israel and palestine articles
Noam Chomsky has to be one of the most brilliant minds of this generation, and his commitment to justice for the Palestinian people is beyond question. Even so, I must confess that I find his pessimism debilitating at times!
Perhaps Chomsky is just a realist and it is me who lives in unrealistic hope for a Palestinian state. Certainly, as he points out in this article, there is nothing going on at present that would suggest that any viable ‘two-state solution’ is around the corner. Even so, I am a man of faith, and believe, to quote Martin Luther King Jr., that while the arc of history is long, “it bends towards justice!”
Israel’s West Bank Plans Will Leave Palestinians Very Little
By Noam Chomsky
August 17, 2013 “Information Clearing House – The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks beginning in Jerusalem proceed within a framework of assumptions that merit careful thought.
One prevailing assumption is that there are two options: either a two-state settlement will be reached, or there will be a “shift to a nearly inevitable outcome of the one remaining reality — a state ‘from the sea to the river’,” an outcome posing “an immediate existential threat of the erasure of the identity of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state” because of what is termed “the demographic problem,” a future Palestinian majority in the single state.
This particular formulation is by former Israeli Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin, but the basic assumptions are near universal in political commentary and scholarship. They are, however, crucially incomplete. There is a third option, the most realistic one: Israel will carry forward its current policies with full U.S. economic, military, and diplomatic support, sprinkled with some mild phrases of disapproval.
The policies are quite clear. Their roots go back to the 1967 war and they have been pursued with particular dedication since the Oslo Accords of September 1993.
The Accords determined that Gaza and the West Bank are an indivisible territorial entity. Israel and the U.S. moved at once to separate them, which means that any autonomy Palestinians might gain in the West Bank will have no direct access to the outside world.
A second step was to carry forward the creation of a vastly expanded Greater Jerusalem, incorporating it within Israel, as its capital. This is in direct violation of Security Council orders and is a serious blow to any hope for a viable Palestinian entity. A corridor to the east of the new Greater Jerusalem incorporates the settler town of Ma’aleh Adumim, established in the 1970s but built primarily after the Oslo Accords, virtually bisecting the West Bank.
Corridors to the north including other settler towns divide what is to remain under some degree of Palestinian control — “Bantustans,” as they were called by one of the main architects of the policy, Ariel Sharon, in a reference to the territory set aside for black South Africans during the apartheid era.
Included are the settlement blocs that “will remain part of Israel in any possible future peace agreement,” as stated by Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev as the current negotiations were announced.
The International Court of Justice ruled that all of this is illegal, and the Security Council had already ruled that all of the settlements are illegal. The U.S. joined the world in accepting that conclusion in the early years of the occupation. But under Ronald Reagan, the position was changed to “harmful to peace,” and Barack Obama has weakened it further to “not helpful to peace.”
Israel has also been clearing the Jordan Valley of Palestinians while establishing Jewish settlements, sinking wells, and otherwise preparing for eventual integration of the region within Israel.
That will complete the isolation of any West Bank Palestinian entity. Meanwhile huge infrastructure projects throughout the West Bank, from which Palestinians are barred, carry forward the integration to Israel, and presumably eventual annexation.
The areas that Israel is taking over will be virtually free of Arabs. There will be no new “demographic problem” or civil rights or anti-apartheid struggle, contrary to what many advocates of Palestinian rights anticipate in a single state.
There remain open questions. Notably, pre-Obama, U.S. presidents have prevented Israel from building settlements on the E1 site — a controversial area in the West Bank that Israel hopes to develop — which would complete the separation of Greater Jerusalem from Palestinian-controlled area. What will happen here is uncertain.
As the negotiations opened, Israel made its intentions clear by announcing new construction in East Jerusalem and scattered settlements, while also extending its “national priority list” of settlements that receive special subsidies to encourage building and inducements for Jewish settlers.
