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Advance with olive branch in one hand and map in the other: advice to Palestinians

A Middle East Twofer

By Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times

There is so much going in the Middle East today, it’s impossible to capture it all with one opinion. So here are two for the price of one.

Opinion One: Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper, reported the other day that the imprisoned Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti “released an unusual statement from his cell. He called on his people to start a popular uprising against Israel, to stop negotiations and security coordination and to boycott [Israel]. Barghouti recommended that his people choose non-violent opposition.”

Barghouti, as Haaretz notes, “is the most authentic leader Fatah has produced, and he can lead his people to an agreement. … If Israel had wanted an agreement with the Palestinians it would have released him from prison by now.”

I had gotten to know Barghouti before his five life sentences for involvement in killing Israelis. His call for non-violent resistance is noteworthy and the latest in a series of appeals to and by Palestinians — coming from all over — to summon their own “Arab Awakening,” but do it non-violently, with civil disobedience or boycotts of Israel, Israeli settlements or Israeli products.

I can certainly see the efficacy of non-violent resistance by Palestinians to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank — on one condition: They accompany any actions they take with a detailed map of the final two-state settlement they are seeking. Just calling for “an end to occupation” won’t cut it.

Palestinians need to accompany every boycott, hunger strike or rock thrown at an Israeli with a map delineating how, for peace, they would accept getting back 95 percent of the West Bank and all Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and would swap the other 5 percent for land inside pre-1967 Israel. Such an arrangement would allow some 75 percent of the Jewish settlers to remain in the West Bank, while still giving Palestinians 100 percent of the land back. (For map examples see the Geneva Parameters or David Makovsky’s

By Palestinians engaging in non-violent civil disobedience in the West Bank with one hand and carrying a map of a reasonable two-state settlement in the other, they will be adopting the only strategy that will end the Israeli occupation: Making Israelis feel morally insecure but strategically secure. The Iron Law of the peace process is that whoever makes the Israeli silent majority feel morally insecure about occupation but strategically secure in Israel wins.

After Anwar Sadat flew to Jerusalem, Israelis knew there was no way morally that they could hold onto the Sinai and strategically they did not feel the need to any longer. The first intifada, which focused on stone-throwing, got Palestinians the Oslo accord. The second intifada, which was focused on suicide bombing of restaurants in Tel Aviv, got them the wall around the West Bank; Israelis felt sufficiently strategically insecure and morally secure to lock all Palestinians in a big jail.

Today, nothing makes Israelis feel more strategically insecure and morally secure than Hamas’ demented shelling of Israel from Gaza, even after Israel unilaterally withdrew.

Unabated, disruptive Palestinian civil disobedience in the West Bank, coupled with a map delineating a deal most Israelis would buy, is precisely what would make Israelis feel morally insecure but strategically secure and revive the Israeli peace camp. It is the only Palestinian strategy Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu fears, but it is one that he is sure Palestinians would never adopt. He thinks it’s not in their culture. Will they surprise him?

Opinion Two: One of the most hackneyed clichés about the Middle East today is that the Arab Awakening, because it was not focused on the Israel-Palestinian issue, only proves that this conflict was not that important. Rather, it is argued, the focus should be on Iran 24/7.

The fact is, the Arab Awakening has made an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement more urgent than ever for two reasons. First, it is now clear that Arab autocracies are being replaced with Islamist/populist parties. In Egypt, in particular, it is already clear that a key issue in the election will be the peace treaty with Israel. In this context, if Palestinian-Israeli violence erupts in the West Bank, there will be no firewall — the role played by former President Hosni Mubarak — to stop the flames from spreading directly to the Egyptian street.

Moreover, with the rise of Islamists in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Syria, Israelis and Palestinians have a greater incentive than ever to create an alternative model in the West Bank — a Singapore — to show that they, together, can give birth to a Palestinian state where Arab Muslims and Christians, men and women, can thrive in a secular, but religiously respectful, free-market, democratic context, next to a Jewish state. This is the best Palestinian leadership with which Israel could hope to partner.

One reason the Arab world has stagnated while Asia has thrived is that the Arabs had no good local models to follow — the way Taiwan followed Japan or Hong Kong. Fostering such a model — that would stand in daily contrast to struggling Islamist models in Gaza and elsewhere — would be a huge, long-term asset for Israel and help to shape the world around it.

