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Intro: "Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Wednesday that Israel should consider imposing the borders of a future Palestinian state, becoming the most senior government official to suggest bypassing a stagnant peace process."

A Palestinian herding sheep against the backdrop of a Jewish settlement near Jerusalem. Settlements are among the stumbling blocks in stalled peace talks. (photo: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)
A Palestinian herding sheep against the backdrop of a Jewish settlement near Jerusalem. Settlements are among the stumbling blocks in stalled peace talks. (photo: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)

Israeli Official Weighs Imposed Borders for Palestinians

By Jodi Rudoren, The New York Times

31 May 12


efense Minister Ehud Barak said Wednesday that Israel should consider imposing the borders of a future Palestinian state, becoming the most senior government official to suggest bypassing a stagnant peace process.

Mr. Barak’s statement to consider what he and many Israelis call “unilateral actions,” without offering any specifics, echoed an emerging chorus of political leaders, analysts and intellectuals who have said that Israel needs to put in effect its own settlement to the Palestinian crisis. Though the Israeli government continues to call for negotiations toward a two-state solution, the drive for a one-sided approach also received a boost on Wednesday from the Institute for National Security Studies, a respected research center that is close to the military and security establishment.

Mr. Barak called for “an interim agreement, maybe even unilateral action,” during a conference sponsored by the institute here. Referring to fears that Jews will become a minority in their own state, he added, “Inaction is not a possibility.”

“Israel cannot afford stagnation,” Mr. Barak said. “It will be a difficult decision to make, but the time is running out.”

Calls for direct action are based on the arguments that negotiations are no longer feasible because of enduring political divisions on both sides and the changing dynamics inspired by the Arab Spring, which demand that leaders take more populist positions in line with anti-Israel public sentiment. But some advocates of this approach have also said that they believe the door should remain open to negotiations, suggesting that unilateral steps could be phased in over many years and be designed, in part, to give Israel a stronger hand in final status talks.

The Palestinian Authority has opposed any effort by Israel to decree the contours of its territory and abandon a negotiated settlement on a wide variety of issues including the future of Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority, however, did take its own unilateral steps last fall, when it pursued United Nations recognition, something it is considering doing again. Israel has criticized such efforts for stepping outside the bounds of negotiations. The Obama administration has strongly opposed unilateral action by either side, as have some senior Israeli officials, and many worry that such a move could provoke an uprising by Palestinians.

“The core issues of the conflict can only be resolved by direct negotiations,” Daniel B. Shapiro, the United States ambassador to Israel, said Wednesday. Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, also objected to the call for unilateralism, saying, “This policy won’t lead to a solution and would prolong the conflict. It will end the idea of the two-state solution.”

Both Mr. Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the security conference that they, too, preferred a final-status solution of two states for two peoples, and that the broad unity government they formed this month presented a unique opportunity for a peace deal. But many here see bilateral negotiations as all but impossible and are seeking a new paradigm.

Mr. Barak, who briefly spoke about the Palestinian conflict at the end of a wide-ranging lecture, did not offer any specifics by design, according to a senior aide who said later that “what he’s talking about is the importance of taking action.”

Shaul Mofaz, the Kadima Party leader whose alliance with Mr. Netanyahu this month created the supermajority of 94 out of 120 members of Parliament, has advocated creating an interim Palestinian state on 60 percent of the West Bank, with settlers offered incentives or being forced to leave their homes.

A new Israeli organization called Blue White Future, which supports a two-state solution along the 1967 borders, penned an April Op-Ed page article in The New York Times saying that “through a series of unilateral actions, gradual but tangible changes could begin to transform the situation on the ground.” From the right, Naftali Bennett, a high-tech millionaire trying to form a new political party, in March sent 5,000 opinion leaders his plan for Israeli annexation of large swathes of the West Bank known as Area C, where most settlers live.

And Khalil Shikaki, a Palestinian pollster, wrote this month that “unilateral steps by both sides could provide an alternative” to what he sees as a “growing one-state reality.”At Wednesday’s conference, Shlomo Brom, a retired general who leads the research center’s program on the Palestinian conflict, presented a paper calling “the unilateral route the only remaining course of action.”

