A sign of the times

If Netanyahu wants to avoid a Solana-style UN-imposed solution, he needs to offer more than 'economic peace.'

By YOSSI ALPHER
July 23, 2009 21:18
3 minute read.
A sign of the times

Binyamin Netanyahu 248.88. (photo credit: AP)

 
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The European Union's chief foreign and security policy official, Javier Solana, made a remarkable proposal in a speech in London on July 11. He suggested that, if Israeli-Palestinian negotiations continue to fail, even with the benefit of "real mediation" and a "fixed deadline," the Security Council should "proclaim the adoption of the two-state solution... accept the Palestinian state as a full member of the UN and set a calendar for implementation." There would follow international monitoring and guarantees, with the Arab states immediately establishing full diplomatic relations with Israel. Solana's proposal is remarkable for several reasons. To begin with, this is a serious appeal for the international community to impose a solution. Second, it comes from the representative of an institution, the EU, which is not generally considered capable of presenting and enforcing a strong foreign policy position. Third, and most significantly, this may not be a good idea but it is a sign of the times that Israel must heed. Solana is reminding us that Israel's policies in East Jerusalem and the West Bank put it on a collision course with the international community. The evidence is abundant. Not only the president of the United States but Congress as well are fed up with Israeli settlement policies. There appear to be serious fissures in Israel's support base in the US. The boycott on diplomatic engagement with Hamas is cracking day by day. We fought a just war last January in Gaza, where our behavior at the humanitarian level was mild compared to the US and its allies in Iraq and Afghanistan. But that no longer protects us from investigation and global condemnation. Our previous prime minister, Ehud Olmert, offered the Palestinians the best deal they could hope to get; that it was rejected by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is yet another indication that the Palestinians have failed miserably at state-building. The Fatah-Hamas split is also a manifestation of this malaise. But none of that reduces the pressure to cease settlement construction and get out of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. As matters stand, with the Netanyahu government refusing to freeze settlement construction, Abbas refusing to negotiate, both sides too weak or too obstinate to reach agreement and President Barack Obama seemingly determined to move forward on a multilateral basis, Solana's proposal could indeed be seriously considered one day soon by the Security Council. YET AN attempt by the UN (or any other actor, for that matter) to impose a solution could create serious tension in the region. Certainly it could be bad for Israel. Despite improvements in Israel-UN relations in recent years, the UN's objectivity remains questionable from Israel's standpoint. There is absolutely no guarantee that it would support Israel's legitimate security interests in an imposed settlement. Not only Israel but some Arab actors as well might oppose a UN solution. For 42 years, some of us have predicted that eventually the world would get fed up with the occupation. We have grown increasingly aware of the demographic danger of remaining in the territories. Our leaders have reluctantly made a variety of initiatives that temporarily held off the pressures and the dangers by giving up something: at Oslo, at Hebron, at Camp David, unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. The only such initiative Netanyahu appears to be offering is "economic peace." But if he wants to avoid an international diktat, he had better consider reorganizing his coalition to engage in much more far-reaching initiatives. He should begin by considering four, none of them mutually exclusive: additional unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank; picking up where Olmert's two-state proposal left off and recruiting US and Arab pressure on Abbas; engaging Hamas in Gaza; and galvanizing the peace process with Syria. Yossi Alpher is coeditor of the bitterlemons.org family of Internet publications. He is a former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. This article first appeared in bitterlemons.org and is printed with permission.

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