Part V: An Assessment of Trump’s Disruptive Diplomacy using Jerusalem

Part V: An Assessment of Trump’s Disruptive Diplomacy using Jerusalem

 

by

 

Howard Adelman

 

The recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, leaving the borders to be defined through mutual negotiations, is likely neither to serve as a stimulus to put the negotiations back on track nor lead to widespread violence and the breakout of a Third Intifada. Why? Because there is no real peace process to disrupt. The recognition is symbolic and changes virtually nothing on the ground. It may bury the false idea that America has been neutral, but since the prospect for a two-state solution at this time has been highly unlikely, what had been squandered by Trump’s pronouncement?

Only noble purposes and noble intentions.

 

How do I explain and evaluate the Trump initiative? I believe rationalism, whether in a realist or a constructivist format, provides the foundation for the structure and wording of the initiative that was fundamentally irrational, founded on both the madness and stupidity of the individual making the announcement while being masked by sentiment and a patina of rationality.

Because of the lack of specificity, many ordinary Palestinians are sure to interpret the U.S. announcement as dismissing their historical, political, and cultural ties to Jerusalem and disputing their right to independence and self-determination. In their eyes, it condones Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967 and implies that the city is solely Israeli.

“Palestinians, especially of the younger generation, have been questioning the feasibility of a two-state solution for some time. This is a generation that came of age during the second intifada and watched its land swallowed up by settlements and the separation wall as the years slipped by. Young men and women witnessed their own policemen arrest fellow countrymen at the behest of their occupier, while leaders placated them with empty words and slogans. They’re done playing this game.” But will they rise up or become more resigned to their fate or respond with a mixture of both?

“If there is a silver lining to Trump’s announcement, it does provide clarity and a unifying objective for Palestinians. Last summer, a wave of civil disobedience by Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line forced Israel to give up on its unilateral measures regarding Jerusalem’s Haram al-Sharif compound (also known as the Temple Mount), which houses the Al-Aqsa mosque. The PA had no say in the matter; religious leaders took their cues from ordinary Palestinians when they rallied for support. These events showed ordinary Palestinians that they have some power to change what’s happening on the ground: they can rally, strategize, and mobilize. And with a vision for a one-state solution unimpeded by a sham peace process, that goal may finally gain traction to make a new reality seems possible.”

However, will that even be a greater illusion than fixating on the corpse of a dead peace process? One of the effects of disruptive diplomacy, whatever the interpretation of the underlying motives, is that it fosters other illusions. Anything seems possible – unification of the land of Israel under Israeli hegemony or driving the Jews into the sea and establishing a Palestinian state that excludes Jews.

Given the differences in explaining and justifying disruptive diplomacy, different and opposite outcomes are envisioned. I, on the other hand, am a terrible prophet. I sometimes slip into prognosticating about the future, but I am usually more wrong than I am right. Disruptive diplomacy makes prediction even more difficult. I do not know what the short term or eventual outcome will be. I have neither a crystal ball nor is my ear tuned to God’s will. I can only offer analysis that perhaps confuses as much as it clarifies.

Let me summarize that analysis. Supporters of realist diplomacy, constructivist diplomacy or some combination thereof have been mildly supportive or mildly critical and hoped to shape Trump’s disruptive diplomacy into a realistic form. This began with the creative nuancing of the announcement, but one which readily revealed its contradictions and inadequacies.

There are a number of givens:

  1. When Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and initiated the process of moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, he severed seven decades of American policy.
  2. On the other hand, he recognized a reality – that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, a recognition of a capital denied no other country, a recognition that destroyed a long-held fiction that the city might not be Israel’s capital even though the Knesset, the Supreme Court, government ministries, including the foreign ministry, were all located in that capital.
  3. However, in refusing to define the borders of the city that Trump recognized as that capital, in the name of absolute clarity he left open the possibility that those borders were subject to negotiation just as he seemed to foreclose the possibility of the U.S. acting as a neutral mediator in such negotiations, signaled by omitting to reference any Palestinian claims to the city.
  4. While Trump claimed that the initiative reflected “the best interests of the United States of America,” this seemed to be part of the camouflage imposed by his realist sycophants but lacked any substance since there was no evident national interest served in giving that recognition at this time; at the same time, the move alienated virtually all of America’s allies and partners, and sent America’s enemies on a chest-pounding victory dance since the pronouncement demonstrably omitted any reference to Palestinian claims and revealed gross incompetence.

“Populism thrives when politics become about symbols rather than substance.” Ivan Krastev

  1. When the domestic political interests were so apparent behind the initiative – offering a quid quo pro to wealthy Jewish supporters of a right persuasion, catering to his evangelical Christian base, fulfilling a promise, seeking an initiative with a built-in legacy, providing a distraction from the Mueller inquiry and counterbalancing Obama’s failure to veto a UN resolution which provided a new, retrograde and realistically irrelevant reference point for negotiations – the disconnect and incongruence between realism in international affairs and catering to a political domestic constituency has never been more apparent.
  2. Though Trump used the rhetoric that the initiative would “advance the peace process,” those were now empty words which simply drove a stake into an already dead or, at the very least, comatose peace effort while significantly widening the chasm between the initiative and the supposed goal of giving new momentum to the peace process.
  3. If the dispute was merely up to the parties involved, why was Trump acting as a pyromaniac at this time?
  4. The move was symbolic only, and this was both its great importance as well as revealing its inability to affect facts on the ground, except possibly to encourage Israel to create more facts on the ground given the gross disparity in power between the contending parties.

The potential impact of this disruptive diplomacy could portend radical change, but the change could add to the chaos, for disruptive diplomacy radically breaks with a tradition of predictability. Only one thing is clear to me – there is now a widespread recognition that the two-state solution needs to be buried while we wait, holding our breath, to watch what alternative will emerge from the ashes of that burnt offering, even while traditional realists continue to worship the conception as a living, viable option that for them is too important to cast aside though it no longer has any potency. Which is better – that idolatry or Trump’s smashing of idols?

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Goals and Significance of the Iran Deal

Goals and Significance of the Iran Deal

by

Howard Adelman

This past summer, John Robson wrote an op-ed in the National Post (17 July 2015) claiming that, “those most determined to stop Iran from going nuclear are most unhappy with the deal.” He went from that assumption to its presumed opposite, asserting that those most committed to the deal then must have a very different agenda than stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. He speculated that it might mean a desire to promote regime change provided that this happens before Iran goes nuclear in ten years. Or perhaps the real motive is a soft-headed rather than hard-hearted intent simply to delay Iran going nuclear for just ten years. (He did not write soft-hearted versus hard-headed, but if he so deliberately turns what is written on its head, he perhaps deserves the same treatment, even if only for a weak attempt at humour.)

However, ignoring the extreme misrepresentation for the moment, just look at the bad logic. To repeat, he insists that, “those most determined to stop Iran from going nuclear are most unhappy with the deal.” But is it not more valid to assert that those most unhappy with the deal are more determined to continue economically crippling Iran so it is less able to pursue its hegemonic program in the Middle East and enhance its extreme antagonism towards Israel? Are these goals not the primary ones rather than any determination to stop Iran from going nuclear? The presumption that Netanyahu and his ilk are the ones most determined to stop Iran from going nuclear is a presumption, not a fact, and I would argue a false one. Further, even if it was accepted that the extreme opponents of the deal are the ones most determined to stop Iran from going nuclear – a very questionable assumption indeed – it does not follow that this is the reason that they are really unhappy with the deal. Nor does it explain their actions, particularly Netanyahu appearing before the American Congress to try to persuade Americans to kill the deal. Netanyahu said, “I deeply regret that some perceive my being here as political; that was never my intention.” But how else can one describe the enormous effort the Jewish state put in to killing the deal. Motives can be overdetermined – to kill the deal, to prevent Iran from becoming an even more powerful economic and military power in the region, and even, perhaps, to heighten the political schisms already in America.

