April 23, 2012 Edition 13 Palestinian-Israeli Crossfire
The Mofaz plan
In the right direction  - Yossi Alpher
Mofaz's proposal borrows extensively from some of the better ideas floated in recent years.

The failings of Israel's mainstream  - Ghassan Khatib
The Israeli mainstream, which includes Mofaz, feels no urgency for a peaceful solution.

Both sides will reject it  - Efraim Inbar
His plan for a Palestinian state with temporary borders has to be dropped--for electoral as well as practical reasons.

To be trusted, Mofaz should begin dismantling the occupation  - Daoud Kuttab
The basic concept of this proposal is faulty.

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In the right direction
 Yossi Alpher
Judging by accepted standards for Israeli election or party-primary candidates, Shaul Mofaz of Kadima did something fairly unique. He actually presented a detailed platform to back up his candidacy to lead Kadima in that party's leadership primary in late March. Mofaz, a former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff and minister of defense under Ariel Sharon, defeated incumbent party leader Tzipi Livni by a landslide. That this happened more because of Livni's failings than due to the intricacies of Mofaz's platform should not detract from our interest in the platform, where it focuses on the Palestinian issue.

Mofaz could be awarded a senior ministerial portfolio in the next government. (Actually, he aspires to form the next government, but at this point in time that appears unrealistic.) So his plan for dealing with the Palestinian issue, which is strikingly different from what Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu advocates or what Livni supports, deserves our attention.

Several slightly different versions of Mofaz's plan have been circulated. Broadly speaking, he advocates that Israel recognize Palestinian statehood on condition that the PLO takes full responsibility for the Gaza Strip, and that Israel turn over another 10 or 20 percent of the West Bank to the PLO. The international community would recognize this Palestinian state within temporary borders and guarantee an Israeli pledge to negotiate additional withdrawal from a total area equaling the size of the West Bank (i.e., the 1967 lines with land swaps for settlement blocs) within a given period of time. The Knesset would legislate a mechanism for buying out or compensating settlers living beyond the blocs.

Mofaz's proposal borrows extensively from some of the better ideas floated in recent years. It takes as its point of departure phase II of the roadmap: a Palestinian state with temporary borders. It co-opts a proposal floated by the Quartet and toyed with by Netanyahu to withdraw unilaterally from parts of West Bank Area C where there are no settlements. It co-opts the demand of Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) for international recognition of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders. It seeks to deal with Palestinians' understandable fears that failure in the ensuing negotiations would leave them with a truncated state made up of a hodge-podge of enclaves by offering international guarantees for the completion in real time of negotiations based on the 1967 lines. It adopts a longstanding proposal of the Israeli political left and center to preempt the issue of removing settlements after an agreement by providing incentives for settlers to leave even before a two-state agreement is reached.

In short, this is an interesting and largely constructive proposal that deserves more attention than it has received. But it remains flawed. The Mofaz plan either fails to recognize that the PLO won't regain control over Gaza, or inserts the Gaza issue to give Israel an excuse not to honor its commitments. And it assumes that, backed by an international guarantee to the Palestinians, they and Israel will succeed in settling all final status issues. Yet Abbas himself, through his withdrawal from negotiations and appeal to the United Nations, appears to recognize that the PLO has nothing constructive to offer Israel regarding the right of return and the Temple Mount--in short, the "Jewish state" issues.

The PLO, then, knows full well that it won't recover Gaza any time soon and that its positions prohibit an end-of-claims end-of-conflict agreement that, under Mofaz, would award it the 1967 lines with swaps. Hence it will reject the Mofaz plan for fear of remaining stuck with only around half of the West Bank.

But Mofaz is moving in the right direction: ending the disastrous occupation under terms Israel can live and even prosper with. He should drop the unrealistic Gaza condition and recognize that the "narrative" or "pre-1967" issues of refugees and holy places are deal-breakers that perpetuate the occupation. He should postulate an agreement on the 1967 borders based on Palestinian acceptance, with international guarantees, of Israel's security conditions and international recognition not only of a Palestinian state but of Israel as a Jewish state. In other words, he should acknowledge that Israel needs a viable and secure Palestinian state agreement even without resolving the pre-1967 issues.

Israel's most pressing need today is to end the occupation and, with international recognition, consolidate itself as a Jewish state with adequate guarantees for its security and for ethnic and religious minorities. Even if it then takes generations to resolve the refugee and holy places issues and Gaza remains hostile, a far-reaching measure of stability will have been achieved and Israel will have saved itself from a one-state catastrophe.

Will Mofaz rise to this challenge? -Published 23/4/2012 ©

Yossi Alpher is coeditor of the family of internet publications. He is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.

The failings of Israel's mainstream
 Ghassan Khatib
The election of Shaul Mofaz, former Israeli minister of defense, as head of Israel's Kadima party is not surprising news, at least for Palestinians. Polls continue to show right-wing trends in Israeli public opinion, and despite differences between Mofaz and the Israeli mainstream, there remains a rift between his politics and the international consensus over the basic requirements of a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Even when political differences exist among the various Israeli politicians or political parties, one can't help but observe that most of them share the same arrogance when relating to Palestinians. It seems that because Israel won several wars against Arab states, and defeated most Arab armies, Israelis tend to confuse the Palestinian people with Arab militaries and governments.

What Israeli politicians need to know is that, while governments, states and armies can be defeated and might even surrender, people cannot. Such is especially true when those people are fighting for basic, inalienable and non-negotiable rights such as freedom, independence and self-determination.

Many Israeli analysts and political experts are imagining a scenario where Mofaz would join the coming Israeli government, likely to be headed by the still-strong Likud. In other words, Labor party leader Ehud Barak would be replaced by Mofaz. And why not? Barak also has different positions than the Likud and its head Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and yet they have complemented each other, haven't they?

The best way to inspect Mofaz's politics is to look at the political plan that he published in May 2011. That plan suggests that the Palestinian Authority pass the test of security responsibility (which it has done), and recognize Israel (which it has done), and recognize the three Quartet conditions (which it has done), and take full responsibility for Gaza (which Israel itself gifted to Hamas by ignoring both the Palestine Liberation Organization leadership and the bilateral peace process, replacing them with unilateralism and the ideas of Ariel Sharon). If Palestinians meet all these benchmarks, Mofaz suggests transferring to them an additional 10 percent of the occupied territories and asking the international community to recognize a Palestinian state with temporary borders.

Mofaz ignores only one "small" problem, which he should know is a make-or-break issue for Palestinians: Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories, including in occupied East Jerusalem.

As such, although this plan puts distance between him and the current right-wing government, Mofaz has found no Palestinian partner. The reason is not that Mofaz, especially last May, was marginal in Israeli politics, but rather that his proposal falls short of Palestinian requirements. Indeed, Palestinians, who have compromised all their rights save the basics they are guaranteed in international law, will unfavorably compare the Mofaz plan with the ill-fated roadmap, for example, which calls for a cessation of all settlement activity.

This demand is not a bargaining tool, but a logical requirement. Bilateral talks have proven meaningless over the last two decades not because they did not make progress, but because they could not prevent the progress of a process that negated them. How can we negotiate the future of a land that is daily and rapidly being forcefully taken by one party to the negotiations?

The Israeli mainstream, which includes Mofaz, feels no urgency for a peaceful solution. As long as its illegal control of the occupied territories goes unchallenged, Israel will continue to behave as if it owns this land. And as long as Israel's military is strong enough to smash the face of a peaceful Danish protester without accountability, as happened last week in Jericho, mainstream Israeli proposals will continue to reflect mainstream Israeli arrogance.

If Mofaz wants truly to make a difference, he must come up with an alternative approach. He has to start from the basic assumption that the borders of Israel are the borders of 1967 and that the Palestinian state will follow these same borders. Consequently, all illegal Israeli activities outside those borders should stop. On this basis, meaningful negotiations can recommence, and Israeli security concerns can be viewed as legitimate. Otherwise, it will be a matter of time until the conflict moves to another paradigm, this one different from that proposing two states.-Published 23/4/2012 ©

Ghassan Khatib is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications and director of the Government Media Center. This article represents his personal views.

