Mitchell Netanyahu 311.
(photo credit: GPO)
As expected, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has
welcomed the US’s decision to drop its demand for a moratorium on new building
in Judea and Samaria as a precondition for direct talks.
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of US Mideast policy since President Barack Obama took office in 2009 has done
more harm than good by encouraging Palestinian intransigence.
abrupt change in policy has created a diplomatic vacuum. In the absence of
direct talks, US special Middle East envoy George Mitchell has reverted to
shuttling between Jerusalem and Ramallah.
The most recent failure to make
headway on a negotiated agreement based on a two-state solution has fostered
pessimism and with it a plethora of potential alternatives to the old paradigms
for peace. All of them attempt to bypass the concept of a mutually negotiated
peace. All are doomed to failure precisely for this reason.
weekend, for instance, 26 former EU leaders, some of them until very recently
shapers of EU Mideast policy, sent out a seven-page letter calling for the
imposition of sanctions on Israel and the issuance of an ultimatum to the effect
that, if Israel has not fallen into line by April 2011, the EU will seek an end
to the US-brokered peace process in favor of a UN solution that would be imposed
On the Palestinian front, a concerted effort has been launched
to secure international recognition of a Palestinian state throughout the West
Bank and east Jerusalem.
Various Latin American countries, including
Brazil and Argentina, have already responded in the affirmative.
Israeli Right, meanwhile, there are voices, on the one hand, acknowledging that
it is morally untenable to rule over the Palestinians but, on the other,
opposing any territorial compromise. To solve this conundrum, some central
figures in the governing Likud – including Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, former
defense minister Moshe Arens and MK Tzipi Hotovely – have advocated annexing the
West Bank but not the Gaza Strip, and gradually granting West Bank Palestinians
the full rights enjoyed by Arab Israelis. “When people say that the demographic
threat necessitates a separation, my reply is that the lesser danger, the lesser
evil, is a single state in which there are equal rights for all citizens,”
Rivlin said earlier this summer.
FROM THEIR disparate sources, these
alternative avenues have one thing in common: They ignore the essential need for
a negotiated agreement on the thorniest issues – such as the status of
Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the demarcation of territory –
that would bring about an internationally recognized end to a century of
Only through dialogue can we and the Palestinians hope to reach
a lasting peace based on mutual respect and recognition. And it is not enough
for Israel to be willing to make painful compromises, as it has shown itself to
be time and again in recent years. The Palestinians, too, must be
Yet, dismally, in commemoration of the 62nd anniversary of
UN General Assembly Resolution 194, passed on December 11, 1948, leading PA
figures such as senior adviser Yasser Abed Rabbo and chief PLO negotiator Saeb
Erekat have again chosen to voice extreme positions on the “right of
The official demand is that a purported seven million
Palestinian “refugees” – the initial number of a few hundred thousand inflated
to risible proportions by the unique expedient of including in the count all the
generations of descendants of the original refugees, who are 70% of Palestinians
worldwide – be allowed to settle in Israel, a move that if implemented would
mean the demise of the Jewish state.
The only conclusion that can be
reached when such positions are asserted as official Palestinian policy is that
the PA/PLO leadership is not interested in reconciliation, and is not prepared
to build an independent state that absorbs its refugees in the way the Jewish
state absorbed its hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Middle East and
A 10-month building freeze all too evidently did not
generate a change in the Palestinian stance. And the US apparently concluded
that an additional three-month freeze would yield no dramatic shift,
However reluctantly, the Israeli consensus has long since come to
terms with the imperative for an accommodation with the Palestinians. It can be
reached, however, only if and when the Palestinians similarly internalize the
legitimacy of Jewish sovereignty here, and adopt the necessary
There is understandable pessimism on all sides regarding the
path ahead. But it must be clear to all: There is no substitute for substantive
dialogue, for compromise and for a negotiated agreement.