The response was expected: Prime Minister Netanyahu
hinted that a Palestinian declaration of independence
would prompt Israel
to also take unilateral steps. One minister went further and explained that “in such case we shall annul the Oslo Accords.”
And then there is the ultimate threat: “We will annex the settlement blocs.” As if Israeli law does not apply there anyway from the day they were built, as if they are not funded through the State of Israel’s budget, and as if the Palestinian Authority has any authority in the area.
Officials in what is mistakenly considered as the leftist camp, that is, the Labor Party,
are also quite concerned about the initiative being formulated in Palestine. Ehud Barak
thinks we should act before the damage is done and “engage in negotiations with the Palestinians” – a typical Israeli statement that endorsees ongoing talks that lead to nowhere, and it doesn’t really matter who is at fault for the fact that previous negotiations failed.
We are concerned about a Palestinian declaration of independence, even though the text referred to by President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad marks a victory for Israel. After all, the Palestinians are talking about a state in line with the 1967 borders, thereby abandoning the Greater Palestine dream – not only through the Oslo agreement with Israel, but also by openly declaring it to the world and to the United Nations.
However, such international recognition is dwarfed around here in face of the settlement needs, and therefore officials are worried.
The question is the alterative. It appears that our government believes that the current situation can be maintained. We can keep on talking about talking; that is, talking about an agreement without ever finalizing one (the other side is at fault, of course.) There is nothing better than the status quo.
However, the statements regarding a Palestinian declaration of independence are telling us exactly the opposite: The status quo cannot persist.
Our government officials believe this is nonsense. They believe that the Palestinians have no alternative for negotiations on Israel’s terms, among other things because the Americans will not accept any other alternative. This may even be true, yet the absence of an alternative is only true for the current PLO leadership. As Ehud Barak is learning in person at this time in the polls, political forces may dissipate.
The Palestinian alternative is much more complex than what we tend to think. On one end of the spectrum there is a declaration of independence, which may succeed. Even the Americans will find it difficult to veto an independent state – which they enthusiastically endorse – just because Israel objects to the 1967 borders. After all, such declaration would make no mention of the refugees, an issue that is much more serious than the question of whether Ariel will remain within Israeli territory or Palestinian land.
Then there is the opposite alternative, which could constitute a much graver problem for Israel than a declared state. In the framework of this alternative, the Palestinian Authority will fall apart. It may happen even during the current leadership’s term in office, should the US impose a veto on a resolution that recognizes a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders in the UN – the same body that established the State of Israel. It may also happen should power in Palestine be transferred to other elements, which may wish to undermine the status quo.
The moment the PA will be dismantled, the entire territory will come under direct Israeli control, as was the case on the eve of the Oslo Accords. It’s a little add to see some Israeli leaders proposing that Israel itself initiate such move, which would mean we are responsible for education, health, water, sewage, and human rights in the area.
Under such circumstances, the alternative to a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders would be one state for the two peoples. Depending on one’s political views, this may be a decent solution. However, it appears that everyone who leads us in that direction, either through annulling the Oslo Accords or resisting a Palestinian declaration of independence, doesn’t mean to end up with that outcome.
So this is in fact the main question that should be preoccupying us: Is an independent Palestine in line with the 1967 borders worse than one state for the two peoples? Because it’s either one option or the other. It appears the status quo, as much as most Israelis favor it, is about to end. So which option is better?