The PA, Hamas, and Obama’s Parameters

In an effort to keep the two-state solution alive, President Obama is about to issue his parameters for a final- status settlement for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With one week left in his presidency, Obama will use Sunday’s Paris Peace Conference findings and then neatly wrap them into a UN Security Council resolution sometime before the inauguration of Donald Trump on January 20th. However, such a move will not create peace. On the contrary, it will sound the death knell of the two-state solution paradigm by freezing the current stalemate into a permanent condition lasting far into the future.

Peace can never be achieved without an ordered plan, a vital regional context, a democratic component, a strong security complex within distinct geographic designations, a dual capital in an open city of Jerusalem and mutual recognition as defined by the two states to a permanent agreed solution. Obama’s parameters for a West Bank Palestinian state will fail on most of these points.

Make no mistake, the so-called two-state solution is now definitely stalemated. But to incorporate new parameters through the offices of the UN will force Israel to insist that Hamas and the Palestinian Authority must reconcile, new elections be held, and the new legitimate Palestinian government recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. Certainly Obama’s parameters will include the essential plank that the Palestinians recognize Israel as such a Jewish state.

But Hamas will never agree to recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. In fact, they would run their campaign in direct opposition to such a proposal. When it comes to Israel as a Jewish state, the vast majority of Palestinians remain mired in the complete rejection of the Jewish state. This was the same position they espoused in 1920 during the onset of the Mandate period. The rejection was repeated in 1938 during the British proposed partition and again when partition was proposed by the UN in 1947. In 1967 they affirmed the three noes at Khartoum — no to peace, no to recognition, no to negotiations with Israel. In 1988, the PLO declared their liberation charter “defunct”. They did this in order to have an official conversation with the US government. But conversations were broken off by Washington once it became understood that Palestinian terrorism was still high on the PLO’s agenda.

In the twenty-five years of the Oslo peace process, terrorism against the Jewish state has been continuous and insidious. Both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority engaged in the second intifada. This was after Arafat had been offered over ninety percent of the West Bank and a capital in Jerusalem by Prime Minister Ehud Barak of the Israeli Labor Party. At the same time, both Hamas and the PA have rejected any recognition of Israel as a state of the Jewish people. In fact, the Palestinians have made it perfectly clear that they perceive the Jews as strictly a religion and not in any way a people. Even in Biblical terms, the Palestinians reject any Jewish connection to the land of Israel/Palestine. This is an insult not only to Judaism but also to the very root of Christianity itself. Jesus, the material Divinity of the Christian religion, was born a Jew in the Jewish land of Judea, later to be renamed Palestine by the same Roman occupiers who sentenced Jesus to death.

Once the Obama parameter (that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state) becomes enshrined in a UN resolution, this demand will become the first and foremost negotiating position of any serious Israeli political party. Palestinians, led or contested for by either Hamas or Fatah, will (of course) reject such a demand. This will mean that the so-called peace process will remain stuck for the foreseeable future.

The same problem is true with the issue of security. Another Obama parameter will certainly be that “land for peace” — within the two-state solution paradigm — be accompanied by Palestinian demilitarization and other forms of Israeli security. Israel will demand land swaps to include a permanent presence within the heights and depths of the Jordan River Valley. Israel will use the 1967-1968 document issued by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff as its guideline for a security regime within the West Bank. Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have demanded a full Israeli retreat from the totality of the West Bank. This security division will become an irreconcilable election issue between Israelis and Palestinians.

But what if there are no elections on the West Bank for a new Palestinian president? So far, President Abbas is now in his thirteenth year of his first four-year term. How can there be a democratic component to the Obama’s UN parameters (or even a legitimate peace partner) without elections? In the final analysis, Israel can only negotiate with a legitimate democratic government who is willing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Obama’s great criticism of the Israeli right-wing has been that Israel must choose between being a democratic state of the Jewish people or remaining as a non-democratic “occupying power” on the West Bank. But don’t the Palestinians have a similar choice to make as well?

