+972 Magazine » Noam Sheizaf http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Wed, 17 Sep 2014 00:09:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 There’s nothing static about the West Bank ‘status quo’ http://972mag.com/theres-nothing-static-about-the-west-bank-status-quo/96770/ http://972mag.com/theres-nothing-static-about-the-west-bank-status-quo/96770/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 15:03:05 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96770 Israel is already carrying out Bennett’s annexation plan, only without the formal annexation part. The West Bank is a very different place than it was 10 years ago. It will be even more different five or 10 years from now.

The indispensable Amira Hass reported this morning about an Israeli plan to push thousands of Palestinian-Bedouin into a new town it plans to build in the Jordan Valley. The Jordan Valley is one of three areas in which Israel is trying to relocate Bedouin into designated areas or towns; the others are south of Hebron and east of Jerusalem.

Netanyahu’s government treats all “state land” in the West Bank as if it already belongs to Israel, as opposed to land under dispute. For Israel it’s actually better than annexed land: projects that would take an arduously long time to plan and execute under the civilian planning system in Israel proper can materialize in a matter of months under the IDF military regime in the West Bank.

The government has also been transferring Palestinian municipal — and even private — land into its own possession and control. Despite commitments to several American administrations not to build new settlements, the Israeli government has been legalizing outposts for several years now. It even started construction on the first “official” new settlement since the Oslo accords. Most recently, the government appropriated 1,000 acres near Bethlehem for a new settlement. Altogether, 2013 was a record-setting year in settlement construction.

There will be no Palestinian state in the foreseeable future. Israel will not allow it, and the political circumstances that would otherwise force it to reconsider its position simply don’t exist. Instead, Israel is maintaining the status quo of occupation in the Palestinian territories. But the term is misleading. There is nothing static about the status quo. Israel constantly strengthens its control over the West Bank — and while doing so, it creates a new reality on the ground.

A Palestinian Bedouin family after their Jordan Valley home was demolished by Israeli army forces. (File photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian Bedouin family after their Jordan Valley home was demolished by Israeli army forces. (File photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

The effort in the Jordan Valley is especially telling. Netanyahu’s government made the Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley a key demand in its negotiations with Secretary of State Kerry earlier this year. In fact, it was one of the key hurdles that prevented the American administration from presenting a framework for a final status agreement.

Since the Gaza war and the shift of international attention to radical Islamic militias in Syria and Iraq, Israel’s desire to hold onto the Jordan Valley has only grown. The effort to create a contiguous Jewish population in the area and to clear the land of Palestinians can only be understood as part of a long-term project that would isolate the rest of the West Bank from Jordan and as consequence – from the rest of the world.

The logic in the government’s other measures isn’t hard to find, either. Its land appropriation near Bethlehem and measures against Palestinian rural communities are aimed at pushing the Palestinian population into several disconnected urban areas, while maintaining a contiguous Israeli presence around and across the West Bank.

Settler leader Naftali Bennett long ago proposed that Israel annex Area C – roughly 60 percent of the West Bank that is under full Israeli administrative and military control – giving full civil rights to the roughly 100,000 Palestinians living there. The other millions would live under some form of “enhanced autonomy” in the remaining 40 percent of the land, which would be so fragmented and non-contiguous that it looks like an archipelago.

I don’t think Israel will annex Area C. The international fallout would be too great. More importantly, forced relocation, advancing zoning plans and creating new settlements is actually much easier when the land is under military sovereignty — especially in comparison to the bureaucratic difficulties of civil control west of the Green Line, not to mention the greater degree of transparency.

Israel is already carrying out Bennett’s plan, only without the formal annexation part. The West Bank is a very different place than it was 10 years ago. It will be even more different five or 10 years from now.

In the past 20 years or so the international community’s strategy toward the occupation was to try and slow down Israeli measures in the hope that the establishment of a Palestinian state would actually reverse them. This school of thought has failed miserably.

Israel’s ability to find — and use — creative legal and political tools that allow it to pursue its territorial ambitions is constantly improving; efforts to contain those ambitions, meanwhile, have completely disintegrated. Every few years, Israel demands that new “facts on the ground” be recognized as a starting point for any negotiation; the international community then has no option but to discuss these demands, and at times, even accept them as the new norm.

It is now clear that the current road will not lead to the creation of a viable Palestinian state. A new approach is required if the Palestinian population is ever going to gain its rights, freedoms and at least some of its assets.

Related:
Replacing the peace process with a civil rights struggle
Jordan Valley fence would finalize the West Bank’s complete enclosure
PHOTOS: A week in a demolished Jordan Valley village
How Israel uses the pretext of peace talks to build more settlements

]]>
http://972mag.com/theres-nothing-static-about-the-west-bank-status-quo/96770/feed/ 6
Replacing the peace process with a civil rights struggle http://972mag.com/replacing-the-peace-process-with-a-civil-rights-struggle/96506/ http://972mag.com/replacing-the-peace-process-with-a-civil-rights-struggle/96506/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 13:30:26 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96506 What would happen if Israeli progressives and their supporters demanded an end to the military court system, or called for freedom of movement for Palestinians? The answer: a lot.

The two-state solution has long been transformed from a means (to solving the problem of the occupation) to an end. As I wrote here in the past, this change has had severe consequences as far as the Israeli political opposition is concerned. Those range from a de-facto acceptance of the status quo to a political alliance with the Right and support for all the latest rounds of violence. The excuses are always the same – that we are on the road to the two-state solution and “this is the only game in town.”

The truth is that we aren’t on the road to two states or to one state. We are deep in the status-quo solution. Israel directly controls the lives of some 4 million Palestinians (and indirectly almost two more million in Gaza), and only a minority of them have the rights of full citizens, and even then only formally. The debate over the correct term for this state of affairs (‘occupation’ or ‘apartheid’ or ‘status quo’) is not half as important as recognizing this reality itself, which is stable, institutionalized and not going to change in the foreseeable future.

As a matter of fact, a final status agreement seems as far off as I can remember. The two-state solution is highly unlikely to take place in the coming years, and there is no way of knowing what the more distant future holds. Regional events along with internal developments in Israeli society serve those who oppose an agreement. The occupation empowers those who support it.

The common wisdom in Israel today is that every territory that is evacuated will eventually become another hub for Middle Eastern anarchy. The security establishment believes that only the IDF can prevent forces such as Islamic State from crossing the Jordan River. Israel would also like to make sure that Hamas doesn’t take over the West Bank. In other words, even if a Palestinian “state” is formed, it won’t have even the minimal degree of independence. No credible Palestinian leadership can be expected to agree to that.

I also don’t see any form of international pressure that would force the two-state solution on Israel. Much of the international community is clearly unhappy with Israel’s policies of the last decade, but this is nowhere near the mobilization against South Africa in the 1980s or, more recently, Iran. In both cases the tipping point was the U.S. decision to support and impose sanctions. And while the U.S. might end up distancing itself from Jerusalem, it will continue to use its power to prevent sanctions against it. The EU is also unlikely to expend its measures beyond some steps against the settlements. So there is truly no end in sight.

