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Peace process: Only four options left

Resolutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be reached either by agreement or evolution.

As the peace talks stumble toward their formal end point, there are essentially four scenarios for political developments between the river and the sea, excluding resurgent violence: two states by agreement, two states by evolution, one state by agreement, or one sovereign entity by evolution.

Policymakers should acknowledge these scenarios openly to assess what each one will mean for the future of the region.

I recently proposed using basic values as a guideline to assess the desirability of such scenarios: reducing violence, realizing human and civil rights, providing for collective rights, and doing so in a sustainable way. It’s also worth considering the feasibility and consequences of each possibility.

Two states by agreement. This scenario looks increasingly unlikely, largely for political reasons. Likud essentially doesn’t want it; its other half, Israel-Beitenu, claims to want it but only under unacceptable conditions, including unilateral disenfranchisement of Israeli citizenship. Jewish Home, is steadfastly opposed. Palestinians have become so disillusioned about statehood as Israel defines it that PA President Mahmoud Abbas lacks the legitimacy to make major concessions on their behalf.

Another reason is physical: land, population and infrastructure developments over the last two decades mean that a Palestinian state will be chopped up by settlements too entrenched to be vacated. Therefore, “statehood” won’t offer much greater mobility or economic freedom for Palestinians; sovereign borders might even replace military checkpoints posing much greater bureaucratic obstacles.

However, this solution could theoretically reduce violence by establishing representative political frameworks for each society, to guarantee discrete collective and civil rights. Whether that means more human rights for Palestinians than today depends on how the Fatah and Hamas authorities rule; their current record does not bode well. An agreement over two states with borders and finalized political status is probably relatively sustainable. But the lack of feasibility makes most of this assessment moot.

Two states by evolution. The lack of a negotiated agreement could make this more attractive to Palestinians. If they are to suffer the constraints of highly circumscribed statehood, at least they will not also be forced into concessions they resent as the price.

States can be defined as entities with a people, territory, government and the ability to enter into foreign relations. The Palestinians are making strong progress on that last one. Compared to other disputed states, Palestine enjoys...

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Moderate Islam meets Auschwitz

It’s hard to think of more divisive activities in Palestinian society today. Regardless of whether one agrees with his actions, it is exceedingly rare to see someone publicly buck the fiercely dominant trends in Palestinian discourse.

For nearly 40 years, Mohammed Dajani Daoudi has felt that something was wrong with Palestinian politics. In 1975, while studying at the American University at Beirut (“doing everything except studying”), he was deported to Syria for political activities. Fatah operatives supplied him with a fake passport to get back. But they mistakenly put a Syrian exit stamp into the passport rather than an entry stamp; which looked odd when Syrian passport control moved to give him an exit stamp. The officer went to check with a superior, and Dajani says he grabbed his documents and fled back to Lebanon.

The incident made him feel like he was “fighting Israelis and fighting Palestinians, and it’s too much for me,” he told +972 Magazine in an interview in Jerusalem. After eight years in Fatah, he saw the organization as full of corruption, nepotism, mis-governance. That was when “I divorced politics and married academia.”


Mohammed Dajani Daoudi (Photo: Dahlia Scheindlin, 14 April 2014)

Decades and two American doctoral degrees later, his criticism has spread from politics, to religious life, to Palestinian society itself. Palestinian society was traditionally characterized by moderate Islam, he says; now it has been hijacked by extremism, the Quran has been misinterpreted for cynical political gain, and ignorant people fall for it.

His response, in 2007, was to found Wasatia – “moderation” – a framework through which he promotes values of moderation in religion and society.  Drawing liberally on Quran, he advances his ideas in lectures, booklets and articles. He brings them to his classroom as a professor at al Quds University, where he founded American Studies.

But his credo goes beyond calmer religious interpretations. It extends into embracing diversity, cooperating with, learning and accepting the narratives of the other, even enemies. Even Israel.

He has supported the broadest possible negotiation concessions, such as advocating the recognition of a Jewish state. Most recently and controversially, he took a group of his students on a trip to Auschwitz.

It’s hard to think of more divisive activities in Palestinian society today. Regardless of whether one agrees with his actions, it is exceedingly...

