Friday, May 27, 2011

Would the Land Swaps Be Defensible?

Joel Klein has a piece today in Time where he lambasts Bibi for "misrepresenting" what Obama said in his speech on the middle east. He's basically just arguing that the pre-1967 borders with land swaps have been the basis of the negotiations for years (and what did that get the Israelis exactly?). However, besides parroting White House talking points, what I found interesting was a map he included which showed how the land swamps would work and what would be exchanged.  Now this is not the official map, it was generated by David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in a report titled "Imagining the Border".  Take a look below:

In case you can't read the legend, those orange rivulets are the tracts of land that Israel will annex so that they could keep some of their larger settlement blocs.

I have two major problems with this map:
  1. It does nothing to change the fact that Israel is 9 miles wide at its narrowest.  Downtown Tel Aviv will still be seen from the hills of Palestine and could easily be targeted by missiles and rockets (with little to no warning given to civilians before they hit).  As Bibi said during his speech, nobody can live like this.
  2. Those rivulets of Israeli territory carved out of the West Bank are a disaster waiting to happen.  Terrorists from Hamas or the PFLP or Islamic Jihad could take pot shots at settlers all day every day.  And if there were ever a conflict between Israel and Palestine (which is probably likely, especially if Hamas stays in or runs the government), those armed gangs could easily cut off those settlements from the rest of Israel.  If you thought a territory 9 miles wide was not defensible, how about 1 km wide (or less).  You could easily have a bloodbath/massacre on your hands which will make Itamar look like youthful vandalism by comparison.
The argument of Klein and, for that matter, Obama, seems to be that because pre-1967 borders with land swaps  were offered to the Palestinians by two previous Israeli governments, that somehow that needs to be the basis for all future agreements.  In both cases, the Palestinians were offered over 90% of the West Bank AND THEY STILL SAID NO!  In 2000, they actually started the second intifada after one of those extremely generous peace offers.  The Palestinian strategy seems to be that if they say no, make some threats and commit some violence, that the international community will put pressure on Israel to offer even more.  And that is exactly what is happening.  The Palestinians need to learn that if they don't say yes, they might be offered even less by a future government.  That is probably the only way you will actually get them to agree to a peace treaty (note I don't say peace, because I think that if the PLO signs a peace agreement, Hamas will just tear it up once they win elections). 

I recently read, Henry Kissinger's book Diplomacy (a very interesting book for anyone interested in history) and he went on at length about the peace negotiations between the US and North Vietnam.  When the US was trying to take it easy on the Vietnamese in order not to "upset them" all they got in return from the Vietnamese was a bunch of games.  The Vietnamese only started getting serious when they were actually in danger of losing the war after the US started bombing the north and started acting like they actually wanted to win the war.  That is what got the US troops out.  I think a similar strategy would work with the Palestinians.  Convince them that they might get less territory the longer they stall and you might actually get a deal from them.

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