Palestinians from the West Bank with permits to enter Israel wait at the Israeli military checkpoint in the separation wall controlling movement between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, June 12, 2014. (Photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Palestinians from the West Bank with permits to enter Israel wait at the Israeli military checkpoint in the Separation Wall, controlling movement between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, June 12, 2014. (Photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Facing this new reality, Israeli progressives that supported the peace process are turning to one of a few options: There are those who join the Right in maintaining the status quo; those who continue to believe that some recent events – the war, the ceasefire, American elections, the lack of American elections, etc. – opened a “window of opportunity for peace;” while in fact there is no window, not even a crack. And there are also those who are crying, not without some perverse pleasure, that “all is lost.”

On a more positive note, I believe there is renewed recognition in Israel of the dominance of the occupation on all other political problems, in the long-term threat it presents before Israeli society. I used to hear people say that the Left should focus on social issues and leave the Palestinian problem aside, but not anymore. You even see conservatives voicing some concern over the failure to solve the Palestinian issue. In other words, there is some new recognition of the problem, but there is no political strategy to accompany it among progressives, except for continuing to bang one’s head against the peace process wall.

***

The solution is to replace the diplomatic process with a civil rights struggle, to break the occupation into pieces, and deal with each one of them: The fact that Palestinians do not enjoy freedom of movement. The fact that they have been tried in military courts for almost half a century. The limits on their freedom of speech and their right to freely assemble. The lack of proper detainee rights (including minors). The disrespect for their property rights, and, of course, their lack of political rights.

A civil rights struggle doesn’t necessarily mean a single-state solution, nor two states. Civilian rights for Palestinians can lead to any final status agreement. As I wrote here last week, there is little point in debating solutions right now.

A civil rights struggle is not a new idea, and many Palestinians have been engaging in it for a long time. But Israeli progressives and peaceniks have always placed it second only to the diplomatic process. In other words, instead of the Palestinian state becoming a means for the fulfillment of Palestinian rights, it was made the only desired political object; those rights no longer bared value once they were separated from the idea of statehood – as if because the Palestinians have no state they don’t deserve freedom of movement or a fair trial. Thus, progressives find themselves justifying an authoritarian regime in Ramallah in the name of Palestinians rights, and many other absurdities.

On a tactical level, a civil rights struggle opens the door for Arab-Jewish cooperation on both sides of the Green Line, and leaves aside the questions of statehood and historical narratives that people love to debate. Instead, it focuses on the lives of real people under occupation.

The equal rights of all men and women is such a simple and broadly accepted notion that it’s easy to explain and for everyone to understand. Israelis have adopted all sorts of revisionist readings of the conflict in recent years; for example the idea that the territories aren’t occupied because they were never claimed by any other state. But the most important problem with the occupation is the millions of people held under a military regime for decades, and not just the legal status of the land.

The target of a civil rights struggle is not the settlers, or any other Israeli community, but the state and its practices. It might not make progressives more popular with the Israeli public, but it could make their work more effective.

Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Galon and opposition leader Yitzhak Herzog of Labor (Photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Galon and opposition leader Yitzhak Herzog of Labor. Banging one’s head on a hopeless peace process (Photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

What could such a struggle look like? It should raise specific political demands that touch the basic liberties and rights of human beings; such as the right to a fair trial, to equality before the law, and to political representation.

The military court system is a good place to start. Military tribunals could be accepted in very specific contexts and for a limited period of time. They aren’t meant – nor could they be used – to run the lives of a civilian population for decades, as Israel does.

There is no way to justify military commanders ruling over civilian issues for half a century, the way they do in the West Bank. There is no way to justify administrative detentions. What prevents a “pro-peace” party or organization – say, Meretz or Labor or J Street – from right now demanding an end to the military court system, regardless of diplomatic developments? The fact that such an idea is not even debated demonstrates the degree to which even the “pro-peace” camp has adopted the mentality of the occupation.

What about freedom of movement? The Palestinians are held like Israel’s prisoners, not only in the West Bank but also in Gaza. It takes a permit from a military commander to allow a Palestinian to visit his or her family in Jordan. Why not demand turning this policy on its head, right now, and have the security authorities state who they forbid from traveling, and allow everybody else free passage? Surely this is a reasonable enough request?

Human rights groups have been monitoring and discussing these issues for decades, but they have yet to enter progressive politics, which is still chained to the endless peace process. Imagine what would happen if mobilization by the international community around Israeli relations with the PA or its settlement policies was directed at the rights of Palestinians.

To some this might seem like back-door annexation by Israel – an idea that most Israelis and Palestinians still oppose. But the fact of the matter is that de-facto annexation has already taken place, only without allowing the civilian population their basic human and civil rights. Recent cries over the appropriation of some 1,000 acres of land by Israel sound hollow compared to the massive human rights violations that have been taking place for decades. I actually believe that even if Israel was to hand the Palestinians full voting rights in the Knesset tomorrow we could end up with some version of a two-state solution or a confederative model, because both people here are interested in national sovereignty.

Make no mistake: Keeping the Palestinians without rights is not some temporary holding pattern on the way to a final status solution (or peace). For Israel, this is the solution. And giving Palestinians their rights will not postpone an agreement – quite the opposite. It would force Israelis to really think about the kind of future they want, alongside the Palestinians.

***

A final note: This post does not intend to tell Palestinians how to run their affairs, or what form their struggle should take. I don’t think Israelis are in a position to give such advice to the people they occupy, and the Palestinians would be correct not to heed the advice. It’s about Israeli politics. Terminating the occupation (as the first necessary step), reaching a fair compromise with the Palestinian people, and then entering a process of reconciliation are all in the interest of Israelis; but I believe that Israeli and Jewish politics on this issue have reached a dead end, especially on the organizational level. The confusion and anxiety is palpable these days. This is a good starting point for a new journey.

Originally published on my Hebrew blog at Local Call

Related:
One- or two-state solution? The answer is both (or neither)
Gaza war: It’s about keeping the Palestinians under control
This is Netanyahu’s final status solution

Newsletter banner 5 - 540

]]> http://972mag.com/replacing-the-peace-process-with-a-civil-rights-struggle/96506/feed/ 34 One- or two-state solution? The answer is both (or neither) http://972mag.com/one-or-two-state-solution-the-answer-is-both-or-neither/96263/ http://972mag.com/one-or-two-state-solution-the-answer-is-both-or-neither/96263/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 19:58:42 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96263 The two-state solution is not a progressive cause and neither is a single-state solution — they are just possible means to an end. The only possible goal for progressive politics in Israel/Palestine can be full human, civil and political rights for everyone living on this land. 

[Illustrative photo by Shutterstock.com]

[Illustrative photo by Shutterstock.com]

Every now and then a comment on this blog attributes a position to me — one I thought I had been very careful to avoid taking. A misunderstood writer should blame only himself and not the readers. However, there is a specific point I always have trouble getting across, maybe because of the way it diverges from the way people tend to frame the political debate — and not just in Israel.

The issue at hand is a so-called final-status agreement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I often get comments that assume I am preaching for an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and for the evacuation of settlements. Other comments take for granted that I am calling on Israel to annex the West Bank and give citizenship to all of the Palestinians.

The truth is that I am not a follower of either of these ideas – or if you prefer, I accept both of them under certain circumstances.

My principal political position is opposition to the occupation. By “occupation” I don’t mean the legal status of the land administrated by Israel. I am referring to the existence of a regime that separates the two populations on ethnic lines and grants them different rights, and to all the policies that are part and parcel of that regime: the military court system, the extra juridical assassinations of people living under Israeli sovereignty, the lack of freedom of movement, the limits on freedom of speech, and many more such measures.

