- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 3, 2001

Despite the summoning of Yasser Arafat for "clarification" on President Clinton's peace plan, the plan is dead on arrival, evenif the reluctant Palestinians and Israelis come to Washington to negotiate their outstanding differences. The president's plan is too vague. The American proposal calls for Israel to cede 94 percent to 96 percent of the West Bank and all of Gaza. It calls for annexation to Israel of settlement blocks accounting for 80 percent of settlers. The major thrust of the plan is that Israel cede sovereignty over the Temple Mount in exchange for Palestinian concessions on the right of return.
The real issues for both sides are the absence of detailed instructions concerning who will really dominates how Jerusalem will be divided, what the strategic status of the Jordan Valley will be, the issue of demilitarization, and the nature of Palestinian resettlement. Prime Minister Ehud Barak has changed course in the midst of the negotiations. Even though he initially gave the OK to the American plan, Mr. Barak now says Palestinian sovereignty over the Temple Mount is unacceptable to Israel, after 56 percent of the Israeli people opposed the American plan. Since his acceptance of the American plan, Mr. Barak's ratings have continued to slide.
The strongest opposition to the plan comes from Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz, the Israeli Defense Force chief of staff. Although he accepted the idea of negotiations and he strongly believes in peace, according to Yediot Aharanot, Gen. Mofaz has told a Security Cabinet meeting the peace plan threatens the state and that without serious modifications, the Palestinian state will evolve into a terrorist state. Ze'ev Schiff, the most respected liberal defense analyst of the liberal Ha'aretz, states that IDF chiefs are wary of U.S. security proposals in the following areas: (1) demilitarization; (2) the absence of any reference to whether the Palestinian state could independently sign alliances with other Arab states; (3) the nature of the international force that is to replace Israeli forces after their withdrawal from the Jordan Valley.
On the issue of demilitarization, the American plan calls for "non-militarized" conditions; the Israelis demand full demilitarization; while the Palestinians cunningly offered "a state with limited arms." Which of these would become law? "Non-militarized" is a fuzzy strategic concept. I know of no such treaty in modern annals of international relations. It is a primitive, non-professional concept that has no standing in reality. The Palestinians are quite honest about their concept of demilitarization. After all, Oslo was also established with "limited arms." We know now the Palestinians are profusely equipped with light and heavy arms. Limited arms is a call for violation of any form of demilitarization.
It was agreed and signed in the Oslo Declaration of Principles that a Palestine state will be prohibited from military alliances with states that are hostile to Israel. If this provision is not fulfilled, the Iraqi army could stand on the other side of the Jordan River tomorrow, and in fact Saddam's officers would train the Palestinians. Mr. Schiff points out the possibility of an Iranian military attache office composed of 100 Iranian military officers who train Palestinian militias and terrorists.
According to Mr. Schiff, there are no details on the composition, definition, and procedures of an international force that, according to the Clinton plan, will be in force after supervising Israeli withdrawal from the Jordan Valley. My concerns are as follows: Will it be a deterrent force? Will there be Arab units, hostile to Israel, in the international force? In view of the difference in interpretation of what demilitarization is, who in the international force will be responsible for determining which interpretation to follow: the commander, a consensus among the various units perhaps? In the opinion of Gen. Mofaz, the international force will be of no value. The international force currently in place at the Israeli border with Lebanon has been ineffective in preventing Hezbollah terror against Israel.
The strategic issue highlighted by Gen. Mofaz concerns the future of the security of the Jordan Valley. If, after six years or less, the Palestinians dominate the Jordan Valley and Israel is confronted by a military coalition of Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, will it have the right to move its troops back across the West Bank to the Jordan Valley in order to protect its security? If you think strategically as some of us do, a radical Palestinian state, which is a realistic option, could invite radical Arab forces in support of its low-intensity war. That would mean Iraqi troops would be about 15 kilometers from Tel Aviv in a so-called "demilitarized" Palestine. After all, limited arms can also be employed by an ally of the Palestinians, Saddam Hussein, or his successor. This is not only a threat to Israel, but also to Jordan. The Jordanians do not want confrontation with Israel, but as in 1967 when Gamal Abdul Nasser forced King Hussein to go to war, a coalition of Iraq, Syria and Saudia Arabia led by Saddam Hussein could do the same.
Last but not least, Gen. Mofaz expresses concern about the security of Jewish neighborhoods that are intermixed with Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. We already have the example of Palestinians shooting at Gilat, an Israeli neighborhood in East Jerusalem.
The Middle East is the most unpredictable part of the international system. Its ruling elites, monarchs, presidents and dictators, are weak and vulnerable to a radicalized Islam population. The young make up more than 60 percent of the Middle East population. A large number in this group are unemployed, frustrated and an excellent source for future terrorism.
In view of the Palestinian doubts about what they call the "Israeli-American plan," and in view of the fact the leader of PLO militants called for an increased intifada, even if there is a reluctant and vague Israeli and Palestinian acceptance of Mr. Clinton's plan, to make him happy before leaving office, it will be worthless.

Amos Perlmutter is a professor of political science and sociology at American University and editor of the Journal of Strategic Studies.


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