Jan 18th 2011

The End of Land for Peace!

by Alon Ben-Meir

A noted journalist and author, Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is professor of international relations and Middle East studies at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University. Ben-Meir holds a masters degree in philosophy and a doctorate in international relations from Oxford University. His exceptional knowledge and insight, the result of more than 20 years of direct involvement in foreign affairs, with a focus on the Middle East, has allowed Dr. Ben-Meir to offer a uniquely invaluable perspective on the nature of world terrorism, conflict resolution and international negotiations. Fluent in Arabic and Hebrew, Ben-Meir's frequent travels to the Middle East and meetings with highly placed officials and academics in many Middle Eastern countries including Egypt, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Syria and Turkey provide him with an exceptionally nuanced level of awareness and insight into the developments surrounding breaking news. Ben-Meir often articulates

Prime Minister Netanyahu has demonstrated through his actions-or more specifically, his inactions-that he rejects the notion of land for peace. This has been clearly illustrated through his reluctant rhetorical acceptance of a two-state solution, rife with caveats, and his refusal to halt settlement construction in the West Bank for even an additional two months in exchange for a doubling of the United States' aid package. Thus, it has become increasingly clear that the framework of Israel's successful peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan based on "land for peace" no longer holds true. This represents nothing less than a fundamental change in Israel's peace posturing in relation to the Syrians and especially the Palestinians. As such, today the prospect for successful bilateral negotiations is not only incredibly remote, but creates an extremely dangerous situation.

In forming a government with Avigdor Lieberman, Netanyahu has prioritized Israel's security and demographic threat not dissimilarly to previous Israeli governments-but with the exception of one critical provision. Today, there are approximately 5.8 million Jews living in 'historic Palestine,' the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. There are a total of 5.3 million Palestinians living in the West Bank, Gaza and in Israel proper. The birthrate of Israeli Jews is 1.7 children per family, while among the Palestinians in the West Bank it is 2.1, and in Gaza, 3.3. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics recently estimated that the Palestinian Arabs will constitute a majority in historic Palestine by as early as 2014. A recent study by the Taub Center for Israeli Studies at NYU showed that nearly 50 percent of students in Israel's schools today are either Arab or religious Jews.

Faced with this demographic dilemma, Ariel Sharon responded by unilaterally withdrawing from the Gaza Strip, thereby shedding responsibility for the over 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza while strengthening Israel's Jewish majority (if only extending it for a number of years). Netanyahu's apparent plan-together with his partner, Lieberman-is also to unilaterally redraw Israel's borders. However, the key difference in strategy is that whereas Sharon withdrew to the 1967 border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, Netanyahu intends to pay no heed to the 1967 "Green Line" in redrawing the border to distinguish Israel from the Palestinians in the West Bank. Netanyahu's refusal to halt settlement construction beyond the three major settlement blocs, widely considered to be included in Israel as part of any agreement with the Palestinians, indicates that unlike his predecessors who sought less than 10 percent of the West Bank as part of a land swap agreement with the Palestinians, he has his eyes set on much more. This conduct is consistent with Lieberman's controversial proposal to "transfer" Israeli Palestinian citizens such as those living in the triangle of Arab villages in the Galilee to the Palestinian Authority's control-against their wishes-in exchange for the areas of expanded Jewish settlement in the West Bank. The Netanyahu government's strategy is therefore twofold: first, to enlarge the area of Israeli control in the West Bank while relinquishing Palestinian majority areas; and second, to demand recognition of Israel as a Jewish state as a precondition for any agreement. The two tactics combined offer a distorted view of Netanyahu's plan for 'peace' in which he remains unconcerned about the fate of an independent Palestinian state, so long as Israel maintains its false sense of security and a solid Jewish majority. Netanyahu's refusal to stop settlement growth and Lieberman's success in advancing the loyalty oath requirement of Israeli citizens indicates that this strategy is already well into motion.

Confronted with this bleak prospect, the Palestinians now feel compelled to turn to the international community. In doing so, they are seeking two critical points: First, a clear statement that continued Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank serves as a roadblock to achieving a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Second, that a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, and United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, is the only viable resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, both of which enjoy global consensus support. The two points will be framed by the Palestinians in the exact language that the United States has used for many years, making it exceedingly difficult for the White House to oppose them. After all, how could the White House reject a boilerplate statement of support for a two-state solution? Or that settlement construction is unproductive? Support from the United States would send a significant message, but even without the U.S., the support of the vast majority of the countries constituting the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) would provide the Palestinians with significant leverage to further pressure Israel in its continued opposition to peacemaking. It is important to recall that UNGA Resolution 194, regularly cited as the international community's perspective on the issue of Palestinian refugees is a non-binding measure-but the influence of that resolution, nevertheless, remains central in any future negotiations to settle the Palestinian refugee problem.

Even so, the Palestinian Authority's campaign to win support in the international arena will be undercut so long as groups like Hamas continue to oppose it. As long as Hamas and other rejectionist groups stand against the Palestinian Authority's international effort to mobilize opposition to settlements, and support for two-states, Israel will have justification to maintain an argument that it has no true partner for peace. It will continue to utilize this excuse in waging a public campaign pointing blame at Palestinian rejection of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state-not Israeli intransigence-that keeps the peace process suspended.

Therein lies the fundamental mistake that the Palestinians and Arab states, have-and continue-to make: not sufficiently accepting that Israel indeed faces legitimate security threats from extremist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, which absolutely must be mitigated if Israel is to ever accept an agreed end to conflict. The 1967 borders are now a source of pride for Palestinians and the Arab world, made more so by the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, and the historic Arab Peace Initiative (API) offering full normalization between Israel and the Arab states in exchange for the territories captured by Israel in 1967, including an Israeli-Palestinian agreement on a two-state solution based on these lines. But without receiving an endorsement of the Initiative from Hamas and Hezbollah, and even though Israel itself did not embrace the API, Israel's excuse that it remains threatened, that it has no partner, and that the offer is not comprehensive, cannot be dismissed. An endorsement of the API by Hamas and Hezbollah would exponentially catapult the impact of the Palestinian Authority's efforts to pressure Israel to remove its excuses for inaction.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu is making mistakes of his own. First, his continued insistence that he is willing to negotiate face-to-face with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas until "white smoke" appears, as he recently told reporters, is simply not credible. With his support of settlements and emphasis on new demands, no one believes that he will negotiate in good faith without evidence indicating that his words are genuine, and not merely designed to skirt increasing international pressure. Words alone will not bring Israel out of isolation, only actions can accomplish this now. Second, Netanyahu must also understand that no current or future Palestinian leadership-or that of the Arab World-would ever accept anything less than a negotiated agreement based on the 1967 borders. This is why Israel has been misguided in its continued ambivalence to the Arab Peace Initiative. With every passing day, the State of Israel loses an opportunity to lock in the Arab world to a promise of recognition, normalization, and above all, guaranteeing its national security upon the successful conclusion of peace talks.

A recent poll by the International Peace Institute shows that Israelis remain aloof to the API plan, with just 36 percent preferring the Arab Peace Initiative to the status quo. As long as Israel's leadership promotes the fallacy that Israel can maintain its security and Jewish majority without an agreement based on the 1967 line-and continues to reject the promise of the Arab Peace Initiative-it is effectively forfeiting the opportunity to make peace and subjecting the next generation of Israelis and Palestinians to continued destruction and death.

