Philip Carl Salzman is at it again on the Harvard Middle East Strategy blog. This time in the comments, supporting Israeli Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Giora Eiland’s plans to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict by giving up Egyptian and/or Jordanian land in what he calls a “regional approach.”
The regional approach proposed in this paper involves a multilateral swap that would produce net gains for all relevant parties. For example, this solution would triple Gaza’s size—the only way to offer a real prospect for the poor population of that area, and the only way to shift public opinion away from Hamas and toward a plan with real hope.
Conveniently enough, this “regional approach” involves the Arabs giving up land to pay for Israel’s expansionist settlements.
Nabil Fahmy, the former Egyptian ambassador in Washington talks some sense to the MESH team, saying what should be obvious to anyone with even a fleeting interest in the Middle East:
The problem between Israel and the Palestinians is not the lack of space but the lack of political will. Settlement expansion has eaten up far more territory than all the suggested land swaps, and it continues. Are the Arab countries supposed to continuously accommodate Israel with land swaps as its settlement requirements grow?
The idea of territorial swaps with neighboring countries such as Egypt has already been broached before and rejected. Any serious student of the Egyptian-Israeli Taba negotiations over border markers—a dispute which ultimately went to court—knows that Egypt won’t get into land swaps. Consequently, one wonders whether retreading this idea is a diversionary tactic in light of the low expectation that the Israelis and Palestinians will successfully conclude their negotiations this fall.
The real difficulties for these two parties lie in the West Bank, and trying to solve them through land development in the Sinai is rather disingenuous. These proposals are nonstarters which will not lead to a solution of the critical issues on the West Bank, and consequently will not provide Israel with peace or security in the long term. The so-called Jordanian option suffers from the same flaws. It creates problems for the Jordanians and does nothing for Palestinian nationhood. It may appear to serve Israel, but since it will bring neither peace nor security, it really doesn’t serve anybody.
The best lesson to be drawn from the Egyptian-Israeli and Jordanian-Israeli agreements is that agreements have to be based on a balance of interests, not a transient balance of power which may shift like the hot sands of the Mideast. The Egyptian-Israeli agreement survived years of difficult pressures because it provided Egypt with all its territory, so that it was never tempted to be drawn back into conflict.
But back to Philip Carl Salzman. He weighs in in the comments to tell us that there aren’t any moderate Palestinians for Israel to deal with and that the Arab states should give Israel everything it wants before any negotiations begin, in order to “establish their good faith bona fides” so that According to him, the Arabs should do the following in order for “Israel to know that the Arabs are sincere and can be counted upon”:
• agree to peace treaties with Israel, following the good example of Jordan;
• act to control and undermine annihilationist forces such as Hezbollah and Hamas;
• establish free trade with Israel;
• accept Israel as a Jewish state, just as there are Muslim states, and insure the Palestinians to do the same;
• and admit Jews as residents and equal citizens in Arab states, including Palestine.
That sounds like a great idea. The Arab states should give Israel everything it wants as a precondition to negotiations as a show of good faith. With “solutions” like these, who needs spoilers?