[Published 21 June 2013]
The thought that anyone was prepared to contribute to paying former American President Bill Clinton $500,000 to deliver a 45 minute speech at the Peres Academic Centre during the festivities marking Israeli President Shimon Peres’s 90th birthday is truly staggering - especially after hearing what he had to say.
He regurgitated the now dead mantra that the only solution to end the conflict between Jews and Arabs was the “two state solution” - claiming:
“I just don’t think that in all these years a credible alternative has been presented that would preserve the essential character of the state of Israel — a Jewish but democratic state.”
That solution had first been formulated in 1922 by the Mandate for Palestine - then proposed in 1937 by the Peel Commission and in 1947 by the United Nations - only to be rejected by the Arabs on all three occasions.
That same solution was available between 1948-1967 when not one Jew lived in the West Bank or Gaza - and again that golden opportunity was not taken up by the Arabs.
Now in 2013 - Clinton was urging Israel to continue pursuing the same solution under the 1993 Oslo Accords and the 2003 Bush Roadmap - although such a successful outcome had not been achieved in the last 20 years notwithstanding unprecedented diplomatic pressure being applied by the Quartet - the UN, Russia, America and the European Union.
In a speech singularly lacking in vision - Clinton praised Peres - stating:
“He is one of the great men of vision in the world ... Peres lives in the future, and is always thinking about tomorrow… If you don’t have a vision of where you want to wind up, bad things are going to happen sooner or later… You have a better chance if you are driven by a vision of peace and reconciliation.”
Guest of honor Peres - together with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sitting next to him - would surely have been miffed to think that visionary proposals suggested by each of them more than two decades ago - were not now considered credible alternatives by Clinton to fill the void left by the doomed two state solution.
On 11 December 1984 Netanyahu told the United Nations:
“Clearly, in Eastern and Western Palestine, there are only two peoples, the Arabs and the Jews. Just as clearly, there are only two states in that area, Jordan and Israel. The Arab State of Jordan, containing some three million Arabs, does not allow a single Jew to live there. It also contains 4/5 of the territory originally allocated by this body’s predecessor, the League of Nations, for the Jewish National Home. The other State, Israel, has a population of over four million, of which one sixth is Arab. It contains less than 1/5 of the territory originally allocated to the Jews under the Mandate…. It cannot be said, therefore, that the Arabs of Palestine are lacking a state of their own. The demand for a second Palestinian Arab State in Western Palestine, and a 22nd Arab State in the world, is merely the latest attempt to push Israel back into the hopelessly vulnerable armistice lines of 1949.”
Peres had expressed similar views to Netanyahu - telling the Jewish Telegraph on 19 April 1991:
”It is not obstinacy to regard the populations of Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza as having greater similarities than differences. The Jordan River is not deep enough to turn into a knife blade serving to cut one piece of territory into three slices. Most of Jordan’s population are Palestinians: the residents of the West Bank are Jordanian citizens and Jordan has distributed tens of thousands of passports to residents in the Gaza Strip. Jordan is therefore an existing State. It has an army. There is therefore no need to set up another State, another army.”
Clinton also spoke movingly of his relationship with assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin:
“the saddest day of my presidency was the day prime minister Rabin lost his life ... never a week goes by, even now, that I don’t think of him ...”Clinton had apparently not thought about Rabin’s vision of peace and reconciliation expressed in the Knesset on 5 October 1995 - just a few weeks before his untimely death.
In presenting the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip for ratification - Rabin declared:
“We are striving for a permanent solution to the unending bloody conflict between us and the Palestinians and the Arab states.
In the framework of the permanent solution, we aspire to reach, first and foremost, the State of Israel as a Jewish state, at least 80% of whose citizens will be, and are, Jews.
At the same time, we also promise that the non-Jewish citizens of Israel—Muslim, Christian, Druze and others—will enjoy full personal, religious and civil rights, like those of any Israeli citizen. Judaism and racism are diametrically opposed.
We view the permanent solution in the framework of State of Israel which will include most of the area of the Land of Israel as it was under the rule of the British Mandate, and alongside it a Palestinian entity which will be a home to most of the Palestinian residents living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
We would like this to be an entity which is less than a state, and which will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority. The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines.”
Alas - the visions of Rabin, Peres and Netanyahu were overtaken by the illusions of Oslo and the Roadmap - turning a backroom deal between Israel and the PLO - engineered by Peres - into a diplomatic nightmare and a political disaster.
Clinton still clings to the wreckage of an outdated and rejected proposal Peres helped revive - the creation of a second Arab state in Palestine for the first time ever in recorded history.
Clinton needs to articulate the earlier credible alternatives expressed by his dear friends and visionary heroes - Peres and Rabin - supported by their political opponent - Netayahu.
Jordan needs to become directly involved in turning their long standing visions into reality - if the Jewish-Arab conflict is to be peacefully resolved.
Indeed many Arab leaders including Yasser Arafat, King Abdullah 1, King Hussein and Crown Prince Hassan have expressed similar sentiments to Peres, Rabin and Netanyahu.
All the money in the world would not be enough to pay Clinton if he could turn their combined visions into a permanent agreement.