Israel’s non-democratic destiny

Michael N. Barnett writes: Believing in a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today is a little like looking for unicorns on the moon — it doesn’t matter how much you search, you still won’t find any. As recognition of this fact has become increasingly widespread, grappling with its implications has been hampered by the lack of normatively attractive or politically viable alternatives. In his review of Padraig O’Malley’s “The Two State Delusion,” Peter Beinart calls the book and its research impressive but nevertheless faults the author for not telling us how the story ends.

Although Beinart and others committed to a two-state solution make it sound like the alternatives are a great mystery, the search for unicorns has been distracting them from increasingly plausible outcomes. As the two-state solution fades into history, its alternatives become increasingly likely: civil war, ethnic cleansing or a non-democratic state. Although all three are possible, the third is rising on the horizon. Whether it goes by the name of an apartheid state, an illiberal democracy, a less than free society or a competitive authoritarianism, the dominant theme will be a Jewish minority ruling over a non-Jewish majority. Although such an outcome would be an emotional blow to those who favor the two-state solution as a way to maintain Israel’s democratic and Jewish character, it looks quite familiar in a world where liberal democracy not only remains the exception but has actually lost ground over the last decade. [Continue reading…]


Jimmy Carter: There is zero chance for the two-state solution

Prospect Magazine reports: “At this moment, there is zero chance of the two-state solution,” said Jimmy Carter, giving his bleakest pronouncement yet on the Israeli-Palestinian deadlock to which he devoted much effort while President of the United States, and even more time since then.

“These are the worst prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians for years,” he said, adding that he didn’t think that Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister, “has any intention” of making progress towards the goal, the thrust of international efforts for decades, of the creation of a separate state for the Palestinians alongside Israel. After John Kerry’s efforts as Secretary of State to broker a deal, which collapsed in the spring last year, the “US has withdrawn” from the problem, he reckoned. [Continue reading…]


Israelis lean right toward one-state solution

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…]


The end of the two-state solution

Avi Issacharoff writes: On Tuesday afternoon I drove to Duma, the village where 18-month-old Ali Dawabsha was murdered in what appears to have been an act of terrorism perpetrated by Jews. At the Shilo junction (I was coming from Ramallah), I headed east along the “Wine Route.” Such a romantic name for a region of illegally constructed outposts, some of them on privately-owned Palestinian land: Ahiya, Kida, Adei Ad, Esh Kodesh. The ruins of what had been the outpost of Geulat Zion were still on one of the hills.

The view is spectacular, breathtaking — and in some cases, so are the homes. For example in Kida, a settlement populated by career and reserve IDF officers, there are several villas so exquisite that residents of Israel’s central region could only dream of such luxury. The combination of stone houses and vineyards gives a feeling almost of a foreign country until we remember that this is the West Bank, and that hardly a week goes by here without reports of violent confrontations between the inhabitants of Esh Kodesh and their Palestinian neighbors from Qusra.

The continuum of Jewish communities stretches from Route 60 to the Allon Road in the direction of the Jordan Valley, making it obvious that the locations of these outposts were not selected at random. The territorial continuity between Nablus and Ramallah is disrupted over and over by numerous Jewish communities, and a Jewish territorial continuity has been created between Beit El, via Ofra, Shilo and Eli and, to the east, Shvut Rahel and the abovementioned outposts. A similar phenomenon exists around Nablus as well: Yitzhar, Bracha, Itamar, Elon Moreh and then a series of outposts descending eastward toward the Jordan Valley. Same goes for the stretch between Bethlehem and Hebron. Conditions are now such that an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank has already become impossible.

And here it must be said: The watershed line seems to have been crossed. The two-state solution is no more. [Continue reading…]


Vatican formally recognizes Palestinian state by signing treaty

The New York Times reports: The Vatican on Friday signed a treaty with the “state of Palestine,” a development that the church hopes will lead to improved relations between Israel and the Palestinians.

