POLITICAL observations & opinions

Posts Tagged ‘Israel & Palestine’

* 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

TIME IS RUNNING OUT ON A TWO-STATE SOLUTION TO THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT

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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* Robert Lifton … an evaluation of Secretary Kerry’s efforts to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict

Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 26, 2014

Kerry & Netanyahu 

Secretary John Kerry has devoted enormous time and effort to bring the Israelis and Palestinians together to resolve their conflict.  Recently, Israel’s Minster of Defense and a leading member of the Likud party – Moshe Ya’alon – reportedly called Kerry ‘obsessive” and “messianic” and said that Kerry “Should take his Nobel and leave us alone.” He reportedly added that a security plan drawn up by retired Marine Corps General John Allen, former American Commander of NATO–led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, as part of Kerry’s peace making effort “is not worth the paper it is written on.” Other Israeli government ministers who are leading members of the Likud party, while disapproving of Mr. Ya’alon’s choice of language, echoed similar rejectionist sentiments about Kerry’s mission. .

In light of these kinds of comment, one has to ask whether Mr. Kerry’s intense commitment to this subject is making any progress; and what are the expectations for its success and the consequences of its failure. In short, is it worth the effort?

Let’s look at where his efforts have gotten to until now. The starting point of this process was the announcement in Jordan on July 19, 2013 that Kerry had gotten both parties for the first time in three years to ”establish a basis” to start negotiations with the hope that the negotiations would reach a point beyond the “initial phase” that would allow Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to meet face to face to conclude an agreement. The first phase was given six months to produce that understanding. In December, four months into that process, after the two sides met over 20 times, and it was clear that no significant progress was achieved, Kerry announced that he would soon present the parties with a “Framework Agreement.” Kerry pointed out that the solutions to each of the core issues between the parties are known from previous negotiation rounds  – such as the negotiations in 2000 held by President Clinton and the negotiations begun at Annapolis in 2007 and continued in 2008 between then Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and Mr. Abbas. He argued that it was essential to have a framework that addressed all the core issues – borders, security, refugees, Jerusalem, mutual recognition and an end of claims. And to “establish agreed guidelines for subsequent negotiations that will fill out the details in a full peace treaty.”

That Kerry has undertaken such a huge effort knowing the obstacles to success is a statement about his commitment and character. To the student of this conflict, the obstacles are more apparent than the path to success. The Palestinian leadership is weak and Hamas, which is still controlling the Gaza, is opposed to any deal that Israel might accept. However, I have always believed that the power to make a break a deal lies with Israel. And neither the political leadership of Israel nor the Israeli people are demonstrating a deep commitment to a deal with the Palestinians. It has taken a long time, but Prime Minister Netanyahu has finally adopted some of the language of those who are pressing for a peace deal by acknowledging that his desire to make a deal is based on ensuring that Israel does not risk becoming a bi-national state. Still, as the process has moved along he has elevated the emphasis on two demands that his predecessors – and even he, until recently, did not make overt conditions.  One is that in any peace deal, the Palestinians acknowledge that Israel is a “Jewish State” and the second, related to the first is that the Palestinians stop “incitements” to violence and teach their young students to recognize the existence of Israel.  To be sure, there is ample support for the proposition that Israel is a Jewish state, including the 1947 UN Resolution for Partition that calls for a “Jewish state.”  And other Israeli leaders have mentioned the concept without elevating it to a condition. Still, Secretary Kerry has accepted that condition as one of the basic deliverables in a deal between the parties. On the other hand, it is difficult to condition a deal on a course of action that stops “incitement” in a sufficiently provable manner.

The fact is that in any deal Mr. Netanyahu would face serious problems, political and social. The political problem is clear: the present governing coalition could not hold together under a deal with the Palestinians. The Habayit Hayehudi party, for example led by Naftali Bennet is irreconcilably opposed to the West Bank becoming a Palestinian state. Even the centrist leader of the Yesh Atid party – Yair Lapid – has publicly stated his unwillingness to share Jerusalem as a capital with a Palestinian state, although that may be more manageable. To help Netanyahu with the problem of continuing to govern, Secretary Kerry has asked Isaac “Bougie” Herzog who recently became head of the Labor Party and Leader of the opposition to support Netanyahu if his coalition frayed because of a peace deal. Herzog agreed to do that.

