It all started with Obama in Washington on May 19th at the State Department and ended today with Bibi Netanyahu addressing congress in Washington.
And it’s all about a two-state solution.
A really tense photo-op with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu which looked like a married couple at a party just after a row, desperately trying to convince the guests they still love each other, whilst their body-language says otherwise.
Bibi, unhappy at the ’1967′ lines thing, gave Obama a bit of a lecture on Jewish history.
Then it was over to AIPAC for Obama, where he clarified what he had just said in the State Department and with Bibi, and spelled out what ‘based on 1967 lines’ means.
All this followed by a quick interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr (who behaved at times like a 13 year old schoolboy interviewing his idol) and a further clarification of what he really meant about 1967 lines. Then across the sea to Ireland for some schmaltzy, easy publicity in Dublin (a great rousing, inspirational speech which Obama is so good at) thence to the UK and, no doubt, more on the two-state solution in the Palace of Westminster tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Bibi arrives in Congress and really lays it on the line and tells it like it is to a rapturous reception.
But what is all the fuss about amidst this flurry of diplomatic activity? What did Obama say that was so wrong?
Here’s a snippet from his State Department speech: (full text here)
For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.
Nowt wrong there.
The status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.
The fact is, a growing number of Palestinians live west of the Jordan River. Technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself. A region undergoing profound change will lead to populism in which millions of people -– not just one or two leaders — must believe peace is possible. The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome. The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation.
That word ‘occupation’ somehow jangles coming from the mouth of an American President. OK, let’s not get into the legalities but he does seem to be suggesting that Israel does this occupying in an attempt to deny a Palestinian state.
What America and the international community can do is to state frankly what everyone knows — a lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples: Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people, each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.
I don’t disagree with that; apparently Bibi doesn’t disagree with that. So who does? Ah – the Palestinians, the Arabs, most of the Muslim world, Iran, Hamas, Hizbollah… get the picture?
Now what appears to be controversial:
We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.
…the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel: How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist?
Exactly. So why mention the 1967 lines?
Melanie Phillips takes issue with the ’1967 lines’ as follows:
Obama spoke correctly when he referred to the ‘1967 lines’ rather than ‘borders’. There are no 1967 borders. Israel actually has no borders. All it has are the 1949 ceasefire lines, which is where Israel was left when it fought off the attempt by five Arab armies to exterminate it at birth. These lines were referred to as the ‘Auschwitz borders’ because within them no country could possibly defend itself against its enemies. They left Israel at its narrowest point a mere nine miles wide — as Netanyahu said, less than the Washington Beltway. A return to the 1967 lines would mean exposing Israel once more to the likelihood of destruction, and such a proposal runs counter to the spirit and the letter of UN Resolution 242. True Obama added ‘with land swaps’. But no realistic land swaps could make up for this fatal vulnerability.
But ‘with land swaps’ means that the 1967 lines will not be the border but the starting point of negotiations and it has long been known that ‘with land swaps’ means that the areas along the Green Line such as Gush Etzion will remain part of Israel, the ‘settlements’ in Judea and Samaria which are not contiguous with these borders will be part of Palestine.
According to Melanie the fatal flaw was saying that the 1967 lines were the basis of a ‘settlement’ rather than ‘negotiations’. That’s too nuanced for me. And it doesn’t matter if:
Successive administrations carefully stepped round this minefield in accordance with Resolution 242. It is the Palestinians who talk about returning to the ‘1967 borders’. The sting in what Obama did was to adopt the Palestinian position as US policy. Wrote [Glenn] Kessler: [link]
He did not articulate the 1967 boundaries as a ‘Palestinian goal’ but as U.S. policy… for a U.S. president, the explicit reference to the 1967 lines represented crossing the Rubicon.
But this is Bibi Netanyahu’s position, it appears, as he said in Congress a few hours ago:
I am saying today something that should be said publicly by anyone serious about peace. In any peace agreement that ends the conflict, some settlements will end up beyond Israel’s borders. The precise delineation of those borders must be negotiated. We will be very generous on the size of a future Palestinian state. But as President Obama said, the border will be different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. Israel will not return to the indefensible lines of 1967.
Does it really matter if they are ‘based’ or ‘must be negotiated’. It’s the same thing unless you wilfully misconstrue. Apparently it’s a major shift in US policy. That is, it’s a major shift to say what we already knew. With such subtle nuances no wonder the peace process gets stalled.
The Glenn Kessler Washington Post article quotes Hillary Clinton in 2009:
“We believe that through good-faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.”
Did Obama really make a policy shift or was it a gaffe? Was it a sop to the Arabs?
So what if Obama says ‘based on’? The facts on the ground are already ‘based on’ the 1967 lines because the major ‘settlements’ around Jerusalem are more or less contiguous area bestriding the Green Line. If you are serious about a viable Palestinian state it cannot look like a moth-eaten bit of Gorgonzola. To be viable it has to be contiguous.
The big threat to any negotiation is the status of Jerusalem.
As for Jerusalem, only a democratic Israel has protected freedom of worship for all faiths in the city. Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel. I know that this is a difficult issue for Palestinians. But I believe with creativity and goodwill a solution can be found.
‘Difficult issue’ is right because the 1967 lines (really 1949 ceasefire lines) cut through a hitherto undivided city leaving the eastern section to be ethnically cleansed of its Jewish majority (by the Jordanians) and between 1948 and 1967 the eastern part of the city became what is now termed ‘Arab East Jerusalem’.
