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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Not 'Occupation' - A 'Border Dispute'

An article in this morning's Jerusalem Post suggests that after the convergence surrender of Judea and Samaria, Israel should 're-frame' the conflict as a 'border dispute' rather than an 'occupation.' I don't see why we need to to surrender substantial amounts of land in order to have the 'moral standing' to demand such a switch, and I don't believe that the world - and certainly not the 'Palestinians' is going to go along with such a change in terminology in any event.

According to the article, the 'suggestion' is that of Gidi Grinstein, the founder and president of the Re'ut Institute in Tel Aviv.

Grinstein argues that
a paradigm shift from 'occupation' to a 'border dispute' "would reap great political rewards similar to those experienced after the Gaza disengagement when Israel enjoyed an international political standing greater than it was accorded in decades." Yes, but.... The 'international political standing' that Israel received from the Gaza withdrawal surrender lasted about a week, and we paid (and are still paying) a very high price for it.

Grinstein argues that to achieve that reframing, Israel would need to be able to argue that the majority of Palestinians are living under conditions that qualify as a state. As I noted last week in this blog, at least one district judge in Jerusalem has already decided that they are living under a 'sovereign state' and I reviewed some of the possible legal implications of that decision. Grinstein argues that despite the fact that the 'Palestinians' already claim to have a democratically elected government, Israel would have to relinquish control over the Palestinian customs scheme - a key economic factor - and allow Palestinian representation in key international bodies like the World Health Organization and World Trade Organization in order for them to qualify as a 'state.' Why Grinstein requires these attributes is not clear to me. The accepted definition of a 'state' is "an organized political community, occupying a territory, and possessing internal and external sovereignty, that enforces a monopoly on the use of force." Nothing there about international organizations or customs schemes. Note that Grinstein only calls for 'giving' the 'Palestinians' and not for requiring them to take responsibility for things like water and electricity, which continue to be supplied (without payment) from Israel. And giving the 'Palestinians' control over their 'customs scheme' would also mean giving up the ability to monitor what goes in and out of the 'Palestinian state.' As we saw earlier this week, that would likely mean allowing more weapons into the 'Palestinian Authority.'

Grinstein argues that while "the prospects of internationally recognized borders along the [security] fence line are slim," getting the major world powers to acknowledge that Israel is not an 'occupying force' is doable." I don't see how. We cannot even get most of the world to acknowledge in any meaningful fashion that we have withdrawn from Lebanon, even though the UN acknowledged the fact that we fulfilled the conditions of Security Council Resolution 425 and withdrew to the internationally recognized boundary six years ago. Lebanon still claims that Israel is 'occupying' Shaba Farms, Hezbullah has used this a pretext to attack IDF forces in the area, and the UN and world remain silent. So how have we reframed the terms of debate?

Grinstein's main diplomatic qualification is that he was the coordinator of former prime minister Ehud Barak's negotiating team at Camp David. Barak tried to give away the country and failed. That probably says it all.

You will never see references to the 'occupied territories' that are written by me in this blog. I refer to either "Judea, Samaria and Gaza" or "Judea and Samaria" or "Yehuda v'Shomron." If anything, I might refer to the 'administered territories' which is the legally correct description for their status in English. The only territories that can be 'occupied' are territories taken from a 'state' and Judea, Samaria and Gaza were occupied by Jordan and Egypt respectively in 1967 - they belonged to Israel under the British Mandate - and were not part of a state before 1967.

The one thing about which Grinstein is correct is that we have allowed the Arabs to frame the terms of our conflict with them and that must change. My friend Yisrael Medad has made that argument and it is from him that I learned to refer to the people to whom I used to refer with the tedious "Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria" simply as "revenants." But we don't need to surrender our land in order to make that argument.


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