September 17, 2011


Why Israel Should Vote for Palestinian Independence: A Cautious Case for Supporting the UN Bid (Isaac Herzog, September 16, 2011, Foreign Affairs)

[R]ather than oppose the resolution, Israel should seize the initiative and use it to its advantage by agreeing to support the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN. Voting for Palestinian statehood may finally open the door for Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, strengthen the possibility of a two-state solution, and greatly improve Israel's position in the region and in the international community.

The peace process between Israel and the Palestinians has all but disintegrated over the past two years. The cooperative spirit of the Oslo process during the 1990s and the two rounds of serious permanent status negotiations over the last decade gave way to mutual distrust and blame.

This stalemate has proven dangerous to Israel. It has energized radicals on both sides of the conflict, fueled anti-Israel sentiment, harmed Israel's international status, and jeopardized Israel's alliances. But rather than attempt to break the deadlock and rescue Israel from these debilitating circumstances, Israel's current leadership has resisted taking the lead. Last September, for example, Netanyahu refused U.S. President Barack Obama's request that Israel extend its ten-month settlement freeze for an additional 60 to 90 days, harming Israel's relations with its most important ally and painting the country as an obstacle to peace. Should Israel continue down this road, it may risk having a final settlement imposed on it by the international community.

To reverse course and revive the peace process, Israel should support Palestinian aspirations at the UN -- but only in exchange for several preconditions to be agreed on with the Palestinians, who bear equal responsibility for moving negotiations forward. Israel should announce its support for the UN resolution on the condition that the Palestinians agree to return to the table as soon as possible and without preconditions, fully backed and supported by the international community, and to determine the final settlement through bilateral negotiations. The UN resolution must reflect this aspiration and include Israel's perspective as well. In addition, the two parties must agree to a framework for an interim process that will allow for negotiations based on Israel's recognition of a Palestinian state. This formula will defuse tensions and may prevent wide-scale violence from erupting.

As part of these understandings, Israel should affirm the parameters that former U.S. President Bill Clinton set in 2000 and which President Barack Obama further developed in May 2011: a two-state solution that realizes both the right to self-determination for both Jews and Palestinians, ends all historic claims, and establishes a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with mutually agreed territorial swaps and security arrangements that meet Israel's vital security needs. This will allow Israel to annex major settlement blocs and Jewish holy places -- areas that most Israelis agree should remain part of their country.

To begin the interim negotiating process, Israel should take several meaningful steps, such as transferring additional security responsibility in the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority, freezing settlement construction on the other side of the security fence, offering compensation to Israeli settlers who wish to move back to Israel proper, and releasing prisoners of Fatah held in Israeli jails. The Palestinians, meanwhile, must agree to continue security cooperation in the West Bank, refrain from launching an international legal campaign against Israel, and avoid a power-sharing arrangement with Hamas. Questions regarding the status of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees should be determined once both sides have taken these interim steps and begun negotiating borders and security.

Israel should back a Palestinian state (Philip Stephens, 9/15/11, Financial Times)
[T]he Palestinians' carefully-crafted case for statehood asks for essentially what has been long promised by the international community and, incidentally, by past Israeli governments: a two-state solution based around 1967 borders and a shared capital in Jerusalem. Unless I am mistaken, this is the long-held stance of the Quartet, as well as of the European Union and of Mr Obama's administration.

Israel, of course, has fundamental concerns - notably about security and about the status of Palestinian refugees. Any declaration of Palestine statehood must be framed in the context of absolute guarantees of Israel's future. The irony is that such legitimate worries are lost to the anger and frustration generated by Mr Netanyahu's intransigence.

For all its prime minister's bombast, Israel has rarely looked so beleaguered. Mr Netanyahu's premiership has drained Israel of what the American scholar Joseph Nye has called "soft power". Israel has lost its capacity to carry its argument by persuasion and example. Its prime minister has seemed to relish his isolation.

The Arab uprisings have toppled important pillars of Israel's strategic security. As last weekend's violent attacks on its embassy in Cairo attested, Israel can no longer depend on Egypt. The turmoil in Syria threatens instability to the north. just as Hamas in Gaza stirs violence in the south.

Mr Netanyahu, of course, has no control over upheavals in the Arab world, but this is surely not the time to make enemies of friends. In Europe, he has broken the patience even of Germany's Angela Merkel. William Hague, a lifelong friend of Israel and Britain's foreign secretary, does little to hide his exasperation. Mr Netanyahu's relationship with Mr Obama runs along a spectrum from sour to abysmal.

This week's visit to Cairo of Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke to Mr Netanyahu's reckless disregard of old alliances.

Spring arrives everywhere.

Posted by at September 17, 2011 9:55 AM

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