Council on Foreign Relations
New York, N.Y.
STEVEN COOK: I'd like to welcome you all here this evening to the Council on Foreign Relations for a meeting with a good friend and colleague, David Makovsky, who is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Many of you, I am sure, have read his articles in a variety of prominent publications including The New York Times, today's LA Times in fact, Foreign Policy magazine, and of course our own Foreign Affairs.
David is hear to speak to us about the elections—the Palestinian [Authority presidential] elections that occurred on Sunday, and what we can expect the road ahead. But before David and I get into a conversation and we can then open it up to the rest of you, I have to ask you please to turn off your cell phones and beepers. Unlike most Council meetings, this meeting is actually on the record. And let me see what else. Oh, and during the question-and-answer period, I ask you to please speak into the microphone, stand up, and identify yourself. So, with the ground rules set, we'll start the conversation.
David, the election on Sunday was perhaps the easiest part for Abu Mazen [also known as Mahmoud Abbas]. We know, even though he started out with about 2 percent popularity, that in general, he was going to carry the legacy of Fatah and to some extent Yasir Arafat. Now it seems to me the hard part. What specifically are the challenges that Abu Mazen faces going forward?
DAVID MAKOVSKY: Well, good evening, everyone. It's good to see so many friendly faces, and Steve, and thank you very much for hosting us and hosting me here at the Council. In terms of Abu Mazen, yes, the road ahead, now is the hard part. The good news is, in my view, he won a mandate for nation-building, and also I think for—even though he built his legitimacy on that he is carrying on the legacy of Arafat, he's parlayed it into a whole other set of issues that I think are going to help him. When it comes to the first challenge, domestic reforms, he's laid out a whole series of things that need to be done. In the LA Times thing this morning, I was just looking at exit—
COOK: You can flack it.
MAKOVSKY: OK. [Laughter] Look at the Los Angeles Times this morning. I was just struck by the exit polling. I know people say beware of exit polling in our own country, but I think, you know, what's important here is that you look at the polling and you see his themes are resonating amongst the public, that the themes that he pushed for are themes they say they want in a leader. And he said, "Look, we've got to—if we want a state we've got to do—we've got to build peace and institutions." And he repeated this everywhere he went. He talked about unifying the security services, which may sound to people like a technocratic sort of thing. When you have 14 different militias, which is the way Arafat liked it—said they were only answerable to him, and he was the hub—you have chaos. And he kept saying, "We got to end the chaos. That the public is tired, they understand there's total anarchy in the territories."
So the fact that he's run on some of these ideas, he said, you know, "We've got to get rid of some of the corruption," and he talked about, "We got to have legislative elections, we have got to have new Fatah elections"—a lot of the young guard people, Fatah people I talked to when I was just out there in Ramallah in November—and in August and in April—they were all saying to me, "For us, elections is ideal because it's a way to kind of sweep away some of that old guard." And even though he might be part of that old guard, he understands that he needs to integrate younger elements in the PA [Palestinian Authority], and he's got to go after some of the old institutions that Arafat—the corruption that he really thrived on.
So I think if it comes to—if you look at the first challenge of domestic reform, it means consolidating the security services so you have a hierarchical system that's answerable to him, which I think he's going to do. You're going to see elections as a way of dealing with some of the corruption issues and bringing young people—energizing, bringing new blood, fresh blood, into the process. And I think these are all good things.
He kept talking about rule of law, rule of law. And that might sound to you like, well, it's obvious—how can you have a country if you don't have a rule of law? But these are revolutionary ideas. Arafat never spoke about this stuff. He never talked about the rule of law, he never talked about the rights of women, he never talked about raising the standard of living. I mean, I'm always struck by an interview that Christiane Amanpour of CNN did with him, with Arafat, and she said, "But, Mr. President, your own people are suffering—what are you doing for your own people? They want food, they want employment." Arafat: "They don't care. They just don't care about that. All they care about is one thing, the Terra Sancta, Latin, the holy land." And like—you know, "that's not my job description to give food and to create a better economic condition."
Abu Mazen actually did the radical thing of talking about raising the standard of living. So in one way it's a much more kind of domestic-driven agenda. At the same time, he definitely wants to show progress on dealing with not just improving the day-to-day lives on an economic basis, on creating institutions and ending the state of anarchy, but he wants to show the progress getting rid of [Israeli] check posts, and he wants to show that there will be a cease-fire. He calls it a national dialogue.
So another front is how does he create a consensus around the need for a cease-fire? Israelis used to hate the term "cease-fire," because they interpret it to mean you give a respite to groups like Hamas and [Islamic] Jihad. But Israel's position, I think, has evolved. There's kind of more sobering expectations on all sides. I said [that] someone said this is like a couple that's on their fourth marriage—I mean to the same person. But no one believed you could do the grand peace deal tomorrow morning, but they do believe you can improve lives, you can bring calm, you can get Israel out of Gaza, you can reduce some of the check posts. So he's got a domestic problem on bringing forth reform, how to create a consensus for a cease-fire, and then he's got to work with the Israelis on bringing this about. And that means, in my view, reviving security coordination with Israel, also trilateral with the United States—the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] station chief, it's not a secret, was involved in this for many years. And that is critical, because if Israel will feel more secure, it can do things like lift check posts. They just don't want to—if they lift check posts they have more dead Israelis. [Inaudible].
