The blog of Eric Lee - web design and internet consulting for the trade union movement.

What Ehud Olmert should say - but won't - in Annapolis

If I were the Israeli Prime Minister (and I'm not) I'd give the following speech next week at the peace conference in Annapolis. Here's what I'd say:

Enough is enough. Let's end this thing right here, right now.

To the Palestinians, I'll say yes to practically everything you say. You don't want any more roadblocks in the West Bank? Done. We'll take them down. You want your prisoners released from our jails? Here you go -- take them. You want us to withdraw to the 1967 borders? No problem -- but you know that realistically we're going to want to tinker a bit with the borders so that we keep some of the older, larger settlements but you get an equal amount of Israeli land. But if you really want to return to the 1967 borders, we can do that too. You want to share Jerusalem with us? Be our guest; feel free to put your capital somewhere in East Jerusalem. And when you declare your state, we'll the first country to recognize you, and we look forward to welcoming the first Palestinian ambassador in our capital.

What do we want in return? From you - nothing. Of course you're expected to promise to end terrorism, and I'm sure you'll do your best. What we want is not something that you can provide and I'll come to that in a moment.

To the Syrians, welcome back to the peace process. Would you like your Golan back? You can have it. We know that in 1967, when you held the entire Golan, our army cut through it like a hot knife through butter. It was hardly an obstacle for us. In 1973, when we held it, your army swept through it as if we weren't there. So much for a "natural line of defense" for either one of us. You can have it all in exchange for a peace treaty -- even though we know at best we'll get a cold peace out of you.

To the Saudis, thanks for the peace plan. It's just what Israel used to call for back in the good old days, 40 years ago. You could have had it all then -- the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, the Golan were all in your hands. All we wanted was recognition -- which you wouldn't give us. Now you're offering it in return for us going back 40 years. Consider it done. We have no problem with that. It's what we always wanted.

To the Israelis, I know what you're thinking. Is he insane? Is he giving back everything in exchange for promises from regimes which have waged war on us for decades? Their promises mean nothing. And I say: you're right.

Because in exchange for giving back all of the West Bank, and freeing the Palestinian prisoners, and recognizing a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem, and giving the Syrians the Golan back, I would be insane to ask for nothing.

That's not what I'm doing. I don't want anything from Abbas and Assad -- because they cannot give us what we need.

Here is what I do want, and it's a precondition for our signing any agreement:

I want the United States to guarantee, today, Israel's membership in Nato. I want permanent Nato bases with a significant commitment of forces on Israeli soil. I want Israel's sovereignty guaranteed by the Atlantic alliance and I want Israel to be able to invoke Article Five of the North Atlantic Treaty which specificies that "an armed attack against one or more of them ... shall be considered an attack against them all."

Collective security worked for you and it will work for us too. Let us into Nato and we can end this hundred-year war right here, right now.

P.S. Thank you to Nato for making the Treaty available in all the key European languages and also in Hebrew and Arabic. It's almost like an invitation, isn't it?


This is wonderful! ... with two drawbacks. First, I'd be quite surprised if members of the European Union, those members who are also in Nato, would be willing to allow Israeli membership without Israel agreeing FIRST to withdraw from all occupied territories. Israel would, quite understandably, never abide by such conditions and that, as they say, would be that.

Second, it would be fascinating to see what the response of the US would be to such a hypothetical condition on the part of the presently constituted Nato. If the US were to (correctly) say, "Fowl!" and "That's a lot of b.s. -- how could Israel possibly agree to such terms", then the whole process just dies a stillborn death. On the other hand, if the US were to back Israel's Nato entrance -- despite conditions that no Israel prime minister would (or could) agree to -- then the Americans would also be willing to allow Nato to reside over a potentially stabilized Middle East situation that didn't specifically require American involvement. Does the US really want a stabilized Middle East that they're not in charge of and that, in essence, would signal an end to all Bush- and neo-Con-style incursions into the area, potentially threatening America's access to oil?

Indeed, it would be interesting to see if Olmert would make such a proposal and then we could just sit back and watch the ensuing ruckus. Actually, I'm not holding my breath for such a proposal to surface or to be taken seriously if it did. But I really do love your idea!

Article Five of the North Atlantic Treaty which specificies that "an armed attack against one or more of them ... shall be considered an attack against them all.

Yes, that worked well in 1939 with Czeckoslovokia, right? Didn't they have a treaty with England and France? Why would any country capable of defending itself cede that ability to disinterested parties, to distant parties and to parties with varying agendas (the EU countries have not been Israel's greatest friends). Your ideas are not realistic.

