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Annapolis: End Game First

29 November 2007

By Yisrael Ne’eman

In the wake of the Annapolis Conference (celebrations?) there needs to be an assessment of where Israel stands. On the plus side there appears to be Arab world recognition, even if not formal, of the State of Israel since virtually the entire Arab League including Syria, but minus Iraq, did attend. The Americans made clear their commitment to Israel not only on a moral level, but as a continuation of the strategic relationship especially in confronting Iran. The Arabs, in particular the Gulf States led by the Saudis, are fearful of Iranian and Khomeinist Shi’ite influence in their region with the possible consequences of the overthrow of the “moderate” Gulf State power elites by Islamic extremists. Hence there is a convergence of interests between Israel and the Arab world. Furthermore, those of the international community attending the conference are viewed as guarantors of a future Palestinian – Israeli peace accord.

The Palestinian – Israeli conflict is projected by many as an accelerator for Islamic extremism (Sunni and Shi’ite) in the Arab world. Believing that an accommodation between Israel and the Palestinians, whatever the terms may be, will curb religious fanaticism is the major fundamental mistake. Anyone making peace with Israel is viewed as a traitor deserving of death as far as the Islamists are concerned. Any agreement with Israel will stir up Islamist hatreds against the Jewish State and the “treacherous” peacemakers who have undermined Arab/Islamic solidarity. Here it does not matter how much land Israel surrenders or whether Jerusalem should be split or not. Jewish sovereignty will serve as a lightning rod to attract increased Islamist aggression not only against Israel but against the secular Arab regimes who have decided on the peace option.

On issues of security the Israeli perspective was upheld, in particular when speaking of the “Road Map” which demands the end of Palestinian terrorism as a prerequisite for moving forward and implementing all subsequent agreements. In essence Israel has won “the security argument” even though everyone knows that it will be Israel and not the Palestinians who will do battle against terrorists of all stripes. Such action continues the charade covering for the secular Fatah leader Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) who can be seen as implementing his side of the deal. The Palestinian police will make some efforts but they are no match for the Hamas, Jihad or rejectionists among Fatah itself. Such a victory can only be viewed as pyrrhic.

The overall idea is to have a permanent status agreement and then begin implementation thereby giving everyone an incentive to make peace. This is expected to work for the Palestinians in particular, who are to understand they have a state should they end terrorism. These are the supposedly agreed upon “End Game” scenarios:

• Jerusalem will be divided and the Palestinians will have their capital in the eastern Arab areas with Israel retaining the Jewish western side of the city and Jewish neighborhoods across the 1949 – 67 Armistice Lines.

• With minor changes and land swaps the 1967 lines are the basis for discussion and agreement on final mutually accepted and internationally recognized borders.

• Very few Palestinian refugees, if any, will return to Israel. Compensation and who will pay are the issues for discussion.

What is unclear is:

• How “responsibility for the conflict” will be handled. The Palestinians have been consistent in blaming Israel for all ills to befall them. Israel demands a shared responsibility (similar to the peace agreement with Jordan) in order to work on bi-lateral solutions for the future. To accept all responsibility makes Israel a pariah state and opens the door to lawsuits from every direction by anyone who was ever a “victim” of the conflict in any form.

• Will Israel demand financial compensation from the Arab world in the name of those Jewish communities forced to flee (1948 – 67) Arab lands in the wake of anti-Israel/anti-Semitic violence perpetrated against them where their only crime was being Jewish? These Jewish communities had no armies and were unarmed. Reverting to the famous UN Resolution 242 it speaks of “achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem”. Over a million Jews were forced to flee Arab lands. The vast majority came to Israel, lived in refugee camps (called “ma’abarot or transit facilities) and eventually rebuilt their lives. But they lost everything and had to start over again. Res. 242 never gave a national or religious definition concerning refugees in order to specifically confront this double refugee problem.

• As far as Jerusalem is concerned it has not been decided how sovereignty will be handled in “the holy basin” of the Old City and Mt. of Olives area. In particular there are questions concerning who controls access to the holy sites and what regime has sovereignty over the Temple Mount.

• Concerning matters of security, Israel can put down terrorism but if the Palestinians will not or cannot build a stable peaceful state will the world insist on implementation of an agreement (whatever it is) for the sake of “ending the conflict” at least technically? Israel has promises to the contrary, but Hamas as the party of power and its totalitarian Islamist ideology are the leading forces among Palestinians today. As often happens, one is told to accept the “reality” and stop attempting to gain what cannot be achieved.

A major question being asked by many Israelis and Jews from around the world is “How did we end up in such a weakened position especially as concerns Jerusalem and final borders?” After all, not long ago only the hard line Left would have advocated such “End Game” solutions.

This is the first of two articles.