This is what Obama had to say:
… the future of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees. But moving forward now on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation to resolve those two issues in a way that is just and fair, and that respects the rights and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians
I’m not sure what rights anyone has who has been on the losing side three times, refused a state four times and still claims the whole of Israel as Palestine. Nevertheless, it is clear that a very imaginative solution will have to be reached for Jerusalem because I can’t see the Palestinians ever accepting that it will not be their capital, however absurd such a claim or aspiration is. It is now part of the ‘narrative’ and well-nigh impossible to deracinate from their collective psyche.
Robin Shepherd also takes issue with the ’1967 lines ‘. He also believes Obama is throwing Israel under ‘the proverbial bus’.
And it all revolves around what ‘based on the 1967 lines’ means again:
No Israeli government — let me rephrase that, no government of any description, anywhere — could accept a peace deal which leaves its people at the mercy of a declared enemy long committed to the state’s destruction.
And that is exactly what the 1967 lines would mean for Israel: Not so much gambling the lives of your children on the kindness of strangers as gambling them on the kindness of people very well known to you who (literally) teach their own children to hate yours.
Well, if that’s the issue with the ‘based on the 1967 lines’ thing then it doesn’t matter where you delineate a Palestinian state because wherever its borders are it’s never going to be very far from Israel. What difference would a few kilometres make to Israel’s security?
In the end then, you can pore over Barack Obama’s speech all you like. You can put this bit of his speech against that bit. You can draw comfort from one part and be concerned by another. You can agonise about what the 1967 borders with land swaps really means. You can pull and push until it sounds innocent enough on the one hand or nothing short of disastrous on the other.
But it’s all an exercise in futility.
This is a president cocooned in delusions about how to deal with tyrannical regimes and the political cultures which underpin them. Obama is an appeaser through and through. And when you read between the lines, that was the message we should draw from yesterday’s speech.
I’m not sure he is an appeaser. Deluded, yes. And this delusion stems from a profound refusal by him and the Europeans and, indeed British PM Cameron and Foreign Secretary Hague, and just about everyone in the Labour Party, to grasp one simple fact:
The current Palestinian leadership has clearly demonstrated that it is not interested in 1967 or 1948 or 1750 or 2012 or any other date. It is only interested in a single, Palestinian state including what is now Israel.
Any and every diplomatic effort it makes to have a unilateral de facto state declared by the UN in September points to this.
The pact with Hamas points to this.
The PA education system with its vicious anti-Semitic vitriol and historical revisionist mythology points to this.
The PA naming squares after terrorist murderers and putting convicted murderers on the PA payroll points to this.
Into this mix is a further US and Western delusion that the Arab Spring, wherever it is, is a bid for western-style democracies even though not one of the the Springers has yet achieved anything resembling democracy.
This delusion ignores the emboldening of elements within these countries to seize an opportunity to attempt to destabilise Israel: in Egypt the threat of ending the peace treaty and cutting of gas supplies, in Tunisia attacks on Jews, in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan mass invasion of Israel’s borders by Palestinians and others claiming they are walking to their homes in ‘Palestine’ when ‘Palestine means pre-1967 Israel.
So the 1967 lines may well be a starting point for negotiations with land swaps, but if Israel insists on all of Jerusalem and no return of so-called refugees, and if the Palestinians are negotiating not for a final settlement, but a stage toward the complete conquest of all of Israel, then the whole process is a non-starter. And, by the way, I agree with that Israeli position, in case you are wondering, but what I am saying is that that position cannot currently be accepted by Palestinians.
The problem for Israel is that powerful allies want to force yet another round of negotiations even though the Palestinian position is hardened and emboldened by Washington and the EU countries who persist in their double-think and delusion that Israel can negotiate with its would-be destroyers.
As Melanie says:
Bottom bottom line: it’s all a pile of steaming irrelevance. The Arabs aren’t going to play anyway. The immediate reason for the nine-decade war thus remains firmly in place. The deeper reason, that the aggressor is indulged and rewarded by the west and thus has every incentive to ratchet up his rejectionism and aggression, also remains firmly in place.
That is what Netanyahu has to address. He has to tell America and Britain that this murderous impasse is their fault — and that only they can end it by refusing for the first time to indulge and reward those committed to the destruction of Israel, the real cause of the continuation of this conflict. Netanyahu did well last Friday. Now he has to turn telling truth to power into a new strategic approach.
Bibi had his chance today in Congress, but I’m not sure it was a ‘new strategic approach’.
BBC news report June 15th 2020
From our reporter at the Parliamentary Select Committee:
“Are you now or have you ever been a member of a Zionist organisation? Name names or be blacklisted”, demanded Chief Prosecutor Galloway at the recent Zionist sedition hearings.
A succession of prominent Jewish MPs, businessmen and women, rabbis, scientists and journalists were put under the spotlight by Sir George Galloway and his committee of Tony Benn, Ken Livingstone and Baroness Tonge.
Several broke under the unremitting pressure and admitted buying trees for the Jewish National Fund. A sense of outrage permeated the room. Lord Sugar, accused of brain-washing young business hopefuls to spout Zionist propaganda, told the committee in no uncertain terms what he thought of them. His whereabouts are now unknown.
Meanwhile, coalition deputy Prime Minister, Salma Yaqoob, was explaining that there was no room in Britain for any Jewish refugees fleeing from West Hamastan. “We will turn back the boats. These people originally came from Poland and Germany, it’s their problem”, she opined.
Addressing the UN General Assembly, Greater Hamastan President, Khaled Mashaal, said that recent reports of pogroms in Al Quds and Greater Jaffa had been misreported. “Only 5 Zionist aggressors had been hacked to death in self-defence during the Gaza ghetto uprising”, he said, “where did you get 100,000 from? – this is a Zionist lie.”
