Magazine article Foreign Policy in Focus

Toward a New Foreign Policy

Magazine article Foreign Policy in Focus

Toward a New Foreign Policy

Article excerpt

Peace between Israelis and Palestinians is possible, because Israeli security and Palestinian rights are not mutually exclusive but are, rather, mutually dependent. Israel will not be secure until the Palestinians are granted their legitimate rights, and the Palestinians will not be granted their rights until Israel's legitimate security needs are met. An unsustainable peace agreement--like the one that Washington was promoting in December 2000--would be worse than no peace agreement at all.

The U.S. must recognize that Israeli security and Palestinian rights are both necessary for lasting peace. Washington should support the Palestinian's right to independence alongside Israel. The U.S. should also maintain its moral and strategic commitment to Israel, working to ensure its survival and its legitimate interests but intervening to apply pressure whenever the Israeli government refuses to make the necessary compromises for peace.

The U.S. must recognize that, whatever the many faults of Yasir Arafat and the Palestinian National Authority, the Palestinian negotiating position concerning the outstanding issues in the peace talks--sharing Jerusalem, the right of refugees to return, Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory, and the evacuation of illegal Jewish settlements--is far more consistent with international law and United Nations Security Council resolutions than is Israel's position. The United States cannot be an effective broker for peace unless it is willing to finally support international law, UN Security Council resolutions, and fundamental human rights.

Unlike during some periods in the country's past, Israel's survival is no longer at stake. The Israeli military is far more powerful than any combination of Arab armies. Despite the threat of occasional suicide bombings, Israelis are generally quite secure within their country's internationally recognized borders.

Israeli soldiers and civilians are most vulnerable when they enter or settle in Palestinian territories seized by Israel in the 1967 war. This is where Palestinian rioters and guerrillas have attacked Israelis; very few attacks have been within Israel itself. The Israeli settlements and roads in occupied Palestine--reserved for Jews only--not only create an apartheid-like situation but also make it extremely difficult for Israeli forces to defend far-flung settlers against a hostile population, angry that foreign occupiers have confiscated their best land. Israel would be far more secure defending a clearly defined and internationally recognized border than bulwarking this network of illegal outposts within Palestinian territory. If the U.S. is really concerned about the security of Israeli soldiers and settlers, Washington must insist that Israel return to within its internationally recognized borders, where its citizens can be safeguarded.

The way to peace, then, is rather straightforward: Israel should repatriate its settlers and withdraw its occupation troops from lands seized in the 1967 war in return for security guarantees from the Palestinian National Authority and the right of access to Jewish holy places. Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat has already said he will accept such a settlement. Anything less is inconsistent with international law and UN Security Council resolutions. The U.S. should support just such a peace settlement. Given that Israel's internationally recognized borders already include 78% of historic Palestine, it is unreasonable to demand that the Palestinians relinquish their claim to the remaining 22%. …

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