On the one hand, despite the doomsday scenarios we’ve been hearing in recent weeks, I’m having trouble getting frightened by what we can expect the day after the vote. With all due respect to UN decisions, this is not a strategic threat for the State of Israel. After all, the Palestinians already declared statehood in 1988, most states of the world recognized it, yet despite this neither peace nor a Palestinian state prevailed. Instead, we got Arafat thanks to our team of dreamers.
I’m also having trouble accepting the argument that time works against us in the Palestinian context. A Palestinian state without ability to govern itself and without desire for democratic government is not a recipe for stability. And when there is no stability, diplomatic progress means greater risk.
In my view, Abbas’ actions – that is, his struggle against the State of Israel’s legitimacy, the incitement he is party to through his silence and the gimmicks adopted by his UN representatives – show us that expecting peace with him is wholly exaggerated.
Despite all of the above, ignoring the Palestinian declaration of statehood is problematic. We cannot disprove the logic of those who seek to initiate early Israeli recognition of a Palestinian state. Silence and disregard are no substitute for policy.
After all, if Israel objects to a Palestinian state and merely wants to buy time, we must simultaneously develop and encourage alternatives. If Israel’s government is in favor of a Palestinian state – as Netanyahu declared in his Bar-Ilan speech – then it is no less important to declare where such state should exist, so that the international community does not endorse impractical notions.
Rare islands of consensus
Yet for the time being, we are doing nothing on either front. The only thing we have at this time is real difficulty in identifying the current government’s direction, and this can only be blamed on an effort to avoid setting targets.
I do not underestimate the difficult situation faced by Netanyahu, who is constrained on all sides by local parties and by an international community with its own interests. However, some decisions can be made without falling into diplomatic traps, at least not in respect to the domestic Israeli discourse. I am not referring to new ideas, but rather, to basic assumptions that we can find in almost any diplomatic plan – rare islands of consensus that merely require action to be taken and a decisive stance.
This can be applied to the attitude to settlement blocs and to Palestinian population centers in Judea and Samaria. For most Israelis (and even for the Americans, in the past) there are no question marks about Ariel, Gush Etzion and Maale Adumim. Any theoretical peace agreement, including the most delusional ones, connects these blocs to the State of Israel. A Palestinian declaration of statehood at the UN is a good reason to annex these blocs officially and create continuous Jewish settlement there.
In order not to turn this into a provocative move only, Israel can at the same time officially recognize Palestinian sovereignty over Arab population centers in Judea and Samaria such as Ramallah and Jenin. That is, a Palestinian state alongside Israel on at least part of the land under dispute. Politically speaking, with the exception of a handful of nutcases, there is nobody who wishes to settle at these sites these days.
In terms of security, we’ll be able to contend with such move. It will indeed fail to resolve the core issues, but at least make the boundaries of the dispute clear.
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