“We can start talking about a permanent agreement,” Mr. Brom said, “but we believe we will start talking about the transitional arrangement very quickly and prepare ourselves to implement unilateral moves.”

Amos Yadlin, a former chief of military intelligence who now runs the institute, called it “the best of all evils.”

“If a miracle happens and we can reach a negotiation and reach an agreement, this institute will be happy to take all of its papers and burn them,” Mr. Yadlin told the audience of about 200 of Israel’s leading security officials and intellectuals. “We are going to shape the reality of the two states. Everybody believes in it. Let’s advance it without conditioning it on the agreement of the Palestinians. We have to take the initiative in our own hands.”

But critics of the unilateral approach abound, many of them citing Israel’s 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip and the takeover two years later by the militant Hamas faction.

“How come there are people who are ready to think about such a dangerous idea after the complete failure of the unilateral disengagement from Gaza?” Gideon Sa’ar, Israel’s minister of education, asked in a statement on Wednesday, adding that Mr. Barak, who is close to Mr. Netanyahu but not a member of his Likud Party, represented a minority view in the cabinet and coalition.

Robert M. Danin, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and an adviser to Tony Blair on the Middle East, called unilateralism “very problematic.”

“What political entity would emerge in the aftermath of your withdrawal?” Mr. Danin asked. “What are you getting for giving up land? Why would you want to uproot 70,000 settlers, or halt settlement activity, for nothing?”

Ziad Abu Zayyad, a former Palestinian Authority minister who co-edits the Palestine-Israel Journal, told the Israeli audience that continued settlement activity in the West Bank “undermines any possibility of disengagement.”

“We are negotiating about the West Bank and you continue eating the West Bank slice after slice, slice after slice,” Mr. Abu Zayyad said. “If I see that the Israeli government cannot evacuate outposts, can anyone convince me that it will be able to evacuate settlements?”

Asked about the unilateral proposals, a spokesman for Mr. Netanyahu referred to the prime minister’s speech on Tuesday evening in which he called for a return to bilateral talks.“Chances are not always repeated in history, in political history, but it exists now,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “Negotiations for peace need two sides. One side is there.”

By Wednesday afternoon, Moshe Yaalon, a deputy prime minister, had taken the stage at the conference to say that unilateral steps are a disincentive to President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority “to come to the table.”

“We as a government say O.K., we have a strategy, we’re ready to sit to the table if there’s a partner,” said Mr. Yaalon, the minster for strategic affairs and former chief of the Israeli Defense Force. “When we retreat or withdraw, we show weakness.” your social media marketing partner


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+12 # dkonstruction 2012-05-31 11:09
Another example of the NY Times' "fair and balanced" reporting on the middle east. Have not Isreali state policies at least since 1967 if not before essentially been about creating "facts on the ground" that unilaterally "impose borders" on the Palestinians? And, again, more quotes from Israeli's about how they need a "partner for peace" and "two sides" at the table and yet nothing about how the Israeli's have continued to expand settlements (unilaterally of course) which at least should raise the question as to how much of a genuine peace partner they have been or whether they have been in any way negotiating in good faith? And, finally, the Times continues to ignore (by never quoting) any of the genuinely progressive Israelis (sorry, but Barak ain't one of them) so that Americans see that there is in fact a much wider spectrum of oppinion (and dissent) amongst Israeli Jews and that one can be an Israeli Jew who is completely critical of its governments policies without being a "self-hater", "anti-semite" or "anti-israel". Then again, this is nothing new for the Times as Noam Chomsky demonstrated more than 30 years ago in his "Fateful Triangle"...wel l, i guess, at least the Times is consistant.
+4 # bluepilgrim 2012-05-31 12:29
Yeah -- consistently a zionist rag, as well as a mouth for the empire.

