Israel’s Fight For Security And Sovereignty
Israel’s Fight For Security And Sovereignty
by Sarah Ann Haves
Recent heightened activity in diplomacy has highlighted Israel’s struggle with global leaders. Many in the international community are determined to overlook Israel’s security concerns, while at the same time, pressing for the acknowledgement of Palestinian sovereignty over Jewish land.
In May, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a successful trip to the U.S. where he received overwhelming American support for his speech at AIPAC’s pro-Israel conference attended by 10,000 people in Washington. That was followed by Netanyahu’s speech before a joint session of Congress, where more than two dozen standing ovations revealed the strong bi-partisan support for Israel on Capitol Hill. Over 2/3rds of the U.S. Congress was present for that speech, and representatives across political lines approved Netanyahu’s “red lines” in regard to the peace process.
Yet, while Netanyahu’s approval rating surged in Israel, much of the rest of the world wasn’t impressed. Israel continues to experience an uphill battle in convincing the global community that it not only expects leaders to be concerned with Israel’s security, but also expects them to take into account Israel’s sovereignty based on political, historical, and biblical claims of a Jewish homeland in the Middle East. Canada gets it. Prime Minister Steven Harper refused to allow nations at the G8 summit to make an announcement supporting Palestinian statehood based on the 1967 lines. But, other nations have overlooked Israel’s interests while sympathizing with Palestinian claims of occupation and oppression.
Many in the international community are determined to overlook Israel’s security concerns.
Nakba Day on May 15, 2011 was the beginning of a new season of unprecedented challenges for Israel, as the country continued to fight for its legitimacy. Lebanese, Syrian, and Palestinian Arabs, living in nations and entities surrounding the Jewish state, were involved in mass rioting. Breaking through border fences, carrying their national flags, they ran into Israeli Arab towns and villages, staking their claim to what they said is the Palestinian “right of return” as “refugees” to Israel.
Then, came the Obama Peace Initiative spelled out in U.S. President Barack Obama’s May 19th Middle East speech at the State Department. He chose to give that speech before Netanyahu boarded a plane to the U.S. to meet with him, refusing to coordinate with the Israeli leader on some of the most essential issues that dealt with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, Israel’s prime ministers have tried unsuccessfully to solve the conflict, introducing a multitude of ideas, trying to finalize a peace deal with the Palestinians. After a willingness to give over 90% of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) to full Palestinian control; and to divide Jerusalem; and, to make way for some Palestinians to return to Israel, both former Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert were turned down by the Palestinians. Netanyahu is not willing to go as far as they did in conceding land for peace.
In a White House press conference after Obama’s May 19th speech, Netanyahu stated his objection to the main point spelled out by the American president. Netanyahu said Israel could not withdraw to the 1967 lines as Obama had suggested. It would leave the Jewish state with indefensible borders and vulnerable to attack.
In a speech before AIPAC that followed, Obama clarified that he had also mentioned “land swaps” in his May 19th speech. He explained that the Israelis and Palestinians would have to negotiate based on changes that have occurred during the past 44 years. This was a conciliatory gesture on his part, but did not go far enough to convince Israelis that he was sincere.
What Obama did in his May 19th speech, which outlined a new U.S. Middle East foreign policy based on the Arab Peace Initiative, was to make a decision to focus on just two points, borders and security.
While some media analysts in the global community were surprised that Netanyahu contested a part of Obama’s speech, most were not aware of the intricacies that have been involved in peace negotiations over recent years.
During the Barak, Olmert and Netanyahu administrations, Israeli interlocutors have emphasized that there will be no final peace deal unless all final status issues are agreed upon, simultaneously; i.e., borders, security, Jerusalem, and refugees. In each of these categories there have been strong points of disagreement and contention between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
What Obama did in his May 19th speech, which outlined a new U.S. Middle East foreign policy based on the Arab Peace Initiative, was to make a decision to focus on just two of these points, borders and security. This put Israel at a distinct disadvantage for future peace negotiations, and angered the Israeli prime minister.
