Daoud Kuttab writes: Of all the Israelis who spoke out against the burning of the Dawabsheh family in the village of Duma near Nablus, the voice of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin seemed the most sincere.
Speaking at a rally in Jerusalem on Aug. 1, the Israeli president rejected the idea that this was an isolated case with no context to it. “Every society has extremist fringes, but today we have to ask: What is it in the public atmosphere that allows extremism and extremists to walk in confidence, in broad daylight?” he asked. American writer Peter Beinart later wrote in the Israeli daily Haaretz on Aug. 5 that Rivlin accepted moral responsibility while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “denied and lied about incitement including his own.” This was the clearest accusation against Netanyahu of responsibility for what happened.
But beyond Rivlin’s humanistic exterior is a senior Israeli official who is an ardent supporter of the total annexation of the West Bank to Israel. Rivlin’s actions don’t hide the fact that he, like many in his and Netanyahu’s Likud Party, has a much more radical plan for solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. [Continue reading…]
Click on image above to see complete infographic (and click on that to expand) showing findings from the latest Brookings survey on American public attitudes toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Download the full report.
Dimi Reider writes: [O]ver 8 percent of Israel’s Jewish population already lives beyond the Green Line, the armistice line separating Israel from the territories it occupied in 1967. Those who do not live there have family, friends and relatives who do.
As a result, the view of settlements as a crazed project by religious fanatics dragging with them reluctant Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is increasingly out of date. Key posts in the IDF and in other branches of government are occupied by settlers, and the settlements themselves appear ever more normal to the Israeli eye.
The Israeli real estate bubble, which has fueled a rising gap between prices within the Green Line are those outside it, makes the dismantling and evacuating of settlements seem all the more unlikely.
So how will the settlements affect the direction the peace process takes?
The reality is that the settlements — Israeli-only communities, often wedged deep in Palestinian territory – make the chances of a genuinely independent Palestinian state in the foreseeable future virtually non-existent.
This does not mean that peace, along with Palestinian political rights, is necessarily ruled out. There remains the possibility of one-state solution. [Continue reading…]
Reuven Rivlin was elected in the Knesset today as Israel’s 10th president, replacing outgoing President Shimon Peres.
On Sunday, Dimi Reider wrote:
As speaker, Rivlin’s commitment to parliamentary democracy (and democracy in general) saw him turn time and again against his own party and its allies, stalling most of the anti-democratic legislation pushed by Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and Liberman’s Israel Beitenu, while at the same time trying to instruct his fellow right-wing legislators about the dangers of nationalist populism.
As a staunch right-winger, Rivlin is opposed to partition but is emphatically opposed to racism, coupling his opposition to a Palestinian state with support for offering Israeli citizenship to all Palestinians. While this is a stance being taken up by a number of right-wing politicians in recent years, Rivlin, as a democrat, goes one step further. When I interviewed him for Foreign Policy four years ago, for instance, he spoke nostalgically of a rotation-based executive espoused by Revisionist Zionists like Ze’ev Jabotinsky – and held up by Belfast as one possible inspiration for a future of power-sharing. It’s a far cry from nationalist self-determination, or from the one state advocated by Palestinians and the pro-Palestinian Left. But it still offers infinitely more room for maneuver than anything ever plausibly offered or actually given to Palestinians by the centrist two-state Left.
Rivlin is certainly no left-winger – he hasn’t opposed any Israeli military operation and as communication minister in Sharon’s first cabinet, he presided over a major privatization drive. Still, Rivlin’s tenure as Knesset speaker earned him praise in liberal circles (including the soubriquet of “a bulwark” for democracy from The Economist), and the lasting ire of both Netanyahu and Liberman. Netanyahu, in a lamentable display of panic amplified by a petty squabble with Rivlin over some comments the latter made about Netanyahu’s wife, tried preventing Rivlin’s candidacy by canceling the presidential post at a few week’s notice, and trying to recruit American author Eli Weisel (who is not even an Israeli citizen) to stand in Rivlin’s place. Only when Weisel refused did the prime minister yield and offered Rivlin his sour-faced support. Even if Netanyahu is getting behind Rivlin only so he can eventually stab him in the back (to borrow a Yes, Prime Minister line), he apparently failed to warn Liberman of this decision, prompting the latter to denounce and renounce Rivlin and to hint he himself might support Dalia Itzik.
Gershon Baskin writes: John Kerry said the “A word” and was then forced to apologize.
I don’t have to apologize.
I repeat Kerry’s exact words and believe in every single one of them: “A unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens – or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state.”
If the two-state solution is dead, as it seems it might be, Israel will become a unitary state with two populations, one with privileges and political rights and the other living in Bantustans, surrounded, isolated from each other, with no real control over their lives, denied their political rights. If Israel does not end its occupation over the Palestinian people, sooner, not later, Israel will become a new form of apartheid.
No, not apartheid like South Africa was, but a new type of political discrimination, forced separation, with separate legal systems, separate roads and more. One society will be the masters and the other the servants. To a large extent this already describes the reality. We already have a unitary state reality, and it has existed for 46 years. With no real hope for political change that will bring about the end of the Israeli occupation over the Palestinian people, this can no longer be thought of as a temporary situation over disputed territories. With annexation or without it, Israel is and has been in full control over the territories for the past 46 years. [Continue reading…]
Gershom Gorenberg writes: On Monday morning, “Apartheid” was the first word in the headline of the editorial at the top of page 2 in Israel’s Ha’aretz daily. The newspaper’s editorial page is an old-fashioned grey mass of type, the print equivalent of the low monotonous growl of an aging foreign policy commentator on public radio. But Ha’aretz wasn’t growling about U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s leaked warning, published late Sunday night, that unless Israel reaches a two-state agreement, it risks becoming “an apartheid state.”
Rather, the editorial was about the planning bodies that allow Israeli settlement construction and block Palestinian building in Area C, the part of the West Bank where Israel rather than the Palestinian Authority runs day-to-day affairs. The paper urged Israel’s Supreme Court to rule against the discrimination.
From this we learn two things: First, intentionally or not, whoever leaked Kerry’s comments to a meeting of the Trilateral Commission on Friday did so with timing that guaranteed a muted coverage in Israel. Saturday night on the American East Coast was Sunday morning in Israel. The day’s ink-on-paper newspapers were already printed and lying on doorsteps. And since Monday was Israel’s’ memorial day for the Holocaust, the up-to-the-second media, online and on the air, were devoted entirely to painful memories and the political uses or misuses of them. On talk radio, talk about Kerry would have to wait.
The second lesson is that “apartheid” is a strong but not shocking word within Israel’s own political conversation. [Continue reading…]
Kerry clarifies when, where, and how the words ‘Israel’ and ‘apartheid’ can be used in the same sentence
In a statement issued by the State Department, Secretary of State John Kerry said: “I do not believe, nor have I ever stated, publicly or privately, that Israel is an apartheid state or that it intends to become one.” [Emphasis mine.]
In a closed-door meeting on Friday, Kerry had said:
“A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative. Because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second class citizens—or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state.”
Kerry has now offered clarification to that statement by saying:
“I have been around long enough to also know the power of words to create a misimpression, even when unintentional, and if I could rewind the tape, I would have chosen a different word to describe my firm belief that the only way in the long term to have a Jewish state and two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two state solution. In the long term, a unitary, binational state cannot be the democratic Jewish state that Israel deserves or the prosperous state with full rights that the Palestinian people deserve. That’s what I said, and it’s also what Prime Minister Netanyahu has said. While Justice Minister Livni, former Prime Ministers Barak and Ohlmert have all invoked the specter of apartheid to underscore the dangers of a unitary state for the future, it is a word best left out of the debate here at home.”
In other words, in order to avoid startling and disappointing the likes of Abe Foxman, ‘apartheid’ is a word best reserved for conversations with Israelis.
John Kerry echoes former Israeli prime ministers Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak. The Daily Beast reports: If there’s no two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict soon, Israel risks becoming “an apartheid state,” Secretary of State John Kerry told a room of influential world leaders in a closed-door meeting Friday.
Senior American officials have rarely, if ever, used the term “apartheid” in reference to Israel, and President Obama has previously rejected the idea that the word should apply to Jewish State. Kerry’s use of the loaded term is already rankling Jewish leaders in America—and it could attract unwanted attention in Israel, as well.
It wasn’t the only controversial comment on the Middle East that Kerry made during his remarks to the Trilateral Commission, a recording of which was obtained by The Daily Beast. Kerry also repeated his warning that a failure of Middle East peace talks could lead to a resumption of Palestinian violence against Israeli citizens. He suggested that a change in either the Israeli or Palestinian leadership could make achieving a peace deal more feasible. He lashed out against Israeli settlement-building. And Kerry said that both Israeli and Palestinian leaders share the blame for the current impasse in the talks.
Kerry also said that at some point, he might unveil his own peace deal and tell both sides to “take it or leave it.”
“A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative. Because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second class citizens—or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state,” Kerry told the group of senior officials and experts from the U.S., Western Europe, Russia, and Japan. “Once you put that frame in your mind, that reality, which is the bottom line, you understand how imperative it is to get to the two state solution, which both leaders, even yesterday, said they remain deeply committed to.” [Continue reading…]
Ali Abunimah writes: Let’s go back to basics: The Palestinian people live under occupation and siege in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, as second-class citizens in present-day Israel, and as refugees, as a consequence of the Zionist colonization of historic Palestine that began more than a century ago and continues today.
Efforts to “solve” the situation by creating separate, ethnically homogenous states for the colonizing society, on the one hand, and for the victims of the colonization, on the other — along the lines of apartheid South Africa’s Bantustan system — have failed.
The remaining route to a just peace would be a historic agreement to dismantle this colonial reality; it would transform Israeli Jews from a settler-colonial garrison society, and Palestinians from a subjugated people, into citizens of a common state committed to protecting the rights of all. Painstaking work would be needed to reverse the gross inequalities that are the consequence of the purposeful dispossession of the Palestinians. [Continue reading…]
Shibley Telhami writes: A public opinion survey I commissioned, which was conducted by the polling firm GfK, found that U.S. popular support for a two-state solution is surprisingly tepid. What’s more, if the option is taken off the table, Americans support the creation of a single democratic state — in what is now Israel and the Palestinian territories — in which Jews and Arabs are granted equal rights. The GfK survey consisted of 1,000 interviews conducted through an Internet panel and was weighted to ensure that the results were consistent with several demographic variables, such as age, education, and income.
The Obama administration’s focus on mediating an end to the conflict has been predicated on two assumptions — that a two-state solution is in the national security interest of the United States, and that the current diplomatic efforts may be the last chance to achieve it. Americans themselves, however, are more lukewarm on the possibility of Israeli and Palestinian states living side by side: fewer than four in 10 survey respondents preferred a two-state solution. [Continue reading…]
Gideon Levy writes: Jews and Arabs have lived together in one state since 1948; Israelis and Palestinians have lived together in one state since 1967. This country is Jewish and Zionist, but not democratic for everyone. Its Arab citizens are deprived, while the Palestinians in the territories are disinherited and lacking rights. Yet the one state solution is here – and has been for quite a long time.
It has been a solution for its Jewish citizens and a disaster for its Palestinian subjects. The ones who are frightened by it – nearly all Israelis – ignore the reality that the one state arrangement already exists. They only are terrified by a change in its character – from a state of apartheid and occupation to an egalitarian state; from a binational state in practice that is disguised as a nation state (of the ruler), to a binational state in principle. Either way, Jews and Palestinians have lived in this one state for at least two generations, albeit apart. It’s impossible to ignore.
Relations between the two peoples in this one country have known changes: from a military regime over the Arab-Israelis until its abolishment (in 1966), from a calmer and freer period in the territories through stormy periods of murderous terror and violent occupation. In Jerusalem, Acre, Jaffa, Ramle, Lod, the Galillee and Wadi Ara live Arabs and Jews, and the relations between them are not impossible.
Relations with the Palestinians in the territories have also changed – but over the years we lived in one country, even if by the sword. [Continue reading…]
Joseph Dana writes: As the Second World War reached its height in the early 1940s, the largest Zionist paramilitary group in Palestine, known simply as the Irgun (the Organisation), sent a young emissary to the United States. His assignment was to raise money to save the Jews of Europe but the task quickly transformed into raising funds and diplomatic cover for the Irgun’s campaign of terror against the British in Palestine.
While in Washington, Hillel Kook, the Irgun’s emissary and the nephew of the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel, Avraham Kook, changed his name to Peter Bergson. By most accounts, Bergson was successful at his task but during the operation in the United States his ideology transformed from traditional proto-Likud thinking into something more akin to the debate about a one-state solution in contemporary Israel/Palestine.
Peter Bergson was one of the first to argue for a “Hebrew” republic that would grant full rights to Jew and non-Jew alike. His essential argument was that the people of the land of Israel had an equal stake in the reformation of an ancient Hebrew republic while those outside could elect to join but should not apply external influence.
In the short term, both Palestinian and Jew had a shared interest in fighting together against the British mandate and, for Bergson, this partnership could materialise into something deeper after the goal of independence was achieved. He wanted a democratic Israel, which didn’t use Jewish ethnicity as a pretext for rights and was thus a state of all of its citizens. As history would have it, Bergson’s concept of a Hebrew republic never materialised.
While in Washington, Bergson distributed a number of pamphlets outlining his radical new approach to the conflict in the Middle East including a slim volume titled Manifesto of the Hebrew Nation which announced, in no uncertain terms, that “the Jews in the United States do not belong to the Hebrew nation. These Jews are Americans of Hebrew descent”. [Continue reading…]
Saree Makdisi writes: Israel did not wait long to reveal its first response to the United Nations General Assembly’s overwhelming recognition of Palestine as a non-member state, almost immediately announcing its intention to push forward with plans to build housing for Jewish settlers in E1, an area of the West Bank just to the east of Jerusalem.
Although it is sometimes misleadingly referred to as “disputed” or “controversial,” settlement construction in E1 is no more and no less of a contravention of international law than settlement construction elsewhere in the West Bank or East Jerusalem. What makes this development significant is E1’s location, sealing tight the gap between East Jerusalem and Israel’s largest settlement, Maale Adumim, further to the east.
That gap is the last remaining link for Palestinians between the northern and southern parts of the West Bank; it also occupies the interface among and between the Palestinian communities of Ramallah, Bethlehem and East Jerusalem — which, apart from being the cultural, religious, social and economic focal point of Palestinian life, is also one day supposed to be the capital of Palestine.
In moving forward with long-threatened plans to develop E1, Israel will be breaking the back of the West Bank and isolating the capital of the prospective Palestinian state from its hinterland. In so doing, it will be terminating once and for all the very prospect of that state — and with it, by definition, any lingering possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. [Continue reading…]
Ghada Karmi writes: It is one year this week since the Palestinians applied for UN membership. President Mahmoud Abbas’s impassioned plea to the UN’s General Assembly for support of the We Palestinian case on 23 September 2011 won him much praise, even from his detractors. But it came to nothing, and no further Palestinian application for UN membership was made. Now, however, the statehood issue is back on the Palestinian agenda.
Abbas has recently threatened to relaunch the UN application if Israeli settlement expansion continues. This time he would seek UN non-member observer state status, but has yet to decide to consult with Arab and other states, and it may come to nothing again. Only a bankruptcy of ideas could be driving him towards this move, given the present situation of US acquiescence to regional Israeli hegemony, and Israel’s stunning success in diverting world attention from the conflict on its doorstep to Iran’s nonexistent nuclear weapons.
The president also faces serious trouble at home. The Palestinian economy, dependent on aid, is staggering under a chronic budget deficit and external debt of a billion dollars, nearly a fifth of GDP. Donor funding has declined from $1 billion to $750 million, and the Palestinian Authority has delayed paying 153,000 employees, prompting protests. Mass strikes and demonstrations have rocked the West Bank for days.
The protesters want an amendment of the 1994 Paris protocol, a key part of the Oslo accords that govern economic relations between Israel and the PA. Its main effect has been to keep the Palestinian economy dependent on Israel. It pegs Palestinian tax rates to Israel’s much higher ones, lays open Palestinians markets to Israel, though the reverse is not true, and through various restrictions, forces the Palestinian to trade only with Israel. The resulting poverty and 40% youth unemployment have pushed people on to the streets, and they now demand the resignation of the Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, and of the PA itself. Now Abbas has proposed cancelling the whole Oslo accords, including the economic and security agreements. However, no decision was reached, and whether it’s another empty threat remains to be seen. [Continue reading…]