Another problem involves moving settlers out of the areas that would be turned over to the Palestinian state. The best estimate is that any anticipated deal would require moving as many as 100,000 settlers. And even though many of those settlers would be prepared to move, we have seen that there are a hard core of settlers that would fight any effort, including one by the by Israel military to move them.

Moreover, popular support for a two-state solution by Israelis as well as Palestinians is waning. The most recent Pew Survey of Israelis and Palestinian show that although a majority of both would approve a deal there is a declining support from both for a two state solution..

On the other hand there are strong incentives for Israel to make a deal. For Israel, the only alternatives to a two state solution are either a bi-national state, which means adding to its citizenry a large Palestinian population or an effort to continue what the UN characterizes as an “occupation” of Palestinian territory. Including a large and faster growing Palestinian population in a broader Israel would end the character of Israel as a “Jewish” state, and an effort to retain that Jewish character by disenfranchising the Palestinian population would end its democratic status. That, or continued “occupation” will inevitably lead to a challenge of Israel as an apartheid state which as was demonstrated in the case of South Africa can bring with it great costs. We are already witnessing efforts to pressure Israel using threats of boycott, divestments and sanctions. Whatever his view of the Palestinians, as partners for peace, Prime Minister Netanyahu, like his Likud nurtured predecessors – Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert – clearly has grasped the need for Israel to avoid a bi-national state.

The other incentive for Israel to complete a two state deal has to do with countering the threat from Iran.  As I noted in my memoirs, even as early as 1993 the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shared with me his strategic vision that to best be able to counter Iranian ambitions, Israel should make peace with its neighbors, including ending the conflict with the Palestinians.  Additional potential value in that connection for Israel lies in the possibility of its joining forces with Sunni states, led by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States in a coalition against Iranian hegemony in the region if Israel resolved the Palestinian issue. This is a message delivered to me and three other Jewish leaders by leading Saudi officials some years ago. It is also reflected in the recent willingness of the Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, to expand   the kind of territorial deal that would meet the requirements of the Arab Peace Initiative to include the 1967 borders with land swaps. That initiative, which was led by Saudi King Abdullah, stated Arab willingness to accept Israel as a neighbor with full political social and economic relationships if it completed a deal with the Palestinians. .

Of course, a failure of the Kerry effort would leave Israel exposed not only to the possibility of a resurgence of Palestinian violence but, probably more threatening to the well being of its citizens, to an intense international effort at expanding the boycott, divestment and sanctions programs through the UN and outside of it.  It would also mean the failed opportunity to join forces in an anti-Iran coalition with Arab states that could be of significant value to Israel. And if, after all of his intense effort and commitment, Kerry were to fail in this mission, it is highly doubtful that the two-state solution would be considered a viable approach to resolving the conflict. Under these circumstances, it is clear that anyone who cares deeply about Israel and its future as a Jewish homeland should be applauding Mr. Kerry’s efforts as he pursues his difficult task.

Mr. Lifton’s memoirs, “An Entrepreneur’s Journey: Stories From a Life in Business and Personal Diplomacy,” was published by AuthorHouse in 2012.

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* Robert K. Lifton sees no reason to be optimistic about any Israeli/Palestinian solution in the foreseeable future

Posted by Lew Weinstein on December 31, 2011

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Israel showing Gaza & the West Bank

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Robert K. Lifton writes in the Huff Post (12/30/11) …

  • After more than a year of stalled negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, it is clear that for the foreseeable future there will be no deal resolving their differences and establishing a Palestinian state.
  • It is fruitless to blame one side or the other.
  • the leaders of both sides face obstacles to deal making that make it very difficult for each of them even if they so desired.
  • for the Palestinians, it is giving up the right of millions of Diaspora Palestinians to return to their former homes in Israel.
  • For Israel, it is the ability to remove thousands of settlers from their homes in areas that would be included in the Palestinian state in a two state solution.
  • neither leader seems to desire a deal enough to make any meaningful compromise.
  • The government of Israel, led by Mr. Netanyahu and his coalition, has shown no willingness to compromise in order to make a deal and continues to expand settlements despite international pressure to stop.
  • And the Fatah government of Mr. Abbas, by embracing Hamas, has given Israel a legitimate reason to argue that it can’t countenance any deal with an entity committed to its destruction.

read the entire article at … http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-k-lifton/israel-palestine-future-_b_1177107.html

 

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* U.S. Jews should not reject President Obama for speaking the truth … it’s also time to stop encouraging Netanyahu’s intransigence and start pressuring him to do the right thing

Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 29, 2011

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Obama is right ... Netanyahu is wrong

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Ed Morrissey of Politico writes (6/29/11) …

Is Obama losing grip on Jewish voters, donors? So says Politico, based on “dozens” of interviews with formerly pro-Obama Jewish voters and donors conducted by Ben Smith since Barack Obama’s May speech in which he demanded a return to 1967 lines for Israel, “with swaps,” as the basis of a peace plan.

read the entire article at … http://hotair.com/archives/2011/06/29/obama-losing-grip-on-jewish-voters-donors/

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LMW COMMENT …

Obama spoke the truth. Jews, led by Netanyahu, who insist on expanding illegal settlements, are not serving the true interests of Israel. It may not be fair, given the amount of land given to the Arabs in 1948 compared with the sliver to Israel, but that is how it is, and it’s time for Jews to accept that. And to say so.

In return, for sure, for acceptance of the state of Israel and forever disclaiming any right of return. At the end of the day, that’s the deal. Everybody knows it. Obama said it.

It’s time for Jews in the U.S. to stop encouraging Netanyahu’s intransigence and start pressuring him to do the right thing.

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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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* Israel should separate itself from the West bank settlements

Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 12, 2009

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* see CASE CLOSED VIDEO on YouTube

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* Israel should separate itself …

Several days ago, I posted a long letter from Robert K. Lifton on the subject of Israel’s policy toward the West Ban settlements. Here are brief extracts from Mr. Lifton’s previously posted letter …

Israel showing Gaza & the West Bank

Israel showing Gaza & the West Bank

  • the present policy of the Netanyahu government that would result in further growth of the settler population holds out the possibility for serious dispute between the US and Israeli administrations.
  • it also has the potential to threaten the very essence of Israel as a Jewish state.
  • if Israel were to incorporate the Territories as part of a Greater Israel, ultimately a majority of its population would be Palestinian. In that case, it would
    • either have to end its position as a Jewish State
    • or disenfranchise the Palestinian population and no longer continue as a democratic state.
  • (the far better policy is) that Israel should separate itself from the Territories.

LMW COMMENT … Bob Lifton has been for many years one of the clearest thinkers on the issues that plague the state of Israel. Here, he puts forward a policy that right wing Israelis find hard to accept. Those Jews and others in America who uncritically support every Israeli policy will find Mr. Lifton’s prescription unacceptable. More reasonable people throughout the world who believe a two-state solution to the Palestine-Israel problem is the only solution, will take comfort in Mr. Lifton’s analysis.

read Bob Lifton’s entire letter at … * Robert K. Lifton: expanding Israel’s West Bank settlements is not in Israel’s best interest

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* Robert K. Lifton: expanding Israel’s West Bank settlements is not in Israel’s best interest

Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 7, 2009

NOTE: read a short summary of Mr. Lifton’s main points at …

* Israel should separate itself from the West bank settlements

LMW … I have known Mr. Lifton since the early 1990s. I have repeatedly found his analyses of the Middle Eastern situation to be uniquely well reasoned.

Mr. Lifton holds an B.B.A. degree from the School of Business Administration, City University of New York. He graduated Magna Cum Laude and was elected to the honorary society Beta Gamma Sigma. In 1951 he received an L.L.B. degree from Yale Law School, where he was a member of the Order of the Coif and Note Editor of the Yale Law Journal. He was admitted to the New York Bar in 1952. In 1988 he became President of the American Jewish Congress, an association of Jewish Americans organized to defend Jewish interests at home and abroad through public policy advocacy. He is a Founder and served as Chairman of the Israel Policy Forum, a group which combines the policy development and publications of a think tank, with the educational programming and advocacy initiatives of a lobby. Mr. Lifton has been a longtime member of the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent, nonpartisan membership organization which seeks to better understand the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other countries. Mr. Lifton has been engaged in a broad range of  entrepreneurial activities.

