Peace, two-states, or whose bombast?

 We're into another round of charges that the Israeli right worked to squash a deal that had been possible with the Palestinians. 

The last big campaign was the Geneva Initiative, still somewhat alive, and perhaps associated with the latest effort.

This one appears in a headline of the Internet newspaper The Times of Israel

"When Netanyahu closed the door on peace talks The inside story of the negotiations between Peres and Abbas that almost led to a framework agreement in 2011"

The first paragraph sets the political agenda of the campaign

"The following story probably won’t dispel the widespread notion among the Israeli public and leadership that since the Second Intifada there has been no partner on the Palestinian side. This is a notion that is based on statements from politicians from the right, among others, who claim that every time the moment of truth comes, PA President Mahmoud Abbas rejects peace agreements.But in at least one instance, that preconception proved unfounded, even false. Less than four years ago, it wasn’t Abbas who ran away from the table, but rather Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who declined to advance talks between Abbas and then-president Shimon Peres.

The article claims that Peres had brought Abbas to "far-reaching understanding" on a framework deal, or principles according to which talks would be restarted. At the last minute Netanyahu changed his mind about the agreement. That change of mind, and undercutting, was responsible not only for an effective end to the idea of the two-state solution, but for a souring of what had been decent working relations between Peres and Netanuyahu. By implication, it also defined the failure of the 2014 Kerry round of talks before they began.

Who is really at fault?

This depends on one's view of a reasonable deal. The Times of Israel describes the framework for the onset of detailed negotiations. Each can decide if Peres had gone too far, or Netanyahu was being the typical rightist nay-sayer.

Principal details included in the article

  • Negotiations would begin with the 1967 borders, with Palestinian concern that land swaps be equal in size and quality
  • Jerusalem would be the capital of both states, Jewish neighborhoods under Israeli sovereignty and Arab neighborhoods under Palestinian sovereignty, with open borders between them
  • Control over the Old City and Temple Mount was left for later
  • A joint municipal body for administering electricity, water and sewage in Jerusalem 
  • The issue of refugees was put off for later, with Abbas saying that he wanted Israel to accept 10,000 refugees per year over a 15 year period, for a total of 150,000
  • The Palestinian state would be demilitarized, with a third party deployed at the borders and crossings
  • While there was no clause indicating an end of the dispute when things would be settled, Abbas may have been ready to include such a detail
A good deal or another expression of grandiose Palestinian demands and Israelis willing to make peace at any price?
There have been uncountable proposals and tweaks of proposals over the course of a century to solve the problems of Israel and its neighbors. So far, and again, nothing that fits a Must Do.


  • No mention of Israel as a Jewish State, the state of the Jewish people, or acknowledging the legitimacy of Israel's Declaration of Independence.
  • No Palestinian commitment (already committed under Oslo but not implemented) to end incitement in school lessons and texts, and to include Israel on school maps
  • Why start with the lines of 1967, rather than settlement patterns that exist today, almost half a century later with some 600,000 Israelis over the 1967 lines?
Likely to be major problems for Netanyahu and others would be the prospect of 150,000 refugees (including, presumably, descendants of the original refugees), Abbas' insistence on Palestinian sovereignty over the Temple Mount, at least the partial internationalization of Jerusalem, and the third-party control of border crossings 

Involved in these periodic assertions that it's all the fault of the Israeli right are two related issues employed by those convinced that Israel must accept much, if not all of Palestinian demands.

One takes the form of "we are losing the battle of world opinion." 

Another takes the form of "if we do not agree to a two-state solution, we will be forced to accept a one-state solution where the Jews will find themselves living with an Arab majority." 

World public opinion and imposed solution are frightening prospects, offered with the support of movements, prominent Jews of Israel and the Diaspora, political parties, and government decisions demanding the recognition of a Palestinian state, and an obsessive UN always willing to pass another resolution and appoint a commission sure to condemn Israel and overlook Palestinian actions.

The rightist explanation for rejecting what is described in The Times of Israel article begins with distrust of Palestinians and extends to a concern for Islam, elements in the Muslim community not prepared to accept a non-Muslim state in the Middle East, the ascendance of radical Islamists with their violence, barbaric treatment of those who do not accept their rule, and aspirations to extend Islamic rule worldwide. 

How many troops has the Pope? (he's among the many in favor of a Palestinian state) has its equivalent in how many troops has international public opinion?

We can assume that the vast majority of people can't locate Israel on a map and don't care. Polls, editorials, parliamentary resolutions and government willingness to allow Palestinians to open an Embassy and appoint an Ambassador to Palestine tell only part of the story. 

It overlooks the opinions of Israeli Jews, as well as Diaspora Jews on the right and many in the center. Moreover, it overlooks the capacity of Israel to operate within its means, with the friends it finds overseas. Israel's capacity, and the weakness of international institutions seem sufficient to resist the imposition of a one-state solution.

History goes on, with incidents that affect opinions. The latest are attacks in Paris and Copenhagen, Bibi's invitation to the Jews of Europe to migrate, with the leader of Danish Jewry expressing his dismay at the message. 

Jewish communities, their organizations and rabbis look after themselves, and political leaders of western countries do not want to lose their Jews. The French PM said that without Jews there would be no France.

Those attitudes might contribute to an understanding, and even support of a Netanyahu-like posture.

The day after Copenhagen was news of Islamic beheadings of Egyptian Coptic Christians captured in Libya.

Current polling suggests that the Israeli public is inclined to vote on the Netanyahu side of the dispute. Likud has trailed Zionist Union in only one of the most recent media surveys. Other major parties are quiet on the issue of further negotiations with the Palestinians. 

Israel's neighbors shouldn't count on world public opinion. The idea of a Palestinian state must wait its turn while the worthies ponder Islamic violence in western countries, as well as across the Middle East and deeper into Africa.

Israel and the Internet provide opportunities for argument without the threat of beheading or even serious insult. 

In that spirit, as always, comments are welcome.