Op-Ed: Israeli Negotiation Positions are Greatly Compromised
Ted Belman, IsrapunditThe author is a retired attorney and the editor of Israpundit. In 2009 he made aliya and is now living in Jerusalem.
Israel National News had a breaking news item this week under the title “Kerry Expects Israeli Concessions to PA down the Line.” We are told that the US has requested the EU give them sole responsibility for brokering peace with the PA, and Secretary John Kerry will soon present a two-stage negotiation program.
According to Kerry's proposal, negotiations with the PA without preconditions, pertaining to PA statehood and Israeli security guarantees. Following an agreement on these points in principle, The PA will receive hefty financial reinforcement as a reward, in addition to a bonus Israeli construction freeze.
That's diplomacy for you. Abbas drops preconditions and Israel agrees to a settlement freeze as a bonus. Thus Israel will satisfy one of his previous preconditions.
Another example of diplomacy at work is the major concessions Netanyahu got from Obama in his first term. Early on Obama made the statement that negotiations should proceed without preconditions and that the conflict must be settled by direct negotiations between the parties. One wonders what Netanyahu gave in return.
Obama kept repeating this mantra, but he also ignored it. He made it is his policy to support a deal based on the '67 lines and swaps. Kerry, to buttress this, announced an alleged amendment to the Arab Peace Initiative wherein the Arab countries agreed to swaps providing they were minor. But the truth is that swaps were always part of the discussions.
Both Kerry and Obama expect major concessions by Israel. It seems to me that such expectations fly in the face of Israel's right to negotiate which right includes the right to say no to any offer they don't like and to keep saying no if they are not satisfied with subsequent offers. Thus Israel's right to negotiate has been greatly compromised.
Not all negotiations end in a deal. If a seller offers his house at a price of $1 million and a buyer offers $500,000 for it, it is possible that a mutually agreed price will be arrived at through negotiations. But it is also possible that no price is mutually acceptable. What Kerry and Obama are telling Israel, the Seller, is, that you must accept $550,000 whether you like it or not. What kind of negotiation is that.
Netanyahu understands this doublespeak. He uses it to mislead his electorate while at the same time acting otherwise. Look at how many conflicting things we have been told about the freeze; there is a freeze, there is no freeze, there is only a freeze to help Kerry get negotiations started knowing full well that if negotiations start the freeze will last as long as the negotiations.
Netanyahu during elections kept repeating that Jerusalem will remain the undivided capital of Israel forever. Who now believes he won't agree to divide Jerusalem.
His only redlines, for now at least, are that the PA must agree to be a demilitarized state and must recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. Everything else is negotiable. He keeps stressing that he won't jeopardize Israel's security, but he never lays claim to our rights which includes the right to sovereignty over all of Judea and Samaria. He doesn't even say that the lands are disputed which previous governments have stressed.
If Abbas can state no deal unless Jerusalem is divided and Obama can state that the settlement must be based on the '67 lines plus swaps, why can't Netanyahu say Jerusalem must remain the undivided capital of Israel and all settlement blocs, including Ariel and Maaleh Adumin, must remain part of Israel and that includes E1. The fact that he doesn't say so is bad negotiating tactics and direct evidence that these things are negotiable.
Nor does he mention with sincerity that any agreement must include an end of conflict agreement. Perhaps the reason is that there is no way that Hamas nor their financial backers, will be bound by it. And it’s not just Hamas. They are joined by a considerable portion of the Arab and Muslim world that won't rest until Israel is destroyed regardless of any "peace agreement" with the PA. No mention is made of this.
Netanyahu and select Cabinet ministers recently visited Poland and met with the Polish government. His office issued a communique intended to be signed by both leaders. PM Netanyahu was quick to disavow it because it proscribed unilateral moves.
Netanyahu took issue with this statement because, according to media because the implication in that statement is that Netanyahu was taking a stand against construction in "West Bank" settlements, a position which would complicate his political standing at home.
The truth of the matter is that this could not have been the reason for the objection. In fact the Accords only proscribe unilateral steps which change the (legal) status of the land. Building on it would do no such thing.
The government of Israel knows this. In 1996 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported:
Neither the Declaration of Principles of 13 September 1993 nor the Interim Agreement (Oslo II) of 28 September 1995 contains any provisions prohibiting or restricting the establishment or expansion of Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
Indeed, when he presented the Oslo II accords before the Knesset on 5 October 1995, the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin stated, "I wish to remind you, we made a commitment, meaning we reached an agreement, we made a commitment to the Knesset not to uproot any settlement in the framework of the Interim Agreement, nor to freeze construction and natural growth."
What probably triggered his objection to the statement was the inclusion of a clause to the effect that "the Palestinian right to a state should never be in doubt." This was shocking. While negotiations may result in them getting a state, they have no right to it. This is a huge concession that Netanyahu/Israel refuses to make. No wonder he disavowed the joint statement and it was buried.
Abbas has made it abundantly clear what his demands are and has given no sign that he is prepared to accept less. The mere fact that Netanyahu is prepared to enter negotiations under these conditions even if Abbas doesn't insist, as a pre-condition, that the basis of negotiations should be the '67 lines, suggests that Netanyahu accepts this as the basis, his protestations to the contrary notwithstanding.
How can Netanyahu later say that Israel rejects such a deal when he is prepared to enter negotiations in which it is a foregone conclusion?
It is imperative that Netanyahu enter negotiations on his terms; no to dividing Jerusalem and no to giving up any of the settlement blocs.