Posted on: February 10, 2009 Posted by: Mitchell Plitnick Comments: 3

In my capacity as the Director of B’Tselem’s US Office, I’ve been asked frequently of late about the Israeli elections that are winding down as I write this. In general, B’Tselem stays away from matters of politics. Our credibility is dependent on our being focused on human rights, no matter what the shape of the Israeli, or any other, government may be.

An Israeli ballot box
An Israeli ballot box

But this time, I could answer honestly: It really doesn’t matter. Historically, Israel’s observance of international legal standards regarding the Palestinians, while having its peaks and valleys, has moved independently of the party or Prime Minister in power. And in this case, none of the candidates has offered any hint that they are different from the others.

The exception is not one of the contenders for Prime Minister, and that is Avigdor Lieberman. And all that signifies is how much of a threat Israeli democracy is really facing.

Settlement expansion, lack of law enforcement on the West Bank, ongoing house demolitions, the effects of the Separation Barrier, the massive proliferation of roadblocks…and many other issues, all of them get the silent treatment from all of the major candidates.

Oh, there are certainly differences in what Bibi Netanyahu, Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak say in terms of negotiations with the Palestinians. Various people will debate and discuss the sincerity of their statements. But when it comes to ending practices that are unduly burdening millions of innocent Palestinians, that place Israel outside of International Humanitarian Law and contradict Israel’s basic democratic principles, there is not a peep.

Tzipi Livni, Ehud Barak and Binyamin Netanyahu
Tzipi Livni, Ehud Barak and Binyamin Netanyahu

The Gaza Strip has become a matter of the past in the context of the election. For all three major candidates, the “Gaza issue” reflects only their actions and positions during the war and with regard to its ending. Beyond a uniform steadfastness not to talk with Hamas, none of the candidates has mentioned what might be done now to address the massive crisis the civilian population of Gaza is suffering. B’Tselem has issued a preliminary report on Gaza, outlining the questions that need to be investigated by Israel. But not a hint of this in the campaign.

The fact that none of the candidates represents a choice on the issue of human rights at least means that the work on that issue goes on as before, whatever the result. But with Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteinu party coming

Avigdor Lieberman
Avigdor Lieberman

out with the biggest gains in this election, it is clear that Israel’s democratic character is more tenuous and under greater threat than ever before. One can only hope that Israelis and those who care about Israel’s future will recognize the threat and take action.

3 People reacted on this

  1. B’Tzelem is concerned with human rights.

    As I have often written, there is no reason to imagine that Israel will terminate its occupation of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) or of Gaza (either by unilateral abandonment or by peace treaty) within 1 year or 10 years. Occupation should be expected to be permanent and of its present oppressive character for many years to come.

    Human rights advocates should, therefore, not be concerned with a peace treaty (which, when it comes, and if it comes, will be a political and not a human rights event).

    Human rights advocates should be concerned to describe and to work to correct the various human rights violations which Israel’s occupation (as conducted) has demonstrated continuously for 41 years (the first 41 years of the occupation).

    Any description of Israel’s human rights violations would have to include such violations of international humanitarian law as the building of the wall (‘apartheid’ wall) and the settlement of Israeli settlers in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem).

    Human rights advocates should, inter alia (and it is a rather large “alia”), work to correct these violations by demanding the removal od the wall and the removal of the settlers, as quickly as may be.

    They should raise these matters with the Obama administration, with all American Jewish organizations, with American churches, and with the American people and media generally. They should describe the dreadful oppressions which these (and other) oppressions have worked on the Palestinian people living under occupation for 41 years.

    I hereby DEMAND that Israel remove all of the wall and all of the settlers from the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem) by 12/31/2009. Neither the wall nor the settlers is necessary for Israeli security: the wall can be rebuilt within pre-1967 Israeli territory and the settlers can be safely re-settled behind that new wall (if it is re-built).

