Thursday, November 25, 2010

J Street: Time For An American Plan

Readers of this blog know of my high regard for J Street. Its leadership has just released a statement that is worth reading with no comment from me, except to say that readers will also not be surprised by how fervently I agree with it.

In the coming days or weeks, the United States may reach agreement with Israel on an extension of the limited moratorium on settlement construction on the West Bank, and the terms of that extension may be sufficient to bring the Palestinian leadership to the table as well. J Street would welcome the resumption of direct talks, but our interest is less in reaching an agreement to keep talking or over the format of those talks than in finding a route to actually ending the conflict between the parties.

Therefore, we believe it is time for the Obama administration to adopt a bolder, more assertive approach in its efforts to resolve the Middle East conflict. The Administration should focus – with or without resuming direct negotiations and/or a 90-day extension of the moratorium – on delineating an agreed-upon border between the state of Israel and the state-to-be of Palestine, and on establishing security arrangements and that would accompany a two-state deal.

J Street supports long-standing American policy that both parties – Israel and the Palestinians – should comply with all of their internationally-recognized obligations. This includes prior Israeli commitments under the Road Map and other agreements both to stop all new settlement construction over the Green Line and to remove outposts, as well as Palestinian commitments to ensure security and prevent incitement.

However, the time has come for the United States to put forward a proposal to establish a border and security arrangements. With a border established, there will be no further need to negotiate over settlement construction. Both Israel and the Palestinians will be able to build where they please within their borders and not beyond.

Detailed security arrangements are necessary to guarantee a two-state deal and to address the full range of threats it faces (from Iran, from Hezbollah and from within Palestinian lands). Such a security plan will give Israelis the confidence that there is a U.S.-led international commitment to their long-term security as Israel pulls back from control of the territories. Finalizing arrangements on borders and security will then create a positive momentum toward addressing other final status issues.

Even if there is a new 90-day moratorium, it will pass quickly, and the Administration and the parties cannot afford to reach day 89 and suddenly find yet another impasse and crisis. Therefore, we suggest that the United States adopt a “borders and security first” strategy along the following lines:

If there is a resumption of talks, engage the parties in an exercise under American supervision to draw the actual border between the two states based on the following principles:
  • The borders should create the new Palestinian state on the equivalent of 100 percent of the land beyond the 1967 Green Line with one-to-one land swaps.
  • The borders should allow for many existing settlements, (which could account for as many as three-quarters of all settlers) to be part of Israel’s future recognized sovereign territory.
  • The agreement on borders between the states should also address the border within Jerusalem with the exception of the Old City and its very immediate environs.
  • If the sides are not able to reach agreement on borders within the 90-day period, or if “direct talks” do not in fact resume, the United States should present a proposal to both sides that adheres to the parameters presented above for a yes or no decision, with the support of the Quartet and other international stakeholders.
  • Simultaneously, address and finalize the security arrangements between Israel and a demilitarized future Palestine, and at Palestine’s external international border crossings, allowing for the deployment of an international force to guarantee the agreed provisions. The US should take this occasion to reiterate its commitment to guaranteeing the long-term security of Israel.
  • Once the border and security arrangements are agreed and in accordance with an agreed-upon timetable, Israel will withdraw from all of the territories designated for the Palestinian state and all other provisions will be implemented.
  • In parallel with implementation of the border/security arrangements, negotiations will then continue (or resume) on all other outstanding final status issues.
We also suggest that the Obama administration expressly take note of the Arab League Peace Initiative and urge the Arab League to recognize this new American-led effort as consistent with and responsive to their offer to achieve comprehensive, regional peace. To this end, we suggest opening discussions under US supervision to address the outstanding issues between Israel and Syria with the goal of achieving a comprehensive, regional agreement (including between Israel and Lebanon) that leads to full recognition and acceptance of the state of Israel by the Arab League.

A comprehensive regional deal will significantly reduce Iranian influence and its capacity to act as a spoiler in the region, posing the following choice for the regime in Tehran: either join the consensus for peace and recognition for Israel or be further isolated. The former option will open new horizons for negotiations with Iran while the latter would increase U.S. and regional leverage with Iran as the international community re-dedicates itself to preventing Iranian obstructionism and development of a nuclear weapons capacity.

The parties and outside experts are more than familiar with the options and trade-offs needed to establish a border and with it a viable, contiguous Palestinian state. This proposal puts the key question squarely before both the leadership and people on both sides and asks them to express their political willingness to actually achieve a viable solution – rather than continuing to put the spotlight on talks about talks and the conditions for entering into them.


David said...

Until now J Street has been mainly an echo chamber for the administration's half-hearted if not destructive Israel-Palestine policies. In their own words, "we've got your back, Mr. President."

Now that the Two State solution appears to be dead on arrival, J Street seems to be waking from their torpor and this call on the Obama administration is a welcome sign.

The problem is, it's like crying over a corpse that cannot be revived.

esthermiriam said...