And so I see Abu Mazen realizing—I sat with Abu Mazen for two hours alone this spring in Ramallah, and he said to me, "David, don't you understand," [inaudible] to me he said, "If we could only give the Israelis security, we can get what we want. But if we don't give them security, we won't get what we want." Now, to me this is as obvious for you. But Arafat, focusing just on victimization, never focused that way. So I think Abu Mazen understands it. I think he sees this as the key to lifting the check posts, to getting a cease-fire, and to paving the way for Israel getting out of Gaza, which we could talk about at some point, but in a coordinated rather than a unilateral fashion. And I think, you know, he knows he has to work on different fronts. He needs to work with the Arab states to give him an umbrella for some of his ideas. He could use—he's gone—one of his first trips was not to America, which I think was wise, but to the region—going to the Gulf states, the windfall that the Gulf states have gotten because of the run-up on oil prices—it's unbelievable. I think—what I'm told by people in the oil industry—it's $100 billion above budgetary expectations just in the last two years. And I think his view is, "I want to show the Palestinians there's change on the ground." And I think he feels everyone's going to have to help—certainly the U.S., the Europeans, the Quartet [the European Union, Russia, the United Nations, and the United States], the road map—we can get into some of that. But I think he feels he's got to work on multiple fronts.
My concern is, it's an extremely tall agenda—even if you want to show some modest results, it's not easy. And I mean I'm being very blunt. In this room I feel—my concern is whether he has the fire in his belly to—and, you know, the temperament, to really go forward. There have been times where he's been upset in negotiations, when he was a negotiator. He went off and sulked in Jordan, where he has a house on the Gulf. When you're the president of a country, you can't do that. And does he have the staff around him? People want to learn lessons from two years ago when he was prime minister. And I think they're going to hopefully learn from this. This is a very full plate, but I think by not trying to promise everything—like, "I'm going to get you Jerusalem, I'm going to end the conflict tomorrow morning"—but by setting the sights lower, by focusing on domestic internal issues. I think the good news is he has a mandate for this from the public, and a resounding victory. But the other side of it is, there is now a barometer to judge the person who now talks about accountability. Arafat never talked about accountability. Now people are going to say, "Are you going to be accountable to the promises you made?"
COOK: David, you spoke eloquently about Abu Mazen's intention to reform the Palestinian Authority and raise up the people in terms of standards of living. But it strikes me this is really about the peace process. And are we dealing with someone who says nice things, who's essentially Arafat in tweed, or is there really a fundamental shift going on? It seems to me that the issues of Jerusalem, Israeli settlements, refugees, security, all remain the critical core issues regarding relations between Israel and the Palestinians in getting to a final resolution of the conflict.
COOK: What—beyond the nice rhetoric about reform—and for someone who works on reform in the Arab world, this is all very nice and things, but when we're talking about Arab-Israeli, Palestinian-Israeli conflict, what's really changed? And why should we put as much faith as we seem to be in the Abu Mazen phenomenon?
MAKOVSKY: Well, I think there are a few things that differentiate him from Arafat. I'll get to the core issues, besides the tweed, and I'll get to the core issues things in a moment. First of all, there is—while I think there was some notable exception during his election campaign, what I do think differentiates him—and I'm not here to defend every statement he made, because he said things I think on the campaign trail that were in some ways upsetting. But if you look at almost all of his speeches, though, he said, "We'll insist on our rights, but we'll do it through peaceful means." Someone will be able to say, "But he used the words 'Zionist enemy' when he heard that seven kids were killed," and I'm not here to defend every statement he's made at all. But I do think that, unlike Arafat who signed [the Oslo Peace Accords] on September 9th, 1993, four days before the handshake, if you remember, he wrote a letter to [former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak] Rabin, "We will solve issues peacefully." But he didn't do it. And to me, what's different here is Abu Mazen does have a track record for 10 years, and he was someone who consistently thought the militarization of the intifada was wrong. He said in Arabic, at the Palestinian Legislative Council, not just in front of [President] George Bush and [Israeli Prime Minister] Ariel Sharon [at the June 2003 summit meeting] in Aqaba, [Jordan,] that terrorism was morally wrong, and it was a "religious sin," I think he used the phrase. He is someone who has said, "Look, all these attacks—I can save you from the attacks of Israel. I will protect you. If we don't engage in attacks, they won't engage in attacks." Now, it might sound to a lot of people in this room, well, isn't that obvious? Well, Arafat would never say that—in a million years he would never say that.
So I think Abu Mazen does have a track record. I think—again, I'm not here to defend every statement he said during the campaign [inaudible]. He is the guy who was in the low, low digits, as you pointed out—2 percent before Arafat died, and now he's—he's somewhat like the [deputy prime minister and longtime Labor Party leader] Shimon Peres of the Palestinians, if you can understand what that means. He's seen as this liberal civilian who is a nice guy who nobody has anything against, but associated with the struggle for as long as Peres has been associated with Israel. But he wasn't involved in terror, and he doesn't have any of that what they would call—I would call terror, they would call military aspects—to him. And I just feel that he does have a track record. He's had death threats against him. People think he's too moderate, he's going to sell out the land and everything. So I think he's kind of working at a minus being in Arafat's shadow. But having said that, I think that if he sticks to this one idea, whatever differences we have [with] the Israelis, we can try to resolve it on the table. And there will be a lot of pressures, and who knows if we'll be able to stick to it. I see that as he didn't—I don't feel he's the million-martyrs-to-Jerusalem guy [like] every guy on al Jazeera. I think he is different.
Now, in terms of his bottom lines for solving the conflict—and here I would—I think we have to be humble and say we don't know for sure. I mean, I could say when I did a project on [the January 2001 Israeli-Palestinian talks in] Taba [Egypt] and what actually happened at Taba, what I did uncover was that, although Abu Mazen himself is a refugee and he comes from Safad, Tzfat, he was willing to do a quota on the number of refugees that would come back. Arafat would never even think about quotas. He saw himself as the representative of the refugees. So, I don't know if you want to learn from that he would be more flexible than Arafat on refugees. I don't know. I'm coming here saying, "You know what? He could be Arafat in tweed in terms of his bottom lines on the refugee issue, even though I feel there is this historical case where he was more moderate." But here I say with respect to very learned people like [former National Security Advisers] Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski: I feel that some of the talk I've been hearing in the last week, which is, "Let's have a blueprint for the end game and let's solve this conflict," and we all want to solve this tragedy. We want a solution that gives dignity to both—any solution that gives dignity only to one side isn't going to hold. I mean, that's just obvious. But I feel that there's kind of a diplomatic Hail Mary nature to this idea of coming out with the final status blueprint now.
