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To be a peace broker, U.S. must reasses its position on settlements

The appointment of Senator John Kerry as the next U.S. Secretary of State could represent a new opportunity for Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. But for efforts to be successful, the U.S. will have to reconsider its message that settlement construction is a matter of negotiation.

By Lorenzo Kamel

The day after the UN voted to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state, the Israeli government approved construction of approximately 3,000 new residential units in the occupied territories, a decision that was met with strong opposition by various European leaders. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on the contrary, delivered a speech at the Saban Center in Washington on Friday, November 30, in which she stated that “America and Israel are in it together,” without making any reference to the proliferation of settlements or the occupation. Instead, she praised in three different passages the “settlement freeze” implemented by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in December 2009.

Clinton defined the “freeze” as one of the clearest opportunities for peace created in recent history. The freeze, it should be noted, did not include East Jerusalem nor a freeze on construction of public buildings, such as schools and synagogues, and applied only to new construction, meaning that construction on those already underway continued, with the result that in the weeks preceding the moratorium a boom of new buildings was registered. Moreover, in the weeks following September 2010, the day in which the moratorium ended, 1,650 new houses were built, slightly less than the total amount built in all of 2009.

The position of the Obama administration is that the two parties involved must initiate direct negotiations “without preconditions.” This was also the reason given by the United States in February 2011 to justify their veto against a resolution of the UN Security Council which held the settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to be “illegal.” Fourteen out of fifteen members of the Security Council voted in favor of that resolution. The veto was justified by Ambassador Rice on the grounds that “this resolution risks hardening the positions of both sides.”

From a symbolic point of view, the U.S. veto had serious consequences. The message it sends is that the issue of settlements and the exploitation of the natural resources (water, stone, gravel) in Palestinian territory are topics of negotiation. Thus, the Palestinians have to negotiate a halt to the funding and incentives provided for the construction of new outposts and settlements in the context of the peace process.

This position is contrary to the wishes of a vast majority of the international community, as well as to the guidelines indicated by numerous international bodies. Furthermore, the Obama administration’s approach is counterproductive in that it uses a double standard of action. While Washington did not join the rest of the members of the Security Council in defining the unilateral acts represented by settlement construction as illegal, it did raise the accusation of unilateralism against PA President Mahmoud Abbas after his recent appeal to the General Assembly of the United Nations. In doing so, the U.S. did not vote against “Israeli unilateralism”, while they did vote against “Palestinian unilateralism.”

The refusal to officially define the construction of settlements as “illegal” may be connected to a misunderstanding in relation to the definition of occupied territory itself. The official position of the Israeli authorities as well as the implicit (sometimes explicit) standpoint of many U.S. politicians, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is that the West Bank should be considered “disputed territory.” No state in the world, however, recognizes Israel beyond the 1967 lines. Moreover the legal definition of the term “occupation” is applied to a territory in which a foreign military force is able to exercise complete or partial military control, as well as civil-administrative control over infrastructures and the daily life of local residents.

The Israeli High Court of Justice itself established that the application of the regulations on the matter of occupation depends on the effective military control exercised from outside the nation’s borders, and not from previous sovereignty over the territory of a specific state. Therefore, the fact that the West Bank was occupied by Jordan until 1967 – an occupation which was opposed by the local population at the time, most of all by Fatah militants, to the point that King Hussein felt obliged to impose martial law - does not justify the use of the expression “disputed territories.”

It is possible that following the upcoming Israeli elections, the Obama administration will begin to partially reconsider its current “benign neglect approach” toward Israel and attempt to launch a dialogue between the parties. In this respect, the appointment of Senator John Kerry as the next U.S. Secretary of State could represent – despite his past stance on the issue – a new opportunity.

In order for their efforts to be successful, the U.S. will have to reconsider its implicit message that the construction of new outposts and settlements are matters of negotiation. Before doing this, it must acknowledge that security guarantees for Israel will be effective only if conditioned by concrete political, economic and semantic stances regarding all issues of concern, far and foremost the ones addressed at the Security Council and at the UNGA. Such a realization will not lead ipso facto to a solution to the long-standing problems afflicting Israelis and Palestinians. It will, however, represent an important step in that direction.

