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 (414 Responses)
  1. mardjan

    WE have made a lot of mistakes. The Iraq war was probably the biggest mistake. However we have to be realistic in the here and now. Can Israel get Sinai back from Egypt? NO! So why even talk about it? Maybe the creation of the state of Israel was a mistake, too.What is clear is that Israel cannot live without peace and I don't see anyone, Israeli and Palestinians lifting a finger for peace.I think we have to accept a one state solution, because there is no real two state solution to this mess.

    November 19, 2012 at 4:17 am | Reply
  2. mardjan

    We have made a lot of mistakes. The Iraq war was probably the biggest mistake. However we have to be realistic in the here and now. Can Israel get Sinai back from Egypt? NO! So why even talk about it? Maybe the creation of the state of Israel was a mistake, too.What is clear is that Israel cannot live without peace and I don't see anyone, Israeli and Palestinians lifting a finger for peace.I think we have to accept a one state solution. None of them really wants a two state solution,

    November 19, 2012 at 4:26 am | Reply
  3. Gaby

    Israel is being accused of genocide, massacre. With the 1000 bombs sent to targets killing less than 100 fighters and civilians in not exactly a good outcome if they were after a massacre. If Hamas had fired 10 similar rockets (let alone 1000), no one in their right mind would expect less Israeli casualties. The Iron Dome if it has achieved anything this week, is stopping a less controlled attack from Israeli military, and thus saving many Palestinian lives.

    November 19, 2012 at 6:32 am | Reply
  4. mardjan

    If you kill 100 civilians in a crowded city it is murder regardless of whether that was the out come you were looking for. Murder never achieves peace and Israelis are not after peace with the Palestinians. I think in the interest of preserving the jewish lives in Israel we should move quickly to a one state solution.Otherwise Israel will disintegrate from the inside and lose it's cohesion as a country and a lot of people will be killed.

    November 19, 2012 at 6:40 am | Reply
    • Taskmaster

      mardjan quit twisting the facts. The Palestinian terrorist launched over 300 rockets into Israel to start this conflict.THEN Israel said "enough".The Palestinians are the ones that do not want peace. The palestinians are nothing but Muslim/Nazis. Hitler started a world war and blamed it on everyone else when it was plain to the world that he was want more land and to destroy the Jews. Some time I believe that he has beer reincarnated in Hamas.

      November 19, 2012 at 7:18 am | Reply
  5. fiftyfive55

    One thing no one can argue is the FACT that since Israel was re-established in the 40s,death has been it's mainstay.With 70 plus years of death,maybe it wasn't such a good idea to allow it or co ntinually assist it.

    November 19, 2012 at 6:59 am | Reply
  6. Taskmaster

    Land for peace was tried. The Muslims want more. There is never enough to satisfy them. Muslims kill more Muslims than Israel ever did. Israel will and should defend it's citizens from the Muslim aggression.

    November 19, 2012 at 7:09 am | Reply
  7. Eichmann

    Could most of you, whose opimnions are irrelevant, please learn to write English correctly. I realize that most of you are not nattive born English speakers. This is obvous by your misuse of grammar, and spelling errosrs. Hideous.

    November 19, 2012 at 8:14 am | Reply
  8. joe d

    israel first pig neocon neojews have destroyed the U.S. and it's reputaion and continue to drag us down like the smelly turds they are..down the toilet called israel. It is by far the worst investment in U.S. history. the finacial terrorists called jews have done more damage to the U.S. then all muslim terrorists combined. AIPAC and the neopigjews got ot go..rinse and repeat

    November 19, 2012 at 8:18 am | Reply
    • John

      Israel is actually the best investment they have ever had...Israel has the most nobel prize winners per capita.....nice try you jealous nasty murderous muslim...baby killing terrorist...no one that is educated would believe your stupid lies...you are definitely not American, so go write on the Tehran times...oh wait, they might behead you for speaking your mind....

      November 19, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Reply
    • John

      muslims have killed more muslims then the US or Israel combined...

      November 19, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Reply
      • Susie

        The American taxpayer has paid to prop up the Terrorist State of Israel (TSI) for far too long. America gives TSI over $3.5 Billion per year in direct cash aid and this does not include all the other military and hardware support, food, aid in sending Jews to visit their "motherland" although stolen, supported and financed by the American taxpayer. Why? Because the Jewish lobbies in America are so strong and their propaganda extremely powerful and far reaching that they have successfully brainwashed us into believing that the aggressor is the victim while the true victims are labelled terrorists.
        The Jewish state is a criminal terrorist state...

