America’s abuse of power
The report from the Financial Times is followed by one on the irredentists – those who want to ‘reclaim’ land as their own – from the Washington Post in 2013, [plus map and quote from the Israeli Jews News.
Leading irredentist, Israeli MK and Deputy Knesset Speaker Danny Danon: “I think we should no longer think of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, but Palestinian settlements in Israel.” Photo: World Likud.
US plays the crooked lawyer in an Israeli-Palestinian drama
The Israeli tail is being allowed to wag the US dog
By David Gardner in Beirut, Financial Times
April 03, 2014
Washington’s attempts to shepherd Israelis and Palestinians into a so-called framework deal – yet another road map towards ending their conflict – appear to be running out of road. Almost nine months of intense diplomacy, led by John Kerry, the US secretary of state, may have hit a wall this week. Given the way he and his boss, President Barack Obama, have managed this affair, it is surprising this has not happened sooner.
The ostensible new roadblock concerns prisoners. Mahmoud Abbas, president of the interim Palestinian Authority, came back to the negotiating table even though Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, refused yet again to freeze settlement building, thus allowing Israel to continue eating up the shrinking territory over which the Palestinians are negotiating to eventually build their state.
Mr Abbas, seen by admirers as a moderate and by critics as a quisling, has abjured radical siren calls for resistance in favour of a negotiated solution. He has nothing to show his people. He looks weak and discredited.
To offset this, Israel was persuaded to release 104 Palestinian long-term prisoners. The Netanyahu government’s refusal to hand over the last batch on the due date precipitated the current crisis. In retaliation, Mr Abbas this week signed articles of accession to 15 multilateral treaties, investing Palestine with some of the international attributes of a state – which he had promised the US to defer while negotiations continued.
The prisoners in question were supposed to have been released 20 years ago as part of the Oslo accords, at the high water mark for hopes that these two peoples could close a deal on sharing the Holy Land. They were not. To get Mr Netanyahu to do so now, it seems Washington is prepared to release Jonathan Pollard, jailed for life for selling US military secrets to its Israeli ally, a case Mr Netanyahu has championed.
This kind of reaction – and it is reactive – fits a pattern of the US consistently over-rewarding a recalcitrant ally, as well as being snubbed by Israel for its pains.
In 2009, for example, it was Mr Obama who blinked when Mr Netanyahu simply refused to halt colonisation of Palestinian land. Instead, in 2010, the US president offered Israel the Jordan Valley – a big chunk of the occupied West Bank that is not his to give – in return for a short pause in settlement building. Mr Netanyahu, in any event, refused.
It is not just that Washington is behaving more like a crooked lawyer than an honest broker, bullying the weaker Palestinian party into keeping talks going while Israel continues to settle illegally occupied territory. The Israeli tail is being allowed to wag the US dog. Mr Netanyahu cannot be losing much sleep over reports that President Obama is returning to the talks to back up Mr Kerry. It is hard to see what difference this can make while the US concentrates on process rather than substance.
Far from pushing Israel to roll back the occupation enough to enable Palestinians to build a viable state on the occupied West Bank and Gaza, with Arab East Jerusalem as its capital, it looks as though the US is planning to hand Israel almost all the settlement blocs, about three-quarters of East Jerusalem, and the Jordan Valley.
In addition, the Palestinians are being pressed to recognise Israel as a Jewish state – rather than, as they have long since done, recognise the state of Israel and its right to exist. Agreement to that could compromise a negotiated deal on the future of nearly 5m Palestinian refugees, prejudice the position of that fifth of the population of Israel proper that is Palestinian Arab by origin, as well as require Palestinians to repudiate their history.
Why any US official dreamt all this might work is a puzzle. It seeks compromise not between Israel and the Palestinians but between factions of Israel’s irredentist right – which means the end of a two-state solution.
Unless the US is prepared to push for a real compromise, and a real state of Palestine, Israel’s future could be bleak. Mr Kerry himself, but also Israeli and European leaders, have warned that failure will chip away at Israel’s hard-won legitimacy, opening the door to an international boycott movement that is already gathering force – a much greater threat to Israel than the Palestinians could ever muster.
A Greater Israel? Faction says no to two-state solution, yes to annexing Palestinian areas
By William Booth and Ruth Eglash, Washington Post
November 06, 2013
JERUSALEM — As Secretary of State John F. Kerry resumes talks here Wednesday in the quest to create “two states for two people,” a vocal faction in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is, more openly than ever, opposing the very idea of a Palestinian state — and putting forward its own plans to take, rather than give away, territory.
Ministers in Netanyahu’s ruling coalition and leaders of his party, the Likud, are in revolt against the international community’s long-held consensus that there should be two states between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. In the process, they are seeking to overturn the commitments of every U.S. president since Bill Clinton and at least four Israeli prime ministers, including the current one.
While once content to simply voice their opposition to giving up what they see as Jewish land or rights in the West Bank, these two-state opponents have gone beyond shouting “no” and are preparing details of their own vision for how Israel should proceed unilaterally after the current round of peace talks fails — which they say is inevitable.
“The day after peace talks fail, we need to have Plan B,” said Knesset member Tzipi Hotovely, a rising star in the Likud party and deputy minister of transportation in Netanyahu’s government.
Instead of a sovereign Palestinian nation arising in the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as its capital — which has been the focus of on-again, off-again peace negotiations since the Oslo Accords in 1993 — the two-state opponents envision Israel annexing large swaths of the West Bank.
As for the Gaza Strip and its 1.6 million inhabitants, which Palestinians consider central to any future nation, the Israeli expansionists say Gaza should be abandoned to its own fate — to be eventually absorbed by Egypt or left as a hostile semi-state, run by the Islamist militant organization Hamas and isolated from Israel by existing separation barriers.
