Op-Ed: The US Should Cut a Deal
Ted BelmanThe author is a retired attorney and the editor of Israpundit. In 2009 he made aliya and is now living in Jerusalem.
For the last 30 years, the US has been pushing Israel to withdraw from all territories occupied as a result of the six day War in 1967. In doing so, they are running contrary to the UNSC Res 242 that permitted Israel to remain and ensure she had secure and recognized borders.
In 2002 as the US was preparing to invade Iraq, she began negotiations for the creation of a Palestinian state and the roadmap to get there.
As a result , President Bush delivered his “vision speech” in which he committed the US to support the creation of a Palestinian state subject to certain provisos, namely, that they “build a practising democracy, based on tolerance and liberty.” and they stop “encouraging, not opposing, terrorism”. These preconditions have not remotely been met.
The Roadmap was presented in 2003 just days after the invasion of Iraq began. It is obvious that the two were linked. Unfortunately it included reference to the Saudi Plan which required 100% withdrawal. When Israel balked at its inclusion, Secretary Powell said the Roadmap is only a process and forced PM Sharon to accept it albeit with 14 reservations.
No one has heard of those reservations since even though the U.S. promised to "fully and seriously address" them.
President Bush reiterated these provisos in his letter of 2004 to Sharon, in support of his Disengagement Plan:
“First, the United States remains committed to my vision and to its implementation as described in the roadmap. The United States will do its utmost to prevent any attempt by anyone to impose any other plan. Under the roadmap, Palestinians must undertake an immediate cessation of armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere, and all official Palestinian institutions must end incitement against Israel. The Palestinian leadership must act decisively against terror, including sustained, targeted, and effective operations to stop terrorism and dismantle terrorist capabilities and infrastructure. Palestinians must undertake a comprehensive and fundamental political reform that includes a strong parliamentary democracy and an empowered prime minister.”
He also removed the contradiction between The Saudi Plan and Res 242 by writing:
“This means that the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 will be ended through a settlement negotiated between the parties, based on UN resolutions 242 and 338, with Israeli withdrawal to secure and recognize borders.”
No mention was made of the Saudi Plan.
Pres Obama, soon after his inauguration, denied that this letter bound the US, though many, such as Elliot Abrams, said the US was bound by the letter. Obama wanted to be free to embrace the Saudi Plan and, if necessary, to impose a solution. He also wanted to ignore the provisos.
Not only has he come out in support of the ’67 pre-war lines as borders subject to swaps, he is applying extreme pressure on Israel to accept his Plan, both in violation of the Bush letter and Res 242.
All presidents, Obama included, have supported direct negotiations for the achievement of a settlement. Inherent in negotiations is the right to reject what one doesn’‘t accept. But this right has been denied to Israel by demanding that she make peace with the PA and mooting that she will be blamed if she doesn‘t.
Furthermore the US has thwarted the achievement of a settlement by supporting the PA diplomatically and financially to the extent that the PA can say “no” forever. In a labor dispute the party feeling the most economic pain will yield ground to reach a settlement. But if maintaining one’s position has no economic downside then there will never be a settlement.
What the US should be doing instead of forcing Israel to meet the PA terms, is to reach an agreement with Israel on refugees, borders, security and Jerusalem. Then the US would recognize such borders and get the EU to do likewise and Israel would accept such borders. Thus the "occupation" would be ended and there would be no conflict between the PA and Israel.
The Minister of Housing for Israel, Uri Ariel, was recently interviewed and said “
“Everyone in the coalition agrees, including [Justice Minister Tzipi] Livni and [Finance Minister Yair] Lapid, that the major settlement blocs will remain intact, the Jordan Valley will remain part of Israel, there cannot be a right of return and Jerusalem will remain united. “
But beyond this, borders should be drawn so that a minimum of Israelis would have to be expelled. The recent Population Registry of the Interior Ministry in Israel, showed that the Jewish population as of Dec. 31, 2013 in East Jerusalem was 330,000 and Judea and Samaria, 373,992. Martin Indyk recently said that the Framework being worked on would keep 75 to 80% of the settlers west of the new border. In other words, over 150,000 Jews would have to be expelled. Based on the cost of expelling 8,000 from Gaza, this would cost over $150 Billion.
This is totally unacceptable both as to cost and number of expellees.
If the US would propose a border which left minimal Jews east of it, if it saw no other way, it would reduce the cost by at least $100 Billion. In addition she should propose a population exchange of Arabs living in the territories west of the proposed border for the number of Jews living east of it. This would be a rational solution. And the amount of added territory Israel would keep would be infinitesimal.
Israel withdrew from Sinai and Gaza which constituted about 90% of the territories occupied The remaining territories have an area of 5,327 sq,km, excluding Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria and 1800 sq.km in the Golan Heights.. If Israel were to withdraw from parts of Judea and Samaria where there are almost no Jews and keep the Golan, she would have withdrawn from most of the original "occupied territories", This would be in keeping with Res 242.
There is no justification in law or history to support a settlement based on the ’67 pre-war lines plus swaps.
To date, the US has been thwarting the law i.e. Res 242 to curry favor with the Arabs. But doing so, is no longer necessary or smart.
The Arabs and their oil wealth are in decline, The Gulf states have to worry now about their own survival. Egypt is an economic basket case and is subject to much terrorism. Syria is experiencing a devastating civil war. Iraq is witnessing an insurgent al Qaeda and has lost some territory to it. American is almost self-sufficient in energy.
As for the Palestinian Arabs, they are nothing without US and EU diplomatic and financial support and Israeli security support. They are in no position to argue. Beggars, as they say, can’t be choosers. .
This deal might work. It could end the conflict with the Palestinians. The Americans, the Israelis, the Palestinians and the world will all be better off for it.