Mashaal and Netanyahu appear to have begun a “tango” of who ends up with the most “face” after the conclusion of this war. In a previous article (What to do with Hamas?) I made the point that Israel has done well not to cave in to extortion, lest the threat of attacks become a “permanent negative reinforcing” tool for Palestinians. That both sides retain face, however, will be important to an eventual truce and even lasting peace.
I have suggested that the extortionist tool must be dispensed with, and Israel has been doing a good job to make that clear (the last example being its rejection of the John Kerry proposal), although I won’t take credit for it. Hopefully the Hamas military arm (which may be the more instransigent component of the extortionist tool) will not continue to overwhelm its political arm.
It goes without saying that Israel must complete the mission of demilitarizing Gaza. Once that is done, however, the “long game” must once again be played.
According to my understanding of UNSC 242, Arabs and Israelis must establish agreed upon boundaries for a two state solution. Some have argued that because the resolution never stated “Palestinians and Israelis,” it has weakened the Palestinian position to the status of a “faux identity,” thus paving the way for Israel to establish its boundaries with existing Arab States: Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and Egypt. This is clearly a Greater Israel position in which there is presumed legal justification for taking over from the River to the Sea.
As demonstrated by the majority of world opinion and its distaste for non-negotiated Israeli settlements, and the UN, which Israel has understandably grown to hate but is not going anywhere, most people throughout the world consider a Greater Israel interpretation of UNSC 242 uncool.
Palestinian Identity is real. Apart from its unique Arab culture, they have been, since Roman times, called Palestinians, as have Christians and Jews and whoever else that was living there prior to the establishment of Israel. That said, an equally valid and compelling legal view is that Palestinians do have the legal right to fight for statehood.
They obviously don’t have the right to fight it through deliberate targeting of civilians. Tragically, sacrifice of its own people and Israeli civilians has been its chief armament in hopes of competing with a superior military force. This, obviously, must end quickly.
For the past four decades negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians have degenerated into bickering and stalemate. Apart from the Oslo Accords, nothing tangible has come out of them. However I don’t think the Oslo Accords should be judged harshly simply because they have failed to achieve more. Areas “A, B, and C” have existed long enough to provide a springboard for decisive decisions. They can allow Israel, unilaterally, to acknowledge statehood for Palestinians, while retaining its security capability in area C.
A good faith track record can be further established. With or without Hamas–that will be the Israel-PA sticky wicket–security arrangements around Gaza, obviously, would also be fazed very gradually. But once a successful track record of good faith is established (not allowing isolated incidents to derail the process, as they will no doubt occur), a graded dissolution of the A,B, and C parameters is possible. The carrot should dangle: immediate statehood with gradual phasing of Israeli security forces.
No need for negotiations. They will only fail. Initially nothing changes, only in name. Such a unilateral decision should come after the violence stops, not before. Don’t even hint.