I support equal rights for all people living in this land, between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. Theoretically this can happen as part of a two-state solution, a single-state solution and in various hybrids of the two. All these solutions could just the same preserve a situation where there are no equal rights and Jews continue to rule over the Palestinians but through different measures, much like what happened in Gaza following the withdrawal of IDF forces and 9,000 settlers in 2005. A person can state that he or she is in favor of the two-state solution or that he or she supports applying Israeli civilian law – instead of a military regime – in the West Bank, but such making such statements guarantees nothing.

Even when such final status plans are presented in their ideal form they all have considerable flaws. The game in which progressives bring up ideas for resolving the conflict and the Right finds holes in them is a lost cause. In fact, the entire debate on solutions might be intellectually intriguing but its only importance is as counterweight to the claim that the conflict is some type of given state of affairs or a natural disaster that cannot be solved. One needs to put alternatives on the table, but they shouldn’t be turned into a cult.

One of the major problems in Israel is that the two-state solution was transformed from a means — to ending the occupation and its evils — into a goal. This is a disastrous development. There is no “peace camp” in Israel and no major political force seeking justice; there is only a “two-state camp,” which is something completely different. If a peace camp is having trouble implementing the two-state solution, it looks for just alternatives which will end the occupation and diminish its evils. But when a two-state camp has trouble implementing a two-state solution, it stops looking for any sort of solution and instead becomes a supporter of the status quo with all its inherent policies, such as the need to kill 2,000 people in Gaza in order to maintain the current state of affairs.

This is why progressives need to go back to opposing the occupation, and they need to do it actively — not just through lip service about “a diplomatic process” or two states or peace and all the newspeak Shimon Peres trademarked.

One must be very wary not to delve too deeply into the debate about solutions. More often than not, this conversation is a waste of time and political capital. Solutions are not the result of debate clubs but of political interests at a given moment in time. In other words, once Israeli society decides to end the occupation irrespective of the political circumstances, the power relations and various interests will determine the nature of the arrangements on the ground.

That is the moment in time where we, Israelis, will need to conduct an honest conversation about the kind of arrangement we would rather negotiate (Palestinians would do the same probably). Such a debate cannot exist now because the one thing we can all agree on is prolonging the status quo. This is what happens every day in the Israeli political system: Naftali Bennett, Avigdor Liberman, Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni (or Labor’s Yitzhak Herzog, for that matter) can be part of the same coalition despite their contradictory options because they can live with the status quo. That is the common denominator that defines the entire system.

One final note: even when the final status agreement presents itself, it will be neither final nor static and we will need to continue working so that relations between Jews and Palestinians are conducted within an egalitarian and accountable political system and not through though exploitation or military force. There are no endgames in politics, certainly not here.

Related:
Who gets to vote in Israel’s democracy?
War is the new system of governance (and five other Gaza takeaways)
This is Netanyahu’s final status solution

]]>
http://972mag.com/one-or-two-state-solution-the-answer-is-both-or-neither/96263/feed/ 51
War is the new system of governance (and five other Gaza takeaways) http://972mag.com/war-is-the-new-system-of-governance-and-five-other-gaza-takeaways/96135/ http://972mag.com/war-is-the-new-system-of-governance-and-five-other-gaza-takeaways/96135/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 16:33:23 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96135 The status quo of the occupation has reached a new level of violence and destruction, but there is no political power in sight that can impose a change on the ground.

A mosque minaret rises among the ruins of Al-Nada towers after they were destroyed by Israeli strikes in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, August 4, 2014. The towers had 90 flats. So far, Israeli attacks have killed at least 1,870 Palestinians, and injured 9,470 since the beginning of the Israeli offensive (photo: Activestills)

A mosque minaret rises among the ruins of Al-Nada towers after they were destroyed by Israeli strikes in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, August 4, 2014. The towers had 90 flats. (photo: Activestills)

1. Israel paid more than it expected for a bit less than it wanted. Israel’s strategic goal in this war was to maintain the status quo on the Palestinian issue. Prime Minister Netanyahu outlined this notion from the first days of the war, when he presented his ceasefire formula: if Hamas stops shooting, we stop shooting. Israel got most of what it wanted, but at a greater price than expected, in terms of Israeli casualties, the disruption to everyday life in Israel, and further erosion of Israel’s position in the world due to the destruction inflicted on Gaza.

Maintaining control over the Palestinians, or keeping the Palestinians under control (i.e. the status quo) is the common denominator of the Israeli system. The political debate is about the best way to achieve this goal. Some would grant the Palestinians a semi-state, or an enhanced proxy regime; most Israelis would like to keep things as they are, and a minority wants to annex the occupied territories – these are the same voices that called for the IDF to retake Gaza.

But no major political power is willing to either give the Palestinians full civilian, political and human rights as individuals under Israeli sovereignty, or completely retreat and disconnect from the Palestinian territories and grant them full independence, regardless of the consequences.

Israelis may have given Netanyahu a B-minus on this war, but they never questioned the war itself; mainly because the belief in the status quo doesn’t come from the leadership but from the public. I might be wrong, but I don’t think the war was a ground-shifting event that will change Israeli thinking in the way that the First Intifada led to Oslo, and the Second Intifada led to the disengagement. The needle may have moved, but not enough.

2. A new act in the Israeli political drama begins. There will be a lot of excitement now about the political fallout of this war, and especially around the fate of the third Netanyahu government. This government is the weakest Netanyahu had led, and it is even weaker after the war, mainly for reasons that have to do with the economy. Israel continues its slow slide toward recession, and the war will make it impossible for Finance Minister Yair Lapid to make good on his promises to the Middle Class and not raise taxes. Lapid might be tempted to leave the government, and Netanyahu might be tempted to get Naftali Bennett out and try to resume talks with the Palestinians. It’s also unclear where Lieberman is heading. Early elections are not in anybody’s interest but Bennett’s, but we might end up with them anyway.

But all this political drama – which is kind of common with Israeli politics – shouldn’t be confused for a battle of ideas. As I said, there is no path for a coalition that would offer the minimum a credible Palestinian leadership could accept. The two-state solution seems even more remote after this war, and the one-state solution is not getting any closer. The only difference is that more people are now aware of the ugliness of “the status-quo solution.”

A relative cries over the body of one of the children killed by an Israeli attack on a playground in al-Shati refugee camp, Gaza city, July 28, 2014. Reports indicate that 10 people, mostly children, were killed and 40 injured during the attack which took place on the first day Eid. (photo: Activestills)

A relative cries over the body of one of the children killed by an Israeli attack on a playground in al-Shati refugee camp, Gaza city, July 28, 2014. Reports indicate that 10 people, mostly children, were killed and 40 injured during the attack which took place on the first day Eid. (photo: Activestills)

3. Hamas’ second war of independence: In order to maintain the status quo, Israel concluded early on that it needed Hamas weakened but not destroyed. The reason is twofold: (a) Ironically, Hamas is seen as the only entity that can prevent chaos in Gaza and secure peace for Israel; and (b) Hamas is a political power that balances Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. Israel needs Fatah and Hamas to cancel each other out.

Here, too, I think that Israel pretty much got what it needed, but at a greater cost than it expected. Egypt and the Saudis might try to get more rewards for Abbas as a payment for their support for Israel during the war – Abbas’ alleged meeting with Netanyahu could be seen as a step in this direction.

