Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Javier Solana and an imposed 'peace' in the Middle East

'Real mediation'


Javier Solana has had enough. After 10 years as the European Union's foreign policy chief - and despite all the treasure and energy he has poured into Middle East peacemaking - the physicist-turned-diplomat is heading into retirement with Iran on the cusp of an atom bomb, Hamas solidifying its control over Gaza, and Mahmoud Abbas as recalcitrant as ever.

On July 11, Solana gave a speech to the Ditchley Foundation in London which made headlines.

Like many diplomats and intellectuals, Solana appears to regard a Palestinian state as some kind of regional cure-all. Reading between the lines, it's as if he believes that the mullahs in Iran will stop grabbing for regional hegemony, stealing (rigged) elections, and pursuing nuclear weapons; that Arab autocrats will guide their polities toward tolerance and representative government; that Shi'ites and Sunnis will stop blowing each other up; that Kurds, Copts and Baha'is will gain equality.

The Taliban in Afghanistan will liberate women from their burqas; North Africa's Islamists will lay down their weapons; al-Qaida will disband. And millions of restive, alienated Muslims throughout Europe will find a sense of belonging, allowing tranquility to prevail in the continent's inner cities... If only the Palestinians had a state.

THE FRAMEWORK for Palestinian statehood Solana referenced in his London speech included the Clinton Parameters and the Geneva Initiative. Israelis find these, whatever their imperfections, broadly acceptable as points of departure for negotiations.

It was on January 7, 2001 that then-president Bill Clinton called for the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state on most of the West Bank; for the incorporation of settlement blocs into Israel, and for land swaps as necessary. Palestinian refugees, he said, could "return" only to a non-militarized Palestine.

The European-financed Geneva Initiative similarly called for settlement blocs to be annexed to Israel and for a demilitarized Palestinian state. It also insisted that a solution to the refugee issue had to be found in "Palestine," not Israel.

Tellingly, Solana chose to ignore the fact that Ehud Olmert, at the end of 2008, had essentially offered Abbas a turbo-charged version of the Clinton Parameters. Abbas said no, insisting that Israel pull back to the 1949 Armistice Lines and permit itself to be demographically smothered by Arab "refugees" in their millions.

Solana's speech then went off on a tangent about settlements - about how many more Jews lived in Judea and Samaria today compared to when the Oslo Accords were signed. Solana knows that were Israel and the Palestinians to agree on permanent boundaries, settlements situated on the Arab side of the border would, in all probability, be uprooted. It is the Palestinian propensity for violence and intransigence that has robbed Israelis of any incentive to abandon the Jewish heartland.

Solana's fixation with settlements obfuscates and plays to the galleries, but does not genuinely illuminate why peacemaking has stalled.

Next, he turned to Hamas: "Whether we like it or not, Hamas will have to be part of the solution." Full stop. Not a word about the Quartet's principles on recognizing Israel, ending terrorism and abiding by past Palestinian commitments.

He did offer a circumspect critique of the "binary character - all or nothing" of the Arab Peace Initiative, which he admitted would have to be "nuanced."

SOLANA THEN offered a way forward toward creating a Palestinian state: "real mediation." By this, he appeared to mean imposing a solution, and a timetable for its implementation. If the parties didn't go along, he'd have the UN Security Council essentially codify the "real mediation" with its imprimatur.

The contrasting reactions to the Solana speech are instructive. The Palestinians' creative interpretation had Solana calling for the Security Council to recognize a Palestinian state - in line with their maximalist stance - by a certain deadline; even if Israel does not.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said: "We do not object. It's time for the international community to stop treating Israel as above the laws of man."

The reaction of Israel's Foreign Ministry was that peace had to be built on negotiations, not imposed.

Plainly, the Palestinians trust that an internationally imposed "peace" would mostly ignore Israeli concerns, while catering to theirs.

Israelis do not disagree.

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