POLITICAL observations & opinions

Posts Tagged ‘israel’

* In Bob Lifton’s latest post, he says Israel is running out of time to create a two state solution.

Posted by Lew Weinstein on November 21, 2014

Bob Lifton

Robert K. Lifton


The religious nationalists in Israel have become increasingly more successful in their drive to incorporate the West Bank (what they call Judea and Samaria) into the State of Israel. Their effort is based on their belief in a biblical allotment of that land to the children of Israel or in some form of nationalistic “manifest destiny.”

To the Israeli public, world Jewry and other interested parties, they frame their plan, as Naftali Bennett, Israel’s Minister of the Economy and leader of the Jewish Home Party has done in a November 5  op. ed in the New York Times, as driven  by  a concern for Israel’s security.  After unilaterally pulling out of Lebanon and Gaza, they say, Israel still suffered attacks. How then can it pull out of the West Bank, which would leave major Israeli areas even more vulnerable. And now they will try to buttress their argument by pointing to the horrific killings of four leading rabbis in a Jerusalem synagogue by two Palestinian terrorists and the rejoicing about that act by Palestinians in Gaza.

Of course, terrorist acts by angry individuals are totally different from and do not define how a state would act. 

After all, former Israeli Prime Ministers Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, when they were part of the Irgun resistance movement against British colonial control of Palestine, effectively used terror tactics to help drive the British out of Palestine. Yet, the state of Israel under their leadership did not carry out terror activities.

Moreover, as a recent open letter to Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu from over 100 former Israeli Generals and intelligence chiefs led by retired General Amnon Reshef has explained, true security for Israel does not lie in trying to control an unwilling Palestinian population but in separate Israeli and Palestinian states as part of a comprehensive regional peace deal with the moderate Arab nations.

Yes, there are security risks, General Reshef has said, but Israel is strong enough to overcome those risks and the perils of not reaching a two state solution are greater than the risks.

We should recognize that without partition and separation Israel’s very legitimacy as a Jewish state can be subject to challenge, representing a threat to the Zionist dream of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people.

A key strategy used by the nationalists to accomplish their aim is to push the boundaries of Israeli settlements to the point where it is politically impossible to reverse the course and create a viable separate Palestinian state.  In that process, if they weaken those Palestinian leaders who could make a two state deal, or undermine the American representatives who could help bring that goal about, that furthers their aim.

At this point too, the Israel Defense Force, itself, is so populated with religious nationalists that doubt has been raised whether they would act to move settlers physically, if ordered by their rabbinical authorities not to do so.

What the religious nationalists fail to discuss openly however, is what their plan is for the 2.7 million Palestinians living in the West Bank.

  • If they treat them as full citizens of Israel adding them to the approximately 1.7million current Arab citizens and residents of Israel – which nobody believes they have in mind – they will give so much voting power to the Palestinians as to threaten Israel as a Jewish state and will add enormous economic burdens on the state.  
  • If they treat those Palestinians as  second-class citizens or as having no rights of citizenship at all, they risk being accused of being an apartheid state with the consequences of that charge in world opprobrium.
  • If they plan to transfer those Palestinians to another area like Jordan – they will meet great resistance by the Palestinians and the Jordanians as well as international condemnation. Such a course of action would also generate continuing tension and violence far beyond any we have seen so far.

It would be naïve not to recognize that the religious nationalists are succeeding in their aim.

  • Step by step they are expanding settlements, creating facts on the ground that will make it politically impossible to move settler in order to to create a viable Palestinian state.
  • They have created obstacles to every effort by the Obama Administration to move a peace process forward.
  • And they are destroying the hopes of Palestinians for a state of their own, so that too many, particularly younger Palestinians, are now thinking about a bi-national state.

There is very small window of opportunity left to stop the nationalist momentum and create the conditions for a regional negotiation that has some chance of success.

It will take a major effort to alert the Israeli public that unless they act quickly the two-state solution will be off the table, even though most of them say they want it. And world Jewry, particularly in the United States, must join in that effort.

As the General’s letter points out, generating movement by the Israeli public has to take place in a regional context so the Palestinian leaders and Arab states must show the courage to advance the interests of their people by opening a dialogue with Israel which contemplates a comprehensive political, economic and cultural regional relationship and which also encompasses a two state solution of the  Israeli-Palestinian issue. For the various parties to hold back in a “you first, Alphonse” approach is a recipe for failure. 

Only a major joint effort can stem the tide against a two state solution.


Robert K. Lifton, a businessman and political activist, is a Board Member of the Israel Policy Forum. His memoir “An Entrepreneur’s Journey: Stories From A Life In Business And Personal Diplomacy” was published by Author House in 2012.



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* Amos Oz … Israel’s force cannot defeat the idea of an independent Palestinian state

Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 2, 2010

Amos Oz writes in the NYT …

FOR 2,000 years, the Jews knew the force of force only in the form of lashes to our own backs. For several decades now, we have been able to wield force ourselves — and this power has, again and again, intoxicated us.

In the period before Israel was founded, a large portion of the Jewish population in Palestine, especially members of the extremely nationalist Irgun group, thought that military force could be used to achieve any goal, to drive the British out of the country, and to repel the Arabs who opposed the creation of our state.

Luckily, during Israel’s early years, prime ministers like David Ben-Gurion and Levi Eshkol knew very well that force has its limits and were careful to use it only as a last resort. But ever since the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel has been fixated on military force. To a man with a big hammer, says the proverb, every problem looks like a nail.

Israel’s siege of the Gaza Strip and Monday’s violent interception of civilian vessels carrying humanitarian aid there are the rank products of this mantra that what can’t be done by force can be done with even greater force. This view originates in the mistaken assumption that Hamas’s control of Gaza can be ended by force of arms or, in more general terms, that the Palestinian problem can be crushed instead of solved.

But Hamas is not just a terrorist organization. Hamas is an idea, a desperate and fanatical idea that grew out of the desolation and frustration of many Palestinians. No idea has ever been defeated by force — not by siege, not by bombardment, not by being flattened with tank treads and not by marine commandos. To defeat an idea, you have to offer a better idea, a more attractive and acceptable one.

Thus, the only way for Israel to edge out Hamas would be to quickly reach an agreement with the Palestinians on the establishment of an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as defined by the 1967 borders, with its capital in East Jerusalem. Israel has to sign a peace agreement with President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah government in the West Bank — and by doing so, reduce the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a conflict between Israel and the Gaza Strip. That latter conflict, in turn, can be resolved only by negotiating with Hamas or, more reasonably, by the integration of Fatah with Hamas.

Even if Israel seizes 100 more ships on their way to Gaza, even if Israel sends in troops to occupy the Gaza Strip 100 more times, no matter how often Israel deploys its military, police and covert power, force cannot solve the problem that we are not alone in this land, and the Palestinians are not alone in this land. We are not alone in Jerusalem and the Palestinians are not alone in Jerusalem. Until Israelis and Palestinians recognize the logical consequences of this simple fact, we will all live in a permanent state of siege — Gaza under an Israeli siege, Israel under an international and Arab siege.

I do not discount the importance of force. Woe to the country that discounts the efficacy of force. Without it Israel would not be able to survive a single day. But we cannot allow ourselves to forget for even a moment that force is effective only as a preventative — to prevent the destruction and conquest of Israel, to protect our lives and freedom. Every attempt to use force not as a preventive measure, not in self-defense, but instead as a means of smashing problems and squashing ideas, will lead to more disasters, just like the one we brought on ourselves in international waters, opposite Gaza’s shores.

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