International peace conference now!

Is there any way to avoid the potential conflagration that annexation might bring?

IDF SOLDIERS KEEP guard in the Jordan Valley earlier this year. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
IDF SOLDIERS KEEP guard in the Jordan Valley earlier this year.
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
There are less than two weeks to go until July 1, the date when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has the right to begin placing annexation on the government and Knesset agenda, according to the coalition agreement, and no one knows what’s going to happen. Perhaps not even Netanyahu himself.
Blue and White leaders Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, along with Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, say they haven’t seen any maps. King Abdullah of Jordan has warned that annexation would lead to “a massive conflict.”
United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the US Yousef al Otaiba warned in a direct message to the Israeli public and leadership in Hebrew, “Annexation will certainly and immediately upend Israeli aspirations for improved security, economic and cultural ties with the Arab world and with the UAE,” and “will spark violence and arouse extremism. It will send tidal waves across the region. It will primarily affect Jordan, the same Jordan whose stability – which is sometimes taken for granted – benefits the entire region and Israel in particular,” a message that was probably coordinated with his close friend Jared Kushner.
And with Germany taking over the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union and the presidency of the UN Security Council, also on July 1, the German foreign minister made his first post-COVID-19 visit abroad to Israel to tell Netanyahu, Gantz and Ashkenazi that Germany and Europe consider annexation to be a “violation of international law.”
So is there any way to avoid the potential conflagration that annexation might bring, which could include a violent third intifada at the cost of many Israeli and Palestinian lives, unrest in Jordan that could endanger a major Israeli strategically, and a new round of Arab spring revolts which could create instability throughout the Middle East?
On June 4, an interesting UN Forum was held on “The Question of Palestine: Threats of Annexation and the Prospects for Peace,” with the participation of Dr. Yossi Beilin, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi and James Zogby, with Beilin speaking from Tel Aviv, Ashrawi from Ramallah, and Zogby from Washington, of course via Zoom.
ASHRAWI, WITH her long record of being a leading spokesperson for the Palestinian cause, and Zogby, the founding president of the Arab American Institute in Washington, had one primary recommendation for how to deal with the situation. Cause Israel to be “held accountable,” “unified sanctions should be imposed against Israel” if the government goes forward with annexation. The only catch is that they didn’t say how this could be done.
Beilin, who always seeks creative solutions to problems, had a different approach which is worth considering and if possible acting on.
“Why not call an international conference before July 1 based on a year of negotiations, which would take into account all UN resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, all previous plans for a resolution of the conflict, including the Trump Plan, and also the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.”
Here it should be noted that the API offers recognition of Israel and normal relations by all 22 Arab states in exchange for the establishment of a Palestinian state based upon the West Bank and Gaza, with east Jerusalem as its capital, along with mutually agreed upon one-to-one territorial exchanges which would enable 80% of the settlers to be within the sovereign state of Israel.
Beilin said that President Trump might agree to such a proposed international conference, since his plan would also be taken into account. A conflagration would be avoided (which no one wants), and serious negotiations could seek to find a common ground between Israel and the Palestinians that might produce a realistic solution.
One might call it Madrid Conference 2, like the conference initiated by Republican president George Bush and his secretary of state James Baker in 1991 after the first Gulf War, co-sponsored by the US and the Soviet Union. That conference was followed by years of multilateral talks between Israel and many of the Arab states that dealt with all of the core issues in the conflict and where serious progress was beginning to be made.
Of course, the major challenge would be to find a sponsor for such an international initiative. Russia and France have both suggested a readiness to host such a conference in the past. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has also expressed support for such an initiative. Could the sponsors be President Trump and his friend President Vladimir Putin? What about the Middle East Quartet, the US, Russia, the EU and the UN? How about Spain being the initiator or host, harking back to the original Madrid Conference and the Jewish-Muslim “Golden Age of Spain,” along with the Arab League? And what about Sweden and Norway, the two hosts of all the Nobel prizes?
The slogan should be “International Peace Conference Now!” That would be far better than having to face an “Annexation Intifada.”

The writer lives in Tel Aviv and is co-editor of the Palestine-Israel Journal (www.pij.org), the only joint Israeli-Palestinian publication.