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Unilateral moves are a recipe for an explosion

By: GI Signatory Shaul Arieli, Ha'aretz

21.03.2010

 

The failure to conclude the peace process after 17 years and formulate a final-status agreement has driven the Palestinians, like Israel, to adopt a unilateral policy to achieve what negotiations haven't.
 
Could this policy, led by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and President Mahmoud Abbas, succeed, or will its fate be similar to that of the Israeli disengagement plan and the separation fence?
 
Evacuating the Gaza Strip settlements removed that land from the territorial demands package. But it strengthened the illusion that reducing direct Israeli control over 7 percent of the territories and 40 percent of Palestinians would help us "contain" the West Bank population within Israel. We were deluded into thinking that the country would remain both the "greater land of Israel" and "Jewish and democratic."
 
But even the separation fence, which stemmed from a security need but tried to give Israel 20 percent of the West Bank, has managed to keep "only" 4.5 percent of the territory on the "Israeli side." It leaves out Gush Etzion and Ma'aleh Adumim, which are adjacent to the Green Line, as well as Ariel and Kedumim, which are far from it.
 
Fayyad wants to establish pre-state institutions that would validate the 1988 Palestinian declaration of independence and meet international legal standards. But even if the European nations approve an initiative to recognize a Palestinian state before negotiations are completed, Israeli control of 60 percent of the West Bank foils any Palestinian act of independence. Israel controls the international border crossings, central thoroughfares, air space, water and electricity, making it impossible for Palestinians to do basic things like building an airport or a road network, and developing their economy.
 
But the biggest danger in unilaterally imposing moves rejected in negotiations is the potential for an escalation. Even if Israel's unilateral moves were initially intended to reduce the friction between the sides, their results prove they have failed.
 
Israel's unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip strengthened Hamas' control there and dragged Israel into two military operations. Setting the fence route on the basis of political considerations - the settlers' interests - turned the anti-fence protests, like those at Bil'in and Na'alin, into a symbol of Palestinian resistance. This resistance is gaining increasing international support.
 
Fayyad's plan blatantly ignores Israel. The Palestinians are demanding more international pressure on Israel and are threatening to stop the security coordination, following the escalation in recent weeks. This may drive the Netanyahu government to stop even the little it has done to remove roadblocks and deploy the Palestinian security forces. The construction freeze, even if it was only feigned, will stop, and several terror attacks will be all the government needs to find the budget to complete the fence, annexing as much land as possible.
 
At this point, with the encouragement of Iran, Syria and others, the road to a collision between radical settlers versus the "armed struggle" and "one Palestine" enthusiasts will be short. The land will go up in flames, and the Palestinian Authority's little security and economic stability of recent years will disappear.
 
The Palestinians must work toward resuming negotiations, and the international community, led by the United States, must work more vigorously with the Netanyahu government. Cooperation is required not only to prevent violence and strike agreements, but to implement the agreements given that both nations ultimately drink from the same well.