Arab Juggernaut Hits Potholes And Roadblocks

By: David Singer

Ray Hanania may have over reached himself in the promotion of his two state peace proposal by introducing a new concept that he calls “The settler – refugee exchange program” less than three weeks after the release of his original plan.

The attractiveness of his original plan was that it presented the first realistic Arab proposal in the last 42 years that could possibly lead to the creation of a new exclusively Arab State between Israel, Jordan and Egypt for the first time ever in recorded history.

Hanania had stated in his original proposal:

“I can support some settlements remaining [in Israeli control] – given the reality of 42 years of time passing — in a dunum-for-dunum land exchange. If Ariel is 500 dunums with a lifeline from Israel, then Israel gives Palestine 500 dunums in exchange.

Palestinian refugees would give up their demand to return to pre-1948 homes and lands lost during the conflict with Israel. Instead, some could apply for family reunification through Israel and the remainder would be compensated through a fund created and maintained by the United States, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the United Nations.”

These proposals seemed to have overcome two negotiating roadblocks that had led to no progress in past negotiations namely:

1. The demand by the Palestinian Authority that it would accept no less than 100% of the West Bank
The payment of compensation in lieu of giving up the demand for millions of Palestinian Arabs to return and live in Israel.

Hanania has now gone well beyond these original proposals by adding the following planks to his platform:

“For every Jewish settler living in the settlements that Israel keeps, Israel must be ready to permit that number of Palestinian Refugees to return to Israel, (who wish to return).

Israel will provide those Palestinians compensation through the Compensation Fund to build homes, and land on which to build their homes in Israel.

Those Palestinian refugees would be given full rights of Israeli citizenship, but would enter Israel through its immigration procedures.

This exchange plan must be completed in five years, with 50 percent of the population allowed to enter Israel within two years of the program beginning.

They would be treated the same way as Jews who return to Israel and be given the same benefits and compensation and support from the Israeli government.

If Israel seeks to retain all of the settlements, then Israel must be prepared to allow up to 500,000 Palestinian refugees to return to live in Israel, should they chose to do so, as Israeli citizens.

In my opinion these proposals constitute new road blocks to Israel commencing any negotiations on the basis of Hanania’s proposals for the following reasons

1. It would be inequitable for Israel to cede part of its sovereign territory to the new Arab state AND also be expected to accept an equal number of Arabs as new citizens of Israel equal to the number of Israelis living in the West Bank settlements that are incorporated into the expanded boundaries of Israel.
2. The idea of a land swap was to enable Palestinian Arabs to settle on this ceded land – not claim an additional right to be resettled on extra land in Israel. It would in effect amount to the Arabs obtaining the right to settle on an area of land in excess of that retained by the Jews in the West Bank.
3. Hanania is silent on who would pay Jewish settlers compensation for moving from their present homes back to Israel and for the infrastructure built by Israel in the West Bank over the past 42 years.

Even if Hanania proposed his new settler-refugee exchange plan without a land swap it would not be acceptable to Israel as a basis for negotiations.

As Hanania himself has observed:

“As far as I am concerned, I can recognize Israel’s “Jewish” character”

In arguing for the possible influx of even a hundred thousand Arabs into Israel, Hanania is positing a weakening – not strengthening – of that Jewish character. He also fails to recognize that 1,2000,000 Arabs are already citizens of Israel and comprise 20% of Israel’s population.

Hanania’s original proposal seemed to have adopted an attitude that sensibly could lead to the conclusion of successful negotiations when he then stated :

“The premise of the plan is simple: Work out the final peace before addressing the details.”

His newest addition to those original proposals is certain to torpedo any expectation that it could possibly be part of a final peace and will spell the death knell of his plan as a fair basis for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

One wonders why Hanania has included his refugee-settler exchange plan at this point of time rather than in his initial plan.

Hanania needs to obtain endorsement of his proposals from the Arab world.

My belief is that he has done so in an effort to appease anticipated Arab demands and to then try and gain acceptance of his proposals by the Arabs.

Hanania has already floated his original proposal and his latest refugee-settler exchange program in the Jewish and Christian media but to my knowledge has not attempted to circulate it in any credible and responsible Arab media in order to gauge the strength of Arab readiness to support his laudable initiatives.

As Hanania himself wrote on 17 July 2009:

“Without Aljazeera, and a few other independently professional Arab TV satellite stations like Alarabiya, truth will continue to be the primary victim in the journalism coverage of the Palestinians and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Has Hanania sought to publish his proposals in such independently professional Arab TV satellite stations or their news rooms as he has done in the Jerusalem Post, Ha’aretz and the United Christian Communities?

Hanania is a journalist and his contacts with the Arab media are extensive. He should have no trouble disseminating his views in the Arab media both in America and the Middle East.

Arab endorsement of his revolutionary proposals is essential if there is ever to be any hope of negotiations being entered into on the basis of Hanania’s plan.

It would be a pity to see Hanania’s initial proposal fall into disfavour as a result of his newly adopted refugee-settler exchange program. It appears to have been hastily thought out without any real appreciation of its effect in acting as a catalyst for the total rejection of his original plan.

Hanania has shown himself to be responsive to criticisms of his proposals and has made some sensible amendments in an effort to create a more acceptable platform – such as his revised call for mutual apologies to be extended by Israel and the Palestinian Authority rather than by Israel alone.

Unless his refugee-settler exchange program is removed or revised and presented in a more palatable form he will have created a minefield of potholes and roadblocks that will bring the original juggernaut he created to a crashing halt.

After such a promising start this would be a sad reward for his well intended efforts – and certainly end any hope however slim of the two state solution ever coming to fruition.

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