*A version of this article was previously published in the Jerusalem Post on 1/14/11, and can be accessed at: http://www.jpost.com/Magazine/Opinion/Article.aspx?id=203459

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Jul 29th 2022
EXTRACT: ".... the likelihood is that Biden, who spent his life as a senator, played a central behind-the-scenes role in turning Manchin around and keeping the Democratic Party Senators together on this pared-down version of Build Back Better. Biden’s legislative accomplishments, not to mention his administrative ones, will likely end up being very impressive for the first two years of his presidency. ------ In matters of climate, every ton of CO2 you don’t put into the atmosphere is a decrease in how hard life will be for our grandchildren. They will have reason to be grateful to President Biden and the Democratic Party if this bill becomes law."
Jul 29th 2022
EXTRACTS: "Right-wing media outlets including Fox News, One America News (OAN), Newsmax, and talk radio are grossly abusing the right to free speech and are causing profound, if not irreparable damage to our country at home and abroad. They have been engaged in these deliberate practices of spreading poisonous misinformation all in the name of free speech." ---- "A team at MIT, analyzing propaganda techniques in the news, underscores the use of logical fallacies – such as strawmen (the misrepresentation of the other’s position), red herrings (the provision of irrelevancies), false dichotomies (offering two alternatives as the only possibilities), and whataboutism (a diversionary tactic to avoid directly addressing an issue). ---- Whataboutism is worth considering more closely because it is becoming ubiquitous among Republicans – perhaps this is not surprising given that it is certainly Trump’s “favorite dodge.” It is one of the fundamental rules by which he operates: when you are criticized, say that someone else is worse. In an interview with Trump, Bill O’Reilly states the obvious fact that “Putin is a killer,” and who can forget Trump’s response: “There are a lot of killers. You got a lot of killers. What, you think our country is so innocent?” That is classic whataboutism. And it is also of course all over Fox News’ most popular line-up."
Jul 24th 2022
EXTRACTS: "For three hours, against the unequivocal advice of his counsel, friends, and family, Trump purposefully and steadfastly declined to give the mob he had summoned any signal to disperse, to exit the building peacefully, or to simply cease threatening the life of his vice president or other members of Congress." ------ "Trump is corrupt to the core, a traitor who deserves nothing but contempt and to spend the rest of his life behind bars because he remains a menace to this country and an existential threat to our democratic institutions."
Jul 21st 2022
EXTRACT: "For some countries, diasporas also are not new. Just ask the Russians. For three-quarters of a century, Stalin’s NKVD and its successor, the KGB, kept close tabs on expatriate Russians, constantly worrying about the threat they might pose. And now, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s security service, the FSB, is continuing the tradition. According to recent FSB estimates, almost four million Russians left the country in the first three months of this year. Obviously, FSB statistics are hard to verify. But the sheer magnitude of this year’s departures is striking."
Jul 20th 2022
EXTRACTS: "We need leaders who will be honest about our problems in the short, medium, and long term. We are becoming poorer than our neighbors, with our per capita growth and productivity lagging behind theirs. We confront surging energy prices, soaring inflation, and public-sector strikes. Our fiscal deficit is uncomfortably high. Our influence is diminished. Far from recognizing these challenges, let alone proposing sensible solutions, the candidates to succeed Johnson are trying to win votes with reckless proposals like ever-larger tax cuts." ----- "There is one exception. Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak refuses to abandon the notion that expenditure should bear some relationship to revenue. "
Jul 13th 2022
EXTRACT: "Looking ahead, five factors could make today’s energy crisis even worse. First, Putin has opened a second front in the conflict by cutting back on the contracted volumes of natural gas that Russia supplies to Europe. The goal is to prevent Europeans from storing enough supplies for next winter, and to drive prices higher, creating economic hardship and political discord. In his speech in June at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Putin made his reasoning clear: “Social and economic problems worsening in Europe” will “split their societies” and “inevitably lead to populism … and a change of the elites in the short term.” ...... As it is, Germany is now anticipating the need for gas rationing, and its minister for economic affairs, Robert Habeck, warns of a “Lehman-style contagion” (referring to the 2008 financial crisis) if Europe cannot manage today’s energy-induced economic disruptions."
