Gerald Honigman is a Florida educator who has done extensive doctoral work in Middle East studies, has lectured on numerous university and other platforms. He has debated many of the best Arab and pro-Arab academics in public debates and on television. Mr. Honigman is widely published in academic journals, magazines, newspapers and other publications.
Fri Aug 05, 2011 2:03 pm A Conversation Between Friends: Dear Mr. Prime Minister...
A Conversation Between Friends: Dear Mr. Prime Minister...
by Gerald A. Honigman
Let me begin this by stating that I agree with most of your positions--and that's why I am a bit nervous about the latest news reports coming out of Jerusalem.
Unlike too many starry-eyed Leftist members of our Tribe, and like the virtual father of your political party, Ze'ev Jabotinsky, you have kept your head mostly above the sand in terms of what is and what is not possible regarding Arab enemies who reject the very idea of a state of the Jews in the neighborhood, regardless of its size. The problems you face are not about building freezes…
I am thus puzzled at your apparent caving in to the pressure you have been continuously under from the Obama White House and a perpetually hostile State Department to return to the 1949 armistice lines, not borders, that you said you would not do. Mr. Obama is on record repeatedly stating that Israel would be crazy not to accept the Saudi Peace (of the grave) Plan. A total return to the Auschwitz lines (making Israel 9 to 15 miles wide) is one of its key provisions.
Yes, I realize that you think that you have qualified this important concession via a number of safeguards--like demanding Israel's recognition as a Jewish State, noting the '49 lines as just a starting point for the discussions, and so forth.
I do understand what you think will happen…
But, chances are, it won't.
An astute friend of mine and myself (no slouch either, extensive doctoral studies in this field, widely-published, etc. and so forth) were having a chat about this.
He argued in your favor, stating…
"Bibi is not caving, so much as he is setting up a political dynamic as favorable as possible if probably when shooting breaks out this fall. Remember, he's firmly laying down the recognition issue as a precondition to anything. There is no way the PA is going to call that bluff.
I think Bibi knows violence is practically inevitable. It has to be. The Bad Guys know the clock is running for them. They are never going to have a more sympathetic occupant in the Oval Office as what they have now, and even they are probably smart enough to see that two years from now, he likely won't be there anymore. From their point of view, in terms of their objectives, their backs are up against the wall.
My own take is that he is not so much playing for time, as much as he is building up his "PR creds" as best he can in advance of a big shootout this fall, so he can say he was the 'reasonable party', so he can say he tried to do everything he could to avoid war.
I agree with you insofar as I am also not enamored of Bibi - or any Israeli leader - making concessions, even if they are phony ones for PR purposes, because I know very well that today's phony concession can wind up as tomorrow's real one, just because it was uttered.
Like you, I'd rather that Bibi be more forceful in making his case for Israel's genuine rights and interests.
But, I'm not Bibi. Neither are you. That is the hardest and most thankless job on Planet Earth, being PM of Israel. You look at the guy's background, his father, his KIA brother, his own military service, his knowledge of the history and his own experience of living the same...you think he is not aware of the issues you raise below?
He's playing for time against the most hostile U.S. president ever. Knowing full well what Bush 41 represented, that is saying something.
I don't think he really intends for anything beyond what is spelled out in the Bush 43 letter of '04. He keeps the major Jewish communities east of the Green Line, there are "token" swaps (not one-for-one), and he ain't doing ANYTHING without recognition, which he won't get and he knows it.
That brings me to my primary disagreement with you. Yes, looked at one way, one might say "Who gives a _ _ _ _?" about some words about recognition. But the history of the PLO/PA on this issue is one that says that they REALLY give a shit about this! THEY don't look at it as merely one more round of taqiyya. Bibi won't allow himself to be fooled like Rabin or Peres back in '93 (at least he BETTER NOT), and make a big set of concessions on the 'promise' of recognition. He's holding them - like even Olmert held them in '07 - to amending the PNC, to FORMAL recognition as a Jewish state, no ifs ands or buts.
The PA/PLO is INCAPABLE, doctrinally speaking, of doing this. Any PA leader does this, they wind up like Sadat: DEAD.
Considering how much the PA could have gained by conceding on this issue, not only now, but many times in the past, the fact that they simply won't do this tells me that they simply CAN'T do this.
That is the hand Bibi is playing.
