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Peace 101: Absence of conflict

Can those who crave a stable Mideast convince Palestinians and their supporters that asymmetric warfare will fail?

“On May 2, UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, passed a resolution denying Israel’s right to Jerusalem. The Resolution, submitted by seven Arab countries in support of the Palestinians, states that any action taken by Israel, the Occupying Power, to impose its laws, jurisdiction, and administration on the City of Jerusalem, are illegal and therefore null and void and have no validity whatsoever. It passed by a vote of 22-10, with 23 countries abstaining.

One week later, on May 9, FIFA, the world governing body for soccer, narrowly averted suspending Israel’s right to participate in international soccer matches due to the presence of seven Israeli club teams in the West Bank. After tense negotiations, FIFA delayed any action until 2018.

These are the latest salvos in the delegitimizing of Israel. They illustrate the strategy of the Palestinians (and the wider Arab World) in fighting the Arab-Israeli conflict in 2017. Indeed, the war is being fought every day, only mostly using non-lethal means. To fight back, it is necessary first to ascertain what Palestinian strategy is, articulate it, and prepare to combat it. Sadly, this type of analysis is lacking in nearly everything written about the conflict.

Palestinian Strategy

Palestinian strategy actually is quite clear, and has been so since the Palestinian Authority turned down the Camp David proposals in 2000. Lacking Israel’s military might and not prepared to accept Israel’s legitimacy, the Palestinians use all non-military means at their disposal to pressure Israel to retreat back to the pre-1967 Cease Fire Lines. If they can accomplish that, they then have the springboard to conquer the rest, and realize their dream of wiping Israel off the map.

Contrary to nearly all media accounts, there is no evidence that the Palestinians, including the Palestinian Authority, are prepared currently to reach a comprehensive peace with Israel. To do so would mean the Palestinians give up their “right” to seek to destroy the Jewish State. It would mean each side stating publicly that it relinquishes any and all future territorial claims against the other, and that each side agrees to recognize both the other’s existence and its right to exist. This “End of Conflict” agreement remains the bottom line for an overall comprehensive peace agreement.

No Palestinian leaders have gone this far. Until they do, all peace efforts, no matter how well meaning, are doomed.

The Palestinians’ chief strategic weapon in eventually destroying Israel is the United Nations, and especially its constituent agencies like UNESCO. In the West, the Palestinians also find assistance at liberal college campuses, trade unions and media outlets. Along with hard line Islamic states, this coalition acts to remove one chunk after another from Israel’s full participation in the family of nations. Over time, the Palestinians hope they can translate their political gains into tangible gains on the ground. Ideally for them, these gains would be made without relinquishing anything of substance in return.

To understand Palestinian strategy, look at recent history. At the Camp David Summit in 2000 Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat nearly 97 percent of what generally is known as the West Bank and Gaza. To make the ultimate borders more logical, Barak also offered land swaps. Israel’s offer meant Palestine could come into existence with basically all of the land held by Arabs during the period of 1948-67. So generous was Barak’s offer, and from the Israeli perspective so controversial (it gave the Palestinians ¾ of the Old City of Jerusalem, in which Jews had lived continuously for 3000 years except for 1948-67), that the deal never would have received the support of a majority of Jewish members in the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament. Nonetheless, relying on votes from Arab Knesset members, Barak was willing to pass the Peace Plan. It was the maximum any Israeli could offer.

Arafat said no. When faced with the ultimate issue, Arafat and the Palestinian Authority refused to agree to the “End of Conflict.”

Instead of peace, Arafat launched a terror war. Some Arafat subordinates who had maintained working relations with the Israelis like Marwan Barghouti now switched and planned terror attacks. It didn’t work. Israel built a controversial border wall, shut off much access of Palestinians to Israel proper and suppressed the Palestinian violence. Barghouti himself was arrested for murder. He remains in jail to this day.

With the collapse of the terror offensive, Palestinian strategy shifted. They realized they could not compete militarily with Israel. Where they did hold power was with multinational bodies. They also had legions of followers internationally. Palestinians then began attacking Israel via a cultural and economic boycott know generally as “BDS” (Boycott, Divest and Sanctions). For example, every time an internationally known popular singer announces a performance in Israel, a group of virulent Israel haters led by Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters leads a pressure campaign seeking to force the entertainer to cancel.

Economically, the Arabs tried to enforce their historic boycott of Israel. This faltered when met with stiff resistance from the United States. They then turned to boycotting all companies, both Israeli and foreign, that could be accused of have any involvement with the West Bank. These include companies like Caterpillar which provides Israel with bulldozers, Hewlett Packard which provides technology and Soda Stream which makes fizzy soft drink machines.

Asymmetric Warfare

Arab asymmetric warfare expanded to attempt to brand Israelis who had served in the Israeli Army as war criminals. In this way they would be subject to potential arrest any time they left the country. In 2005 Major General Doron Almog was aboard an El Al flight which arrived at Heathrow Airport in London. While on the plane, General Almog learned that if he deplaned, he would be met by Scotland Yard detectives armed with an arrest warrant. The warrant claimed Mr. Almog had committed war crimes in the Gaza Strip in 2002 when he ordered the destruction of 59 homes near Rafah. Curiously (or not), no Palestinians received similar arrest warrants, despite their firing missiles indiscriminately at Israeli civilians.

Five years later, an Israeli military delegation cancelled an official visit to Britain when the hosts could not guarantee that the visitors would not be arrested. The arrests would be based on warrants issued by British magistrates at the behest of Palestinian activists under the concept of “universal jurisdiction.” This concept holds that any country has jurisdiction to prosecute individuals accused of war crimes. It has been abused frequently.