The accord, the result of 15 years of negotiations, covers “essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in the State of Palestine,” the Vatican said in a statement.

The Vatican’s foreign minister, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, said the agreement could be a “stimulus to bringing a definitive end to the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which continues to cause suffering for both parties.”

He also called for the two countries to take “courageous decisions” so that the “much desired two-state solution may become a reality as soon as possible.” [Continue reading…]


Palestinians giving up on statehood, Israeli ex-security chief says

The Times of Israel reports: The death of the two-state solution among the Palestinians is no secret to the Israelis, nor is it mourned by government officials. To the political echelon, the threat of a binational state is not sufficiently tangible, and the possibility that radical Islam will take over the West Bank if there should be a peace agreement seems more real.

But things sound different in the defense establishment, and particularly among those who have left it. Quite a few former generals, Shin Bet directors and Mossad chiefs have warned any number of times that maintaining the status quo in the territories, which has become a kind of strategy in Netanyahu’s era, could change the face of the State of Israel.

“I’m hearing from various Palestinian officials with whom I am in contact that they have given up on the two-state solution as an option for resolving the conflict,” says former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin, 59, who now owns a hi-tech firm in Herzliya. [Continue reading…]


Give up on Netanyahu, go to the United Nations

Henry Siegman writes: The greetings President Obama extended last week to Israel’s new government may have sounded conciliatory, but Mr. Obama no longer entertains any illusions about Israel’s leaders.

In the wake of last month’s election, the longtime peace activists and diplomats who have devoted much of their professional lives to achieving a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are more depressed and demoralized than ever before.

Well before Mr. Netanyahu declared during the recent election campaign that Palestinians would remain under Israeli military occupation as long as he is Israel’s prime minister, Mr. Obama understood that the Israeli government’s enthusiasm for continued peace talks with the Palestinians served no purpose other than to provide cover for Israel’s continued expansion of Jewish settlements and to preclude the emergence of anything resembling a Palestinian state in the West Bank.

Faced with this grim reality, some observers naïvely rooted for the center-left Zionist Union during the campaign. But the notion that a government led by Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni might have produced a two-state accord with the Palestinians was also a delusion. An agreement based on the 1967 lines never appeared in the Zionist Union’s platform or crossed Mr. Herzog’s lips.

Indeed, it was clear to anyone familiar with the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that what little hope remained for a two-state solution would depend on the emergence of an Israeli government entirely under the control of Israel’s far right. Only a far-right government that so deeply offends American democratic sensibilities — as this one surely will — could provide the political opening necessary for a change in America’s Middle East policy. [Continue reading…]


The myth of the two-state solution

Israel declared its independence in 1948. Less than twenty years later it expanded its territorial control across the West Bank and Gaza (and Sinai).

What has subsequently come to be referred to as “The Occupation” has referred to the status quo which (with a few modifications) has endured for the overwhelming majority of Israel’s existence.

The Oslo Accords, signed in 1993, and the so-called “peace process” which followed, have merely provided political cover for the relentless expansion of Jewish settlement and Palestinian dispossession across the West Bank.

What right-wing Zionists refer to as Judea and Samaria is not an aspiration — it is the political reality of a state in which full democratic rights are granted to Jews but not Palestinians.

While the mantras of ending the occupation and dismantling the settlements have tirelessly been repeated, year after year, the settlements have grown.

Both the terms settlement and occupation, mask with seeming impermanence a reality that has been set in reinforced concrete.

Given that over the course of more than twenty years, no progress whatsoever has been made towards the implementation of a two-state solution, the fact that it has now been rejected by Benjamin Netanyahu is a non-event. Yet this is a non-event that is deeply upsetting to many American Jews.

It’s not that they believed that peace was just around the corner. On the contrary, the value of the two-state solution has never derived from expectations about the future. Instead, its value is based very much in the present.

For liberal Americans — Jewish and non-Jewish — the two-state solution ideologically sanitized Israel by ostensibly embodying the desire that the political aspirations of both Jews and Palestinians could be recognized. If this promise is taken away, liberals are deprived of a fiction that allowed them to avoid confronting the illiberal nature of the Jewish state.

