The two faces of Israel

September 15, 2020 by Ron Weiser
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It’s quite amazing how the State of Israel at this moment in time, has become a mirror image of the two sides of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s operating styles.

Dr Ron Weiser

Internally, whilst the raison d’etre for the formation of this coalition government was to fight COVID-19, it has descended into a shambolic series of policies and u-turns that have directly harmed the physical health of Israel’s citizens as well as their economic viability.

Externally, we are witnessing this week’s historic statesman like actions with the signing of normalisation agreements between Israel and not just one, but now two Arab countries. This of course, dramatically improves Israel’s security and future prosperity. In and of themselves – and for what they portend.

It’s like we are looking at two different Israel’s – at her best and worst.

Netanyahu has proven what he has always maintained. That peace with Arab countries was possible prior to a deal with the Palestinians. He has untied the Gordian Knot which is now unravelling even further.

President Trump deserves large amounts of credit for both the deal with the UAE and Bahrain.

Decades of activity has been going on in the background, but it appears as if Jared Kushner being in the right place at the right time and with his long family history of friendship with the Netanyahu’s and his ease with Arab leaders, has sufficient trust banked with both to have been a successful go-between and negotiator bringing it all to the overt and warm normalisation we are witnessing.

It has long been said that whilst Israel can stand firm against her harshest critics, she cannot resist a warm embrace – in this case, such as that of Trump.

One Israeli concession seems to have been the possible sale by the USA of sophisticated fighter planes to the UAE. It should be noted that in the past, sales of advanced weaponry have sometimes occurred in varying degrees to certain Arab countries in any case. And the Trump administration has restated US policy and remains committed to Israel’s technological and security advantage in the region.

There are also likely to be some conditional agreements between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain that we are unaware of and which may or may not become apparent in due course.

The main policy issue being discussed in Israel in regards to these normalisation treaties is that it appears to include Netanyahu’s formal agreement in principle to a Palestinian State. Or at least to allow the offer of one, for the ‘near future’. As well as the ‘temporary suspension’ of any extension of sovereignty plans.

Clarity on what the ‘near future’ and ‘temporary’ mean seem to be emerging and is shaping up to be a period of four years.

The intention of the four year period is to potentially allow more normalisation deals to occur and at the same time, to give the Palestinian leadership the opportunity to decide between its historical pattern of outright rejectionism, or to finally embark on serious negotiations in regards to a state of their own.

This being against the background of two dawning realisations for the Palestinians:

  • that waiting for more generous offers in the future is an unlikely dream and they would be better advised to negotiate on the basis of this plan
  • and to note the changing situation around them, particularly as potentially more Arab countries decide that their own interests can no longer take second place to that of the Palestinians.

Reports are emerging confirming that the four year period, seemingly being built into Israel’s deal with the UAE and Bahrain will end in 2024.

January 2024 will be four years since the launch of the Trump Plan earlier this year – a metric that seems to fit.

If that is the case, then who will be President of the USA will potentially make a very big difference to what happens in 2024.

Biden would likely try and extend the deadline for the Palestinians were they still to be recalcitrant.

But Trump would have almost a full year, and without the need to worry about re-election, to put pressure on the Palestinians to finalise a deal or suffer the consequences.

Those consequences could include anything from the Israeli extension of sovereignty, to possibly a nail in the coffin of the concept of a future Palestinian State.

For now, Trump is fully committed to pursuing a Two-State solution.

US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien (someone in the inner circle of the Trump administration) said on September the 4th to conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt: “We want to see the Palestinians in their own state with their own government, hopefully, a democratic government, and one that thrives economically alongside Israel.”

Perhaps it is even more instructive to listen to what Jared Kushner, the most central US figure in these deals, has to say.

On Wednesday the 9th of September Kushner said: “What we did with our plan was we were trying to save the two-state solution, because… if we kept going with the status quo… ultimately, Israel would have eaten up all the land in the West Bank

And so, right now, you have a situation where there is land that could become a Palestinian state. It is possible to connect it, but the land that Israeli settlers are in right now is land that Israel controls, and the odds of them ever giving it up is unlikely.

That’s why the map that we drew was what we thought was a realistic map… we played the ball as it lies, right? We took the realities in the world today and we drew a map based on that, knowing what was achievable and what was not achievable.”

And in a warning to the Palestinians Kushner said: “My fear for the Palestinians is that if they do what they’re very good at doing, which is figure out how to not make a deal and play the victim card, then what’s going to happen is, you know, more time is going to go by and the situation is just going to get worse and worse for them.”

In a realpolitik explanation for the failure of previous Israeli/Palestinian peace deal attempts, Kushner added: “The reason why they never accomplished anything was because both parties were getting what they wanted.

Every time a negotiation failed, Israel took more land and the Palestinians got more money from the international community.”

And on Friday the 11th of September after the Bahrain announcement Kushner said: “This will reduce tension in the Muslim world and allow people to separate the Palestinian issue from their own national interests and from their own foreign policy, which should be focused on their own domestic priorities.”

Of course, all of this ran parallel with the Arab League’s refusal on the 9th of September to endorse a Palestinian draft resolution condemning the UAE for its normalisation agreement with Israel.

The Palestinians have a lot to think about. The course of history is largely in their hands now.

Israel and the USA will in the main react to what they decide.

Over the coming days, our prayers will include the welfare and future of the Jewish State and all who identify with her.

Ron Weiser is the Honorary Life Member ZFA Executive and Honorary Life President, ZC of NSW

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