The return of unilateralism?

By David M. Weinberg, ISRAEL HAYOM

You would think that following Israel’s ruinous unilateral withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza, unilateralism would be dead in the water. For the majority of Israelis and Israeli strategic thinkers, I believe that this remains the case.

But the political Left is impatient. The same people who once sold us Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas as peace partners are now telling us that while peace is impossible, the existing situation is unacceptable, and unilateralism is the only remaining course of action for Israel.

In fact, there is a groundswell of “elite” (read: leftist) opinion building in favor of unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank. I sense that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is being pulled in this direction.

In current parlance, unilateralism means to “make peace without (Palestinian) partners,” to tear down settlements in the distant reaches of the West Bank to “signal” to the Palestinians that the Netanyahu government is “serious” about compromise. To “show” the world that Israel is not interested in “forever being an occupying power,” to “act boldly to set Israel’s borders without being hostage to the Palestinians,” and so forth.

Over the past year, Ehud Barak and Shaul Mofaz, both former defense ministers, have touted unilateral Israeli action.

“We are on borrowed time,” Barak said in a June 2012 speech to the Institute for National Security Studies. “We will reach a wall, and we’ll pay the price. If it isn’t possible to reach a permanent agreement with the Palestinians, we must consider an interim arrangement or even a unilateral move.”

INSS director Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin backed up Barak with an “academic study,” which after reviewing all negotiation possibilities, reached the conclusion that no agreement could be reached with the Palestinians and therefore Israel “should go forward (with withdrawals) without depending on the Palestinians.”

At a more recent INSS conference, Barak’s former bureau chief, Gilad Sher, presented a team report entitled “The Palestinian Issue: Toward a Reality of Two States,” which also advocated unilateral Israeli withdrawal. Aware of the disastrous security consequences of the 2005 unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, the INSS team did not suggest a military withdrawal from Judea and Samaria but only a civilian one. In other words, many Israelis living beyond the 1949 armistice line would be deported, but the IDF would retain its presence beyond that line.

Or, to put it another way, the settlers would be shafted, even though the military “occupation” of the West Bank would continue and no peace would ensue.

Sher is, coincidentally, co-chairman of an organization called “Blue White Future,” which is pushing a “compensation law” that would provide payment to tens of thousands of settlers for leaving their West Bank homes.

The “International Crisis Group” and the “Elders” — motley collections of ex-statesmen like Jimmy Carter who backed Arafat as a peace partner for Israel — also are now promoting Israeli unilateralism “to create a two-state reality,” without peace. (These same geniuses have also harangued us for years about returning the Golan to the Syrians. What a great idea that would have been).

Thomas Friedman of The New York Times and Jeffery Goldberg of The Atlantic (President Barack Obama’s favorite columnists) are hawking unilateralism, as well. Goldberg: “Netanyahu can have an honest conversation with the Israeli people about the consequences — military, moral and demographic — of the settlements. And he can contemplate a notion advanced by a growing number of the country’s security experts: a unilateral pullout of some settlers from the most distant reaches of the West Bank. It would show Israelis that their government is interested in finally winning the Six-Day War.”

They justify this by wanting to “save Israel from itself,” and by the argument that “the status quo is unsustainable.”

Going into a new round of bilateral negotiations that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is seeking to initiate, it would seem that Israel is certainly not going to make any diplomatic move without a significant and concrete Palestinian quid pro quo. It was Netanyahu who once said: If they give, they’ll get.

But since those new negotiations aren’t yet in the bag, and even if they launch, it’s hard to see them easily leading to any real agreements — the prattle about unilateralism is ever-present.

This, then, is the time and place for Netanyahu to make it clear that Israel is not headed down a slippery slope towards another imprudent “disengagement” from the territories, for all the known, sound and still-relevant reasons.

Unilateral Israeli withdrawals won’t bring security or peace. Rather, as the Lebanon and Gaza precedents prove, they guarantee the continuation of the conflict and even its escalation. Remember: Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) are the heartland of Israel, situated in the closest proximity to our two biggest population centers: greater Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The West Bank is not the relatively isolated and distant Gaza Strip. Withdrawal without real peace and security would be a desperate and dangerous move.