Obama made his intentions clear by appointing as chief negotiator Martin Indyk, whose background is in the Israeli lobby, a close associate of negotiator and presidential adviser Dennis Ross, whose guiding principle has been that Israel has “needs,” which plainly overcome mere Palestinian wants.
These developments bring to the fore a second common assumption: that Palestinians have been hindering the peace process by imposing preconditions. In reality, the U.S. and Israel impose crucial preconditions. One is that the process must be in the hands of the United States, which is an active participant in the conflict on Israel’s side, not an “honest broker.” A second is that the illegal Israel settlement activities must be allowed to continue.
There is an overwhelming international consensus in support of a two-state settlement on the internationally recognized border, perhaps with “minor and mutual adjustments” of this 1949 cease-fire line, in the wording of much earlier U.S. policy. The consensus includes the Arab states and the Organization of Islamic States (including Iran). It has been blocked by the U.S. and Israel since 1976, when the U.S. vetoed a resolution to this effect brought by Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.
The rejectionist record continues to the present. Washington’s most recent veto of a Security Council resolution on Palestinian territory was in February 2011, a resolution calling for implementation of official U.S. policy — an end to expansion of Israel’s illegal settlements. And the rejectionist record goes far beyond the Security Council.
Also misleading is the question whether the hawkish Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would accept a “Palestinian state.” In fact, his administration was the first to countenance this possibility when it came into office in 1996, following Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, who rejected this outcome. Netanyahu’s associate David bar-Illan explained that some areas would be left to Palestinians, and if they wanted to call them “a state,” Israel would not object — or they could call them “fried chicken.”
His response reflects the operative attitude of the U.S.-Israel coalition to Palestinian rights.
In the region, there is great skepticism about Washington’s current revival of the “peace process.” It is not hard to see why.
More wisdom from brother Uri.
In Avnery’s analysis, Netanyahu is an almost comical character, but it’s not possible to laugh when the lives of millions of people are affected by this clown’s antics.
A new Guinness Record
by Uri Avnery
I DON’T know if the Guinness Book of World Records has a special section for Chutzpah.
If it does not, it should. That’s the one competition where we might take home a few gold medals.
The first one would surely go to Binyamin Netanyahu
THIS WEEK, on the eve of the first round of serious negotiations between the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority, Netanyahu did two interesting things: he announced plans for several large new settlement projects and he accused the Palestinians of grievous incitement against Israel.
Let’s take the settlements first. As explained by Israeli diplomats to their American colleagues, and repeated by all the Israeli media, poor Netanyahu had no choice. John Kerry compelled him to release 104 Palestinian prisoners as a “confidence building measure”. After such a momentous concession, he had to pacify his extremist colleagues in the Likud and in the cabinet. A thousand new housing units in the occupied territories (including East Jerusalem) was the very minimum.
The agreement to release prisoners let loose a veritable Witches’ Sabbath. All the newspapers and TV news programs were awash with blood – the blood on the hands of the Palestinian murderers. “Murderers” was the de rigeur appellation. Not “fighters”, not “militants”, not even “terrorists”. Just plain “murderers”.
All the prisoners to be released were convicted before the Oslo agreement was signed, meaning that they have been in prison for at least 20 years. The probability that they would take part in future bloody activity must be minimal.
Some of the victims’ families carried out staged stormy protests, with bloody hands and blood-smeared flags. The media vied with each other in publishing pictures of weeping mothers (TV loves weeping women) waving photos of their killed sons and blood-curdling descriptions of the attacks in which they died. (Some of which were indeed atrocious.)
However, not so long ago, Netanyahu had agreed to release more than a thousand prisoners in return for one captured Israeli soldier. This means that one single soldier is ten times more precious than the chances of peace.
The actual release bordered on the grotesque. In order to avoid photos in the morning papers of the rapturous reception of the prisoners by their families, the actual release of the first 26 prisoners took place after midnight, in a shroud of mystery. Which reminds one of the Biblical passage, in which David mourned for Saul, slain in battle with the Philistines: “Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon (both Philistine towns), lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph.” (II Samuel 1)
Does all this testify to an atmosphere of peace on the eve of peacemaking? Wait, there is more to come.