Lorenzo Kamel is currently a Visiting Fellow at ‘Ain Shams University, Cairo. He holds an MA in Israeli Society and Politics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, an MA in Philosophy from La Sapienza University of Rome, and is presently completing a PhD in History at Bologna University. He is the author of many academic articles and two books.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Kolumn9

      The American policy here is not new and has previously allowed the US to serve as a peace broker. You and many others might not like the policy, but you haven’t actually provided any reasoning as to why it must change in order to allow the US to play peace broker in the future. One could in fact argue easily to the contrary and point out that the willingness of the US to pursue a policy weighted towards Israel has allowed it to bring Israel to the negotiating table in the past. It should also be pointed out that such a policy is what has repeatedly pushed the Arab states and the PLO into more compromising stances that have allowed negotiations and agreements to take place.

      One more thing.. The position of demanding negotiations without preconditions is not a uniquely American position. It is also a European and Russian position. The settlement issue, though harped on by the EU and the Russians, is not even by them connected to the desire or ability to renew negotiations.

      Also, the argument that the US is being inconsistent in opposing Palestinian unilateral moves but not Israeli ones is bogus and hypocritical. First, the US has consistently declared its opposition to all unilateral moves. Second, it is the European position that is hypocritical in opposing loudly Israeli unilateral moves while actually *supporting* in the most explicit way the Palestinian unilateral steps.

      Reply to Comment
      • Jan

        K9- I can’t believe that you could think for even one instant that the US has been an honest broker for peace. The US follows the dictates of Israel and of the Israel Lobby.

        While the US will now and then meekly say that settlements are an impediment to peace they say it quietly and there are no strings attached. In fact the money that the US doles out to Israel is fungible and likely helps to build these settlements, ALL illegal under international law.

        Israel and the US have shown their true faces to the world. They don’t give a damn about peace or at least a peace with justice. Israel can do whatever it wants, steal land, kill and imprison Palestinians, evict them from their homes, demolish their homes, destroy their olive trees, wall them in etc. etc. Washington will bow down to Israel and to its organized Jewish constitutency in Washington even though there are many US Jews who decry Israeli actions.

        If the US was truly an honest broker it long ago would have cut off all aid to israel as long as Israel maintained the occupation and the settlements.

        I know my country well and we are far from being peacemakers. We know how to make war. We know how to manufacture and sell weapons around the world. We are not peacemakers. We are war makers and if we are not doing the killing we are happy to sell the weapons to others to do the killing. After all, Obama, whose drones have killed many innocents, is happy to resupply Israel with $675 million to replensish the weapons it used to kill many innocents, including babies and young children, in Gaza.

        I am ashamed of my country and ashamed of the country that says it is my homeland.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          Of course the US has been an honest broker for peace. It is trying to establish a situation what will lead to a two state solution and a permanent peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians.

          “Israel and the US have shown their true faces to the world. They don’t give a damn about peace or at least a peace
          with justice.”

          Ah, there it is. Even you understand that Israel and the US are interested in peace. You have just accepted the Palestinian narrative wholesale and think ‘justice’ means the Palestinians get everything they want. Peace is being offered, Palestinian ‘justice’, which the Palestinians view as the destruction of Israel never will be.

          The US is the only country that has been making attempts to broker a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Every other country is off playing diplomatic games knowing full well that the US will veto their hypocrisy at the UN and it will have no impact whatsoever while letting them look good to their deluded audiences that think world affairs are determined in rigged votes at the UNGA.

          Reply to Comment
          • akiva

            “Of course the US has been an honest broker for peace” :-)))) …not even the settlers claim this I think.
            .
            “It is trying to establish a situation what will lead to a two state solution”: this is an utter contradiction. They don’t move 1 finger in order to prevent Tel Aviv from building new settlements. Few other hundred of thousands of settlers will for sure help the 2 states solution for which the US are fighting so hard.

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    2. The Trespasser

      There was no peace BEFORE settlements, ergo peace has nothing whatsoever to do with settlements.

      Reply to Comment
    3. rose

      kolumn, read well. you argue that the “unites states declared its opposition to all unilateral moves”. that’s the point. they only declared. but when was the time to officially vote at the security council or at the general assembly they used a double standard approach. clear now?

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      • Kolumn9

        Settlement construction was allowed by the bilateral framework agreed between the two sides and continued during all previous rounds of negotiations. The attempt by the Palestinians to make settlements the focus is just a distraction from the total inability of the Palestinians to come to the negotiating table at the moment due to internal division and the absence of external Arab and Muslim sponsorship for such a process.

