In the past few weeks there has been much optimism over a renewed chance for peace with the Palestinians. The election of Mahmoud Abbas, Sharon's disengagement plan, the recently declared ceasefire (though nothing was actually signed, and Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade say that it does not apply to them), and Abbas's attempts to stop incitement and calls to murder in the Palestinian press have all once again contributed to the sense that maybe peace is around the corner. But is this really the case? Is peace now possible, simply because of the death of one man and the election of his subordinate? Or is this once again heading down the road of Oslo - a road that led to one of the worst wars in Israel's existence.
At this point, it seems to me that despite all the sanguinity, nothing has really changed. The Palestinians have not come to an acceptance of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. Their fundamental goal remains not coexistence with Israel, but replacing Israel. In poll after poll, in statement after statement, they still yearn for the destruction of Israel. This is one of the fruits of Oslo. Instead of using the seven years between the signing of the Oslo Accords and the final status talks at Camp David and Taba to inculcate an acceptance of Israel, Arafat used the time to raise another generation on rejectionism, hatred, and genocidal anti-Semitism. Does anyone think that this has disappeared with his death? The main cause of the desire for a hudna - a temporary ceasefire - on the part of the Palestinians has been the separation barrier and Israel's military operations that have decimated Hamas and the other terrorist groups. Now that they have a ceasefire, they can (and will) use the time to regroup, retrain, and adjust to resume their war on Israel.
But now that the ceasefire is in place there will be a push by the Quartet to push the roadmap. And once again, there is a great danger that all the old habits of Oslo will be repeated: Israel will be forced to give up tangibles for Palestinian promises. And once those promises are broken, the Quartet - especially Europe and the UN - will ignore them, and move on to pressuring Israel into more concessions. There will then be the demands to move on to final status talks that will fail because Palestinian society will still be clinging to their hopes of destroying Israel. The one hope is that President Bush will live up to the doctrine that he has been propounding, and not force the Palestinians to truly reform their society. Of course, such reformation is a long term prospect, and much of the world has little patience.
So what then can be done? What is the solution to this conflict? I had a discussion about this tonite with my brother-in-law, an Israeli living in Jerusalem. He agreed that this was a repeat of Oslo, but his solution was a complete disengagement - finishing the separation barrier and declaring that Gaza whatever parts of Judea and Samaria Israel decides are Palestinian. And thats it. The Palestinians will have their state, and will be completely separated from Israel and the conflict would be over. It seems to me that even if such a separation were possible, it would not end the conflict, but instead a prescription for a larger war. Undoubtedly, Palestinians would acquire rockets from Iran and Hizbullah, and would be in range of all Israeli population centers. Does any still believe that Israel would be allowed by the "international community" to respond to rocket attacks on its citizens? And so, under great condemnation, Israel would be forced to do in the West Bank what it did in South Lebanon in 1982.
My solution is one that does not fit with current mores and politically correct thinking. I believe that the only way to resolve this conflict, short of a complete transformation of the entire Arab world, would be to follow something like the Elon Plan
. In effect, Jordan would once again become the legitimate representative of the Palestinians, and would repatriate all the Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria to Jordan. Israel would then annex Judea and Samaria and have a realistic and defensible border - the Jordan River. I know that most will argue that this is politically, and otherwise impossible. But three years ago a separation barrier was also impossible. There could be a number of ways to accomplish this, and it would not have to be done by force (for example, monetary inducements to relocate). Yes, this is a radical resolution, but at this point, and for the foreseeable future, it is the only one that offers the prospects of peace.