As for the Palestinians living in the West Bank, depending on the ideas under discussion, the annexationists suggest that they be offered Israeli citizenship or residency or be made the responsibility of Jordan.
The Land that God Promised:
“Genesis 15:18 reads: To your descendants I give this land from the River of Egypt to the Great River, the river Euphrates. Moses announces to the Jews in Deuteronomy 11:24, that “Every place where you set the soles of your feet shall be yours. ‘Your borders shall run from the wilderness to the Lebanon and from the River, the river Euphrates, to the western sea.'”
“I think we should no longer think of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, but Palestinian settlements in Israel,” Danny Danon, deputy defense minister, said in an interview.
Danon, recently elected to head the central committee of the Likud party, imagines an archipelago of Palestinian cities — Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah and Hebron — as Arab islands in an Israeli sea.
“The Jewish people are not settlers in the West Bank, but Israel will make the Palestinians settlers and Jordan will be the one taking control over Palestinians and that’s it,” Danon told Israel’s Channel 1 this summer.
Beyond the fringe
After years of criticism, Netanyahu declared himself an advocate for two states in a speech at Bar Ilan University in 2009. He repeated his commitment to the idea last month — as long as Israel’s security demands are met and the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
But opponents and skeptics of the two-state solution represent a formidable bloc in the Israeli government and parliament. Those who would unilaterally annex all or part of the West Bank comprise a smaller but still-potent number.
Though they are sometimes depicted as a right-wing fringe by their critics in the peace camp, there is considerable support for their ideas. An April survey of Jewish Israelis for Ariel University, which is in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, found that 35 percent said the government should annex all the land of Judea and Samaria — the biblical names some Israelis use to describe the West Bank.
About a quarter of those polled said only the areas containing large Jewish settlements should be annexed. These areas represent about 6 percent of West Bank territory, and the idea that Israel would keep them and swap other land to a new Palestinian state is a mainstream view that is at the center of Kerry’s peace initiative.
Palestinian leaders and members of their negotiating team say the ideas put forth by the annexationists reveal Israel’s true heart. Israeli leaders, they say, do not really want a deal and instead want to keep the land they won from Jordan in the 1967 war and have occupied since — land that Israelis want for security and because they believe that it is their ancestral home.
Of course, the Palestinians have their own expansionists who would like to take all of the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and has for decades waged a campaign of violence against Israeli military and civilian targets. In academic and activist circles, there is also support for a binational solution among Palestinians who have grown frustrated with a long-delayed peace process.
Many Israeli leaders who support the two-state solution acknowledge that they are tired of failure and cynical about prospects for a U.S.-brokered deal. But they say the idea of annexing the West Bank is not only unrealistic but also incendiary.
“The fact that the right wing is thinking about solutions without the two states worries me,” said Hilik Bar, deputy speaker of the Israeli parliament and a member of the Labor Party.
He said that as painful as it will be to surrender most of the West Bank for a Palestinian state, it is necessary to end the conflict and to keep Israel both Jewish and democratic.
If all of the Palestinians in the West Bank became Israeli citizens, they would wield tremendous influence in Israel’s government and could dilute the nation’s Jewish character. The annexationists say they have solutions to that problem ranging from creating high bars for citizenship to the mass immigration of a million or more Jews from around the world, especially the United States.
The status quo will not hold, they argue, and it is time to pursue their goals in the open.
The deputy foreign minister, Zeev Elkin, a staunch opponent of a two-state solution, said at a conference last year that “regardless of the world’s opposition, it’s time to do in Judea and Samaria what we did in [East] Jerusalem and the Golan.”
After the 1967 war, Israel incorporated East Jerusalem into the greater Jerusalem municipality. Israel annexed the Golan Heights in 1981. However, both remain contested territories.
The debate among annexationists is not whether to take greater control of the West Bank — it is how much to take.
The Oslo Accords of 1993 divided the West Bank into three areas. In areas A and B, which constitute about 40 percent of the West Bank and include the major Palestinian cities and most of the Palestinian population, the Palestinian Authority was promised full civil control and full or shared security duties. In Area C, the Israeli military maintains full civil and security control.
Area C is the least populated and includes the Jordan Valley, the border area that Israelis say is crucial for maintaining security.
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, who also leads the political party called the Jewish Home, published his “Tranquilizing Plan” last year, whereby Israel would unilaterally annex Area C and leave areas A and B to be administered by the Palestinian Authority with oversight by Israel security forces.
Bennett said the 48,000 Palestinians living in Area C — others say there are three times as many — would be offered Israeli citizenship or residency. The 350,000 or so Jewish settlers, who are already Israeli citizens, would remain, and their population and settlements, which would become towns, would grow.
Uri Ariel, the housing minister, has said he would start with Area C and continue to assert sovereignty in stages to eventually annex all of the West Bank.
Ariel said Palestinians who wish to become citizens would have to apply and meet criteria such as speaking Hebrew and pledging allegiance to Israel.
Hotovely, the deputy transportation minister, said she envisions annexing all of the West Bank and granting its residents full Israeli citizenship. She said her Greater Israel would remain democratic and Jewish by encouraging the mass migration of Jews from around the world to Israel.
“This is not a binational state. There will still be 70 to 75 percent Jews, with a large minority of Palestinians,” Hotovely said. “Israel can live with this reality.”
Notes and links
From To Israel with love,Why America gives Israel its unconditional support, Economist, Aug 3rd 2006
Americans instinctively see events in the Middle East through the prism of September 11th 2001. They look at Hizbullah and Hamas with their Islamist slogans and masked faces and see the people who attacked America—and they look at Israeli citizens and see themselves.
The Ascendance of Israel’s Radical Right by Ehud Sprinzak, review by Hillel Schenker, Palestine-Israel Journal, 1994