Tuesday, veteran WaPo columnist David Ignatius published a very insidery report to the effect that Obama is considering rolling out a specifically “Made in America” plan for a final peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
This would– as David noted– be quite an abrupt reversal of the painstakingly incrementalist, strongly ‘CBM’-focused approach pursued thus far by special peace envoy George Mitchell. (It may also signal that Mitchell himself might be on his way out?)
David’s story got picked up on the news side of yesterday’s WaPo, as well as the NYT. The writers of most of these stories made a point of quoting one of the former Natinal Security Advisers Obama has been meeting with as saying that “everyone knows” what the main shape of any possible two-state-based deal would be… Namely, something like the “Clinton parameters”, which was a “take it or leave it” peace plan presented by Pres. Bill Clinton to both sides in late December 2000, less than one month before the end of his presidency.
Last night, Daniel Levy had a piece on The Middle East Channel, in which he writes,
- The spectrum of a plan’s possible content essentially looks like this: At one end, a comprehensive regional peace plan including an Israel-Syria deal, and implementation of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative’s offer of comprehensive normal relations with Israel; in the middle, a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement addressing all the core issues and with some regional add-ons; and at the minimalist end (yet not to be sneezed at), a deal that fixes two states, an Israeli-Palestinian border delineation, and security arrangements, but defers closure on all details of, for instance, refugees, Jerusalem’s Old City, and an end of claims. Even a one-sentence frame of reference might move the ball forward dramatically. It could read like this:
- Establish a border based on the 1967 lines with an agreed, minimal and equal one-to-one land swap taking into account new realities on the ground (settlements close to the Green Line), whereby the Palestinian state is on 100 percent of the ’67 territory and is demilitarized with security arrangements overseen by a multinational deployment.
Unlike Daniel Levy, I have grave doubts whether having the U.S. President announce that a “frame of reference” is from here on out U.S. policy would do very much to push anything forward, at all.
Hulloo!! Hasn’t anyone noticed that the world has changed a lot since December 2000? The most salient changes are
- (1) The situation on the ground has changed considerably over these past nine years. There are maybe 100,000 more Israeli settlers in the West Bank than there were then. There is the Wall/Barrier. There’s the long-running siege of Gaza and the separation between Gaza and the West Bank. There’s the lunge Israeli opinion has made deep to the ethnonationalist right… Ariel Sharon’s murder of the institutions of Oslo in 2000… The death of Yasser Arafat and the collapse of Fateh… etc etc.
(2) The Palestinians and other Arab parties have seen so many prior promises about ‘deadlines’, ‘firm U.S. commitment to peace’, etc, come and go that just another announcement on its own, without any accompanying action, is not going to shift anything.
(3) Most importantly, the balance of world politics has shifted considerably since December 2000, too. The U.S. is no longer the unquestioned king of the hill. Even if Washington should prove able to shake itself free of the pressures of the Zionist lobbies (whether Jewish Zionist or Christian Zionist)– which is a big ‘if’– I don’t see how on its own it would be able at all to rally the kind of regional coalition needed to make this peace happen.
Let’s be clear. This whole picture whereby the U.S. has come to be seen by far too many Americans (and some non-Americans) as “the only” power capable of brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace is really out-dated today. Successive administrations in Washington have worked vigorously, and very successfully, ever since the days of Henry Kissinger, to secure and then maintain American domination of the peace diplomacy. (And ways too many American pundits have grown up over the past 35 years with that being their only frame of reference. It just seems only ‘natural’ to them all!)
But it hasn’t worked.
Well, put it this way: It hasn’t worked in terms of securing a peace agreement between Palestinians and Israelis. And it hasn’t worked for the Palestinians, who have seen the misery, dispossession, dispersal, and oppression in which they live continue or increase almost uninterruptedly throughout those 35 years. You might say it has worked, however for those participants in, and supporters of, the whole project of gaining ever greater Jewish colonial settlement in the land of Mandate Palestine, that is, the whole project of Zionism.
It certainly hasn’t worked for the real interests of the American people.
Clearly, it’s time for something new. Like taking the whole issue back to the U.N. Security Council where it rightly belongs, and where it should and can be addressed on the clear basis of international law and international legitimacy. No more of this unworkably complex business of redrawing loopy boundaries around illegal Israeli settlements and requiring millions of Palestinians to simply sign away their rights.
Levy’s suggestion of “deferring closure on all details of, for instance, refugees, Jerusalem’s Old City, and an end of claims” looks like a real non-starter. Right up there with the idea of a “shelf agreement” that Olmert and Livni came up with, during Annapolis. (Remember Annapolis?) Palestinians and Israelis, both peoples, desperately need to see an end to the conflict. And that can be won only by securing final status agreements on all these issues and thereby the settling and end of all outstanding claims.
Can any president in Washington be successful in heading up a process that secures these things? I doubt it. Back to the Security Council.