Shimon Peres has been talking up the Arab League peace plan, saying that Israel is currently negotiating a 100% withdrawal from the West Bank (with a 4-5% territorial exchange). That would put every Israeli city in rocket range, but Peres has a solution — “guarantees.”
Israel must be given guarantees [Peres said] because “in Gaza we failed. We took down 30 settlements by force, and there is not one Israeli citizen or soldier there anymore. But instead of settlements, they’ve built launching sites for missiles. And I have to give an answer to Israelis who are asking: ‘How can we be sure that it won’t happen if we leave more settlements?’”
It is not clear what “guarantees” Peres has in mind: perhaps a “binding” UN resolution (like Res.1701, which required all UN members to stop the flow of weapons into Lebanon); or a “robust” international force (like the one that watched Hezbollah not only replenish but redouble its arsenal); or an explicit U.S. commitment (like George W. Bush’s April 14, 2004 Gaza disengagement letter, promising U.S-led efforts to “prevent areas from which Israel has withdrawn from posing a threat that would have to be addressed by any other means”).
Somehow the binding resolutions, robust international forces, and explicit commitments never seem to work. As new governments are about to take office in both the U.S. and Israel, it may be time to re-think this “process.”
Two important recent essays do precisely that. Gen. Moshe Ya’alon, the IDF Chief of Staff from 2002-05, lays out a different path in “Israel and the Palestinians: A New Strategy” in the new issue of Azure. He says the “present diplomatic path, which forces Israel to make far-reaching concessions and take genuine risks in return for empty Palestinian declarations, is headed for war, not peace.” The critical error has been that the Palestinians “received political concessions without ever proving their willingness or ability to bring about order and stability in the territories handed over to their control.”
True, Israel demanded again and again that the PA stand up to its commitments and take the necessary steps to dismantle the terrorist infrastructures in the West Bank and Gaza. Nevertheless, the fact that these demands were not met did not prevent Israeli statesmen from negotiating with Palestinian representatives over a permanent-status agreement. The ongoing farce reached its pinnacle at the Annapolis summit in November 2007, when the Israelis and Palestinians announced their plans to reach a permanent-status agreement by the end of 2008-despite the fact that Abu Mazen does not have the power to enforce so much as a rental contract in Gaza City.
Caroline Glick, in “Israel and the Palestinians: Ending the Stalemate” in the current issue of The Journal of International Security Affairs, notes that the more the process has failed, the more it has been accelerated. Not only has there been no penalty for Palestinian failures (failure to dismantle a single terrorist organization, electing their premier terrorist group to control their legislature, daily rockets into Israel, etc.), but each failure has simply produced more Israeli concessions to keep the process going (the Gaza disengagement, serial releases of more prisoners, transfers of money, etc.), as well as increasing commitments of U.S. funds. It is in effect a self-sustaining failure.
Ya’alon and Glick each propose a more principled process, with progress measured by facts on the ground rather than by a “peace agreement” that by its nature cannot be enforced — even with “guarantees.” Both articles are worth reading in their entirety.