Herzog’s Flawed Plan

by Mitchell Plitnick

Isaac Herzog, the Israeli opposition leader and head of the Zionist Union party, issued a “Ten-Point Plan” for a restarted peace process. His stated goals in doing so are to stave off the Israeli right’s drive toward annexation of the West Bank, to preserve the settlement blocs, to end Israel’s rule over another people, and to conclude a regional peace. Unfortunately, his plan would likely accomplish only one of those goals, the one already a fait accompli: maintaining the settlement blocs.

The cornerstone of Herzog’s idea is a ten-year freeze on settlement growth outside the blocs coupled with a vague promise of stimulating the Palestinian economy. At the end of ten years, final status negotiations would commence, but only on the condition that the preceding ten-year period had elapsed “without violence.”

These notions are completely unrealistic. Herzog would “guarantee” the ten years of quiet by setting up, through the UN Security Council, a mechanism to monitor and prevent “all terrorism and incitement.” By saying “all” rather than “Palestinian,” Herzog implies that the prohibition would be applied equally to Israelis and Palestinians.

That’s great in theory. In practice, it requires a lot more than Herzog seems willing to do. According to Herzog’s plan, the Israeli military would continue to operate throughout the West Bank and, in partnership with Palestinian security, act to prevent violence. But that is no different than the status quo. In practice, it has meant that Palestinian and Israeli security have worked together when necessary to combat Palestinian violence. But Israeli security is empowered to police the Palestinians, while the reverse is not true. Settlers have been able to commit daily acts of violence and harassment, usually, though not always, without fear of arrest, much less prosecution.

Meanwhile, Herzog’s plan calls for completing the security barrier and gradually handing more and more authority to the Palestinians to govern their own affairs. Ultimately, unless the Palestinians can unify their leadership, Israel will not permit them to declare a state, and, even if they do permit it, Herzog reserves judgment in his plan as to whether Israel will recognize that state.

This sort of thinking is the inevitable result of the unequal relationship between an occupying power that is a stable, economically healthy, regional superpower and a dispossessed and occupied people. The decision is entirely Israel’s, and it is based entirely on Israel’s concerns, not on any notion that Palestinians have inalienable rights and are entitled to the same freedoms as everyone else.

Moreover, Herzog repeats the old mistake of handing veto power to those who would employ violence. Anyone opposed to cooperation with Israel, including Hamas and groups much more radical, merely need to commit acts of violence to scupper the whole deal. Indeed, Herzog’s plan incentivizes such groups, as well as Israeli settlers and other extremists, to do just that.

Herzog pays scant attention to ensuring that Israel would police its settlers or begin to address the daily violence Palestinians face. That shortcoming also means that more Palestinians will be inclined toward violence, which, in turn, requires the Palestinian Authority (PA) to act more forcefully, making the legitimacy of Palestinian leadership more and more precarious and further entrenching the status quo. Moreover, a PA that agreed to this plan might have support among the Palestinian people, but it would also face an increasingly incensed opposition that already believes that the PA is nothing more than an agent of the Israeli occupation.

Ultimately, the foundation of Herzog’s plan is inherently and fatally flawed. It is based on the notion that the status quo can be frozen for ten years and that this will bring peace before there is any agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

But you don’t get an agreement from peace, you get peace from an agreement. Palestinians already live in a reality where they know that they will face the response of a strong, unified state if they violently or even peacefully resist the occupation. Obviously, that threat has not led to peace, nor is there any reason to believe that it ever will.

Herzog developed this plan out of his criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal of an offer for a renewed peace process last year. The offer was developed in a summit attended by Netanyahu, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, and US Secretary of State John Kerry. According to that offer, a regional peace initiative would accompany renewed talks with the Palestinians, all of which would be based on the same six points that Kerry presented publicly just a short time before he left his office:

  • Provide for secure and recognized international borders between Israel and a viable and contiguous Palestine, negotiated based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed equivalent swaps.
  • Fulfill the vision of the UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of two states for two peoples, one Jewish and one Arab, with mutual recognition and full equal rights for all their respective citizens.
  • Provide for a just, agreed, fair, and realistic solution to the Palestinian refugee issue, with international assistance, that includes compensation, options, and assistance in finding permanent homes, acknowledgment of suffering, and other measures necessary for a comprehensive resolution consistent with two states for two peoples.
  • Provide an agreed resolution for Jerusalem as the internationally recognized capital of the two states, and protect and assure freedom of access to the holy sites consistent with the established status quo.
  • Satisfy Israel’s security needs and bring a full end to the occupation, while ensuring that Israel can defend itself effectively and that Palestine can provide security for its people in a sovereign and non-militarized state.
  • End the conflict and all outstanding claims, enabling normalized relations and enhanced regional security for all as envisaged by the Arab Peace Initiative.

