Staving Off Disaster


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As the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly got underway Wednesday, the action on the main stage where world leaders addressed the gathering took a back seat to the furious diplomatic activity occurring in the wings. Behind the scenes, negotiations to try and forestall a diplomatic crisis over the issue of Palestinian statehood dominated the proceedings, overshadowing even the speech by President Obama, who used the forum offered by the UN to warn the Palestinians that there was “no shortcut” to statehood and that only direct negotiations with the Israeli government could achieve that goal.

The president also met separately with both Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to try and jump start the moribund peace negotiations that have been stalled for months because of the continuing refusal of the Palestinians to agree to serious talks. Obama told Mr. Abbas that if the issue of statehood came before the Security Council, the US would exercise its veto.

Hillary Clinton was also meeting with both leaders in order to place maximum pressure on Abbas to either withdraw his bid for statehood entirely — an unlikely proposition — or agree to a compromise measure that would delay the vote on Palestinian statehood for an agreed upon length of time while negotiations were re-started.

Getting the peace talks started again is a key element in plans being offered by the so-called “Middle East Quartet” (UN, US, EU, and Russia) and France. The goal of both proposals is to delay a vote in the Security Council to prevent a chain of events unfolding if the US uses its veto to deny the Palestinians statehood. Saudi Arabia has threatened a virtual break with Washington if the US vetoes the measure, and other Arab and Muslim states would almost certainly follow suit. Our already weak position in the Middle East would further erode — much to the benefit of Iran. It may also be the case that a US veto would ignite a violent reaction in the Palestinian territories, complicating the peace process even further.

The Quartet is pushing a proposal that would have Abbas submit his request to the Security Council, but have the vote on the issue deferred until another round of peace talks is attempted. The group would then issue a framework for negotiations and a timeline for completion. France has also proposed a delay in the Security Council vote based on starting the peace process again. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is recommending a resumption of talks in one month, with an agreement on borders in six months, and a final deal agreed to in a year. He also is proposing that the Palestinians’ status be upgraded from “observer” to “non-member” status — a vote that would only require a simple majority from the 193-member General Assembly to pass.

Abbas is resisting these efforts, largely because he has gone out on a very long limb in going to the UN and asking for recognition. Already in a weakened position at home, Abbas can’t simply give up. He will need something to bring home — something substantial — in order to maintain his authority. Hence, the idea of allowing the General Assembly vote on granting the PA “non-member” status. Whether that will be enough to forestall his demand for an immediate vote in the Security Council remains to be seen. Reports surfaced late Wednesday indicating that Abbas would not push for an immediate vote, however, it was also uncertain whether the Palestinians had the requisite amount of support for that move in the first place.

How did it come to this? Abbas was under no illusions that the US would allow an affirmative vote for statehood to make it through the UN Security Council without using its veto. But he believed he could use the threat of anger at America from the Muslim world to get President Obama to lean on Israel and force them to offer more concessions than they already have — especially on the settlement issue and the knotty problem of borders where Abbas is looking to denude Israel of any kind of realistic, defensible frontiers.

Obama himself gave Abbas the idea that this was possible when he said during last year’s General Assembly speech that in a year’s time, “we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations – an independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel.”

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  • Ben Cohen

    1. At the Annapolis conference the Palestinians agreed that the new state would be basically demilitarized.

    2. The border between the west bank and Jordan is the Jordan River, Israel is legally allowed to navigate this river, so they would have warning of a Jordanian Army trying to attack Tel Aviv through the West Bank.

    3. The new Palestinian state would have way to much to lose by going to war with Israel. Even if it were not demilitarized it would be too weak to threaten Israel, probably ever.

    As for the favorite Likudnik talking point, "land for peace doesn't work." Sure it does, Israel has had peace with Egypt for 30+ years a long with a demilitarized Sinai and security cooperation in blockading Hamas/Gaza. Before the agreement with Sadat Israel fought 4 major wars with Egypt and was constantly skirmishing across its Egyptian border.

