Old Settlement Wine in New Peacemaking Bottles

During his meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry two weeks ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered “a package of meaningful measures in the West Bank.” Although Bibi KerryNetanyahu was apparently vague about what those measures would be, an anonymous Israeli official told a reporter for  Israel’s Ha’aretz, “The prime minister made it clear that we want American recognition of the settlement blocs and of the fact that we can build there.”

Most observers have long recognized that any workable two-state agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is likely to include Israel keeping the large settlement blocs of Gush Etzion, Ariel and Ma’ale Adumim. A key question had been if, and when, U.S. policy should shift to acknowledge this, either tacitly or explicitly. Read more at “Facts on the Ground,” FMEP’s blog.

Congressmen Try to Restrict Free Speech To Prevent Boycotts of Israel

This article originally appeared at LobeLog.

Earlier this week, a bill was hastily removed from the agenda of the New York State Assembly. The bill was designed as a response Freedom_of_Thought_Ben_Franklinto the American Studies Association’s decision to boycott Israeli educational institutions. But it was so poorly written that even opponents of the ASA boycott saw it as potentially damaging to academic freedom in general. The bill was removed from the fast track in New York so it could be re-written to be more acceptable to its potential supporters. A similar bill is currently working its way through the Maryland state legislature.

Now the US Congress is getting into the act, with a bill that has the same goal, but takes a different approach. The bills in New York and Maryland did not specifically mention Israel, although it was clear that the ASA action against Israeli academia is what prompted the bills. Instead, they tried to argue that academic freedom meant that the state must penalize institutions that choose to express themselves through the power of boycott if the target is a country that has extensive academic connections with the United States. Continue reading

The Occupation Won

In this week’s column at Souciant, I take a closer look at the outcome of the Israeli election. Particularly, I examine the idea that Yair Lapid’s surprising showing and the broader split between the nationalist and religious camps and the so-called center now makes a resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict more feasible. Put simply, I think not.

The Only Alternative is War

My column for Souciant this week looks at the execrable “Levy Report” which claims that Israel’s occupation is legal under international law and recommends that Israel retroactively legalize most the outposts that were set up contrary to even Israeli law. Yep, that’s what it said, this is not The Onion. the recommendations are unlikely to be accepted even by teh Netanyahu government that commissioned them, but I explore what impact they will have. Check it out.

Meretz USA: Buy Israel – Don’t Buy Settlements (They’re not the Same)

It is a very fine line to try to walk for a group that wants to take concrete action for peace and still identifies as a Zionist organization. Meretz USA does an admirable job of taking on that tension with their nuanced statement here. There are certainly critiques to be made, and I’m sure people will make them. But there is something more important here.

That something, which is all too often lost in the various political debates in Israel-Palestine, is a sincere attempt to reach across lines while maintaining one’s own identity.

Meretz USA Board Chair and actor, Theodore Bikel

Meretz USA is trying to do just that, in my view, with this statement. I particularly like the fact that the state they “denounce” attempts to bring down the state of Israel (kind of goes without saying if you’re pro-Israel, and I agree with them) while saying they merely “disagree” with using BDS as a tactic within the Green Line. I find that kind of nuance refreshing and it opens important doors for groups of various different views to be able to work together in areas they can without being bogged down about issues they disagree on.

I know many of my readers will find things to object to in Meretz USA’s statement, from a variety of different approaches to this vexing issue. I have my critiques as well, and I’ve shared them with Meretz USA. But let’s just for a moment, try and see where we have common ground rather than focusing on where we differ. Ultimately, I think a Zionist group trying to find a way to use economic pressure against the occupation is a very promising step forward that should be welcomed by all.

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