[Published 19 July 2010]
Egypt has been the latest venue for attempts to kick start direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and President Obama’s special envoy George Mitchell jetted into Cairo over the weekend for more talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and a clutch of other lesser dignitaries from the Arab League designed to revive what has become increasingly seen as irrelevant and a complete waste of time - creating a new Arab state between Israel and Jordan.
Abbas continues to reject the idea of such a state being created in 93.5% of the West Bank with an additional area equivalent to the remaining 6.5% being carved out of Israel’s sovereign territory.
Abbas has rejected that offer since it was made to him by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in December 2008. Given that Israel has changed its Prime Minister since then - the chances of this offer even being open now can only be tested if Abbas publicly indicates his willingness to accept such an offer. That is not going to happen.
The Arabs have always found it impossible to say “Yes” when it comes to any offers of compromise.
The Arabs have seen their personal hopes and aspirations in former Palestine in constant decline as a result of their refusal to accept:
(i) The division of 99.999% of the Ottoman Empire to the Arabs and 0.001% to the Jews as determined in 1920 at the San Remo Conference and by the Treaty of Sevres
(ii) The binding legal effect of the 1922 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine
(iii) The partition recommendations for Palestine made by the Peel Commission in 1937
(iv) The 1947 United Nations Partition Resolution
(v) Recognition of Israel as the sovereign independent state of the Jewish people following its establishment in 1948
(vi) The opportunity to create an independent Arab state in the West Bank and East Jerusalem following its occupation by Jordan between 1948-1967 and in Gaza following its occupation by Egypt during that same period
(vii) Any negotiations with Israel after the Six Day War in 1967 until 1993
(viii) The offers made by Israel at Camp David in 2000 and 2001 and in 2008 under the Annapolis negotiating process
Conversely however their stocks in terms of international political support continue to rise the more their intransigence in seeking a solution to the Arab-Jewish conflict continues to harden.
The only possible solution that now presents itself as remotely achievable in the face of such obstinacy is the division of sovereignty of the West Bank between Jordan and Israel in direct face to face negotiations.
That solution too has been rejected by Jordan whose decision has been accepted internationally without demur and without any attempt to have it reconsider its position.
Obviously such Arab naysaying brings its rewards as Israel is pressured to make even more concessions whilst the Arabs sit back and continue to hold out for more.
Naysaying has now even affected the thinking of former Israeli Minister of Defence and Ambassador to Washington Moshe Arens who recently wrote:
“The Jordanian option has on occasion been raised as a promising approach. After all, most of Jordan’s population is Palestinian. For 19 years, Judea and Samaria were part of Jordan, its population Jordanian citizens, and the geographic juxtaposition between Israel and Jordan should make delineating the border between the two countries in an agreement considerably easier than reaching a deal on a border between Israel and a Palestinian state that might be established in the area. There is only one problem - the Jordanians won’t hear of it. They don’t want to overload their security apparatus, which has been functioning quite effectively, by including another 1.5 million Palestinians within their borders.”
Strangely no such complaints of overloading Jordan’s security apparatus were made when those same Palestinians were Jordanian citizens between 1948-1967. But Jordan’s continuing refusal to become involved in the West Bank based on this specious argument is sufficient reason enough for Arens to give up on the Jordanian option he has long advocated and seek other unrealistic alternatives.
It seems all right for Israel to be pressured to take “risks for peace” - but not Jordan.
Israel now needs to start some naysaying itself by declaring that it will not enter into further negotiations with the Palestinian Authority unless direct negotiations without conditions are resumed within 30 days.
Israel should make it clear that at the expiration of those 30 days it will call on King Abdullah to come and sit at the negotiating table with Israel to enable the two successor states to the Mandate for Palestine to complete some long outstanding and unfinished business - establishing for the first time ever an unconditional internationally recognized boundary between their respective states which has remained undetermined since the Israel-Jordan Armistice Agreement signed in 1949.
The Armistice Agreement clearly states:
“It is also recognised that no provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims and positions of either Party hereto in the ultimate peaceful settlement of the Palestine question, the provisions of this Agreement being dictated exclusively by military considerations.” [Article II (2)]
“The Armistice Demarcation Lines defined in articles V and VI of this Agreement are agreed upon by the Parties without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto.[Article VI (9)]”
The demarcation of the internationally recognized boundary that eventually took place between Jordan and Israel under the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty 1994 contains the following proviso:
“The boundary, as set out in Annex I (a), is the permanent, secure and recognised international boundary between Israel and Jordan, without prejudice to the status of any territories that came under Israeli military government control in 1967” [Article 3(2)]
Determining the status of those territories has been impossible to achieve with the Palestinian Authority for the last 17 years. It has been an exercise fraught with frustration caused by the intransigence of the Palestinian Authority. The time has come to determine the status of those territories with Jordan if the Palestinian Authority does not return to the negotiating table within the next thirty days.
Israel should say “no” to anything else - and continue saying “no“ until its demands are met - either by the Palestinian Authority or Jordan.
Naysaying is a tactic that has rewarded the Arabs. It is time for Israel to take a leaf out of their book and end the current farcical situation.