THE DAY the new settlement projects were announced, Netanyahu fired off to John Kerry a furious protest against the ongoing Palestinian “incitement” against Israel. This missive could interest the adjudicators of the Guinness record for Chutzpah.
The main evidence for Mahmoud Abbas’ perfidy, in Netanyahu’s letter, is a text in which a minor Palestinian official called for a Palestinian state “from Rosh Hanikra to Eilat.” Rosh Hanikra (Ras Naqura in Arabic) is on the Lebanese border, so this state would include all of Israel. Also, during a soccer event in Ramallah, anti-Israeli shouts were heard.
Awful, just awful. Kerry should spring from his seat in fury. Were it not for the fact that almost all leading Likud members proclaim that the whole of historical Palestine belongs to Israel, and Naftali Bennett, a pillar of Netanyahu’s government coalition, just announced that the Palestinians “can forget about” a Palestinian state.
Not to mention a certain Daniel Seaman, the former director of the Ministry of Explaining (that’s its real name. I didn’t make it up. Israelis don’t do propaganda, God forbid. Seaman has just been appointed to Netanyahu’s own office, in charge of “explaining” on the internet. This week he posted a message on facebook addressed to Saeb Erekat, the chief of he Palestinian delegation to the peace talks, telling him to “go and f**k himself”. To the theological declaration by the Church of Scotland that the Jews have no special claim to Palestine he posted the reply: “We don’t give a [obscenity] for what you say.”
This genius of public relations is now setting up a clandestine group of Israeli university students, who will be paid to flood the international social media with government “explaining” material.
As for soccer fans, the Betar stadium, which is linked to the Likud, resounds at every match with shouts of “Death to the Arabs!”’
So, for what the bell tolls? Nor for peace, it seems
ONE OF the problems is that absolutely nobody knows what Netanyahu really wants. Perhaps not even he.
The Prime Minister is now the loneliest person in Israel. He has no friends. He trusts nobody, and nobody around him trusts him.
His colleagues in the Likud leadership quite openly despise him, regarding him as a man of no principles, without a backbone, giving in to every pressure. This seems to have been the opinion of his late father, who once declared that Binyamin would make a good foreign minister, but certainly not a prime minister.
In the government he is quite alone. Previous prime ministers had a close group of ministers to consult with. Golda Meir had a “kitchen cabinet”. Netanyahu has no one. He does not consult with anyone. He announces his decisions, and that’s that.
In his previous terms he had at least a group of confidants in his office. These officials have been driven out one by one by Sarah, his wife.
So, as one commentator this week reminded us, this lonely man, unaided by any group of trusted advisors, experts or confidants, is called upon to decide, quite by himself, the fate of Israel for generations to come.
THIS WOULD not have been so dangerous if Netanyahu had been a Charles de Gaulle. Unfortunately, he isn’t.
De Gaulle was one of the towering figures of the 20th century. Cold, aloof, overbearing, intensely disliked by the rest of the world’s leaders, this extreme right-wing general took the historic decision to give up the huge country of Algeria, four times as big as metropolitan France.
Algeria, it must be remembered, was officially not a colony, not an occupied territory, but a part of France proper. It had been under French rule for more than a century. More than a million settlers saw it as their homeland. Yet de Gaulle made the lonely decision to give it up, putting his own life in grave danger.
Since then, Israeli leftists have yearned for “an Israeli de Gaulle”, who would do their job for them, according to the old Hebrew adage that “the work of the righteous is done by others” – others meaning, one assumes, people who are not quite so righteous.
There is, of course, one important difference. De Gaulle was supported by his conservative allies, the tycoons of the French economy. These sober-minded capitalists saw how the Germans were taking over the economy of Europe, which was in the process of uniting, while France was wasting its resources on an expensive, totally useless colonial war in North Africa. They wanted to get rid of it as quickly as possible, and de Gaulle was their man.