        The United States could oppose settlement construction as being unhelpful but it doesn’t change the fundamental commitment of the US to bilateral negotiations as the basis for resolving the dispute. Moves at the UN by the Palestinians and their supporters are attempts at an end-run around this framework and constitute attempts to bypass the United States as the primary peace broker in the region. While some may believe this in itself should be changed, the argument that the US can’t play the role of peace broker unless it changes its position on settlements is entirely empty of substance and has no historical or logical basis.

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        • rose

          Kolumn please provide official evidences. “Settlement construction was allowed by the bilateral framework agreed between the two sides”:
          In Which document? Where? When? Where is written that the PALS agreed to allow Settlement construction? I don’t want to read how you interpret things. I want to read official statements.
          .
          If the US will continue to send the message that the construction of new settlements is a topic to discuss in negotiations – settlements are Illegal for the entire international community. Again, they are not detrimental or bad. They are Illegal – and they oppose the rest of the entire Security Council in their attempt to officially depict them as illegal, Washigton will continue to lose time, i.e. will continue to favour the Israeli colonization while, at the time, will continue to favour the oppression of the Palestinian people.
          Until today the US did not achieve anything on Palestine/Israel. Their policy has been a total failure.

          Reply to Comment
    4. The Trespasser

      > but when was the time to officially vote at the security council or at the general assembly they used a double standard approach.

      Example?

      It seems that you don’t understand well enough what “unilateral” means.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Carl

      I fully agree with the content of the article. i would add also an hint to the fourth geneva convention.when you provide a Huge amount of money and natural resources to new settlers you are simply transferring part of your own civilian population in the occupied territories

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    6. rose

      trespasser, are u sure that u dont understand? in february 2011 the united states voted against the resolution that condemned the settlements. so they did not vote against the israeli unilateralism. last november the united states voted against the palestinian attempt to self-determinate their future. so washington in this case voted against the palestinian “unilateralism”.
      now should be clear, right?

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        The US voted against UN intervention in a bilateral issue between Israel and the Palestinians. At the same time it condemns strongly Israeli settlement construction. This is a consistent approach of supporting future bilateral negotiations while maintaining a consistent approach to opposing unilateral moves by either side.

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    7. Rutherford.

      Kolumn i do believe that should be clear to everyone that a peace broker has the necessary authority – especially the moral authority – if it does not use a double standard approach. you can assess it in official votations in front of the un and not in useless press conferences

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      • Kolumn9

        Now you are using a double standard, not me. Every country that voted in the UN in favor of a unilateral move by the Palestinians and then tries to condemn Israel at the same UN for what are claimed to be unilateral moves are using a very obvious double standard. The US’s position is that these issues are meant to be determined in direct bilateral negotiations between the two sides and so it’s position is to consistently be against both the intervention from the outside and against unilateral steps by either side. This is a perfectly consistent approach.

        As for the ‘moral authority’ crap. ‘Moral authority’ is what every charlatan and two bit television preacher speaks in the name of. It is a meaningless concept with no agreed definition. A peace broker is simply a party that both sides believe can be expected to ensure a platform for negotiations and is capable of persuading both sides to make compromises for peace. The US played this role successfully in negotiations between Israel and Egypt (despite being an Israeli ally) and there is no logical argument why it can’t do so here as well. Given how much money the US channels to the Palestinians it isn’t even fair to argue that it is one-sided in the matter.

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    8. aristeides

      The entire premise here is faulty. The US has no intention of being a peace broker. The US only intends to sell out the Palestinians to Israel, as the Lobby demands.

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    9. idf_sergeant

      The Palestinians have been provided Israeli-prepared maps that show where the Israelis desire for Palestinian State lands to begin and where those lands should end.

      THAT is the true matter for negotiations, and by getting THAT into the open and coming to a mutually-agreed resolution, the entire situation about “settlements” will be automatically solved.

      The President of the United States understands that perfectly, and has told Abbas to go that route and bring about the end of outposts and settlements that way, but Abbas cannot do so because it would involve a conflict with HAMAS (which disagrees with any concessions on land of Palestine, ALL of it)

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    10. On the most generous interpretation of Bibi et. al., settlements and outposts on the vanguard are subject to removal later. But that is not why the settlers go to such places; they go there to reinhabit the true land of Israel. Bibi, then, is toying with the deep desires of these for geopolitical ends, such being presuring the PA to accept Israel’s defintion of neighboring State. With each new settlement definition and plan, including E1, those arguing within the PA for negotiations are further marginalized.

