Photo Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO
Israeli president Reuven Rivlin and his wife Nechama on the train from New York to Washington DC, on December 08, 2015.

In a curious opinion piece in the Dec. 8 edition of the Washington Post, Israel’s President Reuben (Ruvy) Rivlin acknowledges that, at the moment, nothing is happening or can happen, on the “peace” path. He phrases it cleverly: “no currently viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Rivlin is in the United States for an official state visit. Presumably, he wanted Americans to know where he stands on the most significant issue: the Israeli-Arab conflict. Although Rivlin is a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, the two men are not, shall we say, simpatico.

Advertisement

But pointing out that Rivlin is not BFFs with Bibi is not to suggest that his approach to dealing with the so-called “peace process” is dramatically different than is Netanyahu’s. However, it may be much easier, particularly for American Democrats, to abide a message coming from Rivlin that they could not tolerate listening to if it came from Netanyahu.

And Rivlin’s suggestions are reasonable and, for the most part, attainable.

He mentions three steps he believes Israel should take: first, it should support the building of the new Palestinian Arab city, Rawabi, the first planned city for Palestinian Arabs. Rawabi, financed by Qatar, is located near Ramallah and is expected to ultimately house around 40,000 people.

Rivlin says that even if there is no Palestinian Arab partner for peace, Rawabi is something Israelis should support, not only or even necessarily because it is good for the Palestinian Arabs, but because, he wrote, it is in Israel’s interest.

It is worth noting that Rawabi’s developer, Palestinian Arab multi-millionaire Bashar al-Masri, required all contractors working on the project to “sign an agreement refusing to use Israeli products originating from the settlements or work in the settlements themselves.”

The second suggestion Rivlin offers is one that has already been proposed and is under consideration: all Israelis should learn Arabic in school. That makes sense for all kinds of important reasons, including ones that are purely beneficial to Israel. Which is not what Rivlin says, but it is nonetheless true.

The third suggestion is also a good one, at least in the abstract, but the possibility of moving forward on this front is laden with many more obstacles.

Not surprisingly, this suggestion has to do with Jerusalem.

Rivlin admonishes both the left and the right wings of the Israeli public for neglecting the infrastructure in the predominantly Palestinian Arab eastern half of Jerusalem. Rivlin criticizes the Israeli right for “internal political differences,” and the Israeli left for supporting a hardline Arab ideology of “political separation.”

Rivlin puts it this way:

Thus, in debating the future, we have neglected to deal with eastern parts of Jerusalem in the present — and thereby literally abandoned the security of Jewish inhabitants and the welfare of Arab ones. Does anyone think that dealing with the sewage, roads, schools and medical centers of eastern Jerusalem can or should wait until the end of the conflict? Is there anyone who thinks the consequences of these economic disparities in the city will stop at genuine or fictitious political borders? At concrete walls or fences? Or as a result of this or that agreement on sovereignty?

Makes sense, until you consider the reality.

It is hard to imagine the willingness of either side to invest financially in the eastern part of Jerusalem given the vandalism and terrorism currently rampant, and the future still unknown.

Rivlin’s suggestion puts one in mind of asking the Parisian government to invest heavily in the high immigration (from Northern Africa and the Middle East) war zones known as the banlieues. It is only going to get worse before it gets better.

Advertisement

6 COMMENTS

  1. Rivlin's assessment and suggestions are sensible enough and could lead to intermediate steps. But… they're not likely to go very far as long as the central problem of Palestinian rejectionism is not tackled head-on first. Their values are still too far apart from Israeli and American ones. Despite a steady growth in sensible Israeli-Arabs lucid enough to understand that both sides need to pitch in to make peace, the biggest attitude adjustment has to come from both the Palestinian leadership and the still large segment of Palestinian populace that rejects the very idea of living in peace next to Israel. With no bridges over their respective values, no real common future can be contemplated, no matter how inventive Rivlin can be.

  2. Babysteps will not fix it at all, for as long as the negotiation "partner" remains the PLO. Only continued support of Fatah or any other such pro terror entity, as a "partner for peace", is unviable. If negotiations with them are seen as the only option, President Rivlin's words begin to be understandable in that context. If peace is the actual priority, however, then a different path needs to be taken. Then hope can return to the prospects of true peace and prosperity for the Jews and Arabs of Israel.