    • Ken

      And the Israelis get what out this plan?? More rockets fired into civilian houses??

    • SHmuelHaLevi

      Ben,
      Illuminate us on how good turned out to be the "peace" with Egypt. We, living and serving in the military here are eager to hear your profound thoughts… NOT!
      At best we got about 20 years of insulting demeanor, facilitating the traffic of weapons to Gaza, sporadic murderous raids using Egypt as springboard, boycotts, threats and even violations of contracts such as the supply of natural gas out of wells we set up in Sinai's Read Sea.
      Lately we had a lot of fun when the beasts assaulted and burned our Embassy almost killing our people there.

      • http://www.contextflexed.com Flipside

        Maybe your country shouldn’t have supported their dictator when he was being deposed by a revolution, doofus.

        • stern

          Actually, Israel did not support Mubarak during the Tahrir Square demonstrations. Israel stayed very quietly on the sidelines, knowing exactly how things could turn out if it appeared that she was siding with him. Who's the doofus now?

    • ObamaYoMoma

      3. The new Palestinian state would have way to much to lose by going to war with Israel. Even if it were not demilitarized it would be too weak to threaten Israel, probably ever.

      This is incredibly stunning naivety. Show me someone gullible enough to believe that there can actually be peace between the Palestinian proxy and the Jewish infidels (unbelievers) in Israel, and I'll show you an unhinged self-hating loon that is completely oblivious of Islam and more than just a little delusional.

      As for the favorite Likudnik talking point, "land for peace doesn't work." Sure it does, Israel has had peace with Egypt for 30+ years a long with a demilitarized Sinai and security cooperation in blockading Hamas/Gaza. Before the agreement with Sadat Israel fought 4 major wars with Egypt and was constantly skirmishing across its Egyptian border.

      Yeah right, the Hudna worked. Like I said, more than just a little delusional.

      • http://www.contextflexed.com Flipside

        “and I’ll show you an unhinged self-hating loon…”

        You already have. You have showed yourself, a person who thinks Israel is the world’s tiniest superpower striking at a Muslim superpower while ignoring it’s proxy countries low intensity conflicts. In truth, Israel is a rogue state whose whole existence is based on low intensity conflict with an area the size of Rhode Island. Let’s have our cake now. The loon is you. Why don’t you be a good boy and tear apart the real argument I showed you.

        • stern

          There you again. Repeat after me: The possessive "its" has no apostrophe. Only the contraction of "it is" takes the apostrophe.

          • http://www.contextflexed.com Flipside

            I know what it is. Im just doing it to annoy you now. Its funny. You should join Wikipedia. They care a lot about apostrophe's their.

    • zsqpwxxeh

      Land for Peace works? Sure it does. Ask the descendants of the American Indian tribes. It worked for their ancestors, didn't it? After all, they signed away land and they got peace. In fact, most of them got Eternal Peace.

      Egypt is permitting importation of arms into Gaza and cross-border attacks into the Negev. When the Ikhwan takes control of Egypt, either with an elected government or shadow rulers pulling the strings, full scale war comes into play as a distinct possibility. (They would probably wait for jihadists to detonate a few dirty bombs or nukes first in Tel Aviv.) As for Palestinian agreements, you've got to be kidding me. They are not even willing to acknowledge Israel's right to exist.

    • http://www.opengovtv.com/ mforest58

      Open Government/Gov 2.0 News, provides Information & Resources for businesses, government agencies and constituents.

      Communications Strategy / Small Businesses

  • Chezwick_mac

    BEN COHEN: "At the Annapolis conference the Palestinians agreed that the new state would be basically demilitarized."

    RESPONSE: Just like Gaza is "demilitarized" today? My, you are naive.

    COHEN: "The border between the west bank and Jordan is the Jordan River, Israel is legally allowed to navigate this river, so they would have warning of a Jordanian Army trying to attack Tel Aviv through the West Bank."

    RESPONSE: An invasion from Jordan is not likely anyway. Mortar and rocket fire into Israel's coastal plain is.