The false assumptions and illogic in reasoning is also to be found in the characterization of the proponents of the deal. While those proponents, as I indicated in my last blog, have a modest agenda focused only on making sure Iran does not develop nuclear weapons and that they have no agenda beyond that, the argument that they must have another hidden agenda, such as an illusionary expectation of regime change, does not follow from the argument that the opponents of the deal are most determined to stop Iran from becoming nuclear. It is both logically and empirically possible that the proponents and opponents are equally, or almost equally opposed to Iran not acquiring nuclear arms, but either side may have additional, and often very understandable and even commendable goals separate from that one, such as the fairly obvious one, that Netanyahu also has the goal of keeping Iran crippled economically.

Now I wish that John Robson were just an extreme example of a critic who is both illogical and misrepresents reality, but, unfortunately, this is not the case. He may teach history in Ottawa and be a journalist and documentary filmmaker, but he also may be one of the poorest critics of the accord. He, however, has lots of company, though many do not defend that opposition on the basis of sheer partisanship that is immune to wrestling with facts and rational argument.

Take another critic of the accord, Shimon Kofler Fogel, CEO for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), the Canadian counterpart to America’s AIPAC. At least in his op-ed alongside John Robson’s, he says what he believes is wrong in his view of the deal, that it fails to leverage the diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran to reign in its hegemonic foreign policy goals and its extreme antipathy to Israel. He is absolutely correct. It does not do that. Further, all parties negotiating with Iran did not believe that was a feasible goal. But Fogel, though accurate about the non-achievement of the accord, is also guilty of false reasoning. If the weight of sanctions coerced the Iranian regime to come to the negotiating table, then, he argues, it follows that those conditions can and ought to have been used to modify Iranian foreign policy. But that does not follow at all, not only not for Iran, but for virtually all of the other representatives of the six nations negotiating with Iran.

The fact that Iran is the leading sponsor of terror in the Middle East (I personally think ISIS is, but Iran is horrible enough, and the point is not worth debating here), that it is a brutal regime with an enormous number of executions per year and extreme repression of its minorities, mainly Bahä.a’is, does not invalidate the value of the agreement. Fogel’s recommendation that relief from the sanctions should be tied to Iranian tangible progress on reducing Iran’s role as a state-sponsor of terror is disingenuous. For, to repeat, it was neither the goal of the negotiations nor one that any reasonably-knowledgeable person argues could be achieved by negotiations at this time. The agreement already allows for his other recommendations – continuing to define Iran as a state-sponsor of terrorism, continuing the criticism of Iran for its horrendous human rights record and the continuing use of sanctions for these reasons – quite separate from the provisions of the Special Economic Measures Act.

The goal of the negotiations with Iran was clearly spelled out in Obama’s first election platform, but particularly in the Prague Agenda articulated in an Obama speech in Hradčany Square of the Czech capital on 5 April 2009, which focused on Iran, not as a rogue state, not as a promoter of terrorism, not as a human rights abuser and, most of all, not as an intractable enemy of Israel. The focus was on promoting the peaceful use of nuclear energy and reinforcing mechanisms in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Obama was intent on reducing the risks posed by nuclear weapons while simultaneously supporting and promoting nuclear energy as an alternative for peaceful purposes.

The Prague Agenda included a broad swath of goals, many since achieved:

  • Negotiating a new START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) with Russia to reduce their strategic nuclear arsenals by 30%;
  • Cancellation of the Bush plan to deploy ground-based strategic missile interceptors in Europe;
  • Restricting the strategic use of America’s nuclear arsenal to deterrence only;
  • Banning nuclear testing for the future.

The Prague Agenda included further restrictions on North Korea and Pakistan, but these have notably not been achieved. However, the goal of rallying international support and engaging Iran to resolve the crisis over its military nuclear program has now finally been achieved after over five years of work. The Majli, the Iranian parliament has just endorsed the deal. So has the Obama administration. “My administration will seek engagement with Iran based on mutual interests and mutual respect. We believe in dialogue. But in that dialogue we will present a clear choice. We want Iran to take its rightful place in the community.” (my italics) Israel wanted no such result for this regime.

Making the world safer from nuclear terror and reigning in Iran did not supplant the need for deterrence and a strong regional strategy. (It may have had an inadvertent impact on it.) Further, the achievement of such a goal of eliminating the prospect of Iran becoming a nuclear power had to meet a number of criteria:

  1. The strongest inspection and verification system ever;
  2. Elimination of advanced centrifuges and a significant reduction of older models;
  3. A virtual elimination of Iran’s stockpile of highly enriched uranium
  4. Sanctions relief as a quid pro quo;
  5. Spelling out repercussions in case of violations.

A further word is needed on the prospect of regime change in Iran and transformation of its confrontational ideology. Paul Berman in The Tablet on 15 July 2015 focused on a single paragraph in Obama’s speech about the conclusion of the Iran deal. Obama stated in reference to U.S./Iran relations, “Our differences are real, and the difficult history between our nations cannot be ignored. But it is possible to change. The path of violence and rigid ideology, a foreign policy based on threats to attack your neighbors or eradicate Israel – that’s a dead end. A different path, one of tolerance and peaceful resolution of conflict, leads to more integration into the global economy, more engagement with the international community, and the ability of the Iranian people to prosper and thrive.”

Paul Berman insisted that this one paragraph was crucial because, “if a change among the Iranians is not, in fact, possible, then Obama’s critics are right. The deal will turn out to be a disaster because, in the short run, it will strengthen the Islamic Republic conventionally and, in the long run, will strengthen the Islamic Republic unconventionally – and, all the while, the Islamic Republic will go on treading the dead-end path of violence and rigid ideology and the dream of eradicating demonic enemies. It is hard to imagine how, under those circumstances, the deal will reduce the chances of war. On the contrary, Iran’s endangered neighbors will contemplate their own prospective eradication and will certainly notice that time is against them, and they would be foolish not to act.”

It is one thing to argue that regime transformation may take place as a result of the deal and the insistence that it must take place or else the deal is more than worthless for it will enhance the prospect of war in the region. Obama made the former claim. Berman extracted from that slim possibility and transformed it magically into an absolute necessity. In that case, then the nuclear containment deal to peaceful uses is only as good as the strength of the possibility of transformation of the Iranian regime. That is clearly not Obama’s position.

It is and was certainly not the goal of the Iranians who stood steadfast in the opposition to the “arrogant” U.S., “the policies of which they viewed to be at 180 degrees to their own. The U.S. remained as the “Great Satan” ever after 18 months of negotiations. Israel remained its implacable enemy. Though Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei insisted that the deal was only about guaranteeing that Iran could continue its peaceful program of developing nuclear energy and had no wider goals, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani insisted there was another aim: opening a new chapter of cooperation with the outside world after years of sanctions. He predicted that the “win-win” result would gradually eliminate mutual mistrust. Similarly, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also saw the deal as going beyond the nuclear arrangements and hopefully could lead to greater regional and international cooperation.

