With the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in a weakened state because of its huge defeat on Iran—where AIPAC tried and failed to undermine the US-Iran talks by demanding provocative new economic sanctions—it’s the perfect moment for President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to unveil their peace plan for Israel-Palestine. As Trita Parsi points out, AIPAC has suffered a series of important setbacks recently, and it’s in no strong position to fight Obama over Israel.
Given that the problem has festered unsolved since 1967—or, depending on your view, since 1948—it’s a good idea to be skeptical. We don’t know yet the specifics of the plan that Obama and Kerry are considering, although it’s increasingly clear that it will require extraordinarily vast sums of cash to make it work: billions of dollars for economic development in the West Bank and Gaza, billions more to resettle Israeli settlers who are evacuated from West Bank settlements, more billions to compensate Palestinian refugees who demand their “right of return” but who certainly won’t be going back to Israel in more than token numbers, more billions for Israel to compensate Jews who’ve fled Arab countries over the past decades, and finally, yet more billions for Jordan, which is increasingly nervous about the idea of any settlement that endorses the ongoing presence of millions of Palestinians in Jordan, including those in refugee camps.
That, by any account, is a lot of money.
I don’t usually quote New York Times bloviator Tom Friedman, but he’s right:
If Secretary of State John Kerry brings his peace mission to a head and presents the parties with a clear framework for an agreement, Israel and the Jewish people will face one of the most critical choices in their history. And when they do, all hell could break loose in Israel.
And when all hell does break loose, it won’t be so easy for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to call the AIPAC hot line.
Palestinians, too, are suspicious and skeptical, of course.
By all indications, one of the core issues will be an American plan for transitional security for Israel as the West Bank turns into a state for Palestine. That means, it appears, a three-to-five-year Israeli military presence in the West Bank—which President Mahmoud Abbas has already said he’d accept—and some sort of long-term US and/or NATO role in the Jordan Valley, Palestine’s eastern border with Jordan, to ease Israeli fears of infiltration by radical Islamists and the illegal transfer of heavy weapons to what will be a mostly demilitarized Palestinian state. (Sweetening the deal for Israel, according to Defense News, is the fact that Israeli military contractors may reap huge deals over military systems to monitor the border.)