The peace process has broken down because the Palestinian leadership believes that the US will agree to the complete withdrawal of an Israeli military presence from the Jordan River Valley. In other words, the Palestinians are betting that the US administration will overthrow the parameters set into international law by UN Security Council Resolution 242. The Palestinian strategy is unilateral, and it involves a complete rejection of direct negotiations. By bypassing Israel, the PA feels confident that the UN Security Council and the Obama administration will ultimately support their desire for sovereign control of the border between a future Palestinian state and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Obama has tacitly signed on to this plan through his initial acceptance of the 1967 lines. It could be only a matter of time before the formal overthrow of 242 becomes an established fact. Unless Russia, China or France steps forward with a veto, or Obama’s plan is exposed and rejected by his own Democratic Party, the international overthrow of 242 could become the new international reality. This would amount to the culmination of a fifty-year PLO struggle to remove the IDF from the most strategic piece of territory on the planet.
Like it or not, UN 242 has been the basis of both the Madrid Conference and the Oslo Accords. But the Oslo Accords brought the PLO in from the US cold, and now it is Israel that could begin to feel the chill of an American and international sanction. Apparently the Obama administration has forgotten that it was from these pre-1967 territories that Israel was attacked and that its very existence was threatened. The Europeans never cared about Israel, and that became clear when, in the very shadow of the Holocaust and in the aftermath of the 1973 War, both Arafat and Khadafi were treated like royalty across continental Western Europe. For the Europeans, oil trumped all else. But the American people understood that it was the Arab states who had been the aggressor in both 1967 and 1973. For the US government, the strict English language reading of 242 had always been something sacrosanct. A peace plan without an Israeli say over the future of the Jordan River Valley had been an unthinkable policy for every US president since Lyndon B. Johnson.
Now, however, a new status-quo is being developed in Washington, and unless Israel reacts with its own moves, the current situation will simply become diplomatically untenable. Whether the strategy goes by the name of Kerry or Obama, the results will be the same — a new UN Security Council Resolution which establishes the full extent of the territorial security in a Palestinian-US partnership that leaves Israel out in the cold. The best Israel could hope for would be a Russian or Chinese abstention. At this time, a veto appears out of the question.
Obama wants to punish Netanyahu because he believes that the Israeli right-wing, and not the Palestinians, are the cause of the current impasse. Any even-handedness is merely tactical, a good show to mask a far deeper reality. While Netanyahu is a tough negotiator, he most certainly is not Ehud Barak or Ehud Olmert. From the perspective of the left-wing of the Democratic Party, Obama’s perspective, only a vast change in the international US position on negotiations can bring results. The isolation of the Israeli right-wing has become the project of the Obama White House. In fact, it most certainly will become the pet project of a lame duck president with a very limited foreign policy legacy, especially in the Middle East.
The fact is, that Israel is so isolated internationally by the policies of Netanyahu and the right-wing, that Obama’s plan to overthrow 242 will be cheered. This will be true in Israel as well. Even though the far-left can’t come close to winning an election on its own, they too will cheer Obama on. Simply put, the right-wing has become the status quo party, in an international environment that rejects the status quo. In other words, the right has no peace plan. Neither does it have a narrative that exists outside a small cadre of “true believers”. From an international perspective, this lack of a right-wing alternative (other than Greater Israel) has placed both theological Zionism and the Likud on the outside looking in.
These unsettling facts are a great danger, which doesn’t make them any less true. However, in the absence of a right-wing plan, we do have a center-based plan — Plan B. Conceived by Amos Yadlin, ex-head of military intelligence for the IDF, the plan does have a certain appeal, especially in the absence of a right-wing alternative and total Palestinian intransigence and unilateralism. In fact, Plan B is a direct response to the Palestinian strategy of waiting and waiting for the perfect deal (from their perspective) which wouldn’t be negotiated at all. The great Palestinian hope is for an international fait accompli.
In order to circumvent Obama’s plan for a total Israeli withdrawal from the Jordan River Valley, Plan B initiates an Israeli withdrawal from eighty to ninety percent of the territory without waiting for a finalized and negotiated deal. The beauty of the plan is that it would hold on to the Jordan River Valley, Jerusalem in its entirety, and the established settlements on the “Green Line” without waiting for international approval (which would probably never come in the first place). In other words, Israel will protect its eastern borders from the safety of the river valley and not the suburbs of Tel Aviv. If the world doesn’t like it, so be it. But the Jewish State has just as much of an international right to self-protection as the Palestinians have to self-determination. Israel wouldn’t interfere with Palestinian territory, and the formal occupation would end. In this scenario UN Security Council Resolution 242 would become irrelevant.