What have Benjamin Netanyahu’s goals been in rejecting and criticizing the negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program? Let me go back to his address to a joint session of Congress, not the one earlier this year, but the one he delivered on 24 May 2011 before the negotiations got underway and when the Arab Spring remained a gleam in many eyes, including Netanyahu’s. Though most of his address focused on the negotiations with the Palestinians, a small portion of his remarks addressed the question of Iran. Iran was depicted as the most powerful force in the Middle East opposed to modernity, opposed to democracy and opposed to peace. Here are Netanyahu’s words verbatim:

The tyranny in Tehran brutalizes its own people. It supports attacks against Americans troops in Afghanistan and in Iraq. It subjugates Lebanon and Gaza. It sponsors terror worldwide.

When I last stood here, I spoke of the consequences of Iran developing nuclear weapons. Now time is running out. The hinge of history may soon turn, for the greatest danger of all could soon be upon us: a militant Islamic regime armed with nuclear weapons. (my italics) Militant Islam threatens the world. It threatens Islam. A nuclear-armed Iran would ignite a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. It would give terrorists a nuclear umbrella. It would make the nightmare of nuclear terrorism a clear and present danger throughout the world.

These were not Obama’s words, but those of Netanyahu. Then he came across as the most vocal champion of ensuring that a militant Iran did not possess nuclear weapons. Just over seven months later, in the 2012 new year, when the U.S. led the successful charge to impose new and tough sanctions against Iran’s oil and banking industry as the “only” diplomatic measure that could force Iran to the negotiating table, after President Obama signed legislation imposing sanctions against Iran’s central bank to impede Iranian oil sales and the EU put plans in place for an oil embargo, this goal was no longer sufficient for Netanyahu. The consequent weakening of the Iranian rial led Iran to state that it was willing to permit a visit by a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which, independently of the world powers, had suggested that Iran was working towards acquiring the ability to make nuclear weapons. As the goal of dismantling Iran’s nuclear weapons came nearer, Netanyahu’s pitch shifted.

There was one discordant note at the time. Israel wanted the U.S. to warn Iran that if the sanctions and diplomacy failed to get Iran to abandon its nuclear program, the U.S. should warn Iran that the U.S. would resort to military means to stop Iran. While not ruling out such a possibility, the U.S. refused to threaten Iran if negotiations failed. In contrast, Netanyahu, while applauding the new economic sanctions aimed at stopping Iran’s military nuclear program, insisted that only if the sanctions were combined with the threat of military action would the effort succeed. Netanyahu was proven wrong. It succeeded beyond most expectations. No threat of military action was necessary.

That note threatening military action grew far more shrill when Netanyahu, during the period in which he was struggling to put together a new coalition government, addressed an AIPAC Policy Conference in March 2013. After the usual praise for the President and Vice-President of the U.S., after the accolades to the government of the United States as Israel’s best and most steadfast ally, Netanyahu now insisted far more vociferously that sanctions were insufficient and that Iran needed to be militarily threatened.

Iran has made it clear that it will continue to defy the will of the international community. Time after time, the world powers have tabled diplomatic proposals to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue peacefully. But diplomacy has not worked. (my italics) Iran ignores these offers. It is running out the clock. It has used negotiations to buy time to press ahead with its nuclear program. Thus far, the sanctions have not stopped the nuclear program either. The sanctions have hit the Iranian economy hard. But Iran’s leaders grit their teeth and move forward. Iran enriches more and more uranium.  It installs faster and faster centrifuges Iran has still not crossed the red line I drew at the United Nations last September. But they are getting closer and closer to that line. And they are putting themselves in a position to cross that line very quickly once they decide to do so. Ladies and Gentlemen, to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, we cannot allow Iran to cross that line. We must stop its nuclear enrichment program before it will be too late.  Words alone will not stop Iran.  Sanctions alone will not stop Iran. (my italics) Sanctions must be coupled with a clear and credible military threat if diplomacy and sanctions fail.

From March 2013 until November 2013 when the negotiators were on the verge of a tentative deal with Iran, and with the US Senate poised to authorize new sanctions, and after Obama phoned Netanyahu to ask him not to oppose the deal, Netanyahu did just that, openly opposed the deal by phoning all the other leaders asking them to block it. French President François Hollande agreed. The French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, carried the message to his colleagues in the negotiations which bought time for Israel to take further steps to try to stop the deal after Netanyahu had failed to persuade John Kerry at Ben Gurion Airport not to loosen sanctions without the Iranians agreeing to halt the nuclear project altogether. The sticking points then were Iran’s stock of enriched uranium and the heavy water reactor at Arak that could produce plutonium from spent fuel.

The delay turned out to be temporary only. On 24 November 2013, an interim agreement, called the Joint Plan of Action, was agreed upon in Geneva that provided for a short-term freeze on much of Iran’s nuclear program in return for a decrease in the economic sanctions against Iran, the agreement to commence on 20 January 2014. Iran agreed not to commission or fuel the Arak heavy-water reactor or build a reprocessing plant to convert spent fuel into plutonium, agreed not to commission the Bushehr Nuclear Plant, the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plan, the Isafahn uranium-conversion plant, the Natanz uranium-conversion plant and the Parchin military research and development complex. Iran also agreed to stop enriching uranium above 5% reactor-grade, and to dilute its stock of 20%-enriched uranium. As well, Iran agreed not to increase its stockpile of low-enriched uranium and to leave half its 16,000 centrifuges inoperable, all this to be verified by more extensive and frequent inspections.

That is when Netanyahu first labelled the deal a historic mistake and became an implacable foe to the negotiations. But not because it left Iran as an implacable foe of Israel. Not because of Iran’s hegemonic ambitions in the region. Those reasons would come later. At that point the deal was opposed because it did not dismantle Iran’s nuclear capacity altogether. In other words, Netanyahu now opposed Iran even having the ability to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Netanyahu had upped the ante and produced a deep gulf between Israel and the P5+1, for the premise of the negotiations from the get-go was that Iran would be allowed to use its nuclear knowhow and facilities for peaceful purposes. In his speech to the Knesset on the Plan of Action, Netanyahu admitted that sanctions without a military threat had, in fact, produced significant and successful results, but the deal was still bad because the results were not tangible. Effectively shutting down Iran’s nuclear military production was insufficient.

From then on, the line of attack grew more shrill, more definitive, and the grounds expanded until the bulk of the weight was not on the efficacy of inspections or the length of time Iran’s military nuclear program would be in place, though these were always there and were almost always deformed with less and less resemblance to the actual terms of the agreement. It soon became obvious and clear that Netanyahu was not really after an agreement that halted the possibility of Iran developing nuclear weapons, but that he opposed the deal because Iran without nuclear arms would be an even more dangerous foe of Israel. However, preventing Iran from using its facilities for peaceful purposes had never been a premise of the negotiations or there never would have been any negotiations. Further, that goal of dismantling Iran’s nuclear facilities altogether had not been Netanyahu’s goal eighteen months earlier.

Netanyahu was now engaged in gross exaggeration if not an outright lie. “Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world .” (my italics) This is a bad agreement; this is a historic mistake. This became his mantra. Both were evaluations of a very dubious nature as more and more information emerged about both the Action Plan and the terms of the ongoing negotiations. Netanyahu’s efforts to weave his new critique and reconcile it with his old support for simply a ban on Iran’s ability to make nuclear weapons was skating on thinner and thinner ice. The release of the final agreement in July allowed him to fall through the ice, but the freezing water has not reduced the pitch of his hysteria one iota. Netanyahu had established to any objective observer, as distinct from his horde of cheerleaders, that he was not the one most opposed to Iran developing nuclear weapons; he wanted to keep Iran impoverished for very understandable reasons given Iran’s irrational and extreme antipathy towards Israel.

