The War With the Palestinians Enters a New Phase

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In the Guardian, an important British paper, Saeb Erakat has published an essay making it absolutely clear that the Palestinians have no intention of giving up on their intention to have any and all descendants of the Palestinian refugees of 1948 return or have permission to return into present-day Israel. This is part of a new strategy by the Palestinians.

The new phase that has began was launched a week ago with the acceptance of a Palestinian state over 1949 Armistice Lines by Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. Also in the last few days, Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian PM, has again vowed to have the infrastructure of a state ready by mid-2011. The Palestinian Authority recently authored and published an essay denying Jewish links to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. The PA has announced their security forces will terminate cooperation with Israeli forces. The PA, through various speakers, has expressed its intention to go to the UN and try to have a new state accepted on 1949 Armistice Lines while bypassing UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338. This last bit, in particular, is an outright abrogation of the Oslo Accords which require that both the Israelis and Palestinians must come to an agreement on the basis of these two resolutions.

The timing of these moves isn’t accidental. It takes place right after the US has given up on the premise of compelling Israel to end its settlement construction, having declared such construction improper in eastern Jerusalem as well. Even though Israel complied with US directives and took a 10 month hiatus from construction, the Palestinians chose to avoid entering negotiations. They did enter two weeks before the announced 10 months were up, only so they could “exit” negotiations in a huff when Israel restarted to build.

The US then tried to make Israel put construction on hold again for another three months, adding insult to the injury of treating an ally like merchants in a souk by promising things that would have been taken for granted by Israel from past American administrations.

Fortunately, the 3 month moratorium deal fell through, although I believe Israel made a tactical mistake and should have accepted it while rejecting all of the US offers-in-trade. Since the Israelis refused to freeze construction again, they will be made to pay a price and will be depicted as the party that stalled the peace process, although this is a blatant falsehood.

Now we enter a new phase as the Palestinians are showing. It is fair to say that an extremely unfriendly American administration is angry at Israel. They are not just angry at having had their intentions ruined, but the fact that the Israelis didn’t show much sympathy or concern regarding the devastating midterm elections and massive Democratic losses. It was clear the Israelis were pleased to see Republican counterweight in the House to a hostile administration.

In light of these changes, Israel would do well to act extremely cautiously regarding the PA. It is time to act on what has been obvious since the Taba talks, and the Palestinian War of 2000 – that the PA is nothing but a Trojan Horse.

Essentially, today the Palestinians have put Israel in a precarious position where they are deemed the legitimate party, righteously aggrieved and deserving of eastern Jerusalem. Israel is perceived as a violent interloper that exceeds its rights and violates international law. The sense is that it is even encroaching in its holiest site. This view is held by large swaths of the media (Shlomo Sand’s book, for example, won the French journalist association award for best book of the year and recently 60 Minutes had a report which could have come out of The Nation with respect to its views on Israel), of the population in Europe, certainly of the Arab and Africa blocs, and even of decision-makers such as many prominent EU leaders but perhaps even by Obama.

In light of this, Israel would do well to think about letting the PA get erased by Hamas. It is that the PA has – with the help of whitewashing not just of the Oslo process, but particularly by American and some Israeli leaders – become a government that is perceived as moderate and that knows how to play the game with the West. Having Hamas teach them the same lesson it did in Gaza would destroy the PA and remove the pressure they have placed on Israel. I say this as somebody who supports a two-state solution along the lines proposed by Barak and Olmert. Unfortunately, my proposal would set the prospect of peace back by decades, but we now know that the idea we could make peace with the Palestinians was nothing more than a dream. They only want peace if that peace does not involve a Jewish state. Since that is Hamas’s position as well, it may be better to have to confront them in the international arena than the smooth liars of the PA.