President Palin said she had no idea where Hamastan was.
Orla Guerin and Jeremy Bowen reporting from Al Quds said that the remaining Jews were being well treated. Visiting a refugee camp near Hebron he reported, “The Hamastan government showed us the wonderful facilities being provided for the Zionist refugees”. Enquiring about the strange acrid smell and some newly built chimneys he was told these were bakeries that Jews liked to work in to make matzo.
However, the Hamas government was unable to provide a certain ingredient for their Passover unleavened bread: “They’ll just have to do without the blood of our children”, said a Hamastan camp supervisor.
Barbara Plett gave a tearful account of the inauguration of the Hamastan parliament. “I never thought I’d see this day,” she said crying into her hanky.
Exiled Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas is reported to be in hiding somewhere in Alaska.
“We have no idea who this guy is”, said President Palin, “but jeez, even an Arab deserves a break.”
The Hamastan contingent, on leaving the UN, made its way to the newly opened Ground Zero mosque for evening prayers. Crowds of delirious New Yorkers lined the street with Hamastan flags.
One lone Zionist from the Israel Liberation Front was beaten to a pulp as he tried to wave the banned Zionist Entity flag.
At the opening of the Obama Presidential Library, former US President Barack Obama, commenting on the situation in the Middle East, said “I see this as a vindication of my policies, peace has come to Palestine after more than 70 years of conflict”.
When a reporter asked him, “What about the Jewish genocide?”, he answered, “Please excuse me, I have to show Secretary General Ahmadinejad a first edition of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion which he has expressed an interest in.”
The two disappeared arm-in-arm into the new building.
As President Obama announces that the United States will be going for a manned mission to Mars by the 2030′s the Jewish world breathes a sigh of relief.
At last there is hope for the Jewish people when their homeland is taken from them in a future Judenrein world.
We’ll all be going to Mars! Eventually. If we survive that long and if Olympus Mons is not claimed as an ancient Muslim holy place.
When we’re all several million miles away perhaps the rest of the human race will leave us alone.
Only possible problem will be the Little Green Men who will not take kindly to Jewish colonialism. We can always build a separation wall and if the locals expel us from a second planet the moons of Jupiter look interesting.
Oh dear, oh dear. Oy va avoy!
Here is that nice vice-President Joe Biden arriving in Israel to try to get the annual peace talk talks about peace talk talks going again and what happens? His best pals embarrass him and themselves because Israeli politics seems incapable, sometimes, of understanding what ‘joined-up’ means.
You should probably know that since President Obama decided that the way to overcome six decades of Palestinian rejectionism was to get tough with Israel, his target for this toughness has been ‘settlements’. Stop! he says, it’s the settlements that are the reason why Palestinians won’t talk or talk about talks. Even though a settlement freeze was not a prerequisite of the many previous attempts to establish a Palestinian state (because, let’s face it, that’s what it’s really about), suddenly, with this brilliant insight, this veritable epiphany, Mr Obama gave the Palestinians, and the world’s press (including some in Israel) an excuse a) to reject and b) beat Israel over the head.
Along comes Bibi and what does he do? A 10 month moratorium on further settlement construction EXCEPT (and this is a big ‘except’) in Jerusalem (East that is as no-one cares about West). This doesn’t stop the Israelis from finding some excuses, legal or otherwise, of doing some further construction in existing ‘settlements’.
This moratorium was clearly designed as a sop to the Americans, a supplication to show good faith. It was of course (and understandably) pooh-poohed by Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian President.
After much background negotiating the Palestinians at last agreed to ‘indirect’ peace talks. This means they won’t sit with the Israelis but act through an (American) intermediary. Abbas somewhat negatively said that he doubted the talks would achieve anything and should be limited to four months. I won’t discuss at this time the reasons why I don’t think Abbas wants a deal but at least he is giving the impression that he will talk to someone who will act as a carrier-pigeon to the Israelis who will then indulge in something that is called ‘shuttle diplomacy’ which has been put forward as an Olympic sport for 2016.
So what happens when Joe Biden arrives to meet his old friend Bibi? Here’s a flavour of the shmooze that went on (get the bucket ready now):
Prime Minister Netanyahu: Vice President Biden, Joe, welcome to Israel and welcome to Jerusalem. We’ve been personal friends for almost three decades. Can you believe it’s been that long?
Vice President Biden: No, you’re getting older, Bibi. I don’t know…
It get’s worse, stay with me.
Prime Minister Netanyahu: And you remain younger all the time. And in all that time you’ve been a real friend to me and a real friend to Israel and to the Jewish people and you’ve come to Israel many times since you first came here on the eve of the Yom Kippur War. But now you’re coming as the Vice President of the United States of America and this is deeply appreciated and for me deeply moving.
A tad patronizing, maybe?
I also appreciate the Administration’s effort to advance peace in the region. I know that this has been difficult and has required a great deal of patience, but I’m pleased that these efforts are beginning to bear fruit and we have to be persistent and purposeful in making sure that we get to those direct negotiations that will enable us to resolve this conflict.
I look forward to working with President Obama, and with you and your entire Administration to forge an historic peace agreement in which the permanence and legitimacy of the Jewish State of Israel is recognized by our Palestinian neighbors and in which Israel’s security is guaranteed for generations to come.
I think we heard this before – Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush….
Vice President Biden: Thank you very much. Mr. Prime Minister, it’s a pleasure to be back. It’s been too long between visits here and it is true that you and I have been friends a long, long time and a matter of fact, when each of us were in the minority, occasionally I’d get a phone call at home and I’d call you as well to get a sense of what’s going on. Our friendship is real, but what’s even deeper is the relationship between the United States and Israel.
