Published in The Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom, January 9, 2015.
Israel must flex some muscle to disabuse Abbas of the notions that he can demand the sky and coerce Israel by appealing to international courts.
The Palestinians have come to believe that they can demand the sky and conduct diplomatic war against Israel with impunity. It’s time to disabuse them of these notions through determined Israeli action. And it’s time to reeducate Palestinian leaders and the global community as to the terms to a negotiated settlement that Israel can live with.
You see, the Palestinians long ago took a decision to reject the two-state solution as Israelis and most Western policy-makers envision it.
The Palestinian state that Israelis might be able to support in Judea, Samaria and Gaza cannot threaten Israel’s security – meaning that it must be truly demilitarized, cannot form hostile foreign alliances, will dismantle the Hamas army and hand over its weaponry, agree to Israeli monitors on all its external borders, and accept a permanent Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley to prevent the emergence of another radical Islamic bastion on Israel’s eastern border. (Sinai-stan, Hama-stan, Hezbollah-stan, and Syria-stan are already more than enough for Israel to handle).
The Palestinian state that Israelis might be able to support in Judea, Samaria and Gaza must be also a reasonable neighbor and willing to compromise – meaning that will not contain any large Israeli settlement blocs, cannot control and destroy Jerusalem, and must share its airspace, natural resources, and historical and religious sites with Israel.
The Palestinian state that Israelis can envision, if at all, in Judea, Samaria and Gaza has to agree to a permanent end to the conflict and all claims on Israel – meaning that it renounces the right of return, inculcates reconciliation and not anti-Semitism on its airwaves and in its schools, recognizes Israel as the nation state of the Jewish People, and does not seek to criminalize Israeli leaders in international forums.
BUT TODAY’S punch-drunk Palestinian leadership does not want the constricted West Bank state that Israel can countenance. It views Israel’s contours for a two-state solution as a “sovereign cage.” Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas certainly feels no urgency about achieving such an accord. In fact, I have yet to meet any Palestinian leader who is prepared to settle with Israel along these lines, even if Israel hands over 100 percent of the West Bank.
The prominent Palestinian advisor, Prof. Ahmad Khalidi, has written: “The concept of Palestinian statehood is nothing but a punitive construct devised by our worst enemies – the United States and Israel – to constrain Palestinian aspirations and territorial ambitions.”
Or as Abbas made it clear at the UN last year, the Palestinian liberation movement will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state or agree to forgo the so-called “right” of refugee return. In other words, he wants his state, but without an end to the conflict. He wants a state, rather, in order to continue the conflict.
Unfortunately, there is no Palestinian constituency whatsoever pressing Abbas to cut an end-of-conflict compromise deal with Israel. Instead, the Palestinians really think they can push Israel back from its red lines by recourse to international institutions. They think that they can brow-beat Israel through isolation, demonization and criminalization.
PALESTINIAN OVERREACH and superciliousness must be countered by strong Israeli and international counter-measures. Israel and its allies must act to knock some realism into Palestinian thinking and dial-down preposterous Palestinian expectations. At the very least, Palestinian leadership must be disabused of the notion that it can harm and coerce Israel by appealing to international courts and tribunals.
This will require Israeli perseverance and the flexing of a bit of muscle.
To begin with Israel can stop doing favors for the PA like absorbing its mushrooming debt to Israel for electricity and fuel. Then Israel should stop facilitating the business interests of Abbas’s cronies, whose cartels have a lock hold on the Palestinian economy. The international donor community, too, might usefully rethink the huge sums of cash it plows into Abbas’ coffers every year.
Then Israel can and should revoke the VIP permits that allow Abbas and his henchmen to fly in and out of Ben-Gurion Airport on their luxury private jets. (Let them beg King Abdullah in Amman for travel privileges).
Then Israel can and should turn the tables on Abbas by suing him for war crimes, such incitement to terrorism, at the same tribunals to which he has applied.
More importantly, it’s time for Israel to take the diplomatic offensive, and place a series of issues on the table that have swept under the carpet for too long. Call it a set of Israeli preconditions for peace talks. These would include:
* Gaza: Israel should stipulate up front that implementation of any accord that might be reached with the PA will be contingent on extension of the accord to Gaza, which means that Hamas will have to be sidelined or crushed. Israel should not be in the business of birthing two Palestinian states.
* Settlements: As a precondition of Israel’s re-entering talks with the PA, Palestinian leaders must acknowledge the legitimacy and permanency of Israel’s major settlement blocs, and acquiesce in the natural growth of these cities and towns. After all, all seasoned and reasonable observers of the Middle East know that in any possible agreement, these blocs will fall under full and exclusive Israeli sovereignty.
* Temple Mount: The Palestinians must be willing to negotiate shared sovereignty over the place most holy to the Jewish People. For starters, as a pre-condition of Israel’s joining the talks, Jewish prayer must be facilitated on the vast Temple Mount plaza. A small synagogue tucked away on the fringes of the plaza won’t overshadow the two large Moslem structures on the Mount, but will demonstrate Palestinian recognition of the Jewish People’s ancient ties to the holy site and to the holy land. Furthermore, a new arrangement must be agreed upon for the joint conduct and supervision of archaeological digs on the Mount.
* Triangle: Land and population swaps should be foursquare on the table, including transfer of “The Triangle” from Israel to a Palestinian state. Arabs towns such as Kafr Qara, Umm al-Fahm, Tayibe and Qalansawe (which straddle the Green Line near the northern West Bank) should be on the chopping block. The hundreds of thousands of Israeli Arabs who live there anyway insist on calling themselves “Palestinians.” Thus their move to Palestinian control and citizenship will add to the demographic integrity and stability of any Israeli-Palestinian accord.
* Compensation: Israel has suffered decades of war, war crimes, terrorist violence, and economic boycotts launched by the Palestinians and Arab states, causing significant suffering and deprivation in Israel. The peace agenda should include compensation to Israel from the Palestinians and Arab states for this, with compound interest, in addition to negotiation of the required Arab state compensation to Jews expelled from Arab lands.
* Peace education: Israel must demand rapid introduction of a sustained peace education plan in the PA-controlled West Bank and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Incitement against Israel, anti-Semitic sermons against Israel, and the glorification of violence against Israel – has to end. And eventually, denial of the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel has to be replaced by a nuanced, albeit difficult, recognition of the Zionist dream that goes all the way back to the Bible.
Only if Israel redraws the diplomatic agenda in this blunt way might we witness the emergence of a realistic peace process. Perhaps it will pave the way beyond the kleptocratic, ruinous Abbas era, and towards the emergence of more reasonable Palestinian leadership.