Here is Occasional Letter #70 in a series written by Robert K. Lifton …

Dear Friend,

This is the first new Letter I have written to you since my Letter # 69 written in April 2007. Last week I e-mailed a copy of that Letter to you to make a few points.

  • First, how very little progress had been made in dealing with problems in the Middle East  – particularly the Israeli-Palestinian issues – in over two years.
  • Second, the Letter suggested a direct linkage between dealing with Iran and the Israel-Palestinian issues which President Obama recognized in his recent meeting with Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu despite Netanyahu’s efforts to keep the two matters separate.
  • Third, the Letter suggested a new diplomatic approach that would connect Iran’s cessation of nuclear development with Israel’s resolution of its relationship the Palestinians.

In the last three weeks we have seen a flurry of activity around the problems gripping the Middle East: first, the meetings of President Obama with Prime Minister Netanyahu and then with Palestinian President Abbas and most recently President Obama’s visit to the Middle East and his inspired speech in Cairo.

In this Letter I would like to focus on one theme that was a central element in the discussions at all of those forums, namely the Israeli settlements.

Israel showing Gaza & the West Bank

Israel showing Gaza & the West Bank

Simply put, in my view the present broad based, highly populated status of the settlements combined with the policy of the Netanyahu government that would result in further growth of the settler population does not only hold out the possibility for serious dispute between the US and Israeli administrations.

  • More important, I believe that it has the potential to threaten the very essence of Israel as a Jewish state. Thus, it has fundamental implications that not only affect the people of Israel but Jews throughout the world who have looked at Israel as the ultimate safety net for the Jewish people.

To explain my perspective, let me share with you some personal history. In 1988 I became President of the American Jewish Congress. Shortly before that the leadership of the American Jewish Congress undertook a mission to the Middle East to educate ourselves and form a basis for our policies regarding Israel and the Palestinians. At that time, Yitzhak Shamir, head of the Likud Party, was Prime Minister of Israel and one of the rising stars of the party was Benyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu who served as Israel’s Ambassador the United Nations.  Both Shamir, Netanyahu and their party were identified with the belief in a biblically inspired “Greater Israel” which would ultimately encompass all of the Occupied Territories,  (a term some on the far right did not like  preferring to call them “disputed territories.”) namely, the West bank and Gaza.

Israel should separate itself from the occupied territories

After days of meetings with people holding a broad range of views, the American Jewish Congress leadership came to a conclusion that set it apart from the rest of the major Jewish organizations: that Israel should separate itself from the Territories.

  • The underpinning for that view was the demographic studies reflecting the anticipated much faster growth of the Palestinian population both in Israel and in the Territories compared with the anticipated growth of the Jewish population in Israel.
  • Thus, if Israel were to incorporate the Territories as part of a Greater Israel, ultimately a majority of its population would be Palestinian. In that case, it would
    • either have to end its position as a Jewish State
    • or disenfranchise the Palestinian population and no longer continue as a democratic state.

The Settlement Issue

With that perspective, let’s look at the issues relating to the settlements.

  • Over the period of years since Israel’s victory in the 1967 War, settlement activity was supported by both the conservative Likud and liberal Labor parties based on two rationales. Some supported settlements as part of a program for expanding Israel to encompass the Territories inspired by the Greater Israel theme.
  • Thus, religious settlers today base their claim to West Bank land on the biblical heritage of the Jewish people.
  • Others supported settlements as part of the security system required to protect Israel from Arab attack.
  • This was the argument offered by General, later Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon who over the years showed many of us detailed maps of the areas where Israel needed settlements in place to protect against vulnerabilities to attack.  Others argued that, in any event, the term settlements was not properly applicable to developments in areas around Jerusalem which belonged to Israel and would never be turned over to the Palestinians.
  • Whatever the rationale, settlements kept on expanding to the point where according to the New York Times, over the last 40 years, about 58,800 housing units have been built with Government approval in the West Bank and an additional 46,500 homes have obtained Defense Ministry approval within the existing master plans.
  • At present, the Israeli population in the West Bank, not including East Jerusalem, approaches 300,000 living in about 120 settlements spread through parts of the West Bank. The settlement population is comprised of people motivated by strong religious beliefs as well as many who moved there taking advantage of government subsidy programs that enabled them to have comfortable housing in suburban areas at lower prices than comparable housing in Israel.