…. The relationship between Israel and the United States has been and will continue to be a centerpiece – a centerpiece of American policy and it’s been that way since Israel’s founding in 1948.
…. Bibi, you heard me say before, progress occurs in the Middle East when everyone knows there’s simply no space between the United States and Israel. There is no space between the United States and Israel when it comes to Israel’s security
Well I’m glad he qualified the ‘no space’ thing because there’s plenty of space from where I’m standing.
President Obama and I strongly believe that the best long-term guarantee for Israel’s security is a comprehensive Middle East peace with the Palestinians, with the Syrians, with Lebanon, and leading eventually to full and normalized relationships with the entire Arab world. It’s overwhelming in the interest of Israel, but it’s also overwhelming interest to the Arab world and it’s in our interest as well.
This is what my younger son calls ‘stating the bleedin’ obvious’.
And so Mr. Prime Minister, toward that end, I’m very pleased that you and the Palestinian leadership have agreed to launch indirect talks.
This is called ‘bigging up’ in today’s parlance.
We hope that these talks will lead and they must lead eventually to negotiations and direct discussions between the parties.
Well, ‘hope’ is one of Obama’s key words and a word that almost defines Israel.
The goal is obviously to resolve the final status issues to achieve a two-state solution with Israel and a Palestine living side by side in peace and security.
Something which Bibi is not convincingly signed up to, the two-state solution, that is. Palestinians believe in a one-state solution – Palestine. To think otherwise is dangerous but Israel and the US and the world like to pretend that Abbas and co. are not like Hamas; they want a two-state solution. Yes, but only as a first step to a one-state solution.
An historic peace is going to require both parties to make some historically bold commitments.
This means Israel will have to make all the concessions and the Palestinians will reject them as not going far enough. This will be after months of tough negotiations with everyone getting very excited about a ‘peace deal’ only to end in rejection and probably more violence and Israel blamed for not agreeing to destroy itself. Been there before I believe.
You have done it before and I’m confident for real peace you would do it again.
See what I mean?
Over the last year, Mr. Prime Minister, you have taken significant steps, including the moratorium that has limited new settlement construction activity and you have significantly increased freedom of movement across the West Bank.
O-oh, he mentioned settlements – this was before the Israelis kicked him up the backside and then thumbed their nose at him.
You still got that bucket ready? Well here goes.
Prime Minister Netanyahu: I will say that agreements are dependent on the arrangements not on paper, but on the ground. Here’s a piece of paper that reflects an arrangement on the ground. We have planted a circle of trees in Jerusalem in memory of your mother; Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden because you have said many times that she was a source of immeasurable strength which I recognize in you, Joe. We planted a tree to serve as a tribute, a circle of trees next to the leaders of the nations. We have a forest of the leaders of the nations and right next to it are the trees that we have planted in memory of your mother as a tribute to her immeasurable strength and I want to offer it to you on your visit to Israel.
Vice President Biden: Well, thank you very much. If you don’t mind my saying Mr. Prime Minister, my love for your country was watered by this Irish lady who was proudest of me when I was working with and for the security of Israel, so it’s a great honor. Thank you very much.
(full text here)
And immediately after this the Jerusalem authorities announced the approval of 1600 new homes in East Jerusalem. This led to an unprecedented condemnation from Biden
The substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of proximity talks, is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I’ve had here in Israel.
- he could hardly do otherwise – and the Palestinians latching on to the opportunity to threaten withdrawal from the indirect talks – maybe they’ll agree to indirect talks about indirect talks? After all, it was they who wouldn’t speak directly.
After all that schmaltz, to have it pushed in your face is unpalatable even for a philo-Israeli like Biden.
The actual truth about the approvals for more building is that a) Israel has never seen East Jerusalem as a settlement and there is no moratorium in place there b) This was a stage in a long process of approval quite separate from State politics c) Even approved, building may not start for years.
However, the timing was unforgivable and even though Bibi told Biden that he did not know, there is something rotten in this State when a municipality can cause such a diplomatic embarrassment at such an important time. Furthermore, it serves to confirm all the prejudices of those determined to undermine Israel and gives further fuel to its enemies.
When will they ever learn.
As Abba Eban, the distinguished Israeli diplomat, politician and writer, once said of the Arabs but true of today’s Palestinians, they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
As I reported yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu proposed and has now had approved a 10 month moratorium on settlement building in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). This specifically excludes necessary building on existing settlements but also stipulates there will be no appropriation of land.
But the big omission is that Jerusalem is exempt from the moratorium, which is consistent with Israel’s position that Jerusalem is the indivisible capital of the Jewish people and it will build for Jews, Arabs and anyone else wherever it wishes within the city.
But this provided a get out clause for the Palestinian leadership as I predicted. The Jerusalem Post reports
He said Wednesday’s announcement by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was aimed more toward appeasing American pressure than truly trying to reconcile with Palestinians.
“At the end of the day Netanyahu needs to make peace with us, the Palestinians, he doesn’t need to make peace with Americans,” Erekat told Army Radio. “If that is what he wants, that is his business. The last I know, Washington is 6,000 miles from Jerusalem, while Jericho is 67.”
The Palestinian Authority:
Already on Wednesday, the Palestinian Authority strongly rejected Netanyahu’s plan, and reiterated its refusal to return to the negotiating table with Israel.Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, announced that the Palestinians rejected the plan because it did not include Jerusalem.
In an op-ed piece in the Jeruslame Post, Marc R. Stanley castigates the Jewish critics of Obama who say that he is not talking to Israel.
