Instead of retaliating, Israel should welcome unilateral Palestinian statehood

Israel should endorse UN recognition of a Palestinian state by Carlo Strenger | The Middle East Channel

Here is a radical, yet simple, proposal that requires some thinking out of the box: UN recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders actually should appease Israel’s deepest existential fears. Netanyahu has been warning constantly that the world does not accept Israel’s legitimacy. He seems not to notice that recognition of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders would put an end to the doubts of many Israelis that the world does not want Israel to exist.

A Palestinian state along the 1967 boundaries means that Israel, for the first time in its history, would have internationally recognized borders. It would be clear that the Palestinians have no more legitimate demands on Israeli territory west of today’s Green Line. This would silence the radical voices in the free world that do not accept Israel’s existence.

The mainstream of the international community would now have a very clear case against any group like Hamas that doesn’t accept Israel’s right to exist. Israel could then count on a unified international front against Iran, Hezbollah, and other radical Islamist movements, and would no longer have to rely on unpalatable Islamophobic right-wing groups for support.

An Israeli government capable of thinking out of the box would welcome and sponsor UN recognition of the Palestinian state along the 1967 borders. Instead of trying to prevent this outcome, Israel would cooperate with the Palestinians and the UN to include the following provisos: one-on-one land-swaps need to be determined by negotiations between the two parties; implementation of the agreement needs to be gradual, taking into account Israel’s security concerns. From the Al Jazeera leaks – the Palestine Papers – we know that the leadership of the Palestinian Authority is quite close to accepting these positions. Hence such a plan is quite realistic.

Israelis could finally breathe more freely: they would know that the country is no longer under diplomatic barrage, that neither sanctions nor boycott need to be expected, and that the international community would fully support Israel’s right to self-defense if it were attacked from the State of Palestine.

Such a step could be expected by many observers who marvel at the daring of Israeli business entrepreneurs and the creativity of its scientists and artists. Quite unfortunately there is a huge gap between the mindsets of Israel’s entrepreneurial and cultural elite and its political leadership. The foreign ministry’s current threat to implement unilateral steps to counteract Palestinian UN recognition indicates that Israel’s current leadership is very far from thinking out of the box; instead it is locked into a bunker with no connection to the outside world.


11 comments on “Instead of retaliating, Israel should welcome unilateral Palestinian statehood

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  1. did Strenger mention Jerusalem?

    what would it take to get the Israelis to reverse their annexation of Jerusalem?

    would giving up sovereignty over the Wailing Wall ever be a possibility?

  2. @ fuster: Jerusalem
    probably to be found hidden under “land swaps” and “negotiations” and “security.” I thought the idea as to the holiest of holy holies has been that they’d be taken care of under some form of creative shared/simultaneous/dual sovereignty under international supervision.

  3. CK MacLeod wrote:

    I thought the idea as to the holiest of holy holies has been that they’d be taken care of under some form of creative shared/simultaneous/dual sovereignty under international supervision.

    whose thought is that?
    I’ve never heard that the Pals would accept anything other than their sovereignty over the Mosque

  4. @ fuster:
    My impression is that this problem area was basickly handled in the ’90s in principle, an arrangement that lets each side tell itself that it has sole sovereignty of the particular pieces of the whole site that cares about, under an arrangement that amounts to shared sovereignty overall. I seem to recall that at one point there was a similar idea about Jerusalem as a whole, but that that got junked pretty quickly.

    Will put the subject on my list of things to look into again.

  5. Here’s how the holy holies were handled in the 2003 Draft Settlement negotiated between Beilin and Abd-Rabbo (Geneva Accord):

    Israel gives up sovereignty over the Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif

    Access to the Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif would be regulated at the discretion of the Muslim Waqf committee as at present.

    Israel gets to keep the wailing wall, the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem, Mt. Scopus and the Mt. of Olives in Jerusalem, as well as Ma’aleh Edumim and the Gush Etzion settlement block and settlements around East Jerusalem.

    The implementation of the accord will be overseen by an international committee, which would also ensure access to holy places, and security will be the responsibility of a multinational force.

  6. @ CK MacLeod:

    MacLeod, if Israel cedes sovereignty of the Temple Mount to the Pals, it doesn’t get to keep the wall, it gets permission from the Waqf to go to the Wall.

    the Beilin thing was very thoroughly disowned by the Israeli government and was nearly as unpopular with the populace.

    that international overseer thing was DOA.

  7. @ fuster:
    Well, there was also the Olmert-Abbas negotiation, described by Avishai as follows:

    Olmert and Abbas departed from transcendental claims to holy space and decided to base a solution on the practical challenge of governing the holy sites — so as to maximize access for all pilgrims from the three Abrahamic religions — and adherence to the principle that sovereignty derives from the consent of the governed.

    The leaders agreed that Jewish neighborhoods should remain under Israeli sovereignty, while Arab neighborhoods would revert to Palestinian sovereignty. (Olmert even showed me an architectural sketch for a symbolic Palestinian checkpoint leading to the American Colony Hotel in Sheik Jarrah.) At the same time, Abbas suggested that East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem would be municipalities, but the city as a whole would not be divided. “There would be an overall body to coordinate between them,” he said.

    The really creative ideas were about the disposition of the Old City and holy places — the Islamic sites of the Haram Al-Sharif (or Temple Mount), the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and so forth, which both sides agreed were indeed part of the “holy basin.” Olmert suggested that it be governed by a kind of custodial committee, made up of five countries: Palestine, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and Israel. (Abbas was under the impression that as many as seven trustees might be involved, including Egypt and the Vatican.)

    The trusteeship would maintain the holy sites and guarantee access for all religions; some kind of international force would administer it. Abbas accepted Olmert’s proposal in principle, as long as the two could agree on precisely what the holy basin was.

  8. again, the international policing of the holy sites is DOA.

    Israel would be nuts, after experiencing the ineptitude (and worse) of UN peacekeepers, to accept anything other than a US-led force. And the US would be nuts to supply one.

    US and/or European troops would be a repeat of Beirut.

    As much as i hate it, Iran has any deal blocked at present. There’s no deal unless Iran is dealt with.

  9. @ fuster:
    Though the Barak-Arafat negotiations apparently stumbled hard on Jerusalem sovereignty issues, the later negotiations, incorporating earlier concepts, demonstrated a willingness at least among elites to think creatively about solving problems with some degree of international participation. A peace agreement with a trustee arrangement specifically covering the Wailing Wall, the Dome of the Rock, zones of effectivel and theoretical sovereignty over Jerusalem, etc., is not the same as or even vaguely similar to UN Peacekeepers being tasked to police southern Lebanon, something they were never remotely prepared to do.

    Presuming will and preparedness to reach agreement on both sides, Jerusalem can be figured out. It’s somewhat independent of the Iran problem and what it stands for.

  10. @ CK MacLeod:

    creative thinking is good and necessary. presuming will and preparedness is extraordinarily creative.

    Beilin and his supporters counter that the Palestinians have taken “irrevocable steps” — from which they cannot retreat — by relinquishing the right of return and agreeing to a “permanently demilitarized” Palestinian state.

    no one ever had the will to accept the plan

  11. ach… I don’t need to read your links… by sheer Pogo logic I re-interpret the Arafat-Rabin cliche of the ’90s: one makes peace with one’s enemies, primarily oneself. There is no need to presume will and preparedness creatively. There is a presumptive need to will and create preparedness.

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