Palestine

Palestine
by
Howard Adelman

This morning, I was going to continue my survey of Middle East countries, primarily in relationship to Israel, and in continuation of my blogs on Iran, Egypt and Turkey, by writing on Jordan. However, yesterday I received a copy of a resolution that Jordan, as a newly-elected rotating members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), was circulating to existing and newly-elected members of that Council that the Palestinian Authority (PA) had approved on Wednesday. The proposed resolution has been published in this morning’s Haaretz and is appended hereto.

Since October, the PA had been promising to ask the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution requiring Israel’s retreat to the pre-1967 line, but evidently thought there was a better chance of obtaining the required 9 of 15 votes of Council members needed to pass if the resolution was brought to a vote after the new Security Council takes office on 1 January 2015 and when five of the existing members are replaced by five new members. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan had been circulating drafts since November. On 29 November 2014, a pan-Arab draft on a Palestinian state had been sent to the Security Council as the United Kingdom, France and, a non-member, Germany, were evidently preparing their own versions. All this was taking place against the background of a number of European states, beginning with Sweden, recognizing Palestine. In October, the British parliament, with an overwhelming majority, passed a non-binding motion recognizing Palestine as a state.

On the 17th of December, almost as soon as the blue-lined (final version) draft resolution had been made available to the Security Council, US Secretary of State, John Kerry, announced that the US would veto the resolution. The quick promise of a veto was not expected. In fact, it had been uncertain whether the administration would even veto at all. The swift announcement is an indicator that the Obama administration regards the current resolution as an outlier. The USA, especially the Obama administration with its multilateralist approach to international issues, has been wary of using its veto power in the UNSC. On 1 February 2011, the US cast its first veto in the UNSC to block a draft Palestinian resolution declaring Israel’s settlements in the West Bank as both illegal and an obstacle to peace. This was followed by the year-long Kerry initiative that finally collapsed this past spring.

The government of Israel had unequivocally expressed its opposition to the resolution. But so did key leaders of the opposition. On Wednesday, Tzipi Livni urged John Kerry to announce the US intention to veto the resolution. Israel’s announcement of its opposition to the resolution and its intention to try to prevent it from passing may seem redundant given the threat of a US veto, but a vetoed resolution has moral force that a defeated resolution lacks. It is this difference between passing the resolution that is vetoed and failing to even pass the resolution that explains why the resolution is being submitted at this time. The Palestinians think they have the votes in the new year to pass the resolution.

However, Palestinian UN representative Riyad Mansour, on behalf of the PA, announced that it is not seeking a speedy vote, and, further, that it is willing to negotiate the terms of the resolution. In other words, this is an effort to restart peace negotiations under other auspices even if the veto hangs over the whole process. The veteran Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erakat, said that the PA wanted a statement of clear principles of peace.

What did he say they were?
1. A Palestinian state within the 1967 borders;
2. Jerusalem as its capital;
3. The release of all prisoners;
4. A declaration that all settlements are illegal.

As we shall see, they are not quite congruent with the published resolution, especially the third principle above. Nevertheless, given this statement of principles, and given that it took the USA less than 24 hours to promise a veto, why did Jordan’s Foreign Minister, Nasser Joudah, accompany the release of the resolution to other member of the UN Security Council with the boast that the Hashemite Kingdom, because of the prestige of the King, was more influential than the State of Israel, not only with the US administration and the State Department, but the US Congress as well?

Before answering the latter question, let’s turn to the version of the resolution that has been published. (See the addendum to this blog.) After the fourteen clauses in the preamble that reiterate past UN resolutions and principles on the matter at hand, and after offering a polite nod to American previous efforts, there are twelve principles set forth in the resolution. The thirteenth clause merely says that the Security Council remains open for discussion. In other words, under the cover first of PA openness to further negotiations, followed, presumably, by UNSC openness to negotiations, the general principles of a peace agreement are intended to be etched in stone, or, at least, in history, as the basic terms for a peace agreement.
Clause 1 reiterates the traditional UN position on a two-state solution calling for an end to the Israeli occupation and a final peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians within mutually and internationally recognized borders. It requires that the second sovereign state come into being within one, not two, years, and that the Israeli occupation come to an end, but does not specify that the occupation end at the same time as the State of Palestine comes into being. The clause calls for the Palestinian state to be contiguous (the West Bank and Gaza?) and viable. Unlike earlier informal versions circulated that had not been blue-lined, this formal version did not call for the “founding” of two states as if Israel did not exist and would only come into being coterminous with the recognition of a Palestinian state.
Clause 2 sets forth the basic terms of the peace agreement to be reached by further negotiations: A. The borders will be based on the 4th of June 1967 borders, that is, the borders prior to the Six Day War fought between the 5th and 10th of June 1967 and not the internationally recognized borders of the 1923 Sykes-Picot line agreement, the proposed 1947 partition lines or the 1949 Armistice lines. Between 1949 and 4 June 1967, the borders on the ground became the de facto borders. Further, the new borders envision land swaps, presumably as negotiated in the Oslo process, but specifies that those land swaps are to be both limited and equivalent.

Basing the negotiations on the 4 June 1967 borders would mean that the old city of Jerusalem goes to Palestine, but Jerusalem is dealt with separately in the resolution. Palestine could insist on moving its border back onto the north-east quadrant of Lake Kinneret (Lake Tiberias), contrary to the 1923 historical border, giving Palestine equal rights to the waters of the lake. The Jordan River between Lake Kinneret and Lake Hula becomes the basis for a boundary. At that time, the main issues were riparian rights to the river and lake rather than control of the underground aquifers. (For a very helpful discussion of the 4 June 1967 borders see Frederic C. Hof, “The Line of June 4, 1967” (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Peace/67line.html). By implication, the Golan, annexed by Israel, goes back to Syria as well, presumably, including the Jewish settlement of Mishmar Ha-Yarden captured by Syria in the 1948 war.

B. There is a provision for third party peacekeeping and for ensuring that there is no terrorism, but Israel is given a deadline for ending its occupation in phases by the end of 1917.

C. In a phrasing adopted from the peace proposal of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Abdullah, there will be a just and agreed solution for the Palestinian refugees based on resolution 194(III) without specifying a “right of return”; this implies compensation rather than return as the main route for resolving the Palestinian refugee issue.

D. Jerusalem is to be a common and shared capital for both countries and freedom of worship will be secured, a solution that goes beyond recognizing East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine and West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel with the old city left as a question mark, for a shared capital harks back to the UN resolution that proposed that Jerusalem remain united but internationalized or bi-lateralized in the current resolution. Further, Israel cannot even agree on “freedom of worship” among women, and men and among the various competing divisions within Judaism, so how can “freedom of worship” be guaranteed on the Temple Mount (Heb., Har Habayit; Arabic, Haram esh-Sharif)?

E. The resolution specifically points to water among other outstanding issues that will have to be settled.
Clauses 3 and 4 are both pro forma: 3) The Council agrees that the permanent agreement must immediately lead to an end of occupation and mutual recognition; 4) A timetable establishing the security arrangements through negotiation must be formed.