Stanley correctly points out the often paranoid reactions coming mainly from the Right and concludes:
The long-term security of Israel will only be fully ensured if peace is achieved. Obama has made clear that the road is difficult, but the president is working hard to make that day come. However, there will still be those with the undying chutzpah to attack the president for not being sufficiently supportive of Israel. I urge them to actually listen to what the president is saying and watch what he is doing – they might be surprised.
I have to say that from where I sit/stand (in the UK) Obama is playing a very dangerous game and the efforts of the US Jewish Democrats to convince themselves that all is well and peace will inevitably result from this ‘new approach’ are simply comforting themselves that their choice of President will all turn out OK in the long run.
I do not doubt President Obama’s commitment to Israel, and, as a naturally left-leaning person myself, I was extremely pleased to see him elected. But we should not allow the historic significance of his election at home cloud the reality of his policy in the Middle East.
Although ‘well-meaning’ I believe the ‘even-handed’ policy, designed to give confidence to the Arab world and to be seen as an honest broker, just will not work for a very simple reason: the PA (and, of course, Hamas, Hizbollah and Iran) have not budged one inch; they see a Palestinian State merely as a stepping stone to the destruction of Israel and the creation of a single state ‘from the river to the sea’. None of their statements are in any way indicative of any compromise on ANY of the sticking points, namely, settlements, Jerusalem, Right of Return, demilitarisation etc., let alone changing the whole ethos of Jew-hatred which is promulgated daily on TV and in schools and mosques.
As long as the Palestinian leadership continues its century-old animus against the Jewish people with attitudes which have only become more polarised over time, then Obama is barking up a tree that has been continuously urinated on by the dogs of the PA et alia.
Obama, frustrated by Arab and Palestinian stone-walling (encouraged, no doubt by the US administration’s new tough-love approach to Israel) simply reacts by criticising just about everything Israel does (settlements, evictions etc) whilst remaining publicly effectively uncritical of the PA.
But, sooner or later, he will realise that regardless of what Israel does, the PA will remain firmly a prisoner of its own rhetoric and history. It cannot change. Only a revolution within Palestine, a new generation that can face reality and not live on fantasies driven by ideology and religious fanaticism, can start a real dialogue for peace.
Obama is doomed to fail, and in the process he simply fuels the world’s bias, anger and frustration with and against Israel whilst Palestinians remain the poor benighted victims of racism, apartheid and European colonialism. So the narrative goes and will go for a very long time.
I’ve been away for a bit and it’s given me a chance to mull over what President Obama (isn’t it strange how quickly we’ve got used to that) was up to in Cairo.
Many observers have taken this speech apart and pointed out how it has ushered in a whole new era of US-Israel politics where Israel can no longer get a free pass from the US and where the new administration has shifted US policy to a tough stance with the Israeli government on the question of settlements and, to a lesser extent, on easing restrictions in Gaza. The impression given is that it is Israel that has to make these concessions to move the peace process forward and that these demands are part of the Road Map agreements, blah, blah.
Many have pilloried the Cairo speech, many have praised it. It all depends on your viewpoint. If you have thought that Israel is the main impediment to the “peace process” then you will applaud Obama’s “tough love” stance. If you have believed that the Palestinians’ refusal to engage honestly in final status negotiations is the problem, then you will be appalled by Obama’s speech.
As so many have picked over the bones of the speech since the beginning of last month, I want to concentrate on the “big idea” behind the speech and why Obama wanted to follow the path of “even-handedness” .
Ah. But was it even-handed or was it heavily biased toward the Muslim world which was such a sea-change for an American president that it just seemed even-handed.
OK. Let’s just say the intention was even-handedness, not in the speech itself but in positioning the US in the eyes of the Muslim world as a more honest broker. To do this Obama had to be seen to be tough with Israel whilst paying little more than lip-service to what the Palestinians and the Arab world have to deliver.
Unfortunately for Israel, to redress the balance (or what Obama wanted to be seen as balance) he had to come down heavy on Netanyahu. This is transparent and not particularly credible posturing; most Arab and Muslim politicians said, “fine, but now we want action”. Subsequent exchanges between Jerusalem and Washington have gradually turned up the heat, evinced responses, but not had very much obvious effect on Israeli government policy.
Indeed, what is clear, is that the Israelis are keen on pursuing their own agenda to push forward the peace process and the two prominent signs of this are firstly, a rapid series of roadblock dismantlements on the West Bank accompanied by the recent “handover” to the Palestinian Authority of responsibility for day to day security in Judea and Samaria. Secondly, a measured expression of the need for and the reasons behind Israel’s demand that the PA recognises Israel as the national home of the Jewish people. Of course, the settlement issue does not go away but there is a marked improvement in the life of Palestinians on the West Bank. Gaza and Hamas are a different matter, however.
But back to Obama.
Why ingratiate himself and his country with the Arab world? What are the US interests in any peace settlement in the Middle-East? Why does Obama want to be seen to be even-handed? What are the US national interests in rapprochement with the Muslim world, especially the Arab world and Iran? Is this the vanity of power? Does Obama see himself as a Messianic figure conferring peace and goodwill to the world? If so, what about North Korea, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Cuba?
The answer is more simplistic than than the real issues that lie behind the questions. What is the major threat to the free world at the moment? Islamist terror and the spread of Jihadi philosphy. But, if Pakistan falls, if Afghanistan is re-Talebanised, if Iraq falls apart, if Iran acquires nuclear weapons?
