Thursday, February 14, 2019

John Bolton's Three State Middle East Solution

Updated June 2019

While we all know about John Bolton's extreme views on Iran, we rarely get a glimpse into his mindset when it comes to Israel.  Fortunately, thanks to the ever-remembering internet, a speech that the Trump Administration's current National Security Advisor gave after accepting the Guardian of Zion Award from Bar-Ilan University's Ingeborg Rennet Center for Jerusalem Studies. 

Let's open by looking at the press release from Bar-Ilan touting its award to Mr. Bolton:

The Ingeborg Rennet Center for Jerusalem Studies was founded in 1995 by two American Jewish Community leaders, Ingeborg Hanna and Ira Leon Rennert as an expression of their commitment to Jerusalem and its heritage.  The Center annually awards the Guardian of Zion award to men and women who are dedicated to the "perpetuation and strengthening of Jerusalem" (obviously, a Jewish Jerusalem, not East Jerusalem which was officially proclaimed as the capital of the State of Palestine in 2000.). Previous American recipients include Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, Pulitzer Prize winning author William Safire and Nobel Peace Prize winning author Elie Wiesel.

Here's what Mr. Bolton had to say about receiving the award:

Let's look at some key excerpts from his speech which was given on May 29, 2017:

"I want to address tonight the continuing question of resolving Israel’s status as a free and secure nation in its rightful homeland and its relations with its Arab neighbors, particularly the Palestinians.

I want to talk first about the amazing continuities and strength of the relationship between the Old Jerusalem here in Israel and the New Jerusalem that America’s founders saw across the Atlantic. Ultimately, I believe that this Jerusalem where we meet today can best be secured by the closest possible alliance with the New Jerusalem…There have been a lot of empires throughout history that have sought to conquer Jerusalem and destroy the Jewish people. There’s really only been one empire that has not only sought to defend the Old Jerusalem, the geographical epicenter of Judeo-Christian thought, but to embody it in the secular world. That’s the one that Thomas Jefferson described as “the Empire of Liberty.”…

Now, Americans believe that, as I have said before, God favors their works…. 

The broad feeling for Israel and Jerusalem across the American population is very real. [clapping] Nonetheless, despite the end of the Cold War, many other threats have persisted and new threats have emerged. We did not as some say, “reach the end of history.” Jerusalem and Israel’s security are threatened by Islamist terrorism and the Iranian nuclear weapons program among many others. So, is America’s security. Yet, we hear once again the argument, that if only the Israel-Palestinian issue could be resolved, sweetness and light would break out in the Middle East. Not true before and not true now.

If we are going to have peace and security for Israel, it has to be approached realistically. So, here are my suggestions, and why I think the notion of the two-state solution has failed. We’ve been pursuing this for over 70 years in one form or another. Even before independence, through the British partition of the Palestinian Mandate to create Jordan. We saw it at the beginning of the UN’s consideration of how to end the Palestinian Mandate, General Assembly Resolution 181, to partition what was left of the Mandate and to create a special international regime for the city of Jerusalem. Let’s not forget that bad idea in the middle of a lot of other bad ideas…

Resolution 181 was rejected by the Palestinians and the Arab states, following which we had the war of 1948-49. Honestly, even after Resolution 181 had failed, had been rejected, the world has continued to pursue some version of the two-state answer without success. Despite the fact that many people of goodwill have tried to implement it, it hasn’t worked for a variety of reasons. It hasn’t worked because of the instability in the region, and globally. It didn’t work because of the Cold War. It didn’t work during the era of Pan-Arabism and it’s not working during the era of Radical Islam.

There are some more specific factors why it has failed. Some people don’t want to see any Jewish state, period. Some won’t accept conditions that would permit a Jewish state however bounded, to be allowed to live in peace and security. Some still demand concessions no Israeli government will accept, such as the partition of Jerusalem to provide a capital for the new Palestinian state.

In my view, the final failure of the two-state solution was reflected this past December in Resolution 2334, adopted by the Security Council, sadly, because of an American abstention that allowed it to pass. I could read large chunks of this resolution to show how objectionable it is, as I’m sure many of have read it. It talks about Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, including east Jerusalem. It says, “Israeli settlements are a flagrant violation under international law, with no legal validity” and I’m just getting started. This resolution is a long catalog of everything that is wrong from an anti-Israel perspective, and the fact is, as long as Resolution 2334 exists there is no acceptable outcome for Israel. I don’t see how we’re going to get it repealed because of the vetoes, not just of Russia and China but because of the vetoes of Britain and France. So, that’s where this has ended. It has ended on the basis of fundamental misunderstandings, as well, of the fundamental conditions from which Israel started. The whole idea that you can “legalize” this dispute and somehow take things that were purely ephemeral when they were created and turn them into international boundaries.