    COHEN: "The new Palestinian state would have way to much to lose by going to war with Israel. Even if it were not demilitarized it would be too weak to threaten Israel, probably ever."

    RESPONSE: Just like Gaza is "too weak" to threaten Israel? Mark my words, the 'Gaza paradigm' will be repeated in exactitude. Within weeks of a settlement, the mortar and rocket fire will begin. Of course, the culprits will be unaffiliated "militants"…giving the nascent Palestinian government plausible deniability. While the Pals attempt in vain to "crack down" on the militants, the desired results will come to fruition: Israelis in the major coastal cities will live in a state of perpetual insecurity and many will abandon the Zionist dream and emigrate.

    As for Mr Cohen's vaunted Egyptian "peace" with Israel, it's evident that the permanence of it was quite dependent upon the immortality of a single leader. Now that Mubarak is gone, the "blockade" of Gaza is unraveling,…as quickly as the peace treaty itself. I wouldn't tout the "security" of the Egyptian-Israeli border in lieu of recent developments. You are undermining your own arguments.

  • http://www.contextflexed.com Flipside

    What I see here is much hemming and hawing over the fact that all the activities of Israel would be impermissible if it were a State they were doing it to.

    • mrbean

      Stuff it!

  • Ben Cohen

    ShmuelHaLevi,

    "….Illuminate us on how good turned out to be the "peace" with Egypt. We, living and serving in the military here are eager to hear your profound thoughts… NOT!……"

    Prior to the peace agreement you had a low intensity conflict from 1948-1978, during this time there were 4 major wars with Egypt; 48',56',67' and 73'. From 1978-2011 you have had a secure quite border and have not fought a single major war on that front. Egypt even helped enforce the blockade despite the extreme unpopularity of it.

    zsqpwxxeh,

    "Egypt is permitting importation of arms into Gaza and cross-border attacks into the Negev."

    What evidence do you have of this?

    Chezwick_mac,

    For the past five years or so, Mahmoud Abbas has suppressed all attacks coming from the West Bank. Gaza is run by Hamas and he has no control over it. If there are rocket/mortar attacks from the west bank Israel than has justification to occupy the West Bank.

    Ask yourself this, Chezwick, how does building settlements and demanding a greater chunk of the west bank stop terrorism?

    • stern

      "Mahmoud Abbas has suppressed all attacks coming from the West Bank"?

      I beg to differ. The lack of attacks coming from the West Bank has more to do with the IDF presence in the West Bank and the wall. Abbas has done very little "suppressing" – and the fact that you think he has, just shows how naive you are.

      • stern

        "Gaza is run by Hamas and he (Abbas) has no control over it".

        And just how long do you think Abbas will continue to have control over the West Bank if Hamas decides to take over there too? Five minutes?

      • Ben Cohen

        According to the "Palestine Papers," Shin Bet credited Abbas with stopping terrorism coming from the West Bank. I personally believe that is correct considering there aren't rocket/mortar attacks from the West Bank.

    • Chezwick_mac

      COHEN: "For the past five years or so, Mahmoud Abbas has suppressed all attacks coming from the West Bank."

      RESPONSE: The answer was so obvious, I thought of it BEFORE I had a chance to read 'Stern's' response. Of course, he's absolutely correct. The fall-off of suicide bombers from the West Bank coincided EXACT:Y with the construction of the "wall".

      COHEN: "Gaza is run by Hamas and he has no control over it. If there are rocket/mortar attacks from the west bank Israel than has justification to occupy the West Bank."

      RESPONSE: Except that RE-occupying the West Bank can easily be framed as an act of aggression, particularly in such an overtly anti-Israeli international environment. In other words, withdrawing and subsequently re-occupying the West Bank is a much likelier recipe for a general, region-wide war than maintaining the status quo.

      COHEN: "…how does building settlements and demanding a greater chunk of the west bank stop terrorism?"

