Monday 23 April 2012

New Kadima leader would meet most Palestinian demands

Shaul Mofaz, the newly elected leader of Kadima, Israel’s largest political party, has said he would give the Palestinians 100 percent of their territorial demands, though land swaps would be necessary due to the fact that some Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria are too large to uproot. Economic incentives would be used to encourage other settler communities to move but if the incentives failed, settlers would be expelled forcibly.

What would not be on offer in any talks with the Palestinian leadership, however, is Jerusalem, as the overwhelming majority of Israelis oppose the division of the nation’s capital. Nevertheless, for the Palestinian leadership, without Jerusalem, the cleansing of all Jews from ancient Judea and Samaria and a ‘right of return’ for all ‘Palestinian refugees’ (a demand that would result in the Jewish state being flooded with Palestinians) there can never be a final status peace agreement.

Mofaz, like so many others, appears to cherish the belief that Israel’s enemies are, at heart, reasonable. That is, of course, understandable. For many Israelis, a belief that people can change for the better is the only hope they have. The prospect of never-ending conflict with their neighbours is more than most Israelis can tolerate but Mofaz’s approach has been tried before. At Camp David in 2000, Prime minister Ehud Barak offered Yasser Arafat a Palestinian State on 94% of the West Bank, East Jerusalem as the capital of the State and the withdrawal of settlers from 63 settlements. In short, Barak offered Arafat almost 100% of what he asked for. In response, Arafat rejected to offer, walked away from the negotiating table without offering anything in response. He then returned home to announce to his people that that he had defied Bill Clinton and Ehud Barak. Within weeks the Second Intifada began.

In 2005, Israel forcibly removed its settler population from Gaza and the Palestinian response was an increased missile bombardment on the towns of southern Israel. What, one wonders, makes anyone think the same would not occur if Mofaz became Prime Minister and followed through with his plan?

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