Netanyahu is as close to the Israeli tycoons as de Gaulle was to his, but our tycoons don’t give a damn about peace. This attitude may change, if ever the de-legitimization of Israel becomes a serious economic burden.
In this context; the boycott imposed by the European Union against the products of the settlements may be a harbinger of things to come.
By the way, the petition submitted by me and Gush Shalom in the Supreme Court, against the new law to penalize advocates of a boycott of the settlements, will be heard only next February. The court is obviously shrinking back from handling this hot potato. But it paid us a unique compliment: “Avnery v. the Knesset” will be heard by nine supreme judges, almost the full membership of the court.
SO IS this “peace process” serious? What does Netanyahu want?
Does he want to enter the history books as the “Israeli de Gaulle”, the wise Zionist leader who put an end to 120 years of conflict?
Or is he just another smart guy who is making a tactical move to avoid a tussle with the US and stop the de-legitimization process at least for a while?
As it looks now, de Gaulle in his heaven can relax. No competitor in sight.
There is not the slightest indication of any peace orientation. Quite the contrary. Our government is using the new “peace process” as a smoke screen behind which the settlement bulldozer is working full time.
The government condemns the EU boycott resolution because it “harms the peace process”. It rejects all demands for freezing the settlements because this would “obstruct the peace process”. Investing hundreds of millions in settlements which under any imaginable peace agreement will have to be evacuated is, it seems, favorable for peace.
So is there hope? Time to quote again the Yiddish saying: “If God wills, even a broomstick can shoot!”
read more of Uri Avnery’s wisdom on the Gush Shalom website
Jonathon Cook always rights with insight, and I agree entirely that these peace talks are an exercise in futility. Even so, I’m not entirely convinced that he’s accounted for the enthusiasm of the Palestinians in the process.
If, as Cook suggests, both sides know full well that the whole exercise is ultimately futile (at least in terms of any peace process) why are the Palestinians involved? I can appreciate that it’s a politically opportune move for Netanyahu but does Abbas really think he is going to enhance his reputation by participating in another round of fruitless talks? There are still some missing pieces in this puzzle!
The flawed logic of Israel-Palestine talks
By Jonathan Cook
It may not have reached the level of fevered expectation unleashed by that famous handshake between Israeli and Palestinian leaders on the White House lawn in 1993, but the sense of hope inspired by the long-awaited revival of peace talks is both tangible and deeply misplaced.The talks, which it was agreed this week will begin in earnest in the region in mid-August, are taking place not because either Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, or the Palestnian president, Mahmoud Abbas, believe a deal is in reach. The two sides are talking each to avoid being blamed for embarrassing John Kerry, the US secretary of state.
The mistaken mood of “change is in the air” was illustrated last week by a much-touted poll showing that 55 per cent of Israelis would vote for an agreement if presented with it, with 25 per cent opposed. Overlooked was the fact that many more Israelis – 70 per cent – believe an agreement cannot be reached, while 60 per cent say the reason is that Netanyahu will never partition the land.
Palestinians are no more sanguine. A recent poll revealed a measly 8 per cent had any degree of trust in the US as mediator.
But if ordinary Israelis and Palestinians are either despondent or uninterested, their leaders and many observers are talking up the chances of a breakthrough.
In part, this optimism is underpinned by the European Union’s unexpected and largely symbolic decision recently to penalise the settlements. From next year, the EU is supposed to deny funding to Israeli institutions in the occupied territories.
This is a bitter pill for Israel to swallow, and it is already seeking to punish Europe. Last weekend it emerged that the Israeli military was denying EU staff access to Gaza, and blocking European projects in Area C, the nearly two-thirds of the West Bank exclusively controlled by Israel.
But while Europe’s move has infuriated Israel, it looks suspiciously like it paved Netanyahu’s way to the negotiating table.
Israel and its supporters have long cultivated the idea that strong-arm tactics, such as boycotts and sanctions, only serve to push the Israeli public and politicians further to the right. This has been the US and Europe’s rationale for treating Israel with kid gloves since the Oslo process began two decades ago.
