At a time when the problems of the Middle East are more complicated than ever, US Secretary of State John Kerry seems to be rehashing failed 20th century solutions for 21st century dilemmas.
We witnessed this dangerous precedent with the interim Geneva agreement signed with Iran, and in the next few weeks Secretary Kerry is set to try again with his so-called “framework” agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. This proposal is said to include a call for a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem and for further negotiations based on the pre- 1967 lines. As much as we respect the American administrations, our government will have no choice but to reject such a proposal that threatens the peace and security of our citizens.
Leaving aside our just historical, traditional and legal claims to our ancestral homeland in Judea and Samaria, proponents of the American proposals are unable to answer three simple questions that undermine the arguments in favor of a two-state solution at this point. The first, and most obvious, elephant in the room, is Gaza. What has the government of Israel not tried to encourage peace in this cursed sub-region? Following the 1993 Oslo Accords we vacated the vast majority of the Gaza Strip and turned it over to what was supposed to be the democratic Palestinian Authority for self-government. The Palestinians of course did not take advantage of this opportunity and instead chose to perpetuate murderous terrorist activities against Israelis with particular violent peaks in the mid-1990s.
In 2005 prime minister Ariel Sharon, despite strong opposition from myself and other leaders of the Likud party, decided to unilaterally withdraw the Jewish communities from the Gaza Strip, leaving it completely in Palestinian hands. By January 2006 the Hamas terrorist organization defeated Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah in elections and since that point the Gaza Strip has served as a base of unending missile attacks on Israeli population centers.
In all the talk about the necessity of reaching an agreement with the Palestinians about the establishment of an independent state, no one raises the issue of Gaza in a serious manner. Even if a peace-loving liberal democratic state is established in Judea and Samaria, what will become of the terrorist entity in Gaza? How will this agreement put an end to thousands of missiles launched from Gaza at our cities and towns? Who will stop the Europeans from threatening us with boycotts until we provide relief for the poor residents of Gaza and end the restrictions in place, which are aimed at curtailing Hamas’ ability to arm themselves freely? Speaking of Gaza, what is to guarantee that we will not see a repeat of the 2006 scenario in the newly established Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria? How do we know that Hamas won’t overthrow the Fatah government, or merely defeat them in the polls when a general election is held? All the American security guarantees and hi-tech sensors in the Jordan Valley will mean very little once a Hamas government announces its allegiance to their Iranian patrons. You do not need to be a military analyst to understand the immediate and dire implications for Israel’s security.
Finally, let’s say that we believe those who claim that Abbas and his Fatah cronies will succeed in establishing a viable and stable state. Do we really believe that the State of Palestine will be a peace-seeking nation? We only need to take a quick look at the textbooks studied today by Palestinian school children, or turn on the official PA TV, to get a quick glimpse at the hatred and incitement that the next generation is being indoctrinated with. What are the hopes for peace when these children are taught that Jews are sub-human and that Palestine will eventually include Jaffa, Haifa and the rest of pre-1967 Israel? I realize that there are dangers associated with the status quo. We take no pleasure in administrating the civilian lives of even a single Palestinian and I am aware of the growing voices calling for a boycott of Israel throughout the world. At the same time, with increased instability in our region, the last thing we can do is allow ourselves to be pressured in to an agreement that ignores the issues raised above.
Now is the time for cautious and judicious diplomacy that will manage the conflict. It is in the interests of both sides to continue the relative quiet on the security front while ensuring the economic stability of the PA. We all the hope and pray that the day will come when we can reach a final status agreement with the Palestinians. Until the point is reached when we can answer the questions raised above in a serious manner, we must be strong enough to tell our friends and allies, in the most respectful matter, that we have no choice but to reject their “framework” proposal.
The author is deputy defense minister of the State of Israel and the author of Israel: The Will to Prevail.