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Israel and the Palestinians after the unity government


A majority of Israelis disagree with the government position that it not going to talk to any ministers in the Palestinian unity government, only to Mr. Abbas. 40% said Israel should be talking to the government, and an additional 17% percent favor talking with Fatah members only.

This result may be surprising in the view of the recent surge in support for the Likud and other hard line parties reported in other polls, but it reflects reality. Of course, "talking" doesn't necessarily mean negotiating peace. However, for example, Israelis want to get Gilad Shalit out of captivity. It is impossible to imagine how that would happen without negotiations, and since a Hamas faction is holding him, it is hard to see how there could be a deal without involving the Hamas. So we may expect that the Israeli policy will amount to having Abbas or another person act as a go between, of the kind well known in family fights:

"Tell the benighted terrorist genocidal warmonger, that we will give him 100 prisoners for Shalit."

"Excellency, Olmert says to tell you that the Israelis will give 100 prisoners for Shalit."

"Tell the infidel son of dogs and apes, that we want 2,000 prisoners for Shalit, plus right of return for refugees and Sandy Bar to be married to Khaled Meshal, and a Palestinian state with its capital in Tel Aviv."

"Excellency, Hanniyeh says to tell you that the Hamas want 2,000 prisoners for Shalit, plus right of return for refugees..."

This farce does not fool anyone. We understand that Israel can only get back Gilad Shalit and make progress on other issues by talking to Palestinians. On the other hand, the platform of the new unity government creates an impossible situation for peace. The Palestinians assert that they have the right to continue "resistance by all means" until their demands are met. If all their demands are met, then the Hamas will grant a "truce." Haaretz urges that this truce is better than war. But the truce is only offered if all the demands are met, and the demands include withdrawal of Israel precisely to 1967 borders, evacuating about half a million people who have settled in the greater Jerusalem area and the West Bank, and allowing several million Palestinian refugees to enter Israel as well. The last condition would mean the end of the Jewish state. Every fair person understands that these are not realistic conditions for peace and certainly not conditions for any cease fire. War is very bad, but suicide is worse. The Palestinian government will need to change its tune if it really wants to unfreeze the current situation.

Israel however, cannot expect the Palestinians to change unless it offers some quid pro quo, a concrete goal that is realistic, desirable and yet attainable, as opposed to the dream of destroying Israel held out by the Palestinian unity government. And Israel can't hope to dig itself in forever behind the position of no negotiations with the unity government, and to maintain the support of the US and European governments for this position, unless it offers something in return. The Arab League will most certainly express support for Palestinians at their upcoming summit, and hold out Israeli concessions as the price of cooperation regarding Iraq and Iran, as well as those nice low oil prices. The US, Russia and Western Europe will be tempted by these pressures, as well as lucrative trade opportunities. The Arab peace plan calls for recognition of Israel, but like the Palestinian unity platform, it insists on return of all territories conquered in 1967 and right of return for Palestinian refugees. It is therefore not a realistic basis for peace, but it is attractive as "the only game in town and as a concrete set of principles. While neither the Arab plan or the Palestinian plan are a basis for peace, the current situation cannot continue indefinitely, nor can the Palestinians be moved from their obdurate folly by vague talk about a political horizon or generalities about a better future.

Most of the non-Muslim nations of the world are probably agreed that a reasonable solution to the conflict will be along the lines of the Clinton bridging proposals or the Geneva accord or the Ayalon-Nusseibehplan, which are alternate ways of stating approximately the same thing. They all posit a territorial exchange that will give the Palestinians a demilitarized state in about 100% of the pre-1967 territory, a capital in Jerusalem, and settlement of Palestinian refugees outside of Israel, in return for a formal and genuine peace agreement and an end to the conflict that has plagued both peoples for nearly a hundred years. A real and final end, not a "Hudna" like the Hudna of Hudibiyeh that will be terminated by a Muslim conquest. Palestinians must understand and accept that there will not be a second battle of Khaybar, in which the Jews are vanquished, not now and not in the future.

Israel accepted the Clinton bridging proposals in principle, but the precise offer was never made publicly and was never official. Now is the time for Israel to launch a broad, detailed public peace offensive on those lines, and to seek the support of the Quartet, the EU and all fair-minded countries for the same program. The proposal should be sufficiently detailed so that everyone can understand what it entails. Maps and major proposals must be spelled out publicly, so that people like Jimmy Carter cannot falsify the truth. There will be no "Bantustans" in the offer and no possibility to dismiss it as Bantustans. Everyone will know exactly what they are being asked to support. Negotiations, when they are held, will be within a framework that is known in advance. The Palestinian side will understand that they cannot get a state without offering peace, and the Israeli side will understand that they can't get peace without ending the occupation. If a large coalition unites behind the same plan it has a reasonable chance of success. If it fails, if the Palestinians do not agree, at least there will be an international peace camp that is united around a concrete program and holds out that program as a goal.