And yet the EU’s anti-settlement initiative suggests the opposite to be true. Both Netanyahu and Abbas hurried into the talks in the wake of the EU announcement – and for much the same reason.
For Netanyahu, Europe’s move was a stick he wielded to frighten into compliance those to his right in the government. He could argue persuasively that continuing Israeli intransigence on talks would only intensify the country’s isolation – the substance of his opaque references to “Israel’s strategic interests”.
Israel has much more to fear from the Palestinians outside the confines of a bogus peace process. There is the threat of the Palestinians building the momentum for further sanctions from bodies like the EU, or of their again taking their case for statehood to the United Nations, or of their referral of Israel to the International Criminal Court at the Hague for war crimes.
For Abbas, the same EU decision was a carrot used to disarm critics who have been warning that the revival of futile negotiations will damage the Palestinian national cause. Claiming the Europeans had forced Israel on to the backfoot, Abbas could argue that the moment had finally arrived to negotiate.
Uncharacteristically, the US has not appeared overly troubled by Israel’s patent displeasure at the sudden stiffening of EU resolve. Or as a senior US official told the Israeli media: “The Europeans are giving us the time and allowing us to try and get the talks going.”
But while the US, Europe, Netanyahu and even Abbas will gain some breathing space from months of empty talk about peace, there is no sign that the pressure bringing Israel to the table will continue once it is seated.
The most worrying indication that the US is heading down the same failed path is the announcement of Martin Indyk’s return as mediator. Indyk, a long-time Israel lobbyist, has been intimately tied to previous diplomatic failures.
In addition, the negotiators themselves are the same compromised figures who have been down this route before. The Palestine Papers, leaked by Al-Jazeera in 2011, revealed that in earlier talks Palestinian negotiatior Saeb Erekat had dared to give away far more than observers had ever imagined possible, while even these generous concessions had failed to satisfy Israel’s Tzipi Livni.
There is also something puzzling about a peace process driven by a nine-month timetable rather than the logic of the negotiations. A possible motivation for the White House’s desire to drag out the talks was suggested by an official on Wednesday: the US desperately wants to avoid the “train wreck” of the Palestinians returning to the UN.
Another barometer for judging the chances of a breakthrough are the relaxed smiles of Netanyahu’s far-right ministers, who are clearly undisturbed by thoughts that the settlements are in imminent jeopardy.
In fact, quite the reverse. Israel has announced it will build 1,000 settler homes over the coming months, in addition to continuing private construction. A train line linking the settlements to Israeli towns, making them even more accessible and attractive, has also been unveiled.
Regarding the peace process, Kerry has previously warned that there is “a year, a year-and-a-half, or two years and it’s over”. But what would “over” actually entail?
For one thing, someone will have to be blamed and all past evidence suggests that the someone in question will be the Palestinians. For another, Netanyahu will be able to argue that, just as Kerry feared, the peace process is dead. No Palestinian leadership, he will claim, will ever be capable of making peace.
That may prove a tempting moment for Israel to carry out the much-longed-for annexation of Area C, the bulk of the West Bank and the site of the settlements. With as few as 100,000 Palestinians left in Area C after decades of ethnic cleansing, Israel can offer them citizenship without threatening the state’s hallowed Jewishness.
Not only would such a move satisfy Netanyahu’s hunger for more Palestinian land, but it would solve another problem, this time for Europe and the US. They would no longer have to fret about boycotting the settlements; annexation would mean there were no more settlements to oppose.
Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His new website is www.jonathan-cook.net…
Secretary Kerry’s determination to get the Palestinian-Israeli issues finally resolved seems to be making Netanyahu increasingly nervous. President Obama has sent General Martin Dempsey’s to Israel because there are concerns that Israel might be planning a strike on Iran’s nuclear program. General Dempsey is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a post once held by Colin Powell. What will Dempsey and Bibi be talking about today?
