In Paris on Friday, June 3rd, a meeting was held on the issue of Israeli-Palestinian relations, with the US Secretary of State John Kerry in attendance. About 30 countries were represented there, but delegates from Israel and Palestine didn’t attend the meeting. The results of the meeting were predictable: the delegates couldn’t agree on anything. However, it was offered to convene a new round at the end of 2016, which insists on the presence of an Israeli and Palestinian delegation.
Earlier, in January 2016, the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that the authorities would recognize Palestine as a state if negotiations with Israel failed. This event drew criticism from Israel and the threats to not consider such actions as legitimate to settle the Israeli-Palestinian relations. According to the logic of International Law, Tel Aviv is right as Israel’s sovereignty was recognized by all the countries of Western Europe and the United States. Although there are a number of UN resolutions on the occupation of Palestine and the Golan Heights, as well as the special status of Jerusalem, the trait of the neo-colonial policy can be seen in France’s actions. In fact, after the First World War, the Middle East region was divided between France and Britain. Both countries received the League of Nations mandate and, on the basis of its national interests, were engaged in the construction of new geopolitical actors. Israel was created in 1947, when France had serious problems with the post-war reconstruction and growth of the national liberation movements in its colonies. Although any EU country cannot openly defend its interests in the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict provides opportunities for political manipulation. Since it leads to the effect of Prometheus (intervention of the third side), the negotiation process between Palestine and Israel gets a new level of conflict and, as a consequence, a new round of conflict. While the West does not understand the true interests of both sides and will not be a mediator without imposing its point of view, any solution to the peace process will not be accepted.
There is another aspect that indicates that any attempts at talks to solve the Israeli issue will be doomed to fail. Israel has its own geopolitical imperatives, according to which it must resist international pressure to hold on to the Jordan Valley, its only border in the east, which is protected, as the sudden changes in Middle East can make this place even more important. It is the closest border to the Heartland (i.e. the core) of Israel, the Triangle of Jerusalem – Tel Aviv – Haifa – which is 70% of the population and 80% of the country’s economic infrastructure. Israel must also continue the construction of the E-1 area, which would connect the valley with the undivided Jerusalem. Israel should focus its efforts to resolve issues in these strategic areas and not in the more far areas of the West Bank, which can be used as an opportunity for a compromise with the Palestinians. Thus, we have a view of the Israeli position.
The E-1 area was for a long time the reason for the escalation between Israel, Palestine, and the international community. The project of constructing new settlements has repeatedly been criticized by several European countries, and in response to it, Israel has made several active diplomatic demarches. The main stumbling block is the idea of the creation of Palestine with its capital in East Jerusalem, and the current Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks precisely about such a territorial unit, corresponding to the 1967 borders.
According to Israeli politicians, the United States understand the strategic needs of Israel, but critical for the fact that Ma’aleh Adumim’s settlement was associated with Jerusalem. Tel Aviv insist on the creation of such a corridor, as it is, according to Israeli strategists, will help to strengthen security in the Jordan Valley slopes and prevent the division of Jerusalem.
In other words, Israel refuses to meet Palestine’s requirements, not directly, but in a veiled form, referring to historical, strategic, and religious factors.
Mowing the Grass and Chronic Inferiority
By not allowing the escalation of relations with the Palestinians, and other neighboring countries to turn into an existential threat, Israel chooses the strategy of exhausting the enemy (in this case – the Palestinians), while avoiding a long-term occupation, as well as a people-centered political decision. This option among the Israeli military and politicians is called “mowing the grass,” and it is to destroy the opponent’s opportunity to carry out any aggressive actions against Israel.
It should be noted that the doctrine of “mowing the grass” has quite a long prehistory. Even the first Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion developed Israel’s security doctrine based on two main assumptions:
1) Arab hostility toward the State of Israel is likely to continue for decades;
2) Israel is suffering from chronic inferiority complex: both of territory and of demography.