Good time to post the link to a second time. It has articles such as

All this stuff, and responses to, the corporate/empir e press is beginning to fell like continually telling people 'rain is wet, take an umbrella, rain is wet', put on raincoat, rain is wet'. I wonder how many people understand now we have a propagandist media, like those in the USSR understood that Pravda and Izvestiya then were just communist party and state propaganda, respectively. It's hardly just Fox or the Post.
+5 # Kwelinyingi 2012-05-31 12:41
Is there any "small" nation that excercises near total control of its Mideast foreign policy as Israel does on the world's sole superpower, and one that inspires so much fear in the US than criticism of Israel in the US "mainstream" media and academia? What other nation has the ability of making presidents of the most powerful nation in history wet their pants at election time (or outside election) at the mere thought that Israel should return all occupied lands to its owners? Where else is servitude to Israel part of the election campaign? Can any other nation or peoples dare challenge the exceptionalist nature of the Jewish holocaust compared to other holocausts with even higher casualty figures? Lastly what other group or groups excercise an almost suffocating control of what the "mainstream" media should or not say about Israel?Criticis m of African corruption hardly invokes the racist card, but not so with justified criticism of Israel.
+3 # gzuckier 2012-05-31 14:00
Alternately, Israel has spent 60 years being the US' cat's paw in the region, the US' front line troops and its military proxy so that the US could retain plausible deniability, first against the Soviets' proxy, the Arab states, then against the Arab states themselves when Soviet power waned and petroleum power came to be. So the US and Israel walk hand in hand, because in general, almost nobody in the US truly gives a damn about the Palestinians any more than they give a damn about Iraqis, so our government doesn't care what Israelis do in the West Bank, so long as an Israeli regime friendly to rightwing US interests gets elected.

Because what about Israeli treatment of Palestinians is any different than treatment of unfortunate people who have been in the way of American imperialism since day one? For that matter, how does the US' current indifference to Syrian citizens and tacit support for the Assad regime, Israel's number two enemy, jibe with this view of a Zionist Occupied Government?

Face it, Israel bashing is just a way for those Americans who are upset about the actions of their government at home and abroad to wash their hands of any responsibility, without having to actually do something.
0 # stannadel 2012-06-01 04:52
Try Saudi Arabia.
+1 # gzuckier 2012-05-31 14:01
Uh, did you actually read the article? Or are you by error commenting on a different article?
+2 # dick 2012-05-31 15:35
Yes, there was no news in Pravda ("Truth") & no truth in Izvestia ("News"). And so it goes with media & other U.S. elites re the Middle East. Remember: there were no WMDS! Israel should reinstate UN sanctioned 1967 borders. This would not be perceived as weakness, but of supreme self confidence. "By God, we believe we can do what's right & GET AWAY WITH IT." The world would rejoice; Al Qaeda & many Islamists would be dismayed, glum, befuddled, bewildered, downright miserable.
+3 # Third_stone 2012-05-31 16:29
I have a different suggestion for a unilateral move that would result in peace with the rest of the world. Withdraw from occupied Palestine. Surrender the houses built there to the Arab rightful owners of the property, and go back to Brooklyn.
+3 # RMDC 2012-06-01 06:03
I'm with you. Even to this day some 70% of Israelis were not born in Israel. They are settlers and colonizers who only steal land from Palestinians and carry on a policy of slow motion genocide. They should all go home -- to Brooklyn.
+3 # RMDC 2012-05-31 17:55
Of course imposing borders would be another Israeli violation of international law and a crime against humanity. But is seems as if Israel is immune from criminal prosecution. It's protector, the governments in the US and Europe, are complicit in all the crimes Israel commits against Palestinians and other Arab nations.

Israel is rapidly becoming the most hated nation on earth. I used to support Israel, but over the years I have changed my view. Now I would not mind seeing it collapse or totally defeated in a war it started. It is a vile little military dictatorship that drags the world down into its pathology.
+1 # Activista 2012-06-01 00:09
"creating an interim Palestinian state on 60 percent of the West Bank" and we know what 60% translates to - like 40%?
map shrinking Palestine

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