Making a Silk Purse out of a Sow's Ear
Making a Silk Purse out of a Sow's Ear

By Ted Belman

Israel must also take no actions that prejudice a final settlement, and must help ensure that a new Palestinian state is truly viable. A state of scattered territories will not work.---Condi Rice

Unfortunately, no surprise there. It has been the US policy since the Six Day War to prevent Israel from acquiring territory by force. No doubt this position was cooked up in the "Oil Cabinet".

As a result, UNSC Res. 242 emphasized "the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war" even though this was not then and is not now, a recognized principal of international law. True that the words "all" or "the" were not included when it required "that Israeli armed forces withdraw from territories occupied as a result of the recent conflict", resulting in what diplomats call "constructive ambiguity". The resolution also required the establishment of "just and lasting peace in the Middle East" and "a just settlement of the refugee problem".

What constitutes a "just peace" or "just settlement" is anyone's guess. More important it is a cover for any principles that each side demands in the name of justice. For instance is a cold peace a "just peace". Or does the "just settlement" require repatriation or compensation? And if compensation will suffice, who is to pay it? Justice would demand that the Arab countries pay the compensation because it was their war of aggression that created both the Arab and the Jewish refugees.

This resolution wasn't accepted by the Arabs until the Oslo Accords were established. It then became the intended basis for settlement within the Oslo Accords...

Nowhere did it require that a Palestinian state be created or, if created, that it be viable or contiguous unless the latter were required for a "just peace". Obviously both sides have different opinions as to what would be just. Israel could rightly argue that having been subject to a war of aggression that justice requires compensation in some form in addition to the establishment of secure borders. It is much harder for the Arabs to argue that a just peace requires the creation of Palestine. After all such a state wasn't even mooted in 1967. Any lands that Israel armed forces were to withdraw from would have automatically become part of Jordan or Egypt. No notion of viability or contiguity there.

Furthermore, there was no requirement in Res 242 or in the Oslo Accords that settlement activity cease or be frozen. The US position has consistently considered the settlements as illegal, at worse or an obstacle to peace, at best. In fact there is nothing illegal about the settlements. After all the British Mandate was to enable "close settlement of the land by Jews." Nevertheless the Mitchell Report recommended a settlement freeze with no legal foundation and the State Department endorsed it.

Not until the release of the Roadmap did Israel accept this freeze at least in name. The fourteen redlines to the Roadmap which Israel articulated did not take issue with the freeze. I have long argued that the establishment of settlements served the purpose of making time be on Israel's side. That is, the more the Palestinians avoided making a settlement the larger the settlements would become. This was the only pressure Israel could really apply. Yet the US demanded that Israel do nothing to prejudge the outcome denying Israel this tool to bring about a settlement. It has also denied Israel the right of self defence from time to time. It effectively worked to hamstring Israel from bettering its position. I argue that so long as the Palestinians resort to terror to better their position, Israel should be permitted to build settlements to better its position. At a minimum, the two should be linked.

The Roadmap for the first time imposed the condition that a viable Palestinian State be created. The redlines also took no issue with the word "viable". Israel is being forced to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Israel is thus prevented from arguing that Palestine should not be created because it would not be viable and thus would not be a good or workable solution. Israel is being forced to make it viable at its own expense and peril. This includes sharing water supplies, hiring Palestinian workers, ceding sufficient land so that the state is contiguous and enabling some kind of passageway to Gaza. In addition it includes ceding the Golan, the Jordan Rift and the Philidelphi Corridor. Israel is also being forced to agree that Palestine be fully sovereign, thus allowing it to have control of its borders and air space.

Res 242 also contemplated the establishment of "demilitarized zones", yet it will be a fight for Israel to keep Palestine demilitarized even if it was agreed to. Russia has now offered to supply the PA with weapons in violation of the clauses in the Oslo Accords proscribing such.

Whatever happened to a negotiated settlement? Whatever happened to "secure borders"? The only thing left to negotiate is who takes out the garbage. Most of the outcome has been predetermined without any negotiation.

(c) 2005 Ted Belman


Reprinted by permission.