The International Crisis Group defines itself as an “independent, non-partisan, [sic] source of analysis … on the prevention and resolution of deadly conflict.” While presidents and secretaries of state have relied it upon for analysis in places as disparate as Sudan, Iraq, Sri Lanka, and Burundi, it proves to be one-sided and ahistorical in its recent review of the Israel-Palestinian “peace process.” Noting that the world is currently preoccupied elsewhere, the ICG suggests that that might be a good thing:
Not to discard the two-state solution, for no other option can possibly attract mutual assent; nor to give up on negotiations, for no outcome will be imposed from outside. But to incorporate new issues and constituencies; rethink Palestinian strategy to alter the balance of power; and put in place a more effective international architecture. (All citations here.)
In a mere 54 words the ICG makes clear that it is uninterested in legitimacy for the State of Israel, denied by the Arab world since 1948, and doesn’t worry about how to secure Israel from the designs of those who, having started wars and launched terror against it from before its birth, still plot Israel’s extermination. It appears not even to notice irreconcilable Israeli and Palestinian political positions. The ICG wants:
- a “two state” solution;
- “[n]ew issues and constituencies”;
- a new Palestinian strategy to “change the “balance of power”; and
- a more effective “international architecture.”
Each requires measure.
There are currently three states (one real, two functional) between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. There cannot be a “two state” solution unless one disappears. The IGC takes the conventional position of one Palestinian State and one State of Israel, disregarding the well-known-by-others inability of Hamas and Fatah to cohabitate without bloodshed.
This ICG position engenders two questions: will Palestinian nationalism — either the Hamas or the Fatah variety — be content with a split, rump state wedged between a hostile Israel and an even more hostile Jordan? What part of the Palestinian program yet expounded agrees that between the two slivers that are supposed to fulfill Palestinian nationalist desires, a Western, democratic, multi-ethnic, multi-religious-but-Jewish country called Israel will ever be acceptable?
Both Palestinians and Israelis have been quite clear about their essential requirements, which they lay bare in six points (three on each side).
Israel’s basic requirements are:
- recognition of the Jewish state of Israel as a permanent, legitimate part of the region;
- “[s]ecure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force,” the promise of U.N. Resolution 242; and
- the capital of Israel in Jerusalem, with Israeli control of Jewish holy sites. Israel’s experience from 1948-1967 makes it impossible to trust the U.N. or an Arab State with protecting Jewish patrimony.
All of these require the participation of the Arab States as well as of the Palestinians; none precludes a Palestinian state.
For the Palestinians, the essential requirements are:
- international recognition of an independent Palestinian state without accepting a Jewish state of Israel;
- Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine; and
- the right of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to live in Israel if they choose.
Each Palestinian point is a rejection of the legitimacy of Israel. For the ICG — and the Quartet and the U.N. — to toddle merrily along without noticing or caring is willfully naïve.
“New issues and constituencies” means to introduce the 1949 Armistice Lines and Hamas to the discussion, as well as Israeli Arabs as a separate entity.
At the core of the Oslo process was the notion that a peace agreement would need to deal with issues emanating from the 1967 War … as opposed to that arose in 1948 from the establishment of Israel, the trauma of the accompanying war and the displacement of the vast majority of Palestinians. But if that logic was ever persuasive, it no longer is.
The “core” of Oslo ensured that the legitimacy of the origins of the State of Israel — through a U.N.-sponsored process that midwifed the majority of U.N. member-states — would not be subject to debate. It was a minimal Israeli condition for inviting the Palestinians to finally accept the state the world had prepared for them in 1947 and expected them to declare in 1948. The ICG would thus eliminate the single protection for Israeli legitimacy in the discussion.
The statement on refugees requires deconstruction: first, the “vast majority of Palestinians” did not leave the space that became Israel, which is why Arabs constitute almost 20% of the citizens of Israel today. Second, the intergenerational imprisonment of Palestinians in camps by UNRWA and the Arab States is a shame on the U.N. and the Arab States and should be dealt with by them — it is no reason to reopen the issue of Israel’s pre-’67 borders1. And finally, the vast majority of those who left are no longer with us. Because their jailors rewrote international norms for refugee status (refugees cannot be resettled and refugee status passes down through the generations), a fourth and fifth generation of Arab people has never known the rights or benefits of citizenship. That is a terrible shame, but again, a shame of their oppressors. Not of Israel2.
The right of return and the Nakba (the “catastrophe” that befell Palestinians in 1948); the place of the Arab minority in Israel; and, more broadly, the Palestinian connection to Historic Palestine have become more prominent.
The Palestinian “connection to Historic Palestine” includes the entirety of the Kingdom of Jordan. Is there an ICG proposal to subject the creation of Jordan to post hoc review? To adopt the words “right of return” and “nakba” without quotation marks is to adopt the legitimacy of both. The so-called “right of return” does not exist in international law and has not been applied, for example, to Pakistanis who regret the fact that their great-grandparents left India at Independence. “Nakba” raises the question: what was the catastrophe? Was it the independence of Israel? The failure of seven Arab states to murder it at birth? The failure of the Arabs to declare an independent Arab state as Israel’s neighbor, producing the multi-generational refugee problem?
The ICG primly instructs the Palestinians on the balance of power:
Rather than ad-hoc, shifting tactical moves, the entire Palestinian national movement needs to think seriously through its various options — including reconciliation, internationalisation, popular resistance and fate of the PA — and decide whether it is prepared to pay the costs for pursuing them fully.
The ICG appears not to have noticed that the “entire Palestinian national movement” currently finds itself unable to have any discussion at all. The so-called “unity government” agreed upon by Hamas and Fatah last December — that supposedly ended the brutal Palestinian civil war of 2007 — has failed. The election promised to the residents of the West Bank and Gaza in May by Palestinian leadership has been canceled; Mahmoud Abbas’s term of office expired in December 2009. The Palestinian Authority has been jailing West Bankers who criticize Abbas and the PA (see Abu Rihan and his Facebook page), and Hamas has hanged Palestinians it calls “collaborators.”
For a “new international architecture,” the ICG — rightly — downplays the possibility that the Quartet will produce progress but suggests that Washington will continue to engage in the “peace process” to “help manage its relations with the Arab world and to compensate for close ties to Israel.”
Most parties in Washington for most of Israel’s life haven’t found it necessary to “compensate” for excellent relations with a democratic, pro-Western ally that shares not only Washington’s general threat assessment (through the Cold War to Islamic terrorism to Iranian nuclear progress), but also its values: rule of law, equal rights including women’s rights, tolerance, and entrepreneurial capitalism. If Washington ever finds itself apologizing for its relations with Israel, it will be a Washington that is having trouble with its own values and standards.
Oddly enough, although the ICG warns its readers “not to discard the two-state solution … nor to give up on negotiations,” and though it rejects the notion that “the process itself has run the course,” it finds precisely that conclusion:
Continued meetings and even partial agreements … are possible[.] … But (they) will not bring about a durable and lasting peace. The first step in breaking what has become an injurious addiction to a futile process is to recognize that it is so — to acknowledge, at long last, that the emperor has no clothes.
Nor does the ICG.
1The one country of the Levant (Lebanon, Israel, Syria, plus Egypt proper — not Gaza, and Jordan proper — not the West Bank) that never had Palestinians in refugee camps is Israel. All the others had and still have imprisoned populations.
2Note too that the ICG counts only Arab refugees — skipping over the 750,000+ Jews who were expelled from Arab countries, many of whom found refuge and citizenship in Israel, and none of whom were permanently confined to camps.