For just to look on the Palestinian side—leave the Israeli side alone for a second—Abu Mazen has these hardline opponents in Hamas, in [Islamic] Jihad. They still think of him as the Shimon Peres of the Palestinians. And he's got the refugees who believe he'll also sell them out, even though he himself is a refugee. If the United States today comes out with some of these ideas of some of these learned people, saying let's lay out a blueprint now—what you are going to do is, you are going to energize, in my view, all the hardline opponents to Abu Mazen, and force him to reject—call it the Clinton plan, call it the X plan, whatever plan you want to call it—even if we could all agree that that might be the best plan to end the conflict—you will energize these opponents and force Abu Mazen to respond. He doesn't have the authority. He might have the legitimacy of being elected and a mandate, but it's not the same thing as people trusting him that he will deal with their issues. So he's—this will box him in. Even if they don't ask to sign tomorrow morning, it will box him in and it will undermine him in my view—and the long-term dynamics will also, in my view, undermine what I think are important dynamics, which is getting Israel out of the Gaza Strip, because it will also force Sharon, who's got a—he had a rebellion on his hands—I mean, he's got these 13 Likud [Party] guys who voted against him yesterday out of—in the Knesset of 40 members. We'll talk about the domestic politics later. He only has basically 27 guys out of 120 Knesset that you could say were his guys. That's not a great recipe.
So I think it will stop Gaza dead in its tracks. You might say, "Oh, good, let Sharon be overthrown—we don't like Sharon." And some of these people might feel that way. But leaving the Israelis—first, I think you undermine Gaza. But more critically, you will energize the supporters of the hardline position, and this will undermine Abu Mazen. And so I really can't understand those who say let's do the blueprint now, let's end this now. I think—because I can't guarantee you that his position is different, I do think it's important to stabilize the situation, to improve lives, to get the nation-building begun under way, to do Gaza. And it could be the final status will have to be put off. I'm not saying for how long. And maybe we could think creatively that the Arab world would endorse the Clinton plan and give Abu Mazen cover from there. But I don't see that happening tomorrow either.
So I tend to believe that we learned in the year 2000—we pushed too hard, too fast, too soon, this diplomatic Hail Mary—we got four years of violence. I don't think we could afford to fail again. We've got to build a sturdy foundation. To build a flimsy skyscraper that is just going to come across, just going to collapse when you blow on it, I don't know if we really help things. I think we should work towards a goal, I obviously agree, and it could be in a couple years that you know that will be possible, and we can get the Arab world to work [with] us. But because Abu Mazen's division is the way it is, I think we've got to be careful on how we approach it.
COOK: David, you touched on two issues that I was intent on asking you about, and the first is, what about Hamas and the other military groups? What are they up to? They have said they will participate in municipal elections, they will participate in legislative elections, they will not participate in the presidential elections, because they don't recognize the PA—it's a creation of Oslo. Sort out the strategy for Hamas and the other military groups. And then I want to ask you about the United States, and then we'll open it up to—
MAKOVSKY: OK, the rejectionists—I think we've got to look at different categories, and let's—let me focus first on Hamas, because you asked that. And then I want to say something about a group that you don't think of usually in this context, which is Hezbollah, because they're Shia, and they're usually focused on Lebanon for what could be done.
Let's focus on Hamas, and let's look at it in terms of two layers. One is a political and one is military or a terror strategy. I think in terms of the political side, you pointed out, well, they are—they voted in these municipal elections in these 26 councils—that happened last couple of weeks. It's rolling elections over a year. And nobody, to quote my friend Khalil Shikaki, the Palestinian pollster, nobody does the civil society card better than Hamas. They have figured that out. And I think it should lead us [to] who wants to help to think it out through as well, which is it's all about social services. It's textbook all over the Middle East: wherever the mainstream government cannot deliver social services, the Muslim Brotherhood, as you know from Egypt very well, they fill that gap, and they've done it brilliantly. And that's why when people think local they think Hamas: they're going to help us, they do social services, they do the hot lunches, they do the day care in the mosques, they do the health clinics, they do all that. While the PA was diverting funds for corruption, Hamas was seen as having, ironically, clean hands to do the social services side.
Now, it will be interesting whether they try to extrapolate and run—how they're going to run in the legislative elections. Well, if you remember [the first Palestinian general elections in] '96, they boycotted everything as being tainted by Oslo and coexistence with Israel. Now they'll say, "OK, we'll run for legislative, but we won't run for president." Well, all the diplomats I talked to [inaudible] said they didn't run because they knew they would lose. If you look at Abu Mazen's percentages, he did better in Gaza than he even did in the West Bank. He got over 70 percent in Gaza, which is supposedly the home for Hamas. So I think a lot of those people did vote. And Hamas, to its credit, is more disciplined. I mean, they will—they know the public is tired—they're sick of all this. Their view is, "We can't go against the public. We've got to be within the Palestinian framework, not outside of it." So I tend to believe that they want their piece of the pie—that's no doubt. They didn't want to lose to Abu Mazen, so they claimed boycott, but—and they do well on the municipal level. It will be interesting to see how they do in the legislative level. But I do think we should think, when we think about how to assist the Palestinians, we should look at the social welfare network that Hamas has done so brilliantly at in Hamas—in Gaza—and think about if only the PA, the Palestinian Authority, could have a social welfare net, or if only they could deliver services; I think you've got a good finance minister, Salam Fayyad, who worked at the IMF [International Monetary Fund] for 20 years—he's trusted—he's one of the only people on Earth that's trusted by the Palestinians, the Israelis, the United States, the Europeans—universally trusted. And maybe he could help set it up. I mentioned the Gulf giving some money. I mean, wouldn't that be great if they gave some money for a social service network? But I think you need to compete with Hamas. I think there's no—you got to get in there, and you can't just cede the playing field to them. But they—but I wonder if their success in winning nine out of 26 seats—26 councils—will translate nationally because, like I said, their strength is at the local level. But they also will have to govern on the municipal level. It's easy to be a charity from the outside and blame the other guy when everything breaks down. But if you have to assume responsibility for the functioning, it will be interesting what happens—will Hamas split? Will there be a realistic segment that joins the PA? And will there be a harder line that stays out? We don't know.
