If the Palestinians are unable or unwilling to take the steps needed to conclude an accord with Jerusalem, Israel should try to negotiate an interim agreement with the Quartet, former National Security Council head Uzi Arad said on Tuesday.
“If we cannot come to a negotiated agreement [with the Palestinians], let’s do an agreement with the Quartet,” he said. Arad described the Quartet – a body that represents the international community and made up of the US, Russia, EU and UN – as “an interesting grouping” that only deals with Mideast issues.
In exchange for “unilateral redeployment” in the West Bank, Israel could demand from the Quartet a quid pro quo that should include no boycotts, sanctions and divestments; a recognition that Israel has acted in good faith; that it “made unilateral concessions beyond the call of duty;” and that it will be rewarded with no “hostile diplomatic, economic or legal action” by the Quartet members.
Speaking at a briefing at the Jerusalem Press Club, Arad said an agreement with the Quartet would be preferable to the types of unilateral moves some are suggesting now, whereby Israel would define for itself what its security and national interests are, and withdraw to those lines. Among those who have recently proposed variations of unilateral steps in the West Bank are former Military Intelligence head Amos Yadlin, now head of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, and Michael Oren, former ambassador to Washington.
Arad, who served as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s national security adviser from 2009 to 2011, said an agreement with the Quartet would not preclude a future agreement with the Palestinians, or other interim accords and transitional steps, but would diminish the Palestinians’ ability to keep Israel on the defensive in the international arena by continuously refusing to reach a deal.
According to Arad, the Palestinians’ strategy is to continuously put Israel on the defense, score points in the international arena, and deprive Israel of an agreement it “very badly needs and wants” in order to improve their negotiation position in the future.
The Palestinians had no strategic interest in crowning US Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent efforts with success, Arad said, because that would remove the international pressure on Israel that the Palestinians feel will move Israel to be more pliable.
By striking a deal with the Quartet, Israel would deprive the Palestinians of this leverage.
Arad said that during the Kerry- brokered negotiations, Netanyahu was “close to accepting a formula he never accepted before, and would be quite a departure for him.” That formula, Arad said, was that the border between Israel and a future Palestinian state would be based on the June 4, 1967, lines, with territorial swaps.
Arad said that accepting the idea of land swaps, even if they were not one-to-one swaps, removed the argument that Israeli settlement policies in the West Bank were part of a “land grab,” since any land beyond the Green Line that Israel would retain would be offset by land inside the Green Line that it would be asked to “swap” with the Palestinians.
Arad described Netanyahu’s acceptance of the formula of land exchanges and borders based on the pre-1967 lines – even if Israel would add reservations to the notion – as a “major qualitative and quantitative change” in the prime minister’s position.
This was not met, however, by any concession on the Palestinian side, he said, because of a basic lack of interest in reaching an agreement at this time.
Regarding Palestinian recognition of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people, Arad said that Israel was very capable of determining its own identity. The issue was important, he stressed, as a “test of Palestinian intent that goes to the heart of the problem,” which is whether they accept Israel’s legitimacy here at all.