Sunday, January 23, 2011

In Absence of Peace Negotiations, What Happens Now?

Accurately predicting things is notoriously hard to do, especially predicting the future. Last week we were treated to a torrent of predictions about what Ehud Barak's splitting of the Labor Party would inevitably achieve. Since much of the torrent contradicted much of the other parts of the torrent, some folks will inevitably be proven wrong - or perhaps all of them will. The split will be good for the Left, no it will be good for the Right; it will enable negotiations, no it will prevent them even more than heretofore. It will inject new energy in the Zionist Left, it will be the final blow that will kill it off. And so on.

I haven't the faintest idea how the move will look six months from now, nor six years from now, nor if anyone will even remember it three years from now.

I have however been tapping various brains recently, asking well connected and well-informed people what they think is likely to happen over the next year or two, before or after we have our next elections.All of the people I'm referring to are better informed than most of us regular mortals. The responses fall into two rough categories. The first says we're back at a Yitzchak Shamir moment in time, where Israel's government is trying mostly to kick the can down the road, make no dramatic decisions, not get maneuvered into any corners, and wait for the world to change in some unforeseeable way. Before you sneer about how shortsighted that position is, keep in mind that Shamir launched this policy in the late 1980s, and close to a quarter century later, an entire generation, the reality is still recognizably similar to the one he saw.

The second school of interpretation says we're approaching an Arik Sharon moment, when in 2004, having defeated the Second Intifada, Sharon launched the unilateral disengagement from Gaza and a corner of the West Bank, and probably would have continued it on more of the West Bank had he stayed with with us. The top story in Haaretz this morning supports this second view, when it tells about a Lieberman plan to hand over something like 50% of the West Bank to the PA, and to recognize the area as an independent Palestinian state with territorial disagreements with Israel about their mutual final borders.

Although I won't make predictions, I admit the second plan is preferable in my mind. I would even take it further, and dismantle some of the far-flung settlements, and enable an independent Palestine with well more that 50% of the WB. The more they get up front, the less they'll be able to whine about how they can't do anything because they're so cruelly occupied by the Israelis, and the more Israel will be able to demand that the rest be handed over, or not, as the result of real negotiations aimed to reach End of Conflict status - which can't be achieved anytime soon.

This is what Netanyahu just says he did, after all: according to him, his leaner new coalition is more coherent and stronger than the flabby one he had until last week. Fair enough. Now apply the exact same logic to Israel's borders: less and coherent is better than more and not coherent.

PS. Have you seen the news item about Lieberman's Beduin aide, and how he's popular with some Arab voters? Who knows how serious this is or isn't. It might be, for all we know.


Silke said...

The more they get up front, the less they'll be able to whine

when was anything ever successfull in stopping them and/or their western nannies from whining/complaining/finding fault?

or is close to 5 years of intensive news reading too short a period of time to entitle to an impression?

Empress Trudy said...

They will get some sufficient critical mass of UN maniacs to declare a 'free Palestine' and then the Jews living there will be given two options: Pogrom and flee or pogrom and stay.

Bryan said...

9,000+ rockets and a complete absence of IDF boots from Gazan soil didn't stop them from crying "aggression" and "massacre" two years ago.

Even with the entire West Bank and Gaza, a Palestinian state would be unbelievably tiny. It barely shows up on a map. It would be inherently dependent on Israel and/or Jordan for their jobs. Even if they got everything they demand (in English), they would still be able to say they're being oppressed because their state is "unsustainable," and they could demand the 1947 Partition Plan lines. And then they could still say Israel is stealing their water, their resources, etc. And they could claim some tiny, useless area is still being occupied, like Hizbullah and Shebaa Farms.

It's depressing to think that *nothing* Israel can do would work, but I think depressing is preferable to the delusion that the world will simply start wagging their finger at the Palestinians without some sort of systematic shift in international relations; like if oil was no longer needed and the Arabs became utterly irrelevant again and the rest of the world could simply ignore their whining without fear of oil embargoes or price spikes.

Yaacov said...

Silke and Bryan,

I suppose I didn't explain myself well enough. The Palestinians will indeed continue to whine no matter what. The Guardian will support them, and they'll base their reports on radical Israeli Lefties. The Arab world will obviously keep on passing UN resolutions condemning Israel for being anti democratic, anti-women, and generally Naizi-like (even while denying that the Nazis ever did much).

But the American administration - whichever one - will recognize that the Israelis are trying, and even some Europeans will. America's skeptical Jews will have a harder time being skeptical - or anyway, the sincere ones will. The Indians and Chinese, meanwhile, will be able to say that they wish only to concentrate on business, not politics, and won't have to deal with calls for boycotts, which will be palpably unserious if there's already a Palestinian state.

AKUS said...

U think the whining has already began. Abbas said under no circumstances would he accept 50%.

Of course, in the ME, "under no circumstances" could mean nothing more than an opening haggling position.

On the other hand the Yishuv accepted much less than they wanted to get, and got far more in the end. But the West Bank Arabs do not seem to have that kind of mentality.

Meanwhile, a few more riots in Jordan and we'll see if Abdullah does what his Daddy did - Black September - or packs his bags and leaves, transforming Trans Jordan into the Palestinian state that Winston Churchill intended it to be.

NormanF said...

Offer them what they already have - Areas A and B and annex Area C to Israel. Expel the Arabs from Hebron and let Palestine resettle them. Implement the same policy in the Greater Jerusalem Area. And Israel will dismantle all the settlements in Areas A and B and move to the Jews to the new Jewish city of Hebron. I consider that a fair trade.

Silke said...

I am trying hard to convince myself that you're right.

My personal best hope though is that through this crazy power game going on -link below - Israel may become uninteresting
- how about a kind of Switzerland of the Mediterranean prospeting unmolested in the eye of the storm. Stranger things have happened ...

notice that at least one of them is into writing "great" books and remember that Götz Aly wished for the same i.e. Ottoman peace for the region.

It is 600 pages long, very dense and almost certainly more known than read. One of Davutoglu’s aides describes the book as “mesmerizing.” (Henri Barkey, a Turkey scholar at Lehigh University, pronounces the work “mumbo jumbo,” adding that Davutoglu “thinks of himself as God.”) “Strategic Depth” weaves elaborate connections between Turkey’s past and present, and among its relations in the Middle East, the Caucasus, the Balkans and elsewhere. The book was read as a call for Turkey to seize its destiny.

Sylvia said...


As secret negotiations are restarted, El Jazeera has just released 1600 documents - the protocols of the Israeli Palestinian talks over the past few years !
Abu Mazen and the Fatah leadership are now in hot water. It seems they were prepared to make some "painful concessions" to the israelis, such as the Jewish and the Armenian quarter.
From Israel Radio quoting El Jazeera.