}

Back to Taba

uturn.jpgThose of us who wish to see peace between Israel and the Palestinians have long known that the offer made at Taba by Barak’s government pretty much set out the parameters for an eventual peace agreement. What was offered, in brief, was:

*A Palestinians state for the Palestinians
*The right of Palestinian refugees to return to the Palestinian state
*The Palestinian state to encompass about 97% of the West Bank, 100% of Gaza and a connecting road
*Land compensation on a 1:1 ratio from Israel to the Palestinians for the 3% of West Bank land it would keep
*Removal of all settlements and Israelis who are not living within those 3% of land Israel keeps
*Sharing of Jerusalem so that most of east Jerusalem goes to the Palestinians
*Sharing of the Old City of Jerusalem so that Israel remains sovereign over the Jewish Quarter and part of the Armenian Quarter while the Palestinians get sovereignty over the Muslim, Christian and part of the Armenian Quarters.
*Shared sovereignty over the Temple Mount
*Compensation in the vicinity of $30 billion to the new Palestinian state, paid by the international community with assistance from Israel
*An international force guarding the eastern border of the West Bank, with a renewable mandate that expires after several years
*Resolution of numerous other issues such as water rights, sovereign borders, permission for about 40,000 Palestinians to move into Israel, agreement to allow international port and airport in the Palestninian state, etc.

In return, the Israelis get:

*End of conflict; i.e. permanent peace with no further Palestinian ambitions to overtake Israel
*End to Palestinian terrorism
*Control over Palestinian airspace, with permission to use it for military purposes
*Retention of the 3% of West Bank land on which live about 75-80% of “settlers”
*Theoretically, the Arab world stops treating Israel like a pariah

The plan offered by Israel was based on Clinton’s suggestions of late 2000 (here on page 6 you will find the Palestinian version of those suggestions – a view that isn’t shared by the Israelis but their offer at Taba did reflect many of these suggestions) when he was seeking to repair the differences that emerged between the two sides at Camp David. Of course, by then the Palestinians had launched their Palestinians War of 2000. Despite this, Israel made this generous offer to the Palestinians and negotiations were ongoing. Shlomo Ben Ami, who was there, has spoken about the Palestinians finally showing a map where they essentially agreed with the idea of relinquishing the 2.5% of West Bank land to Israel in exchange for Israeli land. That was about the extent of what the Palestinians had agreed to change from their rejection of the deal at Camp David some months earlier.

Despite the minimal progress, Israeli elections were upcoming and Barak recognized that the Israeli public no longer had faith in the Palestinian partner (being victims of a war after offering peace and a state will do that to the public) or in him and that with an election coming up he was about to get his ass whupped and didn’t have the political muscle to push for such a far-reaching deal. He also realized, angrily, that the Palestinians had not moved on issues of substance such as their demands on “right of return.” He backed himself and Israel out of the negotiations, giving the Palestinians a way out because they could and did state in public that this was the closest the two sides had ever come to an agreement. Of course, throughout this period, the Palestinians were at war with Israel – a war that has not abated to this day.

I think most people around the world and in Israel’s political center to the left recognized that the outline for peace set out at Taba was a logical and likely resolution to the conflict if ever the two sides were to reach compromise. The past several years of the Palestinian War of 2000, the victims on both sides, the suicide bombings, the Qassem rockets, the relentless Palestinian propaganda, the growth of Israeli settlements and the Israeli reactions to Palestinian terror have made peace seem a distant and unreachable goal.

For various reasons, the current US Administration has decided that achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians would be good for everybody involved, might provide some relief from the pressures of Iraq and might even give Bush a positive legacy. While Annapolis seemed to be a flop, because there hasn’t been serious follow-through, it seems the Americans didn’t get the memo on the failure of that attempt and are pushing ahead. That’s a good thing, even if some Israelis fear American pressure. Both sides are going to have to compromise and the US is going to be the broker whether the sides wish it or not.

I actually suspect that Olmert’s government does seek American pressure even if they won’t say this in public. American pressure allows Olmert to offer concessions that he can’t offer without good reason. American pressure is a good reason that the public will buy. In this regard, Caroline Glick’s recent assertion that such pressure may resemble rape (because the editor of Ha’aretz told Condoleeza Rice that Israel needed to be raped by the US), is actually flawed. Olmert isn’t being raped, he is being made love to.

Tough love.

The problem is that he isn’t strong enough – and it’s doubtful any Israeli politician could ever become strong enough – to push through the kinds of concessions necessary to make a deal. American pressure could give him the support he needs to push a deal through.