Still, Hamas also came out with something from this war, especially with regards to recognition as a stakeholder in the new Middle East. This was Hamas’ second War of Independence. The first one was the aftermath of Oslo and the Second Intifada, which demonstrated its power in internal Palestinian politics and ended with a general election victory. Protective Edge won Hamas international recognition; some Palestinians I’ve spoken to are convinced that if the PLO held general elections tomorrow, Khaled Mashal could end up as chairman (which pretty much guarantees that general elections will not be held). After this war, any sensible person knows that Hamas will need to be part of whatever political arrangement is formed; it’s less clear what Gaza and its people got. Time will tell.

4. War as a system of governance: More than a year ago, we at +972 Magazine ran an interview with the director of a film dealing with Israel’s military exports. The headline of the piece was ‘Wars on Gaza have become part of Israel’s system of governance,’ and when you read it now, after Gaza’s third war in six years, it’s even more chilling.

The Palestinians in the occupied territories have been held under an oppressive military regime – a dictatorship that is run by a democracy – for almost half a century. The levels of violence this regime needs to exert in order to support itself have become frightening. Israel might claim that it didn’t want this war (or the previous one, or the one before it), but this much is true for every oppressive regime out there: Every one of them would rather maintain their power and control without resorting to the use of force, and every one of them ends up using more and more power as the resistance to that control grows.

This is a one-way street, so the next “escalation” is likely to be even more brutal than the one which produced, for example, the following images, showing an entire neighborhood wiped out in an hour:

There is a favorite line by Liberal Zionists about how Israel needs to solve the Palestinians issue, or else it risks various forms of corruption. Gaza showed how deep we have already delved into the “or else” era, and it seems that the first to get corrupted were the Liberal Zionists themselves, most of whom chose to support and even glorify this war.

5. The challenge for the Palestinians is unity. Abbas’ diplomatic channel is hollow without popular support, while Hamas demonstrated its shortcomings in translating (limited) military achievements into political ones – which is why, after all, one goes to war. The war itself could have happened because of Palestinian division and because Hamas and Fatah made separate political calculations. A united, accountable political system is a necessary step for effectively challenging the system of occupation, or for the reconciliation with Jewish-Israelis that could follow.

6. Did Israel really replace U.S. support with an Egyptian-Saudi alliance? This is a line you hear in Israel pretty often these days, but I am not so sure. The U.S. supplied the IDF with artillery shells when it ran out, and handed it the Iron Dome anti-rocket system that helped most of the country maintain normal life throughout the war. Most important, the U.S. still provides the diplomatic cover for Israeli policies, despite all the reservations it might have regarding it. An American hand at the Security Council is what separates Israel and its occupation from the kind of consequences other oppressive regimes get at their most violent moments; Washington might be less ambitious in its Middle Eastern diplomacy lately, but in Israel/Palestine it is still the enabler of the status quo.

Related:
This is Netanyahu’s final status solution
Gaza war: It’s about keeping the Palestinians under control
Israel has alternatives to this war

Newsletter Banner 2 - 540

]]>
http://972mag.com/war-is-the-new-system-of-governance-and-five-other-gaza-takeaways/96135/feed/ 47
Why does the Israeli left oppose MK Haneen Zoabi? http://972mag.com/why-does-the-israeli-left-hate-haneen-zoabi/95979/ http://972mag.com/why-does-the-israeli-left-hate-haneen-zoabi/95979/#comments Mon, 25 Aug 2014 11:10:34 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95979 The Zionist left doesn’t oppose Zoabi because of her controversial comments or her participation in the Gaza flotilla. It opposes her because she calls for full equality.

(Translated by Sol Salbe)

Last week Haaretz columnist Ravit Hecht wrote that any true leftist ought to oppose Haneen Zoabi. True, Hecht did concede that the question “is not a legal question but a moral one”; that is, she recognizes Zoabi’s right to continue serving in the Knesset (truly magnanimous of you, Ravit!). However, later on in the piece she falls squarely in line with all the right-wing accusations against Zoabi, from support for terrorism and violence to “zero tolerance for the right of Jews to a national home.”

MK Haneen Zoabi speaks to a crowd at the Rogatka bar in Tel Aviv. (photo: Activestills.org)

MK Haneen Zoabi speaks to a crowd at the Rogatka bar in Tel Aviv. (photo: Activestills.org)

I don’t want to provide a running commentary of Zoabi’s views or explain what she means at any given time. Hebrew-speakers can read her interview with Local Call‘s Lilach Ben-David (or any other comprehensive interview) and judge for themselves. What interests me in Ravit Hecht’s column, and what makes it a symptom of the main problem of the Israeli left, is not the familiar arguments but rather the following paragraph, which lets the cat out of the bag.

When Balad proposes a two-state solution, one being a state for all its citizens and the other an exclusively Palestinian one, a question arises, exceeding political or legal considerations: What kind of dialogue can Zoabi conduct, assuming she wants to, with anyone who wishes to live here in security as a Jew? Why is her response to Israeli policies that discriminate against Israeli Arabs, and which follow apartheid principles on the West Bank, the total denial of rights and aspirations of the other side?

The problem, therefore, is not Zoabi, her participation in the Mavi Marmara or the fact that she insulted a policeman. The root of the problem is Balad’s platform itself, specifically its call for a state of all its citizens, even after the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. This is, of course, an impressively honest confession that renders superfluous any discussion of style. The left is meant to strike off Balad, holus bolus, simply because of its platform. For all practical purposes the left may as well strike off Hadash and other Arab parties that share the same demand, even if they are not as strident about it as Zoabi.

Note the nexus between a “state of all its citizens,” and the security of Israel’s Jews. Bibi could not have put it any better. Hecht makes these demands in the name of “democracy, human rights, a compromise leading to fulfillment of the aspirations of both nations.”

So let’s talk about “democracy and human rights.” What does a state of all its citizens mean within the ’67 borders, as compared to a Jewish state? The answer is simple. It is a country where everyone is truly equal. It is a state that is completely indifferent to the origin of its citizens. This state will maintain Jewish culture, as in all likelihood Jews will be a substantial majority, and will keep its Jewish symbols and Jewish days of rest (with corresponding rights for Palestinians citizens). But the state apparatus will not regard itself as being committed only to the Jewish community. That means no allocation of resources, citizenship laws, benefits and obligations on the basis of ethnicity; in contrast to what is happening today.

As long as the “Jewish state” is one that treats Jews and non-Jews differently, it cannot be considered equitable, at least not in the Western sense. The reason is simple: An Arab cannot become a Jew, so s/he will always remain a second-class citizen in the “Jewish State.” A Turk can become German, a Pakistani can become British and an Israeli can become American. That is the case because these countries are delineated as a “German State” or a “British State.” But if the United States were to become the country belonging to the white race or to Christians, it would no longer be able to fulfill its pledge of equality. What is true for all other countries is true for Israel. Should the Israeli apparatus become equal and neutral, the state would turn into a “state of all its citizens,” regardless of how frightening that expression is. End of story.

The demand for a state of all its citizens alongside a Palestinian state is the only logical leftist approach in the framework of the two-state solution. It means full political and civil rights for all people between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, either within an independent Palestine or an independent Israel.