  2. ~ Its the Jewconomy, stupid.
    Mitchell, while leaning back in my chair with my eyes closed, something occurred to me.
    You wrote:
    ” . . there are certainly differences in what Bibi Netanyahu, Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak say in terms of negotiations with the Palestinians.”
    Negotiations? NEGOTIATIONS???
    It became so clear. Everyone is stuck (like a broken record) on the concept of negotiations. What negotiations? To accomplish what? As if something more needed to be said between the parties. As if there is any facet, any nuance, any molecule of understanding which is lacking between the parties–that can be settled through further discussions. The entire premise is absurd. Thus explains our collective inability to solve the conflict. We have been using woodcarving tools on a bronze sculpture. Then we wonder why our tools constantly break.
    We are stuck in a future which has not yet arrived. It is the conflicted future of two competing interests. The Muslims believe that “Judgment Day” is immanent and when it arrives, God will sort out the problem. The Jews believe that God will also sort out their problems but in the Jewish version, the end result is opposite. The only thing the two group’s disparate expectations have in common is that they both believe that a giant conflict will erupt first. So, how can they be denied? Not through negotiations.
    This also explains why people perceptions of the same situation are so different. It entirely depends on which outcome one hopes for or fears the most. Thank heaven there are guys like me who have greater precision in our analysis. As I have said before, there is no military solution. Administering the military solution will only prime the pump and stoke the flames of the above referenced final clash. There are only intellectual solutions and spiritual solutions. That’s all there is. Sorry to report. Nothing else is able to derail this runaway train.
    The intellectual solution involves owning up to the truth. The truth is that so long as there are 5-6 million people who believe themselves to be “refugees” and are awaiting the day when they can re-acquire human rights as Israeli citizens, the problem is beyond repair. Their anticipated future is incongruent to the Israeli’s anticipated future. Sadly, the Arabs would not be such prolific liars if they did not have such a large audience of people so eager to believe them.
    And BTW: pabelmont: Do not expect the world at large to solve this conflict through popularity contests disguised as “international law”. It was the same world that started this conflict with its thirst for oil, its willingness to sell the Jews wholesale at slaughter (creating the Jewish refugee crisis) and who granted the offspring’s of the displaced Arabs permanent “refugee” status from the same homeland. Now the world says: We demand a resolution! But a resolution is the last thing this world of ours wants. What the world REALLY wants, including many of its Christians, most of its Muslims and even some of its Jews–is to be rid of this incessant Jewconomy. Wherein Jews naturally find their way to successful positions of power, prestige and wealth. This is frankly too depressing for many people to tolerate. Its like seeing your wife’s ex-fiancé’s everywhere you look. He’s the cab driver, the waiter, the lifeguard, the banker and mail man.
    Israel, if left alone, would soon make Switzerland look like the slums of Cambodia. And that is the inconvenient truth that the world can’t (and won’t) handle. The rest of this is window-dressing. Wall, no wall. Check-points, no check-points. Bibi-Shmeebe. Barak, not Barak. There is no other explanation to explain why the world is completely unwilling to be marginally objective about this. Israel is fighting a 90-year old militancy, geared at its debilitation and ultimately at its removal.
    The charter of the elected Hamas is a call to genocide against the Jewish population of the entire world. It reads–in pertinent part:
    “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it” (The Martyr, Imam Hassan al-Banna, of blessed memory).”
    Hamas’ slogan reads (Article 8):
    “Allah is its target, the Prophet is its model, the Koran its constitution: Jihad is its path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes.”
    It states–regarding the Peace process (Article 13):
    “Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement. Abusing any part of Palestine is abuse directed against part of religion. Nationalism of the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of its religion. Its members have been fed on that. For the sake of hoisting the banner of Allah over their homeland they fight.”
    It continues re: Duty to fight (Article 15):
    “It is necessary to instill the spirit of jihad (holy war) in the heart of the nation so that they would confront the enemies and join the ranks of the fighters. It is necessary that scientists, educators and teachers, information and media people, as well as the educated masses, especially the youth and sheikhs of the Islamic movements, should take part in the operation of awakening (the masses). It is necessary to instill in the minds of the Muslim generations that the Palestinian problem is a religious problem, and should be dealt with on this basis.“
    {End of quote}
    How do walls or the demolition of a few dozen shanties change anything? I know retarded monkeys with more common sense then to believe that peace (in this situation) can be obtained through the cessation of building some Jewish houses.