What will the deal look like? It will look very similar to Taba.

…In a dramatic, unscheduled statement read to US-based reporters at the King David Hotel, Bush said the contours of the two-state solution were clear.

“There should be an end to the occupation that began in 1967,” Bush said. He added, in language indicating a rejection of the idea of Palestinian refugees flowing into Israel, “The agreement must establish Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people, just as Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people.”

The president went on: “These negotiations must ensure that Israel has secure, recognized, and defensible borders. And they must ensure that the state of Palestine is viable, contiguous, sovereign and independent.”

Bush said that reaching an agreement would require “painful concessions” by both Israel and the Palestinians.

“While territory is an issue for both parties to decide, I believe that any peace agreement between them will require mutually agreed adjustments to the armistice lines of 1949 to reflect current realities and to ensure that the Palestinian state is viable and contiguous,” Bush said. “I believe we need to look to the establishment of a Palestinian state and new international mechanisms, including compensation, to resolve the refugee issue.”

There will be plenty of shouting by Israeli and Palestinians. There will be plenty of people, militants, terrorists, extremists and just regular folks who will try to kill any deal. There will be lots of screaming politicians who blow a lot of hot air and score plenty of points attacking those who will try to make this deal happen. History teaches us that these forces are stronger than the forces seeking peace, and once again they may succeed in killing any deal. To be honest, some facts on the ground could kill a deal. Gaza is still run by Hamas and rockets are launched daily from there. Abbas appears to be weak, untrusted and unloved by his people. Palestinian groups are still launching terror attacks. Some Israeli settlers have no intention of leaving their homes and among them there may be a core that will resort to violence or segregation from Israel if forced to leave.

However, if a deal does happen, we know more or less what it will look like. It will look like Barak’s offer at Taba based on the Clinton parameters.

24 Comments

  1. Ephraim

    1/11/2008 at 2:30 pm

    Peace has always depended on whether or not the Arabs decide to give up trying to destroy Israel. When they finally come to that decision, there will be peace, but not before. Israel should not offer any more compromises until the Arabs clearly come to that decision and lay down their arms. Giving up land before the Arabs reach that decision will only mean more war, with Israel being forced to fight from a progressively weaker position.

  2. themiddle

    1/11/2008 at 2:48 pm

    And waiting means that Israel will soon be pushed toward a “one state” solution because of demographics. It also means that if Israel seeks a deal, it will do so from a weakened position. The Arabs already think they have the upper hand because time buys them more babies. Adalah, the most important Arab civil rights group in Israel has already come out with the position of making Israel a state from the ocean to the Jordanian border and with all the people therein its citizens…

  3. Ephraim

    1/11/2008 at 4:00 pm

    Well, there you go. You just go around in circles. You say that Israel has no choice but to accept a deal along the lines of Taba. Then you say that the Arabs already think they have the upper hand. If so, why would they be willing to compromise on anything? It is already clear that they do not care if they murder their own children so long as they can kill Jews. Even if Israel unilaterally retreats, it is certain that just as in S. Lebanon and Gaza, the Arabs will see this as a retreat due to weakness (which is exactly what it will be). This guarantees another war. Israel is just like the kid in the schoolyard who draws a line in the sand, dares the bully to cross it, and then draws another line when the bully crosses the first one. Everyone knows that a kid like that is eventually going to just take the beating that’s coming to him.

    I don’t see how waiting means Israel will be pushed toward a one-state solution because of demographics. Explain.

    It’s OK, though. The more radical (and stupid) Arabs will force Israel into a position from which it will be able to do nothing but fight. And when that happens, the Arabs will lose again, and if Israel has any sense, it will finish what it started in ’48.

    All things being equal, I would support a territorial compromise if I thought it would actually bring peace. But it is obvious that it won’t.

  4. themiddle

    1/11/2008 at 7:20 pm

    There is already a movement among the intelligentsia of Arab Israelis to create one state for all of the people who live inside Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. This cannot be dismissed too easily because a fifth of the citizens of Israel are Arab-Israeli. Even if you accept the lower demographic numbers for the Palestinians (as opposed to their leadership’s and UNWRA’s possibly inflated numbers), bringing the Gaza and West Bank Palestinians into Israel would create a state with 5.7-6 million Jews and maybe 3.8 million non-Jewish Arabs. They have a higher birth rate and a larger number of youths so that within 20 years you’d be at equal numbers. The truth is that the idea of a “Jewish” state would die long before they hit 50% of the population.

    If you accept the higher demographic figures, we’re already today at about 5.2 million Palestinians.