Not a corpse quite yet....
From APN's Laura Friedman, a parallel perspective coming to position similar to J Street's --

Y,. Ben-David said...

Dream on.
First of all, J-Street is an artificial organization which, using the cover of being "pro-Israel, pro-peace" is actually nothing more than a "Jews for Obama" front. The fact that their web sites crows about "2/3 of the Jews voted for Democratic candidates" in the recent election proves this. If J-Street was really "pro-Israel" they would not recruit voters only for the Democrats but anyone, including Republicans who support their supposed goals.

Secondly, the terms outlined above which seem so reasonable to "progressives" are totally unacceptable to the Palestinians. They will insist on full control of the Jewish holy places in Jersualem with the claim that they are in reality Muslim and that any Jewish claims to the contrary are a fraud (are they, Dr Avishai?). Thus, they will demand full control of the Western Wall, as they have pointed out in recent press releases.

Thirdly, there is the biggest obstacle of them all which the progressives insists on ignoring because it spoils the party....insistence on IMPLEMENTATION of the Palestinian "right of return" of the refugess. They will not give this up.
It must be repeated that the terms of a possible agreement stated in this posting are unacceptable to the Palestinians. They have made clear their demands are non-negotiable. A "Palestinian state living in peace and prosperity side by side with Israel" is an abomination to the Arab world and any Palestinian leader who should agree to this would go down in history as a traitor to the Arab cause. Sadat's fate is a clear warning.

David said...

To Mr. Ben-David: Employing your own logic we must conclude that the killing of Rabin is a clear warning that Israelis don't want peace.

But of course we don't know that yet.

Now we'll have to wait for the first national referendum on returning stolen land to see if the Israelis really do want peace.

Anonymous said...

Bernard, glad to see you agree with J Street statement. I like tooth fairies myself - lose a tooth - get a price, right?

This statement certainly makes a good "wishing upon star" document. As in "If only we could agree on borders, it'll all fall into place!". Alas, this and document like it fail to take into account a few odds and ends taken out of the rubric known as "reality", such as:

1. US Congress will never, ever, let Obama - or anyone else - put any kind of brake on Israel. Read all about that in the latest NYT.
2. Israel passed a referendum law, precisely o that any agreement requiring ANY relinquishment of land to become a non-starter.
3. Most Israelis - especially the one outside the Tel Aviv bubble don't care much about some "Peace". Certainly not one that come with any price that may threaten in any way the goodies that come with the spoils of war, some of which go under the code name "security need".
4. J Street itself is hardly representative of the Jewish community in the US - it has SOME funding and can make SOME noise. Neither of which is sufficient to go up against the far better funded and infinitely more influencial AIPAC. Nor is it enough clout to convince the left flank of the jewish community that perhaps they should relinquish the quest for justice and human rights in the name of " half a loaf is better than nothing."

So, all in all, this document seems to be a tacit admission of failure since none of the assumption on which it rest have a solid basis in the real reality.

Mitchell J. Freedman said...

Mr. Ben-David,

Please read this article from the Los Angeles Times:

I have always felt "right of return" is a bargaining chip. You can say that is naive, but with the Arab League endorsing a two state solution and recognizing the Israeli state predominates as Jewish, there is again little doubt it is a bargaining chip.

Potter said...

I posted something yesterday which was here and now is missing. Anywa it was along the lines of anonymous’ post above. I basically agree with that post. Since we are now in the time of Obama's re-election campaign essentially- I see no evidence that he will have the courage audacity boldness to push for a yet-to-be-created better plan that would be more appealing (in referendums on each side as well) than any plan the parties may come up with in 90 days by themselves. J street, appropriately, calls for timely action. The key is urgency on each side and I am afraid that Israeli's think they have no urgency. Palestinians may have too much mistrust to give in to what seems like a concession not to talk about everything at once and allow settlements to continue. Palestinians have said that they want a comprehensive agreement, nothing piecemeal and with good reason: they fear that Israeli's will be content to leave issues like right of return and Jerusalem unresolved and live with an un-ended conflict. J Street suggests that ground zero in this conflict be left out of the discussions. J Street suggests that settlements can continue meanwhile. No doubt they will and by those betting on continued “status quo”.. and this will irritate. Does this mean that violence can begin or be turned up as well?

I doubt very much that Obama is going to push this with consequences to be paid either if there is no success. There is the question of how, as this proposal says, 3/4 of the settlements can stay unmoved and there still be a viable Palestinian state.

All that, if it can be overcome, will have to face obstinate rejection by hardliners on each side. That means Hamas (not included in these talks, a mistake). As well settler fundamentalists and their fervent supporters in Israel will be acting up and out. But that confrontation will and has to happen no matter what. So an agreement must be supported strongly by everyone else involved… that means the people as well.

Still- I'd like to see this proposal tried ( or Yuval Rabin's or the Geneva Initiative) but only if Obama was willing to risk for it- so desperate and hopeless and running out of time the situation seems. Obama has it in him- somewhere. Could yet another failure bring any more despair?