Settlements and the US-Israel Relationship

The subject of settlement expansion has been the focus of a number of US Administrations.

  • One of the more explosive moments arose when Israel was seeking loan guarantees from the United States and President George H.W. Bush together with his Secretary of State James Baker attempted to use the leverage of the guarantees to force cessation of settlement activity. This resulted in pressure from the organized Jewish community against that effort and even unfair mischaracterization of President Bush as anti-Semitic.
  • In the ensuing years, Presidents have stayed away from creating arguments with Israel on the subject, mostly referring to settlement activity as “unhelpful.”
  • However, after the meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, the President made clear that the US position is to call for a freeze on all new settlement expansion.
  • Part of being a good friend is being honest,” he (President Obama) said, “there have been times where we are not as honest as we should be about the fact that the current direction, the current trajectory, in the region is profoundly negative….”
  • For his part, Mr. Netanyahu has said that while Israel would not allow new settlements, and would take down some illegal settlements, building within the confines of existing settlements must be allowed to continue. “Israel “cannot freeze life in the settlements.” Halting construction, he argued, is “unreasonable.”
  • Moreover, senior Israeli officials complain that Mr. Obama is not following what they call a clear understanding with the Bush administration when they signed onto the so-called road map for a two state solution in 2003.
  • Although the road map provided that Israel agrees to “freeze all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements”) they contend that understanding nevertheless allowed Israel to build settlement housing within the boundaries of certain settlement blocks as long as no new land was expropriated, no special economic incentives were offered to move to settlements and no new settlements were built. Some American officials from that time challenge that contention.

And so the disagreement is in the open and Mr. Netanyahu has to face tough choices between alienating his right wing constituency or the President of the United States.

Israel - a tiny speck in the Middle East

Israel - a tiny speck in the Middle East

The Difficult Course for Israel – Dismantling Settlements

There is a frightening reality facing Israel, given the broad settlement activity that has already taken place that would be further compounded by any additional settlement expansion.

  • That reality is the enormous difficulty of dismantling settlements in the event the parties reached a resolution of their conflict that called for turning areas back to the Palestinians free of settlements.
  • We have seen how tenaciously some of the settlers are holding on to their homes, particularly religious settlers, that even trying to move a very small number required calling in the army to exert physical force.
  • Any effort at large scale dismantling would generate major internal conflicts that could tear the nation apart, particularly, as religious and secular elements took opposing sides.
  • Perhaps this is in part what Mr. Netanyahu recognizes as he dodges openly accepting a two state solution but rather talks about helping the Palestinians “economically” and “not wanting to control” the Palestinians.

The Threat to Israel – No Two State Solution

The premise of all the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians as seen by the United States and the rest of the world is that in the end as President Obama stated in his Cairo address  “the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.”

  • We tend to forget that a two state solution is a relatively new concept created in large part by Yasser Arafat who inspired his people to believe that they should and could have a state of their own and then in the Oslo peace process and thereafter acknowledged that such a state would exist with an Israeli state.
  • Before him the Palestinian aspiration was to return to the land they left, believing that somehow Israel would simply disappear. Frankly, I always felt that Arafat did a great service to Israel in influencing the Palestinians and the rest of the world to adopt a two-state solution.

Absent that concept there would be two other scenarios.

  • One scenario, which is totally unrealistic but that some Israelis – maybe even including Mr. Netanyahu – still believe, is that Israel would continue to control the territories for an indefinite time as they “help” the Palestinians grow to the point where they are ready for statehood.
  • The other scenario is that the territories and their inhabitants join together with Israel and its inhabitants in a single state.

In recent times, some Palestinians have begun to reject the idea of two states and call instead for the two people to live together in one state.  As reflected in my opening discussion, that would be a disastrous scenario for Israel.

  • It could not maintain itself as a Jewish state without disenfranchising the faster growing Palestinian population.
  • But such action would open the door to accusations of apartheid with the probable consequences of world wide opprobrium of a kind that South Africa faced until it allowed its larger native population political control.

There are those who will cavil about one or another portion of President Obama’s speech, depending on their political positions.