      RESPONSE: How does acquiescence, appeasement, and the erosion of Israel's strategic depth enhance Israeli security? Look at it this way friend, Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 didn't bring peace to the northern border; Israel's withdrawal from Gaza didn't bring peace to Israel's southern border. Why do you presuppose that Israel's withdrawal from the West Bank will bring peace to Israel's western border?

      You seem to be operating under the premise that the Palestinians will gladly co-exist with Israel once the latter has withdrawn to the '67 borders. A much more realistic scenario is continued conflict and the enveloping of Israel's coastal plain into the conflict dynamic.

      • Chezwick_mac

        Should read "eastern border"….

      • Ben Cohen

        Chezwick_mac

        "RESPONSE: The answer was so obvious, I thought of it BEFORE I had a chance to read 'Stern's' response. Of course, he's absolutely correct. The fall-off of suicide bombers from the West Bank coincided EXACT:Y with the construction of the "wall". "

        The wall can explain the end of suicide attacks but not the absence of Rocket/Mortar attacks. Credit the PA and Abbas with that.

        "RESPONSE: Except that RE-occupying the West Bank can easily be framed as an act of aggression, particularly in such an overtly anti-Israeli international environment. In other words, withdrawing and subsequently re-occupying the West Bank is a much likelier recipe for a general, region-wide war than maintaining the status quo."

        Occupying the West Bank and not allowing the people there citizenship would qualify Israel as an Apartheid state, and eventually force Israel to adopt the one state solution. If that happens the Palestinians are your government, and you are completely at their mercy. If Israel is attacked and they reoccupy the West Bank they have a legitimate justification for it.

        "
        RESPONSE: How does acquiescence, appeasement, and the erosion of Israel's strategic depth enhance Israeli security? Look at it this way friend, Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 didn't bring peace to the northern border; Israel's withdrawal from Gaza didn't bring peace to Israel's southern border. Why do you presuppose that Israel's withdrawal from the West Bank will bring peace to Israel's western border? "

        You can't compare unilateral withdrawal to a negotiated withdrawal following a settlement. Hamas and Hezbollah never made any agreement with Israel, in their mind they are simply pursuing a retreating foe.

        "You seem to be operating under the premise that the Palestinians will gladly co-exist with Israel once the latter has withdrawn to the '67 borders. A much more realistic scenario is continued conflict and the enveloping of Israel's coastal plain into the conflict dynamic. "

        I don't know what they will do, I don't have a crystal ball. What I do know is that Israel has to demonstrate to the world community that it is not an agressor, and if Israel won't accept a 2 state solution then it must accept a 1 state solution. And a 2 state solution would be far, far, better for the Jews of Israel.

        • Chezwick_mac

          COHEN: "The wall can explain the end of suicide attacks but not the absence of Rocket/Mortar attacks. Credit the PA and Abbas with that."

          On the contrary, unlike the Sinai-Gaza border (which is controlled by Egypt and susceptible to smuggling – now more than ever), the West Bank-Jordan border is controlled completely by Israel. Furthermore, unlike Gaza, Israel has access to those areas of the West Bank that are nominally under PA control, preventing the production of crude delivery vehicles. In other words, there have been no mortar or rocket attacks on Israel from the West Bank because Abbas is unable to import or manufacture such weapons.

          COHEN: "Occupying the West Bank and not allowing the people there citizenship would qualify Israel as an Apartheid state, and eventually force Israel to adopt the one state solution. If that happens the Palestinians are your government, and you are completely at their mercy."

          RESPONSE: I concur that the current stateless status of the inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza is a dilemma. The question is, will granting them statehood make the region more peaceable or more prone to conflict?

          COHEN: "If Israel is attacked and they reoccupy the West Bank they have a legitimate justification for it."

          RESPONSE: In whose eyes? The same "international community" that produced the Goldstone report? And the Gaza war was just a brief incursion. Imagine the hysteria if Israel re-occupied the West Bank en toto? Please be realistic.

