Full Withdrawal from the West Bank Can’t Be the Starting Point of Israel-Palestinian Negotiations

March 24 2021

Prior to the Trump administration’s 2019 peace proposal, what Eran Lerman dubs the “Everybody Knows Paradigm” for addressing the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians came to dominate in American and European foreign-policy circles. Claiming that “everybody knows” what is necessary to make peace, the plan’s supporters call for Israel to withdraw from almost all of the West Bank, retaining a few small areas for which it will compensate the Palestinian Authority with land it has held since 1949. Lerman explains that such a proposal cannot be the basis for serious negotiations:

Failure to advance peace based on the Everybody Knows Paradigm is in part the result of the firm opposition of most Israelis to a “solution” that would require relinquishing key strategic areas of the West Bank, forcibly uprooting hundreds of thousands of people from their homes in Judea and Samaria (Israel’s biblical homeland); carving up the living city of Jerusalem; and responding to Palestinian demands for the so-called “right of return,” [i.e., a right for descendants of refugees from the War of Independence to citizenship not in Palestinian state, but in the Jewish one]. Such propositions are unacceptable to a broad consensus of Israeli public opinion, regardless of who wins future Israeli elections.

However, the mainstream of Israeli opinion . . . would be willing to accept a two-state solution (or a so-called “state-minus” situation) with an emphasis on Palestinian demilitarization if key Israeli security interests were protected and the dislocation of settlers were reduced to a minimum. But such an accommodation seems inconceivable, given that the Palestinians adamantly refuse to consider any Jewish minority in their midst.

This will continue to be so, because such positions create an altogether unrealistic anticipation on the Palestinian side of a solution imposed by the international community rather than a solution negotiated with Israel. . . . Such expectations are already being fed by the decision of the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor to launch an investigation into the possibility that war crimes have been committed in “Palestine,” [which the court defines as] all the territories beyond the June 4, 1967 lines, including parts of Jerusalem. When such a definition by an international institution is dangled in front of them, which Palestinian leaders will be bold enough to settle for less at the negotiating table?

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Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: ICC, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Two-State Solution, West Bank

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy