Thursday, May 21, 2009

"The Proof is Here"

Arlene Kushner

The proof that the Palestinian Authority is not really working toward a state, that is.

I wrote yesterday about Palestinian Arab objections to Obama's plan to give the holy sites of Jerusalem to the UN for supervision. Today there is more.

Elements of Obama's plan, which he is going to announce in Cairo next month, have been leaked. PA officials have expressed surprise, as they weren't told anything by the Obama administration. (Abbas is scheduled to meet with Obama soon.) But now that they've seen the plan, they are voicing objections, maintaining that some portions of the proposal are completely unacceptable. Those portions are: resettling Palestinian refugees in Arab countries, swapping lands between the future Palestinian state and Israel (which would allow retention of some settlements in exchange for land elsewhere), creating a demilitarized state, and granting the Old City of Jerusalem the status of an international city.

Said one PA official: "The Palestinian position on these issues is very clear. We insist on the right of return for all refugees on the basis of UN resolution 194, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with all of East Jerusalem, including the Old City, as its capital."

As to demilitarization and an exchange of land with Israel, these suggestions had previously been rejected.


So what we see is a total rigidity. No compromise, no flexibility. This stance -- when they know full well that there are elements of their demands that Israel will never accept, such as return for all refugees and relinquishment of the Kotel to Arab control -- signals clearly that achievement of a state is not their primary goal.

This tells us that, for all the rhetoric, there will be no "two state solution."


What I wonder is, how long it will take Obama to realize this. Not that he would publicly admit failure in his efforts, of course. He'll slog on, just as Condoleezza Rice did in her time. But how long will it take him to internalize the fact that the obstacle is the PA, and that he can't fix things. Here's a guy who is willing to play with them, who is viscerally on their side, who called their leader first after being inaugurated. And even for him they are not prepared to bend.

Or, put another way, they are not permitted by their ideological stance to bend. Which means their ideology is focused, ultimately, on such matters as an all-Muslim Palestine from river to sea.


A quick word about the claim that UN resolution 194 gives all the "refugees" the "right" to return. It does no such thing. For starters, it is a General Assembly resolution, and GA resolutions have no standing in international law -- they are only recommendations. There is no "right of return."

For a bit more information, see:


One other factor should be mentioned here. For a long time we've been hearing with full and distinct clarity what the PA demands are. It's a litany, and we all know it: return of refugees, Jerusalem as a capital, etc. etc. But until now there has been no litany on our side -- no delineation of what the red lines are for us. With Olmert all we got was a rush to show the other side, ad nauseum, how much we could bend to please them and thus make "peace" possible.

With the Netanyahu government now, I have hope that this is changing. We must be recognized as a Jewish state. We will not divide Jerusalem. We demand parameters that provide for security. Stating these positions for all the world to hear, over and over with consistency, would make a real difference.


Pressure is continuing on us to freeze all settlement growth. Clinton, in a statement on Al Jazeeera, has stated unequivocally, "All types of construction must stop."

The only construction being done in settlements (I prefer to say communities) in Judea and Samaria now are on the basis of tenders issued late last year. If further permits to build are not issued, construction will halt soon.

Netanyahu has not yet committed to a cessation of building, and it is to be hoped that he won't. This is a critically important issue that involves several factors. One is the question of where construction would be done -- our government's position being that it should continue in major settlement blocs which we intend to retain. This is what's key: it's a declaration of our intention to not, under any circumstances, move back to pre-'67 lines. Then there is a distinction being made between natural growth -- which means additions for growing families, etc., and additional growth, which means construction for new people to move into the communities. In both instances, the borders of the communities would not be extended -- growth would be internal.

I have it from an impeccably reliable source that certain key members of the Netanyahu government are saying they want to see both sorts of construction sustained.


Netanyahu has announced that four working groups with the US have been established: on Iran, strategic issues, diplomatic process and bringing in other Arab countries.

