Ted BelmanThe author is a retired attorney and the editor of Israpundit. In 2009 he made aliya and is now living in Jerusalem.
There is only one reason that Netanyahu is not stressing Israel’s legal rights and that is because he intends to abandon them.
In present negotiations between Israel and the PA, it is opined that Sec. Kerry is prepared to concede on most of Netanyahu’s security demands but expects Netanyahu to concede the land demands of the PA supported by President Obama. This deal is called “land, with minor swaps, for peace”.
I believe, judging by the past, that if Netanyahu gets the security he wants, even if limited to 10 or 15 years on some issues, that he will settle for the major settlement blocks and would abandon East Jerusalem, Ariel, E1 and the rest of Judea and Samaria.
Kerry is following the blueprint of Carter who achieved a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in 1979. It was based on 100% withdrawal, i.e. land for peace. To achieve it, Carter insisted that Begin and Sadat be sequestered and silent about negotiations. Furthermore negotiations established two Framework Agreements; one on the terms/framework for Israel-Egypt peace agreement and the other on a framework for regional peace.
Kerry is likewise insisting on silence and a framework agreement, otherwise known as an "agreement in principle".
In the latter framework agreement, both Carter and Sadat pressed Begin to agree to creating a Palestinian state, but Begin would only agree to autonomy for the Palestinians. It should be noted that autonomy is limited sovereignty. Acceding to Netanyahu’s security demands effectively leaves the Palestinians with autonomy only.
But I view it as a mistake of historic proportions, that Israel doesn’t make borders and land the primary issue rather than security. That’s what the Israeli right wants but not what the left wants. In a framework agreement Israel would agree to ’67 lines plus swaps and a divided Jerusalem. This formula is land, with minor saps, for peace. Israel would also agree to a limited return of “refugees” based on family reunification.
The details will subsequently be worked out in a future peace agreement. Palestinians would accept the security arrangements specified in some detail and mouth peaceful platitudes and might even accept Israel as the Jewish national home. That is, if they accept it at all.
What bothers me about such a deal is that Zion and therefore Zionism is associated with Judea and Samaria and not the coastal plain where Tel Aviv is. Israel would be giving up her biblical heartland. Herzl rejected Uganda when it was offered because, even though he was secular, he realized that the only place for the Jewish state he envisaged, was in Eretz Yisrael which includes Judea and Samaria, because it is to Eretz Yisrael that the Jews prayed for two thousand years to return. Nowhere else would suffice.
Ben Gurion, also secular, felt likewise though he accepted partition thereby giving up on our patrimony. He felt it was now or never for an independent Jewish state. At the same time he maintained our right to all of Palestine. During the War of Independence, he passed legislation automatically extending Israel sovereignty to any additional land we might conquer.
Also, one of the factors that led him to his decision was the fact that in 10 years the status of Jerusalem was to be put to a referendum which he was certain would result in Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem. I don’t quarrel with Ben Gurion’s decision to accept half a loaf. But I do quarrel with the idea that Israel should settle for security now, rather than Eretz Yisrael, especially since Israel never fought to keep it.
In accepting UNSC Res 242, Israel also accepted “recognized and secure borders” rather than rejecting such resolution and such borders and demanding our right to all of Judea and Samaria. Nothing has changed since then. Even now, as Israel negotiates a final settlement, she doesn’t start by demanding all the land and supporting such demand with strong historical and legal arguments. Instead, she doesn’t even make that claim and meekly says she will settle for security and recognition.
There is only one reason that Netanyahu is not stressing Israel’s legal rights and that is because he intends to abandon them. He would not have entered these negotiations if he wasn’t so inclined. While he rejected the framework of ’67 lines plus swaps as the basis of negotiations, he is free to accept such a framework during negotiations.
Looking to shore up his support, he declared in a Likud-Beytenu faction meeting. “Any agreement reached will come to a referendum. I committed to it and this is essentially correct and would happen if any agreement is reached.” Naftali Bennett, head of Habayit Hayehudit, who is committed to keeping most of Judea and Samaria, said he would accept the will of the people as expressed in a referendum.
But the Referendum Bill that was recently approved by the Israeli Cabinet, applies only to agreements that commit Israel to relinquishing land subject to Israeli sovereignty. This would include Jerusalem and the Golan. The Bill is still under discussion. The right want it to be a basic law requiring 61 votes to amend and the left doesn’t want it all. Some want it to require a super majority to pass. The proposed law does not apply to giving up parts of Judea and Samaria (West Bank). So, just what such a referendum will entail, remains uncertain.
I do not believe that Netanyahu is hoping to be saved by Palestinian rejectionism. I think he truly wants this deal. He recently said to the Saban Forum, “I’ve made hard decisions to further peace negotiations. I’m willing to make even harder decisions to achieve peace.”
Whether his coalition or the Israeli people are prepared for such a deal, remains to be seen.