Ah that I were a mind reader. But, alas, I am not. So I garner as much information as I can, and rely on my analysis and my intuition. Sometimes that’s not enough.
Last time I wrote, I alluded to a statement by Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud), who had criticized Peres’ eagerness for that “two state solution” and his fawning over Abbas. Peres doesn’t speak for the government, he said, and, “every declaration of this sort, certainly on the eve of negotiations, does not help Israel’s stance.”
I caught that “on the eve of negotiations,” and pointed it out with some unease, but with no certainty about what he was saying.
Yesterday, Steinitz had something else to say. “The government’s position is very clear, and I support it: We do support two states for two peoples…” he told Times of Israel.”
Oh, I see.
He even added that, “We are ready to make painful concessions on two conditions: that there will be peace and security.” That’s in spite of the fact, which he conceded, that there are many members of the coalition who are solidly opposed to a “two state solution.”
There are those who will see this as a caving of the Netanyahu government — a sign of some dangerous things to come. And perhaps they are right.
But I am seeing it differently, and far more tentatively.
First — and this is purely my own speculation — I can see Netanyahu having told Steinitz that, after saying that Peres didn’t speak for the government, he would have to make a statement that was on behalf of the government. After all, Peres was in there, tight with Kerry, and embracing Abbas — which made the US and the international community more broadly very happy. It wouldn’t pay to be too negative and let the world think that Israel was not on board.
So, Steinitz made his statement, which made headlines.
Is Steinitz really ready to see us make “painful concessions” for the right deal? Does this genuinely represent what Netanyahu wants to see? That’s what I don’t know.
But I would like to share Steinitz’s full statement, which sheds more than a little light on his position:
“Genuine peace would entail a ‘real recognition’ of Israel as a Jewish state and the end of all claims and incitement against Israel…Israel’s security requirements include a ‘total demilitarization’ of a future Palestinian state. Jerusalem would have the right to supervise and control that arrangement in order to be able to prevent arms smuggling or ‘any other negative security developments in the West Bank.'”
I don’t know how we define “real” recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, as versus “fake” recognition, but it’s moot, for Abbas won’t recognize Israel as the Jewish state in any terms.
End of claims is standard as a criterion for the peace agreement. But the end of all incitement? I believe this is a new stipulation. We’re talking about a PA that still teaches its students about jihad and honors terrorists (who, not incidentally, would love to see Israel leave Judea and Samaria so that they might operate more freely).
As to “total demilitarization” (which is not possible, really) we all know that the PLO is not going to go for this. And then with the further stipulation (which I believe is also new) that the Israeli government supervise and control the arrangements to prevent “negative security developments.” In Steinitz’s dreams, maybe. Nowhere else. Were Israel to “supervise and control,” the PLO would not have a sovereign state.
So, he says he’s for a state for the Palestinian Arabs — he’s “on board.” But then insists upon parameters that he knows full well would NEVER be accepted.
This might be called game-playing, and in a way it is. But I think it’s more. I think he’s saying that in an ideal world he would be for two states, and he doesn’t want to appear negative in this regard. But because he doesn’t trust these guys as far as he can throw them, the stipulations he outlines are essential for Israel’s security.
My gut tells me that this is probably Netanyahu’s real position.
It’s a far cry from Peres’ nauseating “you are our partner and we are yours. You share our hopes and efforts for peace.”
I must comment here on a statement made by head of the Israeli negotiating team Tzipi Livni — who met with Kerry in Amman earlier this week.
She wants the international community and the Europeans in particular, to pressure Abbas to come to the table.
“It’s the only way to have negotiations,” she declared at a conference sponsored by The Israel Project. “[Abbas] needs to know that the Europeans, and the world, they want him to sit in the negotiating room.”
Is Livni so obtuse that she doesn’t realize that if Abbas must be forced to “sit in the negotiating room” it means he doesn’t want to be there, and thus, will never constructively and sincerely negotiate “peace”?
It certainly appears that “negotiations” have become an end in themselves.
Rumors about a proposal for negotiations to be advanced by Kerry abound. And I will pass over much of what is being said because it is without verification or documentation. The PLO’s Saeb Erekat declared recently that Kerry was about to announce a “plan.” Maybe. But that’s Erekat talking and not a spokesperson for the US State Department.
David Ignatius of the Washington Post says that Kerry is “seeking agreement on basic parameters – the borders for a Palestinian state and an understanding about Israel’s security requirements – that would allow negotiations to begin in earnest.”
This is unmitigated nonsense — simply a sample of what passes for analytic writing but is nothing of the sort. An agreement on borders BEFORE negotiations have begun? Understand that “borders” encompasses, in addition to the question of retention of communities past the Green line, the issue of Jerusalem: united, or eastern Jerusalem as the Arab capital. What Kerry wants, of course, but will not get, is Israeli agreement to use the ’67 line, with adjustments, as the basis for negotiations.
According to Ignatius, Kerry is also “reanimating” the Arab League “Peace Initiative,” Heaven help us. If Kerry thinks Netanyahu is going to go for this, he’s got his head in the stratosphere. (Never mind: even if Kerry doesn’t think Netanyahu will go for this, he has his head in the stratosphere.)
This is Ignatius’s logic:
“The bottom line for Israel is that rather than just a two-state solution, it would get a 22-state solution (the Arab League members) and even a 57-state solution (if you add in the additional Muslim countries in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation).”