But let's look at their military side—and this is probably hard for some people to hear—but I think we have to admit that in the last several months, and I'm not here to be an advocate of any position, but I think the fact is that Israel's military campaign against some of the Hamas leadership was successful, that Israel went after [Hamas leaders Sheikh Ahmad] Yasin, [Abdel Aziz] Rantisi, and all these guys. Now they're the ones suing for peace. They're the ones wanting the cease-fire. [Hamas co-founder] Mahmoud Zahar—he's going from basement to basement, because he's afraid to be shown in public—he's afraid Israel is going to get him. All the signs we hear is Hamas is—I mean, General [Omar] Suleiman, the head of the Egyptian intelligence that's brokering this—and he said we could use his name, so I'm not violating any confidences—he said Hamas wants the cease-fire. I can see, yeah, they want a respite because they're being hunted down by Israel. But like you said, I think Israel at this point they just—just calm the situation. And I think that's the next step. Hamas wants, for the most part, the cease-fire.
My concern is you'll get a cease-fire with Hamas, and maybe even [Islamic] Jihad, but you'll have freelancers outside these organizational frameworks, and that brings me to people that I view as the new threat, and that's Hezbollah, which no one would have thought of in a Palestinian context, but the Iranians are key in undermining any progress, because the more progress there is towards peace in the Middle East the more the Iranians are going to stand out in a negative fashion. And I think—when I talked to an Israeli general who said 80 percent of attacks in the West Bank today have a Hezbollah connection: funding, training, all sorts of things—you've got to stop Iran. You've got to stop Iranian support of Hezbollah that is coming into the territories. I'm not even mentioning [Lebanon's] Al Minar, their television station, which makes al Jazeera look like a Hadassah infomercial, you know? [Laughter] I'm talking about the training and the money. And we had the Europeans, the EU-3, as they're called—the British, the French, the Germans—with their nuclear talks with Iran. They've agreed now to set up a committee to discuss some of these issues. But the Europeans have leverage with the Iranians. You've got to stop it, and you got to—and I think the Syrians now, they need also to be brought under a little pressure, because Hamas has had an office in Damascus, [Islamic] Jihad has an office in Damascus, Hezbollah has been there as well. So if people want to say, "How do we help Abu Mazen?"—that's kind of the phrase of 2005—one way to help Abu Mazen is to make sure that the Iranians and the Syrians don't do their numbers. And I think that's important.
I think another element that's important is whatever cease-fire is worked out by General Suleiman in Egypt—and he said, "Why General Suleiman? Why not the United States?" Because it's hard—the United States doesn't sit with Hamas directly, but the U.S. will work closely with General Suleiman and the Israelis. We need a precise written definition of what a cease-fire is.
Now, this might sound to you by now obvious, but the fact that there was a lack of precision in [June] 2003, the cease-fire unraveled after 52 days. If we want a cease-fire that's going to hold, it's got to be binding on Israel. [Inaudible] Israel is happy, says it wants the cease-fire. But if it's all that vague, you know, then the net effect is it will unravel. And so here security coordination, U.S.-Israeli-Palestinian [coordination] is important—for example, if Israel sees a ticking bomb coming, you know, Israel doesn't want to pay for a cease-fire with dead Israelis. But if there was a—if you had a situation with Abu Mazen, you had the security coordination that you had through a good part of the '90s—not all the '90s, but a good part of the '90s, you could say, "Listen, we don't want to come into your areas, but you should know so-and-so is about to launch an attack—can you arrest him?" Well, if you had that track, which did exist—it's not like this is utopia—that will ensure the cease-fire doesn't unravel. So there's different parts. There's an Israel-Palestinian piece, there's an Egyptian piece, there's a U.S. piece—like I said, there's a European piece in trying to put the screws to some of the rejections. I realize this is all very difficult. It will be much easier for me to say there's going to be peace tomorrow as a result of Abu Mazen's election, but I just don't think that's accurate.
COOK: Let me ask you one more question, and then we'll open it up to questions and answers. You reject General Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski's idea about come out with a blueprint right away. And everybody who we see on television talking about this issue says the United States needs to find a way to help Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Authority. What are the five most important things that the Bush administration can do to help Abu Mazen that will ultimately help him overcome these challenges that he faces?
MAKOVSKY: Good. All right, like I said, avoid the blueprint diplomacy now. "Do no harm," as the Hippocratic Oath. I'm not saying—I don't want anyone to interpret what I'm saying is that the U.S. should never do a blueprint, and this is a 30-year issue. I'm just saying, at this moment in time, you will hurt Abu Mazen—you won't help him by doing so, point one.
Point two. You should have some sort of coordinator who is going to manage the diplomacy, so when you—to help provide the security coordination and to ensure that the Israeli-Palestinian coordination out of Gaza is coordinated. Ariel Sharon has said he wants it coordinated—he doesn't want it unilateral. It's a change for Sharon ever since Arafat died. So, you know, the U.S. needs to be involved. I mean, [British Prime Minister] Tony Blair apparently, in closed session, has used the word "micro-manage." You know, I don't know what the phrase is, but you need something that does not take the onus off of Abu Mazen and the Israelis, because these are the parties that have to act. The U.S. should not want it more than the parties, but you need coordination. And I was just talking to somebody senior in Ramallah Thursday, and he was already weaving all these conspiracy theories, [saying] "Look, we're going to do what Israel and the United States and what our people want, but is Washington going to do its part?" And I said—because otherwise we'll see a conspiracy. I said, "Wait a second, Condoleezza Rice has not even had congressional hearings yet, she has not taken the oath of office, she has not put together a Middle East team yet. Save your conspiracy theories for a while, and don't wait for Washington—work directly with Israel, and because Israelis want to work with you."