Netanyahu refused this framework, knowing how violently the Israeli right would react. Herzog, whatever his intentions, has presented a plan that is just another form of rejection. Kerry’s six points reflect a final status that, according to Herzog, would not even be discussed until ten years have passed without violence.

Does anyone really think that is going to happen?

Photo of Isaac Herzog courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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Mitchell Plitnick

Mitchell Plitnick is a political analyst and writer. His previous positions include vice president at the Foundation for Middle East Peace, director of the US Office of B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, and co-director of Jewish Voice for Peace. His writing has appeared in Ha’aretz, the New Republic, the Jordan Times, Middle East Report, the San Francisco Chronicle, +972 Magazine, Outlook, and other outlets. He was a columnist for Tikkun Magazine, Zeek Magazine and Souciant. He has spoken all over the country on Middle East politics, and has regularly offered commentary in a wide range of radio and television outlets including PBS News Hour, the O’Reilly Factor, i24 (Israel), Pacifica Radio, CNBC Asia and many other outlets, as well as at his own blog, Rethinking Foreign Policy, at www.mitchellplitnick.com. You can find him on Twitter @MJPlitnick.

SHOW 8 COMMENTS

8 Comments

  1. Right, like most leftists you are a hypocrite. We have not made any real amends except after the fact we are sorry. But the fact remains there would be no USA, a great nation, if we had not conquered the less sophisticated people who were already here. People, who by the way, killed each other in wars all the time.

    The fact remains that either the Jews or the Muslims will control Israel, not both.

    Your story is dumb. I talk to white supremacists on some of these online forums and they are nuts. They hate Jews, they don’t consider Jews as “white” in their fanciful “racial science” and imagine all the worst conspiracy theories. No one proves the lack of white supremacy more than the white supremacists. LOL

    However, there is little doubt that some cultures are superior to others in terms of providing for human rights, for the security and prosperity of their people, etc. This is not a permanent situation, and cultures rise and fall. Nor does it have anything to do with race, color or even a specific religion.

    The Islamic culture had a very high spot in the world but it has fallen hard in the 400-500 years. Right now, many Americans believes that Islamic culture is too volatile and dangerous to be allowed to have a controlling interest over the government and culture of America (or European nations for that matter). This is nothing against an individual Arab or Muslim, but

    Now you, being a good leftist, would immediately call it racism, which is silly since Islamic culture is not a race. That is where the hypocrisy comes in. If you were compelled to live in one of two cultures, and you had to choose only between these two, would you choose any Arab Muslim state or would you choose Israel. If you are honest, it will be “case closed” that you agree one culture is superior to the other (as I have defined).

    You seem to be choosing to prefer Islamic culture over the Jewish culture in Israel. Why? If it is not irrational antisemitism, why?

  2. “Right, like most leftists you are a hypocrite. We have not made any real amends except after the fact we are sorry. But the fact remains there would be no USA, a great nation, if we had not conquered the less sophisticated people who were already here. People, who by the way, killed each other in wars all the time.”

    First, you abbreviate the name of the commenter you are replying to. Disrespect; plus the implication that you desire to obscure that person’s point of view, expressed by their full online ID: rightofreturn – i.e. sympathy for the Palestinian cause. Next, a personal attack on the person you are replying to – assuming they are “leftist” and calling them a “hypocrite”. Next, “USA, a great nation”. Exceptionalism typical of a certain type of American nationalist. Then, “less sophisticated people”. Racism. Why could America not have been a great nation (by your or anyone else’s criteria) if the settlers/immigrants had not conquered the indigenous people, but had lived alongside them peaceably? What has the fact that the indigenous people fought amongst themselves got to do with anything? Do you believe that their shortcomings made it OK for the immigrants to massacre them?

    “The fact remains that either the Jews or the Muslims will control Israel, not both.”

    Why can they not live in peace beside one another in a united, secular state in the whole of Palestine? Plenty of other nations have managed it, even if it entailed a lot of bloodshed before they came to their senses.

    “Your story is dumb. I talk to white supremacists on some of these online forums and they are nuts. They hate Jews, they don’t consider Jews as “white” in their fanciful “racial science” and imagine all the worst conspiracy theories. No one proves the lack of white supremacy more than the white supremacists. LOL”

    So why are you a white supremacist? (Your phrase “less sophisticated people”, regarding Native Americans, shows that that is just what you are.)