The problem is that many on the Israeli left see it the way Hecht does: For them the establishment of a Palestinian state is not a solution to the extreme situation of inequality between the river and the sea. For the left, the solution is a kind of deal made among the Israeli elites, in which the occupied territories are traded off for continual control of the 78 percent of the total area that will remain ours. And the brilliant part of the whole thing is that the price will be paid by someone else – the settlers. It’s your typical liberal Tel Avivian dream: the pieces of the puzzle are falling into place, the bothersome occupation disappears and our right to remain lords of the land is maintained.

It’s no wonder, then, that no one apart from the Zionist left is buying this idea – not the right and certainly not the Palestinians. Hecht’s solution? Blame Zoabi, of course.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call and was translated by Sol Salbe.

Related:
The Israeli media’s hit job on MK Haneen Zoabi
Zoabi: Struggle for democracy is a struggle against Zionism

Newsletter banner 6 -540

]]>
http://972mag.com/why-does-the-israeli-left-hate-haneen-zoabi/95979/feed/ 28
Israelis in the U.S. urge the Jewish community to take a closer look at Gaza http://972mag.com/israelis-in-the-u-s-urge-the-jewish-community-to-take-a-closer-look-at-gaza/95791/ http://972mag.com/israelis-in-the-u-s-urge-the-jewish-community-to-take-a-closer-look-at-gaza/95791/#comments Thu, 21 Aug 2014 16:07:25 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95791 ‘We are reaching out to you because we want to re-examine what it means to be pro-Israel or pro-Palestine,’ says a public letter published by Israelis for a Sustainable Future. ‘We argue that these terms might be one and the same.’

A group of Israelis living in the U.S. has published an open letter the the American Jewish community, calling on it to join them in opposition to the war in Gaza and the years-long blockade Israel has imposed on the Strip. While condemning Hamas’ targeting of civilians, the group states that “maintaining the occupation is what this war is all about.”

The group, calling itself Israelis for a Sustainable Future, was started in response to the war, but organizers told me that they wish to continue their activity even if a ceasefire is reached. The appeal to the Jewish community was born out of its engagement and influence over Israel-Palestine, organizers say.

During a temporary ceasefire residents of Khuza'a return to find their homes destroyed and retrieve the bodies of those killed. The temporary ceasefire later fell apart and fighting in the area was renewed, August 1, 2014 (photo: Activestills)

During a temporary ceasefire residents of Khuza’a return to find their homes destroyed and retrieve the bodies of those killed. The temporary ceasefire later fell apart and fighting in the area was renewed, August 1, 2014 (photo: Activestills)

Here is the public letter in its entirely. You can see the list of signatures here, or follow them on Twitter.

We are a group of Israelis currently living in the U.S. We are reaching out to you because we oppose the actions of the Israeli government in operation ‘Protective Edge.’

This does not mean we don’t recognize the threat presented by Hamas to the Israeli people. We oppose firing of weapons into civilian population and the sacrifice of civilians by the regimes of both Hamas and the Israeli government. Calling to stop the bombing of Gaza does not mean we don’t realize the impossible conditions imposed on the residents of southern Israel. Nor does it mean we don’t demand security for them. But we also recognize that their plight is consistently ignored by the Israeli government until it becomes convenient for exploitation. We have seen three major military operations in less than six years. They repeat themselves because they don’t work. Yes, Hamas reserves are temporary depleted and the group is temporarily hindered. But this is not a moral price worth paying. Even if it were, killing thousands of civilians and displacing of hundreds of thousands doesn’t weaken Hamas in the long run. This bloodshed only feeds the one resource it can’t go without: hate. Only meaningful peace talks and an end to the ongoing occupation in the West Bank and in Gaza (a blockade is still occupation) will prevent both the next round of rockets into Israel and the next round of indiscriminate killings in Gaza.

We are reaching out to you because we want to re-examine what it means to be pro-Israel or pro-Palestine. We argue that these terms might be one and the same. We believe that supporting equal rights for both peoples is the only way to build a better Israel and a better Palestine and we want the American Jewish community to stand behind that message.

The belief that being ‘pro-Israel’ means uncritically supporting the actions of the Israeli government and military does not help the Israeli people. The Israeli people do not benefit from being oppressors. Israeli society does not benefit from ruling over 4 million Palestinians. The Israeli soldier does not benefit from risking his or her life in wars that could have been avoided.

The Israeli people gain nothing from perpetuating the occupation. Israeli children learn nothing from being taught everybody wants to kill them. And the Israeli population does not grow stronger from rising aggression within it, from a loss of tolerance and from a surge of violent racism against the Palestinian citizens of Israel.

But maintaining the occupation is what this war is all about. Unfortunately, the regimes in Israel are becoming increasingly cynical, willing to sacrifice as many people as necessary to maintain their position of power and their control over the Palestinian people.

We believe this war could have been avoided. We don’t believe all Palestinians want to kill us. And we are happy to explain where we are coming from.

We believe that a biased media attempts to draw symmetry that does not exist. Just look at the numbers. Look at the pictures. Throwing blame at international criticism isn’t making Israel look any better. Taking action to stop human rights violation would. We obviously do not condone any form of anti-Semitism in this discourse, but we also feel that dismissing the entire discourse as anti-Semitism is not helpful to anyone.

Most of all, we believe that blood is blood, all equal and all worth the same. And we are well aware of what happens when the lives of one people are deemed to be worth less than those of others.

Israel needs your support to break out of the cycle of violence:

We encourage you to tell your community leaders to critically examine the Israeli government policies they rally behind. We urge you to support the moderate voices in Israel, forces that find themselves increasingly under attack by their own government and the Israeli media, and even physically assaulted by right winged vigilantes. We ask you to write to your congressional representatives to share your conviction that Israel can only be safe and prosperous if it stops the killing of civilians, ends the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank and guarantees freedom and equality to all of its citizens. We invite you to start a fruitful dialogue with us.

Thank you,
IFSF | Israelis For a Sustainable Future

Related
COMIC: Google Glass for the Gaza gaze
+972 Magazine’s full coverage of the war in Gaza.

]]>
http://972mag.com/israelis-in-the-u-s-urge-the-jewish-community-to-take-a-closer-look-at-gaza/95791/feed/ 37
Let’s stop using the terms ‘fascism’ and ‘democracy’ from now on http://972mag.com/lets-stop-using-the-terms-fascism-and-democracy-from-now-on/95649/ http://972mag.com/lets-stop-using-the-terms-fascism-and-democracy-from-now-on/95649/#comments Sun, 17 Aug 2014 17:22:25 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95649 The debate over the state of Israeli democracy (or the rise of fascism) is code designed for lefty Zionists. Others don’t get it, and it may even do more harm than good. Some thoughts following Haaretz’s interview with Prof. Ze’ev Sternhell.

Protest against the boycott Law, Tel Aviv, June 12 2011 (photo: Oren Ziv/activestills)

Tel Aviv protest against the anti-boycott law(Archive photo: Oren Ziv / Activestills)

There has been growing discussion over the last few weeks regarding the risk of fascism in Israel and the dangers to Israeli democracy, most recently in an extensive interview by Prof. Ze’ev Sternhell in Haaretz. I hold Sternhell in high regard, and his book, The Birth of Fascist Ideology, is among the few required readings in my undergraduate degree I actually remember in some detail. But while this terminology may be of use to foreign observers trying to make sense of what is happening in Israel against the backdrop of their own historic experience, I have serious issues with the incessant talk about “fascism” and “democracy” in the current Israeli moment.

