Hugh Lovatt, a fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), wrote a study titled “The End of Oslo: A New European Strategy on Israel-Palestine.” A British Arabist, Lovett has deliberately ignored in his study Palestinian-Arab terror; not a word of it is mentioned in his lengthy December, 2020 report. Nor, for that matter, does he mention Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip that left Palestinians some valuable economic assets. Israel was repaid by its gesture of “de-occupation” with Palestinian (Hamas) terror, and rocket fire aimed at Israel’s population centers.
Lovatt praised the European Union (EU) for blocking Donald Trump’s peace plan, and for allegedly frustrating Israel’s de Jure “annexation of Palestinian territory.” The late Eugene Rostow, who served as the Dean of Yale Law School, and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs under President Lyndon Johnson, established that Israel has as much right to the West Bank as Palestinians do. Moreover, Israeli settlements, or more correctly, Israeli communities, are perfectly legal under international law.
Lovatt’s principal recommendations are “de-occupation and legal rights.” He pointed out that if Israel continues to block a two-state outcome, “A one state reality of open-ended occupation and unequal rights continue to take hold – bearing the hallmark of modern-day apartheid.” Lovatt must know that almost 95% of the Palestinians live in area A and B, which is controlled and ruled by the Palestinian Authority (PA). The PA, not Israel, is controlling the lives of these Palestinians. The question of equal rights should then be addressed to the PA. When it comes to life, limb, and property of Palestinians in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) or in East Jerusalem (non-Israeli citizens), Israel is protective of their civil and human rights, and the Israeli Supreme Court has adjudicated more often than not in favor of Palestinians. Dealing with Palestinian terrorists, is however another matter. Israel is committed to the protection of its people’s lives.
The PA has not addressed its people’s needs by providing permanent housing for Palestinians in refugee camps, or employment opportunities. When Mahmud Abbas decides to end the pattern his predecessors have set since 1937 (The Peel Commission that sought to give the Palestinian-Arabs 72% of Mandatory Palestine and less than the rest to Palestinian-Jews. The Arabs said no), a two-state solution might become a possibility. The question is whether Abbas will settle for a compromised solution, and let go of his maximalist demands. These demands include the “right” of return of the Palestinian refugees to Israel, which is another way of bringing an end to the Jewish state by demographic means. Most Israelis supported a two-state solution, but, the Gaza experience, and the lack of willing Palestinian interlockers to compromise has had a discouraging effect. Still, Israelis long for peace with a demilitarized Palestinian state.
Israel didn’t block the “end of conflict” at the Camp David Two Summit in July, 2000. Arafat did. President Bill Clinton, who arranged and managed the summit meeting, attested to Arafat’s unwillingness to end the conflict despite generous Israeli concessions by Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Similarly, Mahmud Abbas could have had a Palestinian state in 2008, when Israel’s Premier Ehud Olmert offered him even more extensive concessions than Barak did. Lovatt and the EU did not suggest punitive measures against the PA, as Lovatt has suggested the EU impose on Israel.
Lovatt wrote that the EU could use “restrictive measures against Israel such as reassessing the funding Israel receives through the European Neighborhood Instrument, suspending the EU-Israel Association Agreement, and reviewing trade arrangements, and Israel’s access to EU community programs such as Erasmus and Horizon Europe.” This action against Israel, according to Lovett, was confirmed by French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Drian, in June, 2020. Lovatt posited that Belgian, British, Dutch, and French parliamentarians called for sanctions against Israel should it follow through with the plan to extend legal rights to Jews in Judea and Samaria, or “Occupied Palestinian Territory” (OPT), as it is considered by Lovatt.
To Lovatt, large families adding bedrooms in Judea and Samaria constitutes “de facto annexation – through settlement expansion.” In other words, Lovatt wishes to forbids families in Judea and Samaria from having children…furthermore, Lovatt suggested that, “Rather than using the momentum (of opposing Israel’s annexation) to push back more vigorously against settlement activity, the EU called it a day, and rapidly reset relations with Israel once formal annexation was taken off the table.” Has it occurred to Lovatt the EU has a lot to gain from bilateral relations with Israel? Israel provides the EU with vital intelligence, particularly as it pertains to terrorist activities, and innovative technology. Conversely, the PA offers nothing other than a one-way European endless aid to a failed regime in Ramallah.
It’s worth repeating that Israelis have the same right as Palestinian Arabs to settle in Judea and Samaria, albeit, not on private Palestinian land. Public lands are a different story. Naturally, Israeli governments have legitimized areas close to the Green Line for security and strategic reasons. It has discouraged and removed outposts in other areas. Judea and Samaria is the cradle of the Jewish nation, where its history was written, and it’s natural for Jews to seek access to holy sites there. For the 19-years the area was in Jordanian hands, no Israeli Jew was allowed access to the area. Lovatt wishes to see Judea and Samaria “Judenrein” once again.
“In prioritizing Palestinian self-governance over self-determination,” Lovatt wrote, “the EU has failed to capitalize on one of its tangible accomplishments, which is to have invested greatly in Palestinian institutions statehood-ready …” Amazingly, Lovatt ignores verifiable history. The Palestinians had more chances for self-determination than most other entities, i.e. the Kurds (Kurds are more numerous and have been denied self-determination). In November, 1947, the United Nations voted on the Partition of Palestine. It provided for both an Arab-Palestinian state, and a Jewish state called Israel. The Palestinians rejected statehood and chose instead to annihilate the nascent Jewish state in concert with the neighboring Arab states. The late Abba Eban, Israel’s legendary foreign minister summed it up by saying that Palestinians “never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” As to governance, the conflict between Hamas and Fatah has split Gaza from the West Bank. Abbas is no longer a legitimately elected president of the PA. His term expired long ago, and no elections were called for to date.
The inability of the Palestinians to establish effective, democratic governance that serves its people, and the PA leadership unwillingness to compromise and effectuate the two-state solution, leaves one option Lovatt hadn’t considered. A federation between the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and West Bank Palestinians is a viable solution. Palestinians in Jordan form a majority of the population. Merging the two Palestinian populations is an organic and natural act. King Abdullah II would still serve as head of state, while a Palestinian Prime Minister would run the government. Most of the West Bank would be incorporated into the federation. Palestinians would have space, a nationality, a passport, and an outlet to the Red Sea (Aqaba). Israel would have to secure for itself strategic areas adjacent to the Green Line. The West Bank would have to be demilitarized, with joint Israeli-Jordanian-Palestinian checkpoints on the Jordan River bridges. This is a solution that offers the Palestinians effective governance, and more stable economic, social, and political prospects. For Israel, it would mean security and a realistic prospect for peace.