reasons for Israel to resist the peace table now, fully aware that the Palestinian leadership has never reconciled to the reality of a Jewish state in the region, that Abbas still has to convince Hamas to go along, that Israel must make concrete concessions in return for rhetorical ones, etc. In fact there is only one reason for Jerusalem to go forward. That is the recognition that the “Palestinian problem” is not going away. And the longer it is denied, shelved or ignored, the greater the chance that Israel will have no choice in the end.

Better to make a deal now when Israel is strong and the opposition is weak, before it is too late.

Gary@jewishweek.org

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Leave it to the politically correct Jewish press (small "P"!) to once again attempt to force a square peg into a round hole. Rosenblatt writes:

"That is to say, an Arab majority in the land will lead to a no-win choice for Israel between being a Jewish state or a democratic one. But not both."

Guess what, that conflict between our vision of democracy and the Jewish character of Israel has always been there.

How truly democratic can the State of Israel be as long as it is defined as being a
“Jewish” state. Can a state defined as being Jewish truly and democratically address the issues of its non-Jewish citizens? Should indeed a state that is defined as being Jewish even have non-Jewish citizens? How democratic can any state be if ideology and/or citizenship are based upon racial or religious identification? The nature of democratic inclusiveness and racial or religious exclusiveness apparently run contradictory to one another. Yet, it is this very contradiction that is at center stage in Israeli society. This contradiction and clash of concepts also contributes heavily to the unrest between Israel and her hostile Arab Muslim neighbors.

It is easy to wave the flag of democracy and demand that every aspect of the state of
Israel be entirely democratic. However, this absolute definition and application of
democracy is a sure way to destroy Israel from being a Jewish state. Moreover, if Israel
were to stop being a Jewish state then what justification would there be for it to exist in the first place?

It is time we recognize that only a limited democracy is possible in Israel in order to maintain the Jewish character of the state. A one-state solution with equality and reasonable political autonomy to the Arab minority ultimately is the only way to go. It's time we face up to this fact. Israel can develop fair and reasonable means and methods of governance over a Jewish majority and an arab minority without turning into an apartheid state.

'I assign more blame to Israel and less to the Palestinians for the current state of affairs than Rosenblatt...' says Edward.
Ed, you can't be serious. Are the followers of Islam murdering each other in the hundreds of thousands, or am I dreaming. The Arabs can't even negotiate a peace with themselves, but you blame Israel for the lack of peace with the Palestinian territory. Ed, that is not logic, it is not common sense. Ed, that notion is crazy.

The Arab world is pouring millions into the PA to battle Israel. They don't need help from anyone. And they have no incentive for peace, for then they would not get the millions. They have no will to use these millions in any other way.

If we study more Torah in the Orthodox Judaism way (the only way) Hashem may reverse this pathetic state of affairs.

The 2-state solution is a non starter.It will be a terrorist launching pad into Israel.Doesn't the U.S. and Israel get it , yet ?This is a "piece process " leading to the dismemberment of the state.In fact,there are already 2 "Palestinian " occupied zones- Gazastan and parts of the Israeli liberated Yehuda and Shomron areas.Little Israel is sandwiched in between these 2 terrorist enclaves. It's an impossible solution.
So what is a solution ? Not freeing murderers.Not stopping construction.Not relocating Jews.Not bringing back Amb.Indyk who will invariably bring back the failed Clinton-era advisors Dennis Ross , Aaron Miller, and Dan Kurtzer- a sort of back to the future and back again-same old/same old.The Arab Spring has brought winter.A "Palestinian" entity will fare worse.Abbas is being sued by one of his top associates Dahan for corruption and stealing over $700 million. This on top of what the Arafats stole.The solution is ongoing interim economic agreements.If there will be "peace" why can't the two sides live together ? Why uproot Jews ?Why free murderers?.
Another Ambassador, Abba Eban,once prophetically stated that the "Palestinians" never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.Such will certainly be the case now.
However, with raised expectations dashed ,the terrorists will start Intifad III, or perhaps not since they are used to this insane process.
The liberals in both countries have to understand that there is NO SOLUTION to this problem short of miraculous Divine intervention-and that IS the REALITY.

"Better to make a deal now when Israel is strong and the opposition is weak, before it is too late." This kind of says it all, doesn't it?

Gary, if "one state" favors the Palestinian's demographically, why would the Palestinians bail out Israel with a two-state solution? And how far should Israel go in making concessions to the Palestinians? Isn't the real reason that there isn't peace right now is because there is a tremendous gap between the maximum that Israel would offer and the minimum that the Palestinians would accept? Are you suggesting that Israel should completely withdraw from all of the land captured during the six-day war and allow several hundred thousand Palestinians (or more) to move into Israel?

I assign more blame to Israel and less to the Palestinians for the current state of affairs than Rosenblatt does but, in fact, he is correct in his essential point that "It is better to make a deal now when Israel is strong and the opposition is weak, before it is too late." There is also the imperative to do what's right. Do we want a Jewish state for refuge and socio-cultural renewal -- the original purposes of Zionism -- or for land fever and occupation?

If time is really on the side of the Palestinians as you claim, why should the Palestinians agree to any deal? On what basis does Abbas have a mandate to make any concessions on the part of the Palestinians, particularly if time is on their side? Your arguments in favor of an agreement are not logically consistent.

After '67 the partners for negotiation did not include the Palestinians on the West Bank. That partner was Jordan which had anexed it, hence the term west bank. Jordan didn't want to deal with the Palestinians and gave it up in the 80's. The Israelis should have claimed what they wanted then and left the Palestinians to the UN.

Israel is strong now but it has to recognize and act on all its strengths.

The Palestinians, on the other hand, have managed to use their losses as the means to set the terms.

Israel has to make its case, decide what solution would be optimal for the future of the nation and then set its terms. From what I know of the legal aspects Israel is holding those cards.

The Palestinians will do what they are going to do anyway. The other Arab countries are very busy with their own agendas and have little regard for the Palestinians. The EU and the UN can support them in perpetuity. I don't see them rushing to arms.

Iran will choose Lebanon and Syria over the Palestinians. The Jihidais

" Haim make peace with the Germans, before its too late". Said the New York jew to
his brother in Poland in 1939.

one of the more odious rhetorical "tricks" is to define every enemy in terms of the Nazis

your humor is far from appreciated except by others of small minds, limited imagination, and wellsprings of hate

Prior to 1938 it was actually far more unlikely that the Nazis were a threat to Jewish life in Europe than the Arabs today are a threat to Jewish life in Israel. The Nazis were just an anti-Semitic political party, not a venerable religious civilization irrevocably opposed to a Jewish Israel. The existence of a Jewish Israel is a refutation of the Koran, something fundamentally unacceptable to the Arab world. Germany was at least officially militarily weak, surrounded by nations with armies. The Arab world may be divided and in turmoil today, but who knows what tomorrow will bring. What will not change is that the small coastal strip of land where over 70% of Israel’s population lives is indefensible, and the Arabs know this.

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