(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
With Shaul Mofaz's recent pitch for a peace plan, it seems that yet another politician has reached the overdue conclusion that a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians is currently not in the cards. Believing that the current state of stagnation does not enhance national security, coupled with his identification of a lack in Palestinian as well as Kadima leadership, Mofaz has decided to fill the void.
The Mofaz model comes with good intentions, but based on past experience, it will likely yield bad results.
A different model of negotiations developed at Harvard University asserts that when a negotiated agreement between two sides to a conflict is not feasible, each side should strive for the best alternative to a negotiated agreement (or BATNA). The main problem with Mofaz's plan is that it puts forth the Palestinians' best alternative ahead of Israel's.
Facilitated by security strategists and political pundits, the gist of Mofaz's master plan is to enable a Palestinian state on borders that temporarily encompass approximately 60 percent of Judea and Samaria, and to guarantee Israel's eventual withdrawal from 92% of the territories once conditions ripen.
Furthermore, the former defense minister is willing to consider swapping land from Israel proper in exchange for parts of the territories that are not relinquished to the Palestinians, as well as to recognize Hamas once it is kind enough to recognize Israel. Finally, pending final status negotiations, Mofaz's plan does not rule out dismantling additional Jewish settlements, making concessions in Jerusalem and allowing Palestinian refugees to relocate to Israel proper. In return, Israel will be entitled to peace.
MOFAZ IS an Israeli war hero, but his proposed plan for peace does not serve his country well. The plan's main problem is that it is more of same in terms of giving the Palestinians something in return for nothing. That formula has failed repeatedly.
The time has come to change this premise for peace and the sequence of give-and-take.
Israel should start by getting land rather than always giving it away. There is a wide national consensus and a broad international understanding, long ratified by UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 that part of the territories will become part of Israel proper. Mofaz noted 8% in his plan, Binyamin Netanyahu has mentioned much more and Ehud Olmert said that the Palestinians will never receive more than what he once offered them.
Land that is either barren or densely populated with Jews, such as the Ariel, Modi'in Illit and Ma'aleh Adumim areas will be part of Israel proper. The Clinton and Bush administrations recognized it; the Europeans recognize it; the moderate left in Israel recognizes it; and even pragmatic Palestinians acknowledge it. So let's start from there, instead of continuing the formula of giving something for nothing.
Once the Palestinians see that the process of give and take is a two-way street, it might actually serve as a catalyst for negotiations. The PLO was established well before the 1967 war, but only after Israel managed to settle hundreds of thousands of Jews in the territories were the Palestinians willing to negotiate. Palestinian pragmatism might need a kick-start.
As they have recently stated their intention to declare an independent state and by doing so shut the door on dialogue, Israel's best alternative to a negotiated agreement is to finally define and draw "secure and recognized" borders based on a national consensus and simple criteria of maximum area, maximum Israelis and minimum non-Israelis within those borders, while limiting the uprooting of residents (regardless of nationality) to an absolute minimum.
Endless - and at times senseless - discussions have been carried out as to whether the Syrian option should be preferred to the Palestinian option or vice versa. I suggest we concentrate on the Israeli option first.
The writer is a research fellow at the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya and a Partner at the Naveh, Kantor Even-Har law office. He is currently pursuing a PhD in International Relations at Haifa University and is an author of Suicide Terror: Understanding and Confronting the Threat, recently published by John Wiley & Sons.
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