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Israel's Options

Hassan A. Barari


Amid what appears to be a new wave of political initiatives in the Middle East, chief among them the daring Geneva accord signed last week, Israeli intellectuals and academics have been hectically formulating competing policy options to handle the Palestinian problem. Five alternatives can be discerned within the Israeli discourse.

The first option is a long-term interim agreement. The proponents of this deal make the case that the Palestinians are not prepared for a final and comprehensive solution. Thus, both sides would be better off if they agree on reconstructing the roadmap plan and have it implemented gradually, over a period of 15 years. Gradualism contributed, by and large, to the failure of the Oslo process. The problem with such approach is that it allows the enemies of peace on both sides to foil any chance of progress. Moreover, given the long period of implementation, there is no reason to assume that the leadership on either side will remain committed to this scheme.

Those who are affiliated with the settlement movement suggest a more extremist option of maintaining the status quo. They are motivated by the anachronistic ideology that deems Greater Israel as a practical option. By perpetuating the status quo, Israel would realise its territorial goals. Explicit in their argument is that peace will work against Israel's interests.

A third option is a comprehensive agreement with the Palestinians, molded around the Geneva accord. Proponents of this alternative believe that perpetuating the occupation or, worse, the preemption of a two-state solution is incompatible with the aspiration of the Zionist dream of having a Jewish democratic state. They do not concur with Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon's mantra that there are no Palestinians with whom to talk. The Geneva document exposed the fallacy of this argument.

A fourth option is to bring about an international intervention. Such an intervention would be only as an Israeli tool to implement a two-state solution. It is different from Martin Indyk's suggestion, a few months ago, of trusteeship.

The last option that is being discussed widely is unilateral withdrawal. The working assumption is that there is no Palestinian partner with whom to talk. Advocates of this option argue that the problem is not only with the Palestinian leadership but also with the Palestinians at large. They are unfazed by the Geneva document that proves beyond doubt that Palestinians are both capable and willing to make peace a strategic option. They also back the controversial fence, albeit they disagree with its path. They do not, however, suggest the Green Line to be the border of unilateral withdrawal.

The aforementioned options are informal and none of them will be adopted by the Israeli government, which has proved, time and again, its incapacity to handle the plethora of peace initiatives. Regardless of the motivation behind the supporters of each option, one fact remains clear: Israel is not living in a void. Any alternative that does not take the regional dynamics into account will certainly backfire. Israelis should understand that they need to live in the region with other countries and not in spite of them. The only option that will be accepted by regional players is one that is based on a two-state solution.

Other options are really not options, but fantasies. This is the first time that Palestinians and Israelis have succeeded in signing a document, albeit an informal one, that addresses the most complicated and knotty issues. A sane Israeli leadership would waste no time and would build on this groundbreaking development. Failing to do so will only complicate, rather than solve, the problem.

Hassan A. Barari is a researcher at the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan and the author of "Israeli Politics and the Middle East Process, 1988-2002.”

Source: The Jordan Times, December 10, 2003
www.jordantimes.com - http://www.israel21c.org

From the Common Ground News Service
hagalil.com 18-12-2003

hagalil.com 18-12-2003



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