The major impediment to neutralising Islamist extremism, according to the simplistic narrative of the US government, is the Arab-Israeli conflict. If you get that out of the way, all done and dusted, everyone reconciled, not only is that a huge Obama-legacy moment but it removes the excuse of the Israli-Palestinian conflict to foster the anti-US animus in the Muslim world. It takes the legs from under the Jihadi movement because the conflict which most animates them has been removed.
So goes the narrative. In fact, it’s a charade built on a hope, built on delusion.
Obama may well believe that he can persuade moderate Arabs and Muslims to defeat the Jihadis amongst them and move their societies into the 21st century, engaging with the West whilst retaining their own culture and history. A world where East and West meets and each learns from the other with mutual benefit and increased prosperity. If you remove the main cause of conflict, the world will be a better and safer place and we will will bathe in the light of the Pax Obama.
Nice story. But it is all based on a major misconception that Israel, Zionism and the Palestinians are the real cause of Jihadism. In fact, they are just an excuse, a recruiting seregant, a source of malign and indignant rhetoric.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not end Islamism. The Jihadis will only be satisfied with the destruction of Israel and the Islamisation of the West. The Israelis and Palestinians must be reconciled but only because it is morally imperative that there be a just solution, not as part of an American global peace strategy.
In light of this, despite misgivings about the new Israeli government, so far, I agree with many of the things they are doing and the independent stance they are taking. For the Israellis, asking for more concessions from them without addressing the real nub of recognition of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people, just does not wash.
Meanwhile, I wait to see how the Obama strategy pans out. Don’t hold your breath.
There’s something afoot in the West Bank which is going widely unreported in the media.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been widely reported as either rejecting or being equivocal about a two-state solution and he is therefore depicted as being an impediment to progress on any “Peace Plan”.
The view of the new government is that previous attempts at peace have only lead to Israeli concessions and Palestinian violence. The Netanyahu plan for the Palestinian Authority controlled West Bank is an amelioration of restrictions, increased economic co-operation, removal of settlements deemed illegal by the Israeli courts and a strategy of raising Palestinian living standards.
All this is tempered by an insistence on the right to expand existing settlements which is widely regarded as being an infraction of the Road Map and decidely frowned upon by the Obama adminstration which sees settlement freeze as a first step towards a “peace plan” and bringing the Arab countries on side.
But look at what is actually happening in the West Bank which is hardly reported and which the Israelis appear to be coy about or at least showing their usual woeful inability to win any propaganda battle.
The IDF today revealed the following:
Yesterday, June 2nd, 2009, the Rimonim and Bir Zeit roadblocks located in the Binyamin region, near Ramallah were removed. This step was taken following a meeting between [various IDF chiefs] and the Head of the Palestinian Security Forces in charge of civilian affairs in the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria, Hassin el-Sheik.
… it was decided, in accordance with decisions made by the Israeli government, to take various steps which would significantly improve the daily life of Palestinian civilians in the Judea and Samaria region. A number of security coordination meetings have taken place this year, resulting in a range of steps designed to widen Palestinian free movement, to strengthen the Palestinian Security Forces and the Palestinian economy.
The Rimonim roadblock, located east of Ramallah was completely removed yesterday, allowing free passage from the city to the Jordan Valley area. The Bir Zeit roadblock, located north of Ramallah, which was also removed yesterday, now allowing quick passage from the city to the villages to the north.
Furthermore, Atzira A-Shamalia, a central checkpoint located near Nablus, will now operate 24 hours a day, easing movement in the area.
These steps were taken to widen the free movement of the Palestinian population and are in addition to the 145 roadblocks which were removed in the past year.
During the meeting, it was also decided to finalize the process granting Palestinian businessmen permits to pass through Israeli crossings into Israel. This will allow the businessman and public figures who play an important role in the Palestinian economy greater freedom to conduct their business.
So it’s no wonder that Mahmoud Abbas told the Washington Post
“in the West Bank we have a good reality . . . the people are living a normal life.”
The IDF still operates in the West Bank. It has to to protect Israeli citizens and to thwart terror attacks. But increasingly the Palestinian Authority police, many of whom are trained in the US, are managing to control Hamas and even cooperate on security with Israel.
The situation is always complex; there have been PA inspired attacks and even clashes with the IDF, but it is an improving situation.
So this is the Netanyahu peace plan: if you improve a people’s standard of life and their daily conditions, they will be less inclined to hate, less inclined to lose what they have by continued aggression, more inclined to live side by side.
This is not a final settlement. It delays it. But what are the Israelis to do? Whilst Obama remains obsessed with settlements the PA has already admitting rejecting former President Ehud Olmert’s offer of 97% of the West Bank without any serious attempt at negotiation. Whilst all Palestinian leaders, including Hamas, remain maximalist and look forward to the destruction of Israel there can be no meaningful negotiation because there is no sincerity from the Palestinians, merely political manipulation to move ever-closer to their maximalist goal of a Palestinian state “from the river to the sea”.
And what does King Abdullah of Jordan mean when he says:
“If we delay our peace negotiations, then there is going to be another conflict between Arabs or Muslims and Israel in the next 12-18 months.”
What does he have in mind? How much more than Ehud Olmert, Bill Clinton and Ehud Barak have previously offered is required for peace. How much of Israel is to be dismantled or destroyed for the sake of this peace?
The answer to that queston appears to be: all of Jerusalem, all of the West Bank, the Golan Heights and allowing up to four million “refugees” into Israel. This is not a recipe for peace but for an escalation in the conflict, pushing the Israelis further to the Right.
