The E-1 Gambit Explained

The Palestinians sought to upgrade their status in the UN in order to pursue diplomatic and legal efforts to against Israel rather than engaging in negotiations that would involve making painful concessions.

Israel almost immediately announced that it would advance planning for construction in the E-1 corridor. This could potentially result in a situation in which any potential visitor from a future Palestinian in the West Bank to Jerusalem would have to go through Israeli territory in order to get to Jerusalem.

There are those who say that developing the E-1 corridor would cut the West Bank in two. That claim is simply an outright falsehood. Access to and claims to control Jerusalem are the real issues, not the division of the West Bank which extends to the east well beyond Ma’aleh Adumim. Other north-south roads are certainly possible.

Furthermore, E-1 was on the Israeli side of the Clinton peace deal. This article by CAMERA about the E-1 tract disproves any claim that construction in that corridor would cut off the north from the south and cut the West Bank in half and shows the map of the Clinton proposal, according to Dennis Ross, without the additional significant land-swaps to the Palestinian side which have been discussed in recent years. The fact that E-1 was on the Israeli side of the only nearly agreed upon peace deal between the two sides necessarily means that Israeli construction in E-1 would not preclude the possibility of a two state solution as some have frantically challenged.

Many have accused Israel of promoting plans to construct in E-1 in order to spite the world for the UN vote. The timing of the decision might lend itself to such a scenario, but here is the gambit being played as far as I can tell.

With UN Observer State status, the PA could begin filing charges against Israel in the International Criminal Court and seeking to use the United Nations as a weapon against Israel. The Israeli leadership realized that it could both appease hardliners among its supporters (who want to construct in E-1) and create a very strong bargaining chip with one action.

With hardliners in ascent in the Likud, Israel is more likely to go through with construction in the E-1 corridor than it has been in the past and thus, when it threatens to do so, that threat has more veracity. Europe and the United States are now working hard to prevent that construction and a resolution seems to be developing. In exchange for a halt, there will be calls for the Palestinian Authority not to use its new UN status to advance its cause against Israel.

In this instance, the tremendous focus on the importance of E-1 and the extreme criticism of the Israeli government’s position may enable Israel to trade holding off construction in E-1 indefinitely for an indefinite freeze of the only means beyond direct negotiations that the Palestinian Authority has left, its use of its new UN status. This is what appears to be developing, not just in theory, but in actuality. According to an article in the Times of Israel:

According to Maariv, the EU will also note that its economic agreements with Israel do not extend to the West Bank, the Golan Heights or East Jerusalem, and the body will condemn Israel’s building plans “with an emphasis on the intention to develop the E1 parcel.”

…The resolution, would also call on the Palestinians not to use their new status to take steps that could deepen the conflict — such as dragging Israel before the International Criminal Court — would be brought before European foreign ministers on Monday in Brussels and was expected to pass, the report said.

If Israel is indeed able to utilize the threat of building in E-1 to completely neutralize the threat posed by the Palestinian Authority’s Observer State status, it will be a major diplomatic victory for Israel even with all of the condemnations offered in the short term. If it goes forward with construction there, it will be following the parameters of the Clinton peace plan of 2000, the only peace plan in the history of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that had a good chance of working. That action would appease hardliners in a nation that seems to have moved to the political right, but would abandon a valuable bargaining chip in so doing and perhaps make a negotiated peace more difficult to achieve.

Those of us who desire a two state solution would rather that neither side do things to jeopardize a negotiated settlement and we must oppose major unilateral actions that could do so. No matter what either side does in international fora, it is fairly clear that the only path toward a real and lasting peace is through direct negotiations and unfortunately it appears that the Palestinian Authority has no interest in engaging in them with an Israeli government that it believes will not grant it the concessions that it wants. As US State Department spokesman, Mark Toner, recently stated, “The path to peace doesn’t go through New York.” It also does not necessarily go through the E-1 tract. The two sides must negotiate an agreement.

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6 Responses to The E-1 Gambit Explained

  1. It strikes me that everything you write is correct, that Israel is in the right and the Palestinian side (or one of the many Palestinian sides) are in the wrong.
    But yet…

    Israel is losing the propaganda battle and increasingly subject to the New Antisemitism.

    Speaking of course as a diaspora Jew with all the caveats that implies I would have loved to seen this response

    1. “our side” keeps saying “the UN voted to create two states in 1947 and the Arab world rejected it”. Why not view the UN vote as nothing more and nothing less than a restatement of 1947, embrace the vote and publicly proclaim “we in Israel are so happy to see the Palestinians and their supporters finally accept the history 1947 UN vote that proclaimed there should be two states, one of which is the national home of the Jewish people and is a Jewish country.
    2. We congratulate the Palestinian people in moving closer to a national home of their own and welcome them into the family of nations.
    3. We are ready at a moment’s notice to sit down with representatives of the Palestinian people anywhere in the world to create a just and lasting peace for both our peoples.
    4. We impose no pre-conditions and put everything on the table and invite the Palestinian people to come to the table with a mutual attitude.
    5. The Prime Minister of Israel and his representatives will sit “at the table” every day around the clock (except on Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy days) a chair waiting for President Abbas.

