Friday, May 20, 2011

Obama's Plan for a Viable Palestine and a Secure Israel

President Obama has outlined what he sees as the conditions for a lasting peace between Israel and Palestinians.

(1) Two states with Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people and Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people.

(2) Permanent borders based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps and the West Bank and Gaza joined in a contiguous state.

(3) Israel must be able to defend itself, prevent a resurgence of terrorism, stop the infiltration of weapons, and provide effective border security.

(4) Palestine must be a non-militarized state that assumes security responsibility after a phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces.

Nothing new on that list and President Obama has nothing to offer except negotiations on the future of Jerusalem and the right of return claimed by Palestinian refugees. A bolder President would have added four additional conditions:

(5) Palestinian refugees may return to Palestine but not to Israel and may submit claims to receive individual payment from Israel in settlement for loss of lands and other property.

(6) Israel keeps East Jerusalem in exchange for ceding a corridor between Gaza and the West Bank and sovereignty over Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

(7) Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem and other parts of Israel may choose to remain as citizens of Israel or move to Palestine. Israeli settlers in the West Bank may remain as citizens of Palestine or move to Israel.

(8) Syria gives up its claim to the Golan Heights in exchange for a payment from Israel for settlement of claims by displaced Syrians.

Land for peace has always been a bad equation. Land for money, peace for peace, that's a better equation. In respect to individual human rights, no peace treaty should force anyone out of their home who doesn't want to move.

Update: Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu says Israel is "going to have to have a long-term military presence along the Jordan." That would be along the border of Palestine and Jordan, not Israel and Palestine. Whether that's entirely consistent with (4) it is certainly consistent with (3).

Update: U.S. President Obama has "clarified" what he meant by (2):

"By definition, it means that the parties themselves - Israelis and Palestinians - will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. That's what mutually agreed upon swaps means. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last forty-four years. It allows the parties themselves to take account of those changes, including the new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides"
Meanwhile, Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu has softened his rhetoric:

"The disagreements have been blown way out of proportion. It's true we have some differences of opinion, but these are among friends."
That should really be "between" friends. He means between the U.S. and Israel. The Palestinian Authority is not a friend, but of course that is why a peace treaty is desirable rather than a continuation of the status quo.

The Palestinians will clearly have a hard time giving up the idea of Jerusalem as their capital, but would they ever be satisfied with the eastern half of the city? That would just create another Berlin. Getting them to accept (5) will also be difficult as this recent statement demonstrates:

"The right of return will remain sacred for every Palestinian who was forced by the Zionist war machine to leave his or her home and land in Palestine. The Palestinians won’t succumb to extortion; either we get the home and land peacefully, or we will make sacrifices until we return."
That last bit sounds like a resort to extortion. The question is whether they will accept compensation in lieu of return. I think that's an important principle, particularly given that many Palestinians won't be able to return to Palestine, let alone Israel. Otherwise, what does the peace process offer for them?

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