Wow! All Israel would have to do for this is return to the dangerous and unjust pre-’67 lines and allow “refugees” to return. In other words, commit suicide. And I’m aghast that he imagines the OIC would also go along with this deal.
But take a look at what Guy Bechor says about this (emphasis added):
“Who does the Arab League represent? Only the regimes of the Sunni countries, or what’s left of them. The Shiite countries – Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon – no longer cooperate with this League. So Israel makes peace with the Sunnis; but what about the others? We must keep in mind that the territory the IDF will withdraw from will be seized immediately by armed Salafis from all across the Arab world – as was the case in Sinai and Syria. Who will come to Israel’s aid when it is attacked? The fighters of the ‘peace-loving’ Arab League?
“Moreover, according to the League’s regulations, any amendment to the Arab initiative requires a vote among the heads of the Arab states, or, at the very least, their foreign ministers. But this will never happen, as no Arab leader will ever vote in favor of any such change. This initiative has always been nothing more than a diplomatic whim, and the Arab street will never accept it. Indeed, the Arab media hardly reported on this ‘amendment’ to the initiative, because it is virtual.
Note: I’ve been saying there has been no amendment, even though I keep seeing commentators, including Ignatius, who talk as if there has been. Bechor sets it straight.
See his entire informative piece:
I highly recommend this article, “More Peace, Less Process,” by Ben Cohen (emphasis added):
“U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has already visited the Middle East four times since President Barack Obama named him to the post back in February. Perhaps anticipating the large number of yawns that such a statistic is likely to produce, Kerry directly addressed, during his latest jaunt, the growing number of peace process skeptics on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide.
“‘There have been bitter years of disappointment. It is our hope that by being methodical, careful, patient, but detailed and tenacious, we can lay out a path ahead that can conceivably surprise people…’
“However much Kerry would like us to believe that there are routes to peace that haven’t yet been explored, there is a dreary sense of deja vu about his words. Every day, it seems, an American politician declares that time is running out…
“…it’s now 2013, and there is no State of Palestine, only a Palestinian Authority (PA) that shuns direct negotiations in favor of a unilateralist strategy…Moreover, the Palestinians are openly distrustful of U.S. efforts. ‘I’m hesitant to say we are seeing a miraculous transformation in American policy and its blind strategic alliance with Israel,’ said the PLO’s Hanan Ashrawi upon Kerry’s arrival, conveniently regurgitating the widespread myth in the Arab world that American Middle East policy is determined solely by Israeli imperatives.
“Nor has Palestinian rhetoric changed for the better. The eliminationist desires of the Palestinian leadership—and I’m not talking here about Hamas, but about our ostensible peace partner, the PA—remain as ingrained as ever…
“The traditional approach of American and western negotiators has been to play down this kind of rhetoric as ideological baggage that will disappear once meaningful progress has been made. Time and again, this patronizing, even racist, manner, which treats Arab politicians as tantrum-prone children who say things they don’t really mean, has been proved wrong by events. And yet, the template for peace negotiations has barely been modified during the last 20 years.
“Which is why negotiators at the State Department would be wise to consult an important new paper published by two Israeli academics, Joel Fishman and Kobi Michael, in the academic journal, the Jewish Political Studies Review. Introducing the notion of a ‘positive peace,’ Fishman and Michael warn against efforts to create a Palestinian state without worrying about its governance and internal political culture…
“Positive peace, the authors assert, is not just the about the absence of war, nor about elevating the right of national self-determination above all other considerations. ‘The real problem,’ they write, ‘is that, long ago, the would-be peacemakers, in their haste and fear of failure, did not frame the problem correctly. They failed to ask the right question. In order to avoid disagreement, they concentrated on process and postponed the substantive issues of content…’
“In the Israeli-Palestinian context, a positive peace entails a complete overhaul of the zero-sum attitude toward Israel that has become institutionalized in Palestinian politics. For decades, the Palestinians have regarded negotiations as simply one of several avenues in pursuing their war on Israel’s existence…
“Fishman and Michael cite the pioneering Israeli scholar Yehoshafat Harkabi’s observation that in Arab discourse, the idea of peace with justice is equivalent to the vision of a Middle East without Israel. And in marked contrast to American worries that time is running out, they point out that as far as the Palestinians are concerned, we’ve got all the time in the world…
“Though they don’t say it explicitly, there is a strong sense in the paper that negotiations that are not preceded by meaningful, internal political reform in the Palestinian entity will share the miserable fate of the Oslo Agreement. And if that’s correct, then the ‘path that could conceivably surprise people,’ as John Kerry put it, begins not with discussions about settlements, water rights or the size of the Palestinian security forces, but with what the Palestinians themselves believe about the world around them—and whether they are capable of change.”
You might also like to see a piece — “Memo to Kerry: It’s not the economy, stupid” — by David Horovitz, which explains the fallacies behind Kerry’s $4 billion initiative, which is supposed to come from private business persons but is exceedingly unlikely to appear.
In my last posting, I wrote, “the Russians expected that Israel would refrain from further attacks inside Israel on armaments bound for Hezbollah..” I believe for almost all of my readers it was clear that I meant attacks inside of Syria, but I do appreciate it when an eagle-eyed reader picks up the error. And so I note it here.
The Syrian situation is deteriorating further and I hope I’ll get to that next posting.