Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Managing the Situation

Aluf Benn of Haaretz reports that Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of the right-wing think tank Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, "the most effective way to deal with the conflict is through a "controlled management" of the problem that includes the evacuation of isolated West Bank settlements."
His latest study, "The Rise and Fall of the 'Two States for Two Peoples' Paradigm," whose publication coincides with the new eras in Washington and Jerusalem, Inbar writes that the best solution would be to repartition the country, with Egypt resuming control of the Gaza Strip and Jordan controlling the West Bank. But since such an arrangement would take time to implement, for now focus should be placed on managing the conflict in its current state. Inbar also proposes "stopping terror, reducing the amount of suffering caused to Israeli and to Palestinian society and preventing escalation."

These views provoke interest because BESA, which was founded about 15 years ago, is traditionally known as a mainly right-wing institution that generally reflects pro-military views.

According to Inbar, Israel will have to evacuate additional isolated settlements to reduce the friction between Jews and Palestinians as well as showing restraint in the use of force. He said that beyond making changes to its education system and its media in order to create a more positive atmosphere, little can be expected from the Palestinian Authority. Inbar says that correct management of the conflict, which must be carefully coordinated with Washington, will help to isolate Hamas.

Inbar says that the two-state solution to which the international community is currently committed is "nonsense" in the light of Hamas' takeover in Gaza and the impotence of the PA in the West Bank. He believes that the expectation that the Palestinians will create a modern state, after the PA's failure, are unreasonable. At the same time, Inbar is aware of the difficulty involved in letting go of the two-state idea among both governments and people throughout the world.
Inbar is perhaps my favorite Israeli pundit on Al Jazeera English. I love it when they have Israelis on to argue but Inbar does it the best.

As difficult as it is to imagine a two-state solution any time soon, I still think it is the only solution. That status quo would and should not remain. I think maintaining the peace process through "gestures" would build up confidence among Israelis and Palestinians with the process. Dismanteling of settlements, even small settlements and "outposts", is a start and I believe would build confidence and relieve tensions. Perhaps if Israel show more cooperation with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinians would see that life under the Palestinian Authority (PA) and peaceful negotiations is the path to their dreams. Perhaps another peaceful Palestinian player would rise?

Emmanuel Navon of JPost also talks about managing the situation.
If the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be solved in the short term, it has to be managed. But how? The rationale of the disengagement strategy was that, since the conflict seems unsolvable and since the status quo is untenable, Israel might as well get the Palestinians off its back. If only. We left Gaza, but Gaza did not leave us.
He later says:
While we should continue to strive for a political solution, we have to understand that the more the Palestinians feel that we cannot do without such a solution, the less likely they will be to compromise. Managing the conflict, at this point, means making the status quo both bearable and changeable.
The day to day life of the Palestinians must be improved. While withdrawal from the West Bank, even those areas away from settlements or the border, is supported by all who supports the two state solution, it is "nonsense", as Inbar puts it, in the current situation. Palestinian media and political institutions must be developed. Perhaps a charity network independent of Palestinian armed groups would lead be a stepping stone for institutional developement. One thing is for sure, the current Palestinian political situation is a mess. There are plenty of lessons to be learned from the Gaza withdrawal, the 2006 Palestinian elections, the Hamas-Fatah infighting, and operation 'Cast Lead'.

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