How does a dream become a pipe dream?
Well, it goes like this: Ehud Barak
believes that he can make Arafat an offer he can't refuse. Israel will
recognize a Palestinian state. Its borders will be fixed in such a way that
it will have a continuous territory in the West Bank as well as in the Gaza
strip, with a high bridge connecting the two. The Palestinian state will
have full control of its border crossings.
In return for these generous presents,
Arafat is supposed to give up the territory of the "settlement blocs". These
will be annexed by Israel and connected with each other by a system of upper
and lower bypass roads, crisscrossing Palestinian territory. How big an area
will these blocs gobble up? Several figures are being mentioned, but in the
end Barak will be satisfied with 20%. Arafat must also give up Jerusaleem,
in its present borders, and the Right of Return. He must declare that
thereby the historic conflict has come to an end.
Is this realistic? The recognition of
the State of Palestine by Israel is worth a lot. Of course, more than a
hundred states will recognize the state anyhow, immediately upon its
inauguration, but without Israeli and American recognition that's worth a
lot less. Not to mention the probable outbreak of armed struggle all over
The elimination of Israeli control over
the border crossings and thsea and air ports is worth a lot, too. What kind
of a state would it be, if nobody can enter or leave it without the
permission of another state?
Up to this point, there is much in
Barak's proposal to tempt the Palestinians. For such a great achievement,
Clinton suggests, Arafat should make concessions. But there are limits.
The borders, for example. Arafat cannot
recognize the legality of the settlements, and even less their annexation by
Israel. This is Palestinian land, and we have already seen that the return
to the June 4, 1967 borders (the "Green Line") has a profound symbolic value
for all the Arabs - Egyptians, Jordanians, Syrians and Lebanese alike.
Moreover, the settlements sit on the
land and water reserves of the Palestinian state. They are necessary for the
development of the state, even more so if it is expected to absorb large
number of refugees.
Then there is Jerusalem. No need to
repeat that no Palestinian, Arab or Muslim can give Jerusalem up. No one.
Jerusalem needs a complex solution, one that will turn it into the capital
of the two states and the three religions. There is no chance at all that
Arafat will sign a document giving up Arab Jerusalem forever.
But all this is nothing compared to the
third problem - the refugees. Even assuming that some compromise about the
settlements and Jerusalem could be achieved (i.e. the Arab neighborhoods
will be connected to the Palestinian state), without the solution of the
refugee problem Arafat will be unable to declare the conflict finished. More
that half of his people would consider such an agreement treason.
So what? Will there be nothing?
In theory, there are four
possibilities: Either Arafat will give in, or Barak will change, or there
will be no agreement at all, or there will be a partial agreement.
Arafat will not surrender, because he
doesn't want to and because he can't. Barak may change, but that's rather
Remains the choice: no agreement or
partial agreement. I bet on the second possibility.
Perhaps Arafat can accept some of
Barak's terms, if this will not mean an end to the conflict. If, for
example, it will be stated that the problems of the border, Jerusalem and
the refugees will be put on the agenda after, say, five years. Arafat can
then tell his people that after five years of consolidation, the State of
Palestine will be in a stronger position to struggle for these issues.
I do not recommend such a solution.
Because the meaning would be: The historic conflict goes on.
the Settlement Special]