However, clause 5 is significant in welcoming Palestine as a full UN member. Up until recently, this was expected to be the heart of the resolution brought before the UNSC, a quest for permanent membership and, hence, recognition of Palestine as a state. The PA instead has decided to go for broke and place the UN membership issue within the framework of its position on a peace agreement. Since the US is promising a veto (which the PA had to know when they endorsed the resolution on Wednesday), it means that the Palestinians are going for a moral win beyond UN membership. The PA wants a formal resolution passed by at least 9 of 15 members of the UNSC supporting its position on a peace agreement and, thereby, implicitly legitimizing a position that both the US and Israel would not support. It prefers that moral victory more than full membership in the UN, though passage of this resolution will enhance its possibility of attaining that membership, especially if the timeframe is the end of 1917.

Half of the non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council are re-elected each year. Though non-permanent or rotating members have no veto right, their combined votes can be very effective. Possibly 10 of the 15 members after 1 January 2015, when the vote is expected to take place, can be expected to support the resolution – China and Russia as permanent members and up to 8 of the 10 rotating members: Angola, Chad, Chile (likely), Jordan, Malaysia, Nigeria (likely), Spain (even though it beat out Turkey which would have certainly supported the resolution but, as pointed out in yesterday’s blog, has become more and more diplomatically isolated) and Venezuela. Only Japan and Lithuania of the rotating membership are in the “no” camp.

Angola takes its positions based on international law and the fundamental principle of self-determination. Malaysia, which already had wide sympathy because of the Malaysian МН17 Boeing crash, has positioned itself as the leading Muslim state opposed to Islamic State on ideological grounds. It convened a conference of leading experts on Muslim law which defined a Muslim state as one which guaranteed economic, political and social justice while the rights to life, freedom of religion, family, property, dignity and intellect are upheld. Recall further that most of the new members campaigned for their positions, not on simply a management of conflict agenda, but a conflict prevention agenda. On this plank, Spain was a leading proponent and backs up that position by providing peacekeeping troops. Venezuela, which campaigned on a platform of UN reform (President Nicolás Maduro called the charter of the UN high poetry), received unanimous support from Latin America and 182 out of 193 votes for its membership in spite of opposition by the United States. That means the resolution can be expected to get 9 and possibly even 10 votes in the UNSC before it is vetoed by the US.
The rest of the resolutions are expressions of motherhood:

6) The Council urges both sides to engage seriously and act together to guarantee peace and refrain from any act of incitement. Therefore, the council calls on all international states and organizations to support the negotiations with confidence-building measures.

7) The Council calls on all sides to stand behind their commitments to the International humanitarian law.

8) The Council encourages regional efforts to obtain peace in the Middle East, citing the Arab Peace Initiative as a reference.

9) The Council called for a new negotiating framework with the support of major stakeholders to help the parties reach an agreement in a timely way, beginning with holding a new international conference on the issue. The Council proposes assembling an international peace committee to launch negotiations. This has diplomatic significance for it removes the US from the leadership in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and search for peace and shifts it to the UN. Further, other countries are called upon to through the provision of political support as well as tangible support for post-conflict and peace-building arrangements.

10. Both sides are called on by the Council to refrain from taking one-sided, illegal steps, such as construction in settlements. (Note the indirect method of labeling the settlements as illegal.)

11. The Council urges both sides to immediately begin improving the unstable situation in the Gaza Strip and provide humanitarian aid through the different UN agencies.

12. The Council calls on the UN General Secretary to file a report stating the application of the decision within three months.

Note that there are no clauses calling for the release of prisoners.
Both the motives and strategy of the PA are clear. So is the reason for the US promising to veto the resolution as currently worded. The ground has been set for another negotiating route far more favourable to the Palestinians. But why did Jordan boast that its link with the US administration, with Congress and with the State Department is stronger than that of Israel? In the light of the swift promise of a veto, this seems a gross overreach.

I will try to answer this question in my next blog on Jordan.

Draft Resolution (17 December 2014)

Reaffirming its previous resolutions, in particular resolutions 242 (1967); 338 (1973), 1397 (2002), 1515 (2003), 1544 (2004), 1850 (2008), 1860 (2009) and the Madrid Principles,

Reiterating its vision of a region where two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders,

Reaffirming the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination,

Recalling General Assembly resolution 181 (II) of 29 November 1947,

Reaffirming the principle of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force and recalling its resolutions 446 (1979), 452 (1979) and 465 (1980), determining, inter alia, that the policies and practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the territories occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, have no legal validity and constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East,

Affirming the imperative of resolving the problem of the Palestine refugees on the basis of international law and relevant resolutions, including resolution 194 (III), as stipulated in the Arab Peace Initiative,

Underlining that the Gaza Strip constitutes an integral part of the Palestinian territory occupied in 1967, and calling for a sustainable solution to the situation in the Gaza Strip, including the sustained and regular opening of its border crossings for normal flow of persons and goods, in accordance with international humanitarian law,

Welcoming the important progress in Palestinian state-building efforts recognised by the World Bank and the IMF in 2012 and reiterating its call to all States and international organizations to contribute to the Palestinian institution building programme in preparation for independence,

Reaffirming that a just, lasting and peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be achieved by peaceful means, based on an enduring commitment to mutual recognition, freedom from violence, incitement and terror, and the two-State solution, building on previous agreements and obligations and stressing that the only viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an agreement that ends the occupation that began in 1967, resolves all permanent status issues as previously defined by the parties, and fulfils the legitimate aspirations of both parties,

Condemning all violence and hostilities directed against civilians and all acts of terrorism, and reminding all States of their obligations under resolution 1373 (2001),

Recalling the obligation to ensure the safety and well-being of civilians and ensure their protection in situations of armed conflict,

Reaffirming the right of all States in the region to live in peace within secure and internationally recognized borders,

Noting with appreciation the efforts of the United States in 2013/14 to facilitate and advance negotiations between the parties aimed at achieving a final peace settlement,

Aware of its responsibilities to help secure a long-term solution to the conflict,

1. Affirms the urgent need to attain, no later than 12 months after the adoption of this resolution, a just, lasting and comprehensive peaceful solution that brings an end to the Israeli occupation since 1967 and fulfills the vision of two independent, democratic and prosperous states, Israel and a sovereign, contiguous and viable State of Palestine living side by side in peace and security within mutually and internationally recognized borders;

2. Decides that the negotiated solution will be based on the following parameters:
– borders based on 4 June 1967 lines with mutually agreed limited, equivalent land swaps;
– security arrangements, including through a third-party presence, that guarantee and respect the sovereignty of a State of Palestine, including through a full and phased withdrawal of Israeli security forces which will end the occupation that began in 1967 over an agreed transition period in a reasonable timeframe, not to exceed the end of 2017, and that ensure the security of both Israel and Palestine through effective border security and by preventing the resurgence of terrorism and effectively addressing security threats, including emerging and vital threats in the region.
– A just and agreed solution to the Palestine refugee question on the basis of Arab Peace initiative, international law and relevant United Nations resolutions, including resolution 194 (III);
– Jerusalem as the shared capital of the two States which fulfils the legitimate aspirations of both parties and protects freedom of worship;
– an agreed settlement of other outstanding issues, including water;

3. Recognizes that the final status agreement shall put an end to the occupation and an end to all claims and lead to immediate mutual recognition;

4. Affirms that the definition of a plan and schedule for implementing the security arrangements shall be placed at the center of the negotiations within the framework established by this resolution;