  3. The phrase “in Palestine”, another expression found in the Balfour Declaration that generated much controversy, referred to the whole country, including both Cisjordan and Transjordan. It was absurd to imagine that this phrase could be used to indicate that only a part of Palestine was reserved for the future Jewish National Home, since both were created simultaneously and used interchangeably, with the term “Palestine” pointing out the geographical location of the future independent Jewish state. Had “Palestine” meant a partitioned country with certain areas of it set aside for Jews and others for Arabs, that intention would have been stated explicitly at the time the Balfour Declaration was drafted and approved and later adopted by the Principal Allied Powers. No such allusion was ever made in the prolonged discussions that took place in fashioning the Declaration and ensuring it international approval.

    There is therefore no juridical or factual basis for asserting that the phrase "in Palestine" limited the establishment of the Jewish National Home to only a part of the country. On the contrary, Palestine and the Jewish National Home were synonymous terms, as is evidenced by the use of the same phrase in the second half of the Balfour Declaration which refers to the existing non-Jewish communities "in Palestine", clearly indicating the whole country. Similar evidence exists in the preamble and terms of the Mandate Charter.

    The San Remo Resolution of 1920 on Palestine combined the Balfour Declaration of 1917 as international treaty with Article 22 of the League Covenant. This meant that the general provisions of Article 22 applied to the Jewish people exclusively, who would set up their home and state in all of Palestine. There was no intention to apply Article 22 to the Arabs of the country, as was mistakenly concluded by the Palestine Royal Commission which relied on that article of the Covenant as the legal basis to justify the partition of Palestine, apart from the other reasons it gave. The proof of the applicability of Article 22 to the Jewish people, including not only those in Palestine at the time, but those who were expected to arrive in large numbers in the future, is found in the Smuts Resolution, which became Article 22 of the Covenant. It specifically names Palestine as one of the countries to which this article would apply. There was no doubt that when Palestine was named in the context of Article 22, it was linked exclusively to the Jewish National Home, as set down in the 1917 Balfour Declaration, a fact everyone was aware of at the time, including the representatives of the Arab national movement, as evidenced by the agreement between Emir Feisal and Dr. Chaim Weizmann dated January 3, 1919 as well as an important letter sent by the Emir to future US Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter dated March 3, 1919. In that letter, Feisal characterized as “moderate and proper” the Zionist proposals presented by Nahum Sokolow and Weizmann to the Council of Ten at the Paris Peace Conference on February 27, 1919, which called for the development of all of Palestine into a Jewish commonwealth with extensive boundaries. The argument later made by Arab leaders that the 1917 Balfour Declaration and the Mandate for Palestine were incompatible with Article 22 of the Covenant is totally undermined by the fact that the Smuts Resolution – the precursor of Article 22 – specifically included Palestine within its legal framework.

    The San Remo Resolution of 1920 on Palestine became Article 95 of the Treaty of Sevres in 1920 which was intended to end the war with Turkey, but though this treaty was never ratified by the Turkish National Government of Kemal Ataturk, the Resolution retained its validity as an independent act of international law when it was inserted into the Preamble of the Mandate for Palestine and confirmed by 52 states. The San Remo Resolution of 1920 is the base document upon which the Mandate was constructed and to which it had to conform. It is therefore the pre-eminent foundation document of the State of Israel and the crowning achievement of pre-state Zionism. It has been accurately described as the Magna Carta of the Jewish people. It is the best proof that the whole country of Palestine and the Land of Israel belong exclusively to the Jewish people under international law.

    The Mandate for Palestine implemented both the 1917 Balfour Declaration and Article 22 of the League Covenant, i.e. the San Remo Resolution of 1920. All four of these acts were building blocks in the legal structure that was created for the purpose of bringing about the establishment of an independent sovereign Jewish state. The Balfour Declaration of 1917; in essence stated the principle or object of a Jewish state. The San Remo Resolution of 1920 gave it the stamp of international law. The Mandate furnished all the details and means for the realization of the sovereign Jewish state. As noted, Britain’s chief obligation as Mandatory, Trustee and Tutor was the creation of the appropriate political, administrative and economic conditions to secure the sovereign Jewish state. All 28 articles of the Mandate were directed to this objective, including those articles that did not specifically mention the Jewish National Home. The Mandate for Palestine created a right of return for the Jewish people to Palestine and the right to establish settlements and communities on the land throughout the country of Palestine in order to create the envisaged Jewish state.

Comments are closed.

Loading Facebook Comments ...