Powered by WebAds

Friday, May 11, 2007

Siniora pushes the Saudi plan

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has an op-ed in today's New York Times in which he calls for Israel to accept the 'Arab Peace Initiative' or what's usually referred to here as the 'Saudi plan.'
It is in this vein that participants in the March Arab League summit in Riyadh called again for a peace proposal originally put forward at a similar gathering in Beirut in 2002. The Arab Peace Initiative, as it is called, was introduced by Saudi Arabia and endorsed by all the Arab countries. It offers Israel full recognition by the 22 members of the Arab League in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal to its pre-1967 borders, thus allowing the Palestinians to create a viable independent state on what is only 22 percent of historic Palestine.

This is a high price but one the Arabs are willing to pay, as it is the only realistic path to peace that conforms to all United Nations Security Council and General Assembly resolutions addressing the conflict, and ensures the right of return of the Palestinian people. The Arab states are not seeking to wipe Israel off the map. Rather, we are seeking the legitimate goals of an armistice, secure borders and the ability of all of the region’s people to live in peace and security.
I've inserted the bold font above because those are the points that I believe need an answer.

First, what the Arab League is offering is 'full recognition' of Israel. Note that this is not even the 'full diplomatic relations' that were offered in the original Saudi proposal in 2002. What does 'recognition' mean? Does it mean that Israel will be shown as a country on maps in the Arab world? Does it mean that the Arab media will stop inciting children to blow themselves up in order to destroy Israel? Does it mean an exchange of ambassadors and bilateral trade? (Probably not). None of that has been fleshed out. And that's a problem because the Saudis and the Arab League treat this plan as "take it or leave it" and have threatened violence if Israel "leaves it."

Second, Siniora talks about Israel withdrawing to the pre-1967 borders. Let's think about what that means in practical terms before discussing whether it's something Israel ought to do. In the summer of 2005, Israel expelled some 10,000 Jews from the Gaza Strip. It's now nearly two years later. Most of those Jews still do not have jobs and permanent homes. This week, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss issued a report that indicated that the government has spent more than 9 billion Shekels ($2.25 billion) on that exercise or more than double what was originally anticipated. And most of the Gaza refugees are still homeless and jobless. Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights and those sectors of Jerusalem that were liberated forty years ago next week now house over 400,000 Jews. Where would these people (including yours truly - I live in a part of Jerusalem that was in Jordan before 1967) go, at what cost and how long would it take?

But more significantly, returning to the pre-1967 borders would be returning to borders that Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Abba Eban - who was certainly not a right-winger - described as "Auschwitz lines." It would grant the Arabs control of most of the country's strategic high ground and most of its water supply, and would place Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and our international airport within easy missile range. The Arabs wouldn't need Shihab missiles - Kassams and Strellas would suffice. And all in return for a piece of paper!

Siniora pretends that going back to the pre-1967 borders would allow the 'Palestinians' to create a 'viable, indpendent state.' There is no viable state that can be created out of the enclaves known as Gaza and the 'West Bank.' As I wrote earlier this week in discussing the World Bank report:

This ignores the fact that Gaza is separated from Judea and Samaria by a large swath of land. It's fine and well to assume that Israel will have to grant access from one to the other, but if Israel has 'security concerns' that the World Bank chooses to ignore in Judea and Samaria, those concerns are magnified when 'Palestinians' are allowed to travel between Judea and Gaza. As no less an authority than the New York Times pointed out last year (accompanying commentary is from my original post):
What I wanted to point out to you is the editorial's first sentence and three paragraphs towards the end. Between them, the Times accidentally points out the elephant in the living room of the 'viable Palestinian state:'
It's long been clear that getting a workable, feasible Palestinian state out of two geographically separate masses of land in the desert will be an uphill battle.


Anyone who has ever really looked at a map of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza can see how hard it will be to form a Palestinian state. Even a future Palestine that includes all of the West Bank and Gaza is still going to be in two pieces with Israel in the middle, separating Gaza from the West Bank.

