Monday, May 19, 2003
And finally for tonight (I have a 6am meeting tomorrow - oy!): here are my 2c for what the general ground-rules should be for peace negotiations with willing Arab parties - be they Syrian, Palestinian, Saudi: what have you.
1. Recognition of Israel as a legitimate, sovereign state should be a precondition to negotiations, not the end result of negotiations. This is the only thing that Oslo got right, although it botched that, too, in that the Palestinian side never had to make it really clear what precisely had been recognized. Denying Israel's legitimacy means we're negotiating not about 1967 but 1947. Negotiations should resolve border disputes, refugees, water rights, trade and diplomatic relations, etc. They should not be about basic legitimacy.
2. There is a perfect symmetry between the expansion settlements and the "right to return." The settlement enterprise is premised on the notion that the Jewish people, and the state of Israel, have a claim to the entirety of historic Israel west of the Jordan (which it does). It therefore implicitly denies any Palestinian claims to sovereignty. The "right to return" is premised on the notion that the Jewish people have no claim to any territory west of the Jordan river; that, in fact, the Palestinians are the only indigenous people, and that therefore Israel must consent to being turned into an Arab state with a Jewish minority. It seems to me, then, that if conditions are going to be mandated from on-high, and if Israel is going to be mandated to cease the settlement enterprise and dismantle settlements (some of them illegal) set up since 2000, then the Palestinians must similarly be mandated to abandon the "right to return" to whatever borders ultimately encompass sovereign Israel. That's a fair exchange.
3. All refugee claims should be considered together, and compensated from a common fund. Look: there are lots of displaced people from the Arab-Israeli conflict. More than half of Israel's Jewish citizens are of Sephardi origin, and many of them were expelled from their homes in the Arab countries. More than half of those who consider themselves Palestinians similarly live outside of the P.A. territories; some are citizens of Israel, some live in refugee camps (and have for generations) in Lebanon; some are citizens of Jordan; and some live further afield or out of the region altogether. All these people have some legitimate claim to compensation of some sort, and as part of any settlement some process should be established to vet their claims and provide such compensation. I think the fairest way to deal with these claims would be to have an American commission rule on compensation in each case, and have the French and the Belgians actually pay.
Beyond that, issues like the municipal borders of Jerusalem, water rights, national borders of any Palestinian entity, the status of Jewish settlers on the other side of the Green Line, Israeli security provisions for a presence on the Golan or in the Jordan Valley - these are all negotiable matters if the other side is interested in peace and coexistence, and they always have been. There is a huge majority in Israel today for Sharon and his policies. If Israelis thought he was missing the boat on a chance for peace, they would dump him in a minute. But more even than terrorism, it is the obvious unwillingness of the Palestinian side to consider diplomatic positions that could actually lead to peace and coexistence that convinces Israelis that there is no such chance right now. And this covers Mahmoud Abbas as well; he has said things here and there against terrorism, and he is not directly implicated in the manner of Arafat, so Israel can work with him (they hope) on security and loosening up restrictions on the Palestinians. But there is no Palestinian Sadat, someone willing to go to Jerusalem as the Jewish capital and truly seek peace. Until there is such a man, willing to risk a bullet to end the tragedy of Palestinian history, that tragedy will not end.