by Peter A. Belmont / 2011-05-22
© 2011 Peter Belmont
Is there anything wrong with the international approach to the Israel/Palestine status quo? Not if the nations are happy ignoring their responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Not if the nations are content with Israel’s prolonged (and apparently unending) program of violations of Palestinian human rights and national rights. Not if the nations are content to see “peace” as not merely distant but as wholly illusory. As the USA and Israel have made it.
I mean, Israelis seem to like all this “jes’ fin’” and the international community, apart from making occasional noises of unhappiness, have taken no concrete actions to correct any of this.
Bibi sez: “…while Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace, it cannot go back to the 1967 lines, because these lines are indefensible, because they don’t take into account certain changes that have taken place on the ground, demographic changes that have taken place over the last 44 years… ”
OK, that’s what he sez now. And he’ll say it forever, if international conditions remain the same forever. For there is neither an effective “peace party” or “human rights party” within Israel, but there are several expansionist parties who would love to push the Palestinians (from within Israel and from the OPTs) into the desert (that is, into Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt) where they may live in stateless unhappiness with their brethren expellees from the 1948 war. If external circumstances do not change, don’t expect Israeli policies to change. The present one-undemocratic-Zionist-controlled-apartheid-state suits Israel to a “T”.
How could Israel’s external conditions change? Well, the most likely mechanism (tho very unlikely, as history shows) is united international action, an “international intifada” created to “shake off” the USA and Israel from their pedestal of malignant control over Palestine.
So, let’s assume that the nations gather their strength and agree to act in favor of a change to the status quo. The “international intifada.”
How should they act? I see only two paths.
Option One—Dictating and Imposing Peace
One way they could act would be to take united action to define a peace treaty and force Israel and Palestine to agree to it. I don’t like this at all, but it is surely possible, even if slightly less possible than the second option, which I describe farther below, and which I prefer.
Imposing peace is a difficult and unclear path for several reasons. First, the nations are under no obligation to define and impose peace (and have no legal basis to do so). Second, there is no clear path to a definition of “peace”. The nations could, of course, “legislate” a return to the pre-1967 borders or to the borders proposed in UNGA-181 (1947) (partition). But they’d still have the problem of the 1948 refugees and the sharing of water. And many things I have not thought of. But they could do it. However, the drafting of the peace treaty would be hard, they might forget important items, and then agreeing to enforce the peace would be a bit difficult. (Yes, agreeing; enforcing would always be difficult.)
Option Two—Enforcing Well-Settled International Law
But if the nations are not obliged to make peace, they are obliged to “ensure respect” for the Fourth Geneva Convention “under all circumstances” and are thus required to force Israel to remove all settlers, the wall, and all settlements from all territories occupied in 1967 (presently, the Golan Heights and the West Bank, very much including East Jerusalem).
As a first assumption, suppose the nations were to gather their strength, Uniting for Peace (see UNGA 377(V) 3 Nov 1950), and act cohesively and with a strong arm to require Israel to remove all settlers, wall, and settlements from the Golan and the West Bank. And suppose it works (this is the second assumption).
Then two things will have been accomplished. First, there will no longer be a demographic problem “on the ground”. Israel’s settlers will have been happily reunited to their loving families behind the pre-1967 line. Second, the nations have flexed their muscles, defying Israel and the USA. They will have shown themselves ready for whatever comes next. They would be even readier to impose peace—if this should still be necessary—than they are now.
Under this scenario, the nations (led probably by Turkey and Egypt) would have discovered their strength (and demonstrated their ability to oppose the USA and Israel) while doing something relatively simple to define and relatively simple to agree to (relative to defining peace and enforcing it)—enforcing well-settled international law. And, of course, flexing muscles is a muscle-building enterprise. The nations would be even stronger for the next step, if a next step would still be required.
I don’t think a next step would be required, however, because I think Israel—after testing international resolve and after suffering sufficiently from sanctions to become convinced that the day of the illegal settlements and illegal settlers is over—would agree to a peace acceptable to the Palestinians—whether one state or two or three—and would do so fairly quickly if by so doing it could avoid having to complete the costly and painful (and embarrassing) process of removing settlers and dynamiting and bulldozing some small part of the housing it has built up illegally, since 1967.
Israel has believed it was invincible because it has been so treated since 1948. To be crushed by sustained pressure from the united international community—presumably by boycotts on trade, communications, and travel, but also by further threat of criminal trials of leaders for war-crimes—would bring it down from its stance as local immune-bully-above-the-law to a mere nation among nations, a failed light if you will, a nation like all the other nations, one among many, and that many including a free and independent Palestine (unless a democratic single state was determined upon by the Israelis and the Palestinians, jointly and freely.
Isn’t an international intifada a far better scenario for peacemaking than the status quo (2011)? It must be for it couldn’t be any worse.