      Settlers are not soldiers. They are not being temporarily “deployed” in some long term battle. They are living in full heart what they believe. Bibi is then either abusing these hearts by falsely granting their desire, or he in fact has no intention of accepting PA soverignty in any meaningful form, and will employ settlements to shape the contours of PA bantu administration. You choose; either way, he is fundamentally lying.

      The US is acting as though Oslo is still active; but what remains of Oslo is Israeli largesse. The suicide bombings are one deep reason for that. Nonetheless, Oslo exists only when Israel wants it so; in a micro sense, Israel can and does violate it at whim.

      The only indication of a real US policy I see is Bibi’s failure to enter Gaza on the ground; I suspect the US was strongly opposed and has offered funding promises on Iron Dome or such. Since Israel will not do what a Security Council might demand, the US doesn’t go there. The US seems to see any up front crisis as dangerous, and so does nothing, living with the creeping crisis. Note that the last Gaza campaign seems to have resulted in a promise to open the area up further to trade. I think the US recognizes that the missles will keep going in as long as the seige continues; and I think the Administration thinks the “just above starvation” criterion both repulsive and long term dysfunctional. This not make things worse attitude allows a structual catastrophe to conintue to mature. If, however, one defines catastrophe solely in terms of Israeli lives, there doesn’t seem to be one growing at all.

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    11. Akiva123

      Hey, the Pals had their chance for a state but instead they chose war…several times…and they lost.

      And there’s a price to pay for losing…especially when it comes to contested land that Jews rightly feel entitled to since their roots are there for 3,000 years.

      So the lesson for the Pals should be this: the longer they wait to make a peace, the smaller their hoped-for country is gong to be.

      Reply to Comment
    12. carl

      akiva the law of the jungle does not apply well.
      moreover the pals reacted less than any people of the world would have react in a situation in which the population that until few years before represented the 9/10 of the total population got the 43 percent of the land and was called simplz “non jewish population”. israel has all the right to be there but dont erase the pals rights and the price that they paid for you

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    13. rose

      kolumn you are wrong. most of the the european countries simply think – for me correctly – the the palestinians are simply fighting for their self-determination. they dont condemn the un bid because they do believe that there is nothing wrong with it. also ben gurion did not ask to anyone when he proclaimed the independence of his country. there is nothing “unilateral” in self-determination. of course can be found some problematic aspects, but to put on the same level the settlements and the un bid shows a utter luck of understanding of what is behind the colonization of a land and the right of a people to self-determinate their future.
      the united states, on the contrary of the european states, condemned both supposed “unilateralisms”. but when was the time to vote at the un they officially expressed themselves only against the palestinians.
      the eu did not use any double standard. the us did.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        Rose, an appeal to the UN for recognition as a state is a unilateral action which is expressly prohibited by the Oslo accords. You will not find a single lawyer willing to argue to the contrary.

        The EU, in large part, supported the Palestinian unilateral action. This isn’t particularly in dispute and so it is highly hypocritical for the EU to then come out against ‘unilateral action’. The US voted against UN intervention, both on the matter of recognizing a Palestinian state and on the matter of the settlements. Both of these issues are subject to negotiations according to the bilateral framework that the US and EU both purportedly support, but the EU has hypocritically supported a Palestinian unilateral move that runs contrary to the framework to which the EU is a witness.

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        • rose

          KOLUMN
          1) tell me one real reason why Israel should have the will to change the status quo. The US are simply letting Israel to continue its policies. This what aipac and Tel Aviv want.
          2) The last US administration that officially defined the settlements as “illegal” was the Carter administration. Since then washington preferred vague recommendations that of course do not have any value: “Israel should use restrain with the settlement policy”, “the settlements do not help the peace process”…ect..
          3) With their vote the US did allow Israel to keep on its policy about the settlements, while at the same the tried to prevent the palestinian attempt. This a fact. not an interpretation
          4) I am confident that you are aware of the HUGE difference between building settlements/exploiting natural sources tor the settlers and the israeli citizens and, on the other hand, the attempt of a people to self-determinate their future. Are you aware of the difference?

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          • Kolumn9

            1) Why should Israel change the status quo? Is it in order to allow the Palestinians to deploy rockets 10 miles from Tel Aviv? No one has actually proposing a viable alternative and both the Palestinians and the region at large is in absolutely no state to support any viable peace process. This is what the US sees. It is also what the EU sees, but the EU is cynically hiding behind American vetoes while scoring empty points among the Arabs and Muslims.

            2) The US administration believes that in order to maintain it role as a peace broker in the Middle East it must retain the trust and faith of the Israelis and stay away from explicitly siding with the Palestinian narrative.

