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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Martin Indyk gets it all wrong

Martin Indyk is the director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, and convener of the Saban Forum, the group that hosted Hillary Clinton and Ehud Barak on Friday night. He's also a former American ambassador to Israel and a long time 'peace processor.' As such, it is frightening just how wrong he has gotten the 'peace process.'

Going back to the 1960's, one of the biggest obstacles to peace (assuming that the 'Palestinians' would ever recognize a Jewish state of Israel and concede its right to exist - a huge assumption) has been what to do about the territories liberated by Israel in the 1967 War. The 'Palestinians' and their supporters have always insisted that Israel must return to the indefensible 1967 borders - the Auschwitz borders as Israel's ambassador to the United Nations Abba Eban famously called them. The Bush administration managed to make some progress with the 'Palestinians' by getting them to accept the notion of land swaps. In a land swap, Israel would give the 'Palestinians' 'equivalent' land within the 1949 armistice lines in exchange for Israel keeping land within Judea and Samaria, thereby minimizing somewhat the number of Jews who would have to be displaced from their homes in any 'settlement.' What 'equivalent' meant was never defined. But that progress was reversed with the Obama administration's insistence that Israel implement a total 'settlement freeze,' which returned the 'Palestinians' to their zero sum game of insisting on a complete return to the 1967 borders.

The real concession of a land swap was made by Israel and not by the 'Palestinians.' Israel had no obligation - has no obligation - to give the 'Palestinians' land equal to 100% of the land mass that it liberated from Jordan in 1967. And it's that fact that Martin Indyk - and many others in Washington - now chooses to ignore.
A negotiation on borders will have to be predicated on the principle in UN Security Council Resolution 242, the original peace process resolution: that the border between the two states should be based on the June 4, 1967 line with territorial adjustments. This is consistent with American policy in recent decades. Mr Obama should pronounce that as the American position going into these border negotiations.
But that's not what 242 said. Resolution 242 required Israel to return 'territories' to the Arab states (not the 'Palestinians' who were never mentioned before the 1967 War) in exchange for peace. The territories returned would still have to leave Israel with 'secure and recognized boundaries.' If returning any territory in Judea and Samaria would leave Israel without 'secure and recognized boundaries,' then no territory in Judea and Samaria was to be returned. Israel already fulfilled its 242 obligation by returning the Sinai to Egypt. But don't take my word for it.
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]
The 'recent decades' to which Indyk refers do not include the 1960's - or for that matter the 1970's, 1980's or 1990's (contrary to popular myth the Oslo accords never called for a 'Palestinian state'!). But Indyk continues to perpetuate the lie, because without it there would be no 'peace process.' And Israel allows the lie to continue.

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At 4:20 PM, Blogger Akiva said...

And, without a process he wouldn't have anything to do! The self perpetuation of the process keeps hundreds of State Department personnel fully employed, and of course process wonks like Indyk.

Just like UNWRA, they have an investment in perpetuating the "process" rather than a real solution.

At 4:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An incredibly badly drafted resolution. Lord Caradon achieved exactly what he sought - an ambiguity that would, in the end, leave Israel looking like the bad guy if she chose not to return every inch of land taken in 1967; and a climate in which the Arabs could yammer that she must, and many countries would side with them.

At 9:15 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The point is the peace process is make-believe. Every one knows peace isn't going to happen in our lifetime. But talking gets them great praise and wonderful headlines.

That's what its really about.

At 11:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At 4:20 PM, Blogger Akiva said... ---------------- I agree 100% with you. No truer words have ever been spoken [written].


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