Daniel Levy is an engaging and energetic young Brit-Israeli who first made a name for himself helping to organize those– as it turned out ill-fated, and perhaps all along misguided?– “Geneva Accords” and who in recent years has been making quite a splash at Washington DC’s New America Foundation. His values and worldview are generally excellent. He has been honest and courageous in describing various aspects of the Palestine Question as they really are (and let me tell you, in the often completely toxic, AIPAC-dominated echo chamber of Washington DC, that is something that takes real courage.)
Today, Daniel has an article in Haaretz in which he argues correctly that in the wake of the Revolution in Egypt,
- Those governing Egypt will henceforth have to be more responsive to the public will.
The package of regional policies pursued by the Mubarak regime lacked popular legitimacy. This included the closure imposed on Gaza, support for the Iraq war and for heightened bellicosity toward Iran, and playing ceremonial chaperone to a peace process that became farcical and discredited.
He is completely correct in arguing that the kowtowing (my word, not his) policies pursued by Mubarak had been experienced by most Egyptians as a national humiliation; and that the revolution has been about dignity as much as about anything else. He’s also correct to note– as I did here on Feb. 1 and here on Feb. 3– that there is a lot that a truly dignified Egyptian government could do to support the Palestinian cause that would not necessarily involve abrogating Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
He then proposes that the best course for Israel to follow in the new, post-Mubarak environment would be an option that has
- three components. First, an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 armistice lines almost without preconditions or exceptions (minor, equitable and agreed-upon land swaps and international security guarantees could fall into the latter category ). Second, Israel should undertake an act of genuine acknowledgement of the dispossession and displacement visited on the Palestinian people, including compensating refugees where appropriate, and thus set in motion the possibility of reconciliation. Third, there needs to be a clear Israeli commitment to full equality for all of its citizens, notably including removal of the structural barriers to full civil rights for the Palestinian Arab minority.
He describes this option as,
- perhaps our best and last chance for a two-state solution, one that would guarantee our future in this region. While it would involve cutting our losses, it would also have the potential of unleashing huge benefits – economic, security and more, for an Israel accepted as part of the tapestry of a democratic Middle East.
He describes the call that has come from some voices in Israel’s political elite for just “an urgent return to the peace process” as being “too little, too late.”
Besides what “peace process” are those people even talking about? And with what possible Palestinian interlocutors? The PA is imploding as we speak. (As I tweeted earlier this morning: “Almost pity Abu Mazen, Saeb Bey, what with 1st Palestine papers, then the fall of Mubarak… “)
But I think that what Daniel is urging is “too little, too late”, too.
Firstly, “an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 armistice lines almost without preconditions or exceptions”: Honestly, can he or anyone else explain how the 500,000 (not “over 300,000”, as he says) Israeli settlers now illegally living in the West Bank might be removed? He suggests some “minor, equitable and agreed-upon land swaps.” But now we’ve seen the maps that propose how those should work– both those from Geneva and those from the “Clinton parameters”, can anyone today say that those exercises in border-delineation (from the settlers’ perspective) or border-shifting (from the Palestinian and international law view) could be politically palatable to either the Palestinians or the settlers?
Second, note re that majority of the worldwide Palestinian population who are refugees refused the right to return to their homeland, Daniel calls only for some form of Israeli rhetorical act (“acknowledgment”) along with compensation “where appropriate”. He says nothing about any actual fulfillment of any of these refugees’ right of return.
Third, note that he makes no mention at all of Jerusalem. Indeed, by counting the settlers as “over 300,000” rather than “over 500,000”, he seems to be taking the whole Jerusalem question off the table completely! But the big shift in the Arab world presaged by the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions means that all Arab governments– not just Egypt’s– will have to become a lot more attentive to the will of their citizens… And regarding the Palestine Question, for most Arab citizens, Muslim and Christian (and for most Muslims everywhere in the world) Jerusalem is at the heart of it.
If Daniel’s proposal is the very best the two-staters can offer as a policy proposal for the post-Mubarak era, then it really does seem that the two-state formula is dead.