Through its September initiative, the Palestinian political leadership will be reaping the rewards of the most creative diplomatic move undertaken since the Oslo Process got underway. Thanks to its impressive initiative, we shall see a change of direction in the global steering of the Palestinian issue. In fact, the world is expected to again vote on the Partition Plan; this will be done at a delay of 64 years, but with significant success. We should admit it.
Everyone is fed up with the Israeli mantra of “direct negotiations without preconditions.” The Netanyahu/Lieberman government is failing to elicit global trust beyond AIPAC’s areas of influence. The removal of the Israeli flag from the Cairo embassy was not just a response to the death of Egyptian forces on the Israel border; it also reflected outrage and hostility against the longtime occupation and its humiliating sights.
An historical review shows us that constitutive diplomatic decisions were taken in Jerusalem only in the wake of wars that constituted an existential threat. The most dramatic was the decision to accept the Partition Plan in November 1947. With World War II in the backdrop and the catastrophic scope of the Holocaust of European Jewry becoming known, an immediate existential need was created for a safe haven. This haven was the State of Israel, required for the sake of those uprooted from Europe and for the new immigrants from the Orient – even if such state could only be established in half of Eretz Yisrael.
This war is different
The War of Independence left us with a very long list of fallen individuals, who presented the state to the people on a silver platter. The Rhodes Agreement was signed. Within the armistice lines (“The Green Line”) Israel kept more extensive territory than the one designated to it according to the Partition Plan, but not the whole of Eretz Yisrael. Later, this turned into the “1967 borders” in the Middle East’s diplomatic discourse.
The Yom Kippur War – which marked the shattered dream of “Sinai within Israel” – gave rise to the peace treaty with Egypt. The Camp David Accord prompted Israel’s gradual withdrawal from the whole of Sinai. Thousands gave their lives and thousands of others were evicted from their homes. The Madrid Conference and the Oslo Process constituted the deepest historical effort thus far to facilitate Israeli-Palestinian cooperation. They were born against the backdrop of the First Gulf War, which included Iraqi attacks on Israel using strategic weapons.
The Disengagement Plan from the Gaza Strip and parts of Samaria was born in the events of the Second Intifada, where more than 1,000 Israelis were killed in murderous terror attacks. When Ramallah saw that Jerusalem is again seeking the Greater Land of Israel it chose to impose a new war on us, the diplomatic “September War.”
In three ways, this war is different than all the previous ones: Its timing is known in advance; it isn’t violent; and it isn’t directed at the people of Israel, but rather, only at their government. This war’s outcome is obvious: A tightening diplomatic siege against Israel and the undermining of the pillars of its membership in the family of nations – a “South Africanization” of the struggle. And the world shall be embracing this initiative.
Will Jerusalem be wise enough this time to adopt a leading diplomatic move before the diplomatic war breaks out? It appears that the Netanyahu/Lieberman government is sinking into denial and paralysis. Instead of turning the September Initiative into a diplomatic opportunity, Israel appears to be flying right into a certain crash against the diplomatic precipice. The conclusion: We must replace the government.
Ilan Baruch is a former senior official in Israel’s Foreign Ministry and ambassador to South Africa
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