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The peace process needs a whole new outlook

Instead of using the talks as a replacement for progress, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators would do well to define guiding values that should be the basis of both process and solutions.

One of the problems with the flagging Kerry negotiations is that they are heavy on ‘process,’ and not much about ‘peace.’ That could be due to the fairly accurate cliché that the outlines of the two-state solution are “largely known.” Negotiations and civil initiatives from 2000 onwards – Camp David to the Arab Peace Initiative –  overlap on the core issues, with differences of details.

On the other hand, the Israeli leadership’s moves to radically alter those core policy approaches may have made the Americans and the Palestinians reluctant to address them. Netanyahu threw cold water on the concept of a Palestinian state based roughly around adjusted 1967 lines – a mainstay of the two-state solution since the early 1990s. Avigdor Liberman perverted the idea of land swaps: in the past, this referred to Israel keeping large settlement blocs, while giving away insignificant, almost unpopulated tracts of desert. Lieberman turned land swaps into what he calls “population swaps” but which is actually unilateral, forced disenfranchisement of citizenship. It’s little wonder nobody was rushing to seriously open these issues.

Read +972′s full coverage of the peace process

Unless negotiations abandon the obsession with process, but block damaging re-invention of the core elements of peace, they will do more harm than good. Instead of using the talks as a replacement for progress, negotiators would do well to define guiding values that should be the basis of both process and solutions.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, and Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat address reporters on the Middle East Peace Process Talks at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on July 30, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, and Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat address reporters on the Middle East Peace Process Talks at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on July 30, 2013. [State Department photo]

The following is my proposal for the highest priority values:

1. De-escalating, avoiding and deterring violence. Talk of “preventing violence” is a canard designed to kill peace, since humanity has never prevented...

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Israel grasps at a crumbling narrative

Blaming the peace talks’ failure on Palestinian ‘rejectionism’ is nothing more than a flimsy attempt at flipping reality on its head.

With commentators now referring to the peace process as a “corpse,” Israeli talking heads and politicians are scrambling to manage the narrative of the dying animal.

The first task today is to finesse the blame laid squarely on Israel by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. One radio commentator spoke quite factually about “Kerry’s mistake.” But it’s hard to finesse an unprecedented shift of tone from an American administration. It isn’t exactly like America suddenly supported a negative UN resolution; it is, however, further than this or any other administration has ever gone in naming the facts.

Second, Netanyahu is trying to convey that Israel calls the shots: he has reportedly instructed members of the government to cut all contact with Palestinian Authority figures. One commentator observed that since the ministers don’t exactly phone Abu Mazen twice a week anyway, the directive is more declarative than meaningful: we steer the course and can project punishing silence. It’s not clear that anybody on the other side is terribly saddened by this. Netanyahu’s reported plans for further sanctions against the PA sound somewhat hollow, considering that if the PA crumbles, its security cooperation with Israel and the pretension of Palestinian autonomy goes with it.

He must be genuinely angry.

Netanyahu, the “preservation prime minister” was counting on this “preservation process” either continuing forever, or at the very least, breaking down due to Palestinian rejectionism.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a joint press conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry following their meeting in Jerusalem, December 5, 2013. (Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a joint press conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry following their meeting in Jerusalem, December 5, 2013. (Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO)

The Israeli political leadership has come to depend on the peace process as a surefire means of continuing the occupation, expanding the depth and reach of settlements (i.e., building in old areas, and winking while their unofficial soldiers, the settlers, break new ground), all while keeping the pesky international condemnations at bay. It’s no wonder a number of senior figures are expressing some sort of panic.

Third, there is no doubt that a “message box” has...

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Will boycott 'work?'

Four notes on what could be tipping points for — or against — the boycott movement.

A week without a major boycott development in Israel is beginning to seem like a rarity. With a string of celebrity, corporate, cultural and professional threats or actions, the atmosphere is jittery; minor rumors like boycott pressure on Beyoncé are making momentary headlines in Israeli news.

The hot question is what impact will all this have? The peace and anti-occupation camp wonders if such actions will break Israel’s stubborn commitment to its policies (even if many don’t support BDS themselves). Pro-occupation* figures believe the boycott movement is exposing its real face of rabid anti-Semitism, and hope that the ugly truth will drive sensible people away.