Potter said...

In the post that I lost I made another point I now remember: this proposal seems to have been written with sensitivity only to Israel's ( in my opinion outsized) security needs and not Palestinian needs as a sovereign entity.. assuming that the new state would be demilitarized and therefore unable to protect itself against possible future Israeli aggression.

Y. Ben-David said...

Mitchell Freedman-
The Arab Initiative, as far as I know, does NOT recognize Israeli as "Jewish", it simply recognizes the existence of an Israeli state...and their initiative calls for the "Right of Return" . The "moderate" Arab view of Israel's future is that the the Jewish population will, after the "right of return" is implemented, become a minority in the country, whose name will eventually be changed to reflect its true "Arab" nature. Something like Lebanon. The "extremist" Arab position is to "throw the Jews into the sea". THERE ARE NO ARABS THAT ENVISION A PALESTINIAN STATE "LIVING SIDE BY SIDE WITH A JEWISH ISRAEL IN PEACE AND PROSPERITY".

Your belief that the "rigth of return" is a "bargaining chip" is simply wishful thinking. You have to realize that not everyone in the world wants the same things that you or Dr Avishai wants.

Y. Ben-David said...

FATAH rejects " a Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement that everyone knows the terms of" which is so beloved by Dr Avishai and the rest of the Israeli/Jewish 'peace mafia'. Of course, Dr Avishai has assured us that "the entrepeneurial elites are going to push aside the gunmen of FATAH" and then will make peace on the terms that the 'peace mafia' wants. How and when this is going to happen is not clear. I guess this will occur AFTER the "enterpeneurial elites" of Egypt, Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Algeria, etc. push aside the dictatorial cliques that control those countries and joins Avishai's utopian "globalized economy" where everyone's only interest is making as much money as possible.

Potter said...

The demand to accept Israel as a “Jewish” state is an obstacle that has surfaced recently. It’s injected into discussions and demands by those who do not wish to end the conflict.- perhaps as a counter pre-condition to Palestinians more reasonable insistence that Israel stop settling on Palestinian land, land that would be their state. I am afraid also, as Israel is the stronger party militarily and perhaps is under the illusion it does not need a peace agreement, this is designed to stall for more time which Israel does not really have (and in it’s collective subconscious must know).

It’s been clear that Arabs, Palestinians and the world accepts Israel as an established state. Being a member of the UN gives legitimacy as well. The PLO in 1993 has recognized Israel. Israel is as much a fact as any other state on the planet, though it is losing the respect of many.

Insisting that the Palestinian side recognize Israel as a “Jewish” state is, prior to a peace agreement, a threat to Arabs/Palestinians living in Israel and to those who have a legitimate claims to settle. The Jewish character of Israel has to do with Israel’s self-definition and of which Israel should show good example. Israel is in no urgent need of anyone else’s acceptance or rejection of that description… not in more need of such acceptance than a peace agreement certainly.

Mitchell J. Freedman said...

Mr. Ben-David,

Neither of us knows for certain whether it is a bargaining chip. You are confident that it is not a bargaining chip. I am confident that it is.

The only way to know is to test our competing hypotheses. And that is by the Israeli government sitting down with Palestinian leaders and talking peace. Just cut out the settlement building, and let's get down to peace talks.

Your position is an inverted wishful thinking. It is a version based upon fear and loathing. And if you think that is ad hominem, than ask yourself what calling people naive or wishful thinkers are.

Y. Ben-David said...

Mitchell Freedman-
There have been two, or really three intensive negotiating sessions between Israel and the Palestinians since the Oslo Agreements were made in 1993. The first two were under Barak's government in 2000 (Camp David) and Taba (2001), and the third was under Olmert's KADIMA gov't in 2008. All issues were on the table. Both Israeli Prime Ministers involved were committed to an almost complete withdrawal from Judea/Samaria (the "West Bank) and both were willing to divide Jeruslaem. Both were willing to knock down most settlements. Both were willing to hand over Judaism's holiest places to the Palestinians. Yet the Palestinians REFUSED to compromise, particularly on the "Right of Return". They have repeated innumerable times that it is NOT a negotiating ploy, that is their basic, non-negotiable demand. I take them at their word. They ave not moved one iota in their demands since FATAH and the old PLO agreed to the "2-state solution" in the 1970's. This is the reason that no peace agreement is possible and that is why veteran "peace mafia" people like Yossi Beilin and Yossi Alpher of "Bitterlemons" now are pushing for an "interim agreement" which, of course, is unacceptable to the Palestinians as well, because it leave the refugee question up in the air.

Anonymous said...

Mitchell Freedman,

You cited a LA Time article from 1989. The article is about Faisal Husseini, who is claimed to be open to negotiation with regards to the Palestinian right of return, hasn't held an official post since 1991 and died in 2001. His statements hold very little to no sway now.

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