          COHEN: "You can't compare unilateral withdrawal to a negotiated withdrawal following a settlement. Hamas and Hezbollah never made any agreement with Israel, in their mind they are simply pursuing a retreating foe."

          RESPONSE: I can indeed make such a comparison, The fact of the matter is, Israel's complete withdrawal from Lebanon – the ONLY demand of the Lebanese – did nothing to sate Hezbollah's appetite for Jewish blood. Furthermore, you apparently believe that a negotiated settlement will lead to lasting peace. Let me remind you that Oslo was negotiated…and unraveled quite quickly.

          COHEN: "I don't know what they will do, I don't have a crystal ball. What I do know is that Israel has to demonstrate to the world community that it is not an agressor, and if Israel won't accept a 2 state solution then it must accept a 1 state solution. And a 2 state solution would be far, far, better for the Jews of Israel."

          RESPONSE: You admit that after a peace agreement, there is no way to gauge Palestinian willingness to comply. But you are ever so eager to have Israel sacrifice its strategic depth on the faint HOPE that the Pals will comply.

          Like you, I want peace in the Middle East. I would love the Palestinians to become a responsible member of the global community. But I'm not so naive that I think it will happen.

          • Ben Cohen

            It seems the problem that you (and most people) seem to have with the peace process is not what's being offered but who is offering it. You believe that any agreement will just be used to gain a better position to attack Israel from, there's no real answer for that.

            Think of it this way, you are fighting a two front war, political and military, you have to withdraw some strength from the military front to save the political front. Accepting a slightly weaker military position might be necessary to achieve a political solution.

          • Chezwick_mac

            COHEN: "It seems the problem that you (and most people) seem to have with the peace process is not what's being offered but who is offering it."

            RESPONSE: Exactly right. You are making the false assumption that the Islamic world is driven by the same desires and ethics as the non-Muslim world. You don't seem to grasp who and what you are dealing with.

            Muslims closely emulate the example of their prophet, and the Hadith and Sira clearly reveal Muhammad repeatedly breaking agreements when he was in a position of strength. If you ignore the behavioral linkage between the Muslims of today and their foundational paradigm, you are missing a crucial element in their natural proclivities.

            COHEN: "Accepting a slightly weaker military position might be necessary to achieve a political solution."

            RESPONSE: The fallacy here is that a "political solution" is attainable in the first place. Considering the nature, ethics, and theological imperatives of the enemy, weakening Israel's military position for an illusory political solution with an implacable foe is hardly a responsible course of action.

          • Ben Cohen

            See….the Likud line is very comforting, because it ignores most of the political realities of the region. The moderates are the only people who are really looking at the problem directly in the face.

            "RESPONSE: Exactly right. You are making the false assumption that the Islamic world is driven by the same desires and ethics as the non-Muslim world. You don't seem to grasp who and what you are dealing with."

            First of all this conflict has been largely been a conflict over land, not religion. Many of the most hardline opponents of Israel were Christian Palestinians, Wallie Hadad, George Habash, etc. Also most of the Palestinian organizations have historically been secular.

            Second, Egypt has kept it's word, it hasn't gone to war with Israel. This demonstrates that the Arabs do keep their promises and will honor agreements. I think that is far more relevant an indication of Arab behavior than what the Koran describes.

            "RESPONSE: The fallacy here is that a "political solution" is attainable in the first place. Considering the nature, ethics, and theological imperatives of the enemy, weakening Israel's military position for an illusory political solution with an implacable foe is hardly a responsible course of action."

            I shouldn't have said solution, I meant to say a better political position. Israel needs to accept a slightly weaker military position, to improve it's political position. The Israeli right (and the American Jewish right) live in a state of total denial as to the political situation. Take this with a grain of salt but, according to Wikipedia Israel's average income would have been 44,000 dollars instead of 23,000 dollars had there been peace.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab%E2%80%93Israeli

    • zsqpwxxeh

      ""Egypt is permitting importation of arms into Gaza and cross-border attacks into the Negev." What evidence do you have of this?"