On College Campuses

Attacking on another front, pro-Palestinian activists at universities began sponsoring resolutions calling on their schools to boycott Israeli academics, who would be banned from participating in international educational exchanges, and to divest their pension and endowment funds from Israeli (or “Israeli-complicit”) companies. Led by colleges with a tradition of student anti-Semitism such as UC Davis, Portland State and Oberlin, student governments have passed BDS Resolutions at approximately 20 American college campuses. These are non-binding on the School Administration, but provide a troubling indication as to where our future leaders’ values lay. Just recently, both Tufts and the University of Wisconsin-Madison passed BDS resolutions.

Even more disturbing, Jewish students now face racist attitudes on campus that were inconceivable a few years ago. In 2015 at UCLA a second year student named Rachel Beyda was nominated for a position on the student council’s judicial board. During question time, she received questions such as “Given that you are a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community, how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view?” Ms. Beyda was then excused from the room and for the next 40 minutes the council debated whether her Jewish faith and affiliation with Jewish organizations meant she would be biased. The entire discussion was recorded on video and placed in the written minutes.

At the UN

Internationally, the UN has increased its role in the anti-Israel campaign. Its spearheads are UNRWA, the special refugee agency set up only for Palestinians (and the only such agency in the world), and UNESCO. Astoundingly, UNESCO maintains Israel as a permanent agenda item. Can anyone truly believe that the treatment of women in Israel, including Arab women (both citizens and non-citizens), is worse in Israel than in Saudi Arabia or almost any other Arab country? And yet every year, like clockwork, Israel gets accused by UNESCO of one concocted human rights violation after another.

In late 2016, the United Nation’s Security Council dramatically upped the ante by passing Resolution 2334. The Obama Administration could have vetoed the Resolution. It abstained.

The language of UN Resolution 2334 is appalling. It also is inaccurate historically.

In part, the text reads that the Security Council:

  1. Reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a joint, lasting and comprehensive peace.
  2. Reiterates its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard…

In practical effect, the UN declared that the West Bank and Gaza, including the Eastern part of Jerusalem, belonged to the Palestinians. This meant that any Jew living in the ancient Jewish quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem was committing a “flagrant violation under international law.”

Resolution 2334 thus begs the question about the Western section of Jerusalem. If the Eastern part is Palestinian, who owns the West? Can it belong to anyone other than Israel?

The Palestinians have made clear that they consider East Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state. Given that and given UN Resolution 2334, how can the United States and any other country not recognize West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate its embassy there? In fact, contrary to all conventional wisdom from the elites, the United States and all believers in Middle East peace must move their embassies to West Jerusalem. To continue to keep their embassies in Tel Aviv is to cave to the Arab rejectionist front. It gives hope and legitimacy to those who wish to destroy Israel, not eventually make peace with it. Nothing is more damaging to the prospect of Middle East peace than for Western nations to speak forcefully about Palestinian rights to East Jerusalem yet equivocate about Israeli rights to West Jerusalem.

Stop-gap Measures

With Resolution 2334, UNESCO and the close call at FIFA in rapid succession, many Palestinian rejectionists feel the wind at their sails. Israeli leaders may crow about averting international soccer disaster and the large amount of UNESCO vote abstentions, but Palestinians feel their piecemeal approach is working. Why agree to a comprehensive peace deal with Israel now and give up the “End of Conflict” card when continued international pressure may force Israel to retreat back to the 1967 lines for nothing? Under these circumstances, no matter what peace plan President Trump or anyone else puts forward, it is unlikely to succeed. The Palestinians are far from being ready to sign an “End of Conflict” Agreement.

The next steps in the Arab strategy are predictable. They will ratchet up the international political pressure and expand their list of targets. In doing so, they will continue to try to make it impossible for Israelis to carry on normal lives. They will do this through trade limitations, travel restrictions, academic and cultural boycotts and other isolations. They will question Israel’s cultural heritage, rewriting history where need be. Already they tipped their hand for one future target — the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Though written 2,000 years ago about an ancient Jewish sect at the time of Jesus, the Scrolls were found in Qumran, in the West Bank. Thus the Palestinian Authority claims them as part of Palestinian Arab cultural heritage.

In November 2016, the Palestinian Authority was planning to submit a formal claim to UNESCO demanding the “return” of the Scrolls. Thanks to Resolution 2334 that claim, though historically absurd, is reinforced. Israel clearly will not give in, so expect the Palestinians to take other, more creative tactics. Anyone involved with the Scrolls should prepare.

Like it or not, the BDS culture and economic war is all around us. If there is any hope for true Mideast Peace, BDS must be fought into submission. All nations that truly crave a stable, secure and decent Middle East must make clear to the PA, Hamas and all of their supporters that the asymmetric warfare will fail. Israel will not agree to make its necessary concessions again (as in 2000) while this asymmetric war continues.

For any peace plan to succeed, it must include an “End of Conflict” agreement. Armed with that, appropriate pressure can be placed on Israel (if need be). Without it, foreign leaders are on a fool’s errand. No matter how well-meaning their actions, they not only will not bring peace, they will accelerate war.”

About the Author
Daniel B, Markind is an attorney based in Philadelphia specializing in real estate, commercial, energy and aviation law. He is the former Chair of the National Legal Committee of the Jewish National Fund of America as well as being a former member of the National Executive Board and the National Chair of the JNF National Future Leadership. He writes frequently on Middle Eastern and energy issues. Mr. Markind lives in the Philadelphia area with his wife and children.
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