I’ve written a series of articles about this transformation which, as one can see in reading them, read and warn about the transforming landscape:

The Palestinians Think They are in the Endgame

The Palestinian Endgame Enters High Gear

More About the Palestinian Endgame

The Palestinian plan to keep stalling is working to perfection

The Palestinians Believe They Have Israel in a Corner

The Palestinians Make it Clear: No Deal

Time to end the PA’s Sham and Release Gilad Shalit in the Process

Details of Barak’s Taba Plan

Ehud Olmert’s Insanely Generous Peace Offer/Palestinians Predict They Won’t Talk to Israelis with Obama in Office/a> with More Details by Olmert Himself

21 Comments

  1. herb stone

    12/13/2010 at 3:54 pm

    oy! man the paranoid guns!!!! war forever!!….

    after reading erekat’s article carefully, the one thing that is clearly insisted on is some form of reparation, which could simply be an amount of money paid as recognition of the value of their home and/or land that was lost.

    • themiddle

      12/13/2010 at 4:48 pm

      Well, let’s read it together Herb and you can show me where I’m wrong.

      Erakat writes:

      Today, Palestinian refugees constitute more than 7 million people worldwide – 70% of the entire Palestinian population. Disregarding their legitimate legal rights enshrined in international law, their understandable grievances accrued over prolonged displacement, and their aspirations to return to their homeland, would certainly make any peace deal signed with Israel completely untenable.

      In accordance with past Israeli-Arab agreements based on UN resolutions – most significantly the Egypt-Israeli Camp David Accords based on UN resolution 242′s formula of land-for-peace – resolution 194 must provide the basis for a settlement to the refugee issue.

      Return and restitution as the remedy of choice has a strong international precedent. For example, in the context of the Dayton Accords, concluded under the auspices of the United States, the return of Bosnian refugees to their homes and restitution of their property was considered a “non-negotiable” right that was critical to crafting a durable solution. American leaders such as Madeleine Albright, then the secretary of state, openly called on Bosnian Muslim refugees to return en masse to their former places of residence.

      In Bosnia and in Palestine, the return of refugees has been considered absolutely necessary for the stability of peace. Any deal that does not respect the rights of refugees has been viewed as bearing the seed of its inevitable failure.

      Israel’s recognition of Palestinian refugee rights and its agreement to provide reparation and meaningful refugee choice in the exercise of these rights will not change the reality in the Middle East overnight, nor will it lead to an existential crisis for Israel. What it will certainly do is mark the beginning of a new reality that will no longer be rooted in repression, denial of rights, and discrimination.

      What am I missing here, Herb? He wants 194 codified and he specifically interprets it to mean return of refugees like in Kosovo. The option which 194 theoretically presents that refugees will have the option of taking compensation instead of return is rendered moot by the suggestion that they be given a “meaningful” choice. That means a realistic possibility of moving into Israel. Hence the “new reality.”

      And please don’t argue that the Palestinians won’t move into Israel en masse. That would be extremely hard to believe.

      • themiddle

        12/13/2010 at 4:51 pm

        Oh, and Herb, I supported Oslo, the Camp David offer, the Taba offer, the Gaza disengagement and the Olmert offer. Suggesting that I am paranoid and seek endless war is laughable. Endless war is what we’re getting right now with what the PA is attempting to do, which is an end run around Oslo.

  2. Ben-David

    12/14/2010 at 10:31 am

    Your reading is correct, but your tail-between-legs conclusion is not.

    Let’s try it this way:

    Bibi and Lieberman succeeded in stopping a hostile White House – despite squawking by bien-pensant liberal Jews about the terrible risks of angering the US administration.

    They succeeded by saying No – and in the case of Freeze-Me Redux, showing credible, broad rejection of the American proposal by most members of the current Israeli administration.

    In other words: the way to prevent people usurping your sovereignty is to act like a sovereign.

    The US doesn’t dare ask much, much less of allies that are much, much less valuable than Israel. In the Oslo years, the Israeli left – backed up by a chorus of weak-kneed liberal American Jews – taught the world that Israel could be pressured.

    The solution is not to “be careful”.

    We should worry about Uruguay’s opinion? Are you serious? This the diplomatic equivalent of being afraid of our own shadows.

    After decades spent trying to delegitimize Israel, all they have is Uruguay – and the retreat of the US “international sheriff” under Nobama has opened doors around the world. Lotsa powerful people in bigger nations than Uruguay want to know what Bibi and Liberman think about Islamic terror, and Iran.

