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Wild Card - part V: If you can't beat 'em...

Abu Mazen threatens, Netanyahu responds, the right wingers go berserk and Haaretz pundit has a strange plan: if you can’t beat the wild card – join it. Plus – a small surprise

The talk about unilateral moves by Palestinians was all over the media the past few days – but unfortunately, still little talk about the Wild Card (U.S. recognition of such a move). Still, even a little is better than nothing. We’ll keep waiting for a leading pundit to pitch it and for an official American response against or for the Wild Card. But there’s a surprise at the end of this post…

It all started last week with Abbas, who said in Ramallah that “We will turn to the Security Council in order for it to declare our independence within a few months.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately responded, as reported by Haaretz:

“Any attempt to bypass direct talks by appealing to international bodies will do nothing to advance the true peace process,” the PM’s statements said, adding that the two peoples could achieve “a secure and stable peace solely through direct negotiations, a path I hope we shall return to in full force soon.”

The fact that Bibi is immediately responding to Abbas, in my eyes, is worrisome. Surely if he was truly worried about unilateral moves, he wouldn’t take part in the back and forth about it over the front pages. There’s something fishy about this behaviour, almost as if he wants the Palestinians to go down this route.

The New York Times blames Netanyahu for the failures so far, but also thinks a unilateral move is a bad idea:

Palestinians are grasping for another route. The current favorite: asking the United Nations to declare their independent state. That would dangerously fuel tensions. Israeli soldiers would still be in the West Bank and so would 120 Jewish settlements with 500,000 settlers. Palestinians would not have free access to Jerusalem. Seeking a United Nations declaration would alienate Washington and other diplomatic players.

One thing is certain: the fact that both sides are talking about post-negotiation unilateral moves – even though the talks haven’t been officially killed – says loads.

The best part about the unilateral move hype is the all the panic it’s causing on the right. I find it particularly amusing when Netanyahu cronies bring up mountains of legal arguments, such as: “It would make Oslo void”,or “What about 242, 338?” and so forth. Right. How rich is it to hear those who build illegal settlements suddenly worry about the fate of the Oslo accords, those agreements they hated, the ones they criticized, the ones they did so much to destroy. How bizarre is it to listen to Dore Gold [Heb] or Alan Baker worry about Oslo. I mean, gimme a break.

Caroline Glick seems to be panicking the most, which is a great sign, you have to agree. She already has a plan on how to react to a unilateral move:

Israel should prepare its own unilateral actions aimed at shaping the post-Oslo international agenda. It should implement these actions the moment the Palestinians carry through on their threats. For instance, the day the UN Security Council votes on a resolution to declare Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria and Israeli neighborhoods in Jerusalem illegal, Israel should announce it is applying Israeli law to either all of Judea and Samaria, or to the large Israeli population centers and to the Jordan Valley.

If properly timed and orchestrated, such a move by Israel could fundamentally reshape the international discourse on the Middle East in Israel’s favor. Certainly it will empower Israel’s allies in the US and throughout the world to rally to its side.

Caroline Glick. "Israel should prepare its own unilateral actions" (Photo: the7eye.org.il)

Glick’s boss, Jerusalem Post Editor in Chief David Horovitz, doesn’t go so far as planning for the apocalypse and has a much more rational view of things, and indeed discusses the Wild Card option, too:

… officials within the US administration, while indicating to their Israeli counterparts that the US would veto any effort by the Palestinians to seek binding UN Security Council backing for the unilaterally declared establishment of “Palestine” within the pre-1967 lines, have also been stressing the limits of their veto power. Look at the case of Kosovo, for instance, they suggest. This is a “nation” that has not been recognized by the Security Council, where permanent member Russia is implacably opposed, but whose “statehood” – declared by its parliament in February 2008 and recognized by some 70 countries, including the US – is nonetheless something of a fait accompli.

Aluf Benn, one of the top diplomatic pundits in Israel, seems to be writing about the Wild Card quite a bit lately in Haaretz:

The Palestinian position involving declaration of a state has widespread global backing, and only one thing can prevent the realization of this unsettling scenario: an American veto in the Security Council. Netanyahu will, in months to come, work hard in the diplomatic arena to ensure that such a U.S. veto is in hand; for that purpose, he will mobilize all his supporters in the U.S.

But, surprisingly, Benn seems to panic (even though he writes “Instead of panicking”) himself and offers something similar to a “if-you-can’t beat-’em-join-’em” plan:

Instead of panicking, Israel might try to turn the tables on the Palestinians. “You want to go to the Security Council?” it could ask them. “Be our guest.” Perhaps, instead of waging an all-out war to stave off such a decision in the UN, Netanyahu would negotiate with Obama about the character and content of it, and thus mold it in a way that mitigates any harm to Israeli interests. Netanyahu could, for instance, work to incorporate in such a resolution demands for Israel to be recognized as a Jewish state, for annulling the Palestinian refugees’ right of return, for IDF troop deployment in the Jordan Valley, and for preservation of settlement blocs in the West Bank. Should the Palestinians agree to such modifications, Netanyahu would attain the historical agreement he has promised to achieve; should they say no, international pressure on Israel would abate.