            3) With their vote the US rejected the intervention of the UN in what are issues for future bilateral negotiations such as borders and the future of settlements. This is the explicit policy of the United States and on this it has been consistent. This has not in the past prevented the US from functioning as a peace broker so the argument made to the contrary in this article is baseless.

            4) As far as the Oslo accords are concerned there is no difference between them. They are both subject to final status negotiations. As far as the Palestinian right to self-determination, it isn’t particularly in dispute, what is in dispute is what the borders will be in which they will exercise their self-determination and the outline of the agreements that will lead to them. Palestinian steps that are expressly contradictory to previously signed agreements only ensure that Israelis are less willing to make compromises in the future in return for empty pieces of paper that the Palestinians will disregard.

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          • rose

            kolumn i disagree with all your points but the following one is the most hilarious:
            “The US administration believes that in order to maintain it role as a peace broker in the Middle East it must retain the trust and faith of the Israelis and stay away from explicitly siding with the Palestinian narrative.”
            Did you notice that ALL the international organizations and the entire international community consider settlements as illegal? The US would not side the Palestinian narrative. They would simply adopt what is internationally recognized. Only for the settlers and for the US, and perhaps for micronesia, settlements are not “illegal”

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          • Kolumn9

            Exactly. Much of the world has adopted the Palestinian legal narrative according to which a fictional Palestinian state was attacked and occupied by Israel in 1967 and the poor Palestinians have been struggling to regain that state within the borders of 1967 ever since. This has been done due to pressure from the Palestinians, their Arab and Muslim brethren, and until the 1990s by the socialist block at large. However, this legal narrative is completely fictional and it is one that leaves very little room for a compromise solution between Israel and the Palestinians. A peace broker can not afford to side on such a core issue with one side in a dispute. The only reason why the other powerful states have adopted this narrative is because doing so is free and they get to score brownie points with the Arab and Muslim world and with their own left-wing and Muslim constituents while the US takes the role of mediator.

            Reply to Comment
          • berl

            Kolumn9@
            As Avnery said, you are just repeating a mantra:
            “A stickler for detail might ask at this point: “But was the State of Israel not proclaimed unilaterally?” Our state, it may be remembered, was declared by David Ben-Gurion and his colleagues on Mai 14, 1948, without asking anyone.
            Furthermore, these dastardly Palestinians are going to the UN General Assembly, trying to circumvent the UN Security Council where the US can block them with its veto. Dirty trick!
            But just a moment! Was the State of Israel not proclaimed on the basis of a resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly? To be precise: resolution 181 of November 29, 1947, on the partition of Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state?
            As a matter of fact, this resolution is still in force. It served as the centerpiece of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, and serves now as a basis for the Palestinian demand that the State of Palestine be accepted as a full-fledged member of the United Nations.
            But again, how can one compare?

            Reply to Comment
          • rose

            Kolumn
            1) Since long time the US are failing in their attempt to function as a productive peace broker. Not by chance their role is nowadays much less vital.
            2) Art. 31 of the Oslo agreement clarifies that: “Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.”
            Settlements violate this aspect in a staggering way. That’s also why the entire international community, US excluded, defines and considers the settlements as “Illegal”.
            3) “Is it in order to allow the Palestinians to deploy rockets 10 miles from Tel Aviv?”: Israel needs its “barbarians/palestinians”. Without these barbarians it could not, among other things, continue the exploitation of the natural resources (water, gravel, stone…) that you use everyday. Israel wants and needs the status quo. That’s what the US are providing.
            4) The United Nations Security Council, the United Nations General Assembly, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Court of Justice and the High Contracting Parties to the Convention have all affirmed that the Fourth Geneva Convention does apply to the occupied territories. This proves that the US administration is opposing the will of the international community and not the “Palestinian narrative”.
            5) “With their vote the US rejected the intervention of the UN in what are issues for future bilateral negotiations”: as a matter of fact the US did vote against the Palestinian unilateral attempt to ask for the recognition of their nation at the UNGA while they did not vote against the Israeli unilateralism at the Security Council. This is a fact. All the rest is open to personal interpretations.
            6) Settlements and settlers are a primary source of instability, violence and extremism. The same is true for people that justify or support them.

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          • Rauna

            Rose,i would like to add another point.

            The USA has a law barring it from channeling fund to any international organisation that accept Palestinian as its member. Is the law not discriminatory/racist?