        November 20, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
  9. Hate Wins

    Ever wounder why people die in wars...

    @the truth
    Or just wiping jews off entirely.
    Too bad you atheists won't admit that jews are the problem of the world. Eliminate them and 1/2 of the world's problem would be gone
    *********
    This is a fool who thinks killing women and children is the only way. Why not kill all Christains and Jews so the Middle East will turn 100% muslim. But wait why not kill all muslims and that would let peace win. Or just kill everyone and let the sheep clam every thing.

    November 19, 2012 at 8:39 am | Reply
  10. Salman

    In my humble opinion, Land for Peace would have worked if Isreal had given up the post 1967 territory. To give Gaza – a tiny enclave with one of the highest population density in the world and even then not allowing free flow of resources is almost like building an open air prison.

    Given Israel's continued settlement activity, the two state solution is now out. I believe the only solution now is one state solution – a democratic Israel for all its population with equal rights for Jews, Christians, Muslims and any others instead of an Apartheid state based on racism.

    November 19, 2012 at 8:59 am | Reply
  11. Name*popson

    Lasting solution step shuold be taking,if to declare state of palestion is what will bring a lasting solution to the middle east.The concern poeple should not hesitate to give them their independent.

    November 19, 2012 at 9:32 am | Reply
  12. Rob

    If land-for-peace is dead then what's the new plan? One-state, one-man, one-vote? If so, then Israel will soon not be a Jewish state (which, IMO, would be a good thing). Ethnic cleansing? Continued apartheid & incremental land grabs? I'm guessing the third. Most Israelis, while not entirely happy with the status quo, have decided it's something they can live with.

    November 19, 2012 at 10:25 am | Reply
  13. sam

    Israel is behaving like a dictator and criminal spying state ,killing even Americains at times to create a reason for their
    powerful acting ,even harming the us interest ,dont worry what you do to others will get done to you no question about that it is just a matter of time .
    WE THE TAX PAYERS CAN NO LONGER SET A SIDE AND SEE OUR MONNEY AND ARMS GOPING TO A KLILLER ANIMAL STATE ,ONE DAY WE WILL TURN AGAINST THEM FOR ALL THE HARM THEY DOING TO OUR POWERFUL STATE .AND REST ASSURED THAT W LL EVEN NUKE THEM IF WE HAVE TO .
    Israel need to respect international law and obeid by the UN resolutions and stop killing innecent kidds .they should know better .......

    November 19, 2012 at 10:59 am | Reply
    • Terrorism should be abolished not condoned or negotiated with

      Are you even a true American? to say such a thing, no clue of the "Truth about Hate being taught and instilled in then Innocent Children growing up in this world, places like Gaza Strip, Africa, Pakistan, and other Countries over the many years of different Terrorism Organizations Invading. Taking over, Persuading and trying to Rule those Countries People Filling their minds up with hate against America, Europe, Israel and anyone else they want to blame for their transgressions! Using those countries and their people for transportation of drugs, their resources, bombs &weapons smuggling, suicide bombing, destroying everything their hands touch! OH to be so hatefully indoctrinated,being ruled and consumed, Full of hate and envy! To ever feel that, that's the most Full-filled, happy life one could have for their selves or their own families through HATE is Totally Preposterous and ILLOGICAL!!!! If you would have even watched CNN over the past 10, let alone 30 years of World News you would know the TRUTH! That Hate only leads to destruction, of you yourself and others! But LOVE conquers ALL!

      November 19, 2012 at 10:02 pm | Reply
  14. Hate Wins

    I see many commets on how bad Israel is or how bad Hamas is. I for one say I Hamas wants my support the stop firing rockets into Israel make Israel make the first move..

    November 19, 2012 at 11:07 am | Reply
  15. Lloyd M Abrahams CPA

    I CAN STOP THE ROCKETS AND AVOID THE WAR – WILL YOU LISTEN
    By Email and by Fax to Premier Netanyahu and POTUS
    011-972-025664838 – 011972-036976218
    November 18, 2012

    RE: A Solution for Israel that has never been heard – A short window of opportunity to win an Israeli-Palistinian peace settlement now exists and to avoid a new Gaza Hamas War. I CAN STOP THE ROCKETS AND AVOID THE WAR – WILL YOU LISTEN

    To: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and CC TO POTUS
    and Defense Minister Ehud Barack
    Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu,

    I personally am not known to you, however your brother was my kid brother Jonathan Abrahams's commander in the Golani Brigade. He now lives in northern Israel within 2 miles of the Lebanese border. He works for the Israeli government. He has a wife and four sons and has spent most of his adult life living in Israel. My parents, Abraham Judah Abrahams and Evelyn H. Abrahams lived in Israel for many years until they passed away in the 1990s in the US. They were good friends with Yitzak Shandar when he was with El Al. They lived in Kfar Vitkin.