The main asymmetry in resources, together with the Arab hostility, forced Ben Gurion to conclude that Israel would not be able to dictate the peace treaty terms to its neighbors, even using overwhelming force.
The mentioned “chronic deficiency” of the territory is just related to the reluctance of the Israelis to withdraw from the occupied territories.
Israel is also well aware of the threat to their interests from the international community if it continues its uncompromising policy toward the Palestinians. There is even the acronym BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions). As Jonathan Reinhold from the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies says, by exploring the problem that the American liberals are more sympathetic to Israel than to the Palestinians, except the main Protestant Church in America, the real BDS base is in Western Europe; but none of the boycotts have had much of a practical effect… This struggle is for political legitimacy and symbolism. BDS does not aim to put Israel to its knees, but it does have the potential to cause substantial diplomatic, economic, and even military damage to Israel. If the current peace talks with the Palestinians fail, they will seek to impose sanctions against Israel through the UN and other international bodies. In addition, they will try to prosecute Israeli officers through the International Criminal Court, and this threat is likely to have negative consequences for Israeli deterrence.
This struggle is for political legitimacy and symbolism. BDS has no aim, as both the Israeli experts offer to adopt a reciprocal measure for “unstimulating” measures for the non-governmental organizations that conduct BDS campaigns, including through supranational institutions. Israel does not act directly but through their friends in the West, trying to avoid direct confrontation, as it only enhances the status of the organizations that support the boycott (the incident with the Mavi Marmara ship, apparently, was a good lesson).
An important role was played by the organization of the Jewish community and diasporas across the world.
It was offered to keep reminding the international community that Israel is a democratic state with liberal rights such as freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, which is important for the West.
In general, the strategy against BDS is built on the principle of “creating a network to fight a network,” and not a special body in the Knesset or the Israeli government, which would have dealt with this issue.
In 2014, the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas expressed his opinion that NATO forces can be placed in a Palestinian state in the West Bank in order to meet Israel’s security concerns. This message must be estimated from a position of far-sighted strategy. At first glance, the Palestinians offer a robust umbrella in the face of a trusted partner. But is the deployment of a NATO contingent in the interests of Palestinians? Is Mahmoud Abbas a spokesman for third party interests, which try to make the appearance of a wide discussion on the issue and, in the end, estabish another military base, which will show force and serve the West’s strategic objectives in the Middle East?
It is a paradox, but some pro-Israel organizations are interested in such a solution. On the eve of the ministerial meeting in Paris, on July 3rd, 2016, the Center for a New American Security issued a report «Advancing the Dialogue: A Security System for the Two-State Solution». The key decisions to create two-state system were:
Build a multilayered system that addresses Israel’s security concerns in which Israel retains the right of self defense as well as the capacity to defend itself by itself, but ensures this is only necessary in extremis.
Minimize Israeli visibility to Palestinian civilians and pursue significant early steps that signal a fundamental change on the ground to Palestinians.
Plan a conditions-dependent, performance-based, area-by-area phased redeployment of Israeli security forces with target timetables, benchmarks, and an effective remediation process.
Conduct significant upgrades to security systems and infrastructure.
Build joint operations centers and data sharing mechanisms for all parties such that there is maximum situational awareness of the security environment for Israelis but minimal intrusion on Palestinian sovereignty.
Employ American forces for training, equipping, evaluating, and monitoring, and for conducting highly limited operations along the Jordan River.
The 2nd and 6th positions are particularly interesting. In fact, it offers to continue the construction of a protective wall to reduce the visibility of Israel for the Palestinians, as well as to undertake further occupation of Palestinian territory by the US troops.
Although, recently, the home and foreign policy of Israel faced some difficulties, the identified issues allow us to make the conclusion that a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli relations will not be invented soon. Even if some decisions are made on the planned autumn meeting, they will most likely be decorative and will not affect the construction of settlements, and Israel will continue its occupation of Palestinian territories.