Eternal peace talks, eternal Palestinian subjugation
Israeli Arabs waving Palestinian flags during a rally in the northern Arab-Israeli town of Sakhnin on March 30, 2013 commemorating the 37th anniversary of ‘Land Day.’ Photo by AFP
At the moment there is no change to forge a majority for a fair agreement; the road to South Africa has been paved.
By Zeev Sternhell, Haaretz
April 18, 2014
The demand that the Palestinians recognize a Jewish state is no coincidence; it’s not to be taken lightly. It’s the way to demand that the Palestinians admit their historic defeat and recognize the Jews’ exclusive ownership of the country.
In the eyes of the ruling majority there is no difference between Arabs who are Israeli citizens and Arabs who are residents of the territories, because citizenship is seen as a legal fiction that can be annulled. In any case, it is inferior to national affiliation. According to that approach, the nation is a creation of history or divine creation — others will say a creation of nature — whereas citizenship is artificial, the product of an arbitrary decision.
In the eyes of the right, the Jewish people won a decisive victory when they occupied the country in a process that began with the First Aliyah — the immigration wave from 1882 to 1903 — and continues to this day. Its two high points were the War of Independence and the Six-Day War, both part of the sequence of settlement. In that sense there is no difference between the occupation of parts of the country before and after 1949, while the Green Line has no significance except for being a temporary cease-fire line.
The right, with all its subgroups, believes it is expressing the Zionist consensus, and to a great extent it is right. From the beginning, the differences of opinion in the Jewish nationalist movement were about means rather than ends. There was a power struggle between Mapai — the forerunner of the Labor Party — and the Revisionists — the forerunner of Likud, but it wasn’t over the essence of Jewish nationalism. The Labor movement didn’t recognize the national rights of the Palestinians either. For its leaders and thinkers, Jewish control of the country was enshrined in history, not in people’s natural right to be their own masters.
According to them, history always came before the desires, needs and aspirations of people. Humanist values were not central to Mapai’s thinking, and to this day these values have not been absorbed by the Labor Party.
Therefore, for Israel’s leaders, the word “agreement” means unconditional Palestinian surrender. For the Jews’ exclusive right to the land to be complete and recognized, the Palestinians must accept their inferiority. This perception is anchored deep in the Israeli consciousness and is shared by the right, the center and the center-left, the towns in the country’s outskirts and most residents of Greater Tel Aviv, the Labor Party and Likud. They all reject the principle of equal rights for the Arabs.
This is why it’s absurd to expect the army to behave with a modicum of decency in the territories, just as it’s hard to imagine the High Court of Justice taking a strictly egalitarian approach toward Jews and Palestinians. Since the start of the settlement movement, this institution, which presumably serves as a symbol of Israeli liberalism and democracy, has operated like the army, the police and the Shin Bet security service as an arm of Israeli rule in the occupied territories.
So at the moment there is no chance to forge a majority for a fair agreement. Even if Likud miraculously splits in a move led by the prime minister — who would try to go down as a de Gaulle rather than as a son of Prof. Netanyahu — and the necessary majority is found, it won’t be considered legitimate by large parts of the population. Nobody will have the courage to implement the new policy.
Therefore the occupation will continue, land will be confiscated from its owners to expand the settlements, the Jordan Valley will be cleansed of Arabs, Arab Jerusalem will be strangled by Jewish neighborhoods, and any act of robbery and foolishness that serves Jewish expansion in the city will be welcomed by the High Court of Justice.
The road to South Africa has been paved and will not be blocked until the Western world presents Israel with an unequivocal choice: Stop the annexation and dismantle most of the colonies and the settler state, or be an outcast.
US Secretary of State John Kerry with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting in Jerusalem Photo by Jacquelyn Martin/ AP.
The world is addicted to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. But are never-ending negotiations only delaying a day of reckoning?
