A wave of recognition of the nonexistent "free and independent" State of Palestine is moving through Latin America and beyond. Though the precise meaning of this development is uncertain, it's clearly part of a strategy aimed at imposing a fait accompli. It is a dangerous strategy that will only amplify the climate of hostility, and push off prospects for a solid and long-lasting peace.
Such a nonexistent state will be based on reinstatement of the 1967 borders, which are not real borders at all, but rather armistice lines, and establishment of East Jerusalem as its capital. Such an unhealthy formula could reach the United Nations in the first half of 2011, where an automatic anti-Israel majority can be expected to vote for recognition.
Though the new State of Palestine will begin to function in a provisional capital in Ramallah and in the territory currently under its control, it will seek international support to force a total Israeli withdrawal, the redivision of Jerusalem and the evacuation of 300,000 settlers in Judea and Samaria, as well as Israel's acceptance of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees. And when Israel fails to comply, it will stand accused of violating international law and find itself subject to sanctions.
Needless to say, the UN will not worry if Palestine is demilitarized or not, nor will it press for measures to control the influx of missiles that could hit the most strategic points in Israel.
One has to be blind or bereft of memory to fail to understand the imminent danger, and the passiveness of Israeli leaders' response is outrageous. They commit the sin of losing the initiative. The consequences will be dire.
Moshe Dayan, when asked in 1975 what Israel intended to do vis-a-vis the territories occupied in the Six-Day War, responded that "the decision is not to decide." Dayan apparently forgot that it was a timely decision in early June 1967 that saved Israel from a certain demise.
Had Israel followed that war with additional initiatives - e.g., the return of two-thirds of Sinai and a small strip of the Golan Heights, as well as creation of a demilitarized Palestinian state in part of the West Bank - the world would have supported it. But this did not happen. Later, when concessions were made, they were far larger.
In 1977, the initiative came from Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, and its impact meant that the hawkish politician Menachem Begin withdrew from Sinai to the last inch. To be sure, Israel's concessions were praised, and it looked as if peace with its other neighbors was inevitable. But this move also set a grave precedent, establishing the pre-1967 borders as the standard and ignoring the fact that borders in the Middle East are ever-changing. It was obvious that Syria would not settle for less than Egypt received. And now, the Palestinian are asking for similar terms.
What initiatives should Israel take in the current situation, which we can characterize as one of emergency?
I believe that Benjamin Netanyahu is in the same position as Begin of 1979. And if he can recover the initiative and persuade world opinion that the division of Jerusalem and the re-establishment of "Auschwitz borders" (as Abba Eban referred to the pre-1967 lines ) are not the best options - he has a good chance of achieving peace.
Netanyahu should publicly ask President Obama to convene and participate an urgent meeting at Camp David, with the president and the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority. He should state his intention to turn over to the future Palestinian state significant parts of the territories, but with modifications that should benefit both parties, in terms of population and security concerns. He should commit to providing technological support to the new state in the areas of agriculture, electricity, water, health care and tourism.
At the same time, the premier must make it very clear that Israel will not allow the violation of freedom of worship, the desecration of holy sites or the re-division of Jerusalem.
The Palestinian state should be demilitarized, as was, for example, Costa Rica. Additionally, until a fraternal atmosphere is consolidated, the borders should be monitored by friendly countries and by Israel itself. I propose dividing the approximately 300,000 settlers into three groups (an idea originally raised by A.B. Yehoshua ), on the basis of a formula to be negotiated. The first group would move to various places within Israel. The second would remain in the new state - after all, if Israel's population is one-fifth Arab, then why can Palestine not incorporate 100,000 Jews? The third group, together with the areas where they live, should be annexed to Israel.
Peace should constitute a new era for the refugees of the 1948-49 war. The camps should be dismantled, and their residents transferred to areas within the new state. The rich Arab countries that pour fortunes into pharaonic projects, should commit themselves to create farms, factories and homes for these people: This would be the best "fertilizer" for the Palestinian state.
Netanyahu could also express the desire to see an Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian confederation, which would encompass the historical area of Palestine.
These are not the only initiatives required, but they can lead to others. The objective: to bring about the dawn of a new state that could live and prosper alongside Israel, without making endless claims or continuing to play the role of victim. To achieve this end, it is imperative that Israel's leaders take the steering wheel and start pressing the accelerator.
Dr. Marcos Aguisin is the best-selling author of more than 30 works of fiction and nonfiction in his native Argentina. He is the winner of many literary awards, and holds honorary doctorates from both Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University.
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