Fact-Free Middle East Negotiations?

The dispute between Israel and the Palestinian Authority with regard to the freezing of Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank) is predicated on the assumption that Israel's border is the '67 line -- called the Green Line -- that pertained before the Six Day War. The Palestinian claim, broadly accepted by the international community, is that everything on the other side is rightfully theirs.

There is, however, an essential problem with this: The Green Line was never Israel's border, but rather a temporary armistice line. When hostilities initiated by the Arab League after Israel's founding ended, Israel and Jordan signed an armistice agreement. It included acknowledgment that the armistice line would not prejudice future negotiations to determine Israel's permanent border.

After the 1967 war, when Israel secured control of Judea and Samaria, the Security Council passed Resolution 242. It did not require that Israel move back to the Green Line. Recognizing Israel's need for secure borders, it maintained that those borders must be determined via negotiations. 

This instance of factual misrepresentation is merely one of a host of misrepresentations and distortions of truth so pervasive as to render honest resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict impossible. Under an onslaught of Arab PR, critical facts are now ignored or forgotten by most of the world. Attempts to resolve the conflict are built on premises constructed of air or, perhaps more accurately, founded on quicksand.

Rather than pushing for an impossible one-year deadline for negotiations, decision-makers need to call a halt, and then take a hard look at the realities:

o The Oslo Accords were signed on the White House lawn with much fanfare in 1993. Yasser Arafat, signing for the PLO, the negotiating body for the Palestinian, was expected to subsequently secure ratification from that body. It never happened. He convened the PLO Executive Committee, which approved the agreement without a quorum because factions opposed did not attend. Arafat never brought it to the full PLO National Council. To this day, the PLO is not officially bound by the Oslo Accords.

o The Accords also required of the PLO a modification of its covenant, with clauses referring to Israel's destruction or a denial of Israel's right to exist to be removed.  While the impression was lent that these modifications did take place, in reality, it never happened: to this day, the PLO covenant retains those anti-Israel clauses.

Arafat ostensibly committed himself to the amendment process, and the Palestinian National Council then empowered a committee to make changes. The committee, however, never met, and no changes were actually made, although much of the world believes they were.  

o The terms of office of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the members of the PA legislature have expired, and yet there have not been new elections because Hamas -- which controls Gaza as the result of an illegal coup -- will not permit PA elections there.

In addition to casting doubt on the legitimacy of the current PA, this raises a very fundamental question:  How can a viable democratic state for the Palestinian people be established within a year?

o What is called "East" Jerusalem -- which actually refers to all of Jerusalem beyond the Green Line -- is often alluded to as "Arab" because it contains some predominantly Arab neighborhoods. This part of the city, however, is not traditionally Arab, but is rather the very seat of Jewish heritage in Jerusalem. It became "Arab" only because the Jordanians, who controlled the city from 1948 to 1967, rendered it Judenrein.

o In spite of considerable hype to the contrary, it is impossible to draw a line dividing Jerusalem into Jewish and Arab sections, thereby permitting "Arab" Jerusalem to become the capital of a Palestinian state. 

As journalist Khaled Abut Toameh explained recently, Jerusalem today is a web of intermeshing Jewish and Arab neighborhoods, with Jews and Arabs traveling freely about the city as necessary. Any attempt at division would immobilize the city, as it would generate a nightmare situation of checkpoints and crossings. Ultimately, freedom of movement would be denied to both Jews and Arabs.

An honest negotiating process will be required to incorporate these facts and others of a similar nature.

Arlene Kushner is a Jerusalem-based writer and author specializing in political and security issues affecting Israel. Her regular postings may be found at
www.arlenefromisrael.info.
The dispute between Israel and the Palestinian Authority with regard to the freezing of Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank) is predicated on the assumption that Israel's border is the '67 line -- called the Green Line -- that pertained before the Six Day War. The Palestinian claim, broadly accepted by the international community, is that everything on the other side is rightfully theirs.

There is, however, an essential problem with this: The Green Line was never Israel's border, but rather a temporary armistice line. When hostilities initiated by the Arab League after Israel's founding ended, Israel and Jordan signed an armistice agreement. It included acknowledgment that the armistice line would not prejudice future negotiations to determine Israel's permanent border.

After the 1967 war, when Israel secured control of Judea and Samaria, the Security Council passed Resolution 242. It did not require that Israel move back to the Green Line. Recognizing Israel's need for secure borders, it maintained that those borders must be determined via negotiations. 

This instance of factual misrepresentation is merely one of a host of misrepresentations and distortions of truth so pervasive as to render honest resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict impossible. Under an onslaught of Arab PR, critical facts are now ignored or forgotten by most of the world. Attempts to resolve the conflict are built on premises constructed of air or, perhaps more accurately, founded on quicksand.

Rather than pushing for an impossible one-year deadline for negotiations, decision-makers need to call a halt, and then take a hard look at the realities:

o The Oslo Accords were signed on the White House lawn with much fanfare in 1993. Yasser Arafat, signing for the PLO, the negotiating body for the Palestinian, was expected to subsequently secure ratification from that body. It never happened. He convened the PLO Executive Committee, which approved the agreement without a quorum because factions opposed did not attend. Arafat never brought it to the full PLO National Council. To this day, the PLO is not officially bound by the Oslo Accords.

o The Accords also required of the PLO a modification of its covenant, with clauses referring to Israel's destruction or a denial of Israel's right to exist to be removed.  While the impression was lent that these modifications did take place, in reality, it never happened: to this day, the PLO covenant retains those anti-Israel clauses.

Arafat ostensibly committed himself to the amendment process, and the Palestinian National Council then empowered a committee to make changes. The committee, however, never met, and no changes were actually made, although much of the world believes they were.  

o The terms of office of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the members of the PA legislature have expired, and yet there have not been new elections because Hamas -- which controls Gaza as the result of an illegal coup -- will not permit PA elections there.

In addition to casting doubt on the legitimacy of the current PA, this raises a very fundamental question:  How can a viable democratic state for the Palestinian people be established within a year?

o What is called "East" Jerusalem -- which actually refers to all of Jerusalem beyond the Green Line -- is often alluded to as "Arab" because it contains some predominantly Arab neighborhoods. This part of the city, however, is not traditionally Arab, but is rather the very seat of Jewish heritage in Jerusalem. It became "Arab" only because the Jordanians, who controlled the city from 1948 to 1967, rendered it Judenrein.

o In spite of considerable hype to the contrary, it is impossible to draw a line dividing Jerusalem into Jewish and Arab sections, thereby permitting "Arab" Jerusalem to become the capital of a Palestinian state. 

As journalist Khaled Abut Toameh explained recently, Jerusalem today is a web of intermeshing Jewish and Arab neighborhoods, with Jews and Arabs traveling freely about the city as necessary. Any attempt at division would immobilize the city, as it would generate a nightmare situation of checkpoints and crossings. Ultimately, freedom of movement would be denied to both Jews and Arabs.

An honest negotiating process will be required to incorporate these facts and others of a similar nature.

Arlene Kushner is a Jerusalem-based writer and author specializing in political and security issues affecting Israel. Her regular postings may be found at
www.arlenefromisrael.info.

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