Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dan Margalit

During a televised debate Sunday with MK Miri Regev (Likud), MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima) revealed an interesting piece of information. Plesner had helped Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Shaul Mofaz draft a report on Israel's preparedness for the upcoming U.N. showdown over Palestinian statehood. Plesner claimed that National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror had worked hard to block publication of the report. The Knesset's ruling coalition followed his example and decided to shelve the report. he report is based on military intelligence and Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) assessments, but also on position papers by academics who oppose the current government. While the report is the serious product of 30 meetings, one can't help thinking its conclusions were intended to help Mofaz in his Kadima primaries bid.

At the heart of the report lies the claim that had we engaged in talks with the Palestinians, they would not have launched a statehood bid at the Security Council (where it is destined to fail) or in the General Assembly (where it is guaranteed success). This claim is strengthened by a leaked diplomatic cable obtained by Barak Ravid of Haaretz. In the cable, Israeli U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor says that Israel's efforts to thwart the Palestinian campaign have no chance of success.

But the Palestinians' expected gains must be broken down and examined more closely. One possible resolution would recognize Palestine along the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital. It would win a smaller majority than a resolution that leaves room to negotiate the details, which could even garner support from some of Israel's friends. Israel's political opposition has been critical of the government for failing to negotiate. While this argument is valid, it remains unconvincing.

The Palestinians made a strategic choice to avoid talks with Israel while blaming Israel for the diplomatic failure. Recall that they twice rejected Israel's outstretched hand. They turned down Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2000 and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2009.

Recall also that when then Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni would not accept the Palestinian “right of return,” negotiator Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala) refused to continue talking to her.

Nevertheless, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government shares some blame for Israel's problematic circumstances, because he refused to articulate moderate proposals that would have sounded good to Israel's friends and proved to the world who the “bad guy” really was. But now Israel has been labeled the bad guy even though the title is undeserved. Such moderate proposals would have sounded a lot worse than they actually were. A missed Israeli opportunity.

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