By Aaron David Miller, Foreign Policy
April 17, 2014
In an extraordinary editorial last week, the New York Times all but called for the United States to stop wasting its time on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and to just move on. In another world, such advice might be not only emotionally satisfying but quite practical too. Process works better than peace does for both Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas; both sides get stuff without having to make real commitments. And John Kerry is the security blanket that makes that possible.
So why not take the blanket away?
From Kerry’s perspective, I sort of get why he doesn’t want to do that. You can’t get to a conflict-ending agreement now — a judgment I’ve been making since 2003, to the dismay of many who cannot abide my negative analysis. But through process, you can avoid violence and keep hope alive.
There is yet another reason for the survival of almighty process: America and the world are constitutionally incapable of walking away from it. That was the case in the more than two decades I put into working on Middle East peace, and it’s truer now than ever before. There are several reasons why.
Sometimes I get the feeling that the entire world regards the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians as the fulcrum of modern civilization. It’s an extraordinary testament to the durability of this issue that, with Egypt in a chronic mess, Syria melting down, Libya in a modified state of failure, Vladimir Putin threatening to gobble up more of Ukraine, and Asia beckoning for more attention too, the peace process continues to exert the pull that it does.
This is, thanks in no small part, due to the veritable peace-process industry that keeps the drums beating. This industry comprises defenders and detractors of the Jewish state, who are intent on keeping the issue relevant for years to come; religious leaders and believers, Muslim, Jewish, and Christian alike; and diplomats from around the world who make their living on the subject (I speak from personal experience). And of course, there is the media, which sees this as a constant source of news — a story that keeps on giving.
All these actors combined together provide a potent force for a perennial peace process. Even if outcomes never come about, the peace lobby will keep the fire burning.
Kerry is a key member of this lobby. In short, he is addicted to the peace process. I know the feeling. He truly believes that it’s in the U.S. national interest not just to keep this thing alive but also to make it work. He believes that this really is the last chance for peace, and he believes that he has the trust of the parties and the will and skill to pull it off. Plus, he believes that an agreement is his ticket into the Secretary of State Hall of Fame.
You cannot just walk away when you believe such things.
Kerry couldn’t fake being OK with quitting. He just cares too much. And so he is doing everything he can to buy time, hoping that something will happen to rescue the process: for instance, a U.S.-Iran deal on the nuclear issue, or Bibi magically disappearing (the former only a bit more likely than the impossibility of the latter).
To be sure, America has threatened to walk away before. The iconic moment most often cited is James Baker giving the Israelis the White House phone number during congressional testimony in June 1990, saying, “When you are serious about peace, call us.”
But today’s circumstances are fundamentally different than they were back then. In June 1990, there really wasn’t any kind of process from which to walk away. Nor did the Arabs and Israelis have 20 years of negotiating under their belts. In any event, Baker’s comments didn’t have a notable impact. It wasn’t until 18 months later that, in the wake of the Bush administration’s victory over Saddam Hussein, the Madrid process got serious. Then, Baker used the threat to walk away again — and much more effectively. He had something to lose, and so did the parties. They knew it, and he scared them.
Kerry isn’t Baker, however; he is too invested to throw up his hands — which, while certainly risking the entire process, might send something of a wake-up call to the parties that he isn’t going to protect them anymore. And the president, I suspect, will not order the secretary of state to do so. The collapse of the process probably scares them both more than it does Bibi and Abbas, which is not a good thing.
It is more than likely, then, that the process will truck on. In the immediate term, either Kerry will try to get an agreement on extending some version of the original deal, or the parties, for their own purposes, will come up with a face-saver to get past the so-called April 29 deadline by which some kind of framework for a permanent status is supposed to be reached.
But even if neither of those things happens and the process does break down, it still would not be dead. The peace lobby is too strong for the process not to live on in some form — and the Israelis’ and Palestinians’ lives and futures are too inextricably linked.
If anything could force the two sides to finally bring this conflict to a conclusion, it very well might be the dangers inherent to their proximity to one another. As morally unacceptable and politically incorrect as it is to admit, our efforts to keep the peace process alive, while intended to avert violence, may only be delaying a day of reckoning.