Do the Palestinians want to be a secular people on a fraction of historic Palestine, as defined by the two-state solution? Or do they want to be an extreme secular and/or Islamic state as defined by their respective liberation charters? That is, that Fatah and Hamas are both unwilling to recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people, and equally unwilling to recognize Jordan as a separate geographic entity from the dimensions of the original Mandate for Palestine (Israel, the West Bank and Jordan). It is clear that, for the two-state solution and Obama’s UN parameters to become successful, the Palestinians will have to recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people; they will also have to make concessions on security and separate themselves from any future claims on either Israel or Jordan. In other words, to end the conflict once and for all.

Unless these questions are answered in the affirmative by the Palestinians, the Obama parameters will only make the current deadlock permanent. The UN can only alter the Israeli occupation of Palestinian communities if it adopts a Chapter 7 military action against the Jewish state. This will mean that the US would have to brand the Jewish state as the aggressor in the hundred-year-old conflict between Arabs and Jews. This is historically preposterous. It’s simply never going to happen. Abbas and the Obama administration might think they are making progress at the UN; instead they are tying the hands of future peacemakers for a generation to come. On the other hand, Israel must decide if it wants to revisit proposals it made in 2000 and 2008, or if it wants an alternative peace narrative and plan.

Many Palestinians want to create a Palestinian majority bi-national state with a Jewish religious minority. Such a proposal is a non-starter among Israelis and nearly all Jews worldwide. A portion of the Israeli far-right wants a similar bi-national state but with a Jewish national majority and a Palestinian religious minority. Other far-right Israelis have called for the annexation of Area C of the disputed territories and an autonomy for Palestinians living in the remainder of the West Bank. The ideas that Palestinians will accept being a permanent minority in a Jewish state, or living as autonomous non-citizens next to sovereign Jewish territory, are both unrealistic pipe dreams.

So what is the peace path forward? Only a revolutionary reworking of the old Jordanian Option can possibly break the deadlock. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan must be envisioned as a true constitutional monarchy. This would include the following: 1) The Jordanian capital moved to Jerusalem; 2) The Jordanian king made head-of-state but not of government; 3) The future of the West Bank-Judea and Samaria to be decided by direct government to government negotiations involving all aspects of governance and population structure; 4) Mutual state to state recognition as defined by Israel and the King of Jordan be established to bypass militants; 5) Shared sovereignty for the disputed territories with Palestinian and Jewish communities open to people-to-people contact and within an integrated complex of infrastructure, economy, governance and mutual security. In other words, a model of integration for the disputed territories as opposed to the arch-segregationist model as envisioned by the Obama parameters.

Such an integrative approach for the disputed territories — yet within the context of an established state already at peace with Israel — could end the occupation and establish democratic rights within a Palestinian-Jordanian democratic constitutional monarchy. This new democratic kingdom would be tied to Israel by shared sovereignty on the disputed territories and perhaps lead to a formal military alliance across the full frontier of the original Mandate for Palestine.

The peaceful future of Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians can only be achieved through brotherhood and moderation. Any political grouping either within Israel or the Kingdom of Jordan (including Palestinian and Israeli citizens living on the West Bank) that refuses to accept such moderation will be deemed politically illegal. These are the alternative parameters that might open the gates of Zion to the Arab world. They could bypass the rejections of Hamas (the Muslim Brotherhood) and the deceptions of the PA (PLO). Democracy is the only government model that has a chance to alter the current dystopian political trajectory of the Arab world. What better person to lead this effort than the most moderate Arab leader in the Middle East, the Hashemite King of Jordan. All current democratically elected presidents and prime ministers be advised.

About the Author
Steven Horowitz has been a farmer, journalist and teacher spanning the last 45 years. He resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. During the 1970's, he lived on kibbutz in Israel, where he worked as a shepherd and construction worker. In 1985, he was the winner of the Christian Science Monitor's Peace 2010 international essay contest. He was a contributing author to the book "How Peace came to the World" (MIT Press).