The simple fact is that Greater Israel is as dead as Greater Palestine. The idea (espoused by an astonishing 61% of West Bank Palestinians) that a Palestinian state should emerge “from the river to the sea” is lunacy. It would take a complete Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and another all-out war (in which the Palestinians were victorious) for this delusional scenario to happen. Its likelihood is nil if (and only if) Israel decides to stay put on the Jordan River Valley. Israel cannot rely on any other country to provide for its security, and it won’t. If the US overthrows 242, Israel will have little choice but to institute Plan B. In the absence of an alternative integrative plan for Jerusalem and the territories, Israel would be left with little choice.
Greater Israel cannot be achieved without either citizenship for the Palestinians, or total war leading to ethnic cleansing of the territories. Citizenship will lead to a bi-national state, and total war will bring about the complete de-legitimization of the Jewish state enterprise. Neither scenario can have the desired theological effect that religious Zionism envisions. It appears as if the L-rd is not in agreement with the Bloc of the Faithful. History is the province of G-d, and not even the best intentions of humans can alter a divine destiny.
But of course we all have choices. The Obama administration will continue to attempt to isolate an Israeli right-wing government that it believes cannot be as forthcoming as the more pliable left-wing. The Palestinians will continue to rely on the international community for support in their unilateral approach for a complete Israeli withdrawal. The Israeli religious right will continue to pretend that an Israel “from the river to the sea” is achievable, while all along clinging to the status quo. Meanwhile, the fate of PM Netanyahu in the next election is far from certain. He appears to be all that remains of an old guard Likud whose constituency has drifted much farther to the right than even he realizes is prudent.
In the absence of either a Palestinian partner or an alternative right-wing plan that encompasses a shared integrated future, Plan B makes sense for Israel. Jerusalem will not become a Jewish-Muslim enterprise of goodwill and reconciliation as ideally envisioned. On the contrary, it will become a Jewish city in total. According to Plan B, the Palestinians will simply have to live with that fact. The intransigence of the Israeli right-wing feeds on the intransigence of the Palestinians. But time is running out for both of them. Eventually the Israeli center will once again attain power, and the issue of an Israeli presence on the Jordan will not go away. Palestinian rejection and unilateral actions will simply lead to a man like Yadlin coming to the forefront. Instead of Greater Palestine, the Palestinians will be left with a rump state without Jerusalem. Likewise, the Jewish presence in Hebron and throughout Judea and Samaria will dwindle. The dream of a peaceful Israel as promised through scripture will be left in abeyance. Neither the religious Zionists nor the Palestinians will be very happy. But for the wide secular Israeli center, and certainly the Jewish diaspora, the pressure of the occupation will probably be over.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Party in the US won’t always be in power. But in all likelihood, they too would be satisfied just to wipe their hands of a conflict with no foreseeable end. Plan B is not the perfect solution for the Americans, but it sure beats the status quo. In the coming US presidential election, where foreign policy involvement is certain to be vigorously debated, an Israeli Plan B will be acceptable. Amos Yadlin’s idea does trump both the far-left, the Israeli right-wing, and the Palestinians. It is a plan for the separation of the two populations without a religious component. It’s an Israeli unilateral reaction to a Palestinian unilateralism and an attempt to institute “phased struggle”. According to General Yadlin, it will be preceded by one more attempt to achieve a negotiated settlement. In this way, at least no one could say that Israel didn’t try.
For the Israeli right-wing, the status quo doesn’t work any longer. Either they come up with a plan of their own or their time will be up. The certainty of the rise of the secular center will surely bring about Plan B. Meanwhile the Palestinians and the Muslim Arabs are about to lose Jerusalem. Only an integrative solution for Jerusalem and the West Bank territories will suffice. In the name of the three murdered Israeli teens, Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, I pray that someday a true religious peace will reign. In that time, the murder of Abraham’s children will only be a distant memory. Jews and Muslims alike will revere all the holy shrines, and live together, and Jerusalem shall once again be a “light unto the nations”.