In fact, I think we should stop using the word “fascism” altogether. I know that the warnings about fascists and fascism sound very grave, but my feeling is that the word does not mean that much to anyone here. At best, it’s a sonorous warning against something general and obscure; more commonly, it’s simply isn’t scary enough.

It’s also a lousy base for political organization. Israel does not have a tradition of anti-fascism, like Greece or Germany. Maybe some of the Russian-speaking Israelis have anti-fascist consciousness, but if they do, it doesn’t seem the recent cries impress them overmuch. I just think that outside a very small circle, “fascism” is simply a code word used by one political camp. When it cries “fascism,” the Left just wants to say “help, I’m getting beaten up.” This is a legitimate statement, but there is no need to hide it behind generic terminology cribbed from an introductory political science class.

On a personal level, whenever I hear the word “fascism,” I see the European middle class – a kind of conservative bourgeoisie that goes berserk. This is why using this term to dub Israeli followers of Rabbi Meir Kahane – religious, messianic, hardly middle class – seems contrived. If anyone in Israel here reminds me of actual fascism it is the new political aristocracy with their European posturing and their nationalism: Gideon Sa’ar, Yair Lapid, Gilad Erdan.

There are many words that have a tighter link to Israeli political culture and to the Israeli experience which we should be using when we want to communicate political messages, even negative ones. For instance, Kahanism – a genuine political current in Israel; anyone over the age of 40 can recall the debates surrounding the movement, as well as the mass protests it provoked and violence that accompanied it. Of course we should be speaking about discrimination, violence, racism. But the interesting thing about these concepts is that they cannot be reduced to an attack exclusively against the political Right; they carry a broader political and social significance than that. (Perhaps this is precisely why people prefer to shout “fascists,” as it suggests that the target is right wing.)

Our liberal use of the word “democracy” has also devalued that concept. I used to write quite a lot about democracy and the threats to it. Now I try not to use the word unless I have to. Democracy is a very abstract word. Like “fascism,” it is little more than a code word for a specific political tribe and its allies abroad, and meaningless for everybody else. The result then is that we shout about “democracy,” and most people don’t understand what we want from them. (The lie about “Jewish & democratic” merits a separate discussion.)

The word “democracy” is problematic in yet another way. The call to “defend democracy” assumes there is something to defend, and that this something is in danger. This observation is entirely unique to the Zionist Left. The Palestinians in the occupied territories can hardly be expected to feel that there is a democracy worth defending here. Palestinians citizens might have their doubts too. (As MK Ahmed Tibi memorably put it: “Israel is Jewish and democratic. Democratic for the Jews and Jewish for everyone else.”)

On the Right, among the settlers or the veterans of the Revisionist movement, the situation actually feels more democratic than at any other point in Israeli history, during which they were the ones being suppressed, excluded and marginalized. In the 1950’s my grandmother could not work in education because everyone knew she used to be in the Irgun (a pre-state right-wing Zionist militia). For people like her, Israel became a lot more democratic over the past few decades.

To make a long story short, the Right feels Israel is more democratic, the Palestinians never felt it was democratic and the only ones crying about democracy going to the dogs is the Zionist Left. And it is doing it not because of its universalism, but because for once, it is the Zionist Left that’s on the run. This is obviously something to worry about, and I’m as concerned about this assault as anyone else, but let’s not claim to speak in the name of “democracy.” Let’s talk about persecution, about silencing and censorship, about nationalism, about community, about mutual responsibility, about “thou shalt not do unto others,” about rivalry or even about civil war.

I think the truly irritating thing about these two words is that they often hide a private or a collective interest behind something ostensibly universal and global. What’s more, the string of incidents held up as proof for the advancing-or-already-established “fascism” is light years from that grand and terrible word: a fired teacher, a suspended broadcaster, and so on. (Professor Sternhell is actually the only leftist voice in nearly two decades to be the victim of an assassination attempt, so as previously stated, I have no bone to pick with him.)

Each one of those incidents is ugly, and one can speak of a general phenomenon. But if you want to talk fascism, why talk about these unpleasant but relatively mild incidents, and not, say, October 2000, when police gunned down Palestinian citizens of Israel during demonstrations. Or why not discuss 17 Palestinian protesters that the IDF killed in the West Bank this past month alone? And how can we even begin to speak of democracy in a state where a huge chunk – nearly half – of the population under its effective sovereignty is administered by military rule? Why are we only waking up now?

At the end of the day, I think the two terms, fascism and democracy, are intended only for a tiny part of the Left. They are part of an internal language of mutual encouragement and reinforcement. This is an important survival tool for a persecuted minority, but on a larger scale they won’t do any good – and might actually make things worse.

You can watch me debate Prof. Sternhell  and Prof. Tamar Herman on those issues on Channel 10 here [Hebrew], our part starts at min 23:00. This post was originally published in Hebrew on Local Call; I thank Dimi Reider for translating it.

Related
The night it became dangerous to demonstrate in Tel Aviv
On the Adam Verete affair and anti-democratic trends: Three notes
Who gets to vote in Israel’s democracy?

Newsletter banner 6 -540

]]>
http://972mag.com/lets-stop-using-the-terms-fascism-and-democracy-from-now-on/95649/feed/ 17
Netanyahu is talking to Hamas. It’s about time http://972mag.com/netanyahu-is-talking-to-hamas-its-about-time/95570/ http://972mag.com/netanyahu-is-talking-to-hamas-its-about-time/95570/#comments Sat, 16 Aug 2014 20:02:21 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95570 Without Hamas, there will be no interim agreement and no long-term solution. The notion of the ‘moderates’ reaching an agreement between themselves while the ‘fundamentalists’ are ignored or even dealt with forcefully is a dangerous illusion.

For the past week Israel has been negotiating with Hamas in Cairo. While the Palestinian delegation to the talks includes a representative of Mahmoud Abbas, and while the Egyptians are the ones carrying the messages back and forth between the two parties, everyone knows exactly what this is all about. These are no longer talks about prisoner exchanges, but rather a first attempt to touch upon the core issues relating to the siege on Gaza and the status of Hamas as ruler of the Strip. Israel is talking to Hamas (and to Islamic Jihad, which is closer to Iran). Better get used to it.

A Hamas supporter in Gaza City, March 23, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

A Hamas supporter in Gaza City, March 23, 2014. Hamas is not a post-modern organization like ISIS, but a national movement with vast support within the Palestinian population (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Netanyahu is drawing fire from the Right – that’s to be expected – but a lot of it is coming from the Left too. Bibi’s critics on the Left claim that ever since the kidnappings all he has done is strengthen Hamas (that’s true), help Hamas regroup during its time of crisis (that’s also true), and that instead he should be talking only to Abbas and other “moderates.” And that’s dead wrong.

Hamas, as any serious observer knows, is a political movement with an armed wing (so is Fatah, by the way). These kinds of organizations are common with national liberation movements – just like Sinn Fein was or the Jewish militia in Mandatory Palestine. More importantly, Hamas represents a vast portion of the Palestinian public in Gaza and the West Bank. It’s a grassroots movement, closely tied to the population, not some postmodern, transnational volunteer organization like ISIS or al-Qaeda.

Even if the actual support rate for Hamas within the Palestinian population doesn’t reach 50%, but only 40% or even 35%, that’s high enough to turn it into an essential part of any binding political solution, because with such strong support it has the ability to sabotage any agreement if left out. Just as any agreement that would only represent half of the Jewish population would have very low chances of succeeding (see Oslo Accord).