If it were me, I'd leave it at, "Recognition before ANYTHING ELSE", and 'anything else' is not spelled out. Merely, we ain't even gonna talk to them before they do this. Don't say one thing any which way about prospective borders, swaps, etc. Just say, "Unless and until they recognize us as a Jewish state, we won't recognize them as representatives of the Palestinian Arabs. Period. We'll deal with Amman on any issues pertaining to Palestinian Arabs."
That's what I'd do. Make the recognition issue FRONT AND CENTER, to the exclusion of all else, without even making any public concessions one way or another about any other issue. Simply don't talk about any other issue.
That's my armchair advice to Bibi. But....I'm not Bibi."
But below were my own gut reactions which I still espouse and worry about. Please read them very carefully, because I'm afraid that they will indeed come back to bite both you and Israel on the derriere…
"…Sorry my friend, but what you and Bibi think will be the case (as I wrote in that published piece you responded to) is likely to backfire big time since the Foggy Folks have a history of holding Jews' feet to the fire while making excuses for Arab lapses.
Very similar to Camp David and Taba 2000.
While Arafat refused Ehud Barak's offer pressured by Slick Willy, it then became the expected starting point in all future negotiations--a real or virtual return to the '49 armistice lines--the same crapola Obama is demanding today as a result.
And now Bibi says he'll basically go along as well.
Who gives a _ _ _ _ if the Arabs officially call Israel a "Jewish" State?
Yes, I "get it," but is that worth a withdrawal--given their taqiyya intent--to the Auschwitz Lines? And that's the trade he evidently is ready to make.
And what's the land swap crapola? In other words, Israel remains the 9-15 mile wide rump state as long as Arabs agree to call it a "Jewish" rump state…and this you find "good?"
Israel must insist upon a meaningful territorial compromise a la 242--all else is secondary.
I do get your argument--honestly--and have written about it often...again, here's my last version of it right here
But what does it say to Congress (even Harry Reid opposed Obama on this!!!) and scores of millions of Evangelical Christians, etc. who just recently backed Bibi over his disagreement with Obama over the wording of this very subject if Bibi now caves in himself and says it's ok to use the Auschwitz Lines as the starting point?
As I said before, things have a tendency to not turn out as they appear--especially during Arab-Israeli negotiations.
Supposedly, the offer Barak made in 2000 would be off the table if the Arabs refused it. Well, they did--but that offer has become the new starting point for all negotiations anyway--regardless of what the Arabs do or don't do. Once Israel consents to dismissing 242's promise of secure and more defensible borders for mere words that won't mean a thing afterwards, then what?
One does not take the place of the other.
Israel needs both--tangible, territorial buffers and recognition. But if I have to take one over the other, I'll have Israeli defensive positions on the Judean hills overlooking the Jordan Valley rather than Fatah or Hamas "recognition." Knowing what both teach their people, such words of recognition would be a joke anyway--even with their reluctance to utter the words.
No, I am not Bibi...but under no circumstances--especially given the support the American people and their Congress have just shown him--would I cave on the essential ingredients of 242 granting Israel the right to secure, more defensible borders.
No circumstances...Even if Abbas had his grandson named in honor of Ze'ev Jabotinsky."
Mr. Prime Minister, please think long and hard about what you are about to do, the nature of the enemies you face, and the intent of those turning the screws on your tiny, beleaguered nation from abroad.
You have many friends here in America who will stand by Israel's demand for more fair treatment--an outright requirement of the foundation of post-'67 war peacemaking, the final draft UNSC Resolution 242. Tread water, if you must, for the next two years. A brighter dawn may very likely arise in 2012, if you get my drift…
Given the vast support expressed by Congress and elsewhere, there is no excuse to abandon the meaningful territorial compromise built into 242 at this important moment in history.
And if, as expected, Arabs act unilaterally in the months ahead, then Israel must do likewise and annex portions of the disputed territories which will give it the reasonable territorial compromise envisioned by all of the architects of 242.
The right of Arabs to a 22nd state (and second, not first, in the original 1920 Mandate of Palestine…Jordan sits on the lions' share of that territory since 1922) does not come before the right of Jews to insure that the former's birth does not come at their own lone, minuscule state's expense.
To even give the appearance of conceding on the issue of a return to the '49 Auschwitz/armistice lines as a starting point for negotiations with Arabs--who, despite the whitewashing by others, will continue to reject you regardless of size--does just that.