But the U.S., I think, could play an important role—no one else can do it—and coordinate a lot of these moving pieces. Like I said, that you have with the Egyptians, with the Europeans. I think reactivating the road map, because I think this is the one idea that was internationally accepted. Phase one of the road map is what we're doing now, which is elections, consolidating security services—all the things the road map is calling for is what the parties are going to do. So put it under a framework, and this would allay certain suspicions and work, and bring the Quartet into it as well, but just to give it an overall framework.
But the heart of it is working with the Israelis and Palestinians. And so that means reviving security coordination, obviously be one; two, helping work out, hammer out terms of the cease-fire that are precise, that are binding on all sides, so people don't have different interpretations. Point three, work out a coordination on the Gaza withdrawal so that it's done with the Palestinians. And, by the way, this is good for Israel too. It's not just a favor to Abu Mazen. I mean, Israel does not want the imagery of May 2000, of getting out of Lebanon in the middle of the night, where they're seen to be running away. And that will not be what Israel wants. Israel does not just want to take the keys and throw them over the fence and see who catches them, because the tallest guy on the other side of the fence could be a Hamas person. So coordination—and this is not me talking, it's Sharon talking—but he believes coordination is important. That's point three.
Point four, I think, [is to] work to ensure that when Israel gets out that people—there's an improvement in people's real lives, and that means helping the PA set up a dawa, a social welfare network against—in counterweight to Hamas. If it means, as the World Bank—I mean, this 100-page study they just did on Gaza, it's hard for me to summarize it in a couple sentences, but on the economics of it, which I think is crucial—crucial—I think there are things you could do that would facilitate trade on the economic side and on the—let's say [on] the political side there's the road map, like I said. On the economic side, I can go through a laundry list of things that could enable the Palestinians to facilitate trade without impairing Israeli security, and if you want to get into some details.
And on the security side, I think you can use for example—here's what they call the Philadelphi Road [on the Gaza-Egypt border]—it's not Philadelphia—there's a whole history appearing to the name "Philadelphi." And Israel has basically a conundrum, which is it wants to disengage, but it wants to control who goes in and who goes out. It's not because I think Israel is trying to be malevolent at all, but rather, there have been tunnels that Egypt has dug, that have been dug right around here. Part of it are clans that the Egyptians—on both sides of Rafah—there's a Palestinian Rafah and there's an Egyptian Rafah, and they've been building these tunnels underneath. So if they smuggle in Marlboros and drugs, they've also smuggled in rockets. And Israel's worried; if they're not going to control it, who's going to control it? Now, the Egyptians and the Israelis—who have—their military—Steven knows better than anyone—has had a very rough ride in terms of a bilateral relationship over 25 years, but now they're talking to each other, because the Egyptians, they say, "Wait a while—we didn't do any work, because we thought you, Israel, will do the dirty work for us. But if you're gone, then how do we know that this Islamic radicalism doesn't spill over the border into Egypt? We have a strategic interest that this fundamentalism does not spring over the border."
So I think here you've got an MFO—an MFO is in the Sinai—is a multinational force and observers. They've been sitting there for 25 years. It's funded by the United States a third, Israel a third, Egyptians a third—each one gives $17 million. And their job is to monitor the Sinai so the Egyptians don't, you know, bring tanks, like [the Arab-Israeli War] in 1973. Because that's what they [Egypt and Israel] were thinking about in [March] 1979 when they signed the treaty. Well, we're now in 2005, and people don't think Egypt is going to bring tanks. I don't say they, you know, you shouldn't keep whatever MFO you have, but I would divert some of them so that they can work with the Egyptians right here on the Egyptian side at first, to work—you have the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, you have the Egyptians, [who] have 750 border policemen—they just upgraded. You've got now—there will probably be some Egyptian intelligence people. The Egyptians know the local area better than anybody. But you would have the international community shining a spotlight and making sure that the tunnels are being plugged.
And what's beautiful about the MFO is the mechanism already exists. There's American leadership, but it's not American soldiers. Because we say, "Wait a while—we've got enough soldiers in Iraq—we don't need soldiers anywhere else." Well, first of all, we've had these soldiers in the Sinai—people just don't even know they exist. But the point here is you have 11 countries working under the United States leadership. The Israelis will be more relaxed, because there's an American leadership, the Palestinians will see it's a multinational force. And I think you can work with the Egyptians—not instead—alongside them, to work on this road. And frankly, if they're successful here they could maybe work here at the [Gaza International] airport, and they could work over here at a seaport that hasn't been built. The airport was created at the start of the intifada because Israel thought they were using it for weaponry. Israel is not going to trust the Palestinians, but if there was an MFO under the United States, but not necessarily American soldiers, you could say Lloyd's of London—during the Iraq-Jordan embargo in Aqaba in the late '80s, early '90s, they were running the seaport—but you'd have American—I mean, you'd have an MFO giving it an overall kind of protection. You wouldn't be having Americans, MFO, anybody really in the heart of Gaza, anywhere else, because you know it will create a lot of problems. Israel will say, "Oh, you're—Hamas is hiding behind—and you guys can't root out Hamas. Now we're stuck, because we're handcuffed and we can't do attacks if we're attacked." So I wouldn't get into all this NATO and trusteeship and all this, but I think if these three periphery points—this road, this airport, this seaport, if you could deal with this, you could help facilitate Palestinian transactions to open them up for trade. There are a lot of economic ideas which I'd like to talk about more, but I don't want to hog the time. But I would just say on the political, security, and economic front, there are some definite things that could be done, coupled with some of the earlier points I made.
