The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the Cypriot Status Quo

May 25, 2015

3 min read

Emmanuel Navon

The visit to Israel of Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, is meant to revive the EU’s involvement in the so-called “Middle-East peace process.” “The status quo” is not an option, declared Mrs. Mogherini ahead of her visit. Among EU members, France is actively promoting a new Security Council resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The French initiative would define the former armistice line of 1949-1967 between Israel and Jordan as an international border between Israel and a Palestinian state; it would designate Jerusalem as the capital of both Israel and a Palestinian state; and it would call for “a fair solution” to the issue of Palestinian refugees. Such a resolution, if adopted, would in effect completely endorse the Palestinian position and sideline Israel’s, and it would constitute a grave departure from Security Council Resolution 242.

The former armistice line between Israel and Jordan never was, and was never meant to become, an international border. Resolution 242 does not demand an Israeli withdrawal to that armistice line in exchange for peace – only a withdrawal “from territories” in a way that would provide Israel and its neighbors with “secure and recognized boundaries.” The 1949 armistice line cannot possibly be considered a secure boundary, since it created a 15-kilometer narrow “waist” between Israel and Jordan, surrounding Jerusalem and overlooking Tel Aviv from mountainous heights. As for Jerusalem, it is not mentioned at all in Resolution 242.

Resolution 242 calls for “a just settlement of the refugee problem,” apparently making the proposed French resolution redundant. But the French proposal makes two radical changes regarding the refugee issue. First, it only refers to “Palestinian refugees.” What is meant by “refugees” in Resolution 242, however, is both the 600,000 Palestinian refugees from Israel and the 900,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries. As the US ambassador to the UN in 1967, Judge Arthur Goldberg, explained after the adoption of 242, this resolution “refers both to Arab and Jewish refugees, for about an equal number of each abandoned their homes as a result of the several wars.” Moreover, what 242 means by “refugees” are the actual Arab and Jewish refugees of the Arab-Israeli wars, not their descendants.

The Palestinians, however, claim that the status of refugee applies to all descendants of the 1948 refugees. Even though there is no legal ground and no historic precedent for such a claim, it has become accepted in today’s “newspeak” and, apparently, by French diplomats. Therefore, according to the Palestinians and to the French, a “fair solution” must be found not for the Jewish refugees, not for the actual Palestinian refugees, but for the descendants of the Palestinian refugees (which number about 5 million according to UNRWA).

The French resolution does not expect the Palestinians to abandon this ridiculous claim, which has been the main reason for the failure of the “peace process” for the past two decades. When Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas explained to former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2008 why he did not accept the peace offer of then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, he said that he could not abandon the “right of return” (as reported by Rice in her memoirs “No Higher Honor”). The French resolution makes no demand of the Palestinians, leaving open the “right of return” issue, even though this fantasy was the excuse used by both Yasser Arafat (in 2000) and by Mahmoud Abbas (in 2008) for not signing a peace agreement with Israel.

In a meeting I had this week with a delegation of French parliamentarians, I asked them if they had a solution to the conflict in Cyprus. Their answer was a clear “no.” I also asked them if they weren’t “tired” of the 40-year Turkish occupation of Cyprus (an EU member). Their answer was also “no.” And so when I asked them how they envisioned the future of Cyprus, they explained that the “status quo” was the only option. When I tried to understand why they washed their hands of the Cyprus conflict while being obsessed with the Israeli-Palestinian one, their answer was no less amazing: “Because the conflict in Cyprus doesn’t produce instability.”

Now, the Middle-East is the most unstable region in the world, with people killing each other, with countries imploding, and with Iran and ISIS filling the void. Yet the French can think of nothing more urgent than establishing a failed state in the midst of the only stable and successful country of this war zone.

As long as France and the EU do not drop the so-called “right of return” from their diplomatic initiatives, the Israeli-Palestinian status quo will not only continue, but it will also be the only realistic option – just like in Cyprus.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Navon’s Blog

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