    I have an unusual different proposal to change the current status of Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that if successful will turn the Hamas and possibly Hezbollah, away from Iran. Even better it will stop the rockets and senseless attacks on civilians and it can change the face of the Middle East..

    In light of the recent powerful developments from the“Arab Spring” in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Syria, the current escalating Middle-East conflict in Gaza , there is a short window opening for a new and different approach to resolve this Middle-East Conflict. Since 1948 when Israel gained its independence, since the 1956 war, the 1967 war, the Yom Kippur war of 1973, the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict of 2006, and since the Israeli-Hamas conflict in Gaza in 2008 the world has only seen two ideologies in conflict with a perpetuation by the Palestinians of murder, suicide bombings, and senseless rocket attacks. Israel to preserve its security and safeguard its citizens has at times been forced to take targeted counter measures and to drastically restrict the movement of Palestinians by using numerous checkpoints within the State of Israel and the occupied territories. The settlements in the occupied territories are part of Israel’s security system, but are also a constant sore point for any peaceful settlement. Israel is the only nation that to defend itself must always go into the conflicts with two hands tied behind its back when it unleashes its military power with surgical precision.

    The peace process is the fictional imagination of leaders on both sides of the conflict, because until the people’s hearts and minds (on both sides of the conflict) support the practice of peace (not a peace process) , there will never be a successful peace. When Palestinian children are taught in madrasas that it is their divine destiny to be suicide bombers, there can be no successful peace.

    It is time to think outside the usual box and find a new approach to bring peace to this region. I propose using the world's most powerful, but most underutilized weapon system, that has decisively defeated terrorists and insurgents every time it has been used in Iraq. It is part and parcel of the “Arab Spring”. This weapon system is more powerful than a B2 bomber loaded with nuclear weapons. It is how this weapon system is used may determine its success. The use of this weapons system to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian ageless conflict will take heroics, expertise, and diplomatic finesse. It can be the missing diplomatic and political key to resolving this conflict. Part of the difference here will be the practice of peace on a trial basis by the people of both sides, rather than a peace process run by their leaders. The key is how to make this happen. A bonus will be the detachment of Hamas and possibly Hezbollah from the influence of Iran and how to convince them of this and to be a part of this new plan.

    It will take powerful and eloquent world leaders who are willing to change world politics to successfully resolve this conflict. The timing is right if properly prepared and planned. President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally have experienced the power of this weapon system, and with their and your expertise, experience and world connections it can be successful.

    I have previously written you, POTUS, President Bush, Congress and the media about this weapon system that can decisively defeat terrorists and insurgents. It is how this weapon system would now be used to change this conflict that will determine its success. Because of the delicate nature of this idea for the specific and intricate use of this weapons system in the Middle East, I will only speak of the details of it personally to preferably you or one of delegated personal representatives and to POTUS. I am approaching my 75th birthday and it my dream that in my lifetime that I leave this world when the time comes with having been instrumental in helping to accomplish the task to bring a possible peace to the State of Israel.

    I believe that you, President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton can successfully guide the use of this weapons system to achieve what Presidents and Premiers before you aspired to. This can be your legacy, which will be far superior as a statesperson to any you might have ever achieved as Premier.

    I sincerely hope that you will listen to this new and unique approach to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. All you have to lose is a little time to hear the unique use of this weapons system and see a vision of a peaceful and secure Middle East.

    I leave you with one other thought from “WE THE PEOPLE”. Politicians, Governments, Presidents (and Presidents to be), Prime Ministers, Secretaries of State and Defense, Foreign Ministers, Defense Ministers, Parliaments, and Congresses make, declare and run Wars. However, it is always WE THE PEOPLE (and rarely, but not never, any of the above) who have to fight, be wounded or maimed, and die in the wars. True statesmen and stateswomen will only use war as a last method of dealing with terrorists and dictators of radical, totalitarian governments that use or support terror. Just as the pen is mightier than the sword, the "VOTE WEAPON" is more powerful than our mightiest military weapon. It is time to unleash its power to bring the practice of peace uniquely to the Middle-East.