    Here’s the problem. You end up having to either maintain indefinite control over 1.5-2.5 million people with a military presence – a situation that is harmful to Israel and to Jews worldwide and arguably puts Israelis and their supporters in some arguably morally ambiguous situations – or you have to give up democracy. Aside from the ethical considerations of giving up democracy, you have a practical problem of losing a key reason for the support of the US and many supporters of Israel around the world.

    If you’re not willing or able to give up democracy, then you have to address the demographic issue somehow and separation, as in, division of the land, is a good solution. It is, actually, the only solution short of some mega-war that will result in a massive population exchange. There may be a few people who think this will happen, but they’re dreaming. The Palestinians won’t run; the Israelis won’t push them out; the likelihood of a war that will result in this type of scenario is extremely remote; and, neither the world nor the US would stand for it.

    As for the Arabs, they aren’t moving this time for the same reason they didn’t in 2000. They think they can wait it out. Right now, however, the PA and Fatah recognize that they will be destroyed by Hamas unless they position themselves to fight it. I say this cynically because I don’t believe they care about their people because if they did, they would have founded their state already. They do care, however, about surviving for another day, maintaining their incomes and status, and not getting killed or humiliated by Islamic extremists. Don’t forget that Fatah are nationalists. This opens the door for a brief period for a deal of convenience. If Hamas takes over the West Bank, then even this sliver of hope for a deal will die.

    A deal of convenience is a good thing for Israel because it removes the demographic threat permanently. It leaves the military threat, perhaps, but that’s why Israel has a strong army…

    Here is the article about Adalah:
    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/939196.html

  5. ramon marco

    1/11/2008 at 8:12 pm

    Hey, I’m going to profess stupidity here (oh, and it hurts hurts hurts) – I always thought that proposal was discussed at the earlier Sharm Al Sheikh meetings, and by the time of Taba it was obvious Arafat wouldn’t even consider (or didn’t have to the power to enact it) the proposals. Maybe a little history lesson for this old addled mind is in order? Anyone? Bueller?

  6. themiddle

    1/11/2008 at 8:35 pm

    No, Sharm was between Camp David and Taba but did not involve any further offers. Negotiations were ongoing between the Israelis and Palestinians from Camp David until Taba. Camp David was in July, Sharm was in October, and Taba was in January of ’01.

    At Taba, the Israelis had high hopes because they made extensive additional compromises that addressed many of the Palestinian and pro-Palestinian complaints from Camp David.

  7. ramon marcos

    1/12/2008 at 3:03 am

    Thanks TM – I was living in exile from ’99 to ’02 and my only source of news was from the few English-speaking two-star European hotel room TV stations were providing…

    I just remember Clinton realization that he came up short on his “all-in” gamble at Sharm, even before everyone convened at Taba.

    Do you think there’s a parallel between the last months of Clinton and the last months of Bush vis a vis the same goal? Both made/are makingt the Israel/Palestinian solution a kind of Holy Grail. Clinton was pretty public about getting the deal done before he left office, to the point of begging Barak into offering a deal that the Knesset may not have approved – and that Arafat knew would be his death knell. Now Bush is doing the same thing, although he’s backing off and then backing off even more with every minute he spends in the region.

    Hubris? Legacy? IMHO Clinton really went out on a limb – whereas Bush is simply trying to burnish his tarnished legacy and may bve under orders to keep the (perceived) Jewish defection to the Republican voting base intact. In the end I think they’re both going to be proven wrong.

  8. Tom Morrissey

    1/12/2008 at 12:59 pm

    I agree with Ephraim on the one-state solution. It’s far too clever and effective a gambit for Israeli Arabs/Palestinians to embrace.

    Ephraim also writes that peace depends on the Arabs’ abandoning their wish to destroy Israel…. Here’s a small, seaside state , nearly surrounded by a vast people with a different language, culture, and religion, and access to limitless natural resources depended on by countries around the world. The small state contains a substantial minority of that alien people. History records repeated efforts to occupy, oppress, and destroy that small state, to deprive it of its identity and culture. A prominent leader of the larger people has termed the creation of the smaller neighbor a tragedy. Countries in which the larger people predominate are, in the main, dictatorships with capricious, sometimes bloody leadership.

    The small state has only recently recovered its status as an independent country; its efforts to align itself with the US and the West arouse its neighbors’ opposition. Judged by such measures as comparative population and potential wealth, the smaller state is no match for its larger neighbors.

