By Arlene Kuhner
And as I write, it is, so-far, so-good, because I’m seeing no backtracking on Israeli government announcements. The contrary, actually.
In several quarters the Israeli response to Abbas’s move at the UN elicited surprise because just days ago a decision had been made — which I wrote about — to keep a low profile and wait and see how matters progressed.
It seems clear to me that what turned the situation about was not the fact that Abbas went to the General Assembly, but the outrageous way in which he spoke about Israel from that podium. It likely pushed a lot of buttons. (If you see Netanyahu’s statement to the Cabinet, link below, he alludes to this.)
Now I am reading that 1,000 housing units may be built in area E1 between Ma’ale Adumim and Jerusalem. The mayor of the city, Benny Kashriel, says he has plans for 3,500 units waiting for approval.
There are some very specific reasons why the prospect of Israel building in E1 elicits an exceedingly strong opposition in the US and elsewhere: It is often said that were Israeli housing to be constructed in this area it would prevent a contiguous Palestinian state from being established. But this is not so — there is certainly area to the east of Ma’ale Adumim that could, in theory, be established as part of a Palestinian state.
No, the alarm is about the fact that our building directly to the east of Jerusalem would prevent the Arabs from moving into that area so that they would abut Jerusalem and be able to establish eastern Jerusalem, most particularly the heavily Arab portion of eastern Jerusalem, as their capital. What they insist has to be contiguous is the area from Ramallah, moving down adjacent to eastern Jerusalem and into Abu Dis and south to Bethlehem. Simply abutting all-Jewish Pisgat Ze’ev or Har Homa would not do it for them. See the map. Otherwise, there is no, “Jerusalem as the capital of two states.”
How about that.
I selected this map, which I’m using for the second time now, because it has the most illustrative clarity of any that I found — but I want to note that it places “Israel” inside the Green Line, a ludicrous notion to which I certainly do not subscribe.
PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi told a press conference yesterday that the PA might lodge a complaint with the International Criminal Court against Israel because of the Israeli decision to do construction past the Green Line. She maintained that this was a “war crime,” and an “act of aggression against the State of Palestine,” and forbidden by the Fourth Geneva Convention.
A sign of how much the PLO is disturbed by what we’re doing, but notions of seeking redress from the ICC are ridiculous.
In an analysis on the “Palestinian ICC threat” on Friday, Yonah Jeremy Bob, JPost legal correspondent, wrote (emphasis added):
“…top current and former government officials as well as other legal commentators…say the threat is overblown. They say some Palestinian spokespeople threatening ICC action for everything from settlements to what many view as the far-fetched claim of poisoning former Palestinian Yasser Arafat, have made it a mantra that is thrown around without much thought.
“The hard realities of what attempted Palestinian action at the ICC would mean for the Palestinians is another matter entirely.
“…if it took the ICC prosecutor three years to decide whether or not to open a formal investigation, let alone file an indictment, any actual case at the ICC could easily take eight to 10 years, with highly doubtful results.
“Hardly an exclamation point for statehood.
“Even some pro-Palestinian legal commentators say going to the ICC, presuming the considerable obstacles to access are overcome, would be a gross tactical error. Some have admitted that once the playing field moves from public relations to law, the Palestinians are at a distinct disadvantage.
“…the ICC generally does not get involved if a country investigates itself, as Israel claims it does, including Israel’s unusually frequent judicial review by the High Court of Justice.
“While this could prevent ICC cases against Israel, the Palestinians have a fraction, if any, of the self-investigating legal mechanisms Israel has, again making them an easier target for the ICC than Israel, the sources said.
“Essentially, the sources say that the prosecutor would be convicting Palestinian war criminals long before it was finished sifting through the complicated evidence in any case against Israel.”
On Friday, Hillary Clinton delivered a talk about the current situation at the annual Saban Forum of the Brookings Institution in Washington. A couple of points merit a closer look:
“We have to convince Palestinians that direct negotiations with Israel represent not just the best but the only path to the independent state they deserve..
Thus, she suggested, “the more generous Israel can be” the more Palestinians will believe they have a stake in the future.
There are a couple of things wrong with this. The notion that economic hardship and not ideology motivates the Arabs has been disproved again and again, and yet it continues to be promoted, including by some in Israel (most notably Shimon Peres). There is absolutely no reason to believe that if Israel is “generous” the Palestinian Arabs will suddenly morph into placid partners for peace. PA leaders have a history of taking and then biting the hand that has provided them with largesse.
