Abbas Speaks to the Knesset

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The basis for a believable peace agreement

From the Israeli point of view, a compromise over territory is both conceivable and feasible – if not wildly popular. However, it is only feasible for a believable and reliable peace with the Palestinians and the Arab states. If such a deal were ever close, Israeli public opinion would be so relieved to reach an end to the conflict that it would be irresistible. As a result, any government that refused to make such a deal would be untenable. Those on the left and peace wings of Israeli politics would then have a golden opportunity to come in from the cold to save the day.

As it is, this is fantasy. And this is why those who adhere to it, despite their knowledge and media access in Israel, enjoy only derisory public support. By this I mean ‘Peace Now’ and similar organisations, well-known figures such as Gershon Baskin, Amos Oz and his political associates, and the entire Israeli left who all share a willingness to ignore the depth and strength of the dominant Palestinian narrative and its hatred of Israel. It is hardly the case, of course, that the peace and left movements in Israel are blind to this. It is more the case that they are ideologically in sympathy with it by their adherence to a naive or soft version of the Palestinian narrative. This cripples their capacity to produce policies to grapple with it.

It also leads to a failure to grapple with the vulnerability of Israel to missiles and rockets from a Palestinian state and its potential for anti-Israel alliances. But as a consequence of the Hamas rocket onslaught following Israel’s disastrous pull-out from Gaza and the Hamas coup, this is an issue that absolutely must be solved. Otherwise, there is little chance of an agreement receiving public support in Israel and not the remotest chance of it being a lasting agreement.

Yet instead of confronting these issues, some of those who insist on fantasising about peace now and who habitually heap blame on Israel for the lack of progress, compensate for their lack of public support by flirting with those who, without Israel’s best interests at heart, would impose a ‘settlement’ on Israel.

What would be a believable deal?

This raises the question of what would make a peace agreement believable and reliable. The possibility of an accumulation of hundreds or thousands of undetectable one or two-man operated rocket and missile systems (SA-18 anti-aircraft and Kornet anti-tank missiles, for example, as well as others) throughout the future ‘West Bank’ Palestinian state, would not qualify.

In fact, given the impossibility of an effective monitoring and control system for such weaponry, smuggling them into a Palestinian state, by jihadist fanatics or the government, would be unstoppable. This means that there will be nothing to prevent them being dispersed in urban and rural districts in close proximity to key Israeli locations. Launched from forward positions, they would bring most of Israel into range as well as sharply reduce the distance to targets and the time to reach them.

Further, a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 cease-fire lines would effectively possess a double advantage. Firstly, it would be able to overlook Israel from the higher ground of the West Bank. Secondly, it would cut Israel’s defensive depth to zero in the narrow central coastal region around and to the north of Tel Aviv. As a result of this combination, rocket and missile fire from relatively close range would threaten to disrupt Israel’s ability to mobilise and maneuver its ground forces. At the same time, it would present a serious challenge to Israel’s tank and air superiority.

In effect, what all this means is that fine-sounding demilitarization clauses of a peace agreement would be a waste of paper. The possession of outlawed weapons systems by a Palestinian government combined with illegal military training both outside and within the West Bank would thus pose enormous and potentially lethal risks to Israel.

A believable peace – Abbas speaks to the Knesset

For an effective and lasting peace, these threats and fears need to be resolved. Therefore, for the 2-State Solution to be acceptable in Israel, the key issue is how can these fears be calmed to make it believable?

Quite possibly this would be aided by a dramatic gesture from Abbas and the PA, such as a Sadat-like appearance in the Knesset to declare that the Palestinians are ready for a historic compromise with Israel. But the prospect of this seems as far-fetched as Sadat’s visit before he made it.

Further, any assessment of the ability and reliability of the PA as a partner for peace would need to include the observation that without military assistance from the IDF and the US and funding from the US and EU, it would probably disintegrate. The power-contrast between Abbas and the PA in 2010 and Sadat in 1977 is striking.

In other words, what made the agreement with Sadat believable in the first place was that he had the power to make it. By contrast, Abbas has no such power. In the second place, what helped to make the Sadat deal stick was the buffer of 200 kilometres of the Sinai. Without an equivalent of this, whatever substitute security for Israel that can be agreed will have to be very, very convincing.

A believable peace-partner?

Also striking is that the much vaunted democratic credentials of the PA, supposedly required by the ‘international community’ and necessary to ensure peace between a new Palestinian state and Israel, have just taken another major dive. Abbas has slipped effortlessly and without comment, protest or condemnation from being an elected president to becoming a non-elected president-for-life. The mechanism for this feat was an anointment/appointment by the PLO! Simultaneously, his crackdowns against Hamas on the West Bank are more to ensure his own survival than for any settlement-inducing ‘good behaviour’.
Any reliability-assessment of Abbas and the PA as peace-partners would be bound to observe that the heart of Palestinian politics is the continuation of propaganda for the total ‘liberation’ of the whole of Palestine and the elimination of the ‘Zionist entity’. The reliability-assessment would be bound to note the continued flood of the crudest anti-Semitism and glorification of the ‘martyrs’.

It would be obliged to take into account the entire absence from Palestinian political discourse of acceptance of and accommodation to Israel and Jews.

In other words, all these years since Oslo and yet the expression of these rejectionist and anti-Semitic aspirations remains firmly embedded within Palestinian political discourse, the Palestinian education system, the mosques and the media. Even Palestinian kids involved in the programs of the conciliatory organisation ‘Windows-for-Peace’ were convinced that one day they would ‘get back’ Tel Aviv etc.

The basis for a believable agreement

To make a conflict-ending deal convincing, Palestinian and Arab acceptance of the legitimacy of the existence of Israel as a Jewish state would be critical. If the Palestinian and wider Arab world cannot bring themselves to take this step, the inevitable fear would be that the deal was not an end to the conflict at all. This has been the rock against which all the plans of well-meaning and humane supporters of the 2-State Solution, such as Obama and others previously, have crashed. Bearing in mind Einstein’s observation (see, Driving Force of Palestinian Politics #1), is there any reason not to believe that all similar schemes in the future will crash in the same way?

But in reality, more than this is needed for a believable peace deal. The indispensible 3-core conditions to underpin a sustainable agreement are:

  1. recognition of the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state;
  2. destruction or disbanding of the terror organisations;
  3. recognized and secure borders.

The two points in the latter item would require retention by Israel of the Golan and a peace agreement with Syria.

Risk for peace or just risks?

Without these ingredients, the so-called policy of ‘taking risks for peace’ would really be a policy of just taking risks. The degree of risk would be high and the probability of peace would be practically non-existent. In any event, for the foreseeable future, it is crystal clear that none of the 3-core conditions are remotely likely. This has disastrous implications for the permanence of any peace deal because without them the conditions for the continuation of the conflict remain in place.

Palestinian and Arab insistence on an agreement that did not recognize Israel’s legitimacy, which insisted on a return of the refugees from 1948(uniquely defined by the UN to include all their descendants), that a Palestinian state must be based on pre-1967 ‘borders’ (that is, the cease-fire lines of 1949), accompanied by ceaseless propaganda for the elimination of Israel, is not a peace-making formula. Nor is association with Syria and Iran and others committed to the destruction of Israel. Instead, it is a declaration that such an agreement would not be an end to the conflict. It would simply be a better base for the continuation of the war on Israel.

In short, without the 3-core conditions, the ‘2-State Solution’ cannot be the solution to the conflict. Without them, it never will be.

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