Israeli-Palestinian Accord Needs Egypt, Jordan, Too

Monday, 01 Jun 2009 04:32 PM

By Edward I Koch

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A secure Israel is a priority for Jews around the world, even for those who have no desire to live there permanently.

Those of us who live in the United States appreciate our extraordinary good fortune and passionately love our forefathers' land with a fervor equal to that of the most loyal citizens.

We know from experience that, when Adolf Hitler offered to release the Jews endangered in Nazi Germany to any country that would take them, no country would do so in any significant number. Ultimately, the German Jews were left to perish, together with the majority of the Jews of Europe, at the hands of the Nazis who murdered 6 million of Europe's Jews.

We also know that, had there been an Israel — a Jewish state — then it would have taken every Jew no matter who they were or the cost of caring for them. That is why Jews are so concerned about the U.S. government 's attitude toward the state of Israel and the pressures it appears to be bringing to bear upon Israel's government.

At the same time, the Israeli government must understand that, although it is an ally of the United States, the foreign policies of the two states will not always coincide. In 2002, when George W. Bush was president, the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government agreed in principle to a "road map" to a the two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Under that agreement, the "Palestinian leadership issues [an] unequivocal statement reiterating Israel's right to exist in peace and security and calling for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire to end armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere. All official Palestinian institutions end incitement against Israel."

The key requirement of Israel was that "Israeli leadership issues [an] unequivocal statement affirming its commitment to the two-state vision of an independent, viable, sovereign Palestinian state living in peace and security alongside Israel, as expressed by President Bush, and calling for an immediate end to violence against Palestinians everywhere. All official Israeli institutions end incitement against Palestinians."

Other obligations are imposed upon each of the parties to the agreement. Israel's obligation with respect to settlements is: "Government of Israel immediately dismantles settlement outposts erected since March 2001; Consistent with the Mitchell Report, Government of Israel freezes all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements)."

The obligations are part of Phase I in the implementation of the agreement.

The Palestinians were prohibited from engaging in violence, and the Israelis were prohibited from creating any new settlements or enlarging existing settlements. Both that Palestinians and the Israelis have since violated the road map agreement. The Palestinians have continued with their violence, right up until today, especially from the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip.

Recently, Hamas waged war against Israel by lobbying thousands of rockets from Gaza into southern Israel, hugely disrupting the lives of Israeli citizens, as well as commercial activity. Hamas continues to refuse to acknowledge the authority of now Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. It refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of the State of Israel. It refuses to give up violence , and it refuses to accept all prior agreements entered into between the Palestinian Authority and the State of Israel.

The Israelis have violated the agreement by enlarging existing settlements and failing to demolish the roughly 100 settlements they acknowledge are illegal. The new government of Israel under Prime Minister Netanyahu also has declined to accept the two-state solution.

In the most logical of worlds, I believe that, as long as the Palestinians continue their violence, the Israelis should not be required to move forward with their obligations on demolishing settlements. However, that is not what the road map agreement provides. Those settlements provide Israel with some security during the violence.

But the condition of an end to violence before the demolition of settlements doesn't exist in the agreement, and Israel is required to fulfill its obligations, even if the Palestinians are failing to honor theirs. Otherwise, the Israelis can fairly be accused as the Palestinians under the Hamas government have been, of rejecting prior agreements. It is possible that the Palestinian Authority would agree to allow existing settlements to allow for natural growth in exchange for some concession from Israel.

Having tried to lay out where the parties are now, I will provide my proposals on how to end the conflict.

The effort now should be to form not only the two independent states but also a larger economic union, similar to the European Union, to include Egypt and Jordan, with the Egyptian and Jordanian military working with the Palestinian police to achieve peace in the Palestinian state.

Jordan, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority should end the anti-Semitic incitement in their government-controlled media and elsewhere. The Egyptian and the Jordanian governments should encourage their citizens to go as tourists to Israel and prohibit professional organizations from punishing members who go to Israel. Israeli tourists already seek out Egypt and Jordan.

King Abdullah II of Jordan and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt should be commended for doing what they've done to calm the waters, but they can do much more.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has to understand that he cannot reject the two-state solution with impunity and support of the American Jewish community and refuse to carry out Israel's obligations with respect to the settlements. However, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also should understand that there needs to be a sea change in Arab attitudes toward the existence of Israel as a Jewish state and a commitment to a nonviolent resolution of the conflict. That we have yet to see in any significant respect.

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