Daniel Levy, a friend of Meretz USA, was a member of the Israel negotiating team at the Oslo B and Taba talks, and the lead Israeli drafter of the Geneva Initiative. The following is an abridged and lightly edited version of his blog posting of July 18.
…. Israelis have been informed by their ever-reliable media that the G8 statement is an unequivocal and ringing endorsement of all Israeli positions (“the world: ‘we are right!’” screamed one newspaper headline; “the statement might have been written by Olmert,” suggested a TV news commentator), which is a shame, as the statement itself… is far more nuanced. The gaping chasm is its failure to demand an immediate, unconditional cessation of hostilities – the agreed language being “create the conditions” for this to happen, but it does begin by stating that “the root cause of the problem is the absence of a comprehensive peace,” it distinguishes between different elements in Hamas (a first), rejects unilateralism and understands the need for political engagement and negotiations. It’s a starting point – but where’s the muscle?
Oh, and anyone surprised at the absence of muscle to end the bloodshed might ask a Darfurian just how bad things can get before the world – well actually, [the world] still fails to act decisively….
Israel apparently has several more days to inflict pain on the Hezbollah and its military capacity (while at the same time terrorizing, and sometimes worse, Lebanon’s civilian population and taking out a fair chunk of that country’s infrastructure). Hezbollah’s raid into Northern Israel was indeed unprovoked, Israel certainly has the right to defend itself, and the situation in Southern Lebanon, namely the absence of the sovereign Lebanese state and army giving free reign to the Hezbollah militia is both in contravention of UNSCR 1559 and untenable over time…. This time there may be a need and possibility to replace the beleaguered and discredited UNIFIL forces with a more robust international presence (as called for by Annan and Blair ) and the expending of greater diplomatic energy and creativity on solutions for Lebanon that move towards meeting the terms of UNSCR 1559, but Lebanese internal politics will remain devilishly complicated.
Oh, and then there’s the minor irritation of the Iranian and Syrian roles. The absence of a serious and comprehensive international dialogue with Iran and Syria, to which the US would be a party, will continue to perhaps fatally handicap the prospects for real positive results in Lebanon. Akiva Eldar in Haaretz has called for a Grand Bargain in this op-ed piece, which includes a realization of the broad Israeli-Arab normalization envisaged in the Saudi Initiative.
…. The last years – since the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000 and especially after the Hariri killing and Syrian withdrawal – have been a gargantuan missed opportunity for Israeli diplomacy. Why did Israel not initiate a public overture – offering Lebanese prisoners in return for certain steps in the South for instance, or make this a priority talking point with the US or international community? Because we were too busy discrediting the Palestinians and legitimizing unilateralism. Ultimately the Hezbollah presence will require a political solution, the military campaign is at best a partial palliative, at worst a fillip to extremists throughout the region….
…. Any eventual ceasefire and de-escalation must be seized as an opportunity to move towards the renewal of a political peace process. By linking any ceasefire to a political track both may be given the necessary oxygen to succeed. The vacuum created by no political horizon or international engagement are two of the key factors that led to the latest political crisis….
Bury Unilateralism; Israel withdrew from the Sinai in the context of a negotiated peace agreement with Egypt and from parts of the Arava in a negotiated peace treaty with Jordan – [the] results: quiet borders, no military exchanges since, solid if cool peace. Israel withdrew from South Lebanon and Gaza unilaterally without agreements – enough said.
After the latest events, avoidance of negotiations with the Palestinians and pursuit of a unilateral convergence on the West Bank, or re-alignment, or disengagement or whatever new name is found, is a joke in poor taste….
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