Wolves In Drag

Another right wing Israeli Knesset member is advocating annexation. This time, though, she is willing to grant citizenship to all the Palestinians of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It’s not a feasible, or a just plan, but it’s another example of how the right is thinking forward while the center and center-left desperately clings to failed plan. So who do you think is going to be setting the agenda in the post-Oslo age? I explore in Souciant this week.

The US Values We Share With Israel?

It is clear that US citizens need to start asking what exactly we are supporting in Israel. The general belief and political rhetoric tell us that the US is, through military aid and diplomatic support, protecting Israel’s very existence, that is, the lives of millions of Jews

Shimon Peres, Bill Clinton and Barbara Streisand at Peres' 90th birthday celebration

Shimon Peres, Bill Clinton and Barbara Streisand at Peres’ 90th birthday celebration

whose history is so full of episodes where we were the victims of violence, ethnic cleansing and even genocide. But in recent years, the story of Israel as a Jewish state has been dictated by demographics and questions of apartheid. So when we support Israel, are we protecting a long-besieged minority and a US ally or are we supporting the kinds of discrimination that are anathema to most of the world?

A disturbing answer to this question was provided by former US President Bill Clinton in his remarks at the celebration of Israeli President Shimon Peres’ 90th birthday: “Is it really okay with you if Israel has a majority of its people living within your territory who are not now, and never will be, allowed to vote?” Clinton asked. “If it is, can you say with a straight face that you’ll be a democracy? If you let them vote, can you live with not being a Jewish state? And if you can’t live with one of those things, then you are left with trying to cobble together some theory of a two-state solution.”

Clinton’s words are a rather clear summation of both the US and Israeli approach to the Israeli occupation, at least among those who are desperately clinging to the long-dead Oslo Process. Those words carry some shocking modes of thought; they also demonstrate very clearly why Israel has gotten more intransigent and the United States ever more feckless over the years.

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Kerry’s Last-Ditch Effort As Quixotic As Ever

On the eve of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s fifth trip of the year to Israel and the Palestinian Territories, little has changed. Despite Kerry’s entreaties not only to both parties but also to Jewish-Americans to come into his “Tent of the Peace Process,” every indication on the ground is, at best, more of the same. The only changes have made it more obvious than ever that the two-state solution, as previously conceived, is dead.

In advance of delaying this trip in order to consult with the rest of the administration’s leadership on increasing military aid to the Syrian rebels, Kerry spoke to the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) annual meeting in early June. He entreated the audience to speak out in a voice that the Israeli leadership could hear in support of the moribund two-state solution.

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, widely regarded as the government’s “fig leaf” whose role is to mask the rejectionism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, echoed Kerry’s call. And the AJC, along with other Jewish-American organizations, got an immediate chance to respond. Yet that very opportunity demonstrated the futility of Kerry’s and Livni’s efforts.

First, Netanyahu’s Deputy Defense Minister, Danny Danon, of Netanyahu’s own Likud Coalition, declared that “…if there will be a move to promote a two-state solution, you will see forces blocking it within the [Likud] party and the government.” Danon accurately pointed out that “…the majority of Likud ministers, along with the Jewish Home [party], will be against it.” Indeed, Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett, an outspoken opponent of a Palestinian state who advocates Israeli annexation of more than 60% of the West Bank, followed up Danon’s remarks by saying that the two-state solution is dead and “We need to build, build, build.”

Netanyahu tried to distance himself from the comments, but most understood that Danon and Bennett were simply being straightforward about the Israeli government’s makeup and direction. Indeed, it was telling that, just a few days before Kerry was due to arrive for his latest visit, Netanyahu attended the dedication of a school named after his father in the West Bank settlement of Barkan. While his aides insisted that Netanyahu did not mean to make a political statement with his appearance, his words at the school say otherwise. “The most important thing is to deepen our roots, because all the rest grows from there,” Netanyahu said. “We are here today to deepen our roots.”

The Palestinian Authority has responded to all of this by pointing out that Israel is acting against the two-state solution. “Every time Kerry comes, [Netanyahu] does something to undermine the possibility of a Palestinian state,” said Palestinian lead negotiator, Saeb Erekat. “It’s more than provocative, it’s devastating. This government’s policies are disastrous for Palestinians, Israelis and the region. I don’t know what purpose it serves to undermine the two-state solution.”

