Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ehud Barak: Palestinians Should Get Part of Jerusalem

Very interesting comments reported by Ari Shavit in Haaretz, about what Israel envisions for Jerusalem as part of any peace deal with the Palestinians:
What are the principles of a peace deal that you believe can be agreed upon by the conclusion of the talks?

"Two states for two nations; an end to the conflict and the end of all future demands; the demarcation of a border that will run inside the Land of Israel, and within that border will lie a solid Jewish majority for generations and on the other side will be a demilitarized Palestinian state but one that will be viable politically, economically, and territorially; keeping the settlement blocs in our hands; retrieving and relocating the isolated settlements into the settlement blocs or within Israel; a solution to the refugee problem [whereby refugees return to] the Palestinian state or are rehabilitated by international aid; comprehensive security arrangements and a solution to the Jerusalem problem."

What is the solution in Jerusalem?

"West Jerusalem and 12 Jewish neighborhoods that are home to 200,000 residents will be ours. The Arab neighborhoods in which close to a quarter million Palestinians live will be theirs. There will be a special regime in place along with agreed upon arrangements in the Old City, the Mount of Olives and the City of David."

The pieces about Jerusalem are quite a departure from the "eternal and indivisible capital" rhetoric that Netanyahu, Lieberman et al. have invariably insisted on.  On the other hand, I'm very curious about the wording about "West Jerusalem and 12 Jewish neighborhoods that are home to 200,000 residents" that will be Israel's.  Are these neighborhoods within West Jerusalem?  Or are they among the neighborhoods where Jewish religious settlers have been ousting long-established Palestinian families over the last months?

Even with such a "magnanimous" offer though (which I'd be very surprised to see Netanyahu back up if the question was put to him), what Barak enunciates still leaves Israel in violation of long-standing international law (not that Israel has really ever cared about that):
  • Palestinians in diaspora will be allowed to return to the new Palestinian state, or will be compensated otherwise.  Per usual, Israel rejects the "right of return" (which, again,is enshrined in international law).
  • The large Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank will be incorporated into the state of Israel.  Again, those settlement "blocs" are the fruit of a colonial enterprise (again, illegal under international law) that got under way in the aftermath of the 1967 war.  And interestingly, Barak makes no mention of compensating the Palestinians with land already inside Israel in exchange for Israel's absorption of those blocs.  Such a provision was prominent in earlier proposals.
Those earlier negotiations, by the way, are referenced in what Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak proposed in an op-ed in today's NY Times:
The broad parameters of a permanent Palestinian-Israeli settlement are already clear: the creation of a Palestinian state in the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 with Jerusalem as a capital for both Israel and Palestine. Previous negotiations have already resolved many of the details on the final status of refugees, borders, Jerusalem and security.

For its part, Israel should make no mistake: settlements and peace are incompatible, as they deepen the occupation that Palestinians seek to end. A complete halt to Israel’s settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is critical if the negotiations are to succeed, starting with an extension of Israel’s moratorium on settlement-building, which expires this month.

For both sides trust can be built only on tangible security. Security, however, cannot be a justification for Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian land, as it undermines the cardinal principle of land for peace. I recognize that Israel has legitimate security needs, needs that can be reconciled with the Palestinians’ just demand for a complete withdrawal from occupied territory. Egypt believes that the presence of an international force in the West Bank, to be stationed for a period to be agreed upon by the parties, could give both sides the confidence and security they seek.

I'm afraid that last bit about the international force will be a non-starter for the Israelis, who blame just such an international force (the UNIFIL force in southern Lebanon) for not preventing  Hezbollah from re-establishing and even strengthening its presence there.

Finally, I fear that all of these proposals will be rendered moot by Hamas' killing yesterday of four Jewish settlers near Hebron in the West Bank.  Hamas, which is not represented in the upcoming "summit" in D.C., was obviously trying to make a statement about its refusal to accept the legitimacy of the negotiations, and to upend the process.  Whether the Israelis will refrain from exacerbating tensions by striking back remains to be seen - but I'm not betting on it.

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