The initial outlines of a future Israeli-Palestinian peace plan are starting to come clear. The proposal the United States presented to both sides doesn’t deal with all the core issues, but it does make clear that the Americans seriously intend to advance the diplomatic process, even if they don’t succeed in performing a miracle and bringing about the end of the conflict.
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This proposal – under which the Israel Defense Forces would continue to control the Jordan Valley, while the border crossings would be manned by both Israeli and Palestinian representatives, but Israel would have to withdraw its forces from most of the West Bank – naturally sparked disagreements on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides. But whereas Palestinians viewed the proposal as a kashrut certificate for continuing the Israeli occupation in at least some parts of the West Bank, in Israel the opposition stemmed from ideology.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon says the proposal would badly undermine Israel’s security. He objects to setting a timetable for the IDF’s withdrawal from the Jordan Valley, and rejects the idea that the IDF won’t be able to operate freely throughout the West Bank. In his view, an Israeli military presence in the territories is the ultimate guarantee that terror will be thwarted. He is overlooking the main reason for Palestinian terror: the continued occupation, its direct control over Palestinian lives and the insatiable settlement policy.
But Ya’alon’s opposition to the American proposal isn’t based just on military or strategic considerations. Its roots lie in his well-known view that there is no Palestinian partner with whom an agreement can be signed. For years, this view has served as cover for Israeli governments’ rejectionist policies. But it is a misrepresentation of reality, implying as it does that if there were a Palestinian partner, Israel would hasten to withdraw from the territories and give the Palestinians full governmental authority in the West Bank.
Israel is imprisoned in an ideology that rejects the solution of peace and views all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem as an inseparable part of the Land of Israel. In this worldview, it makes no difference who the partner is or what security and economic benefits an agreement might bring.
Ya’alon represents this ideology no less than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the far right do. He tries to conceal his worldview with security arguments, but practical solutions can be found for most of these – and in fact are found in the American proposal. Israel cannot – and has no right to – reject this enormous American effort out of hand, without holding a thorough, in-depth discussion that treats the proposal as a worthy opportunity rather than a nuisance.