But what if it succeeds? The conclusion of such an agreement should be a victory and a cause for national celebration by both the Palestinians and the Israelis. The occupation will come to an end. The Palestinians will get their own state at long last, and the refugees will end their long exile. The Israelis will get the peace we have dreamed of since 1948 and before, the negotiated settlement that was the stated object of the Six Day War. The Middle East and the world will be able to turn their attention to other more urgent problems.

If you will, it is no legend.

Ami Isseroff

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Replies: 1 Comment

Center for International Dialogue And Development - CIDAD

Jordan Times ( Jordan )
March 16, 2007

The Palestiniansג€™ right of return appears to be the issue keeping Israel from endorsing the
2002 Beirut Arab summitג€™s plan for peace between Arabs and Israelis.

Israel claims to be worried that giving the refugees the right to return, as spelled out in
the UN Resolution 194 of 1948, will make them flood the country, a process that would
de-Judaise the country.

Israel should rest assured. The exact words of the Arab Peace Initiative that Saudi Arabia
introduced and that was then endorsed by the entire Arab world calls for ג€œan agreed and just
solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees, in accordance with UN Resolution 198ג€. ג€œAgreed
and justג€, these key words in the Arab formula for the resolution of the Palestinian refugee
issue, offer sufficient leeway and suggest a flexible approach.

While the right of return is clearly sacrosanct for the Palestinian refugees, and is well
enshrined not only in UN Resolution 198 but in various international human rights conventions,
it is doubtful that a high proportion would choose to live in Israel .

It would be painful for the Palestinians to choose between returning to their land of origin,
now alien to them, and remaining where they have built their lives, raised their children,
were born (in the case of many) and consider home.

All the same, what the Arab Peace Initiative is calling for is to give the Palestinian
refugees the right to choose. The majority of refugees who would most probably opt to stay
where they have lived since driven out of their homeland in 1947-48 should be fairly and
promptly compensated. When and if compensation is preferred to repatriation, Israel must foot
the bill, and not the international community.

Palestinians will feel that justice is better served when Israel , which caused their forced
exodus from their country, is held accountable and made to bear the cost.

If Israel thinks that some of its people have a claim on some Arab countries from which they
voluntarily left, it must bear in mind that the Palestiniansג€™ rights are legally distinct and
must not be confused or linked in any way to any such Jewish claim.

With these ground rules in mind, it should not be too difficult to implement the Arab Peace
Initiative in all its aspects, including the Palestinian refugeesג€™ right of return.


The person who wrote this text believes he is offering the most generous terms to the Israelis. But there are two problems:
1) He wants to give Palestinian refugees the choice of right of return to their homes in Israel. Don't worry, he promises us, few will choose to come back, it's only a matter of pinciple and there's nothing to be concerned.

But we are concerned. We cannot simply givethat choice and hope for the best. Even if only the Palestiians refugees in Lebanon will choose to come to Israel, that wil be 250,000 people. And wat about he ones living in Gaza? And that's if we do not consider the possibility that they would seek that choice for political reasons, encouraged to undermine Israel.

2) He expects Israel to take sole and full responsibility for the refugee problem. At first there doesn't seem to be any problem. By now many Israelis are aware of the refugees and of Israel's responsibility. They have every incentive to help the Palestinian refugees. All they need is the closure of Israel admiting its guilt. But no, Israelis will not stand accused alone by the Arabs, as if Israelis just woke one day and decided to throw passive Palestnians from their homes, as if there weren't two sides to that war. Even peacnicks (except the extreme) will not accept that. It's a matter of principle.

So if Israelis wil not agree to the agreed and just formula defined by the Arabs, and the Arabs wil not agree to the Israeli requests for changes -- its a matter of principle after all -- then amazingly enough, this alone can prevent peace, and that's if we're not mentioning the other issues.

Meanwhile, Ami's idea of an Israeli counter offer is sadly not going to work either. The current Israeli government, or any likely elected government is not going to make the offer that we, Israelis who want peace, feel is necessary. They'l come close, but not close enough to what we think is necessary. And even if they will, the Arabs are not going to feel its enough, unlikely -- because of the above principle of the right of return and because they'll believe if they came this close to getting a deal with everything but the right of return, they should hold out for all, supported by the Arab world. So close but so far.

This narrow gap will be easily filled by the Israeli right and by the Hamas.

I'm sorry, but I find it difficult to encourage myself.

Posted by Micha @ 03/22/2007 03:04 AM CST

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