For Israelis, and those Jews throughout the world who are dedicated to seeing Israel continue as a Jewish, democratic state, however, President Obama’s advocacy of a two state solution and a cessation to settlement activity must be seen as a boon that serves Israel’s very best interests.

Sincerely,

Bob

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* The Economist: unbalanced article omits President Obama’s condemnation of holocaust denial and Palestinian violence

Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 7, 2009

From The Economist (6-4-09) Obama in Cairo

  • Mr Obama rightly scolded recalcitrant Israelis for their refusal even to accept the idea of two independent states and for letting Jewish settlers continue to build or expand towns and villages on the West Bank.
  • The president rightly urged Arab leaders to continue to press all Palestinians to embrace Israel, provided it offers a decent two-state deal.

read the entire article at … http://www.economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13799231

LMW COMMENT

The Economist neglects to mention, in this unbalanced account, President Obama’s very clear condemnation of three pillars of Palestinian/Arab rhetoric and action

  • Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying (the holocaust) is baseless, ignorant, and hateful.
  • Threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong.
  • Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed.

I wrote a letter of comment to The Economist stating these glaring omissions.

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* the Israeli settlements in the West Bank: natural growth or a policy of expansion?

Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 6, 2009

Ethan Bronner writes in today’s NYT (6-6-09) …

Israel showing Gaza & the West Bank

Israel showing Gaza & the West Bank

  • Why is President Obama focusing such attention on the building of homes by Israeli Jews in the West Bank?
  • While every administration has objected to Israeli settlement building in occupied lands, the Obama administration has selected it as the opening issue that could begin to untie the Gordian knot of the conflict.
  • “Obama may have found the soft underbelly of Israel, because ending settlements is a consensus issue in the world, among American Jewry and even among a majority of Israelis,” said Yossi Beilin, a former leftist minister and member of Parliament.

natural growth?

  • The issue of natural growth has surfaced so prominently because while the Israeli government presents it as a simple humane need to make room for expanding families, the data show that settler growth has been enormous in recent years and nearly all of it has been labeled natural growth.

In 2003, Israel and the Palestinians signed the so-called road map for a two-state solution, calling on

  • Israel to freeze all settlements,
  • and on the Palestinians to dismantle terror networks.
  • Neither has done so.

The Israelis say they had unwritten agreements with the Bush administration to continue building, as long as no new settlements were built.

  • Bush officials say that is only partially true.
  • The Obama administration says such winks and nods are over.

It is signaling the Arab world that it is shifting policy. Whether it does so, and how the Netanyahu government responds, will make for high drama in the coming months.

read the entire article at … http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/06/world/middleeast/06mideast.html?hp

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* reactions to Obama’s Israel-Palestine positions in Cairo speech

Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 5, 2009

Jonathan Martin writes for Politico (6-5-09) …

Israelis at West Bank construction site

Israelis at West Bank construction site

  • While supporters of Israel reacted mostly along partisan lines to President Barack Obama’s high-profile speech to the Muslim world Thursday, some pro-Israel Democrats expressed concern about some of his remarks.
  • Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), a staunch supporter of the Jewish state, said in an interview that it was no small thing for a U.S. president to offer an extended defense of Israel before a Muslim audience.
  • “If you’re delivering a speech in Cairo directed to the Arab world and you mention in the that speech that Israel has a right to exist and right to exist in security, that it grew from the ashes of the Holocaust and that America has an unbreakable bond, that demonstrates extraordinary courage,” said Engel.
  • Obama’s firm statement on settlements have become a key concern for many American supporters of Israel, and especially those on the right side of American politics.
  • Staunch Israel allies on the Democratic side of the aisle were more laudatory, buffering Obama’s domestic position with the Jewish community.
  • Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, praised the trip and the speech.
  • “While compromise will be required on both sides, the Palestinians and Arab states must unequivocally denounce terrorism, recognize Israel, cease anti-Israel incitement at home and within the United Nations, and support viable PA institutions.”
  • Mostly, though, mainstream Israel advocates like American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) have held off of public criticism of the new president, and are trying to convince the administration to narrow its demands for a settlement freeze to apply only to settlements on land that is expected ultimately to form part of a Palestinian state.

read the entire article at … http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0609/23380.html

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