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          • Kolumn9

            1) The US stands ready to reengage in the peace process. It maintains contacts with both sides and pushes them to avoid taking unilateral steps and also steps that would decrease the chances of peace talks recommencing.

            2)The Oslo accords were pilloried by the anti-Oslo Palestinian forces for allowing Israel to continue construction. The clause you cite refers to political steps that would prejudice future negotiations. If you choose to use it as a supposed ban on settlements then the same must apply for any construction done by Palestinians.

            3) Israel is not shooting rockets at itself. It has very limited need for the Palestinians or their resources. Feel free to do the research. Israel has no need for Palestinian labor and the West Bank is resource poor. The only thing that it has is water which Israel is perfectly capable of producing in large quantities through desalinization with the investment of relatively small amounts of money.

            4) The US takes on a position that allows it to remain a mediator by avoiding siding with the Palestinians on a core issue of dispute. That the Palestinians and their supporters have gotten other international institutions to accept their narrative changes nothing in this regard.

            5) The US voted against intervention by the UN in issues that are supposed to be determined in bilateral negotiations. Palestinian statehood is one of those issues as is explicitly defined by the Oslo Accords.

            6) Settlements and settlers did not prevent peace with Egypt or the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. The primary source of instability is the refusal by the Palestinians to accept the state of Israel and come to terms with the compromises they have to make for peace, with the most obvious being an end to the request to flood Israel with millions of hostile Arabs.

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          • rose

            Kolumn
            1) “The clause you cite refers to political steps that would prejudice future negotiations”: this is an Israeli interpretation. It is simply logical that if you push hundred of thousands of settlers to move in the OT you are taking a step “that will change the status of the West Bank”. To negate this means to negate something obvious.

            2) If a Palestinian build an home in the West Bank does not change the status of that land. That land is Palestinian, and is occupied. You will not find one single international organization that claim the contrary. To compare a Palestinian that build an house in WB to a settler is funny and scaring at the same time.

            3) “The US maintains contacts with both sides and pushes them to avoid taking unilateral steps”. To maintain contacts with both parties does not make Washington a successful peace broker. The role of the US in the “Holy land” as well as in most of the countries in which the “Arab Spring” took place is marginal, or at least much less visible than in the past.

            4) As a matter of fact the US stands permit to Israel to keep going its colonizing project, while try to prevent the Pals attempt to self-determinate their future. Again, this is a fact. Yours is an interpretation.

            5) “Steps that would decrease the chances of peace talks recommencing”: settlements are the steps to which you are referring. Israel does not have any interest in changing the status quo. Most of the Israelis have never even seen the “separation barrier” built on Palestinian land: they see it when they serve in the army.

            6) Occupation is violence. Nothing more, nothing less.

            7) “Israel has very limited need for the Palestinians or their resources”. You are not well informed. Israel desperately needs that resources. I didn’t mention Palestinian labor, so keep it out. The water that can be produced with desalinization would not be sufficient. As for the quorries, study a bit the topic: http://www.btselem.org/settlements/20100922_israeli_quarries_in_the_west_bank

            8) “That the Palestinians and their supporters have gotten other international institutions to accept their narrative changes nothing in this regard”: from the logic of a settler, you are right. From the one of the rest of the human beings, it makes a difference.

            9) “Palestinian statehood is one of those issues as is explicitly defined by the Oslo Accords”: you use the Oslo agreement as you like. Your selective interpretation of Oslo becomes the only important aspect. Beside this you completely ignore International law.

            10) “Settlements and settlers did not prevent peace with Egypt”: so what? They can keep their illegal colonizing project just for this? Did you notice that settlements since then are growing day after day?

            11) “The primary source of instability is the refusal by the Palestinians to accept the state of Israel”: strange, I thought that the primary source of instability is the refusal by many Israelis to accept the state of Palestine and to consider which huge price they paid: 100 years ago they were the 9/10 of the local population and they lost everything in favour of people that arrived on the spot mainly from other continents. This is a secondary aspect, from the perspective of a settler. Not so secondary if the logic is the one of a person that was part of this region

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        • ruth

          KOLUMN THE OSLO AGREEMENT IS VIOLATED ON A DAILY BASES BY ISRAEL WITH ITS “FACTS OF THE GROUND POLICY”. It is quite funny to mention Oslo as one of the reason why the UN bid should be considered unilateral.
          Perhaps you will not find a single Israeli lawyer willing to claim that an appeal to the UN for recognition as a state is a not unilateral action. But once you leave your “bubble” you will realize that most of the rest of the world believes that there is nothing wrong with it and that all the Israeli policies since 1947, from Ben Gurion on, were unilateral acts accomplished without asking anything to anyone. Again, you continue to justify and to use a double standard approach

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Ruth, sorry, but you happen to be wrong. The Oslo accords were specifically drafted to allow Israel to continue building settlements. Arafat got a lot of flack for accepting this aspect, but accept it he most certainly did.