Americans want to be able to say they support Israel and democracy and Israel is forcing them to choose between the two.

Noam Sheizaf provided a reality check for participants at the J Street conference in Washington DC this week, when he said:

In Israel, we’ve got to the point where arguing for a state for all its citizens — equal rights for everyone — is a form of ‘Arab nationalism’ that should be made illegal. While arguing for an ethnic state that gives privileges to one group over the other is ‘democracy’…

I am 40 and I only know one Israel — and that’s from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea. And in which there live Palestinians and Jews, roughly the same size of populations — they’re totally mixed with each other. They’re mixed in the Galilee, they’re mixed along the coast, they’re mixed in the West Bank by now, they’re mixed in the Negev — everywhere Jews living next to Palestinians.

One group has everything — all the rights — the other one has privileges given to it according to a complicated system of citizenship and where they happen to live and where their grandparents were in ’48…

I think we need to start looking at this in civil rights issues, if that’s what we believe in — and that’s the kind of activism I’m looking for. Not redrawing maps in a way that will keep some people in and some people out so that we can call themself [a] democracy.

Sheizaf also took J Street to task for its failure to talk about Gaza:


Under Israeli rule, Palestinians are destined to remain subject to a regime of state terror

David Shulman writes: Benjamin Netanyahu has won again. He will have no difficulty putting together a solid right-wing coalition. But the naked numbers may be deceptive. What really counts is the fact that the Israeli electorate is still dominated by hypernationalist, in some cases proto-fascist, figures. It is in no way inclined to make peace. It has given a clear mandate for policies that preclude any possibility of moving toward a settlement with the Palestinians and that will further deepen Israel’s colonial venture in the Palestinian territories, probably irreversibly.

Netanyahu’s shrill public statements during the last two or three days before the vote may account in part for Likud’s startling margin of victory. For the first time since his Bar Ilan speech in 2009, he explicitly renounced a two-state solution and swore that no Palestinian state would come into existence on his watch. He promised vast new building projects in the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem. He made it clear that Israel would make no further territorial concessions, anywhere, since any land that would be relinquished would, in his view, immediately be taken over by Muslim terrorists.

And then there was his truly astonishing, by now notorious statement on election day itself, in which he urged Jewish voters to rush to the polls because “the Arabs are voting in droves.” One might have thought that those Arab voters were members of the body politic he headed as prime minister. Imagine a white American president calling on whites to vote because “blacks are voting in large numbers.” If there’s a choice to be made between democratic values and fierce Jewish tribalism, there’s no doubt what the present and future prime minister of Israel would choose. [Continue reading…]


If the peace process is over, what’s Plan B for Palestine?

Israeli Settlements Timeline Chart 1966-2014 — Gaps of data in some years mean that the information is not available.

Alan Philps writes: Benjamin Netanyahu’s pre-election declaration that there would be no Palestinian state under his government was hardly a bombshell. Though he has on occasion declared his support for a Palestinian state, it never felt like a genuine commitment. His disavowal of Palestinian statehood has merely torn away a mask that had become transparent.

In diplomatic circles, however, Mr Netanyahu’s coming clean is a game-changer. The prospect of a Palestinian state, however distant, has been the corner stone of all Middle East peace efforts. Without some kind of agreed process, diplomats fear that Israel and Palestine are heading for a new explosion.

The peace process is what justifies the US preserving the status quo. When Washington vetoed the Palestinian Authority request for statehood at the UN Security Council in December, the justification was that it was “more likely to curtail useful negotiations than to bring them to a successful conclusion”. Without any prospect of “useful negotiations”, it is hard to see how the US could to that again.