But even that is only a first step, not for Hamas who refuse to recognise Israel and want to kill all Jews, not for Hizbullah who refuse to recognise and want to kill all Jews, but for the Palestinian Authority run by Fatah who have never given up their goal of destroying Israel; they have just changed tactics.
This is the reality that is brushed under the carpet by everyone except the Netanyahu government. This is why he sees Iran as the pressing problem and not gesture politics with duplicitous peace partners.
The Saudi Plan vaunted by King Abdullah of Jordan which would normalise relations between Israel and the Arab/Muslim world is attractive, but not at any price. It was Lord Carendon, the UK’s UN ambassador in 1967 who said of Abba Eban’s offer of reconciliation with the Arab states: “Never in the history of warfare did the victor sue for peace, and the vanquished refuse”. Now we have the vanquished setting the terms of that peace.
After forty years of refusals from one side and unilateral concessions from the other it is, as always, Israel who is being cast as the impediment to peace and the Arabs as the dovish peace-makers.
And President Obama is encouraging this perception in what may prove to be a misguided attempt to reduce tensions by pursuing rapprochement between the US and the Muslim, especially the Arab, world.
To do this he has to write his new world order as a palimpsest of Middle East history. But that very history may yet leech through his attempts to obliterate it.
I thought, and certainly President Obama thought, that Israel and Palestine were pursuing a two state solution.
The key issues to be resolved with regard to this 60 year conflict are as follows:
1. Borders and security
2. End of belligerence
3. Status of Jerusalem
4. Refugee issues
5. Israeli settlements on the West Bank/Judea-Samaria
It’s very easy to get confused with long litany of “peace agreements” , accords, understandings etc. We have Oslo, Geneva, Camp David, Taba, Annapolis, road map, Saudi Plan and so on.
Despite Ehud Barak offering Yasser Arafat 95-7% of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and compensation for refugees, not only was the offer rejected, without a counter proposal, to the dismay of all involved, including the Saudi Ambassador, but Arafat issued orders for the Second Intifada covering his own inability to confront the possibility of a just peace and leading to the deaths of thousands of Palestinians and Israelis.
Now the Netanyahu government is turning away from seeking a final status solution, including the two-state solution and instead is following a course to ameliorate the conditions on the West Bank and to improve the infrastructure and living standards of Palestinians.
At the same time it is saying that it will honour all previous agreements. It’s getting very confusing. Clearly, the Netanyahu government has decided to follow its own agenda in the apparent belief that there is no current partner for peace. Netanyahu is, therefore, giving the distinct impression that he has accepted a sort of de facto annexation of the West Bank as part of Israel but with Palestinian autonomy.
Whilst Netanyahu kicks the two-state solution into the long grass, Mahmoud Abbas and the PA continue with their own maximalist agenda: Jerusalem is Muslim only and Jews have no claims to it or to any of Palestine (that means Israel too).
Let’s take a look at some recent pronouncements:
Yesterday the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser issued the following:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today (Wednesday), 28.5.09, convened the Ministerial Committee on Improving the Situation of the Palestinian Residents of Judea and Samaria. At the start of the meeting, he said that advancing economic projects for the Palestinian population of Judea and Samaria would a better economic, social and political reality and would improve the Palestinians’ quality of life and personal welfare.
Note “would be a better… reality”. This means better than pursuing any further peace negotiations which both Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman have rejected as having a history of leading not to peace but to Israeli concessions and Palestinian violence.
The communique continues:
Defense Minister Ehud Barak presented economic projects in the PA, including: The establishment of an industrial zone in the Mukibleh-Jenin area of northern Samaria, the establishment of an industrial zone for the processing and marketing of agricultural produce in Jericho, the establishment of an industrial zone in the Hebron-Tarkumiyeh area, the establishment of an industrial zone in Bethlehem, environmental protection projects (waste disposal and sewage treatment sites) and the establishment of a Palestinian city near Ramallah. He noted that approximately 100 projects in various fields in the PA areas of Judea and Samaria are currently in various planning stages.
And so it continues. The strategy here appears to be that an economically stronger Palestine with greatly improved living standards would lead to the de-radicalisation of certain elements with Palestinian society on the West Bank. This in turn would lead to the easing of security arrangements and a better quality of life.
Although I can only applaud the improving of Palestinian economic conditions and easing of restrictions, if they result from this strategy, I also have an impression that this is the language of quasi-annexation. It certainly does not address Palestinian self-determination or any of the agenda items at the top of this page.
Yesterday Arutz 7 reported :
Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe (Boogie) Yaalon believes that the time has come for Israel to “free itself from the failed paradigm” of the “two-state solution.” Yaalon spoke Tuesday at a meeting of MKs dedicated to finding an alternative to the creation of a Palestinian Authority-led Arab state.
While the creation of a PA-led state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza is perceived as a necessity both in Israel and worldwide, such a state would not solve the Israel-PA conflict, said Yaalon. In fact, he said, it is doubtful that the possibility of creating such a state exists, due to Arab and Muslim reluctance to take any step that would imply recognition of Israel or compromise on Arab claims to the entire Land of Israel.
Meanwhile President Obama is advancing his “peace plan” although we only know vaguely what it entails. The Jerusalem Post reported:
US President Barack Obama’s statements about how to advance the peace process do not differ significantly from those of his predecessor, George W. Bush, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told The Jerusalem Post…
He denied reports in the Hebrew press that Obama had drafted a Middle East peace plan calling for a democratic, contiguous and demilitarized Palestinian state whose borders would be determined by territorial exchanges with Israel.