Israeli Jews are almost evenly divided between succumbing to the pressure and digging in: the January Peace Index by Tel Aviv University and the Israeli Democracy Institute shows that half of Israeli Jews think the movement will intensify and reach a full-out boycott against Israeli products; nearly one half (47 percent) think it won’t. Nearly half of Israeli Jews (46 percent) think that if the boycott intensifies Israel will not be able to continue its current policies, specifically with relation to settlements, while 49 percent think it can.

I can think of four kinds of developments that might tip the scales – in either direction.

IDF – untouchable? Last week, an Israeli newspaper carried a small item reporting that popular musician Idan Raichel had agreed to perform at a concert exclusively for soldiers doing their mandatory service. The article was saturated with IDF-celebratory tones, including reverential quotes by Raichel. Since cultural figures are commonly assumed to be left wing, such as the Israeli actors, artists and academics who in 2010 protested or boycotted the cultural center in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, the article, to my ears, had a defensive, “so there,” subtext. But the fact is that IDF veneration remains a powerful force in Israeli society; the recent rage against a teacher who discussed politicized topics in the classroom ultimately honed in on the fact that he raised critical questions about the IDF. Over the last two decades there have been some high-profile Israelis who avoided mandatory army service, causing controversy. But they rarely, if ever, do so as a clear statement against Israeli policy or as part of a movement. For now, hyped-up...

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Time to end the delegitimization of Arab Knesset members

Any time the subject of Arab legislators or Arab parties in Israel comes up, someone always feels the tiresome need to mouth off about how horrible Arab members of Knesset are. With crocodile tears, they accuse those MKs of manipulating or forgetting Arab citizens and getting lost in their occupation obsession (a thin guise for their real goal which is the destruction of Israel), instead of working to improve the lives of their voters.

With all due respect, I’d like to blow this nonsense out of the water with a few facts.

MK Ahmad Tibi (Yossi Gurvitz)

MK Ahmad Tibi (Yossi Gurvitz)

A recent quantitative study by the Abraham Fund released just a few months ago 2013 examined legislative activity from a 19-month period during the previous (18th) Knesset. It did not examine all 17 Arab MKs, but chose to focus on 11 who are most often accused of the things above (10 of them from Arab parties, one from Labor). Here are some of the findings:

- 1,107 private bills were proposed; 158 of them were submitted by the 11 Arab legislators. That’s 14 percent of the total, although those MKs make up less than 10 percent of the Knesset. Assuming the remaining six MKs submitted some bills, the actual percentage submitted by Arab MKs is presumably higher.

- Three of those bills involved the occupation; two involved Arab Israeli citizens, and had something to do with the conflict. Together, those five bills made up three percent of the bills submitted.

- The remaining 153 bills, 97 percent, addressed civic issues such as improved administration, narrowing socio-economic gaps, adjusting distortions and preferential treatment in existing laws.

- Parliamentary activity such as short speeches, calls to order, or queries to ministerial committees were also categorized. One-quarter had to do with the occupation; 46 percent had to do with Arab Israeli citizens and 29 percent were issues related to Israeli society in general.

A quick glance at some of the individual MKs provides a snapshot of their activities:

- Hanin Zoabi of Balad, best known in Jewish Israeli society for her participation in the Gaza flotilla and as the target of attacks by right-wing nationalist parties, was the most active MK of all in 2012 in posing queries...

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Why the electoral threshold stokes internal conflict

A half-empty Knesset voted Tuesday to approve an electoral reform bill theoretically intended to stabilize governance in a country with a notoriously unstable system by raising the voting threshold to 3.25% from the current 2% (itself an increase from earlier years), among other reforms. To understand why change elicits such visceral reactions, it should be viewed in the context of three aspects: the Israeli political system, Jewish-Arab relations, and majority-minority relations more broadly.

The Israeli political system

No party in Israel has ever won an absolute majority in the Knesset, and there has always been a governing coalition. Those coalitions depend on small parties – usually ultra-Orthodox, with a few exceptions including the current government. Arabs in Israel are also represented by small parties, traditionally they support three different lists: Hadash – a Jewish-Arab list; Balad; and the United Arab List. Together, these parties currently have 1011 seats in Knesset.

