I am at odds with everyone on recognising Palestine. I have friends and acquaintances who will cut me out of their wills when they read this. There are others who will think I want to extend the Evil Occupation.
Now remember that I am the founder of the ‘It’s Complicated’ political party. I am, to date, its only member. Probably because of the party’s slogan. ‘Everything is really really complicated so any simple answer must be wrong’. It doesn’t work as a bumper sticker, even in Hebrew.
There are moral, rhetorical, legal, and security issues here.
Morality. Well, Palestinians are a people. And you shouldn’t deny them their view of freedom. I no way envy them living in a Palestinian state. It will be yet another brutal and undemocratic Middle Eastern kleptocracy. (OK, so I’m being paternalistic!) The truth is, I am much more concerned about our own morality. You don’t have to be a paid up member of ‘Breaking the Silence’ to see how power corrupts. I am driven crazy by those who argue that Palestinians are really part of Jordan, that they never lived west of the Jordan, that they never had a country. I have been provoked to shouting accusations of Racism and Fascism at such people. This is totally contrary to my famously peaceful nature.
Rhetorical. I honestly do not know what the Palestinians really want and expect. I am also very unclear about what Bibi really wants and expects, but he is a model of clarity compared to the Palestinians. I heard Ehud Yaari yesterday suggest the unanimous Palestinian vision is of a Palestine with no Israel. Which explains why Palestinians leaders consistently walk out after lengthy peace negotiations. And Yaari has talked to everyone on both sides for generations! But I have on the other side a journalist friend, fluent in Arabic and connected to Palestinian leaders leaders. He tells me to see extreme demands as just rhetoric.
Legality. I am a strong advocate of Israel’s legal rights. Its rights were established by the League of Nations, UN Resolution 242, and the Oslo Accords. All these support valid (although arguably not exclusive) legal claims of Israel west of the Jordan. None of these international treaties define a border with Palestine. So I cannot even begin to understand why European leaders (in particular) insist on using ‘illegal’ in the same breath as ‘settlements’. I have no problem recognising competing legal land claims. But these are individual, not national claims. Note: legally registered land ownership by Palestinians should be acknowledged by Israel. Absolutely.
Security. There is little doubt that an independent Palestine would be captured by Islamic extremists, constitutionally or through a coup. So Israel would face more murderous terrorists. Of course I have seen the maps and pictures showing how easily Ben Gurion Airport and all of Israel could be attacked. But what changes here? Nothing except the rules. No longer can anyone argue ‘occupation’. No longer can Palestinians operate terror campaigns under the cover of deniability. The legal basis for conflict between nations is well established. And this would only be to Israel’s advantage.
What to do? Israel needs to act proactively and unilaterally. It should stop being dragged into peace conferences and waiting for the inevitable Palestinian walkout. And then for Israel to cop the inevitable international blame.
The details of the necessary separation line are hard, but not impossible. One principle should be that everyone is a full citizen of a country. All Palestinians would be full citizens of either Israel or Palestine. (The reverse obviously is impossible, given the exclusive racial policies of Palestine.) East Jerusalem is a particularly difficult problem. The geography is tortuous and (apparently) 53% of Arabs there would prefer to be Israelis rather than Palestinians.
Another principle is preparedness. Israel needs to relocate and strengthen the security fence to where it works as a secure international barrier between Palestinian and Israeli communities. The arms blockade in place with Gaza should be extended to all of Palestine.
A third principle is economic. This is potentially a huge carrot. With BDS and Europe off its back, Israel can work with Palestine in areas such as free trade industrial parks, upgrade and integration of infrastructures, and expansion of its technology business to include Palestinians.
So if ‘any simple answer must be wrong’, then is a complicated answer always right?