Furthermore, Obama chose to publicly detail what the final borders would be of a future Palestinian state, a bold and unprecedented political move by a U.S. president. This was direct American intervention into the peace process in a highly visible way. Obama talked about a contiguous Palestinian state that would have borders with Jordan, Egypt and Palestine; and, a Jewish state that would have borders with Palestine. His statements overlooked Israel’s peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt. And, Obama hardly considered Israel’s need for an IDF presence on the eastern border with Jordan, which Netanyahu has emphatically stated is necessary to prevent terrorist infiltration into Israel. Obama aligned himself with the Palestinian negotiating position, publicly shelving Israel’s interest in discussing other final status issues before defining final borders.
As Obama traveled through Europe, he emphasized Israel’s security concerns and Palestinian sovereignty claims (with little mention of Israeli sovereignty in the Jewish homeland).
European leaders, especially those represented in the EU and Quartet, are now highlighting the new U.S. peace initiative, focusing on the 1967 lines as the starting point in future negotiations, while diminishing the importance of Israel’s security needs. In addition, some of these leaders are supportive of the new Palestinian unity government deal between Fatah and Hamas, looking for a way to deal directly with Hamas…. all to Israel’s dismay.
Netanyahu has insisted that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people; and, that Hamas recognize Israel’s right to exist. This is a major Israeli emphasis in considering the renewal of peace talks with Abbas.
Israel is looking for diplomatic partners who will refuse to approve a UN resolution calling for Palestinian statehood.
Another point is that any peace deal should mark the end of the conflict. This is of crucial importance to Israeli officials, because based on Islamic ideology, Moslem leaders can sign treaties as long as this entails a temporary cessation of violence; that is, until they are ready for a future war where they would obtain all lands they insist belong to them.
Weakening Israel, politically and diplomatically, is the current phased plan of the Palestinians. That is why Abbas is adamant about getting UN and international approval for the unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood. This would then lead to Palestinian military objectives. The Palestinians could use global pressure to get Israel to comply with an international force on the borders of their new state. Though it would be a non-militarized state, the Palestinians would look to have military support from UNIFIL or NATO troops. This could hamper IDF operations if Israel needed to combat terrorism emanating from the new state. If the IDF had to conduct military operations against terrorists, Israel would be subject to world condemnation, especially if it crossed the border of a future Palestinian state to stop terrorist attacks.
With the recent opening of the Rafah Crossing between Egypt and Gaza, as well as closer ties between the current Egyptian transitional military government and Hamas, Israeli leaders now have additional concerns. A unified Fatah-Hamas Palestinian government, in partnership with the Egyptian government, may increase hostilities towards Israel. As a result, the Israeli peace treaty with Egypt may be in jeopardy. This new alliance also allows for cooperation between Iranian-backed extremists operating in Egypt, Gaza, and the West Bank. Moreover, Israel expects there to be an increase in larger more sophisticated rockets smuggled through the Rafah Crossing to Hamas. If Israel feels these weapons will threaten its national security and weaken its Qualitative Military Edge (QME), it may begin to conduct pre-emptive strikes into Egypt and Gaza. This could spark a new war on Israel’s southern border.
Meanwhile, Israel is preparing for new challenges ahead. It is trying to convince neighboring countries to discourage, and if necessary, stop a future flotilla of ships from attempting to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza. Israel is also preparing for more attempts by neighboring states to breach its land borders. At the same time, Israel is looking for diplomatic partners who will refuse to approve a UN resolution calling for Palestinian statehood. Israel is uncertain it can count on the United States to veto such a resolution if it is brought before the UN Security Council. And, of even more concern, Israeli leaders wonder if Obama will promote his own plan for Palestinian statehood at the UN in September.
The diplomatic and defense challenges the Jewish State faces in the next couple of months are keeping Israeli leaders in a pressure cooker. As the nation braces for a long fight diplomatically, it is also preparing for a military fight to protect the land from foreign invasion or a third intifada. If the Jewish nation can unite behind the current Netanyahu government, it has a chance of meeting these challenges with strength and endurance for the long battles ahead.
Ms. Haves is a news analyst, reporting on political, diplomatic, military and spiritual issues in Israel and the nations.
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