            You will not find any lawyer anywhere in the world that would be capable of claiming that a unilateral approach by the Palestinians to the UN is not a unilateral step. You can argue all you want that the UN recognition is not unilateral, however it was carried out at the express request of the Palestinian delegation, which in ITSELF is the unilateral step that contradicts the commitments made by the Palestinians at Oslo.

            Ben Gurion never signed an agreement that would have prevented him from taking unilateral action. The Palestinians did do exactly that at Oslo and the agreement was witnessed by the EU and the US. The EU then went and brazenly disregarded the agreement when it largely supported the unilateral Palestinian request at the UNGA.

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          • ruth

            “The Oslo accords were specifically drafted to allow Israel to continue building settlements”.
            Can you paste for me the passage of the oslo agreement that “specifically drafted” to allow Israel to continue building settlements?
            You ask to the Pals to respect the oslo agreement while israel contradict it on a daily bases. again, you always use double standards.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Ruth, feel free to search out rejectionist Arab/Palestinian responses to the Oslo Accords which attack it precisely for this reason or go read the accounts of how the Oslo Accords came about and the ‘compromises’ that Arafat made.

            Reply to Comment
          • ruth

            kolumn “rejectionist Arab/Palestinian responses to the Oslo Accords” are totally useless. I don’t care about comments. You can find comments on thousand of topics from hundreds of political figures.
            You have to provide some official written sentence that proves your point. Otherwise you are once again simply playing with words.

            Reply to Comment
    14. ruth

      kolumn the us used a consistent approach because the resolution that condemned the settlements was a un intervention in a bilateral issue?? resolution 181 of 1947 was not a un intervention in a bilateral issue? i could provide u few dozens of similar examples, until our days

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        Resolution 181 was a response to the British request for recommendations because they were unable to find a resolution to the conflict between Jews and Arabs in Mandatory Palestine on their own and intended to abandon the mandate. I have no idea what the relevance of this resolution is in this discussion.

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    15. ruth

      it is relevant because was an intervention in a bilateral issue. all the un resolutions, included the one of last november, were in theory interventions in a bilateral issue. it means that your comment that “The US voted against UN intervention in a bilateral issue” is not relevant

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        Your point might have made sense if there were at the time of UN181 any agreement to a framework for bilateral negotiations. In that case there wasn’t and there was no basis whatsoever for a framework due to the persistent unwillingness of the Arab side to countenance the idea of any Jewish sovereignty in Israel. The British gave up and went to the UN.

        Reply to Comment
    16. M-John

      To be a Peacebroker one has to consider the biblical history of Israel. Around
      A.D 70 the Jewish became a homeless people. However in1948 the U.N recognised the need to reunite the Jewish people to the land of Israel.
      jewish folk from all parts of the world are returning to their homeland! However the people have to recognise that the ‘resident people’ of Israel need to be accommodated too!
      It’s a little like the British having the 100 year lease of Hong Kong which expired in 1997!

      Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        Myth, all myth. The
        “Jewish” did not become a homeless people in 70AD. The Romans did not expel the Judaean population from Syria Palestina, only from one city. Judaeans continued to live there, and their descendants continued to live there until they were expelled by Zionists in 1948.

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    17. ruth

      again wrong kolumn, there wasnt a “framework for bilateral negotiations” for the simple reason that since 1917 the pals were simply bypassed. the so called “non jewish population”, i.e. almost 9/10 of the local people, were simply ignored or included when things were already decided.
      again, all the resolutions of the un, the one that u like and the one that you dont, were interventions in a bilateral issue.
      the pals made many mistakes in their history, but your way to see things in white and black is not mine

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        Ruth, prior to 1948 the Arabs were hardly bypassed. There were engaged in discussion repeatedly and by all parties, including Jews, British, UN commissions, Turks, etc. They had just refused to budge from a total rejection of negotiating in a framework that recognized any collective Jewish community. This was true until the 1970s, but they are still coming around to dealing with the second bit of their rejectionism – the rejection of Israel.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ruth

          Kolumn when and in which occasions the Pals were involved in the discussions connected to the British Mandate? Can you tell me who represented the Pals at the San Remo Conference (“a verbatim repetition of Mr Balfour’s declaration of November 1917” Curzon dixit)?
          There was no participation or consultation with any Pal body or representatives, whether in Palestine or elsewhere.
          Faysal was “contemptuous of the Palestinian Arabs”, according to Weizmann. This is the leader that the colonizer chose in order to represent the Palestinians.

