So the Labor party under newly annointed leader Amir Peretz, a true dove in Israel’s Left, is floating the idea that their new platform will include the “Hong Kong Principle” as one of the foundations for a peace settlement with the Palestinians. Essentially, the West Bank will be given to the Palestinians in exchange for peace and the large settlement blocs such as Ma’aleh Adumim, Ariel and Gush Etzion will be leased back from the Palestinians on a long term basis.
As most of us will remember, a few years ago the British had to return Hong Kong to China after its 99 year lease expired. Today, Hong Kong is a Chinese district and functions under Chinese law. While the Chinese government has been accomodating about certain aspects of life in the area, ultimately Hong Kong is part of their authoritarian system.
Those of us who lived in Canada will also recall the flood of well-heeled Hong Kong citizens who came over to build lives and businesses in Canada which took advantage of the situation by offering citizenship to those who could bring in a certain amount of working capital and were willing to open businesses.
So let’s see: first of all, by offering this compromise Labor is suggesting that the land is to the Palestinians as Hong Kong was to the Chinese. In other words, it is their land historically and by legal right. That is simply false and it is unfortunate that any Israeli political party should place this implicit suggestion on their platform.
Second, false or not, this seems to be a massive and unnecessary concession to offer at this point. In fact, this would be a massive concession even in the 11th hour of any negotiations, but by proposing it now, they are weakening any bargaining position they’ll ever have.
Third, Hong Kong was returned to the Chinese and is now Chinese. The same will happen as the lease expires to any of the towns the Laborites want to negotiate away. They will become Palestinian. Their Jewish population will probably be evicted, if historic precedent is any indication.
Fourth, it is an immaterial concession since the Palestinians were willing to live without these cities in their possession in 2000. These cities were not the sticking points in the Camp David or Taba negotiations. In fact, they were all but conceded by the Palestinians. So why go back there and reopen that box? Why do so before entering negotiations where they will re-demand the so-called “right of return,” 100% of the West Bank, all of East Jerusalem and extensive reparations?
This is simply a bad idea and one that will come back to haunt Israel. Every Israeli politician of substance should stand in line right now to criticize this proposal and quash it before it becomes part of the platform of one of Israel’s main parties.