To get an idea of this, imagine a map of Manhattan. The West Bank would be, very roughly, East Harlem and the Upper East Side. Gaza would be Battery Park City, far to the southwest. Now imagine trying to create a fully functioning city with its own economy out of those pieces while an entirely independent, antagonistic city remained in between. [Please note that my lack of response below to the word 'antagonistic' does not mean that I don't object to Israel's characterization as 'antagonistic.' Israelis won't be involved in terror attacks if R"L the 'Palestinians' pass through between the two separate parts of their 'state.' But that's not my point today. CiJ]

Yet that is what the Palestinians will have to do if they even manage to get back to the 1967 borders. (If the Sharon-Olmert plan, now tentatively blessed by Mr. Bush, goes into effect, they won't achieve that.) If Mr. Olmert moves forward with his plan to retain large settlement blocs in the West Bank, the Palestinians may well lose huge parts of their "Upper East Side" and be left trying to form a country out of what's left, and their "Battery Park City." [Not so huge. About 8%. But that's also not the point. CiJ]

That's it folks. The elephant in the room is that even if the 'Palestinians' get all of the 'West Bank' and Gaza, they still won't have a contiguous 'state'. Judea and Samaria (the 'West Bank') are landlocked. How are they going to develop an economy (assuming that they have any interest in doing so)? Either they ship through Jordan or they ship through Israel and Gaza. How are they going to travel from one to the other? Well, during the heyday of Oslo there was talk of tunnels and 'safe passage' routes and trains - but no matter how you solve that problem (if it can be solved) every time a 'Palestinian' travels from Gaza to the 'West Bank' they are going to pass through Israel, and given the only 'Palestinian' export to the world - the terror attack - there is going to be a risk of terror attacks against Israelis because that's what the 'Palestinians' do.
And this is without even considering, as I noted earlier this week, that every 'Palestinian state' scenario depends upon access to Israel's labor markets. What going back to the pre-1967 borders would do is to give the State of Israel questionable long-term viability:
The international consensus solution, two States -- one Israeli and the other Palestinian within the confines of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank -- is based on fatally flawed assumptions. Even if two such States could be delineated by fiat, doing so would not produce a lasting peace. Neither State would be viable. And with ever advancing technology, and ever more powerful arsenals, it should be clear that failure to achieve true peace may eventually lead to a much wider and more lethal war.

Therefore, the assumptions underlying these international proposals must be revisited. The problem must be considered anew. A better approach to a sustainable peace must be found and pursued.

World leaders must first be educated to the improbability of establishing a successful Palestinian State in the limited space allocated to it. A RAND Corporation study suggests that to have even a chance of success, such a Palestinian State would require $33 billion of aid over 10 years, $50 billion of aid through 2019, and access to Israel's labor market. This approach is fantasy. Pursuing it will endanger the lives of some, and ruin the lives of many.

World leaders must also be re-educated to the fact that Israel's primary predicament -- its security risk -- is based on the long-standing Arab/Muslim-Israeli conflict, not an Israel-Palestinian one. In other words, the establishment of a tiny Palestinian State by itself won't end Israel's security risk. Iranian and Hezbollah actions are helping to make this point clear. Less appreciated is that the Muslim Brotherhood would come to power in Egypt and Syria if there were fair elections held in those countries today.

Finally, world leaders must then be persuaded to give weight to the fact that security is not Israel's only predicament. Israel may have the nuclear weapons capability to blow up many who hate it, but to exist as a healthy nation -- to be a viable State -- Israel's security and well being, including social, political, and economic needs must be unassailable.

Viability is hard to precisely define. It is a concept that is best examined holistically because each State has its own unique circumstances.

In its pre-1967 borders, Israel's long-term viability is suspect because 1) it is not self-reliant, needing to be annually subsidized by American foreign aid and the monetary support of Diaspora Jews, 2) it does not have adequate water or energy resources, needing to import both, 3) the quality of life of its citizens is brutal below the surface, notwithstanding the availability of material goods made possible by a subsidized economy. Israelis live in a pressure cooker imposed by its enemies; one that takes an unhealthy emotional toll, 4) it does not have adequate territory to allow for natural population growth, 5) it does not have permeable borders to support economic activity. It faces unfriendly neighbors, and must bypass its neighbors to openly trade, and, 6) it faces borders that cannot be easily secured because it does not have adequate territory to properly defend those borders.
Fourth, Siniora claims that the Saudi plan is the only 'realistic path to peace' that 'conforms with UN Resolutions.' But this is also incorrect. The English version of UN Security Council resolution 242 is binding, and that it says "territories" and not "the territories:"

A key part of the case in favour of a "some territories" reading is the claim that British and American officials involved in the drafting of the Resolution omitted the definite article deliberately in order to make it less demanding on the Israelis. As George Brown, British Foreign Secretary in 1967, commented:

I have been asked over and over again to clarify, modify or improve the wording, but I do not intend to do that. The phrasing of the Resolution was very carefully worked out, and it was a difficult and complicated exercise to get it accepted by the UN Security Council. I formulated the Security Council Resolution. Before we submitted it to the Council, we showed it to Arab leaders. The proposal said 'Israel will withdraw from territories that were occupied', and not from 'the' territories, which means that Israel will not withdraw from all the territories. [10]