Arab parties have never been genuine coalition partners. Thus ultra-Orthodox parties (who represent about 10% of Israeli society at present) have had disproportionate power throughout Israel’s history, while Arab parties, representing over 20% of the population, have effectively no influence on governance in Israel.

Current coalition members argued that the higher threshold would discourage the proliferation of tiny parties and sectoral fragmentation. Arab representation need not be harmed, as their parties can simply merge. This is a strange argument coming from a coalition whose leading party Likud-Beitenu just two weeks ago proposed a bill that would mandate separate representatives for Christian and Muslim Arabs on an equal employment commission. That was considered deeply offensive to Arabs, a transparent and racist “divide and conquer” effort when in fact Christians and Muslims are discriminated against quite equally.

Further, when parties merge in Israel, they usually lose. Merged parties almost always receive fewer seats than the two separate parties combined (the election results for the merger of Likud and Israel Beiteinu is a good example: the two parties held 42 seats in the previous Knesset, and 31 as a merged party). The coalition partners surely know this.

In response, Arab leaders insist on their political diversity, and their right to be represented by a range of parties rather than forced political uniformity.  It is true that I have in the past also heard some Arabs express the desire for their political parties to unite...

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Film review: The unending Nakba - Three generations of stateless Palestinians search for home

Tens of thousands of Palestinians have languished for over 65 years in the Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp, waiting to return home. Now, through his documentary, Mahdi Fleifel reveals an essential side of Palestinian exile that is often forgotten: the human side.

It was heartening that the Academy bestowed its highest honors this year to “Twelve Years a Slave,” a story about injustice and liberation, and recognizing America’s historic cruelty towards its people.

Maybe it is the curse of the oppressed to achieve their greatest recognition only when the primary injury of oppression is long over, after it can really help. Palestinians don’t have an easy time penetrating the Western cultural landscape. True, last year, the Academy short-listed “Five Broken Cameras,” the story of a village’s struggle against the security barrier in the West Bank, for Best Documentary. Although it didn’t win, the nomination generated attention.

But Mahdi Fleifel, the director of the 2012 documentary “A World Not Ours,” thinks that an essential side of the Palestinian story has been forgotten: the human side.

Still from "A World Not Ours" (Photo: Fleifel family archive)

Still from “A World Not Ours” (Photo: Fleifel family archive)

The global media feeds up stereotypes about aggressors, terrorists, or victims at best, he suggests in an interview with +972 Magazine from London. Even “Five Broken Cameras” is about the poor Palestinian villagers, little Davids struggling in the muddy hills of the West Bank against their Goliath. Their lives revolve around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What else is there?

On the face of it, Fleifel’s film about three generations of a Palestinian family living in the squalid in Ein el-Helweh refugee camp in Lebanon since 1948 doesn’t seem like the best candidate to break the typical victimized image of Palestinians.

Somehow, it does. It turns out the refugee camp is a little universe. In “one square kilometer with over 70,000 refugees,” ironies and contradictions abound. As the film opens he tells us that the name Ein el-Helweh means “the sweet spring,” over a background of a cool saxophone riff; while the camera pans over pockmarked walls and the rubble of buildings. In this anachronism lives a community of colorful characters, with heroes and legends, humor and fools. There is Fleifel’s cantankerous grandpa, loafing in a porch chair in an alley,...

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De-coding the Israeli-Palestinian peace process

A breakdown of recent statements by principal players in the Kerry-led peace process.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman, Jordan, June 29, 2013. (Photo by State Dept.)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman, Jordan, June 29, 2013. (Photo by State Dept.)

The Israeli/Palestinian negotiations remind me of a volleyball court. With a lack of hard information available to the public, each player punts a ball into the air at regular intervals with identifying marks on it, to remind everyone that he or she is still there for ten seconds before the ball drops and another pops up.

These blips sound like a standard shouting match on the surface. But their subtext can give a snapshot of the peace process at this moment – and reveal why it’s so frail. Below are some of the recent statements by key players (paraphrased) that stood out to me, in no particular order, and my interpretation of what they mean.

