In advance of U.S. President Obama’s planned visit to the region on 20-22 March [during which Obama will reportedly spend about 3 hours in Ramallah, as compared to 45 hours in Israel] Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu is reportedly planning to offer a “new” plan for arranging things with the current Palestinian leadership.
This has been heard before.
Meanwhile, the New U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, in a joint press conference in Washington with Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, that he and President Obama were planning to visit the region in order to “listen”.
This has also been heard before.
Kerry bravely proceeded, anyway, saying that “the President is not prepared, at this point in time, to do more than to listen to the parties, which is why he has announced he’s going to go to Israel. It affords him an opportunity to listen. And I think we start out by listening and get a sense of what the current state of possibilities are and then begin to make some choices. It would be a huge mistake, almost an arrogant step, to suddenly be announcing this and that without listening first, so that’s what I intend to do, that’s what the President intends to do”.
Jordan’s Foreign Minister Judeh said: “The most important thing is to have results. And I think that we’ve seen failed approaches, false starts, media events. I think we have to look at all of this and put it in perspective and see how we can produce results in the next phase. The Secretary and I are in full agreement that the window of opportunity on this is closing fast, and that makes it all the more important for us to work together in addressing this issue”.
[ Ynet is reporting here that on Thursday morning March 21, “Obama will depart for Ramallah to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Obama will return to Jerusalem by noon, when he will be taken by Netanyahu to examine a model of Second Temple Period Jerusalem. They will continue to the Shrine of the Book, where Netanyahu will show him the Dead Sea Scrolls”… and so on].
Akiva Eldar reported in Al-Monitor here that high-level Likud officials believe that Netanyahu “really appears to want to jump-start diplomatic negotiations with Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen in an attempt to bring about a long-term interim agreement. This, he feels, is because a final status settlement is not achievable in the coming years.”
Again, this has been heard before.
Not least of all when the same view was recently expressed by Netanyahu’s previous Foreign Minister, Alexander Lieberman.
The thing is, none of the Palestinian leadership, from Mahmoud Abbas to Khaled Meshaal of Hamas, will accept an interim or temporary agreement. They believe that Israel will continue to create facts on the ground, mainly in settlements in the West Bank, that will make the Palestinian state — and any solution — non-viable.
So, this will be an extremely irritating move, at least for the Palestinians — and, at best, a waste of time.
The UN Human Rights Council [HRC] in Geneva has just received a tough report that relies on international law to say that Israel’s settlements are illegal and must be evacuated.
We reported on reaction to this HRC report in late January on our sister blog, here.
Israeli international law expert Ruth Gavison wrote on 8 February in Haaretz, here, that Israel should take this HRC report seriously. Gavison told her readers that “The report reflects the views of the international community that sees Israel not only as an on-going occupier in the West Bank, but one that conducts itself as proprietary owners, perceiving their rights as overruling the Palestinians’ quest for self-determination on part of their homeland. It should be noted that in contrast to the Human Rights Council’s report, which views the 1967 borders (the Green Line) as the only criterion for the legitimacy of Jewish settlement projects, the Israeli government has before it the report prepared by retired Justice Edmond Levy which states otherwise. This report, basing itself on the same international law, states that the entire West Bank is a legitimate target for Jewish settlement, subject to proprietary rights of Palestinian residents. The state and its courts have done their utmost to avoid taking an unambiguous stand regarding the legality of Jewish settlement beyond the Green Line in the context of international law. The courts have dealt mainly with property rights of individual Palestinians”. But, Gavison noted, “If Israel continues to argue that it is permissible for Jews to settle anywhere in Mandatory (pre-1948) Palestine (other than on private land), which is what the Levy report recommends, rather than claim that this was how it interpreted international law until the issue was clarified, the country and its leaders will face mounting criticism and even sanctions”.
Today, Carlo Strenger wrote in Haaretz that: “The bottom line of Gavison’s article is simple and crystal clear. Any way you may look at it, Israel’s settlement activity in the West Bank is illegal according to international law. In fact, according to the Treaty of Rome endorsed in 1998 settling the population of a conquering country in occupied territory is considered a war crime. She makes clear that no reading of international law supports the conclusion of the Edmond Levy committee that claims that Israeli settlements are legal. Gavison’s urgent recommendation to any future government is to embark on a negotiated solution with the Palestinians as soon as possible. She warns that if the conflict is not solved, Israel will be in a very weak position…Gavison, I reemphasize, is not only a highly respected legal authority, but also extremely cautious. I am convinced that she has thought through every aspect of her argument countless times. Her conclusion is crystal-clear: Israel may soon find itself in a truly threatening situation. Playing at ‘we want negotiations, but the Palestinians don’t fulfill preconditions like recognizing Israel as a Jewish state’ is not enough: a solution must actually be achieved. This is deeply opposed to Israeli political culture of the last decades. As the former Shin Bet Chiefs interviewed in Dror Moreh’s highly praised documentary ‘The Gatekeepers’ keep reiterating, Israel’s political leaders always avoided formulating a clear strategic goal on the Palestinian conflict. The reticence of Israeli politicians to address the Israel-Palestine conflict has good reasons: the left was practically wiped off the political map because it is seen as responsible for the second Intifada, and very few politicians are willing to take any further risks in this direction. As a result Israel’s political discourse is largely based on the mistaken assumption that the status quo of the occupation can be perpetuated indefinitely…[though] Naftali Bennett is in favor of annexing sixty percent of the West Bank. Gavison’s legal analysis makes clear that this is an illusion. The Knesset has no legal jurisdiction over the West Bank, and even if Bennett’s idea would be implemented, the international community would reject this as a clear breach of international law. Carlo Strenger’s analysis is posted here.