Shomo Tsezna [Heb] of Yisrael Hayom thinks that the Palestinians might have a verbal agreement from President Barack Obama to support their declaration, while Herb Keinon of the Jerusalem Post thinks Israel is in danger of angering the Americans:

One could say with a good degree of certainty that the US would not support unilateral Palestinian efforts in the UN, and will most likely vote against them. But will Washington work with Israel against them, especially if it holds Netanyahu responsible for the current stalemate because of a refusal to extend the settlement moratorium? That right now is a very open question – one the Palestinians are more than eager to pose, and one the world will deem completely legitimate as long as there is no motion. As long as there are no direct talks.

But surprise! The Christian Science Monitor steals the show, and wins today’s Wild Card award when it gives Obama the green light, and is the first major publication to support the Wild Card:

President Obama may soon have an unusual chance to serve the cause of Middle East peace by remaining silent.

He could quietly acquiesce to a move being considered by Palestinian leaders to ask the United Nations to recognize a state of Palestine.

Such a request would only be necessary in one case: if Israel effectively ends any hope of renewed peace negotiations by continuing to build Jewish settlements on Palestinian territory in the West Bank.

Mr. Obama has good reason to give a quiet wink to such a Palestinian request. He is deeply frustrated that Israel renewed its settlement construction last month. That move forced Palestinians to quit bilateral peace talks. It also caused them to contemplate the prospect that theUS is no longer a reliable mediator or able to press Israel to make concessions.


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    1. Ben Israel

      All of this speculation is based on the mistaken notion that Israel is responisble for the fact that there is no peace agreement. It is the Palestinians who refuse to make peace. Remember Olmert’s “peace government”? He even offered to give the Palestinains (in the guise of a “neutral international governing body for the so-called “Holy Basin”) Judaism holiest places, the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, the Mt. of Olives, etc). Still no Palestinian agreement.
      This, of course, is because the problem is not territorial…it is existential. No Palestinian leader can make peace with Israel. It is a violation of the Arab/Muslim world’s destiny. No Palestinian leader wants to go down in history as a traitor to the Arab/Muslim cause. The nominal stumbling block is the Palestinian “Right of Return” which they can not give up and I mean full implementation of it, not the “symbolic” type which Yossi Beilin and others of the ‘peace camp’ have been deceiving Israelis with for years.

      So where does a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state stand in regards to their ultimate goals. It could actually be an impediment. If they proclaim a state with international backing, what happens to the “right of return”? Would the international community continue to supoprt them on this? The head of UNRWA recently said that the Palestinian leadership is doing the refugees a disservice by making them think there will be a return. And this statement is from someone quite sympathetic to them and who is probably no friend of Israel.

      Thus, a unilateral declaration of a state, even supported by the UN won’t solve anything and might ignite a major war to boot. Of course, the Israeli Left, which has been grasping at straws for decades thinking that some magic forumula will show up and take the Palestinian burden off their “progressive” shoulders. The Palestinians won’t let that happen because no matter what happens they have no intention of relieving the pressure, even if it means not getting a state.

      Tzippi Livni and Ehud Olmert, among others have stated repeatedly that it is a “vital interest of Israel to have a Palestinian state set up as soon as possible”. Do you really think the Palestinians want to help Israel out in that way?

      Reply to Comment
    2. Ben Israel

      Here is a link to an article describing UNRWA director’ Whitley’s comment that the Palestinians had better wake up to the fact that the refugees are not going to be let into Israel, and then the outrage his comments make. Doesn’t sound like they want to make peace with Israel on terms that even the most “pro-peace” government could ever agree to.


      Reply to Comment
    3. […] Tortuous indeed. And now that the talks have officially failed, the region is once again on the verge of very dangerous and violent times. Before things spiral out of control, now is the time for President Obama to embrace this failure and move on to the only step that can save the two-state solution, playing the Wild Card: endorsing Palestinian unilateralism (more on the Wild Card option here). […]

      Reply to Comment
    4. […] אכן עינוי. וכעת כשהשיחות נכשלו רשמית, האזור כולו עומד שוב על סף זמנים מסוכנים ואלימים. לפני שדברים יצאו משליטה, זהו הזמן בו חייב אובמה להוליך את הכישלון האחרון לעבר הצעד היחיד שיכול להציל את פתרון שתי המדינות, קלף הג'וקר: תמיכה במדיניות חד-צדדית של הפלסטינים" (עוד בנושא כאן). […]

      Reply to Comment
    5. rick

      ben, i wont discuss the old pa/israel don´t want make peace, because they refused to….

      but an unilateral declaration of a palestinian state (without negotiations) have the impact that the future pa-state can allow refugees and their kids to migrate to the future pa-state, which will be (large parts) of the west-bank and a part of j´lem, not yafo or anything else on the israeli site of the green line.

      by the way: they papers speak about symbolic 10.000 refugees who would return to israel. but this was old-style, with negotiations and a paeace-plan etc…

      Reply to Comment