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Israel on a Tightrope?

Ariel Ben Solomon

Barack Obama’s final slap-in-the face legacy won’t be so easy to untangle, according to Dr. Eran Lerman, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s longtime national security advisor

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

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S ince Dr. Lerman had Prime Minister Netanyahu’s ear for six years, we sought him out for a wide-ranging interview covering Israel and the Middle East in the wake of United Nations Resolution 2334, the Iran deal, and how relations might change with the incoming Trump administration.

What is your reaction to the recently passed UN Security Council Resolution 2334 that says West Bank settlements and housing in east Jerusalem are a “flagrant violation under international law”?

We should distinguish between the short-term and long-term reactions to the resolution. It is understandable that the prime minister needs to project a sense of outrage, as he fears the US could set undeliverable parameters at the upcoming Middle East peace conference in Paris scheduled for January 15. The worst part of the UN Security Council resolution is that it departs entirely from Resolution 242, which had deliberately avoided dictating specific parameters for an agreement including the territorial dimension.

Still, I think certain elements in the text of 2334, and explicit statements in Kerry’s speech, give me guarded hope that they won’t push for another resolution in the next few weeks.

In the long run, this vote ruins any prospect for a negotiated two-state solution — at least as long as this resolution stands. In a way, the US took a middle path in Kerry’s speech, which did not go as far as using the Security Council to lay out a detailed vision of these parameters. This could still happen, however.

Thus, the priority between now and January 15 is to ensure that what happens at the Paris conference does not foreclose options for a directly negotiated territorial compromise between the two parties. I think those at the conference will try to dilute Israel’s Jewish identity beyond what Kerry said in his speech, but it will likely be declaratory — a lot of hot air, nothing operational — and will result in raising Palestinian expectations to a point where they cannot possibly be met.

What about the status quo?

The status quo stands because there is currently no basis for negotiations, and UN Resolution 2334 made it even worse, as it is not a solution. I believe that the status quo is sustainable for a prolonged period of time, since Israel is a legitimate occupying power that came into the territories because of a defensive war,

 

and according to international law, it is entitled to stay until its status changes as a result of negotiations.

So a kind of status-quo-plus is sustainable with more flexibility for the Palestinian population — for instance, allowing more construction. But this still does not mean this is a viable end state.

The Palestinians do not accept Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish People. A two-state solution would also require a very robust security presence along the Jordan River. Furthermore, it would have to involve a minimum amount of human dislocation, such as what was promised in the letters of former president George W. Bush to former prime minister Ariel Sharon, which allowed Israel to base its negotiating position on the assumption that it can retain main settlement blocs.

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