You would think that following Israel’s ruinous unilateral withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza, unilateralism would be dead in the water. For the majority of Israelis and Israeli strategic thinkers, I believe that this remains the case.
But the political Left is impatient. The same people who once sold us Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas as peace partners are now telling us that while peace is impossible, the existing situation is unacceptable, and unilateralism is the only remaining course of action for Israel.
In fact, there is a groundswell of “elite” (read: leftist) opinion building in favor of unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank. I sense that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is being pulled in this direction.
In current parlance, unilateralism means to “make peace without (Palestinian) partners,” to tear down settlements in the distant reaches of the West Bank to “signal” to the Palestinians that the Netanyahu government is “serious” about compromise. To “show” the world that Israel is not interested in “forever being an occupying power,” to “act boldly to set Israel’s borders without being hostage to the Palestinians,” and so forth.
Over the past year, Ehud Barak and Shaul Mofaz, both former defense ministers, have touted unilateral Israeli action.
“We are on borrowed time,” Barak said in a June 2012 speech to the Institute for National Security Studies. “We will reach a wall, and we’ll pay the price. If it isn’t possible to reach a permanent agreement with the Palestinians, we must consider an interim arrangement or even a unilateral move.”
INSS director Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin backed up Barak with an “academic study,” which after reviewing all negotiation possibilities, reached the conclusion that no agreement could be reached with the Palestinians and therefore Israel “should go forward (with withdrawals) without depending on the Palestinians.”
At a more recent INSS conference, Barak’s former bureau chief, Gilad Sher, presented a team report entitled “The Palestinian Issue: Toward a Reality of Two States,” which also advocated unilateral Israeli withdrawal. Aware of the disastrous security consequences of the 2005 unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, the INSS team did not suggest a military withdrawal from Judea and Samaria but only a civilian one. In other words, many Israelis living beyond the 1949 armistice line would be deported, but the IDF would retain its presence beyond that line.
Or, to put it another way, the settlers would be shafted, even though the military “occupation” of the West Bank would continue and no peace would ensue.
Sher is, coincidentally, co-chairman of an organization called “Blue White Future,” which is pushing a “compensation law” that would provide payment to tens of thousands of settlers for leaving their West Bank homes.
The “International Crisis Group” and the “Elders” – motley collections of ex-statesmen like Jimmy Carter who backed Arafat as a peace partner for Israel – also are now promoting Israeli unilateralism “to create a two-state reality,” without peace. (These same geniuses have also harangued us for years about returning the Golan to the Syrians. What …read more