Moshe Maoz, professor emeritus of the Islamic and Middle Eastern studies department at Hebrew University, was here earlier this month for a panel discussion with the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens about Israel, Iran and Syria. A former director of the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, Maoz is an expert on Arab and Middle East affairs. He spoke to The Jewish Week about prospects for peace.
Q: There are some who argue that peace with the Palestinians is not in the offing and that the best one can do is to manage the situation. Do you agree?
A: This is no time for keeping the status quo. It’s dangerous to do that in the Middle East — there could be another intifada. How long can you keep the Palestinians under occupation and claim sovereignty over east Jerusalem? Without a settlement, there will be no peace with the Palestinians, the Arabs and Muslims. … And the fabric of our society is affected by the occupation and brutalization [of the Palestinians].
If there is no two-state solution, there would be a binational state that has not worked anywhere, as well as requests for Israel to extend equal rights to all Palestinians. I don’t know of any Israelis who would do that, and so we would end up with an apartheid state that the world would not tolerate.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted that Jerusalem should not be included in the 90-day settlement- building freeze, saying Jerusalem would always remain Israel’s undivided capital. Can a Palestinian state be created without east Jerusalem as its capital?
I don’t see any Palestinian Authority government or leader that would accept a deal with Israel without Jerusalem and an arrangement regarding the status of the Jerusalem’s holy places. … If Israel settles those issues with the Palestinians, Arab and Muslims states would then recognize Israel.
What would you recommend?
The Arab Peace Plan, which the Arab League has reconfirmed every year since it was proposed in 2002. Muslim countries also support it. If adopted, Israel would have peace and security and a normalization of relations [with its neighbors] in return for a Palestinian state along the 1967 lines with east Jerusalem as its capital. The refugee issue would also be resolved. In [earlier] negotiations, the Palestinians spoke of permitting 150,000 Palestinians into Israel over 10 years.
Netanyahu has accepted the principle of a two-state solution.
But a Palestinian state means different things to different people. Netanyahu wants east Jerusalem as a part of Israel forever, and that is not going to work. … I think he needs to renew the freeze on settlement-building for another two months so that negotiations on the Israel-Palestinian border can occur. That is the easiest negotiation. It would be based on the 1967 border and land swaps. There are some Israelis who don’t support it, and there is a fear in Israel that it could cause a civil war.
Do you believe a different government in Israel is needed to make peace?
Only a right-wing government can do it. Bibi [Netanyahu] can do it if he wants to; I can’t tell what he is going to do. But I’m inclined to believe that American inducement is very important.
You believe peace with Syria is possible if Israel would only give back the Golan Heights. But the Israeli public is against that.
Before Israel gave back the Sinai, 80 percent of Israelis were against it. But [then-Prime Minister Menachem] Begin did it and then 80 percent were for him. The Israeli military-security establishment advocates giving back the Golan Heights provided Syria stop arming Hezbollah and cool its relations with Iran. And [Syrian President Bashir] Assad would agree to demilitarize the Golan Heights. [Israel announced last week that it would withdraw from the town of Ghajar on the Lebanese border.]
Would Syria really stop arming Hezbollah and cool relations with Iran?
Syria does not want Lebanon turning into a radical Shia state, because Syria is majority Sunni and secular … and it could threaten Syria. Syria has a military alliance with Iran, and I can’t see it cutting relations with Iran. But it could change its military treaty with Iran to delete the paragraph that calls for a mutual defense pact in the event of a war with Israel. And once Israel settles the Palestinian issue, Iran will not have that pretext to hate Israel.