Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A Balanced But Flawed Solution

Amnon Rubenstein, one of the founders of Meretz, analyzes the pros and cons of withdrawal and remaining in the territories. Ever since I started following Israeli politics I've found Rubenstein to be one of the best writers on the conflict. I don't always agree with him, but unlike most writers, he takes into account all of the pros and cons, not just the ones that fit his predetermined world view.

Rubenstein proposes placing the West Bank under international control (another mandate for Palestine) or putting it under the control of Egypt and Jordan. Martin Indyk proposed an international trusteeship a few years ago.

Rubenstein recognizes that withdrawal and the creation of a Palestinian state is a bad idea right now since Palestinians are becoming more and more radical, as evidenced by their support for Hamas. A Palestinian state will become a haven for Islamic terrorists of all stripes, including those under support of the fanatic Holocaust deniers in Iran.

But Israel cannot stay either. He believes the occupation is bad for Israel because it "runs contrary to the very principles of our democracy, endangers the Jewish majority in Israel proper and causes daily suffering for the Palestinians."

His solution mitigates both problems: it minimizes the contact between Israel and the Palestinians, thereby decreasing tensions, while preventing the creation of a Palestinian state until the populace deradicalizes.

An interesting idea, but one that just ignores some of the basic problems. It's not Hamas that refuses to compromise on the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Temple Mount. The Fatah controlled PA has always demanded Israel withdraw from 100% of the West Bank. That's not going to happen, so what amount of territory must Israel turn over to the mandate? We have the same problems we've always had.

Moreover, neither of the two rulers of the mandate is acceptable to both the parties. Anyone who thinks an international force will be safe from Islamist attacks must have forgotten to read up on the news in Iraq over the last few years. Islamists are suspicious of westerners and are not about to sit quietly while the US or EU calls the shots in Nablus or Ramallah. Welcome to Iraq II, except the Islamists have far more support in the West Bank than in Iraq.

Israel will not accede to Egypt or Jordan controlling the WB unless they promise to annex it. While Jordanian annexation is beneficial to all parties, Jordan isn't stupid. They gave up their claim to the West Bank in 1988 for a reason; they don't want the Intifada spilling over into their territory. And Egypt never wanted anything to do with the territories.

Will either of these countries take their responsibility to help foster democracy seriously when neither is a democracy itself? Will they risk their soldiers for the sake of Israelis? Israel cannot trust them to take their job seriously.

I understand Rubenstein's problem with Israel's presence in the West Bank. But I don't think turning it over to foreign powers is the way to go.

No comments: