Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Monday, June 11, 2007

Nice to have something positive to report from Israel for a change

An interesting piece by Bradley Burston in Ha'aretz on a peace plan being relaunched by the (Israeli) Labour Party's leadership candidate, Ami Ayalon.

The Ayalon plan has a lot going for it, not least a degree of give and take not normally associated with Israeli notions of "peace" (or, one must add, Palestinian ones). It calls for a withdrawal to Israel's 1967 borders, without which no peace plan can even pretend to be worthy of the name. The idea of land swaps is a clever one, avoiding some of the political difficulty on the Israeli side that would come with simple erasure of the illegal settlements. On the other hand, if the land given to Palestine was that currently occupied by Israeli Arabs the process would be (correctly in my view) be seen as ethnic cleansing of Arabs from Israel. If there are to be no Israeli settlers in Palestine, what other pieces of Israel could be exchanged? So modified rapture there.

BTW, to answer Joe's question in his comment on my previous post, I have always taken Israel's borders prior to its June 1967 invasions to be the legitimate and inalienable extent of Israel. While logically separate from the Palestinian question, it would be tidy - and would help to draw a line under the whole illegal occupation nightmare, ending Israel's worldwide pariah status - if the Golan Heights were given back to Syria as part of the same withdrawal to within Israel proper. (If Lebanon wishes to contest ownership of the Shebaa Farms area, it can do so with Syria following the Israeli pullout.)

On the question of the "right of return" of Palestinians to Israel, I think the Ayalon plan also gets it right. I can understand why return to their expropriated lands is important to the exiled Palestinians, and I know that there are UN resolutions supporting it. But just think. If every exiled Palestinian were to return, the effect would literally be to roll back the creation of Israel altogether. As the UN was instrumental in that creation, that cannot be its intention. One could envisage some kind of (presumably international) adjudicating body ruling on which Palestinians were to be allowed to return to Israel under some kind of quota system, but how could that be done fairly? It would be a recipe for resentment just as bad as that existing now. No, the only fair way in which the right of return can be handled is as a compensation issue: though it won't come cheap. The plan is wise to recommend international contributions to the fund, as left to fund it entirely alone Israel would almost certainly underestimate the sum required. The rest of the world has been guilty of letting Israel shirk its responsibilities fr forty years; why shouldn't we pay a share of the compensation of those we ignored?

Jerusalem too is handled equitably, though given the degree of encroachment by "settlers" into Arab neighbourhoods over the past forty years one must be careful to distinguish neighbourhoods which were Arab in 1967 and those which remain Arab. Perhaps Ayalon's "return to 1967 borders" means rolling back that expansion, but maybe it doesn't. I'm not necessarily saying it should: there may be room for compromise, perhaps via more land swaps.

The international community would need to be serious about shouldering the burden of enforcing Palestinian demilitarisation as well. We would need to accept that yes, British, American, French, Algerian, Indian etc soldiers will certainly be killed in the process; there will still be plenty of people on both sides (Israeli and Palestinian) with a vested interest in wrecking a peace deal. Israel need to recognise that we will be shooting to kill their homicidal nutters as well as the Palestinian ones. It might be necessary to station an international force in parts of Jerusalem to guard the holy sites, or even (by analogy with pre-unification Berlin and at the risk of sounding as though I'm simply quoting from The West Wing) place the whole city under some kind of international governance.

I hope Ayalon becomes Prime Minister and has the opportunity to put his plan before the Knesset. Of course, even if 70% of Israelis support it, it is much less likely that the Israeli political class is ready to turn its back on forty years of obstructionism and embrace a serious peace proposal. The same goes for the Palestinians: despite Israeli rhetoric and Hamas propaganda, most Palestinians have no desire to see Israel destroyed and are well aware that that has never been a remotely possible aspiration. They simply want to be left alone; no house demolitions, no checkpoints, no Lebensraum wall, no settlers shooting their children. I can well believe that 70% of them, would support the plan: the question is whether their leaders will give them the opportunity.

As Bradey Burston says, some plan like the Ayalon one will eventually be the basis for peace in the region. the question is simply how many Israelis and how many Palestinians have to die before the penny drops for their respective leaders.

Update: he didn't become party leader anyway. Maybe Ehud Barak does have a better chance of keeping out Benjamin Netanyahu, in which case I'm glad.


At 12 June, 2007 14:45, Blogger JoeinVegas said...

Well thought discussion, but there is reality that does not always match with reason. With the current Palestinian/Hamas/Israel attitudes and actions what do you think might actually be accomplished?
I do not see Israel putting any form of compensation out to displaced Palestinians, and as far as returning the Golan Heights, don't they already have thousands of settlers living on that land?
The UN has become an organization of negatives, and I doubt if any force that might face guns would be created, the US probably being the biggest opponent to that idea. I don't think that is a body that can force any country to do anything.

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