5. Looks forward to welcoming Palestine as a full Member State of the United Nations within the timeframe defined in the present resolution;

6. Urges both parties to engage seriously in the work of building trust and to act together in the pursuit of peace by negotiating in good faith and refraining from all acts of incitement and provocative acts or statements, and also calls upon all States and international organizations to support the parties in confidence-building measures and to contribute to an atmosphere conducive to negotiations;

7. Calls upon all parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949;

8. Encourages concurrent efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace in the region, which would unlock the full potential of neighborly relations in the Middle East and reaffirms in this regard the importance of the full implementation of the Arab Peace Initiative;

9. Calls for a renewed negotiation framework that ensures the close involvement, alongside the parties, of major stakeholders to help the parties reach an agreement within the established timeframe and implement all aspects of the final status, including through the provision of political support as well as tangible support for post-conflict and peace-building arrangements, and welcomes the proposition to hold an international conference that would launch the negotiations;

10. Calls upon both parties to abstain from any unilateral and illegal actions, including settlement activities, that could undermine the viability of a two-State solution on the basis of the parameters defined in this resolution;

11. Calls for immediate efforts to redress the unsustainable situation in the Gaza Strip, including through the provision of expanded humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian civilian population via the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and other United Nations agencies and through serious efforts to address the underlying issues of the crisis, including consolidation of the ceasefire between the parties;

12. Requests the Secretary-General to report on the implementation of this resolution every three months;

13. Decides to remain seized of the matter.

Postscript on Israeli-Palestinian Talks: Future Scenarios

Postscript on the Israeli-Palestinian Talks: Future Scenarios

by

Howard Adelman

 

Akiva Eldar, co-author of the best seller Lords of the Land on the Jewish settlements, is now a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Israel Pulse. For years he was the senior political columnist and editorial writer for Haaretz. He also served as its US bureau chief and diplomatic correspondent. We spoke on the phone yesterday in a communal telephone call courtesy of Americans for Peace Now. (http://peacenow.org/audio/Akiva_briefing_9-Dec-2013.mp3)

Akiva opened the conversation with a comment on Bibi Netanyahu’s statement at  the Saban Forum in Washington this past Saturday linking the Israeli-Palestinian talks with what happens on the Iranian front. This linkage could be interpreted in at least two opposite ways. First, it could mean that if progress could be made on the Iran front, then it would encourage progress on the Israeli-Palestinian talks. However, Netanyahu posed the opposite linkage and threatened that the I-P talks will come to nothing if the Geneva agreement stays in place and proves itself the great historical mistake he prophesied and Iran is given a license to build a bomb.

Netanyahu often cites the Islamic republic’s repeated talk of Israel’s destruction as a reason to be more cautious in peacemaking with the Palestinians. “Our aspiration for peace is liable to be severely affected if Iran succeeds” in winning a relaxation of penalties that have devastated its economy, he said in an Oct. 23 Twitter message. The linkage is then negative, not positive. (See the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News – mobile.bloomberg.com/…/palestinian-peace-talksiranian-accord.html, 2013-11-25 and http://www.newsmaxworld.com/GlobalTalk/iran-deal-israel-palestinian-talks/…· Israeli-Palestinian peace talks may suffer collateral damage from the accord world powers reached with Iran. With the weekend agreement in Geneva, “Netanyahu probably won’t feel a strong commitment anymore to negotiating with the Palestinians under American supervision,” said Yoram Meital, chairman of the ChaimHerzogCenter for Middle East Studies and Diplomacy at Ben-GurionUniversity in Beersheba, Israel. “He’s not going to announce this publicly, but he’s never shown much enthusiasm for the talks.”

As an aside, Akiva was asked about the denial by Dan Shapiro, the US  Ambassador to Israel, whether he insisted that there was no linkage. (Cf. “US ambassador rejects talk of Iran-Palestinian ‘linkage’: “While some Israeli officials endorse the connection, Dan Shapiro says peace process has no bearing on efforts to deny Iran the bomb.”

http://www.timesofisrael.com/us-ambassador-rejects-talk-of-iran-palestinian-linkage/), Akiva remonstrated Dan Shapiro for not being in closer touch with the State Department and the White House where he insisted that both Kerry and Obama made such a linkage, even though an unnamed State Department official insisted that Kerry saw no linkage between the two sets of talks. Further, the Israeli papers insisted that Obama made a linkage (www.israelherald.com/index.php/sid/217311686/scat/f81a4d9d561822ee), but, in fact, Obama was simply stating that there was a commonality in both talks since both were concerned with reducing the level of violence in the middle east. He was NOT linking the two causally in any way. (www.israel.com/news/…linkage-of-iran-andisraelipalestinian-peace)

Why is the issue of a linkage important? Because if the linkage is negative, it means that Netanyahu is more determined than ever to sabotage the Israeli-Palestinian talks. In other words, the linkage is not between the talks per se but in the reactions of various parties to the success or failure of each set of talks. However, this is not the linkage that Akiva suggested.

While applauding the fact that Netanyahu now acceded to a linkage that he had previously denied, Akiva interpreted Netanyahu’s actions as an attempt to throw a wrench into the peace talks but in a different way than suggested above. Bibi’s red line on the Iranian talks was too demanding and could never produce an agreement through diplomatic means acceptable to his Israeli government since it would mean Iran giving up both its nuclear and enrichment program altogether. Netanyahu wants Iran to surrender and to be humiliated to boot. The linkage was an intention to sabotage and undercut BOTH sets of talks.

Akiva suggested that the dependency between the two sets of talks went the other way, that progress on the Israeli-Palestinian talks would facilitate a rapprochement with Iran. Further, as Akiva interpreted Bibi’s position on the peace talks, Bibi was still determined that the talks go nowhere and remained wedded to a stalling and obstructionist participation. The Iran talks are dependent on the Israeli-Palestinian talks because the latter are not just about security for the Jewish state but are intended to alter the relations between Israel and the Palestinians and put an end to Iranian support of terrorism in the Middle East. The nuclear talks with Iran are the entry point to a wider campaign for peace in the whole Middle East.

Akiva and I agree on the following:

1. The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are at a new stage as they approach the final trimester of the nine month schedule (to end by the end of April), and that John Kerry and Barack Obama will not be content with saying they gave it their best efforts and walk away; they are determined to succeed.

2. These talks are intended to end the conflict, end the occupation, the expansion of the settlements, settle the division of Jerusalem, the return of refugees and define the borders; there is to be a final agreement even if the agreement is intended to be implemented in stages; As David Markovsky, who recently joined Kerry’s negotiating team on the Israeli-Palestinian talks has written, “The only way to deal with the settlement issue is to render it moot by widening it to peacemaking and heading straight into the final negotiations on territory.”

3. The new security proposals that the Americans put on the table (but only after previous discussions with both Abbas and Netanyahu) accepted the Jordan River as the border of Palestine, therefore eliminating the possibility of an Israeli presence if Palestinian sovereignty was to be respected.

4. In the third phase of the talks, 26 more Palestinians of the original 4,446 held in detention are due to be released; Kerry and Obama do not want blood on their hands if those released resume their previous militancy; therefore, with the prisoner releases, the stakes in a successful outcome have been raised enormously.  

For Akiva, Netanyahu has been in such a big and noisy row with the United States over the Iran talks because his red line means that the talks would be doomed to failure for no Iranian regime would accept total destruction of its nuclear enrichment program and loss of all its centrifuges. Bibi was counting on the divisions between the White House and Congress to allow him to exploit those differences and sabotage the Iranian talks. It has not worked. this time.

