Perfidious Palestinians, ineffectual Americans

Since a permanent deal can’t be reached, plan B will be an interim agreement.

The People's Peace Plan meeting 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The People's Peace Plan meeting 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
ACCORDING TO the last “Peace Index”, a Tel-Aviv University-Israel Democracy Institute co-production, 70 percent of Israelis do not believe that an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) will emerge from US Secretary of State John Kerry’s “Last Chance” peace saloon.
According to the same poll, Israeli public opinion will not endorse what has been touted ad nauseam as the “inevitable” outcome of any peace talks.
A majority of Israelis refuse to return to the indefensible 1967 boundaries even with territorial swaps, and they object to dividing their capital or allowing even a token return of Palestinian refugees.
And now that Israel’s citizens will get to ratify a peace agreement in a referendum, the inevitability argument needs rethinking.
True, public opinion can be volatile. But count on the “good” Palestinians in Ramallah (as opposed to the “evil ones” in Gaza) to keep it stable. Take the case of Jibril Rajoub, whom the leftist Meretz party featured in an ad campaign as a bona-fide Palestinian partner. Pardner Jibril recently told Lebanese TV that if the Palestinians had nuclear weapons they would have used them against Israel long ago.
In another episode of celeb “Perestalsis,” President Shimon Peres tried to get Israelis and Palestinians to talk the lingua franca of football by inviting the celebrated FC Barcelona football club to evenhandedly spend a day in Israel, following a day in the PA. In Israel, Barca players and management were thanked as emissaries of peace; in the PA they were harangued by Rajoub to boycott all Israeli sports events.
To be honest, Israelis also lack confidence in the competence of American diplomacy. They will not employ the phraseology of Egyptian army chief General Abdel Fattah Sisi or the more lurid prose of the Cairo media to trash the Obama administration. But the truth is US diplomatic performance in our region is a poor endorsement for Kerry’s pretensions to understand Israel’s self-interest better than most Israelis.
Israel was also compelled to make a bitter down payment in the form of releasing terrorists jailed before the 1993 Oslo accords. If one must invoke the inapplicable parallel of Northern Ireland, then let’s at least be faithful to it. Terrorists in Northern Ireland were released at the close of a peace agreement, not as a sweetener for entering negotiations. After Netanyahu was coerced to release the murderers, the least Kerry could have done was to meet Israel’s request and obtain clemency for Jonathan Pollard, convicted of spying for Israel in 1987.
The administration’s flat refusal to consider the request displayed lamentable insensitivity.
After all the spins about how with the region ablaze now is the most opportune time for a deal, the essential equation remains unaltered: Maximal Israeli concessions cannot satisfy minimal Palestinian demands.
Well, if all the above is true, why then are Israeli nationalists like myself running scared of Kerry and Netanyahu? The answer can be put into two words: interim accord.
Since a permanent deal can’t be reached, plan B will be an interim agreement purchased by unilateral Israeli concessions in return for things like ending incitement that the Palestinians are obligated to but have never delivered on, or Palestinian promises not to repeat their violation of making an end run to the UN till the next tranche of Israeli concessions.
An interim accord may also provide a way to evade a referendum.
Former British prime minister Tony Blair promised a referendum to his electorate in 2005 if Brussels’s central power vis-a-vis the EU member states expanded. But he avoided a vote on the 2007 Lisbon Treaty which did precisely that by dismissing it as “a tidying up exercise.” With a partial or interim accord, Netanyahu may well resort to similar subterfuge.
An interim accord, however, is a euphemism for salami tactics.
Netanyahu must revert to the “yitnu yekablu” – the “they will get only if they give” policy of his first term. That is to say no tangible Israeli concessions without reciprocal Palestinian ones and particularly when we are dealing with territory. Otherwise nothing is finalized till everything is finalized. Only then will nationalists like me breathe easy.
Contributor Amiel Ungar is also a columnist for the Hebrew weekly Besheva