Both sides will reject it
 Efraim Inbar
Having recently won the struggle for the Kadima party leadership, Shaul Mofaz now plans to position himself as a serious alternative to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. While the polls so far do not show any significant increase in Kadima's appeal to voters, Mofaz is a focused, hardworking politician who cannot easily be dismissed as a mere irritant to the Likud and Netanyahu, which seem to have a hold on the Israeli electorate. He has the necessary national security experience--as former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff and minister of defense--to take on the prime ministerial quest. Moreover, his non-Ashkenazi background could be useful in attracting Sephardi voters who are inclined to vote Likud.

Yet, if Mofaz wants to have a chance at making inroads at the center of the Israeli political map, his plan for a Palestinian state with temporary borders in the West Bank has to be dropped--for electoral as well as practical reasons. This plan includes additional territorial concessions (about ten percent of the West Bank) to the Palestinian Authority, and demands it take effective control over the Gaza Strip. Moreover, it commits Israel to almost full withdrawal to the 1967 lines plus land swaps to compensate the Palestinians for Israel's annexation of the settlement blocs.

Considering Israel's recent experience with withdrawals, Israelis are hardly in the mood to hand over more land to Palestinian control. The 2005 unilateral withdrawal from Gaza is largely perceived as a strategic fiasco--the land transferred to Palestinian control has become an Iranian proxy, a terrorist base and a launching pad for missiles against Israeli civilians. This pattern has repeated itself: first in southern Lebanon where Hizballah took over, then in Gaza where Hamas became the ruler.

Israelis are also very suspicious of Palestinian intentions in general. Polls indicate that although, in principle, Israelis are ready for territorial concessions, a large majority is very skeptical about the readiness of the Palestinian national movement to make a historic compromise with the Zionist movement. The continued Palestinian insistence on the "right of return" and claim to East Jerusalem are seen as insurmountable obstacles. Moreover, the Palestinian education system and its media are seen as agents for perpetuating the conflict by continuously denying Jewish rights to the Land of Israel, particularly Jerusalem and its Temple Mount.

The Palestinians' recently-adopted unilateral approach, which shies away from negotiations with Israel and appeals to the international community to force Israel to accept a fait accompli, only further strengthens the perception of Palestinian intransigence. Any Israeli concessions will be a hard sell in Israel as long as the Palestinians continue their Israel-bashing campaign at home and abroad. The Palestinians are not projecting an image of nice neighbors.

The Mofaz plan, basically a recipe for an interim agreement, tries to create a new diplomatic atmosphere by offering the Palestinians additional concessions (land and state recognition) without any reciprocal need to compromise on their demands. Mofaz is offering a much-enhanced Oslo package, under the assumption that the Palestinians will show some pragmatism in taking what is offered now, hoping to get more in the future. This step-by-step pragmatic approach is intended to prevent a crisis and buy time for the emergence of a political environment more conducive to an Israeli-Palestinian deal.

Alas, pragmatism has never been an element of Palestinian political culture. Indeed, the Mofaz plan and the idea of an additional interim agreement were vehemently rejected by the Palestinians who continue to adhere to a maximalist agenda. Even if Mofaz and his party become part of a future ruling coalition government in Israel, the Palestinians are unlikely to change their attitude.

The regional atmosphere is also not conducive to instilling pragmatism in the Palestinian camp. The "Arab spring," clearly a misnomer, heralded the ascendance of radical Islamist elements extremely hostile to the Jewish state. The new emerging elites are more supportive of Hamas, an organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel, than to the much-discredited Palestine Liberation Organization leadership. This leadership has sensed the regional change and has tried to reconcile with Hamas. This has not yet happened, but the mere increase in Hamas-Fateh contact is unlikely to ease Palestinian demands of Israel. Furthermore, the likelihood of a West Bank-Gaza reunification under the aegis of the "moderate" Palestinian forces, a little-noticed clause in the Mofaz plan, is probably zero.

