The Liberman proposal

Israel should counter Abbas’ unilateral UN bid with a unilateral bid of its own: declaring recognition of Palestine.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman 390 (photo credit: Flash 90)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman 390
(photo credit: Flash 90)
Israel’s diplomatic standing opposite the international community is at the lowest it has been in recent memory. At best, Israel is viewed as a neo-colonialist occupying power of a downtrodden and homeless people. At worst, it is seen as a racist apartheid state oppressing the Palestinian ethnic minority and guilty of numerous war crimes against them.
Prior to the UN resolution to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state, now-erstwhile foreign minister Avigdor Liberman floated a proposal as an incentive for the Palestinians to forego pursuing the aforementioned resolution. While the indictment of the head of Yisrael Beytenu has been a cause of embarrassment not only for him, but the entire country, his proposal merits a second look. Although not accepted then, Liberman’s brilliant and innovative proposal still has the potential to vastly improve Israel’s diplomatic and deterrent postures in the post-resolution environment.
Liberman’s proposal called for immediate Israeli recognition of a Palestinian state, in provisional borders based on the Oslo Accords of Areas A, B and C. In Area A of the West Bank, Palestinians would have control over security and civilian matters. In Area B, Palestinians would have control over civilian matters alone. This would grant them complete independence in all civilian matters in 40 to 50 percent of the land of the West Bank. More importantly, an astounding 96% of the Palestinian population in the West Bank would be completely free of any Israeli occupation. They would, instead be living in an independent Palestine. If one were to extend that proposal to include the territory and population of Gaza (currently under Hamas rule) it would mean that the vast majority of land and almost 99% of the population would be within a state of Palestine.
Provisional borders would not be determined in advance and no deadline would be set to determine permanent borders. However, Israel would announce its readiness to initiate negotiations over permanent borders and other core issues immediately.
If Liberman’s proposal had been offered and accepted by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the debate for a Palestinian state would end and any border disputes between neighboring nations could begin to be reconciled.
Border disputes are common. Since 1949, China has waged almost 50border disputes with its neighboring states Most of the European powers have tackled border disputes with their neighbors, including, Greece, Turkey, France, Italy, Spain, Ireland, The UK, Croatia, Slovenia, Russia, Estonia, The Netherlands, Germany and the Ukraine. Denmark and Canada’s dispute over Hans Island, eventually led to both nations dispatching warships to exert their rights to the disputed territory. Spain and Portugal’s dispute over Olivenza began in 1801 with the War of Oranges, and until today is still unresolved.  Spanish “occupation” of the Portuguese territory continues pretty much unabated.
Unfortunately Liberman’s idea for a Palestinian state was never officially proposed, and subsequently unilateral action was taken by Abbas at the UN. Yet it’s not too late for Israel to recognize an independent Palestinian state and implement Liberman’s proposal.
Israel has nothing to lose by taking these steps forward. Should it recognize a Palestinian state, nothing can be done or said about Israel that hasn’t already been done without such recognition. If Israel recognizes Palestinian statehood, it would no longer be an occupier of 99% of the Palestinian population. Israel would simply be a state in a dispute with a neighboring state.
The issues would not change. Israel and Palestine would need to deal with refugee reparations, Jewish as well as Palestinian. There would be security and water issues, as well as issues regarding rival claims for Jerusalem as capital. But at least Israel could then rightfully say that there has been a war between the Palestinian and Jewish people in the Land of Israel for over a hundred years, and it is high time to end it.
The areas of a recognized Palestine that Israel would still be occupying as the result of a defensive war forced upon it in 1967would receive all the services an occupying power is required to render.
However, in the instance of Gaza, Hamas cannot claim to be occupied once Israel recognizes Palestinian statehood. Indeed, it would be a measure of Israeli largesse that would hold the Abbas government unaccountable over the actions of renegade Hamas forces which overthrew PA rule in a bloodthirsty coup. However, if Hamas were to become part of an Abbas-led government, Israel would then be obliged to hold all of Palestine responsible for Hamas’ acts.
Gaza has a government, a military and it controls the territory under its rule with dictatorial powers. It receives foreign dignitaries and conducts foreign policy and even wages offensive warfare. None of those are the actions of an “occupied territory.” Thus, after recognition of Palestinian independence, Gaza can provide its own electricity and fuel as it chooses. Israel may, as a good neighbor, choose to sell services, but it will have no more obligations to supply Gaza with electricity simply on the basis of its presence in Area C of the West Bank. Israel didn’t provide Syria with electricity because it occupied the Golan, nor did it provide Egypt with electricity because it occupied the Sinai.

Since the rogue Hamas regime is in a declared state of war with Israel, the Gaza blockade should be converted into a Kennedy-style naval quarantine in which Gaza-bound ships would be intercepted by the Israeli Navy and taken to the port of Ashdod to be searched by joint Israeli and West Bank Palestinian forces. If no weapons are found, the ship would be free to proceed, providing that there is an end to any present “blockade” claims.
To sum up, in keeping with UN sentiments, Israel can now accept the fact of a Palestinian state living side by side with the State of Israel.  However, Israel does not need to receive Palestinian recognition in return. Israeli recognition of a Palestinian state can be a unilateral move just like in the case of the UN resolution regarding Palestine. .
Once this is achieved, Israel will be ready to negotiate ending the conflict and resolving outstanding issues with its new neighbor. Neither party will have the excuse to resort to violence to pursue its aims.  For the part of the Palestinians, 99% of them would no longer be under Israeli occupation. They will have the dignity of statehood which includes a recognized flag and a passport of their own, and thus can move forward with Israel on outstanding issues from a place of mutual respect. In spite of over 200 years of Spanish “occupation” over Portuguese territory and the unresolved border dispute between the two, Spain and Portugal have still managed to live and prosper side by side in peace. Israel and a future Palestinian state would fare well by following in their footsteps.
The writer is an internationally recognized screenwriter, playwright and educator who serves as a reserve officer in the IDF.

Tags Occupation