(Washington, D.C.): After the White House announced at 11:00 p.m. last night that U.S. efforts to broker a “final status” agreement were ending in failure, President Clinton dramatically declared that they would continue despite his departure for the so-called “G-8” meeting in Okinawa. The reason, he said, was that “nobody wanted to give up.”
Evidently, what the President meant by “give up” was abandoning the “peace process” — a step that he and others have asserted would precipitate violence. (Such assertions represent not merely forecasts of what may happen, given widely reported Palestinian preparations for mass marches against Jewish settlements and training of young people for guerilla war. The more they are repeated by U.S. officials, as a transparent device to pressure Israel into making concessions, the more they seem to legitimate such an Arab response to the failure of the “peace process.”)
The Real Meaning of Give Up’
Unfortunately, the continuation of that process means that Israel will be obliged to continue to “give up,” making material concessions in one area after another. Worse yet, far from ensuring by so doing that the danger of violence is averted, these concessions will only set the stage for future, and possibly mortal attacks on the Jewish State. Consider the following likely outcomes:
- The surrender of the Jordan valley: Israel’s control of this strategic area has long been understood to be essential to protecting it from land invasion from the east. Paper assurances to the effect that no foreign army would be permitted to use or occupy that area are laughable. Once the Palestinians take over the Jordan valley, their “police” forces — which are more heavily armed and numerically larger than permitted by previous agreements — can constitute a sufficiently troubling military capability to interfere with Israeli mobilization and defensive operations.
- The loss of ninety-plus percent of the West Bank: The surrender of huge swaths of what remains of the Israeli-controlled region historically known as Judea and Samaria will entail the loss of additional strategic depth and high ground. It will also necessitate the physical (and possibly forceful) relocation of large numbers of Israeli citizens. These “settlers” responded to their country’s need to populate and cultivate those largely barren lands in order to secure and safeguard them and the adjoining Jewish State, whose geography otherwise made it difficult to defend. They will be replaced by Arabs, who will be able easily to exploit such strategic territory for rocket, mortar, artillery and other attacks on Israel.
- The legitimation of a new Palestinian state: Another authoritarian Arab state is the last thing the Middle East needs, especially one whose guiding philosophy is unreconciled to peaceful coexistence with Israel (witness the anti-Israel and anti-Jewish material in official Palestinian Authority schoolbooks and the Palestinian Authority’s maps of “Palestine” — which include all of Israel — and Arafat’s bellicose rhetoric about a continuing “jihad” against the Jews issued for his own people’s consumption). The creation of this state will destabilize Palestinian-dominated Jordan. It will also exacerbate Israel’s problems with its Arab population, some whom have already signaled a desire to detach their towns from Israel and join the new Palestine.
- Relinquishing control over much of Israel’s aquifers: Israel is already facing a serious drought and its water resources are severely stessed. But its ability to survive physically, to say nothing of its economic health and quality of life, may be jeopardized if the Palestinians exploit control they will be granted over aquifers on the West Bank to divert water to their communities, and away from Israel’s.
- The return of “refugees”: Israel’s security and other problems with its Arabs and its water resources will only be exacerbated, probably massively so, by capitulating to Palestinian demands for the return of even relatively small numbers of those who left the area in 1948 and 1967 — or who claim to be descendants of those who did.
- Jerusalem: The Palestinians insistence that they once again be allowed to exercise control over East Jerusalem is said to be the last remaining sticking point of the Camp David talks. Arafat and Company are determined to declare that the city will serve as the capital of their new state. Should Israel accede to this demand — either explicitly or through some sort of sleight-of-hand (e.g., by redrawing the borders of the city and acknowledging Palestinians administrative responsibility for certain areas) — the effect will be a mortal blow to the Zionist vision that has, heretofore, impelled the creation of the Jewish State and guided its subsequent history.
These changes will represent a serious degradation of Israel’s security for which no amount of additional U.S. military assistance can compensate.
The Bottom Line
In practice, the Clinton-Gore Administration’s efforts to broker a “final status” agreement between Israel and the Palestinians are less likely to produce an agreement that will result in a just and durable peace for the long-suffering people of the Middle East than it is to produce a “final solution” for the Jewish State. While discontinuing this process certainly entails risks — not least that Arafat et.al. will be emboldened by the international legitimacy they and their aspirations have been accorded through this “peace process” to engage in violent attacks against Israel — the Israelis would still be better off “giving up” on this process than finalizing an accord that will require them to “give up” in the foregoing areas.
To be sure, an Israel that retains strategic depth, settlements controlling vital high ground and secure control over its water resources is not immune to violent attack. In the absence of a Palestinian state that is able to equip a de facto army via ports and airfields under its internationally recognized control and that can reopen eastern attack corridors, however, the Arabs’ “war option” will probably remain as unexercisable for the foreseeable future as it has been since 1973. This may not be the full peace that all of Israel’s friends wish for her. But it is infinitely to be preferred to the false peace now emerging at Camp David or the peace of the dead for Israel that it could become Mr. Clinton’s most odious legacy.