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Jul-15-2013 16:58printcomments

Israel's Response to Arab League Shows it May be Palestinians With No Peace Partner

Many of Israel's strongest supporters in the U.S. lament the way Israel rejected the Arab League initiative and Kerry's efforts to re-start the peace process.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

(WASHINGTON DC) - Israel frequently says that it has "no partner for peace." In fact, the real situation seems far different.

In 2002, the Arab League launched a peace initiative saying that if Israel withdrew to its pre-1967 borders it could be recognized by the entire Arab world. More recently, in May, Qatar's Prime Minister tried to revive the Arab peace initiative, moderating it to hew closer to the outlines presented by the Obama administration since 2011.

The updated version pulls back from the 2002 demand that Israel withdraw to the 1967 borders in exchange for a comprehensive peace. Instead, Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani proposed "comparable and mutual agreed minor swaps of land"----a formulation that opens the door to Israel's retention of several major settlement blocs. Hamad also did not mention the Palestinian "right of return" and the division of Jerusalem, elements of the original Arab initiative.

A State Department official said of the new plan, "It's a sign that the Arab League is a constructive member in the process." Secretary of State John Kerry hailed what he called the Arab League's "very big step forward." With regard to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's reaction, THE ECONOMIST provided this assessment: "He called.for the Arab League first to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, a demand made of neither Egypt nor Jordan before they signed their peace treaties with Israel...

Liberal Israelis condemned Mr. Netanyahu for sounding as rejectionist as the Arabs had been before the torturous peace process began. 'There's an antagonistic convergence between Bibi (Mr. Netanyahu) and Hamas,' says Matti Steinberg, a former senior Israeli intelligence man. 'He says he's against a bi-national single state, but is not ready to pay the price for two.' Although the Americans hoped that the Arab League statement and Mr. Abbas's cautious acceptance of it would shunt the ball into Israel's court. Mr. Netanyahu faces little domestic pressure to address it."

Evidence that the government of Israel is not inclined to move forward with the peace process is growing. Housing Minister Naftali Bennett told a settlers' conference in mid-June that Israel should "build, build, build" in the Palestinian territories and annex over 60 per cent of the West Bank immediately." And late in June, the ruling Likud Party elected Danny Danon, Israel's deputy defense minister, as chairman of its central committee. He declared: "The Likud Party is still the party of the national camp of Israel, still the party that believes we have rights to the land in Judea and Samaria, and I think that the majority of the party still isn't supporting the idea that there will be a Palestinian state in our backyard."

Danon publicly rejects the government's official line on peace negotiations. In an interview with the Jewish newspaper THE FORWARD (July 12, 2013), he declared: "I understand the importance of political power, so I will use my strength and influence to convince as many people as I can within the party and outside the party that a Palestinian state is bad news for Israel."

According to THE FORWARD, "Danon is no outlier. In the recent Likud elections, all the major positions in the party infrastructure went to Likudniks significantly to Netanyahu's right---some of whom propose the annexation of large parts of the Israel-occupied West Bank...Danon explained his desire for 'political power'---and implied that his eagerness to become a lawmaker in the first place stemmed from a need to stop Netanyahu from making concessions... Danon wants Israel to annex significant parts of the West Bank as does the new head of Likud's ideological committee, Zeev Elkin, the deputy foreign minister."

A consensus is growing in Washington that it may not be Israel which has no "partner for peace," but the Palestinians and the larger Arab world. Columnist Michael Gerson, writing from Tel Aviv in THE WASHINGTON POST in mid-July notes that Israelis seem to have lost interest in resolving the Palestinian question: "Recent Israeli elections were almost exclusively focused on nation-building at home. Israel is in the midst of a tech-led economic boom...and feels very distant (though it isn't by miles) from Gaza and the West Bank. Israel is also protecting its 'villa in the jungle' (former Prime Minister Ehud Barak's description) more effectively than most thought possible. The vast security wall is ugly but effective. The Iron Dome and other missile defense systems have proved their worth. The result is the best security situation in Israel's history...It has encouraged an Iron Dome mentality in which every national problem appears to have a technical solution. Many Israelis seem content to manage conflict rather than resolve it through negotiations."

Many of Israel's strongest supporters in the U.S. lament the manner in which the Israeli government has rejected the Arab League initiative as well as Secretary of State Kerry's efforts to re-start the peace process. The Anti-Defamation League's Abraham Foxman, for example, calls Prime Minister Netanyahu's rhetorical support of a two-state solution "not credible." When it comes to "partners for peace," the evidence indicates that the absent party is the Netanyahu government.

_________________________________________ contributor Allan C. Brownfeld received his B.A. degree from the College of William and Mary, his J.D. degree from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law of the College of William and Mary and his M.A. in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland. He has served on the faculties of St. Stephen's Episcopal School, Alexandria, Virginia, and the University College of the University of Maryland.

The recipient of a Wall Street Journal Foundation Award, Mr. Brownfeld has written for such newspapers as THE HOUSTON PRESS, THE RICHMOND TIMES DISPATCH, THE WASHINGTON EVENING STAR and THE CINCINNATI ENQUIRER. For many years he wrote three columns a week for such newspapers as THE PHOENIX GAZETTE, THE MANCHESTER UNION LEADER, and THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER. His weekly column appeared for more than a decade in ROLL CALL, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. His articles have appeared in such journals as THE YALE REVIEW, THE TEXAS QUARTERLY, THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW, ORBIS and MODERN AGE.

Mr. Brownfeld served as a member of the staff of the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee and was the author of that committee's 250-page study of the New Left. He has also served as Assistant to the Research Director of the House Republican Conference and as a consultant to such members of Congress as Reps. Phil Crane (R-Il) and Jack Kemp (R-NY) and to the Vice President of the United States.

He is a former editor of THE NEW GUARD and PRIVATE PRACTICE, the journal of the Congress of County Medical Societies and has served as a Contributing Editor AMERICA'S FUTURE and HUMAN EVENTS. He served as Washington correspondent for the London-based publications, JANE'S ISLAMIC AFFAIRS ANALYST and JANE'S TERRORISM REPORT. His articles regularly appear in newspapers and magazines in England, South Africa, Sweden, the Netherlands and other countries. You can write to Allan at



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pinkfloyd July 15, 2013 5:44 pm (Pacific time)

"The recipient of a Wall Street Journal Foundation Award" lol, need I say more? And the circus continues. And john kerry? major lol...sorry, but I have a hard time with this rhetoric. I just laugh at it now.

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