COOK: Great. Why don't we open up to questions and answers. Please stand, identify yourself, and keep it to one question. Sir, right here in the second row.
QUESTIONER: My name is [inaudible]. You have hardly mentioned what Sharon has to do to help Abu Mazen. Sharon doesn't help the Palestinians undermine Hamas by showing them that—or make it clear that the people will get something out of this.
QUESTIONER: Their life is improved, the checkpoints and protestations and the destruction of homes—what about that?
MAKOVSKY: I agree. I'm glad you asked that, and I'm happy—what I said about the security coordination, I felt if you had that, Israel is going to be able to take down more check posts. I mean, they took down a lot, but there's more to be done. The Israelis just want to know if they take them down, are they not paying in the lives of dead Israelis. I think with revised security coordination, things that were unthinkable under Arafat's time could be done.
Also, the first phase of the road map calls for Israel to take down some of these illegal outposts in the West Bank that are unauthorized settlements. So when I say first phase of the road map, I think there's obligations on all sides, not just on the Palestinian side. I think that basically you know if you have understandings, if you have a cease-fire, then you won't have Israeli incursions into these cities. I mean, there will—a lot will slow, in my view, from security coordination. Now, people say, "Yeah, but what is Sharon's intention? Maybe he only wants to give up Gaza to keep the West Bank." And, you know, I think we—some of you may feel that way. And, you know, you may be right, but I—my view is that if Sharon, the architect of settlements, can shatter the taboo and be the one to take down these settlers, we've got 8,600 people now in Gaza, most of them here, some up there, and a couple here. But for the most part—and a couple here in the Netzarim, and a few other places—he, I think like Nixon going to China [in 1972]—if you begin the pathway, it might be widened by others, but he's got to—he owes it to history, and he's doing it also because of his own demographic self-interests—and I have slides to show you about where the demographics here are going to get this thing started. And I think that also we need to be a little—we should be so certain that we know that he wants to trade Gaza for the West Bank, because—look, people—I remember being on the "NewsHour" with Jim Lehrer with my partner, [Lebanese journalist] Hisham Melhem, and he says, "Well, Sharon is going to build a fence on all sides, he's going to encircle them, he'll keep 50 percent, and it will be a Bantustan [tribal-designated territories for black South Africans during apartheid] West Bank." But the fact is, he never built those eastern fences—I have a slide of that too, if you want to discuss it. But he never built that eastern fence to encircle the Palestinian. He built the fence along the lines of the Clinton plan, essentially. Now, he won't admit to it, because not just the name Clinton in the Bush administration has connotations, but that will have political implications for him. But basically, what people don't know, because they don't look at maps, is that the fence is there—is basically identical—if it's not identical, it's very close to Clinton. And so he didn't encircle them. And the letter he got from President Bush on April 14th —you know, people say, "Well, Sharon likes the Jordan Valley." No, he ended up asking for a letter on the settlement blocs, which are almost on top of the Green Line, which is pre-1967 border, which is where the Clinton plan is.
So I think we have to be careful, be overly deterministic, and saying we know if Sharon yields Gaza he's going to keep the West Bank. First of all, he—you know, he—no, I've been checking this out—no Israeli leader—people say Sharon has a 20-year plan. He's 76 years old. You know, we all hope that everyone lives to 120, but Israeli prime ministers don't always—aren't in power till 120. Until Sharon was re-elected and during the middle of the intifada, in my view because Arafat was his campaign chairman essentially [laughter] and got him re-elected, no Israeli prime minister was re-elected for 22 years. Two Jews, three opinions—you heard that? Well, that's the Israeli politics. No Israeli prime minister lasts.
So I think the critics somehow think, well, Sharon is somehow—he's got it all worked out, that he's going to trade one for the other. I don't think that's accurate. He's—the here and now is what counts. He's got to shatter the taboo. He's got to take down those first settlements. And it's had an impact on the whole Israeli body politic, if we can get into the domestic politics, too. But I think it's important that he takes those first steps. And he might surprise us, given the fact that he didn't do what the critics said. The same critics, by the way, did not predict he would get out of Gaza. And the critics thought he would build this encirclement fence that he didn't build, and I could go on.
So I think it's important, though, whatever we may think down the road, that he take those first steps, which he's doing, and I think he should take down the outposts, which he's obligated to do under the road map. He took down a couple of places I think last week, but you know, he should hold Israel to that as well.
And, finally, I would just say the revival of the security committee [inaudible] is the best hope lifting check posts, getting the cease-fire, doing a coordinated approach, improving the standard of living where you could get more economic assistance in there. I think that this is an agenda that is not beyond us, and I think we should see what's attainable, and I think there are things that are attainable.
COOK: All right, here in the front. Please wait for the microphone. Thanks.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. Doron Weber, the Sloan Foundation. In terms of Hezbollah and Iran, and I couldn't agree with you more about that problem. What do you think of the possibility of reviving talks, now that there's some peace agreement with Syria as a way of bringing Hezbollah to heel? And also just as follow up to what you just said about Jordan, how do you then explain that famous or infamous [Sharon adviser Dov] Weisglass's "peace process in formaldehyde" for those who—
MAKOVSKY: Right, I'll explain that to the uninitiated. The first part about Hezbollah and Syria, look, I'm—I personally believe—I've been to Syria five times—once with President Clinton on Air Force One, three times with [former Secretary of State] Warren Christopher, who went 26 times—so I guess it's not a big achievement—and once with [former Secretary of State] Madeleine Albright. And it's fascinating. I personally believe at this moment, though, the Palestinian issue is much more central and critical—also for the United States. It is an issue that does have resonance, or is used as an excuse by other Arab states. But for whatever the reason, I'm afraid that we don't have a replay of the [former Israeli Prime Minister] Ehud Barak situation of 1999-2000 [Israeli-Palestinian negotiations], where—you know, I know every Israeli prime minister likes the idea of working two tracks at once, and then he could maybe play two tracks off against each other and get a better deal, and tell each one the train is leaving the station. It sounds very clever, but it's too clever by half, because instead of having two deals you would have zero deals. Now, it's all Barak's fault—I don't want to convey that at all. I think the Syrians certainly—well, the Palestinians, if I get started on that I won't stop. But I think that there are other players that have a key responsibility.
