Garvan Walshe is a former National and International Security Policy Adviser to the Conservative Party.
Benjamin Netanyahu, indicted by the attorney general he had appointed. Donald Trump, braced for his former National Security Adviser to spill the beans before his Senate trial. The two, however, have cause to celebrate, for Jared Kushner, Trump’s son in law, Middle East envoy, has just launched his new Middle East peace plan.
It’s less a fresh plan then a resurrection. Just after the 1967 war, Yigal Allon proposed that Israel annex the Jordan valley, while areas of high Palestinian population would be transferred to Jordan, which had controlled the territory before the war. The new plan revives the essence of its terms, drafted in the idiom of a real estate contract:
‘…the peace agreement that will hopefully be negotiated on the basis of this Vision should be implemented through legally binding contracts and agreements (the “ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN PEACE AGREEMENT”)…
…dictated by the Israeli ministry of housing. In the West Bank, the main part of the Jordan Valley, designated as ‘Area C’ under the Oslo Accords, would be annexed by Israel. The entire old city of Jerusalem would be under permanent Israeli control. A ‘conceptual map’ appended to the document would limit a Palestinian state to the cities and towns of Areas A and B. The resulting chart resembles nothing so much as a propaganda document the Palestinians used to use to argue the Israelis were trying to deny them a contiguous state.
What is curious is the reaction of the Arab States, who would, in previous years, have loudly condemned such a flagrantly one-sided proposal. Their silence is a response to Arab fatigue at the Palestinian issue, which has slipped down their radar, coming at best fifth after the chaos in Syria, the threat posed by Iran, the need to crush any further attempts at democratic revolution, and Islamist terrorism.
The content is a consequence of the severity of the Palestinians’ defeat in the second intifada. Unable to threaten Israel militarily, but unable to convince Israelis that, like a domestic cat, they wouldn’t kill them if they were bigger, the Palestinians find themselves at the mercy of the two accused who prefer headlines that please their base to practical policy.
Needless to say, the Palestinians have rejected the deal. It is as unreasonable to them as the report of the Peel Commission Partition Plan of 1937 was to the Zionist movement of the time. The resemblance is in fact uncanny: that proposal confined the Jewish state to areas of high population, assigning most of the land to a future Arab Palestinian state.
Leave aside the realism, or not, of the Palestinian position, which is really a bet on the forthcoming US Presidential election. They might have been wiser to emulate the Zionist leadership and “accept” the unacceptable in order to fight it when the balance of power improved. But since even accepting acceptable peace deals has never been their style, it is surely too much for them to accept a deal that is, in fact, unacceptable.
Now turn for a moment to Israeli politics. Formal annexation of Area C (an idea floated in recent weeks to distract people from the criminal proceedings against Netanyahu) would be unwise foreign policy. It could even risk EU sanctions. If there is one thing that could cause Germany to shift from its resolute support of Israel, it is the unilateral revision of international frontiers.
Nor does it make sense locally. It would make co-operation with Palestinian security forces, on which the Israeli forces rely to disrupt Palestinian terrorism, all but impossible. As befits a real estate brochure, most of the plan, which is subtitled ‘Peace to Prosperity’ imagines economic progress alleviating the Palestinians’ political predicament. In this it resembles the decidedly unsuccessful ‘Killing Home Rule with Kindness’ policy introduced by none other than Arthur Balfour.
Though Netanyahu may not be familiar with Balfour’s early work, he is certainly familiar with that of Ze’ev Zhabotinsky, who founded the Likud Party which Netanyahu leads. In his essay The Iron Wall he warned against plans like Kushner’s:
‘Our peace-mongers are trying to persuade us that the Arabs are either fools, whom we can deceive by masking our real aims, or that they are corrupt and can be bribed to abandon their claim to priority in Palestine, in return for cultural and economic privileges…they regard [them] as a corrupt mob which can be bought and sold, and are willing to give up their fatherland for a good railway system.’