    Judged by the foregoing, the future does indeed seem bleak for Latvia. Yet it has established itself in the community of nations; and no one believes that the events of 1940, in which the USSR absorbed it, will repeat themselves.

    The response to Ephraim is that Arab hatred, and their revanchist dreams, aren’t dispositive. Israeli-Arab peace, if it manages to break out, will last if a durable international consensus exists that the Arabs don’t get to take Israel over and Israel has as much right to exist as Latvia, East Timor, Georgia, and other small states confronting hostile, volatile neighbors.

    The Arabs aren’t likely to have a Dr. Phil moment in which they learn to love Israel. Surely many Palestinians will hate Israel for generations, peace or no peace. Does it matter? Not if the international system ratifies and enforces a settlement between bitter enemies who manifestly can’t reach one on their own.

  9. froylein

    1/12/2008 at 1:34 pm

    One should also take the Arab view on Palestinians into consideration…

  10. Ben-David

    1/12/2008 at 2:38 pm

    Middle:
    There has been net emigration of Palestinians (mostly young people in their 20s) since the PA was established. To the tune of almost 35,000 per year over the last… well, it’s almost a decade. That’s a lot of young people who won’t be raising families on the West Bank.

    The number would be even higher if more visas were available. The US Embassy regularly hosts a long line of green-card hopefuls, most of whom are turned away.

    And those are only the official emigres – no doubt many more are slipping (back) across the Jordanian border – undoing the illegal immigration into the “occupied territories” which topped out at over 25,000 Jordanians a year back when Israel was “oppressing” the West Bank.

    And since the PA has come in, birth rates have plummetted.

    Paradoxically, relatively stable, equable treatment during the Israeli “occupation” caused the birth rates to rise. Now that the Palis are living in a predatory, violent kleptocracy like the rest of the Arab world, their fertility rates are dropping, and their youth are seeking greener pastures. Sound familiar? If not – go visit any major European city.

    The demographic argument has been a bugaboo, a shadow used to justify all kinds of left-wing Israeli nonsense – from the mass absorption of hundreds of thousands of non-Jewish Russians, to the “piece” process.

    And as Ephraim points out, laying back and fulfilling the Arabs’ notions that we are weak is hardly a solution.

  11. ramon marcos

    1/12/2008 at 2:45 pm

    Tom, the Arabs are too pissed about Dr. Phil’s Brittany Spears fiasco. Israel has nothing to do with it. 🙂

    But, as per my observation above, Dr. Phil and his need to save the unsavable is an apt analogy to the mindset of both Clinton and Bush in their final months in office.

  12. Michael Star

    1/12/2008 at 3:19 pm

    While I think Tom Morrissey’s “Latvia” analysis is clever, it leaves out the one factor that has dominated Israel’s (and, for that matter, the Jew’s) existence from the start: antisemitism.

    I think Paul Johnson’s analysis of antisemitism (http://www.commentarymagazine.com/viewArticle.cfm/The-AntiSemitic-Disease-9904) sums it up best when he describes antisemitism as a “mental disease” for societies, that is “damaging to reason, and sometimes fatal.”

    No matter how you frame Israel’s existence, the illogical hatred of the Jewish state will keep leading to illogical acts by its neighbors. I do not think that this is a good reason not to strive for peace, but it is important when taking into account any “peace process,” in that Israel can never really expect a permanent solution, but only a brief break from military attacks.

    Also, is anyone else tired of how the demographic argument for the peace process always seems to be whispered in the back sections of Jewish publications/web-sites as if it is a secret? Most commentators only invoke it in mostly-Jewish forums and only refer to it in passing in the major publications, as if the Arabs won’t notice that they are winning the war against Israel from the inside out. Yes—it is probably the biggest threat to the Jewishness of the Jewish state since the Yom Kippur War, but if this is the reason we pulling Jews out of their homes in Gaza and the West Bank, lets just come out and say it. As an American, it feels dirty to admit that Jewish people want to manipulate the actual composition of this “democratic state” in order to get the political results we want (i.e. a Jewish-political majority)—in fact, it feels downright undemocratic—-but if we are to stay true to the entire raison d’etre for Israel as a Jewish state, it needs to get done.

    Or, we can always start paying attention to Benny Elon…

  13. Tom Morrissey

    1/12/2008 at 7:41 pm

    Michael, you know more about this than I do, but haven’t Jewish-Muslim and Jewish-Arab relations been peaceful and cordial for stretches of the past? And haven’t Christians in contrast engaged in much more anti-Semitic conduct, historically? Perhaps, then, hostility is not immutable. And how much does/should it matter to Israelis, anyway? (I’m not talking about violence and terrorism, just attitudes.) A strong state like Israel needn’t preoccupy itself with what the ‘Arab street’ thinks. Think the Turks and Azeris like the Armenians, the Hungarians, Slovaks, Croatia, the Bosnian Muslims? The Croats know that attacking Bosnia means no NATO or EU for them, and hell to pay besides.