On the Palestinian peace front, to succeed a deal needs to be struck soon with the last few months used to tweak the details. Further, this is a last chance since Abbas is 76 years old. If Netanyahu refuses to go along with the deal and surrenders to or agrees with the pressures from his right wing partners in the government. Livni and Lapid will leave the government and a new government will have to be formed. Since the Israeli partnership with the USA is not simply a foundation for Israeli foreign policy but an existential condition of Israel’s continued existence, a political war between the Israeli government and Israel would be a disaster for Israel and might propel Israel to move away and reject the right drift. 

Here is where I disagree with Akiva while granting that Akiva knows much more about Netanyahu’s personality and motives than I will ever know. He sees Netanyahu as a staunch and determined old Likudnik unwilling to surrender control of the West Bank. Any optimism about Netanyahu ignores the main goal of this enterprise as Akiva has written — “to entrench Israeli control over the territory while damaging the collective and individual rights of Palestinians.” For Akiva, “The time has come for Makovsky and his colleagues on the American peace team to understand that the settlement policy is not ‘foolishness.’ It is an intentional, clear and winning policy.”

In contrast, I see Netanyahu more as a pragmatist coming from the right but unwilling to sacrifice his political future and his legacy for dated and no longer realizable right wing expansionist ideals. Further, Kerry and Obama can both count. They need a number on the right to support the deal if it is not to blow up in their faces. So if Lapid and Livni leave the government and the government falls, Netanyahu will lose both his political future and his legacy. I agree that Lapid and Livni will not stay in the government if Netanyahu sabotages the peace talks. That is why I suggest that Netanyahu will support the results of the talks.

False Dichotomous Thinking – peace process.20.03.13

False Dichotomous Thinking 20.03.13

by

Howard Adelman

What does it mean when journalists report that "expectations are low" concerning Barack Obama’s visit to Israel with respect to the peace process? No one expected him, especially given all the forewarning, to make a new proposal to break through the current impasse. In that sense, ‘expectations are low’ meant simply that no one anticipates a proposal for a breakthrough let alone a breakthrough itself. The expression, however, could mean something else at the other end of the conceptual spectrum. Expectations are so low that absolutely no headway can be expected with respect to negotiations. This is how Foreign Policy Mideast Daily reported it this morning. Or it could mean anything in between – a few openers for further discussions; a definition of the key elements of the impasse with some dialogue procedures set in place to see if they can be overcome; a set of sub-negotiation bilateral or trilateral committees to discuss key elements re the impasse with a range of options for each:

1) settlements

  • No settlement activity at all
  • No new settlements
  • No building in settlements on territory slated for transfer to the Palestinians
  • Settlement activity only to fill in areas in existing East Jerusalem settlements clearly indicated for remaining part of Israel
  • No settlement freeze at all unless Palestinians return to the peace negotiations

2) The Holy Basin

  • Israeli Sovereignty but Islamic administration re their holy sites
  • Shared sovereignty
  • Shared sovereignty with international partners
  • International sovereignty
  • Separate sovereign status a la Vatican

3) Security

  • Israeli further withdrawals and replacement with Palestinian police forces in West Bank
  • Further refinement to past agreements on a demilitarized West Bank
  • Role, make up, responsibilities and accountability of an international peace keeping force in the West Bank

4) Refugees

  • Further discussions on number to be repatriated to Israel under family reunification – no less than 5,000 and no more than 100,000
  • Refinement of compensation proposals
  • Refinement of proposals for compensation to Jews from Arab lands
  • Tweaking of the "right of return" to accommodate this fundamental principle for Palestinians while ensuring that it does not apply to Israel
  • Education program to prepare Palestinians for this result
  • Proposals to integrate UNRWA with respect to areas governed by the Palestinian Authority into the Palestinian administration

5) Mutual recognition

  • Recognition by Israel of a Palestinian state
  • Recognition by Palestine of Israel as a Jewish state

6) Land Swaps

  • Refinement of maps for planned land swaps
  • The outcome re Ariel

On the other hand, pre-negotiations could avoid any discussions about advancing on substantive issues and be confined only to confidence building measures. Dow Marmur dealt with some of these in his discussion of Dennis Ross in his column in the Toronto Star on Monday:

1) a unilateral declaration by Israel to confine new building within settlements and only those that will almost inevitably be involved in the land swap to Israel;

2) unilateral offers by Israel to offer financial incentives for Israelis to abandon settlement outposts;

3) unilateral moves by Israel to further reduce the areas over which it still exercises its security presence;

4) mutual recognition by Israel of a Palestinian state with borders not yet defined in correlation with Palestine recognizing Israel as a Jewish state;

5) Palestinian changing maps to show Israel;

6) Palestinians not only pledging but insuring no further demonization of Israel.

Dow ended his column: "Obama is uniquely positioned to be the catalyst for this process. His visit could become a game changer by helping both sides to take small steps now in preparation for peace later."

But the next day, Dow had switched back from wearing his hat of small hopes to being very pessimistic. (See his blog that I received this morning and that I have included at the end of this blog.) Dow contrasted the pessimistic picture painted by Shlomo Avineri versus the insistence of Naomi Chazan on pushing an optimistic agenda. Shlomo, he wrote, "maintains that neither the Palestinian Authority nor the new Israeli government – the most right-wing in its history, will do much about solving the problem. All that we can hope for is that the situation can be managed better in anticipation of good times, whenever these may come." (Shlomo Avineri’s views are set out in the January issue of Foreign Affairs where he, in fact, sets out his own list of pragmatic and achievable measures that can be taken as interim steps.)

This is the pessimistic picture. Yet confidence building measures proposed by Dennis Ross were merely steps to manage the situation rather than substantive progress, but were treated as a blessing of small hopes rather than a despairing pessimism. But perhaps in the fuller acquaintance with Shlomo’s views, his proposals for maintenance were more restrictive than Dennis Ross’ proposals. But not by much! As Avineri said, "you try to achieve a lot of proactive conflict management measures, some of them partial agreements, some of them unilateral steps, some of them doing things below the radar where people can reach understandings even if they don’t have to sign or even if they don’t want to sign on the dotted line about the final issues."

As can be seen from his Foreign Affairs article, those views of Avineri were not that much more restrictive than those of Dennis Ross. In Avineri’s participation in the Israel Policy Forum on "The Future of the Peace Process", he anticipated Obama’s address to the Israeli public through his talk to the students as being at the heart of his visit to at least convey that Obama hears what worries Israelis and understands those fears. On the core issues of settlements, borders, Jerusalem, security, refugees, the gap between the current more right wing government versus the previous moderate government engaged in the last negotiations is even wider than the considerable chasm still left when moderates were negotiating with moderates. "To try to reopen those kinds of negotiations now is probably doomed to failure." That is certainly the generally universal pessimism, even of Naomi Chazan.

Yet Naomi Chazan argued vehemently against the notion that nothing could be done and insisted that "survival demands that those in power don’t wait for ‘the right time’ for peace negotiations but create them now" by instead of "lowering expectations" about the Obama visit, pushing Obama to press both sides to resume negotiations.’ However, the overwhelming view of most observers and specialists in conflict management and peace negotiations is that a push towards direct negotiations at this time would be counter-productive. Naomi Chazan’s push is not idealism or optimism but the despair of hope and the guarantee that hope will turn into greater despair.

