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Baker “Israel will be unable to maintain both its Jewish and democratic character while occupying the West Bank”

By: Extracts from Jim Lobe's Foreign Policy Blog

22.02.2010 

The James Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University has published a major report entitled “Getting to the Territorial Endgame of an Israeli-Palestinian Peace Settlement” based on off-the-record deliberations of former U.S., Israeli, and Palestinian officials over an 18-month period. The reports calls, among other things, for Washington to play a more aggressive role in getting the two sides to a peace agreement, including by offering a “bridging proposal” on territory and borders.
 
Noting the new report, the National Journal Saturday published an interview with Baker and his top Middle East aide, Institute’s director Edward Djerejian, in which he accuses Obama of “caving in” on the settlements issue and argues that it is “not unreasonable to ask the Israeli leadership to respect U.S. policy on settlements” in light of the aid that we have provided to its government. Like Jimmy Carter — and for that matter, Defense Minister Ehud Barak — Baker also argues that Israel will have negotiate a peace with Palestinians or “become an apartheid type of nation.”
 
Below are relevant quotes from the interview taken from Jim Lobe's Foreign Policy Blog:
 
NJ: Secretary Baker, how do you assess today’s prospects for a peace deal?
 
Baker: Well, the situation is difficult, but there are some new dynamics in play. First and foremost, there is a general appreciation on the part of the Israeli body politic that Israel will be unable to maintain both its Jewish and democratic character as long as it continues to occupy Arab lands and, in particular, the West Bank. More and more Israelis understand that sooner or later, the demographics of occupation [given higher Arab birthrates] are going to overwhelm them. If Israel doesn’t want to become an apartheid type of nation — and as a democracy I don’t believe it does — then in order to retain its Jewish, democratic character Israel will have to find a negotiated peace. As positive as the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza was, it showed that unilateral actions alone will not bring about a lasting peace.
 
NJ: Secretary Baker, given current circumstances and your long experience with this problem, is a two-state solution still attainable?
 
Baker: Yes, because everyone knows what a two-state solution looks like and the general formula for getting there. Ed is right — the tough thing is marshaling the necessary political will. In that regard, I always stress a few axioms for negotiating the Arab-Israeli conflict. First, because of our special relationship with Israel and the fact that we’re trusted by the Israelis in ways that other nations are not, you will get no progress toward peace without active U.S. participation.
 
Second, there is no military solution to this conflict, meaning a lasting peace depends on United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338.
 
Three, it’s the hard-liners on both sides that are the real problem.
 
My fourth axiom is the real Catch-22: Israel will never enjoy real security as long as it occupies Palestinian land, and Palestinians will never achieve an independent state as long as Israel feels insecure. The most important thing the United States can do is help them both out of that conundrum.