Op-Ed: Israel's Choices: Hanged for a Pound or a Penny?
Ted Belman, IsrapunditThe author is a retired attorney and the editor of Israpundit. In 2009 he made aliya and is now living in Jerusalem.
On March 11/03, The New Republic published an essay by Ben Birnbaum entitled The End of the Two-State Solution Why the window is closing on Middle-East peace. He wrote:
- Today, the essential conditions for a peace process remain. Majorities of Israelis and Palestinians continue to support a two-state solution. It remains possible to draw a border that would give the Palestinians the territorial equivalent of the entire West Bank, while allowing Israel to incorporate the vast majority of its settlers. So far, the number of settlers living in communities that would need to be evacuated has not passed the point of irreversibility. Jerusalem is still dividable. Hamas is confined to its Gaza fortress. And Abbas, a Palestinian leader like no other before and perhaps no other to come, remains in office. By the end of Barack Obama’s presidency, however, every one of these circumstances could vanish—and if that happens, the two-state solution will vanish along with them.[..]
[According to recent polls]…. two-thirds of Israelis said they would support a peace deal creating a Palestinian state the size of the West Bank and Gaza, with a capital in East Jerusalem. The proposal was supported across the political spectrum—including by majorities of voters for Netanyahu’s Likud, the more hard-line Jewish Home Party, and the ultra-orthodox Shas.
I found this quite hard to believe.
A Dahaf Institute poll in 2011 found:
- - Seventy-seven percent of Israelis oppose returning to pre-1967 lines
- the poll reads “with minor border adjustments”] even if it would lead to a peace agreement and declarations by Arab states of an end to their conflict with Israel
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs/Dahaf Institute Survey, December 2012 found:
- Main Points
- 76% of Israelis (83% of Jews) believe that a withdrawal to the 1967 lines and a division of Jerusalem would not bring about an end of the conflict.
- 61% of the Jewish population believes that defensible borders are more important than peace for assuring Israel’s security (up from 49% in 2005).
- 78% of Jews indicated they would change their vote if the party they intended to support indicated that it was prepared to relinquish sovereignty in east Jerusalem. 59% of Jews said the same about the Jordan Valley.
Birnbaum wants to give the Palestinians the equivalent of 100% of Judea and Samaria even though there is no legal obligation to do so. The only reason for doing so is that the Arabs want it. I should point out that UN Res. 242 allowed Israel to keep part the conquered territories and to demand secure borders. Israel has already withdrawn from 90% of the territories referred to in Res. 242. Thus if she only retains 10% of what’s left it would only be 1% of the said territories. Previously Israel was denied 78% of of the land, which formed the new country of Transjordan, on land originally promised to the Jews for a national homeland.
Birnbaum said that Sharon had come to this conclusion. He believed that a peace agreement was not possible and the occupation was untenable. Birnbaum continued:
- Meanwhile, the security establishment, which for decades saw a Palestinian state as a mortal threat, arrived at the same conclusion. Or, as former military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin put it to me, “Having a border is the best security arrangement.” Settling the conflict, the logic went, would give Israel greater international legitimacy to fight terrorism and enable it to deal with the more serious emerging threat from Iran.
Significantly, Yadlin favored making the necessary compromises for a deal while still maintaining there was no trustworthy partner on the Palestinian side. I asked him what the results would be if he and other current and former heads of major security agencies were polled on the peace question. Yadlin answered that, as long as there were adequate security provisions in place—such as a demilitarized Palestinian state, early-warning stations, Israeli control of the air space and electro-magnetic spectrum, and an effective international force in the Jordan Valley—his colleagues would support an agreement in “the same proportion” as the rest of the population: that is, by a solid majority. “Maybe more,” he said, “because they have served in the territories and they understand the fact that, if you want a Jewish and democratic state, you should not control 2.5 million Palestinians.”
Surely he knows that there are only 1.5 million Arabs in Judea and Samaria.
Yadlin previously had said
- “I’d withdraw basically, plus-minus, to the security fence, and will keep the blocs that in my future peace accord are part of Israel. And I will keep some cards for the time the Palestinians come to their senses and agree to peace—then we will have to give them something more.”
I should point out that all of Jerusalem is included within the fence. Barak decided to complete the fence including E-1, but excluding Maale Adumin. This suggestion is far better for Israel than the Barak 2000 offer and the much worse Olmert offer. Yadlin foresaw that Israel would cede more if the Palestinians wanted to negotiate a peace agreement.
According to Birnbaum:
- The Abbas-Olmert talks, 36 meetings in all, were perhaps the closest the two sides have ever come to an agreement. In September 2008, the two men met in Olmert’s study, where the Israeli leader showed Abbas a map of a Palestinian state comprising the territorial equivalent of 100 percent of the West Bank and Gaza, with its capital in East Jerusalem. and said: "I want to tell you one thing: In the next fifty years, there will be no prime minister in Israel who will propose to you something similar to this.”
Over the course of their talks, the two men agreed to divide Jerusalem largely along ethnic lines. Abbas accepted in principle Olmert’s plan to place the most sensitive part of the capital, the Holy Basin, under the control of a five-nation consortium.
They even narrowed the gap on the right of return. Olmert offered to take in a token 5000 and Abbas wanted this increased 10 fold. Tzipi Livni was prepared to accept this deal.
Olmert was wrong to make the offer, but was certainly correct when he told Abbas, “there will be no prime minister in Israel who will propose to you something similar to this.”.
Sharon and Yadlin believed in unilateral withdrawal. Naftali Bennett wants to annex Area C consisting of 60% of Judea and Samaria, all the Jewish communities and only 4% of the Arabs. Maaleh Adumin is in Area C.
But there is no need to unilaterally withdraw to the fence as Yadlin proposed. We should unilaterally annex Area C and negotiate from there. Part of this territory could be given to the Arabs later for a peace agreement. And if there is no peace agreement, so be it. Keep in mind that this is no panacea. We annexed east Jerusalem but the world doesn’t recognize the annexation and screams blue murder when we build there. The annexation will give them more to scream about.
Whether Israel withdraws unilaterally to the fence or annexes Area C, she will be attacked. If Israel is going to make a move which upsets the world better to make it a worthwhile move.
Better to be hung for a pound than for a penny.