The notion of the “moderates” reaching an agreement between themselves while the “fundamentalists” are ignored or even dealt with forcefully is just the type of illusion the Israeli Left likes to come up with (see this campaign for example). It’s also the kind of thinking that led to some of American’s worst foreign policy disasters. If the Israeli peace camp was serious about peace, it would go out and demand that the Cairo talks be turned into preparation for further negotiations on a permanent solution, instead of daydreaming about striking a separate deal with Abbas.

Netanyahu (Yotam Ronen / Activestills)

Binyamin Netanyahu. Doing the right thing a month too late and thousands of lives too short (Yotam Ronen / Activestills)

This is where people usually jump up and remind us that Hamas’ charter calls for the destruction or the dismantling of the State of Israel. So what. There’s a big difference between talk and political action. The platform of Likud – Israel’s ruling party for most of the period since 1977 – doesn’t recognize the Palestinian people as the native people of this land, not their civil rights nor their right to a state of their own. And still, Palestinians have been negotiating with Likud members for 20 years now, without ever making it their condition that Likud changes its platform and rewrites its history prior to any talks. The wording of Hamas’ charter, just like that of the PLO’s charter before it, are only an excuse to avoid negotiations.

If the current talks would have been about “the destruction of Israel,” avoiding them would have been the right step. But the talks are about a long-term ceasefire, the lifting of the siege, about the safety of the citizens of Israel and the wellbeing of the residents of Gaza. How can anyone oppose that? I simply don’t get the Israeli peace camp anymore, that roots for the government during wartime and attacks it from the right during talks.

Hamas is a central part of “the Palestinian Problem,” which is why Hamas must be part of any solution. Prime Minister Netanyahu should be congratulated for finally understanding that the conflict has no military solution. Instead of restoring the taboo on talking to Hamas, we should be glad that it is Netanyahu, of all people, who is breaking it.

Any criticism towards Netanyahu should be about him still needing the Egyptians in the room, along with their own problematic agenda and interests. It should be for sticking to the divide and rule approach towards the Palestinians, instead of treating their entire leadership with respect. It should be for always refusing to deal with the core issues and only agreeing to the minimum of steps required for maintaining the status quo. And most of all, it should be for being dragged into doing the right thing, a month too late and thousands of lives too short, and only after first exhausting every single worst option.

Related:
In ceasefire talks, Netanyahu is letting Hamas win Gaza war
Gaza war: It’s about keeping the Palestinians under control
Israel has alternatives to this war

Newsletter Banner 2 - 540

]]>
http://972mag.com/netanyahu-is-talking-to-hamas-its-about-time/95570/feed/ 27
Gaza war: It’s about keeping the Palestinians under control http://972mag.com/gaza-war-its-about-keeping-the-palestinians-under-control/95143/ http://972mag.com/gaza-war-its-about-keeping-the-palestinians-under-control/95143/#comments Thu, 07 Aug 2014 19:56:41 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95143 Israel has been waging a single war since the mid-70s. Its goal is to avoid sharing power or assets with the other people living on this land. The Gaza war wasn’t about creating a new order, but about maintaining the old one. 

Palestinians recover belongings from the Khuza'a neighborhood following bombardment by Israeli forces, Gaza Strip, August 3, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Palestinians recover belongings from the Khuza’a neighborhood following bombardment by Israeli forces, Gaza Strip, August 3, 2014 (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

At the time of this writing, Operation Protective Edge has come to an end and the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel is delicately holding. Though indirect talks are taking place in Cairo, reports from the negotiations indicate an Israeli refusal to lift the siege on Gaza. Hamas has vowed to fight on if the ceasefire doesn’t hold, but the humanitarian crisis in the Strip is likely to make that difficult.

As things now stand, it’s clear that declarations by Israeli ministers and generals on “a new reality” in the south disguise a different, opposite goal for this war: Protective Edge was carried out in order to restore things to way they were before June 2014. In other words, to maintain the status quo.

This has been the goal of Israeli policy for many years now. Since the end of the 1973 war, Israel has been waging a single war against a single adversary – the Palestinians. The first Lebanon War, the Intifadas, Cast Lead, Protective Edge and most of the military operations in between were all part of “a military solution” to the Palestinian problem. Even the notable exception – the 2006 war in Lebanon – was leftover from the the 1982 invasion, which was conducted against the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Despite all the threats that came and went over the years – the Syrians, Iran’s nuclear program, the axis of evil, international jihad – at the end of the day, it all comes down to the Palestinian issue. The reason why all those threats are constantly debated and inflated in Israel is to hide this fact.

This is the heart of the matter: There are two population groups, Jews and Palestinians, living between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan Valley. They are nearly equal in size and almost totally mixed: there are Jews and Arabs along the coast line, Jews and Arabs in the north, Jews and Arabs in the south, and Jews and Arabs in the West Bank.

Israeli policemen arrest protesters as Palestinians living in Israel and left wing activists protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza in down town Haifa, July 18, 2014. Israeli police arrested 28 activists, as protesters took the streets and blocked roads calling to put an end to the attack. (Fiaz abu-Ramele/Activestills.org)

Israeli policemen arrest protesters as Palestinians living in Israel and left wing activists protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza in downtown Haifa, July 18, 2014. Israeli police arrested 28 activists, as protesters took to the streets and blocked roads, calling for an end to the attack (Fiaz abu-Ramele/Activestills.org)

Jews living everywhere in this territory have full rights, while the Palestinians are divided into all sorts of sub-groups with differing sets of rights that are never equal to those of the Jews. Jews are represented and protected everywhere by a single unified, sovereign government, while most Palestinians are administered by different kinds of weak, partial local administrations. Jews hold almost all the assets – including most of the lands – while Palestinians have very few assets, and some of them are inaccessible or off-limits, like the natural gas fields inside Gaza’s territorial waters.

This is a unique order. I don’t know of any other country in the world that has held such a large part of the native population as non-citizens for such a long period of time. It is an inherently unjust order, and it will continue to create instability and to cast serious doubts over the legitimacy of the entire system. This will happen regardless of all the advocacy efforts on the part of the government, or the number of Zionist laws the Knesset passes. Reality has a force of its own.

In this context, keeping the Palestinians under control was, and still remains, the Israeli challenge; not killing. The violence is a byproduct, which Israelis would happily do without. The goal is to keep the existing order of things. Great resources are directed to this end: a massive defense budget; technological creativity; philosophy professors that come up with new ethics for this national project; the Supreme Court defines the legal boundaries for it – who can be killed and who can’t, what land can be taken and what not; all while a propaganda machine tries to market the outcome to the world and to our own citizens.

When the Palestinians accept the order of things instead of rebelling, Israelis can turn to other issues – talk about social justice, rising real estate prices, the culture war between the religious and secular, and between Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews. But then something happens, and everyone goes back to dealing with the national project: How to keep the Palestinians under control.

The alternative involves sharing power, assets and land with the other people living on this land. This could be achieved by dividing the territory in two (the two-state solution) or within one unified territory. There are also hybrids of the two models. But as long as the Israeli goal is to keep as many assets as possible in the hands of the Jewish community, or to keep the Palestinians under its control – for example, through controlling the borders or the airspace of the future Palestinian state, or allowing the IDF to violate its sovereignty – there will be no compromise, and Israel will continue to carry out “peacekeeping missions,” continue “to restore order,” continue to “renew deterrence,” “mow the grass” and all those other euphemisms for keeping Palestinians under control.

