How to respond to Netanyahu

How to respond to Netanyahu

By Israela Oron, The World Today, Chathan House

April & may 2015
via The World Today, Chatham House (click here for the original article)
 
Europe’s consistent support for the Palestinian Authority has been based on the understanding that it would lead to the creation of a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. This support was encouraged over the past six years on the basis of Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2009 speech at Bar-Ilan University which gave the impression that he was willing to seriously negotiate with the Palestinians on the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. 
 
The Israeli prime minister’s recent dramatic pronouncement during the elections that he no longer supports the creation of a Palestinian state, following the likely formation of a right-wing Israeli government, raises questions about the relevance of European policy in the area. 
 
Does this statement necessarily spell the death of the two-state solution? Should the Palestinian Authority be shut down in preparation for the inevitable single, binational state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean? 
 
An appraisal of the interests of the major international and regional stakeholders shows that the progress towards ‘one state’ is inconsistent with their interests: as to Israel, it threatens its democratic nature and portends an end to the main reason for its creation as the national home for the Jewish people. As for the Palestinians, a one-state framework would prevent them from realizing their right to self determination; it would also be a cause of friction between the two peoples and would continue to feed religious and national extremism in the region. 
 
For many years Israel has insisted that the conflict could only be solved by direct negotiations between the parties with a minimum of international involvement. However, numerous rounds of talks have clearly demonstrated that the two sides are not capable of making the necessary concessions on their own. An international initiative is now the only option. 
 
It is not clear whether the international community has the motivation to lead a serious initiative at this time. It has already invested enormous resources into solving the conflict and its patience is wearing thin. 
 
The refusal of both sides to exhibit flexibility generates the risk that the international community will turn its back on the conflict. This policy, if adopted, would be disastrous as the damage resulting from the perpetuation of the status quo threatens the interests of both the United States and Europe. 
 
In recognition of this new reality, the US has begun a re-evaluation of its policy towards the conflict. This is an opportunity for a European initiative for a new Security Council resolution, in cooperation with the US, which would force the two sides to their moment of truth, something they have successfully avoided to date: whether to go along and accept the international community consensus or reject it. 
 
Last year the Security Council rejected a Palestinian resolution to recognize a Palestinian state and the French shelved an alternate proposal that they had been working on. 
 
The sticking point was, and remains, the exact nature of the parameters to be included in the resolution. Any effective, balanced resolution would need to take into account the critical needs of each side including an appropriate solution to the security threats facing Israel, as well as to the territorial threat to the Palestinians. 
 
The resolution should take into account the understandings already reached on the core issues during both the official negotiations – Taba, Annapolis – and the unofficial talks – the Geneva Initiative. The resolution should facilitate the holding of an international conference to build a framework to ensure its implementation. 
 
Both the Palestinians and Israel have an interest in cooperating with this process – if reluctantly. 
 
If the Palestinian leadership still seeks a non-violent solution, only effective action in the international arena can help them fulfil their goals. Israel, too, should prefer action in the UN Security Council, where it can coordinate policy with the US and Europe, over dealing with unilateral Palestinian steps at the various international legal forum, and over an ongoing process of recognition of a Palestinian State within the 1967 lines by European governments and parliaments. 
 
Europe can also contribute to the process by working with other regional actors to help the current Swiss effort create a united Palestinian government which can genuinely speak for all Palestinians; and it could provide security guarantees to assuage the genuine security fears of Israel’s citizens. 
 
The international community has tools at its disposal to convince international actors to change their policy, in particular in cases such as this where the genuine interests of the outside powers and the two parties are aligned. 
 
Israel must understand that continuing occupation will have a significant economic cost, while the Palestinians must understand that there is a price tag for uncompromising demands. The current circumstances have created an opportunity for effective European involvement whose importance cannot be overstated. This opportunity must not be missed. 
 
Israela Oron is a retired Brigadier General in the Israel Defence Forces