My fear is, if you try to take on too much right now—right now Israel gets the Gaza part down—but when I say Gaza, I mean also four settlements in the Northern West Bank as well. My fear is, you do the two tracks [and] you're going to create a domestic political antagonism in Israel of people who agree on the West Bank but don't agree on the Golan Heights—and not because they like the wineries and things like that, but you will have—you will create a whole new—instead of two tracks, you have two domestic fronts. And I think you have to prioritize right now and say, "Get the Gaza part done—get that on track. We could always revisit the Syria issue later." But I think we should learn from that Barak experiment and say if we don't prioritize, instead of getting two we get zero. So I think the Syria thing—maybe he could find other ways of dialogue. I'm not saying—I don't want anyone to misinterpret and say ignore them, but you know when they go into negotiations they're going to want to [inaudible]. There might be other ways to have dialogues with them—maybe through the U.S., maybe the Europeans. I tend to believe they won't want to talk to the Israelis, unless they get the Golan issue resolved first. And I just think it will over-erode the political forecast at this moment in time. But it's not to mean never, and it's not to mean indefinite future. I just think the Palestinian issue, the demographic challenges—the Jews in Israel—for those of you who don't know—I mean, let's see if this works here—oops—oh, here it is, the demographic trends. OK, one more. There you go. [Refers to a slide that accompanied his presentation.]
If you look at the demography—when I refer to demography, I realize not everybody knows what I'm talking about. When Israel, here in 1985, its Jewish population was 3.5 percent. The Arab population here is not just West Bank/Gaza, but also includes Israeli Arabs who do have a vote in the Israeli system. Israel remains 80 percent of what you would say pre-1967 Israel. But in the '90s, even though Israel brought in a million immigrants from the former Soviet Union, the demographic gap closed. In the year 2010, it depends which demographer you ask—is there going to be exact parity, a rough parity?—but clearly the Jews, not in Israel alone, but Israel, West Bank, Gaza, are on their way to being a minority. Now, you have to always be careful about long-term extrapolations. I'm not even going to deal with that part, because a lot can happen in 50 years. But I think in the short term the strategy of the Arafat wing was, "Who needs a Palestinian state? We'll just wait it out—we'll say one-state solution, which is a euphemism for Greater Palestine, because the Jews are on their way to being a minority."
This is the big change in Israel. People want to know, how has Sharon changed—has he had a brain transplant? What happened over there? What happened is he realized these numbers. That's what changed. And the Likud people, like [Deputy Prime Minister] Ehud Olmert, and others [inaudible], and I could go on—they woke up to this. So that reinforces, I think for Israelis, especially now that the Syrians maybe don't have the Soviet backing the way they did in the '80s—
COOK: In the good old days.
MAKOVSKY:—in the good old days—I think this issue or the Palestinian issue is urgent. It's a top priority for Israel, and Israelis have woken up to the demographics. So I think that puts that more front and center than the Syrian [issue]. Now, your question about Dov Weisglass's formaldehyde—which is a very fair question—Weisglass, who is like Sharon's right-hand man and has been the point man with Condoleezza Rice, gave an interview, saying if we do this, you know, he was—you know, there will be like formaldehyde after, and I—meaning Israel won't be pushed to the second and third phases of the road map, or the third phase in particular I think he was saying. I tend to believe what happened there was he was not speaking on behalf of Sharon at all, that he was being attacked by people on the right who were standing outside his house demonstrating every day, saying, "You're a closet leftist who has taken over Israel; Sharon is an older man, he doesn't have the agility that he used to be—you're this—you know, this whipper-snapper lawyer, and you are dragging Sharon to be Shimon Peres. Let Sharon be Sharon. You're the man blocking it. And you did it—you had this with the Palestinians and a casino in Jericho in 1996, and this and that," and they've been out to smear him—demonstrate outside his house. I believe he was trying to re-establish—and I'm not trying to justify it, because I think the remarks are not justifiable, but I think—and I talked to 20 different people involved—and they said he was being massacred by people on the right, and he was trying to show that he was true to the Likud credo.
So I think it's irrelevant, because the world's attention—the world has a lot to deal with, not just this, even though for some of [inaudible] this is a major focus for us—but this isn't North Korea, the dark corner of the world. You know, this issue has got world attention, and I don't think there's any formaldehyde you could do with dealing with this part of the world. So—and what I think the pressure—if we look at where the pressure has been on Israel—people say, "You've got to pressure Israel." T he pressure on Israeli leaders, if you look at it, has always come from the Israeli people. In other words, when there was no terror in 1992, they voted for Yitzhak Rabin. When there was no terror in 1999, they voted for Ehud Barak. You could agree with them or disagree with them. But it was the people who pushed their leaders when they say, "Hey, there's a chance now—we're sick of this more than—no less than people in New York and London and Paris. We want this conflict over, too." It's the people that push. But when bombs are going off everywhere, it's the people that hold their leaders back. So I think the Israelis know how to calculate opportunities, and I think they see an opportunity now. And if Sharon doesn't win this—step up to the plate, they'll get somebody else. And I think though Sharon realizes a lot is at stake, and he's trying to move at this time.
COOK: We're coming up on about six minutes left, so I want to take three questions at once and let David respond to them. Sir, over here, right back in the middle, and this gentleman on the left.