Likewise ,it would be hard to justify the US and European Union continuing to fund the Palestinian Authority, a government in the West Bank whose popularity, such as it is, depends solely on its ability to pay 160,000 public sector salaries. If Israel wants the land, why should it not have to pay those salaries? And if there is no prospect of gaining their own state, why should Palestinians continue with the security cooperation that helps Israelis sleep at night? [Continue reading…]


Netanyahu says two-state solution is ‘simply irrelevant’

Dimi Reider writes: Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday announced that his commitment to a demilitarized Palestinian state alongside Israel was no longer relevant.

The statement was released by the prime minister’s Likud party following the circulation of a synagogue newsletter, which catalogued the different parties’ stances on a Palestinian state. The newsletter claimed the prime minister announced that his 2009 Bar Ilan speech, where he made the commitment, was “null and void,” and emphasized that Netanyahu’s entire political biography was “opposition to the Palestinian state.”

After initially attributing the comment to MK Tzipi Hotovely and denying she represented anyone’s position but her own, the Likud changed tack Sunday evening. “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that in the present situation in the Middle East, any vacated territory will be immediately overtaken by radical Islam and terrorist organizations sponsored by Iran,” a party statement read. “For this reason, there will be no withdrawals and no concessions, this is simply irrelevant.” [Continue reading…]


A Labor win in Israel will only entrench the occupation

Gideon Levy writes: Only one scenario is worse than the reelection on March 17 of Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister, and that’s the election of Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog (and his political partner Tzipi Livni). Another term for Netanyahu would be a disaster, but a victory for Zionist Camp could be a worse disaster.

Yes, it’s true there’s no comparison between Herzog and Netanyahu — or between their parties. Herzog is a moderate, modest, fair person who’s much more liked than Netanyahu; the same can be said for Livni.

And Zionist Camp’s Knesset slate is of much higher quality than Likud’s. Not only does Zionist Camp not have thugs like Likud, it doesn’t have people with nationalist and racist views inciting and agitating. The CVs of most Zionist Camp candidates are much more impressive.

Now let’s assume Zionist Camp wins. Jubilation; Netanyahu will be ousted and a new day will dawn in Israel with a Herzog-Livni government. Actually, the first and most dramatic change will come from abroad — a global sigh of relief. [Continue reading…]


For Israelis ‘a growing sense that Israel is becoming an isolated ghetto’

Roger Cohen writes: Uneasiness inhabits Israel, a shadow beneath the polished surface. In a violent Middle Eastern neighborhood of fracturing states, that is perhaps inevitable, but Israelis are questioning their nation and its future with a particular insistence. As the campaign for March elections begins, this disquiet looks like the precursor of political change. The status quo, with its bloody and inconclusive interludes, has become less bearable. More of the same has a name: Benjamin Netanyahu, now in his third term as prime minister. The alternative, although less clear, is no longer unthinkable.

“There is a growing uneasiness, social, political, economic,” Amos Oz, the novelist, told me in an interview. “There is a growing sense that Israel is becoming an isolated ghetto, which is exactly what the founding fathers and mothers hoped to leave behind them forever when they created the state of Israel.” The author, widely viewed as the conscience of a liberal and anti-Messianic Israel, continued, “Unless there are two states — Israel next door to Palestine — and soon, there will be one state. If there will be one state, it will be an Arab state. The other option is an Israeli dictatorship, probably a religious nationalist dictatorship, suppressing the Palestinians and suppressing its Jewish opponents.”

If that sounds stark, it is because choices are narrowing. Every day, it seems, another European government or parliament expresses support for recognition of a Palestinian state. A Palestinian-backed initiative at the United Nations, opposed in its current form by the United States, is aimed at pushing Israel to withdraw from the West Bank by 2017. The last Gaza eruption, with its heavy toll and messy outcome, changed nothing. Hamas, its annihilationist hatred newly stoked, is still there parading its weapons. Tension is high in Jerusalem after a spate of violent incidents. Life is expensive. Netanyahu’s credibility on both the domestic and international fronts has dwindled. [Continue reading…]


Most Americans favor Israel’s democracy more than its Jewishness


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.


Is it time to admit that Israeli settlements are here to stay?