Jul 5th 2022
EXTRACT: "Fortunately, I am not alone in claiming that the survival of democracy in the US is gravely endangered. The American public has been aroused by the decision overturning Roe. But people need to recognize that decision for what it is: part of a carefully laid plan to turn the US into a repressive regime. We must do everything we can to prevent that. This fight ought to include many people who voted for Trump in the past."
Jul 2nd 2022
EXTRACT: "The Israeli philosopher Avishai Margalit described this succinctly in his book On Compromise and Rotten Compromises. In “politics as economics,” material interests are “subject to bargaining, everything is negotiable, whereas in the religious picture, centered on the idea of the holy, the holy is non-negotiable.” This, then, is why politics in the US is now in such a perilous state. More and more, the secular left and the religious right are engaged in a culture war, revolving around sexuality, gender, and race, where politics is no longer negotiable. When that happens, institutions start breaking down, and the stage is set for charismatic demagogues and the politics of violence."
Jul 2nd 2022
EXTRACT: "...EU enlargement is essentially a political decision by member states, based on a multitude of considerations that sometimes include dramatic events. Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is such a turning point."
Jun 29th 2022
EXTRACT: "Most market analysts seem to think that central banks will remain hawkish, but I am not so sure. I have argued that they will eventually wimp out and accept higher inflation – followed by stagflation – once a hard landing becomes imminent, because they will be worried about the damage of a recession and a debt trap, owing to an excessive build-up of private and public liabilities after years of low interest rates." ----- "There is ample reason to believe that the next recession will be marked by a severe stagflationary debt crisis. As a share of global GDP, private and public debt levels are much higher today than in the past, having risen from 200% in 1999 to 350% today (with a particularly sharp increase since the start of the pandemic). Under these conditions, rapid normalization of monetary policy and rising interest rates will drive highly leveraged zombie households, companies, financial institutions, and governments into bankruptcy and default."
Jun 28th 2022
EXTRACT: "It is tempting to conclude that today’s central bankers are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Maybe if they sit tight, they will ride out the storm. Then-Fed Chair Paul Volcker was Public Enemy Number One in the United States in the early 1980s, when he squeezed post-oil-shock inflation out of the system with double-digit interest rates. But in his later years he was revered, and became a national treasure, called on to advise successive presidents in any financial emergency. ----- But central bankers would be wise not to assume that their reputations will automatically recover, and that the status quo ante will be restored. We live in a more disputatious age than the 1980s. Public institutions are more regularly challenged and held to account by far less reverential legislators." ----- "Moreover, former central bankers have joined the chorus of critics. Former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke, breaking the unwritten rule not to reproach one’s successors, has said that today’s Fed made “a mistake” by responding slowly to inflation. And Bailey’s immediate predecessors, Mervyn King and Mark Carney, have weighed in, too, with challenges to the BOE’s policy. The fabric of the central banking fraternity is fraying."
Jun 25th 2022
EXTRACT: "Public opinion in Belarus remains firmly against involvement into the war with Ukraine. Moreover, according to a Chatham House survey, 40% of Belarusians do not support Russia’s war, compared to 32% who do, while around half of those questioned see predominately negative consequences of the war for Belarus (53%) and for themselves (48%). The Belarusian military and security services are also aware of the determined and skilful resistance that Ukrainian forces have put up against Russia and the risks that they would therefore be running if they entered the war against Ukraine. This, in turn, means that the risk to Lukashenko himself remains that he might lose his grip on power, a grip which depends heavily on the loyalty of his armed forces." ---- "Ultimately, Belarus may not be on the brink of being plunged into war quite yet, but its options to avoid such a disaster are narrowing."
Jun 20th 2022
