Israel’s 10 months suspension of some building activities in the West Bank has yet to induce the Palestinian Authority to resume negotiations with Israel on the creation of a new Arab State between Israel, Jordan and Egypt.
In welcoming Israel’s moratorium United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared on 25 November:
“We believe that through good faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome that ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish State with secure and recognized borders.”
Regrettably Ms Clinton seems to have got the Palestinian goal wrong but the Israeli goal correct.
The Palestinian Authority is not interested in land swaps. It wants all 500000 Jews kicked out of their homes in the West Bank and is not prepared to concede its claim to sovereignty in one square metre of territory in the West Bank.
Land swaps had been proposed by Israel in 2008 and rejected by the Palestinian Authority. They were offered as a creative way of Israel retaining sovereignty of West Bank settlements created since 1967 on what is still “no man’s land” in international law - land included in the former League of Nations Mandate for Palestine in which sovereignty still remains unallocated between Jews and Arabs.
Israel’s withdrawal from 100% of the West Bank has been an unchanging Arab demand since 1967.
US Middle East Special Envoy George Mitchell in a press briefing given the same day following Ms Clinton’s announcement seemed to back away from his boss’s remarks omitting any mention of “agreed swaps” when he said:
“As we and others have said many times, the way to move forward is to enter negotiations without preconditions and reach agreements on the two-state solution: a Jewish state of Israel living side by side in peace and security with an independent, contiguous, and viable Palestinian state."
Mr Mitchell - in so doing - was correctly putting the Palestinian position contradicting what the Secretary of State had said earlier that day.
Land swaps are not on the Palestinian agenda although agreement to such a proposal could dramatically help towards the successful conclusion of any negotiations.
Ms Clinton in correctly pointing out the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized boundaries - raised one of the most contentious issues requiring Arab acceptance.
Mr Mitchell however questioned the Secretary of State’s remark when in an answer to a question a few minutes later he stated:
“Well, as I said, we believe that the best way forward is to re-launch negotiations in an atmosphere in which they can succeed. We will encourage both sides to continue to take steps that will lead to that result and enable us to begin negotiations in a way that affords what I believe to be a reasonable and good prospect of achieving what the Palestinians want and what we want; that is, a two-state solution with an independent and a viable and a contiguous Palestinian state, and a state of Israel living with secure and recognized borders with security for all of its people. And we are going to continue to pursue that objective.”
Specifically omitted from Mr Mitchell’s answer was that one critical word used by the Secretary of State - “Jewish”.
Recognition of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people has been consistently rejected by the Palestinian Authority for the last 16 years and there has not been the slightest indication of any change of heart in that position.
Indeed it would be reasonable to expect that anyone in a position of leadership in the Palestinian Authority would be signing his own death warrant were he to make that concession since it completely negates the provisions of the PLO Covenant and the Charter of Hamas which both call for the dismantling of the Jewish State.
I do not believe that Mr Mitchell’s omission of the word “Jewish” was the result of oversight. It was deliberate and follows the pattern of conduct he has followed before as he tailors his comments before audiences depending on whether he is speaking to Jews or Arabs.
It is notable that he also said this is “what the Palestinians want and what we want”.
It certainly is what the Palestinians want. From the American perspective it does not appear to be what the Americans want judged by the remarks of the Secretary of State just hours before.
Whilst America speaks with two tongues any influence it may have in procuring successful negotiations to be concluded will prove a fruitless exercise.
Perhaps the Americans think that ambivalence and ambiguity is the best strategy to follow to keep both parties guessing what its final position will be in supporting either of the parties in the achievement of their respective goals.
It is clear however that the parties are as far apart as ever in resolving their cardinal differences and that America still appears unclear as to what the goals of each of the parties to the conflict are.
Until the Palestinian Authority disabuses itself of the notion that
1. Israel will withdraw from 100% of the West Bank
2. Israel will evict 500000 Jews who live in the West Bank
3. Israel will give up its claim to be recognized by the Palestinian Authority as the national homeland of the Jews
then the efforts of the Americans “to re-launch negotiations in an atmosphere in which they can succeed.” will be a total waste of time and effort.