      This.
      http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/13/us-isra
      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middlee

    • aspacia

      Cohen,

      What about the recent attacks stemming from Egypt into Israel murdering 8 Israelis? Egypt, and most of its populous hopes to annihilate Israel. Read Egyptian news, and peruse MEMRI for insight.

  • Ben Cohen

    One more thing…..Don't underestimate the threat of a one state solution. The international community will not accept a Palestine that is much smaller than the West Bank, and the Palestinians certainly won't. The biggest danger to Israel is the one state solution, a potentially hostile Palestinian state on the west bank is by far the lesser of two evils.

  • mrbean

    Mr Bem Cohen, you are either intellectually incompetent, naive, or both. The term, "potentially hostile Palestinian state" you used is a real indication that it is you who doesn't understand political realities. There is no moral equivalency between Israel and the so-called Palestinians. Obama needs to stop acting as if the Israeli government and the Palestinian regime were morally equal. The Israeli government represents a free country, which protects (to a large extent) the individual rights of its citizens, and acts only in self-defense to eliminate the terrorists that threaten its people. The Palestinian regime, in sharp contrast, is a collection of terrorists and supported by Hama and the Arab states as proxy agents of terrorism. It's a regime that has no respect for the individual rights of its own people, and whose only goal is the total destruction of Israel and the genocide of the Jewish people. It is time for the United States to abandon such misguided moral relativism and choose sides: we are either with Israel or with the Palestinian terrorists.

    • aspacia

      bean, you just lost the argument with a fallacious ad hom attack. Although I totally disagree with Cohen's claim, he makes valid claims, albeit chezwick clearly refuted Cohen's stance.

      This was a very interesting debate until you, bean, made a nasty personal attack against Cohen.

  • Pathena

    The invention of Arabs being "Palestinians" was concocted by Gamel Nasser, ruler of Egypt, and the Soviet Union, both haters of Jews, in Cairo in 1964 when they invented the "Palestine Liberation Organization," the purpose being to destroy Israel. "Palestine" has always been synonymous with "land of the Jews" or "the Holy Land", and "Palestinian" with "Jew" since the Roman Emperor Hadrian changed the name of Judea to "Palestina" in 135 A.D., after he defeated the last Jewish uprising under Bar Kochba. He wanted to eradicate all memory of the Jews and Judea – he also outlawed Judaism and renamed Jerusalem "Aelia Capitolina."
    After World War I, Great Britain was awarded the Palestine Mandate to be the homeland of the Jews.

  • turkp

    Prerequisites for a lasting peace.
    i) Israel: stop acting like a colonial outpost but rather as an indigenous nation.
    ii) Arabs: accept that Israel is here to stay, thus make room Jews.
    iii) Israel: realize that you will never be strong enough to impose the regional order. Acting otherwise backfires as it encourages others to ally against Israel. Make room for the Palestinians
    iv) Non Israelis: accept that you are not strong enough to impose the regional order on Israel. Doing so backfires as it encourages Israel to look for allies from outside the region.
    v)Israel: realize that regimes that lack internal legitimacy are not good partners for peace. So pay attention to the uprisings in the Arab world as genuine popular revolts. Support the changes rather than the status quo as you may find long lasting allies.
    vi) Arabs: understand that middle east is not just Islamic. There are other non muslims who are part and parcel of these lands. Christians and Jews in particular have been living on these lands and contributed a lot to Islamic culture and will do so in the future. Secular democratic societies that respect religious freedoms are the most peaceful societies. Beware of all fundamentalisms, they are destructive.
    vii) Encourage trade and tourism among the regional countries and establish regional institutions to legally support these transactions.
    viii) Phase in an elimination of weapons of mass destruction. No nuclear, no chemical or biological weapons.
    ix) Use NATO and EU to link the region economically and security wise with Europe.

    • aspacia

      turk, the problem is that the Qu'ran disallows for Jewish controlled land. Most Muslims are viciously and violently intolerant of nonMuslims. Look at what happens to all religious minorities in Muslim dominated lands.