As a side note, it should be clear that the Israeli tendency to try and determine who is a “legitimate” Palestinian leader and who should be dealt with by force – whether it’s Hamas’ Khaled Mashal or MK Hanin Zoabi – is also a part of this game. Recognizing only those who accept our terms in advance is simply another form of control.

Binyamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman thank their supporters at the Likud-Yisrael Beitenu headquarters, January 23 2013 (photo: Yotam Ronen / Activestills)

Binyamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman thank their supporters at the Likud-Yisrael Beitenu headquarters, January 23 2013 (photo: Yotam Ronen / Activestills)

The price of a fair compromise, one that really has a chance of working, is huge. Israel retains all the assets and, therefore, is the one that needs to pay and take risks. The Palestinians have very little “to give” Israel in return, save for legitimacy and some hope that things will pay off in the future. Even the much debated security arrangements are worthless. A Palestinian leadership can promise peace today, but who knows what will happen and who will be in power in five or 10 years. In the short run, the compromise is likely to lead to less security as increased political instability on the Israeli side.

It is therefore clear why at this moment in time, when Israel is so powerful and rich, a compromise doesn’t look too attractive for most of the Jewish public. Israel is caught in a tragic decision-making paradox: As long as things are going well, the motivation for compromise remains extremely low. For compromise to become a preferred option, things need to go horribly bad. Until they do, sending soldiers to restore order, to kill and be killed, will seem like the easy way out of any given crisis. And when the benefit-cost ratio finally changes, the price of the compromise is likely to rise, too.

Netanyahu chose the cheapest solution in Gaza: A unilateral retreat without an agreement, which is way less risky than taking the entire Strip, and way less daring than reaching an agreement that actually changes the reality on the ground for the better. Netanyahu usually resorts to cheap solutions. His political opponents – Tzipi Livni, Yair Lapid, Yitzhak Herzog, Avigdor Lieberman, Naftali Bennett, Gideon Sa’ar – are not that different. They might have their own ideas for solving the problem at hand – how to keep the Palestinians under control – but none of them want to change the question.

Related:
‘Wars on Gaza have become part of Israel’s system of governance’: An interview with filmmaker Yotam Feldman
This is Netanyahu’s final status solution
Israel has alternatives to this war

Newsletter Banner 2 - 540

]]>
http://972mag.com/gaza-war-its-about-keeping-the-palestinians-under-control/95143/feed/ 15
This is Netanyahu’s final status solution http://972mag.com/this-is-netanyahus-final-status-solution/94938/ http://972mag.com/this-is-netanyahus-final-status-solution/94938/#comments Mon, 04 Aug 2014 09:25:49 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94938 The Gaza war should be seen as part of Israel’s overall strategy, which aims to maintain the current status quo in the Palestinian Territories.

One of the Israeli Right’s greatest political achievements was convincing the public that “we tried the Left’s ideas, and they failed.” Some even say that the current reality is the outcome of “the Left’s ideas.”

Naturally, this claim comfortably avoids the responsibility that the Right had in torpedoing any attempt for peaceful reconciliation, from 1987’s London Accord to Netanyahu’s unilateral decision in 1996 to stop implementing Oslo. (For some reason, the video in which Netanyahu boasted of killing Oslo and manipulating the Clinton administration didn’t leave the kind of impression one would expect.) Oslo itself was as far as one can get from a genuine two-state solution; it did not include the evacuation of a single settlement or the transfer of one square yard to full Palestinian sovereignty.

But these are the kind of historical debates in which nearly everything has been said. The fact is that we have been living in the age of the Right for many years now, and right-wing ideas – from Sharon’s disengagement to Netanyahu’s status quo – are the ones that shape reality on the ground.

All Israeli prime ministers from 2001 onward originally came from the Likud. Despite all sorts of “revelations” they experienced with regard to the Palestinian issue, and despite the new parties they formed, broke off from or returned to, none of them took active measures on the ground that were meant to lead to a fair compromise with the Palestinians. All they did was take several elements from the two-state solution and incorporate them into the old right-wing approach: the Iron Wall, military power, colonization, maximum land and minimum Arabs.

This is how Olmert’s unilateral withdrawal plan was born (and floated again recently by Michael Oren), along with Netanyhau’s “economic peace,” Bennett’s “Stability Initiative” or the far right’s absurd “Israeli Initiative.” All of those are variations on the same theme, which most of the time doesn’t even get its own name, yet remains the blueprint for Israeli policies.

The Gaza disengagement in 2005, a crucial moment which led to the current state of affairs, was the opposite of compromise: its stated goal was the prevention of a Palestinian State. The drama surrounding the evacuation of some 9,000 people shouldn’t obscure the fact that the disengagement was a status quo-oriented idea – more a rearrangement than a disengagement – and the debate surrounding it remained within the right wing, between the radical right and the more pragmatic conservatives.

An Israeli artillery fires a shell towards the Gaza Strip from their position near Israel's border with the Gaza strip on July 24, 2014. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

An Israeli artillery fires a shell towards the Gaza Strip from their position near Israel’s border with the Gaza strip on July 24, 2014. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Netanyahu is the longest serving prime minister since David Ben-Gurion. Some people accuse him of lacking a strategy, but that is a shallow assessment. Netanyahu has been carrying out his strategy for years now. The failure of the peace talks and the war in Gaza are part of the same game, which is about maintaining the current status quo and doing so by force, if necessary.

Netanyahu’s approach is consistent. The conflict is for him a zero-sum game, and therefore one need not move beyond “a modified status quo.” One should use the regional and international system to search for ad-hoc coalitions, rather than rely on long-term relationships and agreements. One should try to avoid using military force, yet still prefer it to concessions; when decision time comes, the choice is clear. One should also continue to colonize land, but at a pace that takes geopolitical circumstances into account.

These ideas now represent the Israeli mainstream. Save for the issue of settlements, the differences between Labor’s Herzog, Livni, Lapid, Netanyahu and Liberman are minor. You hear the same thinking echoed by Israeli think tanks, op-ed pages and conferences. It is ironic that Israel accused Palestinians of a “unilateral move” when they tried to take their statehood bid to the United Nations (!), when unilateralism is at the heart of Israeli thinking.

Israel has been implementing these ideas for years, and the results are the only ones possible: brief periods of peace and prosperity (for Israelis) interrupted by periodic violent escalations. Things couldn’t be clearer. What we are witnessing in Israel these days is the “solution” – the alternative to both two states and one state.

The decision to try end the military operation unilaterally is particularly telling. For the government, the next escalation is always preferable to handing the adversary any form of achievement, while the war’s goal is to return the situation to how it was before the bombing started.

The current moment – when dozens are killed daily (most of them Palestinian civilians), when Israel becomes more and more isolated and when all policy choices are bad – is the direct outcome of the status quo strategy. This is when the real cost of the status quo becomes clear, rather than during the sunny intervals between wars. Only this time it is too late to go back. At every crossroad, Netanyahu doubles down on his bad bets, and the entire nation joins him willingly.

Related:
Israel has alternatives to this war
Why do Palestinians continue to support Hamas despite such devastating losses?
This is a war of choice. Netanyahu’s choice

Newsletter banner 6 -540

]]>
http://972mag.com/this-is-netanyahus-final-status-solution/94938/feed/ 36