I come to the conclusion that the two-state solution, however well motivated, with whatever goodwill people have advocated it simply will not work.It won’t work because of these [clapping] circumstances. It won’t work because there’s no Palestinian entity that can make the agreements necessary for the two states to come in to existence and comply with them later.There’s nobody who would seriously advocate dealing with Hamas, okay? So, they’re out of the picture. The Palestinian Authority is a corrupt, powerless authority that has no democratic legitimacy and is not likely to acquire it. Even if it were able to overcome all of its difficulties and sign an agreement that Israel would find acceptable, the Palestinian Authority would be eliminated by the Palestinians’ themselves.

Let’s now take a look at Mr. Bolton’s recommended solution to the Middle East conundrum that has baffled both the world and Washington for 70 years:

"For Israel, we need to have borders that provide peace and security internally and externally. Israel has peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, the countries most directly concerned with Palestinians.

Now for Palestinians, there has to be a solution that’s stable and with prospects for political participation and economic viability. They must no longer be pawns in somebody else’s war against Israel. The fact is, that political institutions through much of North Africa and the Middle East are disintegrating, collapsing, fragmenting before our eyes. Libya has dissolved as an effective state. Boko Haram has ripped Nigeria along the seam of Saharan and sub-Saharan Africa. Somalia has not had an effective government in 25 years. Yemen is hopelessly broken. Syria and Iraq have ceased to exist as functioning states. People are proposing to create a new state? One that’s not even territorially contiguous? Have they looked around recently at the region? There’s every [clapping] reason not to add to the instability by creating a new non-viable state, so what do we do?
My answer is what I call, “the three-state solution.”I understand it’s not wildly popular, you know life is hard – [laughing]. Here are the three states: Egypt, Israel and Jordan.  So, with the Gaza Strip we give Egypt sovereignty over it. General El-Sisi can do what he likes in dealing with Hamas as far as I’m concerned.  Hamas is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Muslim Brotherhood. He’s trying to protect Egypt from their coming back to power under the “one person, one vote, one time” approach that the Muslim Brotherhood likes. He can deal with Hamas as well.

There’s simply no other prospect for the residents of Gaza to have any chance of economic viability other than to be linked to Egypt, which itself desperately needs stability to overcome the effects of the so-called Arab Spring.

People say, “but the Egyptians don’t want the Palestinians.” The alternative is that there would be a separate Palestinian Gaza Strip that would be as much a terrorist threat to a stable government in Egypt as to Israel. This is a time to grit your teeth in Egypt. It’s a time for the oil- producing monarchies on the Arabian Peninsula to open their check books a little bit further, and it’s time for people to recognize that this is the only logical economic and political connection that will work for Gaza…

As for the West Bank, my theory here is that Israel and Jordan negotiate an international boundary that’s satisfactory for the two of them. Territory to the west of that boundary becomes a part of Israel and it would include all of Jerusalem, territory [clapping] or pieces of territory to the east of that would become sovereign Jordanian territories subject to appropriate security precautions along the Jordan River Valley and elsewhere for Israel.This is really even easier when dealing with Gaza pre-1967. Jordan was sovereign. On the West Bank, nobody called Jordan an occupying power, and they can get used to it again. It is a potential for the Palestinian people remaining on the West Bank to participate in a viable economic entity, assuming other aspects of the Middle East’s many conflicts, now in Syria, can be resolved as well. It may not be perfect but it’s certainly better for the Palestinians, let alone for Israel to be connected with a functioning government, rather than a pretend government.

Now, Jerusalem as I say, remains undivided. This is easy. One advantage of not having a new state is you don’t need to find a capital for the new state. Amman is a fine capital for the residents for the West Bank who will come under Jordanian sovereignty.There would have to be a number of measures associated with the three-state solution. It would require ignoring or overcoming a number of long standing assumptions and obstacles. The first things to do is to ignore the Near East Bureau of the United States State Department. [clapping] You have also to eliminate some of the sources of this perpetual conflict, such as hereditary refugee status. Palestinians are the only people in the world who have that status, it’s a mistake, it means when you have three states there’s no need to worry about a right of return. 

He then goes on to recommend the end of the United Nation’s involvement in Palestinian affairs, not terribly surprising given this:

I think UNRRA (the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency) should be abolished. I think the UNTSO, “the UN Truce Supervision Organization,” one of the oldest UN peace keeping operations can be abolished. You can abolish all of the UN Secretariat Offices dealing with Palestinian affairs, thus resulting in budget savings for every UN member. At least on the part of the United Sates, what we should do is immediately resign and then defund the UN Human Rights Council, which is no such thing by the way.

Let's close with one last commentary on Israel from Mr. Bolton.  In another speech given in 2013 at the Oxford Union Society at Oxford University, he commented on the potential conflict between Israel and Iran as shown here:

For a man who did whatever he could to avoid fighting in a war, he certainly seems to love the concept, doesn't he?

Given that this man currently has the ear of the President of the United States on national security issues, we can pretty much guess how the Trump Administration will approach the Middle East's longest lasting issues - Palestine, Israel and Iran.

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