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…]


EU foreign chief calls for statehood on Gaza visit

AFP reports: The European Union’s new foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini Saturday appealed for the establishment of a Palestinian state, saying the world “cannot afford” another war in Gaza.

“We need a Palestinian state – that is the ultimate goal and this is the position of all the European Union,” Mogherini said during a trip to Gaza, devastated by its third conflict in six years.


106 IDF ex-generals, spy chiefs urge Netanyahu to pursue Saudi-backed peace deal

J.J. Goldberg writes: In what appears to be the largest-ever joint protest by senior Israeli security personnel, a group of 106 retired generals, Mossad directors and national police commissioners has signed a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging him to “initiate a diplomatic process” based on a regional framework for peace with the Palestinians.

Several of the signers told Israel’s Mako-Channel 2 News in interviews that Israel had the strength and the means to reach a two-state solution that “doesn’t entail a security risk,” but hadn’t managed to reach an agreement because of “weak leadership.”

“We’re on a steep slope toward an increasingly polarized society and moral decline, due to the need to keep millions of people under occupation on claims that are presented as security-related,” reserve Major General Eyal Ben-Reuven told Mako’s Roni Daniel. “I have no doubt that the prime minister seeks Israel’s welfare, but I think he suffers from some sort of political blindness that drives him to scare himself and us.”

The letter was initiated by a former Armored Corps commander, reserve Major General Amnon Reshef. He told Yediot Ahronot in an interview published Friday, and posted in English today on Yediot’s website, that he was “tired of a reality of rounds of fighting every few years instead of a genuine effort to adopt the Saudi initiative.”

He was referring to the Saudi-backed peace proposal that was adopted unanimously by the Arab League in 2002 (here is the full text) and later endorsed 56-0 by the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation, with Iran abstaining. It has since been repeatedly reaffirmed and its terms softened. As currently framed, it offers full peace, diplomatic recognition and “normal relations” between the Arab states and Israel in return for Israeli withdrawal to borders based on the pre-1967 armistice lines, with negotiated land swaps, and a “just” and mutually “agreed” compromise solution to the Palestinian refugee problem. [Continue reading…]


Israel’s right-wingers are living in denial

Carlo Strenger writes: Israel’s political class has largely chosen to ignore the U.K. parliament’s ringing endorsement to recognize Palestine as a state last week. It seems Israel’s leaders hope the rising wave of European determination to stop Israel’s creeping annexation of the West Bank will simply go away.

Doing so is a remarkable instance of one of humankind’s most primitive defense mechanisms: denial. In denial we simply screen off awareness of any unpleasant fact, with the tacit belief that it will go away. Israel’s political right has been quite adept in making use of this.

Its reaction to the European Union’s growing determination to no longer accept Israel’s annexation of the West Bank has shown various levels of immaturity, ranging from the mild to the truly pathological. Lieberman has reacted to EU criticism by telling it to solve its own problems before lecturing Israel – a masterpiece of diplomatic finesse, if there ever was one.

Naftali Bennett has been even more remarkable: When the EU passed a law that doesn’t allow cooperation with Israeli organizations in the occupied territories, he called for the severing of ties with the body. This is a truly fitting reaction from Israel’s economy minister, and a stunning exhibition of political and psychological immaturity, given that the EU accounts for about half of Israel’s foreign trade.

Lieberman, of course, looks longingly to his political idol, Vladimir Putin, and envies him for getting away with annexing Crimea. And Bennett seems content to see himself as a latter-day Bar Kochba – forgetting that he only brought destruction on the people of Israel. But Lieberman isn’t Putin, Bennett isn’t Bar Kochba, and Israel isn’t Russia – which is quite fortunate, as one million Russian immigrants in Israel can attest.

So let me spell out the reality in very simple terms. As far as the EU is concerned, the West Bank does not belong to Israel. The Knesset has, therefore, no mandate about whether to annex the West Bank, or to “give” the Palestinians a state, any more than it can make decisions about southern Italy. [Continue reading…]