The upheavals in the Arab world have also increased Israelis' threat perception, making them more inclined to insist on defensible borders and strict security arrangements. What they see is the continuous decline of much of the Arab world that fails to meet the challenges of modernization. Regional trends indicate increasing Islamization and fragmentation of the Arab states. The Palestinians actually pioneered these trends when Hamas won the January 2006 elections and then broke away from the Palestinian Authority in June 2007 with its Gaza coup. This does not turn the Palestinians into good partners for the Mofaz plan or for any other peace plan.-Published 23/4/2012 ©

Efraim Inbar is professor of political studies and director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University.

To be trusted, Mofaz should begin dismantling the occupation
 Daoud Kuttab
Israeli politicians are very good at negotiating with themselves. Shaul Mofaz is not much different. The Mofaz plan that apparently helped propel him to the top of the Kadima party suggests that Israel would cede some ten percent of the territories in the West Bank as a first step towards the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state.

Before doing that, however, Palestinians must fulfill conditions--but Mofaz's conditions (recognizing Israel, abandoning terrorism and accepting past agreements) have already been met by the Palestine Liberation Organization in both word and deed so it is unclear whether these conditions are indeed being demanded of the PLO or Hamas. Mofaz suggests that the international community "guarantee" further Israeli withdrawals to the 1967 borders, including land swaps.

The basic concept of this proposal is faulty because it assumes that Palestinians would trust the state of Israel and trust that the state of Israel would respect international guarantees. Israel's record on both is very weak; as such, Mofaz was unable to find any serious Palestinian to accept his plan. The idea that temporary borders can remain just that is the biggest hurdle for Palestinians to swallow. Palestinian ears are still ringing with the prophetic statement made by Yitzhak Shamir around the time of the Madrid Peace conference in 1992 when he said that he would drag negotiations out for 10 years. In fact, his prediction has been doubled. It has been 20 years and the reality on the ground has not changed.

Moreover, the idea that, every time Israel has to carry out a withdrawal that is part of a signed agreement, it should request some kind of reciprocation from Palestinians is illogical. In the Oslo process, Palestinians were promised a five-year transitional period. While the accords were signed in a White House ceremony in 1993, it took another year to work out the details and by all accounts Israel was to cede the occupied territories in 1999. That never happened. Instead Palestinians were dragged against their will to Camp David to renegotiate an agreement that they thought was already signed, sealed, and delivered.

Israel's newest party leader has some interesting attributes. He comes from a military background, a prerequisite in Israeli eyes for making political concessions. He also belongs to the oriental Sephardic Jewish community rather than the European one that has largely ruled Israel since its foundation. Mofaz leads a party that has been on the record as supporting the peace process. Its founder, Ariel Sharon, coined the term "hafrada" ("separation") to justify Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, which was supposed to be the prelude to a similar disengagement of Israel's ugly occupation from the West Bank.

Ehud Olmert, who followed Sharon, came closest to reaching a withdrawal agreement only to be removed from his position on the basis of a civilian court case against him.

If Mofaz wants to win the confidence of Palestinians, the path is very clear. As in cases of chronic alcoholism or other types of substance abuse, the way forward begins with an admission of the problem followed by active steps to remedy it. Israeli leaders from the left and right continue to stick their heads in the sand and deny that they as an occupying power are the guilty party and that they have caused the perpetuation of the conflict. This is not a case that calls for reciprocity. Rather, tough and courageous decisions need to be made.

The very first of these decisions must be the direction the Israeli army is taking in the occupied territories in dealing with Palestinians and in dealing with Israelis. Israel must demonstrate through action that it is beginning to dismantle its multi-faceted machine for occupying another people. The beginning of the end of occupation also requires telling Israelis that the settlement enterprise runs contrary to peace. You can't begin to reverse expansionist settlement policies if settlers, their ideologies, their financial support and those promoting them are not told clearly and directly that they have no future on land that is destined to be the Palestinian state.

Shaul Mofaz's plan might have been good enough to get him more votes than Tzipi Livni and could appear to a naive follower of the Middle East as reasonable. But a quick check of its content and the question marks it leaves unanswered make it no better than most plans in which Israelis have negotiated amongst themselves, ending up nowhere.-Published 23/4/2012

Daoud Kuttab is a Palestinian journalist and former Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University.