Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Netanyahu's Statement of Principles

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to address a joint meeting of Congress today. On the one hand, he claims the speech will surprise the world. On the other, I can't imagine him going much beyond the principles he already articulated in an address to the Knesset last week. Let's take a closer look at those principles and see what he might elaborate on:

1. Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people: This demand is clear, and American politicians, including President Obama, have already embraced it. I think it is an unnecessary demand, since we don't need the Palestinians' approval for being the Jewish state. We just need them to agree that Palestine cannot interfere in the internal affairs of Israel, including by attempting in any way to end its Jewish character.

2. A non-militarized Palestine with Israeli control of the Jordan River bank: I agree with the first part, I don't agree with the second. I don't trust the Palestinians with a military, especially considering the fact that a poll from November showed 60% of Palestinians support the two-state solution just as a step toward a one state solution (a poll I'd mention to Congress if I were Netanyahu).

As for the border with Jordan, while I do trust King Abdullah to secure it, if his regime would fall, the river would become a serious threat to Israel's security. I wouldn't want IDF troops there, though. If they'd stay on a narrow strip along the border, they'd be isolated and endangered. Instead, there should be an international force there. Not an inept UN force, but a NATO force which would also include IDF representation. The same force should also patrol the Gaza-Egypt border.

Netanyahu will probably elaborate on what he meant when he said there would be troops along the Jordan River. Is he giving up the Jordan Valley and its settlements, as he should? If he addresses his vision of the new borders, more details about this area will definitely be included.

3. The refugees will not return to Israel: Indeed, no Israeli leader in his right mind would be willing to recognize the right of return. I would, however, like him to propose an alternative solution to the refugee problem, including a declaration of willingness to pay reparations without accepting responsibility for the Nakba or stating an exact amount the refugees would receive.

4. The settlement blocs will remain a part of Israel: Here Netanyahu may elaborate more on what his definition of the blocs is and whether or not he is open to the idea of swaps, even if they aren't by a ratio of 1:1. This is where he would really define the border between Israel and Palestine, though I'm sure he wouldn't present a map of the exact border. I have a bad feeling his definition of the settlement blocs is much more expansive than my own, and if he is open to swaps, it means he's going to sacrifice more of pre-1967 Israel - a sacrifice I'd rather keep to a minimum.

5. A united Jerursalem shall remain Israel's capital: With this position, we can say goodbye to peace. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem, perhaps minus the Jewish quarter of the Old City. Netanyahu won't give an inch of the old city, but maybe he'll surprise the world by declaring today that he doesn't see the Arab villages that were annexed to Jerusalem in 1967 as a real part of the city and that he's willing to give them up. I doubt that's going to happen, though.

6. Palestine will only be established as part of an agreement: Netanyahu should attack a possible UN vote as a vote for violence, saying that recognition of Palestine without an agreement with Israel would encourage a third Intifada. He should point out that a state had already been offered to the Palestinians several times, most recently by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, yet they rejected the proposal without even negotiating its terms. The world should not award such behavior, and must make it clear to the Palestinians that a peace deal is the only way to independence.

7. The peace treaty would constitute an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and an end to all claims: Netanyahu should emphasize this principle, which actually overlaps with all the others. Once we reach an agreement establishing a Palestinian State, they can no longer try to alter the Jewish character of Israel, demand more territory, call for a right of return for the Palestinian diaspora, etc. Of course, this goes both ways. Israel will not be able to claim territories in Palestine as its own, claim a right for Jews to return to the West Bank and Gaza, etc.

An agreement that leaves any issues unresolved is a blueprint for disaster. If the Palestinians have a state and a legitimacy to make more demands, they will also feel more confident that they may use force to achieve what they seek.

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