EXTRACT: "Russification (the policy of enforcing Russian culture on populations) appears to be being reinforced by ethnic cleansing. Last month the Ukrainian parliament’s commissioner for human rights, Liudmyla Denisova, informed the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, that 1.3 million Ukrainians, including 223,000 children, had been forcibly deported to Russia."
Jun 11th 2022
EXTRACT: "If Trump had his way, then Vice-President Pence would have also broken his oath to the constitution and derailed the certification of electoral votes. Our continued existence as a Republic might very well have hung on Pence’s actions that day. The mob’s response was to call for Pence to be hanged, and a noose and scaffold was erected apparently for that very purpose. What was Trump’s reaction when he was told that the mob was calling for Pence’s summary execution? His words were: “Maybe our supporters have the right idea.” Mike Pence “deserves” it."
Jun 10th 2022
EXTRACTS: "Speaking to journalist Sophie Raworth on the BBC’s Sunday Morning show recently, former war crimes prosecutor Sir Howard Morrison, now an advisor to the Ukraine government, highlighted the dangers posed by the negative – often insulting and dehumanising – statements made by some Russian politicians and media personalities about Ukraine and its people." ---- "The conditions and attitudes described by Morrison have existed for centuries: Russians have viewed Ukrainians as inferior since before the Soviet era." ----- "And, as Morrison said, stereotyping and denigrating a people as inferior or lacking agency makes atrocities and looting more likely to happen, as we are seeing in Ukraine."
Jun 9th 2022
EXTRACT: "Unless Russia realises that the west is willing and able to push back, a new, stable security order in Europe will not be possible. Concessions to Russia, by Ukraine or the EU and Nato, are not the way to achieve this. That this has been realised beyond Ukraine’s most ardent supporters in the Baltic states, Poland, the UK and the US is clear from German support for strengthening Nato’s northern flank and a general increase in Nato members’ defence spending."
Jun 8th 2022
EXTRACT: "Highly civilized people can turn into barbarians when demagogues and dictators exploit their fears and trigger their most atavistic instincts. Rape, torture, and massacres often happen when soldiers invade foreign countries. Commanding officers sometimes actively encourage such behavior to terrorize an enemy into submission. And sometimes it occurs when the officer corps loses control and discipline breaks down. Japanese and Germans know this, as do Serbs, Koreans, Americans, Russians, and many others."
Jun 1st 2022
EXTRACTS: "Like Metternich, Kissinger commits the fatal error of believing that a few wise policymakers can impose their will on the world. Worse, he believes they can halt domestically generated change and the power of nationalism. Many years ago, this is what Senator William Fulbright termed the “arrogance of power.” This approach failed in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. It is also doomed to fail in Russia and Ukraine." ------ "Not surprisingly, Kissinger misunderstands Russia. He appears to believe that, because Russia has been an “essential part of Europe” for over four centuries, it is therefore fated to remain so for the foreseeable future.The claim is completely at odds with history." ---- "Finally, Kissinger misunderstands the implications of his own analysis for Western relations with Russia. “We are facing,” he said, “a situation now where Russia could alienate itself completely from Europe and seek a permanent alliance elsewhere." ---- "But what’s so bad about Russia’s isolating itself from Europe and becoming a vassal state of China? "
Jun 1st 2022
EXTRACTS: "According to the latest figures from China’s National Bureau of Statistics, China’s population grew from 1.41212 billion to just 1.41260 billion in 2021 – a record low increase of just 480,000, a mere fraction of the annual growth of eight million or so common a decade ago." ----- "China’s total fertility rate (births per woman) was 2.6 in the late 1980s – well above the 2.1 needed to replace deaths. It has been between 1.6 and 1.7 since 1994, and slipped to 1.3 in 2020 and just 1.15 in 2021."
Jun 1st 2022
EXTRACTS: "Casualties are very high. A very conservative estimate of overall Russian losses is that they have lost more troops killed since February 24 than in ten years of fighting in Afghanistan. This implies well over 40,000 men taken out of the fight, including the wounded." ----- "Away from the cauldron of Donbas, Belarus has been rattling its somewhat rusty sabre by deploying troops to its border with Ukraine. This is unlikely to trouble Kyiv. The Belarus president, Alexander Lukashenko, is well aware that he may need them at home to shore up his shaky regime."