Yet the Palestinians continue to be divided, and not just between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. Rockets launched from Gaza Sunday night are believed to have been fired by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza. The act was reported to have been undertaken to spite Hamas, which had killed an Islamic Jihad operative while ostensibly arresting him.

The continuing divisions, especially the constantly sputtering reunification process between Hamas and Fatah is yet another reason why the two-state solution as previously conceived is, in fact, inconceivable now, no matter how much wishful thinking Kerry engages in. While indications remain that both Israelis and Palestinians support the creation of a Palestinian state, the positive answers to that abstract question may not even reflect the scope of public opinion.

In December 2012, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research asked Palestinians about the two-state solution. The majority supporting the proposal was still there, though it was down to only 52%. But when asked about a demilitarized state, only 28% supported that idea, while a robust 71% opposed it. This can hardly be surprising. After all, a Palestinian state would not only be neighboring the country that has occupied it for 46 years, but there is also the flux in which the neighboring countries — Syria, Jordan, Egypt — find themselves today. If a threat did materialize against a fledgling Palestinian state, it is hard to imagine that Israel would put its soldiers in jeopardy to defend the neighbors they regard as untrustworthy and frankly, distasteful.

But such a state is a sine qua non for Israel, and not only for reluctant “peacemakers” like Netanyahu. A demilitarized Palestinian state was clearly the vision of Netanyahu’s predecessors, to the extent they would agree to a Palestinian state at all. And, in Israeli political discourse, the so-called peace camp — including such parties as Labor, Yesh Atid, Kadima and even the most left-wing Zionist party, Meretz — is unanimous in calling for a demilitarized state.

It is said that this is Kerry’s last-ditch effort. If the Israelis and Palestinians move no closer on this trip, Kerry is prepared to abandon his shuttle diplomacy to focus his efforts on issues that may prove more malleable. The Israelis would certainly like to see negotiations resume, as this takes pressure off of Israel in the international arena, especially with Europe. This explains why Naftali Bennett, who is so hostile to peace with the Palestinians, states that he would not “veto” talks.

But political realities dictate something very different. Bennett, and indeed Netanyahu, may want to see talks resume, but they do not want them concluded with a Palestinian state. The Palestinians themselves cannot present a united front; the Palestinian Authority does not represent all of the population nor do its positions align with any but a small minority of the Palestinian people. And the United States is not prepared to insist on results. That is why so many say the two-state solution is dead. Kerry should learn the obvious lesson and either re-think his policy approach or, as he is threatening, turn his attention elsewhere.

In Obama We Trust?

President Obama argues that we should trust him that the massive internet and phone surveillance the US government undertakes is done only for the strongest security reasons and as minimally as possible. With no evidence to support his contention, we’re simply supposed to take his word for it. Should we? I explore in Souciant.

Iranian Elections: Netanyahu, Neoconservatives Are the Big Losers

This post originally appeared at LobeLog.

Outside of Iran, there is no doubt that the biggest losers in Iran’s election this past weekend were the Likud government in Israel and its supporters, especially neoconservatives, in the United States.

The response of Israel’s Prime Minister to the election of centrist candidate Hassan Rouhani as Iran’s next President was almost comical in its sharp reversal from the rhetoric of the past eight years. As was widely reported, Benjamin Netanyahu said that it was Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and not the president who sets nuclear policy.

Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s new president

That is, of course, true, and it is precisely what opponents of an attack on Iran have been saying for the past eight years. Netanyahu and his neocon allies, on the other hand, were repeatedly pointing to outgoing president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the fearsome specter, the man who wanted to “wipe Israel off the map” and must be prevented from acquiring the means to do so. With Ahmadinejad gone, and, much to the surprise of many observers, not replaced by someone from the arch-conservative (or, in Iranian political terms, principlist) camp, the hawks have lost their best tool for frightening people and getting them behind the idea of attacking Iran.

So, Netanyahu has stepped up his push for a hard line on Iran, saying, “The international community must not become caught up in wishful thinking and be tempted to relax the pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear program.” Netanyahu is admitting that all the rhetoric around Ahemdinejad was insincere, and that the Iranian president is only relevant insofar as his visage can be used to whip people into a frenzy behind his call for war. Continue reading