Quite frankly, Israel is tired of being “generous.” More about this below.
Clinton said as well that “we also need to see that the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank still offers the most compelling alternative to rockets and permanent resistance.”
She wants to buoy up a notably weak, unsuccessful and corrupt PA — which has done next to nothing with regard to establishing a state in positive terms or helping its citizens thrive or preparing its people for peace — so that it might present the Arab in the street with an attractive alternative to Hamas and rockets.
There is so much wrong with this. Hamas and its resistance ideology is very popular on the street, more popular than the PA. As the PA has not educated for peace in almost 20 years, and still praises “martyrs for jihad,” there is no reason we should expect anything else. Their textbooks promote the illegitimacy of Israel, in any borders.
But Clinton wants Israel to so boost the PA that people will go along with the peace process as the better deal?
Notice that the onus once again is on Israel, to make this happen. Palestinian Arabs are not held accountable for their failures.
Dan Shapiro, the US Ambassador to Israel, has an article in Israel Hayom today, and he manifests some confusion about Hamas and the PA as well. Towards the end of his piece, “Getting to the Ceasefire,” he writes:
“The status quo after the cease-fire is by no means a permanent solution. There is a need on all sides to step up efforts to stop the smuggling of weapons into Gaza to replace those that were destroyed or used, to prevent a repeat of violence. All sides must act consistently with the goal of resuming direct negotiations to achieve a two-state solution, which will be necessary for durable stability, security, and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians alike. ” (Emphasis added)
Hold the horses. There are two different issues being conflated here and this is dangerous. “All sides”? Hamas was never part of direct negotiations for a two-state solution — and it’s Hamas he’s talking about in this paragraph. Israel would not sit down with Hamas unless it renounced terror in any event; and Hamas has never embraced the negotiations route the PLO pretends to be taking. In fact, were we to approach an accord with the PA, Hamas would likely step up its violence to undo it.
A whole lot more is needed than direct negotiations with the PA for a two-state solution, if the danger of Hamas is to be undone.
Is Shapiro, perchance, hinting at a unification of Fatah and Hamas with Israel negotiating with one unity government? I sure hope not. It’s bad news if this is where the Obama government is headed.
But it’s not exactly good news, either, if the US representative here in Israel conflates the issues of our relationship with Hamas and our relationship with the PA/PLO.
In her talk to the Saban Forum, Clinton listed specific ways in which Israel can be as “generous” as possible. One was “expediting tax revenues to the PA.” And on this she is undoubtedly very disappointed:
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz (left, below), in joint decision with PM Netanyahu, announced today that he was withholding tax funds collected for the PA in November, amounting to 450 million shekels.
This, as I understand it, is a legal action because the PA is deeply in debt for electricity supplied by Israel. They have not been meeting payments, and “nice guys” that we are, we let this pass all together too long. Today Steinitz said, “I will subtract the sum from their debts.”
On November 11, Steinitz had warned that “If the Palestinians continue with their unilateral move, they should not expect bilateral cooperation. We will not collect their taxes for them, and will not transfer tax revenue.”
The 1994 Paris Protocol of the Oslo Accords regulated certain economic ties between Israel and the PA, among them collection by Israel of tax revenues for the PA. At this point it was felt that as Abbas has acted in defiance of those Accords, so can Israel respond accordingly.
At today’s meeting, according to Haaretz, the Cabinet unanimously decided to reject the UN General Assembly decision [on upgrading the status of the PLO]. “In the decision it was written that the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) is a “contested area” over which the “Jewish people have a natural right.” (Emphasis added)
I particularly appreciate the reference to a natural right of the Jewish people, which moves us beyond references to areas necessary for security reasons. We have not yet come to a place of official acceptance by the government of the Levy Report, but I feel a movement in the right direction. We’ve apparently been pushed hard enough to stand up for ourselves more explicitly. (Yes, no need to write to me: I know it shouldn’t require this, but…)
The Cabinet statement made it clear, as well, reports Haaretz, that the UN General Assembly decision “will not serve as the basis for future negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and it cannot advance a peaceful solution.”
You can Netanyahu’s remarks to the Cabinet here: