Will Israel’s new president, Reuven Rivlin, promote democracy?

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.

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Israel can never justify the denial of Palestinian freedom

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...]

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Kerry’s ‘apartheid’ gambit a bigger deal in U.S. than in Israel

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...]

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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.

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Kerry warns Israel could become ‘an apartheid state’

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...]

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Only a single-state solution will bring peace

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...]

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How long before Palestinian nationalism gives way to the pursuit of equal rights inside a single state?

A Palestinian nationalist movement that has endured decades of failure is probably not about to expire. Indeed, the one thing that can be reliably inferred about the lesson of continuing failure is that failure, far from necessitating change, seems to inspire persistence.

If we have failed for this long, that’s no reason to give up now, since last year, the year before that, and the year before that, and on and on, dedication to this heroic fight has meant the willingness to enjoy no rewards.

Some might call that resistance; others might see it as an exercise in futility.

It’s perhaps worth remembering Thomas Kuhn’s succinct analysis (reiterating Max Planck) of the most common cause of a paradigm shift: the proponents of the old paradigm drop dead.

[A] new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

The New York Times reports: When President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority visited the White House this week, he again heard dire warnings that the current moment could be the last chance for a two-state solution through negotiations with Israel.

Back home in Ramallah, Mr. Abbas’s own son has been telling him that last chance is already long gone, the negotiations futile. The son, Tareq Abbas, a businessman who has long shied away from politics and spotlights, is part of a swelling cadre of prominent Palestinians advocating instead the creation of a single state stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea in which Jews and Arabs would all be citizens with equal rights.

“If you don’t want to give me independence, at least give me civil rights,” Mr. Abbas, 48, said in a rare interview at his well-appointed apartment here as his father headed to Washington. “That’s an easier way, peaceful way. I don’t want to throw anything, I don’t want to hate anybody, I don’t want to shoot anybody. I want to be under the law.”

President Abbas, in a separate interview last month, said Israel’s continued construction in West Bank settlements made it impossible to convince Tareq that the two-state solution was still viable.

“I said, ‘Look, my son, we are looking for two-state solution and this is the only one.’ He said, ‘Oh, my father, where is your state? I wander everywhere and I see blocks everywhere, I see houses everywhere,’ ” the elder Mr. Abbas, 78, recalled. “I say, ‘Please, my son, this is our position, we will not go for one state.’ He says, ‘This is your right to say this, and this is my right to say that.’ Because he is desperate. He doesn’t find any sign for the future that we will get a two-state solution, because on the ground he doesn’t see any different.”

Such intergenerational arguments have become commonplace in the salons of Palestinian civil society and at kitchen tables across the West Bank as the children and grandchildren of the founders of the Palestinian national movement increasingly question its goals and tactics. [Continue reading...]

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New poll shows if the two-state solution fails, U.S. public favors democracy over Jewishness

n13-iconShibley 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...]

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Why are Israelis afraid of an egalitarian state?

o13-iconGideon 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...]

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Israel’s struggle to define itself

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...]

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If not two states, then one

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...]

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Palestinians need a one-state solution

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...]

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No alternative to a one-state solution

Avraham Burg, former Speaker of the Knessett, argues that it is time for what remains of an Israeli left to abandon the idea of a two-state solution.

Until now, we the seekers of peace, wandered through the world, spreading the hope that there would soon be solutions, while they were busy creating disheartening facts on the ground. With time, our rhetoric was victorious (Netanyahu said “two states” ), but it died. Their acts won the day and are already killing all of us.

So enough of the illusions. There are no longer two states between the Jordan River and the sea. Let the right-wing MKs, the Katzes and the Elkins, travel around the world and show the beauty of their faces without the deceptive layer of makeup we provided.

Meanwhile we must consider how we can enter into the new Israeli discourse. It has intriguing potential. The next diplomatic formula that will replace the “two states for two peoples” will be a civilian formula. All the people between the Jordan and the sea have the same right to equality, justice and freedom. In other words, there is a very reasonable chance that there will be only one state between the Jordan and the sea – neither ours nor theirs but a mutual one. It is likely to be a country with nationalist, racist and religious discrimination and one that is patently not democratic, like the one that exists today. But it could be something entirely different. An entity with a common basis for at least three players: an ideological right that is prepared to examine its feasibility; a left, part of which is starting to free itself of the illusions of “Jewish and democratic”; and a not inconsiderable part of the Palestinian intelligentsia.

The conceptual framework will be agreed upon – a democratic state that belongs to all of its citizens. The practicable substance could be fertile ground for arguments and creativity. This is an opportunity worth taking, despite our grand experience of missing every opportunity and accusing everyone else except ourselves.

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One-state or two-state solution?

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Tony Judt: Israel is a country fast losing touch with reality

On July 6, 2010, a month before Tony Judt died and shortly after Israel’s deadly attack on the Mavi Marmara, he was interviewed by Merav Michaeli, a columnist for Ha’aretz.

Merav Michaeli: How do you see Israel’s actions in the Flotilla affair?

Tony Judt: The characterization that comes to mind is “autistic.” Israel behaved in a way that suggests it is no longer fully able to estimate, assess or understand the way other people think about it. Even if you supported the blockade (I don’t) this would be an almost exemplary case of shooting oneself in a painful part of the anatomy.

Firstly because it alienates Turkey, who Israel needs in the longer run. Secondly because it was undertaken in international waters and largely at the expense of civilian victims. Thirdly because it was an overreaction. Fourthly because it had the predictable effect of weakening the case for a blockade rather than strengthening it.

In short, this is the action of a country which is fast losing touch with reality.

Michaeli: The raid on the flotilla was far from being the worst of Israel’s behavior over 40 years of occupation, yet the international response to it was the most grievous. Why do you think that is?

Judt: I agree. But what happens in small West Bank towns, in the Israeli Parliament, in Gazan schools or in Lebanese farms is invisible to the world. And Israel was always very good at presenting the argument from “self-defense” even when it was absurd. I think that Israel’s successful defiance of international law for so long has made Jerusalem blind and deaf to the seriousness with which the rest of the world takes the matter.

Finally there is the question of cumulation. From the Six Day War to Lebanon, from Lebanon to the settlements, from the settlements to Gaza, Israel’s credibility has steadily fallen – even as the world’s distance from Auschwitz (the favorite excuse) has lengthened. So Israel is far more vulnerable today than it would have been twenty five years ago.

Michaeli: What do you tell those who say Israel has willingly withdrawn from Gaza and everything that has happened since proves the Israeli claim that there’s no partner for an agreement?

Judt: I tell them that they are talking nonsense, or else prevaricating. Israel withdrew from Gaza but has put it under a punishment regime comparable to nothing else in the world. That is not withdrawal. And of course we all know that there are those who would like to give Palestinians “independence” but exclude Gaza from the privilege. That too was part of the purpose of the withdrawal.

There is a partner. It may not be very nice and it may not be very easy. It’s called Hamas. In the same way the provisional [Irish Republican Army] was the only realistic “partner for peace” with whom London could negotiate; Nelson Mandela (a “terrorist” for the Afrikaaners until his release) was the only realistic “partner for peace”; the same was true of “that terrorist” ([according to Winston] Churchill) Gandhi; the well-known “murderous terrorist” Jomo Kenyatta with whom London fought a murderous war for five years before he became “a great statesman”; not to mention Algeria. The irony is that Washington knows this perfectly well and expects negotiations with Hamas within five years. After all, Israel virtually invented Hamas in the hope of undermining the PLO; well, they succeeded. But they are the only ones who can’t see what has to happen.

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At the UN, the funeral of the two-state solution

Ilan Pappe writes:

We are all going to be invited to the funeral of the two-state solution if and when the UN General Assembly announces the acceptance of Palestine as a member state.

The support of the vast majority of the organization’s members would complete a cycle that began in 1967 and which granted the ill-advised two-state solution the backing of every powerful and less powerful actor on the international and regional stages.

Even inside Israel, the support engulfed eventually the right as well as the left and center of Zionist politics. And yet despite the previous and future support, everybody inside and outside Palestine seems to concede that the occupation will continue and that even in the best of all scenarios, there will be a greater and racist Israel next to a fragmented and useless bantustan.

The charade will end in September or October — when the Palestinian Authority plans to submit its request for UN membership as a full member — in one of two ways.

It could be either painful and violent, if Israel continues to enjoy international immunity and is allowed to finalize by sheer brutal force its mapping of post-Oslo Palestine. Or it could end in a revolutionary and much more peaceful way with the gradual replacement of the old fabrications with solid new truths about peace and reconciliation for Palestine. Or perhaps the first scenario is an unfortunate precondition for the second. Time will tell.

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Time to ditch the Oslo Accords

Akiva Eldar writes:

In October 1991 he came with U.S. President George H.W. Bush to the Madrid Conference, which squandered the fruits of the Gulf War victory. In September 1993 he celebrated, with U.S. President Bill Clinton, the birth of the battered Oslo Accords. In early 1997 he managed to get Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to sign the Hebron Accord, which left tens of thousands of Palestinians to the mercy of the students of Rabbi Dov Lior of Kiryat Arba. In late 1998 he was among those who gave birth to the Wye River Memorandum, which died in infancy. In 2000 he was a senior partner to the reverberating failure of American diplomacy in Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. And here he is again, this time as U.S. President Barack Obama’s special envoy responsible for prolonging the death throes of the terminally ill patient known as the peace process.

Before Dennis Ross’ comeback, our acquaintance managed to write a new book (together with David Makovsky ) called “Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East.”

It would be tough to find a bigger expert than Ross on the myths and illusions related to peace between Israel and the Palestinians. For years he has been nurturing the myth that if the United States would only meet his exact specifications, the Israeli right would offer the Arabs extensive concessions.

During the years he headed the American peace team, Israeli settlement construction ramped up. Now Ross, the former chairman of the Jewish People Policy Institute, is trying to convince the Palestinians to give up on bringing Palestinian independence for a vote in the United Nations in September and recognize the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people – in other words, as his country, though he was born in San Francisco, more than that of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who was born in Safed.

If they give up on the UN vote, Ross argues, then Netanyahu will be so kind as to negotiate a final-status agreement with them. Has anyone heard anything recently about a construction freeze in the settlements?

Ross is trying to peddle the illusion that the most right-wing government Israel has ever seen will abandon the strategy of eradicating the Oslo approach in favor of fulfilling the hated agreement. In an effort to save his latest boss from choosing between recognizing a Palestinian state at the risk of clashing with the Jewish community and voting against recognition at the risk of damaging U.S. standing in the Arab world, Ross is trying to drag the Palestinians back into the “peace process” trap.

If Obama really intended to justify his receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize, he would not have left the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the hands of this whiz at the never-ending management of the conflict.

Let us hope that the Palestinians are not tempted to give up on the UN vote in favor of the appearance of negotiations, which will serve to further prolong settlement expansion under the cover of the Oslo Accords. All we need is to recall the statement by Netanyahu, in which he was recorded telling settlers in Ofra in 2001 that he had previously extorted from the Americans a commitment that he would be the one to determine what qualifies as the “defined military sites” in the territories that will remain under Israeli control.

Netanyahu said that from his perspective the entire Jordan Valley qualifies. “Why is this important?” he asked. “Because from that moment I put a halt to the Oslo Accords.”

As for Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the Palestinians need to trap him with his own words; he had previously threatened that if the United Nations recognizes a Palestinian state, Israel will annul the Oslo Accords.

If I were in Abbas’ place, I would tell Dennis Ross that he should tell his president to forget about negotiations without recognition in writing from Netanyahu stating that the permanent borders will be based on the 1967 lines with agreed-upon changes and committing to a total freeze of settlement construction during negotiations and a set timetable for withdrawal from the territories.

You don’t want Oslo? Fine, we don’t need it. No more “Palestinian Authority”; no more Area A, B or C (a division that has in effect created a Land of the Settlers on 60 percent of the territory ); no more “peace process.”

Restore military rule in the West Bank. At the same time, you can reoccupy Gaza and go back to Gush Katif.

According to the Oslo Accords, the final-status agreement was supposed to have been decided upon 13 years ago – meaning that we would be celebrating its bar mitzvah this year. On September 13, the accords themselves will be turning 18, the number signifying life in the Jewish mystical tradition. The time has come to put the Oslo Accords out of their misery.

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Why the destruction of the Shepherd Hotel in East Jerusalem could be a good thing for democracy

Joseph Dana writes that the destruction of the Shepherd Hotel in East Jerusalem confirms that the two-state solution is finished and that it is time to start fighting for democratic rights for all of the residents of the land under Israeli military rule.

Israel and Palestine are under full Israeli military control. Everything going in and out of the Palestinian areas, West Bank and Gaza, passes through Israeli control. Every baby born in Gaza is registered in an Israeli controlled census. Instead of thinking about what would be in the future perhaps we should start from what is in the present. We live in one state.

So what does this state look like? It is a state in which eighty percent of the population, the Jewish population, enjoys full democratic, civil and human rights. The remaining residents of Israel within the 1948 green line borders are the Palestinian citizens of Israel who live in a system of institutionalized discrimination much like the Jim Crow South of the 1950′s.

In the occupied West Bank, Palestinians live in an apartheid-like system where the term ‘separate and unequal’ reaches its full potential. Different infrastructure, different and unequal court systems, unequal access to resources such as water and lack of freedom of movement constitute their lifestyle. That leaves us with Gaza, which is basically an open air prison, fenced in and controlled by Israel. These are the current parameters of the one state which is known as ‘Israel and Palestine’ or ‘Israel and its occupied territories’.

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