Lord Caradon, chief author of the resolution, takes a subtly different slant. His focus seems to be that the lack of a definite article is intended to deny permanence to the pre-1967 border, rather than to allow Israel to retain land taken by force. Such a view would appear to allow for the possibility that the borders could be varied through negotiation:

Knowing as I did the unsatisfactory nature of the 1967 line, I wasn’t prepared to use wording in the Resolution that would have made that line permanent. Nonetheless, it is necessary to say again that the overwhelming principle was the ‘inadmissability of the acquisition of territory by war’ and that meant that there could be no justification for the annexation of territory on the Arab side of the 1967 line merely because it had been conquered in the 1967 war. The sensible way to decide permanent ‘secure and recognized’ boundaries would be to set up a Boundary Commission and hear both sides and then to make impartial recommendations for a new frontier line, bearing in mind, of course, the "inadmissibility" principle. [11]

Eugene V Rostow, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs in 1967 and one of the drafters of the resolution, draws attention to the fact that the text proposed by the British had succeeded ahead of alternatives (in particular, a more explicit text proposed by the Soviet Union), although it should be noted that none of these included the phrase "the territories":

... paragraph 1 (i) of the Resolution calls for the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces 'from territories occupied in the recent conflict', and not 'from the territories occupied in the recent conflict'. Repeated attempts to amend this sentence by inserting the word 'the' failed in the Security Council. It is, therefore, not legally possible to assert that the provision requires Israeli withdrawal from all the territories now occupied under the cease-fire resolutions to the Armistice Demarcation lines. [12]
The USSR and the Arabs supported a draft demanding a withdrawal to the 1967 Lines. The US, Canada and most of West Europe and Latin America supported the draft which was eventually approved by the UN Security Council. [13]
Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338... rest on two principles, Israel may administer the territory until its Arab neighbors make peace; and when peace is made, Israel should withdraw to 'secure and recognized borders', which need not be the same as the Armistice Demarcation Lines of 1949. [14]

He also points out that attempts to explicitly widen the motion to include "the" or "all" territories were explicitly rejected

Motions to require the withdrawal of Israel from ‘the’ territories or ‘all the territories’ occupied in the course of the Six Day War were put forward many times with great linguistic ingenuity. They were all defeated both in the General Assembly and in the Security Council.[1]

Rostow's President, Lyndon B Johnson, appears to support this last view:

We are not the ones to say where other nations should draw lines between them that will assure each the greatest security. It is clear, however, that a return to the situation of June 4, 1967 will not bring peace. [15]
In other words, Israel can comply with UN Resolution 242 - the key resolution on the subject - without withdrawing to the pre-1967 lines. The problem is that the Arab states are not ready for compromise, as we saw when Ehud Barak went way too far in trying to give away the store in Camp David in 2000 and at Taba in 2001 - and was still rejected.

Siniora's last two assertions should be taken together: he argues for the right of return and that the Arab states do not want to wipe Israel off the map. Granting the 'Palestinians' a 'right of return' would guarantee that if the Arabs don't succeed in wiping out Israel militarily, they would succeed in doing so demographically. Especially when one adds certain other provisions of the Saudi plan that Siniora did not discuss. This is from a Caroline Glick article in the JPost several months ago:
The 2002 Saudi "peace plan" requires Israel to agree to be overrun by millions of hostile foreign Arabs in the framework of the so-called "Right of Return." Moreover, the text of the initiative, "Assures the rejection of all forms of Palestinian partition which conflict with the special circumstances of the Arab host countries." That is, the Saudi plan prohibits Arab states from granting citizenship to these millions of Arabs and so leaves them no choice other than to destroy Israel.
And finally, there is this little tidbit, also from Glick's column cited above:
As a reading of the Saudi plan makes clear, it would only be after Israel surrendered all this land and allowed itself to be overrun by millions of hostile Arab immigrants that the Saudis and their Arab brethren would "establish normal relations with Israel." That is, the Saudis will be ready to talk to Israelis only after Israel is destroyed.
If Siniora is really ready to live in peace with Israel - as he claims to be - he needs to ask himself why his country, which has no territorial disputes with Israel, cannot make peace with Israel on his own. The answer is obvious: He has no territorial disputes with Israel, but he has 'Palestinians' he would like to send back to Israel to destroy it. Until he gives up that aspiration, there is nothing to discuss.

This post has been nominated by The Watcher's Council for Best Non-Council Post of the Week.


At 5:21 AM, Blogger Jack Steiner said...

Good post. You raise some excellent points. I don't trust anything Siniora, the Hezbollah tool offers.


Post a Comment

<< Home