Tuesday, April 09, 2002
Today DEBKA comes around to my long-time view: we are headed towards an imposed solution. Here's the key section:
Outside forces are already riding on the back of the Israeli ordeal in Jenin. First in line are the Americans. They are turning the screw relentlessly the closer secretary of state Colin Powell advances through Arab capitals towards Jerusalem, ordering Israel to remove its forces from Palestinian territory forthwith and begin lifting its siege on Arafat. Washington is also pushing hard for a US observer or peacemaking force to come in as a buffer between Israeli and Palestinian forces.
If this happens, many of Israel’s dilemmas will be taken out of its hands. It will be spared negotiations with Palestinians on national boundaries, the borders of Jerusalem and the Palestinians right to repatriate 1948 Arab refugees. The internal debate over the Jewish settlements will no longer matter because the foreign observers and peacemakers will simply dismantle them as “obstacles to peace”. The other fateful decisions will be settled by the American government along with the European Union and Arab governments. Israel’s final frontiers will be drawn according to the locations of the foreign observers’ positions. The Israeli government will be relieved of responsibility for anything happening across those frontiers, including decisions to pump terrorists and suicides into Israeli towns.
Of course, if Israel loses the "responsibility" for suicide bombers emerging from the territories, Israel also loses the ability to respond effectively to such attacks, because the IDF would have to go through American lines to do so. That is why Israel has always resisted the intrusion of international forces, even American ones: Israel is not willing to contract out its basic right to self-defense to another power. Unfortunately, this is a bridge Israel crossed long ago, when it agreed that Arafat would provide for its security, and I fear there is no going back.
I am gravely worried about the ability of the Sharon government to navigate in the treacherous waters to come. If America is determined to impose a solution, Israel cannot resist. Moreover, it would be very much in Israel's interest to get a reasonably favorable imposed solution, even if it restricts Israeli mobility. Israel needs diplomats of consummate skill, something they have always lacked and that the other side has always had a-plenty. Without extremely skillful diplomacy, Israel may antagonize the Americans sufficiently that the imposed settlement weakens rather than enhances Israeli security and the prospects for ultimate peace.
Here are the necessary conditions for an imposed solution to work, as I see them:
* The removal of Arafat from the region. He has missed his last chance. He cannot be allowed to remain, under any circumstances. The P.A. is not going to become a Palestinian state in the near term; it is going to be a Western colony until it is effectively de-Nazified and can be trusted to run its own affairs. Arafat has no place in such a colony. He must leave, dead or alive.
* A defined (though not yet recognized) Israeli border east of the Green Line. Israel will be giving a great deal up by accepting an imposed solution. It can't give up every card it has. The major settlement blocs close to the Green Line must remain in Israeli hands, as must a united Jerusalem, as must a sufficient security buffer to allow Israel to defend itself, and not rely completely on foreign troops for its defense.
* American operational control of the occupying forces. The troops themselves can be a mix of Americans, British, Turkish, Germans and Jordanians, but they must be under American command. No other power can be trusted, even minimally, to care about Jewish security.
* American responsibility for security. The occupying forces must be responsible not only for separating the Israelis from the Palestinians but for ensuring that terrorist groups do not operate in the territories at all. Sharon's war must be completed by the occupying Western forces if Israel is to be able to accept an American guarantee of security. This is no different than what Israel would expect were the territories to be traded with Jordan and Egypt, no different than what Israel required of Arafat at the beginning of Oslo.
* The removal of settlements within the American-occupied areas. The occupying forces cannot be responsible for protecting small Jewish enclaves in the Palestinian areas. Israel can demand that Jews be allowed to visit their holy sites in the territories; that is certainly fair if Israel is to be expected to allow access to the Al Aqsa mosque. But the Jewish neighborhoods of Hevron and Kiryat Arba, for example, will have to be abandoned, as, of course, must the settlements in Gaza. American is simply not going to sign up for a mission of being shot at and suicide-bombed for defending these neighborhoods.
