Worthless guarantees

Israel cannot allow itself to be stampeded into a peace agreement that isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

UNIFIL Force Commander Major General Graziano sits aboard the French flagship FS De Grasse during a change of command ceremony in 2009 (photo credit: REUTERS)
UNIFIL Force Commander Major General Graziano sits aboard the French flagship FS De Grasse during a change of command ceremony in 2009
(photo credit: REUTERS)
ISRAEL RECENTLY observed the 10th anniversary of the Second Lebanese War. For most Israelis the war was best forgotten, and what passed for retrospective analysis focused on the military dimension and whether the outcome justified the sacrifices. One item has unfortunately gotten short shrift: The war’s final chord , UN Security Council Resolution 1701. At the time, Israel’s prime minister Ehud Olmert and his foreign minister Tzipi Livni celebrated the resolution as the war’s major achievement, because it would extend the control of the Beirut government down to Israel’s northern border and permanently disarm the Shiite Hezbollah militia.
Things didn’t quite work out that way. Instead of the Beirut government controlling Hezbollah, it is Hezbollah that by dint of its military superiority controls the Lebanese government, both from without and from within. Iran, Hezbollah’s sponsor, found the Shi’ite militia state model so attractive that it transplanted it to Iraq, Syria and Yemen. The hamstrung Lebanese government that supposedly wields power has been unable to choose a president for years. The resolution’s main guarantors – the European UN peacekeeping contingents – proved totally ineffectual, as they refused to physically impede Hezbollah’s rearmament, while the EU split hairs between an outlawed military wing and a kosher political Hezbollah. The moral of the story is that while military solutions may not suffice, diplomatic solutions are no panacea either if they cannot be enforced militarily.
That is why Israel cannot allow itself to be stampeded into a two-state solution, simply because of a confluence of international pressure led by the EU and legacy building by the expiring Obama administration. Due disclosure requires me to restate my opposition to the two-state solution in general, irrespective of whether the idea is propounded by the Israeli left or by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But the contours of the agreement reportedly mooted in the discussions last summer between Zionist Union leader Yitzhak Herzog and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas overstep the boundaries of foolhardiness, and transport us to the realm of criminal irresponsibility.
Any plan that envisages a return to the June 4, 1967, boundaries (even with cosmetic territorial swaps) is not territorial compromise or the “secure and recognized boundaries” of Security Council Resolution 242, but territorial surrender, including in Jerusalem. It would reinforce the message that initiating a war with Israel carries no penalty, because all territorial losses are merely transient and one can soon have another go at the “poisoners of wells” and the “defilers of al-Aqsa Mosque” or whatever libelous casus belli the Palestinian side chooses to invoke.
A “demilitarized” Palestinian state would be as demilitarized as Hezbollah, and those who presumably guarantee such an agreement, even if signed on the White House lawn with the A-list of international statesmen in attendance, would be as effective as the statesmen who begat UNSC 1701. To give Olmert and Livni their due, they had reason in 2006 to trust the international community. Today, anybody buying into the “security guarantees” offered by the European Union is a candidate for buying bottled water from Flint, Michigan. Israel has never wanted American boots on the ground to defend it, but even if it changes its mind, American boots are no longer in stock, barring a tragedy surpassing 9/11.
I cannot stop Netanyahu from verbally committing to a Palestinian state while hoping that the diplomatic climate will change for the better. Who knows, he may yet prove to be one of Napoleon’s lucky generals. Even a Hillary Clinton administration will be better than the current one in Washington, and the post-Brexit negotiations and the warding off of would-be Brexit emulators as we approach next year’s French presidential elections may keep the EU busybodies off Israel’s back. In the interim, I expect Netanyahu to ring-fence a two-state solution with all the necessary red lines, and to enunciate positions closer to Yitzhak Rabin than to Yitzhak Herzog.
Contributor Amiel Ungar is also a columnist for the Hebrew weekly