Tom Friedman’s latest advice to Palestinians: accept a farce of a state

Titus North, The Electronic Intifada

In a recent opinion piece, Thomas Friedman exposes the Middle East peace process as a fraud and himself a con man. He smugly offers the Palestinians advice on how to settle their conflict with Israel. His advice? To peacefully demonstrate while carrying a map of a proposed Palestinian state that would be acceptable to most Israelis.

This idea that Palestinians protest while carrying the map that Friedman starts to describe is ludicrous. He thinks they should forget about all their grievances from 1948, when the bulk of Palestinians in 78 percent of Palestine were violently driven from their homes never to be allowed to return, while those homes were then seized and given to immigrating Jews.

But that’s not all. He wants the Palestinians to accept hundreds of thousands of heavily armed and violent Israeli settlers in enclaves carved deep into the remaining 22 percent of historic Palestine. These settlements are connected by roads only Israeli citizens and foreigners can use. How does Friedman wants these roads to be portrayed on his map?

He wants Palestinians to give up a huge part of East Jerusalem. He might think he is being magnanimous when he says Palestinians can have “all Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem,” but the corollary to this is that Israel gets to keep all of the neighborhoods it ethnically cleansed while installing 200,000 colonists.

What “concession” does Friedman propose?

And while Friedman does not specifically mention it, his map is based on the so-called “generous offer” made by Ehud Barak to Yasser Arafat at the Camp David summit mediated by President Bill Clinton.

That map left Israel with the banks of the river Jordan, giving Israel control over the regional water supply and control over all the land borders of the West Bank. Did I mention that Israel would also maintain control over the West Bank’s air space, just as it has maintained control over Gaza’s airspace since the “unilateral withdrawal” of 2005 that Friedman referred to?

What “concession” does Friedman propose Israel make in exchange for this prime territory in East Jerusalem and the West Bank? A “land swap.”

Does this mean that on Friedman’s map Palestinians will get control of Nazareth and other towns in northern Israel that are populated by a Palestinian majority, complete with Palestinian-only roads linking them to the West Bank? Would Palestinian neighborhoods in Haifa come under Palestinian control? Would the Dimona nuclear weapons facility be considered a fair exchange for the borders and airspace of the West Bank? Of course not.

The swap that Friedman thinks is fair is one in which Israel can select the land it most covets and can offer the land it least values, which would be some isolated and uninhabitable tract in the Negev (Naqab) desert.

Friedman thinks that his map, which is nothing but a list of additional concessions, should be carried by every Palestinian engaging in unarmed civil disobedience. Will it shield them from bullets, or prevent them from getting thrown in prison? Would Rachel Corrie still be alive if only she had that map in her hands?

Double or nothing vs. cash in the chips

Friedman says his plan will revive the “Israeli peace camp.” The problem is that there never was much of a genuine peace camp in Israel. Israel is for the most part divided into a “cash in our chips” camp and a “double or nothing” camp.

The “double or nothing” camp has been for establishing more settlements, housing developments, and security facilities in the remaining Palestinian lands. And it keeps striving for more, even though that requires continuing the violence.

The “cash in the chips” camp wants to stop acquiring more of these “facts on the ground,” but wants to keep whatever has already been acquired. It wants peace provided it can continue to enjoy its ill-gotten gains.

Part of the problem is that the “silent majority” in Israel that Friedman writes about has elected a string of governments from the “double or nothing” camp that has established more and more facts on the ground that the “cash in the chips” camp wants to cling to. Friedman’s map is a prime example of the “cash in the chips” mentality. It is easy to say you want peace if it means preserving a status quo that is very favorable to you.

Not enough chips left

The problem is that there are no longer enough “chips” left for the Palestinians to establish anything more than a farce of a state. The entity that Friedman and others envision for the Palestinians would not have control of its own borders, its airspace, its coastline, or its water resources. It would have no military. It would be non-contiguous and gerrymandered, ridden with enclaves of heavily armed and hostile religious and racist fanatics; and criss-crossed by roads that could be used by the fanatics but not the Palestinians. How is that a state? And without a Palestinian state, how is there a two-state solution?

The point of Friedman’s preposterous proposal is not to suggest to the Palestinians a strategy for ending their tribulations, but rather to help Israel’s supporters among his readers relieve themselves of any feeling of moral culpability — as after all, the onus is on the Palestinians to carry his map.

Titus North is the executive director of Citizen Power, a non-profit research and advocacy organization in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Before joining Citizen Power, he taught at the University of Pittsburgh for five years and covered the Japanese financial markets for Thomson-Reuters for 20 years.

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