Time for an Israeli preemptive strike

Israel needs to go on a diplomatic offensive that clarifies its intentions regarding the West Bank and Jerusalem.

By BOB FEFERMAN
April 23, 2010 16:50
4 minute read.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (AP).

Netanyahu pointing tough good 311. (photo credit: AP)

With the continued stalemate between Israelis and Palestinians, and tensions between Washington and Jerusalem growing day by day, the time has come for an Israeli preemptive strike – a preemptive diplomatic strike for peace.

There is a growing misperception emanating from the Obama administration that Israel has become an obstacle to peace in the Middle East.

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Ironically, it is this misperception that has created Palestinian intransigence which is demonstrated by their refusal to join in direct negotiations with Israel. That is not exactly brilliant diplomacy on the part of the government, but such is the reality that Israel is currently facing.

To make matters worse, key opinion makers, like New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, are climbing the “blame Israel” bandwagon. 

In his article of March 28, Friedman wrote, “In the last decade, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process – for Israel – has gone from being a necessity to a hobby.”

This statement is both inaccurate and unfair, especially given the far-reaching offers for peace that former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert made to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in 2008 and current Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s clear support for Palestinian statehood.

Unfortunately, perceptions dictate reality, even if they are misperceptions. These misperceptions can only lead to growing isolation for Israel. With the continuation of the status quo, the future does not bode well for the Jewish state.

THIS NEGATIVE trend can be preempted with a dramatic move by the government: an announcement that calls for the adoption of the Clinton Parameters of December 2000, by both Israelis and Palestinians, as the foundation for a final status solution to the conflict.

It is important to remember that the ideas of the Clinton Parameters were the bridging proposals offered by president Bill Clinton to both sides following the failure of the Camp David talks of 2000. They were accepted by then prime minister Ehud Barak but rejected by Yasser Arafat.

The Clinton Parameters would allow Israel to keep roughly 5 percent of the West Bank thereby including the major settlement blocks. With a land swap of 2% for the Palestinians, there could be a Palestinian state in 97% of the West Bank, that would be both viable and contiguous.

Clinton’s Middle East envoy, Dennis Ross, summarized the Clinton Parameters in this article in the New York Times (January 9, 2007):

“Put simply, the Clinton parameters would have produced an independent Palestinian state with 100 percent of Gaza, roughly 97 percent of the West Bank... Jerusalem’s status would have been guided by the principle that what is currently Jewish will be Israeli and what is currently Arab will be Palestinian, meaning that Jewish Jerusalem – East and West – would be united, while Arab East Jerusalem would become the capital of the Palestinian state.

“The Palestinian state would have been ‘nonmilitarized,’ with internal security forces but no army and an international military presence led by the United States to prevent terrorist infiltration and smuggling. Palestinian refugees would have had the right of return to their state, but not to Israel...” 

WHY WOULD it benefit Israel to adopt the Clinton Parameters? Israel faces an absurd paradox: Palestinian intransigence is causing the world to blame Israel for the status quo. That is why Israel needs to go on a diplomatic offensive that clarifies Israeli intentions regarding the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Furthermore, adoption of the Clinton Parameters would force the Palestinians to fully internalize something that most Israelis already recognize: peace will require painful sacrifices on both sides. Specifically, the Palestinians will need to give up their demand for “the right of return” of refugees into Israel.

Years ago, Ami Ayalon, the former commander of the Israeli Navy and a peace activist said, “Our leaders use diplomacy, they keep their cards close to their chest, and by doing so they are not able to deal with the future and to tell us where we are heading. .... After sailing for 32 years in the Navy I learned that if a Captain does not know where he wants to sail, no wind on earth will be strong enough to bring him there.”

Netanyahu needs to take command of Israel’s destiny and chart a new course for the country. Israel can no longer wait for the recalcitrant Palestinians to decide that they actually want peace.

The Clinton Parameters provide the very best destination that both Israelis and Palestinians could ever hope for. Now is the time for Binyamin Netanyahu to show courageous leadership and take bold action, even at the expense of his current ruling coalition. A preemptive diplomatic strike for the sake of peace can secure a brighter future for both Israelis and Palestinians.

The writer is a middle-school history teacher living in northern Indiana. He is a long-time advocate for Israel in the Jewish community of South Bend, Indiana. He lived in Israel for 11 years, and served in the IDF.


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