    Is it really true that anti-Israeli policy is “illogical”? Israel’s enemies have all manner of logical reasons for opposing it. Self-interest, for example– focusing opinion abroad and away from failed policies at home.

    It’s all about logically-understood self-interest in the end. President Putin would love to get Georgia, Belarus and the Baltic states back– but the international community sets the price too high. The key for Israel is crafting a similar set of int’l. norms, rewards, and punishments.

  14. Ephraim

    1/12/2008 at 10:06 pm

    Just for the record, I want to repeat again that I think a compromise would be the best thing for everyone concerned so long as it was entered into with peaceful intentions by the Arabs and not as a ruse. However, barring that, a war is inevitable at some point. Israeli desperation to prevent one will just bring it even more quickly and ensure that Israel will be on the defensive. Anyone who expects “the world” to help the Jews in such a situation is dreaming. So a lilttle realpolitick:

    I hope you’re right about a real war between Fatah and Hamas, Middle. It would mean lost and lots of dead terrorists (in the high thousands if we’re lucky) and the panicked flight of thousands more civilians who don’t want to get caught in the crossfire. If things go well, the Arab population of Yehuda and Shomron could be drastically reduced without Israel having to do anything. This is an outcome devoutly to be wished.

    Unfortunately, when the fight comes it will just be Gaza redux; Hamas will smoke Fatah like a cheap cigar and Fatah will run like the cowardly rats they are. And it will come. And it won’t have anything to do with Israel does or doesn’t do either. You’re dreaming if you think the cowardly kleptocrats of Fatah have any chance whatsoever against the Hamas fanatics. Fatah will lose, and lose big. And all of the money and materiel the world is rushing to bolster Fatah with will fall into the hands of Hamas just like it did in Gaza. Once Hamas takes Yehuda and Shomron the missiles will start falling on Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Then Israel will have to decide what to do. The most powerful army in the world is useless if the civilians who control it lack the courage to use it when it is necessary. We see that in Gaza already.

    Ben David has it right. The Fatah population figures are all bogus. The same thing has happened in Iran, where the bottom has fallen out of the fertility rate. No one is having kids. This trend is deepening all across the Arab world. If Hamas takes over in Yehuda and Shomron as well, I expect mass emigration. No one wants to live in a shit hole.

    Tom, I would like to think you’re right, but while I think people would piss and moan if Russia re-occupied Latvia, they would still buy gas and oil from Putin. Look at China: Tibet is slowly but surely being erased, and the Olympics are right on schedule.

  15. josh

    1/13/2008 at 5:49 pm

    It’s been a while…

    The demographic issue is a myth and it does not take any think-tank to debunk it:

    – Arab Israeli fertility falling in direct relation to their rising standard of living and western assimilation (who needs kids, ‘I’ want my own life)
    – Israeli non-religious Jewish fertility moderately falling in direct relation to their rising standard of living and western assimilation
    – Palestinian Arab/Muslim fertility falling due to western assimilation and lack of hope in future and self-leadership
    – Palestinian Arab/Muslim emmigration – A) upper class, B) educated – virtually zero is any immigration
    – Palestinian Arab/Christian persecution leading to emmigration

    – Israeli Jewish modern orthodox maintaining above average fertility
    – Torani/Hardal/settler Israeli Jewish modern orthodox communities maintaining above average fertility
    – Haredi Israeli Jewish modern orthodox maintaining way above average fertility

    Soon Arab fertility will equal the Jewish fertility and continue downwards.

    On top of that, the myth of a Palestinian nation is unravelling from day to day. Negotiating with the PLO is ridiculous since Hamas does not give them legitimacy. The PLO does not even have a ‘mandate’ to negotiate anything. ANyone still thinking that Abu Mazen is speaking for the residents of the Gaza Strip are merely deluding themselves.

    No one cares about the conflict here. No one cared about Bush’s visit here either. The world is on the brink of a recession, at least a mild one, in which when people are more worried about economic issues, they have less time to think about some idiotic conflict somewhere overseas. And as long as we continue to carry the upper hand, the Palestinians will continue to lose hope of beating us. Anyone who fails to see the reason for Hamas overrunning Gaza is also deluding themselves.

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