QUESTIONER: [Inaudible] Quickly, what happens if you go down this path that you've described, and something truly awful happens—you get a freelance suicide bomb, you get armed violent conflict between Israeli soldiers and settlers who won't go?
COOK: The next question.
QUESTIONER: Andrew Tisch. What do you see as the role for [jailed Fatah leader] Marwan Barghouti in all this?
QUESTIONER: Malcolm Wiener. You referred a couple of times to the disorderly withdrawal from Lebanon, with Hezbollah firing rifles in the air. When that happened, I said, "My God, this is going to have a terrible effect on the psychology of Arafat and others—Hamas is going to be saying to them, 'See, all you have to do is hold out.'" And in fact, Arafat at one point commented that he needed three more weeks. On the other hand, friends in Israel tell me that the big ears in the sky did not pick up any of this sort of chatter in the Arab thought camp. I just wonder how you read the significance of that event.
MAKOVSKY: Of—how do I read the significance of?
QUESTIONER: The significance upon Arafat's decision-making and the pressures he was under of what seemed to be a triumphal defeat of Israeli forces in Lebanon and the fact that images went around the Arab world repeatedly on television for 20 days of the Israelis retreating in the night, as you said.
COOK: One thing—can you take four?
VOICE: One on the end right here.
QUESTIONER: Herbert Levin. Does the pulling out of settlers get harder or get easier? In other words, you start in Gaza, then you move up to the West Bank. Do the settlers and their supporters see this as inevitable, and the pressure goes down, or does the pressure go up and up and further to stop it?
COOK: OK. Full plate.
MAKOVSKY: First question about what happens if there's freelance attacks, and there's more violence and violence with the settlers—and that also feeds in with Mr. Levin's question as well. I—look, if you have what I would call 100 percent effort, the Israelis, when they were in control, they haven't always had 100 percent results. But they know effort when they see it. And having my office right next door to [former Mideast envoy] Dennis Ross, I can tell you that—you know, he'll tell you too, "You know the effort when you see it." I think if the coordination is genuine, and there's a real exchange of information, and you get this trilateral mechanism going, as I was referring to before, and they miss one or two, you know, I think people will understand if they're successful getting 20 others. If there's zero percent effort, which we saw during the Arafat years, certainly the last four years, then you know any—then, yes, these people can overturn the apple cart. I guess it comes down to this: if you have coordination, you don't let rejectionists have a veto on a process, because nothing is 100 percent proof. But the proof will be if the cooperation is genuine. If it's farcical, the Israelis—you know, it won't work.
Now, the role of the settlers here—we haven't had a chance really to get into this, but I'll try to go to one of the—all right, we don't really have a lot of time, but you've got basically about 175,000 of the settlers, which is over 76 percent live in this area under [the] Bill Clinton [plan], which was going to be considered Israeli. The problem is that you have the most ideological settlers living in areas—Ofra, Beit El, and Kiryat Arba—that they knew, no matter how you gerrymander the map, they're outside the fence. And that's why the biggest opponents of the fence were on the right in Israel. The fence was the project of the liberals in Israel. They viewed the fence as Israel's ticket out of the West Bank, not as Israel's ticket to remain in the West Bank. They did—when there's no trust, the sense is the only way to facilitate a two-state solution. Now, you could say, "Yeah, but even if it's a small amount," you know. Well then under Clinton you had offsets, what we call swap zones—we don't have time for all the technical issues, but you have to find swap areas for wherever you read an equilibrium, whatever Israel retains, that they will be offset.
But the point here is—is that these ideological settlers, they know they're outside the fence, and they want to—to get to Mr. Levin's point—they want to, I feel, make a stand in Gaza, because they say, "Hey, this is coming to a theater near you, which is, if we don't make a stand over here, they're coming for us. We know the writing is on the fence or on the wall," according to some people. [Laughter] So in their minds, there's 54,000 of these people. That's the biggest problem, are these 54,000. You could do offsets in this area—it might not look too pretty, and there might be other ways here to deal with it. But for the most part, you could do offsets with these [with] what they call swap zones. But with these, people they feel they're fighting for their house in Gaza, because it's coming to them next. They want to make this withdrawal from Gaza the most painful thing Israel has experienced, but not in a way that's a shooting war, because first of all, they genuinely—the mainstream leadership doesn't believe in killing fellow Israelis. And they also know politically if they do it they're cooked—politically they've lost Israel, if they start shooting the army, which is sacrosanct, which is a citizen's army.
So—but [what] they want to do is disobedience, lie on the streets, make a lot of noise, because they think they're coming for them next, and they're right. They are coming for them next. And these people are the most ideological here and here, because to live in these areas, see, all the people here made mental maps in their head when they moved, and they said, "Oh, this will end up being Israeli through these swaps." People carry around like a mental map in their head—this sounds odd to many of you, but many of them do that. These people said, "No matter how you gerrymander, we're outside." So they're going to try to make a stand in Gaza, because they feel they're next. OK?
That's to try to answer that question—and that's going to be gut-wrenching for Israel—that [cfr.org Consulting Editor] Bernie Gwertzman, who used it in the CFR [website], and I said this will be one of the most gut-wrenching decisions. Remember we talked about it, Bernie, here, one of the most gut-wrenching decisions for Israel since 1948? This is going to be a Jew-versus-Jew problem in 2005, and it gets back to [inaudible] point about Sharon, is that he's got polar challenges. On one hand he knows he wants to help Abu Mazen against his rejectionists, but at the same time he's under assault from the right. The head of the [Israel's internal general security service] Shin Bet is saying there's 200 Israelis walking around that want to assassinate the prime minister that, you know, and [Jewish student] Yigal Amir [who assassinated Prime Minister Rabin] was on no one's radar screen—he wasn't part of any organization. He was a lone gunman in that regard. So, you know, this for Sharon, I think, is pretty frightening. And this is just Gaza—we haven't even gotten to the next part of it