Perfect is the enemy of the good, as an old saying goes. Israel must remember that, as it examines its third major challenge for “peace.”
The first challenge was when David Ben-Gurion took advantage of the UN Assembly’s 1947 Partition Plan, which approved the establishment of a Jewish state and an Arab (not Palestinian) state in Palestine. Recognizing that the Jews were not allocated nearly enough of its ancestral homeland, Prime Minister Ben-Gurion gambled that Israel would subsequently have the opportunity to acquire more land. It did. Today, no one complains that Ben-Gurion compromised the Land of Israel by accepting the imperfect plan’s proposed borders, which included a possible Arab state.
The Arabs flatly turned down the Partition Plan, expecting to slaughter the Jews and take over all of the Palestine Mandate, which Britain had just abandoned. Ironically, the Arabs have complained incessantly ever since about the lack of an Arab state here.
In the second instance – the Oslo Accords miscarriage – Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was convinced by Minister of Foreign Affairs Shimon Peres to invite from Algiers the terrorist Yasser Arafat, with the PLO, to rule over the Palestinian Arabs. That was a self-imposed disaster.
This latest opportunity, Peace to Prosperity: A Vision, just announced by the Trump Administration, builds on the administration’s previous recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the legitimacy of Israeli control over the Golan Heights, and the legality of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.
Yes, this new plan visualizes a future State of Palestine in the Jewish homeland. But it’s highly unlikely that the PLO would agree to such a weak “state,” thereby enabling Israel to enlarge its territory within the four year timeframe allotted to the Palestinian Authority. (Consequences from establishing an Arab state, or not, are beyond the scope of this article.)
Like Ben-Gurion and his cohorts, Netanyahu and the interim government, or a newly-elected government following the Israeli March 2 election, should grab this opportunity and build on it despite its imperfections.
The Palestinian Arabs, as is their wont, will not miss this opportunity to miss yet another opportunity. They did just that by turning down a state offered in the 1947 Partition Plan, in addition to refusing two wildly over-generous offers, proffered by misguided prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert in the first decade of this century.
The US will not be the only country promoting Israel’s interest with its proposal. Even some Arab countries will favor Israel over an intransigent PLO. A new paradigm has been struck which diminishes the Palestinian Arab cause to Israel’s advantage. The UN and the E.U. will squawk, but the power and prestige of the US outweighs their anti-Israel bias. In addition, the rise of Iranian jihadism has made the Gulf Arabs act much more congenially with Israel, which it needs for protection from Iran.
Mine is but one of a multitude of recent articles on this crucial opportunity. Below are additional cogent thoughts from other writers.
A Historic Opportunity That Must Be Seized
By Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen BESAcenter.org
On May 14, 1948, a few hours before the declaration of Israel’s establishment, Chaim Weizmann, soon to become the Jewish State’s first president, sent an urgent telegram from Geneva: ‘The decision must be made immediately. The gates of heaven have opened for a moment, and if we enter them our state will be established; if not, who knows if we will see its establishment in our day if at all.’ At such moments, leaders and policymakers must make fateful decisions. Those who procrastinate and wait for detailed staff assessments risk squandering the opportunity.
David Ignatius, Washington Post
Throughout the dense text of the peace plan that President Trump announced on Tuesday is a stark but unstated question to the Palestinians: If you reject this deal, as bad as you think it may be, what are you going to get instead? “We say a thousand no’s to this deal,” said Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian Authority. He reversed Trump’s hyperbolic promises by calling the plan, “the slap of the century.” Palestinian antagonism is understandable, but what alternative would they and their supporters propose?
Moshe Koppel, chairman of the Kohelet Policy Forum. Jerusalem Post
How, then, should Israel respond? Given the opportunities and risks, Israel should respond favorably to the plan while taking appropriate action to maximize the plan’s benefits and to mitigate its risks. The response should include the following elements:
– Israel should accept the plan in principle as a basis for continued discussions with the United States regarding details.
-Israel should extend its sovereignty to all the areas in which, according to the plan, the United States has agreed to recognize Israeli sovereignty.
-Israel must make clear that its acceptance of the plan does not constitute recognition of a Palestinian state or the right to such a state
-It should be agreed by Israel and the United States that Palestinian progress towards satisfying the conditions will be reviewed within several months. If it is found that no progress has been made, Israel will, in coordination with the Trump administration, extend its sovereignty to further areas of Judea and Samaria that are required for its long-term security.
– Israel must enforce this freeze of illegal Arab construction in Area C strictly and completely.
-Israel should ask the administration to anchor the plan in a binding agreement with Israel.
Daniel Pipes danielpipes.org
My reservations about the Trump plan concern its repeating and heightening the old, failed approach of promising the Palestinians benefits. No, they need to hear the deep truth that nothing good will happen until they give up their foul rejectionism. Rather than hold out hope, it [the plan] should paint a picture of despair [if it is rejected]. Failing this, the plan will end up as irrelevant as every prior presidential initiative.
Ruthie Blum Jpost.com
The Left is correct: Abbas does not and never will accept Trump’s plan. But the Right is wrong precisely for the same reason. In the meantime, while the Palestinians remain intransigent in their self-imposed misery, Israel can go about the business of extending sovereignty over the settlements.
Martin Sherman martinsherman.org
The underlying flaws in the “Deal” are inherent in its very essence, and although it is certainly a huge improvement on previous attempts to resolve the conflict between Jew and Arab over control of the Holy Land, it is still afflicted by the same defects that afflicted its predecessors. It fails to come to terms with the stark reality that there is no way to devise a scheme that can resolve this conflict by a division—however ingenious–of the land from the River to the Sea between two inimical collectives with irreconcilable founding narratives. Thus, there is no way to convert an intrinsically “zero sum” game into a “win-win” “positive sum” game. Any attempt to do so is doomed to inevitable failure.
It is for this reason that, for the last decade and half, I have urged Israel to launch a large-scale initiative for the incentivized emigration of the Arab population of Judea-Samaria and Gaza as the only strategic measure that can adequately address both Israel’s Geographic and Demographic Imperatives. It is toward this end that the billions planned to be invested in the “Deal” should be channeled.\[It should be noted that there are several other viable plans dealing with this problem.]
My conclusion is that Israel should forego the status quo that has been our successful policy for decades and seize the opportunity inherent in the Trump peace plan. At the least, the anticipated (after the March 2 election) territorial gains will become the new geographic paradigm, replacing the obtuse, nonsensical, “Everybody knows the solution” paradigm, which has failed consistently since 1967.