“Everybody knows” what the parameters for conflict resolution look like – including the creation of a Palestinian state according to the 1949 armistice lines (also known as the 67-borders or the green line) with land swaps. Except, perhaps, for Jerusalem, all of the final status issues already have solutions.
This is unfortunately an illusion. Just to give a few examples:
“Everybody knows” that the Palestinian state will be “demilitarized” except for a police force and a single, authorized militia that is loyal to the government. Mr. Abbas seems to agree with Mr. Netanyahu et al., but the devil is in the details. In any event he cannot muster much support for the idea. Hamas rejects demilitarization flat out – and Abbas has no ability to control unauthorized militias anywhere in the West Bank or Gaza.
Mr. Netanyahu and others say that there is already agreement about land swaps and “everybody knows” which Israeli communities east of the green line are to be annexed to Israel. However, some actors refuse to recognize the idea of land-swaps at all. Among those who accept the idea there are legitimate complaints about the size-reduction of the land they control, because there is absolutely no agreement about which bits of Israel are to be annexed to Palestine as part of the swaps.
I could go on and on, but want to focus on some positive things that could be done if members of The International Community really feel they must contribute to setting parameters for conflict-resolution.
I understand how important it is to have a vision of the goal as an incentive. But the goal “everybody knows” is a flop. What I am hoping is that the projects I discussed last time (“Dear International Community – So, you want to help?”), along with the ideas collected here, could help people create exciting visions that might actually be achievable – one small step at a time.
Stick to this golden rule above all:
The International Community should stop being obsessed about creating states. They should primarily focus on promoting peaceful, prosperous co-existence of (semi-)autonomous regions, all of which have minorities living within their borders. If you want to read more about this focus, I suggest getting familiar with Palestinian activist Bassem Eid’s wise observations about today’s shattered Palestinian society.
Then work with the following parameters:
1) Borders: Many of the countries that have established diplomatic relationships with, and thus recognized, the “State of Palestine” have included an explicit recognition of the “67-borders”. Members of The International Community should pressure each other to explicitly leave border-drawing to the legitimate parties along with those actors willing to work directly with them.
2) The Jewish State: The International Community must recognize the right of Israel to maintain itself as a Jewish state. If this leads to human rights violations for minorities with Israel, the follow up should focus on real problems, not imagined ones. And if it leads to fewer options for Palestinian refugees and descendants because Israel must not be flooded, the follow up should focus on compensation and resettlement, not on nursing grievances.
3) Jerusalem: Everyone in The International Community should recognize Israeli sovereignty in those parts of Jerusalem won by Israel in 1949. Hanging on to the myth that no country has sovereignty anywhere in Jerusalem is either delusional or disingenuous.
4) The Palestinian Authority and the PLO: The International Community must stop the uncritical pouring of money into the Palestinian Authority. The leadership and financing of the PA (with its Palestinian Legislative Council – PLC) must be kept separate from those of the PLO (with its Palestine National Council – PNC, Central Committee, and Executive Committee). Don’t know the differences? Start here: Memo: Distinction between PLO,PA, PNC, PLC (5 February 2006) by legal researcher Mazen Masri.
It’s going to take a lot of commitment and resources to unravel the tangle. Here is a recent example (September 2014) of how the PA transfers funds to the PLO in order to hide its misdeeds from donors: “PA Ministry of Prisoner Affairs” becomes “PLO Authority of Prisoner Affairs”.
5) Self-governance: Many truly concerned observers have noted that self-governance within the framework of the PA and PLC is simply not working. Bassem Eid has identified what needs to be done by the Palestinians themselves (https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/we-palestinians-hold-the-key-to-a-better-future/). At least some members of The International Community should roll up their sleeves and help out. Effective self-governance is important at all levels of organization, from the neighborhood through the municipality to the region. If a state evolves, true nation-building will vastly increase its chances of being viable.
It is probably too soon to demand elections, given the intense fighting among those wanting to take power. Instead the focus at this time should be on reforms: reducing corruption, safe-guarding freedom of expression, and controlling unauthorized militias. Khaled Abu Toameh has further suggestions about the necessary reforms.
6) Patient respect for Israel’s security needs: Now I know that many members of The International Community – not least within the EU – are “losing patience”. They need to develop some self-control – and try to understand Israel’s security needs. Perhaps they could start with Mr. Netanyahu‘s recent explanation about why any viable agreement would necessitate a long-term Israeli presence throughout the West Bank.
Vic Rosenthal adds a perspective on the other side: If there is to be a ‘solution’ to the current situation, it will not be found by encouraging the Arabs to believe that they will be handed a ticket to replace Israel with an Arab state, but rather by accepting the legitimacy and necessity of Israeli control of these areas while finding a way to meet the real needs of the Arab residents within that framework. [my emphasis]
7) Contributions to peace-keeping: The International Community must recognize that it is only the Israelis and Palestinians who can effectively defend themselves from each other – and from the hordes on the borders. None of the international “peace-keepers” have had any success in this part of the world.
However, The International Community could transparently give aid to the legitimate parties and try to stop resources flowing to the plethora of militias such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the “military wings” of the political parties Hamas and Fatah. Work could be done to foster military cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians. International troops could perhaps supplement the others – under Israeli-Palestinian leadership.
8) Parameter rationalization: The International Community should support Israel and the Palestinians to thoroughly review the conflict-resolution parameters that have been put forward since 1993. And then it should support the legitimate parties in a process to confirm the parameters that seem worth keeping, drop the useless or destructive ones, and create a usable overview before adding new parameters or deciding on timetables.
If you still think that “everybody knows” what the parameters for conflict resolution should be, I hope you will go back to the first posting in this series where I encourage the oh-so-concerned to look in the mirror before intervening in other peoples’ business.