    The solution is to get off our knees, exercise sovereignty – and if necessary, call the Pali’s bluff.

    • themiddle

      12/14/2010 at 11:33 am

      Uruguay is the canary in the coalmine. The other day 26 former EU ministers sent a letter to the EU demanding sanctions against Israel and a Palestinian state over 1949 Armistice lines. And then you have the issue of demographics…

      • josh

        12/15/2010 at 8:09 pm

        Yeah, but what did wikileaks say they really think?

    • Barry

      12/16/2010 at 8:57 am

      I agree that Israel should go on the offensive, although not exactly in the way that Ben David describes. Parties who claim a vested interest in the outcome of peace talks (i.e. US, EU) should be constantly reminded that denying any and all Jewish connection to Jerusalem is now firmly entrenched in PA policy. Anyone who expects Israel to negotiate in good faith should be leaning on the Palestinians to stop concocting stupid myths about the Temple Mount that are an insult to any thinking person’s intelligence. Same goes for anyone who gives Erekat the time of day over the Pali “right of return”.

      And while we’re at it, I thought the whole point of strengthening the “moderate” Fatah was to provide them with the credibility they needed in order to discredit Hamas, or at least bring them into the mainstream Palestinian fold. That’s obviously not going to happen anytime soon (and Fatah has no interest in governing Gaza) so how can Abbas possibly sign a peace deal that excludes 1/3 of the Palestinian population? If the international community is so interested in peace, why aren’t they pressuring the PA to get their house in order before the start of negotiations? Anyone who believes that a Bibi/Abbas peace agreement would send a wave of hugs and goodwill rippling through Gaza that would discredit Hamas and sweep them out of power is deluding themselves (I am 99.9% sure that Obama believes exactly this).

  3. Tom Morrissey

    12/14/2010 at 1:15 pm

    Middle, your penchant for blaming the Palestinians for everything gets you into trouble here. Plainly, neither side wanted to negotiate; neither thought it in its interests to participate in an Obama-led process.

    In a broad, historical sense, responsibility for the absence of peace in the region belongs to the Arabs/Palestinians. But to blame the PA entirely for this recent breakdown? It becomes an excuse for you to avoid a critical examination of Israeli policy– in part, I think, because you don’t share the Israeli right’s reverence for the settlement project, and are happy to be excused from having to take it on.

    Whatever the merits of that project, this has helped to get us where we are now. Netanyahu will not risk his coalition for even a short-term “freeze”– presumably because he doesn’t want one. He only grudgingly accepted the last one.

    Ben-David’s analysis is far closer to the mark. As is Tom Friedman’s, as much as it pains me to agree with him.

    What’s the upside to Israel in installing the Hamas terror gang in the West Bank? The collapse of talks will get the West to double down on its investment in the PA and Fayyad-led state-building– a process which has enhanced Israeli security over the past few years. Today Uruguay, tomorrow the UNGA.

    And why would the Palestinians abandon the right of return, their only real leverage vis-a-vis Israel? You perhaps expect Erakat now to concede the point? You seem oddly bothered that the Palestinians– who years ago tried to make friends and influence people by hijacking planes and blowing them up in the desert– have learned the value of rationality in advancing their interests. Slowly but surely, the Palestinians are gaining ground, internally and internationslly. Is this bad for Israel? Not necessarily.

  4. themiddle

    12/14/2010 at 6:04 pm

    I disagree that Netanyahu didn’t want to negotiate. My take on what has happened is that he believes Olmert and Barak gave up too much and put themselves in positions where their leverage was given up too soon. Intent on avoiding this mistake, he has refused to give any quarter to Palestinian pre-negotiation demands (except when the US got really pissed off after the Biden Israel visit debacle). Right or wrong, he believes he is going to show them who is holding the strongest cards.

    In my opinion, he is deluding himself about who is holding the strongest cards, but I do think that is his approach. It also happens that his approach keeps him on relatively secure ground in his coalition. Don’t forget that he can’t have Lieberman outflanking him too often or it will cost the Likud seats in the next election.

