According to a widely quoted report from Israeli Army Radio (Galei Zahal) on Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will propose most of the security arrangements that Israel desires from any agreement with the Palestinians. It is rumored that on December 31st, Kerry will present a draft proposal to both sides which will outline the U.S. understanding of all outstanding issues to be addressed in any peace agreement. The Kerry draft will also give the U.S. proposals for Israeli military deployments in a future Palestinian state. Sources close to the Palestinian negotiating team say that Kerry and his team have already reserved hotel rooms for his year-end visit.
What is new about the Army Radio report (Hebrew) is that according to the Kerry plan a massive border fence would be built and Israeli surveillance drones would patrol Palestinian airspace.
According to the plan that was written by dozens of American officials, after consultation with former defense officials, a massive fence will be built along the Jordan Valley like the separation fence, thus the Palestinians will be imprisoned between the two fences. [My emphasis and trans., IG] Israeli drones will freely patrol the West Bank, and will be able to follow what is happening there, in order to watch over terror organizations and to gather intelligence.
Kerry will recommend that the Israeli military be solely responsible for guarding the Palestinian border with Jordan during the first years after any agreement. After a time, the Israelis would patrol the border in coordination with the Palestinians. This arrangement, which has been previously reported elsewhere, would last from 10 to 15 years, and would be terminated only if the Israelis agree that the Palestinians are capable of guarding the border unaided. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has vehemently rejected this proposal, stating that any presence of the Israeli military on Palestinian soil would be an infringement upon Palestinian sovereignty. He has been especially critical of the section giving Israel the sole authority to decide when and if the Palestinians are capable of securing the border, which Abbas fears could lead to Israeli forces remaining in the Jordan Valley indefinitely.
An official close to the Palestinian negotiations described Abbas as “boiling mad” after Kerry first informed him about the American ideas for a long-term Israeli presence in the West Bank. In a highly unusual diplomatic move, Abbas went over the head of the Secretary of State and his envoy Martin Indyk, by writing directly to President Obama to complain about the matter. The U.S. President’s reply is not known.
Abbas also met with Arab League officials in Cairo this week, where he received support for his public stance that no Israeli army personnel should be allowed in the future Palestinian state. The Palestinian President said that when Kerry formally presents his draft proposal he will not respond before showing it to the Arab League and getting its input.
The Israeli reaction to Kerry’s proposals, according to leaks from Israeli officials, is acceptance subject to negotiation. In other words, despite Kerry’s very pro-Israel draft, Netanyahu wants further concessions from the Palestinians or is just using further negotiations to block further discussions of the core issues.
The army radio report elicited much criticism of the Kerry plan from Israeli officials who, amazingly, think that it is too pro-Palestinian. Ze’ev Elkin, the Deputy Foreign Minister, said that Israel demands not only a military presence, but also must retain its Jordan Valley settlements, which is not part of the Kerry plan. Shaul Mofaz, a member of the Knesset and former Chief of the General Staff of the Israeli army, complained that Israel must retain not only a military presence but sovereignty in the Jordan Valley for at least 20 years.
When the negotiations were on the verge of collapse a number of weeks ago, the Palestinians pleaded with Kerry to take an active part in the talks and to put forth American proposals. From what we know now about what Kerry is tabling for discussion, Abbas and his team may regret that they ever asked for U.S. assistance.
On Christmas Day, The New York Times published an op-ed by a Palestinian academic named Ali Jarbawi, titled “The Coming Intifada.” Mr. Jarbawi makes it clear that the anger and hopelessness that is being felt by Palestinians is directly related to the impasse in the peace talks and the deleterious effects of American pressure on behalf of Israel. This is especially true because of the Israeli security demands which limit Palestinian territory and sovereignty. Jarbawi opines that U.S. pressure could force Abbas to sign an agreement which would in effect prolong the occupation, which could then trigger the next intifada.
Hope has always been correlated with the realities of the so-called peace process. When the latter seems promising, hope rises, and when the process stalls, so does the sense of hopefulness. The Palestinians’ strategic mistake was to think that conceding 78 percent of the land of historical Palestine in 1993 would be enough. It didn’t occur to them that Israel wanted to split this remaining land with them, leaving them with — in the best of cases — a state of leftovers.
Israel’s current conditions for a Palestinian state would shatter Palestinians’ basic demands for liberty and independence. The promised Palestinian state will be nothing but a shadow entity completely ruled by Israel. And the price that is being demanded for this state is so exorbitant that the Palestinian Authority cannot sell it, nor can the Palestinians accept it.
These pockets of land would be demilitarized, and Israel would have control over the borders, skies and natural resources. To get this, Palestinians must give up the right of return of diaspora Palestinians, and publicly declare that Israel is a Jewish state. This is a toxic cocktail perfectly mixed to produce a Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation, and the Authority as well — if the latter accepts these Israeli demands and yields to American pressure.