    And I would send Bibi, cabinet ministers, and MPs in hourlong shifts to actually sit at a table in a negotiating hall with a web-cam streaming their presence and a clock counting the hours since the invitation is formally issued.

    • Art, I think the problem is that right now, there is not anyone to sit with and that Observer State status is NOT the same as accepting the original two state plan. The PA recognizes that it will not get in negotiations what it could have gotten in 1949 and the world should recognize, but too much of it does not, that Israel should not be asked to act as if events over the past 45 years did not occur. The only way forward is for negotiations about a future Palestinian state to be based not in the past but in the present, not in 1967, but in 2012, with all of the changes that have occurred since, including actions taken by the Israeli government to affect facts on the ground and the actions taken by Palestinians since that time which affect the security of Israel, taken into account. Short of that, we are talking about idealized negotiations in a fantasy world and the result is going to be a solution based in fantasy and not reality.

      The Palestinians cannot continue to act, nor may those who seek a two state solution continue to act, as if the basis of the negotiations is the situation in May, 1967. The basis of negotiations must be the present day and it must always be the present day. That is truly the only basis upon which negotiations may move forward.

      • rabbiart says:

        Hi David

        Hey, thanks for responding. Again, I agree with everything you say, and yet…

        I think that much of life is governed by the story we choose to live in. What I’m saying all boils down to “let’s tell a different story”. Of course the Observer State status is not the same as accepting the original two state plan. Of course Israel shouldn’t be expected to pretend that the Arab world has been waging a war of eradication since before 1949. And so on. But… how about we start winning the air war and propaganda war instead of being viewed as the country of intransigence (Bibi) and racist ministers (Avigdor).

        And who knows, sometimes when you tell a different story, that story has a different ending.




      • I think that we need to spread the truth and use the truth to combat the propaganda. That the vast majority of nations in the UN would vote Israel out of existence if given the choice does not in any way necessitate that we also allow those nations to determine the reality of a false narrative. It is up to us to profess the truth. Oh, I think we’ve had that mission before! Let’s be a light unto the nations. 🙂

  2. rabbiart says:

    It’s like raising a child. You can’t raise a child to have a positive attitude with negative reinforcement. We are trapped in this story of “we have no partner for peace”. Even if HaShem came down out of the heavens and told us that in his all-knowing database he agrees there is no partner for peace, I don’t see how repeating that will contribute to creating one. It’s nice and easy to say “we know the truth” all we have to do is proclaim it. But there is no such thing as “the truth”; there are only competing stories. I totally believe that the primary failure and most of the lack of peace is Arab refusal to accept the presence of self-governing Jews in the Middle East. So I would say that we have much more of this thing called “truth” than they do. But this way of thinking is getting us nowhere.

    We need to adopt the practices of mediation and counseling. Imagine a world in which every day we found something positive to say about the Palestinians, about Israeli-Palestinian co-operation, about Israeli Jews and Israeli Muslims living in harmony one on one. And yes it would be nice – and it is essential – to hear it from the other side, but we could be that light unto the nations and just focus on what we are called upon by our tradition to do.

    I am not suggesting that we need to “allow those nations to determine the reality of a false narrative”. We can’t change their narrative, except that we can change ours, and by doing so eventually we will change theirs.

  3. When the United States is at war with another country and that country says, “Let’s talk,” the United States is very much ready to talk directly to that other nation. Why a government wanting to be taken as the State of its people in the PA, would not want to engage in direct talks with a nation it has contentions with, is indication of unsincere purposes. There seems leadership in the PA that believes it can somehow eliminate Israel as a nation with a national government. Apparently the political story being presented then, is a kind of game of strategy. Obviously the goal is successful achievement of peace and a cohesive system of a state for the Palestinians along with the continued security of Israel so it is a two-state solution. But the strategy being worked by many in leadership of the PA seems to use a political process attempting to leverage the UN as a tool to attack the cohesive integrity and continued security of Israel. So it is yet another ploy that is not really placing value on a goal of peace with a secure and cohesive Israel along side a Palestine? For most of the less wealthy people in Palestine this is not a good prospect. Probably it is not a good prospect for most of the people in Israel who are also not wealthy in the greater number. I want to cry tears of blood for these poor vulnerable people all the way around this equation of political games, who suffer so much while executives march about shouting way too proud of themselves. Let us hope a process can find voice from the greater number of those so deeply affected by the prospect of more trouble instead of real progress. I wish peace to all, and a negotiated settlement that can make everyone proud they have shown true faith in one Good God over all peoples by their actions.

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