Subjective reactions to proposals as instilling pessimism or optimism are one thing. But positing a false and misleading dichotomy of proposals as pessimistic or optimistic may be far more misleading than helpful.

Part of the equation is also knowing the American administration and, in particular, Barack Obama’s mindset as well as that of the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority. Avineri has advised that, "the president shouldn’t really put his life on the line on this issue because he has already failed in the past," and has suggested an emphasis on back channels or Track II diplomacy. I think Obama has already incorporated that view. This is why when Gerald Steinberg in his article in the National Post this morning, "Natanyahu is from Mars, Obama is from Venus" is so misleading with his false dichotomy. Steinberg correctly calls Netanyahu a hard-core realist. However, he argues that Obama has a very opposite perception of international politics who takes "an idealist (or optimist) approach" and "believes that disputes generally can be overcome through dialogue and compromise. For Obama, the use of military force is an undesirable last resort." The portrait of the al-Qaeda and the Taliban as outliers would perhaps explain his use of drones to assassinate them. [I am
being sarcastic!]

The portrait is so wrong and so distorting that one despairs at correcting it. For example, the difference between Obama and Netanyahu over Iran is on whether to draw a line in the sand before hand of after you have given diplomacy and talk the best chance that can be afforded. The argument for drawing the line in the sand early is that the other side knows very early on when their actions will trigger a military response and this will prevent escalation creep. The argument for not drawing a line in the sand early is that it psychologically blackmails the negotiation process and limits the saving of face. There are arguments for both positions. (Listen to American National Public Radio today on "The Value and Risk of Drawing a Red Line" with Aaron David Miller from the Woodrow Wilson Center whom I have cited before with respect to Obama and Israel.)

Both Netanyahu and Obama are variations of realism and not a realist versus an idealist. There is an abundance of evidence that Netanyahu is a hard-core realist and that Obama is what may be termed a softer realist, but it is very clear that he is not a Kantian idealist. Painting him as one may be considered a credit or a demerit, depending on your point of view, but, whatever its normative value, it is descriptively false. False either/or dichotomies in international politics, however convenient they are in explaining issues, much more often mislead.

The issue of red lines is not only applicable to Iran but also North Korea and Syria. Ignore North Korea for the moment, however difficult it is to bracket the self-aggrandizing and advertisements for himself of Kim Jong-Un. Last year, intelligence reports informed the president that the Assad regime was weaponizing missiles with nerve gas. Obama and the USA drew a definite line in the sand for Syria. As Foreign Policy reported, "In August, President Barack Obama first asserted that Syria’s use, or movement, of chemical or biological weapons (CBW) would be a ‘red line’ that would result in ‘enormous consequences’." (5 December 2012) Presumably, the rationale would be humanitarian rather than siding with one side. Intervention was required to protect civilians under the universally accepted doctrine of the responsibility to protect that Canadians pioneered in forging. After all, the international community to its everlasting shame did nothing when Saddam Hussein used Sarin and VX in 1988 on the Kurdish village of Halabja, killing 5,000, injuring over 10,000 others and leaving a legacy of birth defects. In 1982, Bashar al-Assad’s father massacred between 10,000 and 20,000 in Hama to repress a rebellion so mass murder by this regime would not be a total surprise.

Foreign Minister, Jihad Makdissi of Syria has repeatedly stated that the Assad regime would only use chemical weapons against invaders and not against Syrians. If the Assad regime does resort to the use of chemical (or biological) weapons in Syria, the Syrian regime could expect to invite some type of military response from the USA without specifying whether that meant arming the opposition, imposing a no fly zone or bombing certain facilities. The possible use of poison gas in Syria against civilians in Aleppo needs first to be verified. Little noticed in today’s news reports about possible chemical warfare in Syria, is that the report itself may be a way for the Iranians to test run how seriously to take red lines by the USA if ever they were to be drawn. Iran has repeatedly used Syria as a proxy.

Dichotomies that apply to subjective states and attitudes – such as pessimism and optimism – may be very misleading when applied to characterizing positions held on peace negotiations. False mutually exclusive categorization is often misleading and sometimes even dangerous when misapplied to the positions of world leaders. Dichotomies posed as polar opposites with many intermediate positions between can also be misleading as well; it may be useful to distinguish realists along a range between an extreme hard-core group and realists who soften that realism with moral considerations with many variations between. But posing realists and idealists as polar opposites on a spectrum of variations does not work very well.

Both/and thinking analyses may often be better suited to an issue than either/or positioning.

[Tags: dichotomous thought; Israel, Obama,
Netanyahu, peace process]

THE PEACE PROCESS – REALISM OR IDEALISM?

The day after the swearing in of Israel’s new government and the day before the arrival of President Obama, a symposium was held in Jerusalem under the title, “Israeli-Palestinian Conflict – Where to?” on the occasion of the publication of The Routledge Handbook on the Israeli Palestinian Conflict, edited by Joel Peers and David Newman.

The four panelists were on the centre-left of the political spectrum, i.e., in favour of the two-state solution. Nevertheless, there were differences, particularly between the realism of Shlomo Avineri’s analysis and the idealism of Naomi Chazan’s vision.

I was both heartened and depressed by Avineri’s presentation. Heartened, because what he said as an expert I’ve been saying as an amateur: though the Arab Awakening is likely to lead to the balkanization of the region and complicate life for Israel, the two-state solution is still the only viable response to the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

Depressed because much of what I’ve written from Israel has been along Avineri’s line. It depresses me and, alas, my readers. He maintains that neither the Palestinian Authority nor the new Israeli government – the most right-wing in its history, he said – will do much about solving the problem. All that we can hope for is that the situation can be managed better in anticipation of good times, whenever these may come.

Naomi Chazan differed sharply. She argued vehemently against the notion that nothing could be done about peace at present and, therefore, containment is all that’s possible. I understood her to say that in the same way as Avineri’s skepticism is self-fulfilling prophecy, so can the belief that peace can happen now. It’s essential for Israel’s survival and, therefore, requires the same kind of idealism that brought it into existence.

Chazan maintained that this fight for survival demands that those in power don’t wait for “the right time” for peace negotiations but create them now. For example, much could have been achieved towards it, she argued, if Israel had been the first to support the Palestinians’ bid for statehood at the United Nations. Similarly, instead of joining in the chorus that tells everybody not to expect much from Obama’s visit, his being here can and must greatly stimulate the process by pushing the two sides to negotiate.

I left the meeting wishing that Chazan were right but believing that Avineri got it right. Instead of hoping for the ideal we should settle for the real and make it less difficult than it is now and much less difficult than it’ll become if we do nothing at all. That’s why prudent management is the best possible interim measure to be taken now.

I understand this also to be behind Dennis Ross’s idea about what each side could do independently of the other to create confidence building measures that would ease the tension and prepare for the future. (Thus my latest column in The Toronto Star.)

The third speaker, Professor Arie Arnon of Ben Gurion University, pointed to the vital importance of the many Track Two encounters between experts who’re preparing the ground for peace whenever it comes by dealing with specific aspects of it. I understood him to say that these encounters blend realism with idealism.

The last speaker was Professor David Newman, also of Ben Gurion and co- editor of The Handbook. He reminded us that little of the left’s message, whether realistic or idealistic, is now touching the Israelis. The new government of the right reflects it. The citizens, indeed the world at large, have to learn to grin and bear it. Advantage: Avineri.

Jerusalem 20.3.13 Dow Marmur

False Dichotomous Thinking.doc