    “However, there is little doubt that some cultures are superior to others in terms of providing for human rights, for the security and prosperity of their people, etc. This is not a permanent situation, and cultures rise and fall. Nor does it have anything to do with race, color or even a specific religion.”

    Can you explain why providing for human rights is a matter of culture, rather than an outcome of political power? Argentina under Galtieri and Chile under Pinochet were Christian; the Soviet Union and China were atheist. None have a great record on human rights, despite being at the opposite ends of the political spectrum. Or are you just arguing for American exceptionalism again, despite the USA’s culture of mass imprisonment, the death penalty, Jim Crow, etc.?

    “The Islamic culture had a very high spot in the world but it has fallen hard in the 400-500 years. Right now, many Americans believes that Islamic culture is too volatile and dangerous to be allowed to have a controlling interest over the government and culture of America (or European nations for that matter). This is nothing against an individual Arab or Muslim, but”

    As I said to you in an earlier post, you really must try to read what you’ve written before posting it; you might avoid posting ungrammatical and incomplete sentences. Many Americans believe that Donald Trump is doing a great job. It doesn’t make them right, though.

    “Now you, being a good leftist, would immediately call it racism, which is silly since Islamic culture is not a race. That is where the hypocrisy comes in. If you were compelled to live in one of two cultures, and you had to choose only between these two, would you choose any Arab Muslim state or would you choose Israel. If you are honest, it will be “case closed” that you agree one culture is superior to the other (as I have defined).”

    If you were a Palestinian (Muslim or Christian), and a large number of immigrants from Europe and the USA, with a colonialist “culture” and a different religion, came to your country and, instead of integrating, took over half of it and tried their best to kick you out, would you be happy?

    “You seem to be choosing to prefer Islamic culture over the Jewish culture in Israel. Why? If it is not irrational antisemitism, why?”

    What exactly makes you think that rightofreturn prefers Islamic culture over Jewish culture? Nowhere in his/her comment does he/she refer to it.

  3. John O, you have failed to rebut my points.

    1) The USA is an exceptional civilization, one of the best the world has ever seen. You don’t recognize that apparently.

    2) Once the Europeans discovered the America’s the fate of the existing native population was doomed. America would never have become the powerful nation that it has become if it had not spread westward. If we didn’t take the land, other European powers or Russia would have. As it was, we had to purchase or seize land held by France, Spain and Russia.

    3) There is no evidence an inferior civilization would have coexisted until it became completely subservient. Again, understand I use the terms superior and inferior in strictly objective fashion to refer to technologically advanced and stronger government structure. The natives had inferior weapons, were vulnerable to diseases that the Europeans had resistance to and were too divided to offer effective resistance. These are objective facts. I am not speaking about any sense of moral superiority or inferiority.

    4) Imprisonment and the death penalty in appropriate circumstance are fully consistent with the highest moral values by the way. Jim Crow laws were immoral and unjustified. Slavery was wrong from the outset.

    5) Jews and Arabs should live together in peace in a democratic secular state of Israel/Palestine. Great. Unfortunately, there is no objective evidence that Arabs can live with anyone in a democratic secular state once the Arab population reaches a certain threshold. There is plenty of evidence that such an effort would fail and result in many deaths. It’s not even working in Lebanon.

    6) My reference to “but” was supposed to have a “but…..” As in you fill in the blank. Sadly this blog does not permit editing of typos.

    7) Your hypothetical is invalid. You state: “If you were a Palestinian (Muslim or Christian), and a large number of immigrants from Europe and the USA, with a colonialist “culture” and a different religion, came to your country and, instead of integrating, took over half of it and tried their best to kick you out, would you be happy?”

    A more accurate hypothetical would be, if “If you were a Palestinian and your people had invaded and conquered the region in the past and imposed Islam by force, and if you had permitted the remaining Jews in the region to live as second class citizens subject to occasion pogroms, and if one day the Jews returned and reclaimed 1% of the conquered Arab Muslim land, would you be happy.” So phrased, the answer is that I might not be happy, because I am an Islamic supremacist and I cannot tolerate non-Muslims with control of even 1% of the Arab Muslim land. But who cares if I would be happy since my viewpoint is so ridiculous.

    I’m sure the Jews were not happy when a superior civilization (Rome) drove them out of Judea in the first place. The difference is the Jews never claimed a huge empire and were driven out of the ancestral homeland, while the Palestinian Arabs have plenty of Arab land still.

    8) I assume Righto favors Islamic civilization because his stated solution would result in the elimination of Jewish civilization in Israel. That was easy.

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