    My firm desire is “Next Year in Jerusalem”

    MRCANDU10 (Cousin of MR.Get-It Done)

    Well Mr. Prime Minister. perhaps you and POTUS will listen and maybe our dream of a true peace can be achieved.

    Thank you
    MRCANDU10 (Cousin of Mr. Get It Done)

    Very truly yours,

    Lloyd Michael Abrahams CPA

    November 19, 2012 at 11:08 am | Reply
  16. Terrorism should be abolished not condoned or negotiated with

    Why is the American Government not doing more to stop terrorism, we didn't allow Saddam Hussein to have Kuwait because of it impacting the World at the gas pumps, Presidents Can say we went there to bring about Democracy to Iraq, that wasn't the case, 10 years or more we sat back and aloud Saddam Hussein to terrorize hundreds of thousands of his own people and did nothing about it, in fact we are responsible for him even coming to power, and we did nothing until it effected our pockets, how hypocritical is America. We Expect Israel always to be the makers of peace, and to barter and give up more of their land to the terrorist countries that surround it! They should not have to compromise anything to them countries or give up anymore land to barter with the Terrorists groups of people that have come against them over the many decades, since the were recognized as a country. I feel bad for the Palestinian family's who have suffered or died, however, your people have let the Hamas leaders and terrorist into Gaza Strip, just like you welcomed Hezbollah or Arafat of the P.L.O. or any other terrorism group to represent you through violence, what do you expect, If you start a fight be ready to finish it. Israel is a country, whether you or me like it or not, they have the right to defend themselves, you have bombarded them again with missiles over the months and they have done their best not to war with you, or the other terrorist groups that have rained down on them over the many decades. I don't know of any other country that has tried so hard to keep peace. If this was U.S. territory being bombarded by missiles by terrorist we would have already exterminated the threat by dealing with it immediately. Terrorism should not be bargained with no matter how many Countries are "PRO HATE". Israel should be defended by all it's Allies, not made to cave to terroristic demands, as you have seen it has not gotten them nowhere bartering, it has only made them loose what little bit of land they had. NO MORE COMPROMISING, EVEN IF THE WHOLE MIDDLE EAST COMES AGAINST ISRAEL< WE SHOULD NOT FALTER BY THEIR SIDE, WE SHOULD STAND FOR THEM! CAUSE THE DAY OUR LEADER TURNS AWAY FROM PROTECTING ISRAEL, WILL BE THE DAY AMERICA IS NO LONGER BLESSED BY ALMIGHTY GOD, ACCORDING TO THE BOOK OK REVELATION!

    November 19, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Reply
  17. John

    Muslims are involved in all of the conflicts around the world....

    November 19, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Reply
    • Susie

      The American taxpayer has paid to prop up the Terrorist State of Israel (TSI) for far too long. America gives TSI over $3.5 Billion per year in direct cash aid and this does not include all the other military and hardware support, food, aid in sending Jews to visit their "motherland" although stolen, supported and financed by the American taxpayer. Why? Because the Jewish lobbies in America are so strong and their propaganda extremely powerful and far reaching that they have successfully brainwashed us into believing that the aggressor is the victim while the true victims are labelled terrorists.
      The Jewish state is a criminal terrorist state...

      November 20, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Reply
      • Cecilia

        Susie, for me is very dificult to write in English, it's why, only a few words: stop repeating the old mantra of stolen lands. Don´t be silly.

        November 21, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  18. Susie

    When do you Israelis and pro-Israelis stop your lies? What does it take for you all to speak the truth?
    Are you really proud of your nation that is built on stealing land from the Palestinians? And now supporting your state with discrimination, starvation, deprivation of human rights for Palestinians and lies lies and more lies?

    It's always been Palestine. Israel stole the Palestinian land with support from the USA back in 1948 when Truman pushed a vote in the United Nations to create the State of Israel. Truman paid and bribed many smaller countries to vote for the creation of Israel. The ONLY country ever to be created by a vote of the UN is Israel. That alone arguably makes the state an illegitimate state.
    The Palestinians owned that land and legally belong to every inch of Palestine. The Jews came from all over the world to occupy Palestine and imprison and kill Palestinians. Shame on Israel. shame on the Jewish State.

    November 20, 2012 at 8:02 pm | Reply
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