    With respect to the settlements, it’s not that I avoid the issue, it’s that I think it has been resolved in both the Barak and Olmert offers. Essentially, the Clinton Parameters and the Israeli Taba offer delineate about 3-4 percent of Judea and Samaria/West Bank that will be kept by Israel, thus also keeping 80% of the settlers within Israeli borders. I also reject the premise that Israelis in Jerusalem are settlers. It’s not just the historic rights to the place that sway me, but the fact that Israel officially annexed it. I also categorically reject the idea that Jordan’s 19 year anti-Semitic control (they actually banned Jews from getting Jordanian citizenship and banned Jews from entering their holiest sites) over eastern Jerusalem should result in a some final declaration by the world that this critical piece of land belongs to the Palestinians.

    I happen to agree with Friedman’s last piece in the Times. It pains me as well, because I don’t like the guy, but he is right.

    There is no security for Israel in a Fayyad-led government. They are conducting their war in other ways and actually damaging Israel far more than ever before. The discussion now is about Israeli’s very right to exist; whether it is committing war crimes in its wars; and the fact that is was born in original sin. That this should be the discussion being had about Israel with neighbors like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria nearby, has to be one of the most mind-boggling hypocritical ideas to have influenced mankind in quite a while. The countries I mention are products of the same British map-making adventure of the early 20th Century, and yet despite being artificial nations built by colonialist forces, led by dictators who shut down their national media and opponents with regularity and viciousness, the country that gets to have dirt kicked in its face daily is the democracy with its liberal laws.

    The world is upside down. Not Israel. And the presence of a Fayyad government is the same as hiding a cancerous sore with an Armani suit. Sure, Fayyad is westernized, but behind him stand Fatah and the PLO. And they’re at war with Israel, a war which currently seeks to literally dismantle Israel. It is precisely because Fayyad is such a great face for the hatred that is going on behind him that having Hamas in power benefits Israel. What European leader would countenance a Palestinian demand to accept a Palestinian state on “1967 lines” if Hamas is doing the asking? And yet, while their sources are different, both Fatah and Hamas clearly seek the same outcome and are struggling to achieve it. Since I know Hamas has far less credibility in the world, I strongly believe their takeover of the PA would take the Palestinians back to square one. As for security being good now, it serves no purpose if the outcome is the destruction of Israel.

    If the Palestinians wanted anything other than to erase the Jewish state known as Israel, then I’d be glad that from terrorism they’ve gone to “rational” expression. And yet, precisely because their intent hasn’t changed at all, I see this charade as equally dangerous to Israel as the blowing up of planes. The world is suddenly having a debate about whether Israel is an apartheid state, for heaven’s sake, while just a few tens of miles away, a much bigger Muslim state is the very embodiment of apartheid states but is only noted for its vast reservoirs of oil and frolicking princes. It is most certainly bad for Israel that the world has accepted that the Palestinians are “rational.” Having two “equals” here won’t bring about peace, just much more war.

  5. Ben David

    12/14/2010 at 6:13 pm

    Middle:
    The other day 26 former EU ministers sent a letter to the EU
    - – - – - – - – - – -
    Which is about to implode, and has neither the will nor the power to implement that request… there has been no significant reduction in trade with Israel throughout the Oslo years. Never wise to confuse what Euros say with what they do… so sophisticated, they are.

    Further:
    And then you have the issue of demographics…
    - – - – - – - – - – - – - -
    Which we’ve debunked numerous times.
    There is net emigration from PA-controlled areas – overwhelmingly young people in their 20s and 30s. There would be even more if Europe and North America didn’t cave to Arab pressure and restrict visas. The PA is aging – time is on the Israeli’s side. Just like so much other disinformation – take what “everybody knows” and turn it 180.

    Morrissey:
    Netanyahu will not risk his coalition for even a short-term “freeze”– presumably because he doesn’t want one. He only grudgingly accepted the last one.
    - – - – - – - – - – - – - -
    Netanyahu and Liberman did an excellent good cop/bad cop routine that neutralized a hostile White House, and prepared the diplomatic community for the end of the Oslo paradigm. They now no longer need to do it – and the very public trouncing of Freeze2 also cut through a lotta leftie media static here in Israel.