  3. Below is a piece by Micthell Bard:

    Had the Arabs responded to Israeli overtures immediately after the 1967 War, only a handful of Jews would have lived in the territories. In the next dozen years, it was still possible to turn away from violence and make peace and no more than 6,000 Jews would have been in the territories. That population doubled after Menachem Begin came to power in 1977, but the Palestinians had still another chance to move toward independence, but rejected the offer of autonomy that would inevitably have led to statehood. Meanwhile, the settlements in Sinai were removed when the area was exchanged for peace with Egypt.

    The Palestinians showed no interest in reaching an agreement with Israel for the next 14 years. During that time the number of Jews living in the territories increased more than ten-fold. It was this population explosion that prompted PLO leaders to enter into the Oslo agreements. Israel agreed to the creation of a Palestinian state within five years, but the Palestinians had to fulfill certain promises, the most important of which was the cessation of terror. Violence never stopped, however, even as Israel withdrew from 80 percent of the Gaza Strip and more than 40 percent of the West Bank.

    After a series of heinous attacks in the mid-1990s, Israelis had enough and the Oslo process effectively came to an end. The terror may have been intended to drive Israel out of the territories, but the population instead grew by another 50,000 Jews.

    Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak decided to jettison the incrementalism of Oslo and try to conclude a final agreement all at once. He offered to withdraw from 97 percent of the West Bank, 100 percent of Gaza, dismantle most settlements and establish a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. The Palestinians not only rejected that offer, they did not bother to counter it. Today, many Palestinians regret turning down that deal.

    Instead of building a state, the Palestinians instigated a five-year war that cost more than 1,000 Israeli lives. During that period, the Palestinians again committed to ending terror as part of the road map aimed at creating a Palestinian state. Their failure to live up to the promise to stop terror essentially let Israel evade its road map commitment to freeze settlements and the population increased by another 50,000.

    In 2005, Israel boldly decided to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza, evacuating all its soldiers and dismantling 21 settlements with approximately 9,000 citizens, many of whom had lived in their homes peacefully for decades. Israel also removed four settlements in the West Bank. The hope was that “ending the occupation” and evacuating settlements would satisfy the Palestinians’ demands and provide an opportunity for them to begin to build the infrastructure of an independent state. Instead, they launched a three-year rocket and mortar bombardment against southern Israel that kept the innocent civilians there in a state of constant anxiety. Once again, instead of land for peace, Israel traded land for terror.

    Today, while most Israelis still believe in a two-state solution, there is little enthusiasm for additional territorial concessions that could put Jerusalem, Ben-Gurion International Airport and Israel’s heartland within the range of the type of deadly rockets that Hamas unleashed over the last three years from the Gaza Strip. The unremitting terror campaign has again made the prospect for Palestinian statehood more remote and allowed the population of settlers to grow in the last three years from approximately 250,000 to 276,000.

    The historical record clearly documents the relationship between Palestinian irredentism and the number of Jewish settlers. It is not settlements that are the obstacle to peace, but Palestinian terror and obstinance. The Jewish population in the territories will continue to grow exponentially as long as the Palestinians pursue this failed policy. Israel proved it would dismantle settlements in exchange for peace after signing a treaty with Egypt. If the Palestinians want to achieve independence and reduce the number of settlers, they would be wise to adopt the successful model of negotiation pursued by Anwar Sadat.,1_4044412_AGtVv9EAARqxSZ2Y0wa3sAZcTPE,1_4043493_AGlVv9EAAIu5SZ2A8gOR3ABVJU0,1_4042957_AG5Vv9EAAXJiSZ1dyAMPll5Gst8,1_4042195_AGlVv9EAAAGWSZ1UlAFInTg2fqo,1_4040864_AGlVv9EAAKLaSZ09JQulmCAIF8o,1_4040101_AG5Vv9EAATboSZ02%2FgE7LGaRHk0,1_4041609_AG1Vv9EAAYFiSZ1BYAG8mDF5g3I,1_4038876_AGpVv9EAAGDzSZy6JAP362JBKPk,1_4038297_AGpVv9EAAMIXSZyZlAVez0xlM%2FI,1_4039478_AG1Vv9EAAYSlSZz6bwu%2FiQiUA9U,

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