Benjamin Netanyahu was always skeptical of the framework of trading Israeli land for peace. Since 1979, when Menachem Begin gave back the entire Sinai to Egypt in exchange for a durable peace treaty, the formula and framework for peace has been that the Israelis give up land, and in exchange they get peace.
In reality, Israel has given up land, and also given up peace. Land for peace is dead, because those who receive the land don’t want it.
Arab nations have plenty of land–abounding in land. Israel is nothing special, geographically or geologically, that Arabs would want it. What they want is that no Jews live in it, and therefore, small swaps of land for peace are meaningless. The 1979 treaty with Egypt was a special case, not a template for peace.
The issue has always been about Jews, and pretending otherwise is an exercise in futility. As long as Jews live in the spit of land on the Mediterranean, the enemies of Israel will never be satisfied.
In 2011, when then-President Obama was pushing for the land-for-peace formula, Netanyahu declared before the Knesset, “I am willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historical peace.” After giving a speech to standing ovations before a joint session of Congress echoing this sentiment, Palestinians quickly rejected his conditions.
It’s not that Netanyahu was unreasonable in his conditions: they were given to guarantee the security of Israel. But since Oslo, Palestinians have rejected every single overture. There are no conditions they’ll ever accept, therefore land for peace has been dead for decades.
By 2017, with Trump in the White House, Netanyahu again expressed his true feelings. Which, by the way, is the truth.
“Why is there no peace?” the premier asked rhetorically. “It is not because of the territories or the settlements. For about 50 years, from 1920 until 1967, we did not hold the territories or have any settlements and they wanted to throw us out of Tel Aviv. When we left Gaza, they wanted to throw us out of Tel Aviv.”
“When I ask the Palestinian Authority if we were to agree to all your demands, would you relinquish your demand for the right of return of Palestinians to Jaffa… They sit in their chair and refuse to answer the question.
“The root cause of the conflict was and still is the refusal of the Palestinians to recognize the State of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish People under any borders.The Jerusalem Post, May 30, 2017
In Israel, there are doves and there are hawks. But the difference between doves and hawks is small on the issue of security. Netanyahu’s win now clears the way for a new peace framework, one that does not rely on land for peace, which has resulted in Israel having less and and less peace.
The so-called “two-state solution” may or may not be part of the new framework. But no longer will Israel be willing to so readily redraw its own borders to make room for a state that would not make room for Israel.
Whether the new plan, in the works by President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, will be any better than the failed land for peace framework, nobody knows. The president is sanguine, however. “Everybody said you can’t have peace in the Middle East with Israel and Palestinians. I think we have a chance and I think we now have a better chance,” Trump said.
I am not convinced that any peace plan will work. But if there is a path, it will be built on respect for Israel as a nation, its people and its borders. It’s time for a new approach to a very difficult problem.
One thing is certain, land for peace is dead, and I’m not shedding tears.