The Golan Heights *did* serve as a key strategic asset in 1973 precisely because the the massive battles that turned back the Syrian advance took place there and not in the heart of Israel


"First, I'd be quite surprised if members of the European Union, those members who are also in Nato, would be willing to allow Israeli membership without Israel agreeing FIRST to withdraw from all occupied territories. Israel would, quite understandably, never abide by such conditions and that, as they say, would be that."

Read the article - this sort of thing is trivial to resolve. If the EU said that, there would be no issue whatsoever. If, however, the EU insisted that Israel had to withdraw before it would CONSIDER Israel's admission to NATO, you would have a non-starter. That's not what is suggested.

You need only have the treaty come into force as soon as the withdrawal is complete, probably as part of a turgidly described and monitored timetable.


"Yes, that worked well in 1939 with Czeckoslovokia, right?"

Failure to invoke and follow up NATO's Article 5 in the event of a 67 or 73 style invasion would result in the total collapse of NATO in its entirety.

It's the very fact that at the very least the US and hte UK could not contemplate that happening that gives it the deterrent effect that matters.

That's irrelevant. The reason this - otherwise laudable - scheme won't work is threefold:

1) the various Arab rulers cannot give Israel recognition without leaving themselves open to being overthrown.
2) Eric doesn't deal with the right of return.
3) Judging by the form that the violence has taken, Article 5 wouldn't ever be invoked - NATO membership and all the mutual defence that that entails would gain Israel nothing. Article 5 would not have been invoked in response to the Hezbollah battles of last summer. Article 5 will not be invoked in response to the general background of rocket attacks from Gaza etc.

It is only of relevance in response to a full scale invasion or a missile delivered nuclear attack - it is doubtful if it would be invoked following a "suitcase" bomb, because it would be impossible to trace the culprit - and in the latter case, the job would already been done, so Iran probably wouldn't care...

Hi Eric, I am sorry, but that is so stupid!

The first thing that would happen was that the US would get the PA (or Jordan, or Syria) into NATO too, so we will be just like Greece and Turkey, fighting inside NATO.

I agree with much of your argument in favor of NATO membership for Israel as a means of assuring Israel’s national security after the signing of a peace accord. In the years leading up to the Oslo Accords, I was one of many leftist Israeli political activists who met with European politicians from member parties of the Socialist international (SI) and others, to discuss how to reach a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One of the ideas I raised in my conversations, was that Israeli membership in NATO and in the EU would do much to alleviate the concern that many Israelis have regarding the acceptance of Israel within the community of democratic nations, and a recognition of its right to exist as an independent and sovereign nation. I believed then, that this would have given Israel the confidence necessary to take potentially existential risks in the pursuit of a lasting peace with its Palestinian and other Arab neighbors. To a large degree, I continue to believe this.
However, membership in NATO will only help as a deterrent to overt military attacks from another state, such as Syria or Iran, and perhaps as their proxy, Hezbollah. But Hezbollah also has its own agenda, and no one can be sure at what point they will decide to disregard their sponsors and pursue independent action. The “umbrella” of NATO will not provide Israel with any reassurances or tools to end terrorism and attacks by militants from organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. These organizations, and their character as non-state organizations, would not feel compelled to end their violent activities against random civilian targets in Israel. Any military reaction by a NATO force would essentially involve copying tactics that are currently being used by Israel to target militants. Or tactics it has used before.
As you, I believe that Israel must withdraw from virtually all of the remainder of the territories it occupied in 1967. It must take risks for peace. Indeed, it already has. It gave up all of the Egyptian land it occupied in Sinai, as a consequence of the Camp David Accord signed by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin during the Carter Administration. It has removed Israeli settlers from Gaza. It has shown its willingness to reach a peaceful resolution. Perhaps it is time for others to demonstrate that they realize that Israel has taken risks for peace, and that they are willing to help minimize those risks.

I don't see why, if Israel were part of Nato and Nato did not come to its rescue, Nato would collapse. There's lots of ways of coming to someone's rescue (like too late; halfheartedly, etc.) Anyway, the point's moot, since it's inconceivable that Israel, with a more powerful Army than most of Nato, would let someone like Belgium or Norway or Turkey be its protector. That would certainly be suicidal.

I sometimes wonder if it wouldn't be better to make Palestine the 51st State....