Why land for peace is dead
November 15th, 2012
06:29 PM ET

Why land for peace is dead

By Michael Rubin, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School. The views expressed are his own.

On September 18, 1978, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed the so-called Camp David Accords, cementing the notion that land for peace would become the basis for a resolution of the Arab-Israel conflict. Their agreement led to a peace treaty the following year between Israel and Egypt. However the current fighting between Israel and Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip ends, one thing is certain: the era of land-for-peace is over.

At first, Jimmy Carter’s land-for-peace formula looked promising. One in three Arabs lived in Egypt. Within the White House and at Foggy Bottom, presidents and diplomats believed that where Egypt went, so would go the Arab world. Hence, the precedent of trading the Sinai for peace became a source of hope.

It was this example that Bill Clinton sought to capitalize upon in the 1993 Oslo Accords. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) agreed to recognize Israel and work toward peace in exchange for land in historical Palestine. I was in Bahrain in 1994 when PLO chairman Yasser Arafat entered the Gaza Strip to establish the Palestinian Authority. Enthusiasm was palpable across the region. Within weeks, Jordan had signed its own peace accord with Israel, and Persian Gulf emirates, Tunisia, and Morocco looked like they might follow suit.

The logic of land for peace became the basis for Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000. The formula of trading land for peace had already begun to unravel. Israel expected if not peace, then quiet. They had removed the last remaining dispute between Israel and Lebanon. Alas, Israel’s withdrawal foreshadowed greater conflict. Even though the United Nations certified Israel’s withdrawal as complete, Hezbollah laid claim not only to the Shebaa Farms – an Israeli occupied area which historically is part of Syria – but also seven villages in the Galilee, a region well within Israel’s recognized borders.

More from GPS: what the Israel/Gaza violence means

Peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority was also rapidly deteriorating. Certainly, when it comes to the Arab-Israel conflict, there are always mutual recriminations. What is clear, however, is that Arafat had voided his pledge to resolve future conflict with Israel at the negotiating table. Many commentators mark the beginning of the “Second Intifada” as Likud leader Ariel Sharon’s September 28, 2000 visit to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. But this is dishonest. On August 24, 2000, several weeks before Sharon’s visit, Palestinian Justice Minister Freih Abu Middein threatened, “Violence is near, and the Palestinian people are willing to sacrifice even 5,000 casualties.” Communications Minister Imad al-Faluji reportedly admitted to Palestinian radio that “Arafat ordered preparations for the current intifada immediately after the Camp David summit, as part of the negotiating process with Israel.” The Oslo Process and the land-for-peace formula that underlay it had begun to breakdown.

Many warriors transform themselves into peacemakers in the twilight of their lives, and Sharon was no different. In 2005, Israel undertook a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Palestinians and Israelis might argue about Jerusalem, right of return, and other final status issues, but there were no longer land disputes in Gaza. What followed was a disaster: Whereas southern Israel was once free of violence, suddenly towns like Sderot became targets for hundreds of rockets and missiles. Southern Lebanon, too, became a forward staging base for ever more advanced weaponry, as Hezbollah would demonstrate in 2006. The more land Israel ceded, the more insecure it became and the more violence her citizenry suffered. Sharon did not gamble that Gaza would become the launching ground from which Israel’s enemies could strike Tel Aviv for the first time since Saddam Hussein’s Scud missile attacks in 1991.

More from CNN: 'All options on the table' for Israel

The current violence will be the last straw for land-for-peace. Egypt’s withdrawal of its envoy convinces even Israeli doves that Arab countries see treaties as little more than truces. That the new Egyptian government appears complicit in smuggling weaponry to Hamas in violation of its commitment to police territory returned to it underlines this conclusion.

Palestinians hope for an independent state with the bulk if not the entirety of the West Bank as its core. But Israelis know that their country is less than 10 miles wide at its narrowest point. Forget heat-seeking missiles; withdrawal from the West Bank would put planes landing at Ben Gurion Airport within a terrorist’s rifle range. Most Israelis view their experience of land-for-peace in the same fashion that Native Americans consider their experience with the concept.

Diplomats may scramble for a ceasefire, but any quiet will be deceptive. Hamas’ decision to turn Gaza into a forward missile base rather than the engine for an independent Palestine condemns 35 years of peacemaking to history’s garbage bin and sets the stage for a conflict far more disruptive than anyone in the region has seen in a half century.

soundoff (415 Responses)
  1. YJ Draiman

    Arabs expelled the Jews from all their countries.