According to the reports, the Old City of Jerusalem would be established as an international zone. The initiative would require the Palestinians to give up their claim of a “right of return,” and Europe and the US would arrange compensation for refugees, including passports for those residing abroad.Arab countries would institute confidence-building measures to clear the air with Israel. When Palestinian statehood would be achieved, diplomatic and economic relations would be established between Israel and Arab states.
“I don’t know of any Obama plan that has been finalized,” said Ayalon, who has been briefed on the closed-door meetings between Netanyahu and Obama. “Don’t believe the headlines. What was in the papers was mere speculation, and there is no substance to it,” he said.
So what IS the plan?
Ayalon said his Israel Beiteinu Party would oppose the internationalization of Jerusalem and the relinquishing of Israeli sovereignty in the “holy basin” around the Old City. He said the party would also insist that Israel not take in a single Palestinian refugee, citing legal, moral and historical grounds.
Tzipi Livni now leader of Kadima said in the Knesset:
“We will not be able to keep Jerusalem if we say no to everything, or if out of fear we adopt unwillingness as a policy and frozenness as an ideology,” Livni said. “I believe that it is possible, through proper management, to make the world understand the things that are important to us, and with them we can keep Israel as a national home for the Jewish people and Jerusalem as its eternal capital.”
Wow! She thinks she can make the world “understand” – that’s more ambitious than a peace settlement given the world’s hatred of the only democratic and free country in the Middle East.
And she seems to fear not just losing Jerusalem but Israel itself as the home of the Jewish people!
Silvan Shalom, Vice Premier puts it most succinctly:
“There aren’t two Jerusalems. Jerusalem will not be divided. Jerusalem will remain the eternal capital of Israel. It’s not a promise. It’s a fact. Jerusalem will not be a topic for compromise.”
Now if you think that’s all a bit uncompromising let’s look what the PA are saying.
Again in the Jerusalem Post, reacting to rumours of a Obama’s “peace plan” President Mahmoud Abbas said:
One PA official said Abbas and his aides were currently studying which, he added, included “several positive points.” The official stressed, however, that some of the proposals mentioned in the plan were completely unacceptable to the Palestinians. These proposals, he said, included the talk about resettling Palestinian refugees in Arab countries, swapping lands between the future Palestinian state and Israel, creating a demilitarized state and granting the Old City of Jerusalem the status of an international city.
“The Palestinian position on these issues is very clear,” explained another PA official. “We insist on the right of return for all refugees on the basis of United Nations resolution 194, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with all of East Jerusalem, including the Old City, as its capital.”
The official said the PA had, in the past, rejected the idea of establishing a demilitarized state and swapping land with Israel.
“The only way to achieve real and lasting peace is by forcing Israel to withdraw from all the territories that were occupied in 1967,” he said.
The interpretation of resolution 194 is highly problematical. 194 does not offer a “Right of Return” nor does it mention Palestinian refugees exclusively. See this article for a full discussion.
The Palestinian position is still maximalist in that it demands ALL of Jerusalem and ALL refugees returning to Israel. As Alan Dershowitz so succinctly puts it:
… the only justification for Palestinians opting to exercise their right of return would be a macropolitical, rather than a microhumanitarian, one. It would be part of a large-scale, carefully orchestrated plan to return millions of Palestinians to Israel in order to overwhelm the Jewish state with a Palestinian majority. (The Case for Peace, John Wiley and Sons, inc. p. 47)
No Israeli government can ever agree to that and the Palestinians know it.
As for Jerusalem, the PA has and continues to make obnoxious statements which deny that Jerusalem was ever Jewish, that the Temple was was not built there, the Torah was altered to lay false historic claim to the Holy Land and all Jewish claims to Israel are bogus. This is nothing less than the negation of Jews and Judaism by denying there clear and evidenced historical connections to the Land of Israel.
June 1st 2008 worldnetdaily.com reporter Aaron Klein provided the following report:
“Jerusalem is Muslim. The blessed Al Aqsa mosque and Harem Al Sharif (Temple Mount) is 100 percent Muslim. The Israelis are playing with fire when they threaten Al Aqsa with digging that is taking place,” said Abbas’ chief of staff Rafiq Al Husseini.
WND also reported March 15th 2007:
The Jewish Temples never existed, the Western Wall really was a tying post for Muhammad’s horse, the Al Aqsa Mosque was built by angels, and Abraham, Moses and Jesus were prophets for Islam.
All this according to Sheikh Taysir Tamimi, chief Palestinian Justice and one of the most influential Muslim leaders in Israel. Tamimi is considered the second most important Palestinian cleric after Muhammad Hussein, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.
… Tamimi, who preaches regularly from the Al Aqsa Mosque, claimed Jews have no historical connection to Jerusalem or Israel and that the Jewish Temples never existed.
“Israel started since 1967 making archeological digs to show Jewish signs to prove the relationship between Judaism and the city and they found nothing. There is no Jewish connection to Israel before the Jews invaded in the 1880′s,” said Tamimi…
“About these so-called two Temples, they never existed, certainly not at the Haram Al- Sharif (Temple Mount),” Tamimi said.
This is the same Sheikh Tamimi who ranted against Israel in front of Pope Benedict as I reported here.
Previously, a leader of the Waqf, the Islamic authority which manages the Temple Mount, was dismissed for stating the Jewish temples existed on the site of the Al Aksa mosque and that denying it is purely political.
The PA is supposed to be “moderate”. Maximalist positions are not moderate. In fact maximalist Palestinian positions and historical revisionism by its lay and religious leaders only give fuel to the current Israeli government to claim there is no point in pursuing solutions using old formulas which have always been rejected.
So we now have two entrenched positions.
Meanwhile President Obama seems to be moving ahead like someone driving a buggy without the horses.