    Again: two states west of the Jordan river is a non-starter, political suicide for any Israeli politician. I will repeat my prediction that Zipi Livni and the Kadima party – whose formula was Likud-plus-Oslo – will disappear in the next elections.

  6. themiddle

    12/14/2010 at 6:19 pm

    Kadima will gain more votes than Likud again.

    Ben David is living among the trees right now and can’t see the forest.

    • josh

      12/15/2010 at 8:12 pm

      Kadima with its corruption, will gain at the expense of Labour. Likud, if they don’t screw up will stay strong.

  7. themiddle

    12/16/2010 at 1:30 am

    Kadima gains against Labor; Likud loses one or two seats to Israel Beiteinu. If Amsalem is smart and runs independently, I’m guessing Shas loses two seats.

  8. Ben-David

    12/16/2010 at 5:52 am

    Yes, Kadima and Labor are competing for the same voters (except for the percent of Kadima voters who will return to Likud).

    But Labor has a deeply entrenched power base and history with many voters. Kadima has none of that.

    Remember that Kadima’s votes this time around were inflated at the last minute by an “anyone but Bibi” campaign that drew votes from Meretz and Labor. That’s not going to happen again.

    For these reasons I put my money on Labor surviving, and Kadima sinking.

  9. themiddle

    12/16/2010 at 6:15 am

    Fine. We’ll see.

    A lot will depend on how soon the elections are called. If called today, I believe my analysis will hold.

  10. Ephraim

    12/19/2010 at 1:09 pm

    Middle sez:

    Unfortunately, my proposal would set the prospect of peace back by decades, but we now know that the idea we could make peace with the Palestinians was nothing more than a dream. They only want peace if that peace does not involve a Jewish state.

    NOW we know this?

    Jeez, Middle, where have you been?

    Anyone with eyes in their head has known this for years, if not decades.

    Time to get with the program, Middle.

  11. xisnotx

    12/21/2010 at 1:21 am

    tm, ben-david, yer both off, according to this poll: jpost.com/Dipl...

    “It predicted that Likud would win one more mandate than Kadima, 30 to 29, instead of the 28 seats for Kadima and 27 for Likud in the current Knesset. Israel Beiteinu and Shas would remain at 15 and 11 seats, respectively.

    “In a dramatic shift on the Left, Labor would fall from 13 seats to only six and Meretz would double its current total of three mandates to match Labor.”

  12. themiddle

    12/21/2010 at 1:41 am

    Xisnotx, the poll states that it “has a margin or error of 4.5 percentage points.” That’s enough for about 3-4 seats. Also, it took place before the fires and I think the fires may cost Shas one or two seats.

    But yes, Labor is screwed. Especially now when some of its leadership is trying to get Amram Mitznah to run for head of the party. That guy is the worst leader they’ve ever had and the party was crushed last time he ran with them. He is the worst choice to lead them.

  13. xisnotx

    12/21/2010 at 2:22 am

    this is the money quote: “Right and Center-Right parties would rise from their current 65 seats to 69 and the Left-Center bloc would fall from 55 to 51″

  14. themiddle

    12/21/2010 at 5:36 am

    It’s a question of where Kadima stands, and Kadima stands near both the Olmert and Barak offers.

  15. Ben-David

    12/21/2010 at 7:44 am

    Xis – those numbers are before Livni starts mud-wrestling with Ashkenazi and others for leadership of Kadima – reminding more Israelis just how ineffectual they’ve been, and how little they actually have to offer.

    As middle says:
    Kadima stands near both the Olmert and Barak offers.
    - – - – - – - – - -
    …both of which have passed their sell-by dates. The only differentiator for Kadima was the “piece” process. That is now a dead letter.

    Life-long MOR Likud voters will drop Kadima for an invigorated Likud.

    Life-long MOR Labor voters will drop Kadima for the Labor party due to personal union/kibbutz/army connections.

    The last-minute “anyone but Bibi” swell of Meretz/hard-left Labor voters – which gave Livni at least 3 seats – will not materialize.

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