    The Jewish exodus from Arab lands refers to the 20th century expulsion or mass departure of Jews, primarily of Sephardi and Mizrahi background, from Arab and Islamic countries. The migration started in the late 19th century, but accelerated after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. According to official Arab statistics, over 989,000 Jews were forced out of their homes in Arab countries from 1948 until the early 1970's. Some 600,000 resettled in Israel, [1] leaving behind personal property valued today at more than $990 billion.[2][3] Jewish-owned real-estate left behind in Arab lands has been estimated at 120,000 square kilometers (four times the size of the State of Israel). Valued today at about 15 trillion dollars [4]

    Not abused? I feel like swearing here. you can bet your rear end they were abused.

    Patricia Metzger's campaign to achieve justice sheds light on a little-discussed aspect of the Israeli-Arab conflict: In the wake of the War of Independence and the establishment of Israel, two major population movements took place in the Middle East. The one that is frequently mentioned is the Palestinian exodus, but at the same time almost one million Jews were forced to leave Arab countries where they had lived for hundreds of years. According to official Arab statistics, due to persecution, some 950,000 Jews left those countries from 1948 to the beginning of the 1970's, and about 600,000 of them were absorbed in Israel. For the sake of comparison, the United Nations data estimate the original population of Arab-Palestinian refugees at 580,000.

    Because we had no home for nearly two thousand years, Israel made itself independent of its Arab-British oppressors in 1948. In that year, another great Jewish Exodus occurred, leading to a large increase in the population of Israel and the decimation of some of the oldest Jewish communities on earth.

    Jews have lived in the countries now occupied by Arabs since the destruction of the first Temple in 586 B.C.E. Yet, the descendants of these original inhabitants of so many Middle Eastern lands were driven out of their ancestral homes by the religious bigotry and racial animosity of the Arab invaders.

    In 1945 there were more than 995,000 Jews living in Arabic speaking countries. Today, there are less than 8,000. Some Arab states like Libya are completely judenrein, i.e., cleansed of Jews, as the Arabs' best friend, Hitler, liked to say.

    About 630,000 of these Jews were absorbed by Israel. Another 350,000 went to Europe, America or Australia. Evidently, then, the refugee problem in the Middle East consists of the failure of the Arab states to compensate these 986,000 for the property and assets they were forced to leave behind.

    Examples are Iraq, which once had a Jewish population of 95,000 and now only has less than one hundred Jews left. A good number of Jews left Egypt in 1948. Egypt is the country where Yasser Arafat was born (Arafat is an Egyptian. His real name is Husseinei). There were 79,000 Jews in Egypt in 1948. Yet, in connection with the Egyptian aggression of 1957, more than 26,200 Jews were forced to leave Egypt. Today, the Jewish community in Egypt amounts to only 200. These Jews left assets of $25 billion, for which they should now be compensated.

    There are no Jews in Algeria today. That country is also Judenrein. In 1948 there were 150,000 Jews in Algeria. In Morocco, which was the home of 296,000 Jews before 1948, there are today only 5,800 Jews. Similar decimation occurred in Syria, Tunisia, Yemen and other Arab states. The governments of the these countries forcibly expelled all Jews, who then increased the Israeli population. From the Arab point of view that was indeed as stupid a policy as the Arab incitement of the Russian population against the Jews in that country. That anti-Jewish campaign by the Arab agitators led to the arrival in Israel of over a million Russian Jews. Many of the Jews were engineers and scientists of the first order. This helped Israel a great deal. Now the Arabs are making life miserable for the Jews of France and Belgium. There are over 800,000 Jews in France. If the Arabs keep up their attacks on these European Jews then Israel will again absorb a large contingent of Jews forced to flee France (and Belgium).

    The Jewish exodus from the Arab lands was dramatic. Many Jews fled on foot while others were rescued by “Operation Magic Carpet.” This consisted of bringing 55,000 Yemeni Jews to Israel by plane.

    It is evident, therefore, that the “refugee problem” in Israel consists of the failure of the Arabs to pay compensation to the one million Jews who were driven out of their homelands by the Arab hate mongers.

    And There were riots prior to Israel existing. Simply wounding or killing Jews because there was a chance that Israel would exist.

    Go on . Tell me that 5 Times the land of Israel taken from Jews and 990 Billion dollars in personal assets and Jewish-owned real-estate left behind in Arab lands has been estimated at 120,000 square kilometers (four times the size of the State of Israel). Valued today at about 15 trillion dollars isn't "Abusing " them . Its just your regular old nationalizing right? No racial hatred at all I am sure. Not to mention they were productive citizens who had no interest in moving to Palestine or they would have already done so (and wouldn't have been so bloody rich)

    "If you can't get rid of the skeleton in your closet, you'd best teach it to dance." – George Bernard Shaw (1856-1959)

    December 21, 2014 at 9:02 pm | Reply
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