Kerry's deadline -- a poor April fool's day prank
When John Kerry announced the renewal of final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) in July 2013, he specified that the parties had nine months to solve their 100 year-old conflict. Had Kerry made his announcement on July first instead of July 18, the set deadline would have been April fist and Kerry could have claimed authorship for an unbeatable Fools’ Day prank. While there are still four months to go until the deadline, both Israel and the PA have already started the blame-game for the failure of the talks.
I cannot name a single Palestinian who openly blames his government for the current deadlock, but Israel has no shortage of politicians, academics and journalists who are busily blaming Netanyahu for the lack of peace. Instead of wasting their time and energy with the blame-game, Israelis should think of the “day after.”
There are three potential scenarios for the post-April 18 deadline: unilateral disengagement, annexation or permanent status-quo.
The rationale of unilateral disengagement is that it enables Israel to extricate itself from a demographic trap despite the absence of an unachievable peace agreement. The precedent set by the Gaza disengagement in 2005, however, has made this option a non-starter. Missiles would rain on Israel, while the prospect of more Goldstone Reports would tie Israel’s hands in its ability to respond (which was the purpose of the Goldstone Report in the first place). Moreover, because Israel would not unilaterally withdraw to the 1949 Armistice Lines but from, say, 80% of the West Bank, it would still be accused of “occupation” (as it is still accused of “occupying” Gaza).
The annexationist model would only apply to the West Bank, as Israel already pulled-out from Gaza and therefore out of the equation. While there are diverging figures on the exact number of Arab residents in the West Bank, Israel would retain a two-third Jewish majority were it to annex Judea and Samaria and grant Israeli citizenship to its all residents. In light of the increasing Jewish birthrates and declining Arab birthrates in the past twenty years, the Jewish majority would likely remain stable. The wisdom of increasing Israel’s Arab minority from its current 20% to about 35%, however, is highly debatable at best.
The third, and most likely option, is the perpetuation of the status quo with minor changes that will entrench the physical separation between Israel and the Palestinians while preventing the militarization of the West Bank and not impede its economic development. In this scenario, however, the PA will redouble its “lawfare” (legal warfare) against Israel at the UN and at other international organizations.
The PA committed to suspend its “lawfare” while negotiations are taking place, but it is still acting against Israel in international institutions via third parties. In May 2013, shortly before the talks resumed, the Comoros Islands (as small archipelago state near Madagascar) filed a complaint against Israel with the ICC because the Mavi Marmara ship raided by Israel in 2010, was registered in the Comoros. Turkish lawyers representing Comoros claim that under Article 12 of the ICC Statute, Comoros has a legitimate claim in bringing Israel under the court's jurisdiction because the Mavi Marmara, on which nine Turkish activists were killed, was technically under Comoros’ jurisdiction.
It is obvious that Comoros is acting on behalf of the PA (and of Turkey). The PA is trying to get the ICC to indict Israeli officers via a third country, while it is officially refraining from such actions during the negotiations with Israel. After the PA was granted its “non-member observer status” at the UN General Assembly in November 2012, it announced its intention to use this new status to bring legal action against Israel at the ICC. It will obviously do so openly after April 2013.
While Israel will have to continue battling “lawfare” if it chooses to maintain the status quo, it might be the least of three evils. Unilateral disengagement would relieve Israel of its demographic angst but it would also require military operations whose consequence will be international condemnations and opprobrium. Annexation may not turn Israel into a bi-national state as critics suggest, but it would still generate an undesirable demographic makeup.
Hence the refusal of “peace processors” to contemplate an alternative to a peace that they failed to achieve at Camp David (in July 2000), at Taba (in December 2000), and with Olmert (in 2008), and which they would be unable to achieve today even if Labor were to replace the Jewish Home in the coalition, and even if Netanyahu were to endorse the Olmert proposal.
“Peace processors” claim to be realists, but in truth they are no less irrational than their ideological foes. Alternatives to the two-state model all have serious shortcomings, but the greatest shortcoming of that model is that it keeps working in theory and failing in practice.
Maybe John Kerry should extend his deadline to Christmas to give hope to those who still believe in Santa Claus.
Dr. Emmanuel Navon heads the Political Science and Communication Department at the Jerusalem Orthodox College and teaches International Relations at Tel-Aviv University and the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center. He is a Senior Fellow at the Kohelet Policy Forum.