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Defining our own borders
Ophir Falk presents Israel’s best alternative to negotiated settlement with Palestinians

With the primaries now history and the national elections at our doorstep the real issues need to be addressed. Zionism and in particular its progeny, the State of Israel, can boast some of the greatest accomplishments in modern times. A people who have risen from the ashes, Israel has made the desert bloom and its economy thrive. But six decades since the modern re-establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people, the State of Israel has yet to realize one fundamental feature that many states accomplish upon their inception - secure and recognized borders.

 

Over the years Israel has made numerous efforts to reach an agreement with its neighbors that will put an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict, one that will provide Israel “peace within secure and recognized boundaries,” as referred to in UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. The most recent attempts at such an agreement were made in the 1991 Madrid Conference and later within the framework of the ill-conceived and tragic 1993 "Oslo Accords," followed by various deviations including the 2000 Camp David summit and 2007 Annapolis initiative. In search of security and quiet, Israel has also resorted to unilateral withdrawals without reciprocity from the north in 2000 and from the south in 2005 - with adverse results occurring on both accounts.

 

After years of negotiations, signed agreements and devastating carnage, the Palestinian government continues to insist on the return of all Palestinian "refugees" into Israel Proper, demanding Jerusalem as its capital and much more. These demands are in essence a denouncement of Israel's right to exist while attesting to the Palestinians' lack of ripeness for peace. Therefore, no viable agreement or durable peace can be attained with the current Palestinian leadership. Israel cannot and should not continue to wait for a Palestinian Godot.

 

With no worthwhile agreement available and with a vital need to define the nation's "secure and recognized" borders, Israel must adopt the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA).

BATNA is a concept that was originally developed by negotiation researchers Roger Fisher and Bill Ury of Harvard. Nobel Laureate John Forbes Nash also included such ideas in his research. BATNA is seen by many business and political negotiators as one of the most important sources of negotiation power, and should be applied in the Israeli-Arab conflict.

 

It is suggested that Israel’s BATNA should be to define its national borders after an in-depth national discussion, where options are presented to the public, a transparent referendum is held and a demarcation of the borders is carried out accordingly.

 

The "secure and recognized" borders should strive for international recognition and be based on a simple criteria of Maximum Area, Maximum Israelis and Minimum Non-Israelis within Israel's borders, limiting the evacuation of residents (of all nationalities) to an absolute minimum. The approach to achieving Israel’s BATNA should consist of five main elements:

 

1. To inculcate to the Israeli public the recognition that the Palestinian Authority is not a viable partner for peace. This observation is widely recognized and has become a matter of wide consensus today. Most Israelis understand that Palestinian leader Ismail Haniyeh is not a peace partner and that any negotiations with him are either counterproductive or futile.

 

2. Reach an international understanding that peace cannot be achieved with the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority. This objective may not be within immediate reach, yet it is closer than it has ever been since the PLO’s political rehabilitation in September 1993. This element is important but should not be considered a precondition for the implementation of Israeli self-defense measures.

 

3. Subsequent to reaching a military victory over Palestinian terror – a victory that will be considered as such once the capability of Palestinian terror to strike innocent Israelis is mitigated to the level known prior to the “Oslo Accords” - a permanent border based on Maximum Area, Maximum Israelis and Minimum non-Israelis is to be established. This border will ultimately receive its legitimatization by means of a national referendum. The most important part of the referendum is for Israelis themselves to finally recognize what their optimal borders are and for that line to be acknowledged as a "red line" from which no government is entitled to withdraw and on which the lion's share of Israelis are willing to fight for. This will put to an end to unilateral withdrawals without real peace agreements - unilateral withdrawals that weaken Israel and serve as catalysts for an escalation of terror.

 

4. As a permanent border is set, Israel should foster the prospect of a local grassroots Palestinian leadership. This will not be a simple task; however, in time, after Haniyeh and his cronies have made their exit from the Middle Eastern stage, a new generation of Palestinian leaders may arise. Leaders that are not be bound by the residues of the past and the constraints stemming from them, but rather, are dedicated to finding solutions for the future.

 

5. Finally, once borders are set and a local Palestinian leadership has been established, previously signed agreements can be implemented. That is, agreeing to what has already been agreed upon and implementing it as a confidence-building measure; supporting a civilian autonomy for the Palestinians; neutralizing security threats to Israel; and enhancing economic cooperation for the benefit of all. This should serve as the litmus paper test for the prospect of long-term, more permanent arrangements in the future.

 

Almost all internationally recognized borders came to be as a direct result of war (and, in many cases, population exchanges,) including borders of European countries. In its current war on terror, Israel must be victorious and define a border based on Maximum Area, Maximum Israelis and Minimum non-Israelis, while limiting the evacuation of residents, whether Arab or Jew, to an absolute minimum. This is the only formula for a security-minded separation that will restrain Palestinian terror from continuing to inflict indiscriminant carnage on innocent men, women and children, whose main aspiration is to live peacefully in their homeland.

 

The author is a partner at Naveh, Kantor, Even-Har Law firm and a research fellow at the International Counter-Terrorism Center in Herzliya

 

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