Moreover, unilateral Israeli action to redraw the map of settlement in Judea and Samaria (namely, to expel Israelis from their homes), only encourages Palestinian maximalism. The Palestinians learn that there is no reason to compromise with Israel on any issue (borders, settlements, Jerusalem, refugees, recognition), since Israelis will eventually tear themselves down and out of the West Bank. All the Palestinian Authority has to do is sit tight and remain intransigent.

Modest diplomacy is the only realistic way to push Israeli-Palestinian relations away from confrontation and towards reconciliation. Everything else has already failed. Israel should sit tight and wait out the Palestinians until they crawl back to the negotiating table with mature leaders and realistic expectations. It’s irrational to dangle before them the hope that Israel will, out of desperation, unilaterally withdraw.

May 31, 2013 | 6 Comments »

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  1. That is the only maneuver the so called Israeli military knows how to effect. TAIL between the legs and run like hell. Cowards, sold out traitors, renegades as one.
    Opps! My error, there is anothe maneuver they also do. Attack and destroy Jewish communities.

  2. Islam is curable. Leading Oxford University scientist claims that religious fundamentalism could soon be treated in the same way as mental illness. She says there are techniques under development already to help curb radicalised beliefs. –
    Who were their test subjects, I wonder. Members of the English Defense League? Because we can’t expect the British to mess with their Muslim radicals, whom they’ve been nurturing for decades.

  3. unilateralism is a good thing for Israel but it should be focused towards annexation and transfer; taking rather than giving. Unilateralism is currently identified with giving up and withdrawing when it needs to be re identified with annexation and transfer. Same with the one state solution: one state would be great if all the arabs were transferred to gaza(or lebanon, syria, jordan,etc)

  4. What can be sensibly done is to manage the conflict! But if Israel runs away from the Arabs, it places itself on a path to eventual oblivion. The Arabs have no reason whatsoever to make peace with an Israel that lacks confidence in the justice of its own cause and which looks for a short term fix to a problem to which no real fix exists.

    The proponents of a unilateral withdrawal from parts of Judea and Samaria are selling Israelis a false bill of goods. These people have learned nothing and forgotten everything from Israel’s disastrous unilateral withdrawals from southern Lebanon – which resulted in a Hezbollah takeover of the entire territory and from Gaza – which resulted in a Hamas takeover of the entire territory.

    Now they want they repeat those failed experiments closer to Israel’s main population centers. Israel will get neither peace nor security if their prescription is implemented by the Israeli government. Israel cannot force the Arabs to make peace with it. But what is no less true is Israel cannot transform the very fact of Arab hostility on its own initiative.

    That’s a fool errand.

  5. Anti-Semitism in Israel. Canadian delegation humiliated at Temple Mount. They said they don’t need to go to Hungary to witness raw anti-Semitism. Just come to Arab-controlled Israel. They were met with rude and insulting Arab guards, shrieking Arab women, and demands that they do not pray at this Jewish holy site. “You don’t have to send delegations to Hungary to witness raw antisemitism,” said Frank Dimant, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, who led the delegation. “Jews are treated as second-class citizens in the Jewish state.” The site was strewn with garbage and had obviously been desecrated. Read more here:

  6. I know that there are many wonderful things going on in Israel right now, but the media is like a barometer. It may not tell the whole story, but it gives a snapshot of political trends. Headlines at right wing sites now have a ring of Ghetto Journal about them. ~~~ Daily attacks against Jews that go unpunished, with police/IDF looking the other way, and even turning against the Jewish victims when they dare to defend themselves. ~~~ Fires, murder attempts, mobs of firebombing and rock-throwing youth attacking and even killing Jews, with Arabs enjoying almost full impunity. ~~~ Almagor, a terror victims org. says the “justice” minister is reviewing jailed terrorists’ files and plans a massive release. ~~~ A7: disabled mother has benefits cut off by a Natl. Ins. Board ARAB doctor who did not even examine her. There are Arab judges and policemen too. ~~~ The land is being handed over to Arab squatters on both sides of the Green Line. Jews are being gradually disempowered, and they are submitting just because their govt has people with Jewish names in it. And now citizens are told they have no right to decide on the fate of their land, that “their govt” will decide for them. Can’t anyone see they are being robbed of their country?