Read +972′s full coverage of the Kerry peace process

-Naftali Bennett: “We have to look at the document before we decide whether to leave or stay in the coalition!” Translation: Please, please don’t make us bolt. We are desperate to stick to our first shot at power, build our electoral base beyond settlers and look very credible in other areas of life – including a slick call in the New York Times to bring Arab Israeli women and ultra-Orthodox into the work force. We just need to crack the big-party club and take power one day in order to ensure implementation of Naftali Bennett’s own plan for full Israeli control from the river to the sea, forever.

-Hamas (in Haaretz): “We won’t accept an international presence in Palestinian territory after the occupation army leaves!” Translation: We expect the IDF to leave the West Bank, which is what we now mean by Palestinian territory. We’re too weak to throw around our old maximalist rhetoric about pre-1967 Israel and our people are too fed up to take us seriously if we do.

-Netanyahu: “There is no reason Jews can’t stay there after the Palestinian state is established, just like we have...

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Boycott goes on trial in Israel's High Court

Civil rights organizations argue the ‘anti-boycott law’ has created a chilling effect, stifling debate on one of the most divisive issues facing Israeli society. If that’s the case, the state counters, then how has BDS grown so much in recent years?

Panel of the Israeli Supreme Court (file photo,

Panel of the Israeli High Court of Justice (file photo,

In a hearing that felt at times like the political boycott itself was on trial, an extended panel of nine justices from Israel’s High Court of Justice heard arguments for and against legislation targeting calls to boycott Israel on Sunday. It was the second such session following petitions by civil rights groups asking the court to strike down the law.

Lawyers for civil society groups including Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc), the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and Adalah-the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel made a passionate case that the two-year-old piece of legislation unconstitutionally violates freedom of expression. Attorneys for the Knesset, joined by the right-wing Legal Forum for Israel, contested that the law exists to defend the civil rights of Israeli citizens who may be harmed by boycott.

The petition to annul the law insists that by making calls to boycott Israel — including those against settlements or enterprises in occupied territory — a civil offense, it violates political freedom of expression. The law stipulates that a party claiming injury due to a boycott need not prove damages, monetary or otherwise, for the accused to be held liable in a civil suit. An earlier draft of the law that made calling for a boycott a criminal offense was adjusted prior to being passed in July 2011.

The civil society groups argued that even if the law is nearly impossible to enforce, its very existence has a “chilling effect,” leading to self-censorship and stifling of a necessary and legitimate political debate about Israeli policy, and that it is not an attack on Israel itself. They claimed that the law effectively blocks a legitimate form of non-violent protest against the policies of the state. Peace organization Gush Shalom, for example, was forced to remove from its website a list of products and companies originating from the West Bank; its lawyers claimed that the law thus alters...

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Embattled teacher compared to Dreyfus

The controversy surrounding an unsuspecting high-school teacher who was denounced by one of his twelfth-grade students for allegedly expressing left-wing views in class escalated rapidly this week. Adam Verete, the teacher from Kiryat Tivon, has unwittingly been dubbed ‘Dreyfus of Tivon’; a routine meeting of the Knesset Education Committee became a heated argument over the issue, two hundred students demonstrated in Verete’s defense while the Education Minister maintains radio silence, garnering criticism, and the country’s top PR experts working for the ORT school system where Varete teaches stutters over basic questions.

On Thursday, Haaretz published ‘highlights’ from a secret recording of a hearing, in which Verete is heard speaking with one of the ORT administrators. The idea of a hidden tape should add juice and intrigue, but listening to it is more painful than thrilling. At times the teacher’s voice is shaking, dropping nearly to a whisper when he discusses the frightening incitement against him on Facebook. He insists on what he did and did not say: he never said that Israel is not a state for the Jews but for the Arabs, he claims; he had “a philosophical discussion” about whether calling the IDF the most moral army in the world makes it so, or whether such an army is capable of doing immoral things. When students asked his own opinion, he says, he responded that among the things the IDF does, there are some immoral things.

When he expresses fear of returning to school the following day knowing that Sapir Sabah, who lodged the complaint, is going around calling him a traitor – she also said in class that Israel has the death penalty for traitors – the ORT administrator replies: “but that’s her opinion.”