US Senator John McCain has called General Dempsey’s warning against attack on Syria ‘disingenuous’. (AIPAC, CUFI, Lindsey Graham and the NEOCONs stand in agreement with Senator McCain.) The general public’s attention is solidly fixated on the sexual shenanigans of three American Jews (Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer and Bob Filner) whose stories are much more titillating than Dempsey’s. Nevertheless, please read the following news report carefully. The highlights are mine.
Top US general visiting Israel amid Iran, Syria worries
Martin Dempsey to meet Israeli leaders from Sunday evening; Netanyahu warns that new Iranian president won’t change policy
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey will be the guest of Israel’s chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz, and will also meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.
Dempsey’s visit, first reported on by Israeli daily Yedioth Aharonoth, comes amid concerns that Israel might be planning a strike on Iran’s nuclear program. On Sunday, Iran was inaugurating new president Hasan Rouhani, touted by some as a relative moderate who may attempt to open a window to the West. Netanyahu, however, told his cabinet Sunday morning that the new leader would continue the policies of his hardline predecessor.
With at least some Hezbollah forces tied down in the fighting in Syria, and the organization experiencing political blowback in Lebanon for its support of the Assad regime, the US may be concerned that Israeli leaders believe the cost of an Iran strike — especially in terms of rocket strikes on Israeli cities from across the border — has dropped significantly, according to the report.
In July, Netanyahu told NBC’s “Face the Nation” that Iran was getting “closer and closer to the bomb,” and that “they’re edging up to the red line.”
Netanyahu said, “They haven’t crossed it yet. They’re also building faster centrifuges that would enable them to jump the line, so to speak, at a much faster rate — that is, within a few weeks.”
“I won’t wait until it’s too late,” Netanyahu vowed at the time.
A report by the US-based Institute for Science and International Security last week said that Iran could break out to a nuclear bomb by mid-2014 if it went ahead with a plan to install thousands of new centrifuges. Tehran maintains its program is peaceful.
Last August, Dempsey demonstrated the gap between the Israeli and American sense of urgency over the Iranian nuclear program when he told a press conference in London that an Israeli strike would “clearly delay but probably not destroy Iran’s nuclear program. I don’t want to be complicit if they [Israel] choose to do it.”
He said that intelligence was inconclusive when it came to Iran’s intentions. An American-led international sanctions regime “could be undone if [Iran] was attacked prematurely,” he added.
Just hours ahead of Dempsey’s visit, Netanyahu upped his rhetoric against Iran’s nuclear program, citing Rouhani’s anti-Israel oratory as proof of his hawkish views.
“Two days ago, the president of Iran said that ‘Israel is a wound in the Muslim body.’ The president of Iran might have changed, but the regime’s intentions did not,” Netanyahu told the cabinet. “Iran intends to develop nuclear capabilities and nuclear weapons in order to annihilate the State of Israel, and that’s a danger not only for us or the Middle East, but for the whole world. We are all responsible for preventing it.”
Netanyahu’s statement appeared to be reiterating his previously withdrawn criticism of an inaccurate translation of a Friday speech by Rouhani.
According to Iran’s semi-official ISNA and Mehr news agencies and Western wire services, Rouhani had said, “The Zionist regime has been a wound on the body of the Islamic world for years and the wound should be removed.”
Netanyahu’s original response said that Rouhani had “revealed his true face sooner than expected.” It added, “This statement should awaken the world from the illusion some have taken to entertaining since the elections in Iran. The president was replaced but the goal of the regime remained obtaining nuclear weapons to threaten Israel, the Middle East and the safety of the world. A country which threatens to destroy Israel must not have weapons of mass destruction.”
But other sources quoted Rouhani differently, and ISNA retracted its original report. “In any case, in our region, a sore has been sitting on the body of the Islamic world for many years, in the shadow of the occupation of the Holy Land of Palestine and the dear Quds. This day is in fact a reminder of the fact that Muslim people will not forgot their historic right and will continue to stand against aggression and tyranny,” Rouhani said, according to a New York Times translation.