The Washington Times, in an exclusive with regard to the group on Iran, said it would provide the "U.S. a clear channel for communicating with the new Israeli government and a vehicle for keeping tabs on any military contingency plans Israel might make if diplomacy fails." This group "would begin to examine contingency plans now in case Iran continues a nuclear weapons program." The Times suggests that this group might be a vehicle for renewing Israeli requests for certain equipment, such as bunker busters, that were left pending at the end of the last administration.

Netanyahu has made a statement, not clarified, regarding "strategic agreements" between Israel and the US that have been reapproved by Obama.

It is altogether unclear to me at this point whether there will be discussion on settlements within the strategic arrangements group.

Work within the groups has already begun.


The greatest impediment to government policies with regard to settlements is Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who has been carrying on about illegal outposts.

Today security forces demolished a small outpost called Maoz Esther outside of Kochav Hashachar in Samaria. A resident of the outpost -- which is named for a victim of terror -- said 40 people lived there and would begin rebuilding immediately. This is not the first time that this outpost has been taken down by authorities and put up again. More power to those who have the courage and staying power to do this!


The thought that immediately occurs, of course, is that this may be a good-cop/bad-cop routine with Barak playing bad-cop within the new government. Perhaps. Today's demolition very much seems a sop of sorts to Clinton's demand. Haaretz certainly thinks this is the case -- the price Netanyahu agreed to pay in return for some Obama statements on Iran.

But it also is a direct expression of Barak's own ideology. He is mightily frustrated by Netanyahu's refusal to say "two-state solution." And Barak himself has come out with a statement that what he did at Maoz Esther had nothing to do with the US, but was how a nation of law had to function with regard to illegal building. If truth be told, Barak did precisely the same thing before.

I've already cited the fact that other members of the government, including one influential minister, are solidly in favor of continuing the building in the settlements. So I don't believe the situation can be summed up simplistically. We need to watch it.

Head of Peace Now, Yariv Oppenheimer, called Maoz Esther a "puny outpost," and its demolition a "public relations exercise." This tells us something, perhaps.


My own ideology would oppose taking down a single building. But -- unlike some purists who write to me -- I have a pragmatic streak as well, and recognize that we're operating in a tough situation. If taking down a couple of small outposts gives Obama the cover he needs to say that there is "progress," and then we proceed with other actions that protect our larger interest here, or secure statements from Obama that are helpful, this will hardly be an unbearable price to pay.

The trick is to avoid that slippery slope, so that we don't end up conceding so much that it becomes an unbearable, or even unacceptable, price. And vigilance is the watchword.


Surprisingly, and undoubtedly at Obama's urging, Netanyahu has agreed to begin negotiations with Syria. Cannot say this is a pleasing piece of news. However, he clarified that there would be no conditions going in, and Assad has repeatedly said that he'll negotiate only if we agree in advance to give back the Golan. If this commitment is not made, he may not agree to sit with us in any event. And this exposes Syria's lack of good intent.


Good news is that the US will provide the funding for the development and production of the Arrow 3 anti-missile system -- which will take on longer range missiles than the Arrow system currently in use here. It will be able to intercept missiles at a higher altitude and greater distance from Israel than the current system.

There has been concern here that with the economic crisis in the States, this program would be abandoned. But it has turned out to not be the case.


My friends, I dropped the ball yesterday and must issue a correction. I wrote about the many members of Congress who recently supported us by sending Obama a letter that said, "peace cannot come while terrorism continues to wrack Israel.”

This is true enough, but everything is in the spin. And the spin in the news article from which I drew this blinded me to the larger context. The letter sent to the president was one of the letters endorsing a two state solution that had been actively promoted by AIPAC. The message more broadly was that the two-state solution wouldn't be possible until terrorism stopped. Not good enough.


"The Good News Corner"

At official ceremonies today marking Yom Yerushalayim, Prime Minister Netanyahu said:

"Jerusalem was always ours and will always be ours. It will never again be partitioned and divided."

A clear and powerful message.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat then reiterated this:

"With the world examining us let it be said here: We will never divide Jerusalem."

Amen and Amen.

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