ORT’s spokespeople have generated confusion about its own handling of the issue. Earlier this week, spokespeople said that Verete himself offered to resign due to his difficulty with that student and class. On the tape he clearly says that he does not want to resign, out of commitment to his students –whose effusive support “moved me to tears,” he says. In the hearing, he suggested the administration address the threat to his physical safety based on the violent comments on Facebook, implying that he wasn’t sure whether to continue under those circumstances. (He subsequently turned to the police.) The ORT administration made it clear that it would be best...

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Student's 'political persecution' of teacher reaches national stage

An Israeli student’s accusations that her teacher expressed leftist views, amplified by a far-right political figure, now have the teacher fighting for his job.

Israel’s education minister ordered the Ort school system to investigate a complaint against a high school teacher from one of its schools in the north of Israel, following a letter from a 12th-grade student. The student wrote to the minister alleging that her teacher promoted extreme-left political opinions in class, including criticism of the IDF and saying that Israel was not a state for Jews, but rather for Palestinians. The teacher was called in for a hearing, and his job appears to be on the line; Haaretz reports that he has stated he will not resign.

Former MK Michael Ben Ari, one of the most outspoken far-right members of the far-right party National Union party in the previous Knesset, published the letter on his Facebook site.

Adam emphasizes his political views in every class. He explained that he’s an extreme leftist, that…our state is not even the state of the Jews but it’s for the Palestinians, and that we (Jews) shouldn’t be here. He also emphasized that the IDF is unusually cruel and violent, by contrast to other armies…the IDF is completely immoral and he’s ashamed of his state. Adam also told us that during a conference abroad, he shouted ‘Viva Palestine.’ When I expressed my opinion and said that I don’t agree with those things he laughed and said: ‘You would just kill all the Arabs – that’s what you want.’ Of course that’s not my intention and I explained that to him, but he ignored me and continued to humiliate me and to insult me in front of the whole class. When I went to the administration about this, they held several conversations with him, where Adam admitted that he laughed at what I said and even apologized.

The main thing is not that he ridiculed me in front of the class, but the fact that he is part of the education system, and he uses his position to drive these wrongful thoughts into the students, about our state and our army…”

The ensuing debate has rankled students in the small northern town of Kiryat Tivon, sparked a brutal online debate, and has reverberated through Ort school system, which is...

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Liberman: Citizenship annulment is a condition for peace

The foreign minister’s provocations may be damaging, but they create a clear and present danger when tied to actual policies.

Avigdor Liberman has come roaring back again. When the Israeli foreign minister returned to his post following a lengthy corruption investigation that ended in anti-climax of acquittal, some thought he had been chastened by time or political pragmatism and softened his firebrand style.

As if to cast aside those doubts, Liberman has given a stellar performance this week (and it’s only Thursday). He insisted that his party will oppose any Israeli-Palestinian agreement that does not include territorial and population swaps, as per his plan to excise a major swath of the Israeli citizenry who are Arab. He said that he would not agree to a single Palestinian refugee returning to Israel, which pretty well sinks the idea of even a symbolic number of returnees, as envisioned by most peace plans on the table since Camp David in 2000.

Palestinians commonly accuse Israel of creating new conditions for peace as a delaying tactic, such as Prime Minister Netanyahu’s demand that they recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Liberman’s statements this week make the land and population swaps no less than a hard condition for his party’s support. The Palestinian complaint is difficult to dismiss.

Liberman’s idea is anathema even to some well within his right-wing, nationalist camp.  Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar of Likud told Israeli television on Tuesday that he opposed the plan because it would harm the notion of citizenship and goes against the democratic values of the party. Responding to the criticism of the Left, Liberman snapped back on his Facebook page Wednesday:

Reading this, one might imagine that all the roughly 1.6 million Arab-Palestinians of Israel do is pray for Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah (they don’t), or that they all identify first of all as Palestinians (in a survey I conducted in 2011, two-thirds nearly 60 percent do not cite “Palestinian” as their primary identity). One might think that Arabs have not been striving for full integration into Israeli economic, political and social life since 1948 (they have), or that they have advanced a secessionist agenda all these years (they have never). One might even think it’s legitimate to strip someone’s citizenship for expressing political views such as observing the Nakba.

Yet, the confrontational, bullying style is almost routine, a mainstay of...

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