Late Friday, Netanyahu’s office removed tweets criticizing Rouhani’s statement, and told the BBC that the prime minister had been responding to “a Reuters report with an erroneous translation.”
Netanyahu has consistently warned that the new Iranian president was merely putting on a “more hospitable face,” and that he has no power or intention to change the Iranian regime’s nuclear policy. Last month, he called Rouhani a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
Last Sunday, Netanyahu charged that Iran was going ahead with its nuclear program: “A month has passed since the elections in Iran, and Iran is going full steam ahead on developing nuclear weapons. Now, more than ever, given Iran’s progress, it’s crucial to strengthen economic sanctions against Iran and to provide a credible military option.”
I’ve been feeling nothing but cynicism towards this latest round of Israel/Palestine peace talks but I’m encouraged to find that many persons I respect are taking them very seriously.
Warren Clark, Executive Director of ‘Churches for Middle East Peace‘, is one such person. He believes that there have been real and substantial changes since the last round of pointless dialogue – most especially the European Parliament joining the BDS!
Personally, I am still skeptical about both of Clark’s alternatives – ‘soon’ or ‘never’. I really don’t think change is coming soon – not unless the Arab world can suddenly unite and bring real pressure to bear on Israel. At the same time though, I do believe that change will have to come eventually.
The Impossible Dream – It’s Soon or Never
The impossible dream of peace in the Holy Land – the end of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian West Bank; secure and recognized boundaries for Israel and Palestine; a just solution of the refugee problem; a shared Jerusalem with East Jerusalem for a Palestinian state; recognition and normal relations between Israel and the 53 member countries of the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference; and an end of conflict and an end of claims – seems less impossible today than it did only a short time ago. This week Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met in Washington for the first time in three years and have set a nine month timetable for an agreement.
I said here on June 7 that President Obama’s visit to Israel and the West Bank in March and the subsequent efforts of Secretary Kerry seemed to create a fundamental improvement in the outlook for direct talks and progress toward an agreement.
Since then, two other developments have helped cause a tectonic political shift. First was the realization of Israel’s increasing international isolation in response to its settlement expansion. This month the European Union published regulations that distinguish between trade, investment, cultural and other cooperation with Europe and Israeli entities located within the 1967 lines and with those Israeli entities located east of the 1967 lines, including East Jerusalem. While the immediate economic impact of the regulations will be limited, the political message was strong. The European governments not only do not recognize settlements but are willing to sanction Israel for continuing to build them.
Second, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s political rhetoric has changed. While he said in 2009 for the first time under U.S. pressure that he supported the idea of a Palestinian state under certain circumstances, his continued support of settlement expansions suggested he had little interest in advancing the two state goal. However, the Prime Minister has said recently that a bi-national state would be “disastrous” for Israel and that he believes peace talks are necessary to prevent that.
There remains great skepticism that after so many false starts that any agreement can be reached. Palestinians fear that talks without an agreement will be used to buy more time for Israeli expansion into the West Bank as it was in the 1990s during the Oslo “peace process” when the settler population doubled to 400,000 (it is now over 500,000) and no agreement was reached. The failure of talks then led to the terrible violence of the second intifada. The same specter of violence exists should these talks fail again.
To overcome Palestinian distrust, Israel has agreed to a phased release of 104 “heavyweight” Palestinian prisoners who were jailed for capital crimes before the Oslo talks began more than 20 years ago.
For their part, Palestinians have apparently agreed not to use their political leverage against Israel as long as the talks continue – namely, a bid to sanction Israel in the UN system, especially in the International Criminal Court, and perhaps to bid for full UN membership.
The question remains whether any real chance of an agreement exists after decades of failed peace efforts, including Oslo, Taba, the Wye River, the Arab League plan, the Roadmap and Annapolis. The status quo remains far less tolerable for Palestinians living under occupation than for the more prosperous and secure Israelis, but that balance seems to be changing.
read the rest of this article here.