[Published 12 March 2011]
The world has been agog this week at the news that Israel’s Prime Minister - Benjamin Netanyahu - is to announce a new peace plan in May - possibly in an address to the United States Congress - in an effort to end the conflict between Jews and Arabs in former Palestine.
This conflict still remains unresolved more than 90 years after the signing of Treaty of Sevres in 1920 and the unanimous decision of the League of Nations in 1922 - mandating
Great Britain to reconstitute the Jewish National Home in Palestine in recognition of the historical association of the Jewish people with Palestine - without prejudice to the civil and religious rights of “existing non- Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country”.
These decisions relating to Palestine -(which included what is today called Israel, Gaza, the West Bank and Jordan) - had been made in the context of recognizing Arab self determination in 99.999% of the lands of the Ottoman Empire captured by Great Britain and France in World War 1 - whilst the remaining 0.001% of those lands was to be set aside for Jewish self determination.
Speculation has been rife as to what Netanyahu’s May proposal will encompass.
One can state with reasonable confidence that any new Netanyahu initiative will receive short shrift from both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas and be totally unacceptable to them.
Ninety years of Arab rejectionism following the promulgation of the Mandate is not suddenly going to evaporate in May - unless Netanyahu’s proposal:
1. Accepts the right of return into Israel for those Arabs who became refugees in 1948 - and their descendants - who now supposedly number at least 7 million.
2. Agrees to hand over control of towns like Ariel, Maale Adumim and Har Homa to the Palestinian Authority and to evacuate the 70000 Jews who currently live there along with at least another 70000 Jews who live in a number of other towns and villages in the West Bank
3. Forgoes his demand that Israel be recognized as the Jewish National Home
4. Abandons the requirement for Israel to maintain a military presence along the Jordan River
5. Acknowledges that any Palestinian State can have its own armed forces and unfettered control of its air space and maritime coastline
These Arab demands have been - and continue to be - major stumbling blocks to achieving the “two-state solution” for the last 18 years.
Even worse - offering some of these concessions will never suffice. The above concessions are really an all or nothing scenario - and even then would still possibly be rejected by Hamas as it re-arms itself for another violent confrontation with Israel.
Zalman Shoval - the foreign policy chief of Netanyahu’s Likud party - is reported in the Los Angeles Times as having said this week:
“Is he [Netanyahu] running scared? I don’t think so.. But there is pressure. And it certainly makes it necessary for a lot of heart-searching and perhaps reappraisals.”
Any heart searching and reappraisals will be a total waste of time and effort unless all the above concessions are offered. That is not going to happen. Netanyahu is not yet ready to commit national suicide.
Israeli Defence Minister - Ehud Barak - wants to see Netanyahu release his proposals before May - telling Israel Radio:
“Such a decision must be taken in the coming weeks, not the coming months. A declaration before the Congress in May would be far too late,”One could equally postulate that a decision in May would be far too early - indeed that no such decision should be made until:
1. Hamas and the Palestinian Authority bury their political differences
2. A single unitary governing body exists in the West Bank and Gaza that is capable of making,honouring and enforcing any agreements that might be signed with Israel
3. The political situation has been stabilized in Egypt and Jordan and the continued operation of the peace treaties signed by Israel with these countries is assured.
4. The newly elected governing body in the West Bank and Gaza resumes direct negotiations with Israel
Barak further stated:
“The world will not accept that we continue to rule over another people after 43 years,”
Barak is talking poppycock.
Under the Oslo Accords - negotiated in 1993:
1. 96% of the West Bank Arab population is ruled over by the Palestinian Authority - not Israel - so far as their civil rights and administrative control are concerned .
2. 55% of the West Bank Arab population is ruled over by the Palestinian Authority - not Israel - so far as their security protection is concerned.
3. 100% of the Gazan Arab population is already subject to the full administrative and civil control and security protection of Hamas following Israel’s unilateral evacuation from Gaza in 2005.
Perhaps Barak would serve Israel’s national interest better by asking why the world accepted Egypt and Jordan ruling over another people between 1948-1967 when a Palestinian State could have then been created in the entirety of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem with the stroke of an Arab League pen.
That solution - which the world now belatedly - and mistakenly - still thinks is possible more than 43 years later - has been proved to have been an illusion in 2011 - after the last 18 years of on and off negotiations have failed to bring it to fruition.
The world has egg on its face - as does its powerful negotiating team comprising the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations. They still have to learn that nothing will appease or be acceptable to the majority of those 21 Arab States other than the elimination of the Jewish National Home the world unanimously endorsed in 1922 in promulgating the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine - which was subsequently confirmed and preserved by article 80 of the United Nations Charter in 1945.
Perhaps Barak would do well to leave all the talking to his Prime Minister - not that anything Netanyahu says now or in May will have the remotest possibility of resonating with the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.
“All or nothing at all” has been - and continues to be - the motto of the Palestinian Arab leaders. Their people meantime will continue to suffer as the current leadership continues to take them down the road to nowhere.