What I have outlined is not very different from the proposals from Chaim Ramon and others for a unilateral separation. It leaves out several key questions:
* What about Ariel? This city of 25,000 Jews in the heart of Shomron is practically indefensible. In the context of a comprehensive peace agreement, it would not be hard for Israel to hand over such a city to another country. In the context of a withdrawal under American pressure, it will be much more difficult to justify. I certainly hope Israel will be able to keep control of this important city in the context of an imposed solution, but I suspect Israel will simply be forced out, and that the Palestinians will inherit it.
* What about the Jordan Valley? Both Israel and Jordan want to avoid giving this region to Palestinian control, and it is vital for Israeli defense. Ideally, this region will remain under full Israeli control and, indeed, Israel should insist on it as part of its negotiations with the Bush Administration. There is no Palestinian population here and there is no reason the Israeli presence should be problematic in terms of Palestinian daily life.
* What about Palestinians employed in Israel? There is, after over 8 years of terrorist rule, essentially no Palestinian economy. Welfare and enforced idleness will only breed crime and even terrorism. How are these people to be employed? If they continue to be employed in Israel, how will Israel's security be guaranteed? If Israel had a free hand in the territories, security would be Israel's responsibility. Or, if the territories were in the hands of an Arab power, that power could be held responsible, and diplomatic, economic or military action taken in response to terrorism. But if the territories are in the hands of an international authority, what will Israel do if there are terrorist incidents, other than refuse to let Palestinians from the territories enter Israel?
* What about Palestinians who are not Israeli citizens but live within Israeli-controlled territory? What would be truly the most humane solution would be to offer citizenship to this population or, if citizenship is refused, a one-way ticket to Palestinian territory with a generous relocation package. But this is not going to happen; America is not going to allow Israel to expel these people even if they have refused Israeli citizenship, and there will be no negotiated solution at all under which such a transfer could be agreed. Therefore, Israel is going to continue to contain an irridentist element within its (still unrecognized) borders.
* What about holy sites? Israel can accept either of two alternatives in this regard: either a permanent international presence at all holy sites in Israel and the territories to ensure access to, for example, Al Aqsa by Muslims and the cave of the Patriarchs in Hevron by Jews; or, alternatively, exclusive Jewish control of the sites within Israeli control (i.e. Jerusalem) and Palestinian control of the sites within their territory, subject to the international forces maintaining security at these sites. (In the latter case, Israel and the P.A. would of course agree that Jews, Christians and Muslims would have free access to holy sites not under their community's control, but in practice such access could never be guaranteed, of course.)
* What about a final settlement? Israel will have given up a great deal under such an imposed solution. Israel would lose control of certain territory, would lose the effective ability to provide for its own defense against attacks from that territory, and would implicity or explicitly accept an end-game of a sovereign Palestinian state in that territory. Israel's ultimate goal has always been general international recognition for a Jewish state within secure borders. What progress could Israel see towards this goal as a result of an imposed settlement? I suspect that little will be achieved in this regard. The P.A. will be in no position to make agreements until after a long period of de-Nazification. Nonetheless, I think that Israel should demand some international statement that the "just resolution" of the refugee problem must be solved without infringing on the sovereignty or security of Israel, or on its character as the exclusive homeland of the Jewish people. This statement should become part of the precondition for negotiations with the Arab governments that continue not to have normal relations with Israel, and these governments should come under pressure from America to begin negotiations immediately under U.S. sponsorship. There would still have to be negotiations on compensation for refugees - monetary, or in terms of territory, or both - as well as on borders, the limits on the sovereignty of the Palestinian entity, the disposition of Jerusalem, etc. But until Israel has a partner to negotiate with on these matters, there is little to talk about. The purpose of the American intervention is simply to force an end to the current phase of the conflict and redraw the battle lines in such a fashion that Israel can be more secure and the Palestinians can be free of both the P.A.'s oppression and Israeli intervention. Peace will have to await a major shift in the correlation of forces: the conquest and occupation of Iraq and the counter-revolution in Iran.