A Stronger Negotiating Position

It might not be popular with a lot of voters, but Israel might be snared into a situation it has to enter talks with the Palestinians.  It needs But no matter what the next government looks like, it should take a tougher stance in negotiations than in the past in order to get the better end of a deal (if there are negotiations) or continuing positioning itself in case things get unstable.  William Hague is just an example of the pressure the next coalition will be under.

File:Rice Olmert Abbas 2007.jpg
Ehud Olmert was willing to give away a lot, probably more than he needed to, to Mahmoud Abbas back in 2008.

If Israel’s government ends up in negotiations with the Palestinians, it has to re-calibrate positions that were taken years ago and renegotiate some understandings.

For one, the 1:1 formula on land swaps ought to be dropped.

Gaza is currently not part of the equation. That is the core reason the 1:1 land swap should be dropped. Much of the land past Israeli leaders planned to give the Palestinians is adjacent to the Gaza Strip. Even if Hamas and Fatah actually follow through with a unity government agreement, Israel’s permanent position on the matter has to be that the Jewish State cannot operate on the assumption that that unity is permanent – it would be unreasonable to expect Israel to do anything for the benefit of a de facto independent Gaza that doesn’t recognize Israel.

This is just one idea for a land exchange.

Israel’s the country with no natural ethnic allies in the region – not Palestine. Israel has more of a need for defensible borders – not Palestine. Israel conquered the West Bank while Jordan had no international diplomatic recognition of its authority there, leaving the territory technically unclaimed with no sovereign – Palestine is a later arrival that’s lucky to get whatever Israel gives it in territory for a state (from the perspective that the territory wasn’t controlled by a “Higher Contracting Party” as defined by the Fourth Geneva Convention).

Secondly, Israel needs to deliver its vision of security. It wouldn’t be the final formula of successful negotiations (as doubtful as I am those will happen), but it has to come from a strong negotiating position. Demands should start at total control of the Jordan Valley, plus the right to regulate traffic into and out of both the West Bank and Gaza Strip (assuming the two territories are ever united, ever again). Israel also enters into a full defensive partnership with whatever security forces run Palestine. Everything is coordinated with the IDF and border police.

The Jordan River Valley is a vital security interest to Israel, to stop the smuggling of weapons into the West Bank.
The Jordan River Valley is a vital security interest to Israel, to stop the smuggling of weapons into the West Bank. (source: CC-BY Beivushtang at Wikimedia Commons)

Thirdly, Israel has to deliver a vision of its own on culturally and religiously significant sites.  That can include sovereignty over H2 – the Jewish section of Hebron and Kiryat Arba, plus a role in managing the Tombs in Hebron and Nablus (Sh’chem), and finally a different way of managing the Temple Mount where the Waqf has less than 50% interest in the Temple Mount plaza – none of this “sovereignty under it” nonsense that Ehud Barak offered to Arafat – that doesn’t serve the Jewish people’s interests for the site.  The Israeli Ministry of Antiquities gets full discretion over digging on the Mount. Jews will, at the least, be allowed to pray on the Temple Mount.

Full disclosure, I voted for The Jewish Home in order to strengthen the Israeli position on these issues whether there would be negotiations or not. I have no idea if The Jewish Home would actually be able to squash the idea of an independent Palestinian state. If they can’t, these are the least of the demands the government should put forth in renewed negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas.  This is where the negotiating position should be.

About the Author
Gedalyah Reback is an experienced writer on technology, startups, the Middle East and Islam. He also focuses on issues of personal status in Judaism, namely conversion.