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            The Syrian Arabs (of which the ‘Palestinians’ were part) were represented at the Paris conference by Faisal. The Palestinians were represented and consulted during the British Mandate under the framework of the Supreme Muslim Council, the Arab Higher Committee, and the various zuama that represented them, most notably the Nashabishis and the Husseinis.

            Reply to Comment
          • ruth

            kolums@
            The Palestinians were part of bilad as-sham and were not immigrants from other continents. This is true. But they never ever called themselves “syrian arabs” or considered Palestine simply as “Southern Syria”. You will not find one single historical document before 1918 or after 1920 in which they wrote that Palestine was simply “Southern Syria”. If you want I explain you the episode of 1919.

            Reply to Comment
          • ruth

            kolums you simply prove my point.
            Faysal was the worst enemy of the Palestinian cause. The fact that you mention it is symptomatic.
            This is what Chaim Weizmann wrote about Faysal:
            “I made the acquaintance of Fayṣal [...]. He is not interested in Palestine, but on the other hand he wants Damascus and the whole of Northern Syria. He talked with great animosity against the French, who want to get their hands on Syria. He expects a great deal from collaboration with the Jews. He is contemptuous of the Palestinian Arabs whom he doesn’t even regard as Arabs “

            Reply to Comment
    18. lisa

      aresteides i agree with you, but, despite the selective studies carried out on the issue, the thesis that the ones expelled in 1948 were the ancient judeans is very problematic. not least because the history of the region does not starts with the jews.
      .
      m-john….a real peacebroker has the duty to put religion on a side. religion is not part of the internationl law, luckly.
      religion is something between you and your god.
      moreover even if you put religion in the middle of politics the fact that a person from sidney or caracas is a jew cannot be the only priority in respectregard of palestine. the priority, in case, are the human beings that were part of this region and not immigrants from other continents
      .

      Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        Lisa, by the time of the Roman hegemony, the Canaanite population had been effectively assimilated and subsumed into the Judaean. Even the Philistines, no relation at all to the Canaanites, had been effectively assimilated.

        There’s not really any way to distinguish between the Judaeans who emmigrated and those who did not. It’s also worth noting that the diaspora didn’t start with 70AD. By that date, there were already Jewish communities all over the Roman imperium and beyond. It’s just as likely that many of those who are considered Jews today are the descendants of those expat groups and not post-70 exiles.

        History is clear that the Romans did depopulate certain countries and carry off whole populations into slavery and exile. It’s also clear that the Judaeans were not among them.

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    19. lisa

      Aresteides i fully agree with your last part and i fully disagree with the first one. To claim that that populations were fully absorbed ONLY in the judaean people, that were just one of the many people on the spot, is as wrong as dangerous. Let me quote Rodinson:
      A foreign people had come and imposed itself on a native population. The Arab population of Palestine were native in all the usual senses of that word. Ignorance, sometimes backed up by hypocritical propaganda, has spread a number of misconceptions on this subject, unfortunately very widely held. It has been said that since the Arabs took the country by military conquest in the seventh century, they are occupiers like any other, like the Romans, the Crusaders and the Turks. Why therefore should they be regarded as any more native than the others, and in particular than the Jews, who were native to that country in ancient times, or at least occupiers of longer standing? To the historian the answer is obvious. A small contingent of Arabs from Arabia did indeed conquer the country in the seventh century. But as a result of factors which were briefly outlined in the first chapter of this book, the Palestinian population soon became Arabized under Arab domination, just as earlier it had been Hebraicized, Aramaicized, to some degree even Hellenized. It became Arab in a way that it was never to become Latinized or Ottomanized. The invaded melted with the invaders. It is ridiculous to call the English of today invaders and occupiers, on the grounds that England was conquered from Celtic peoples by the Angles, Saxons and Jutes in the fifth and sixth centuries. The population was “Anglicized” and nobody suggests that the peoples which have more or less preserved the Celtic tongues – the Irish, the Welsh or the Bretons – should be regarded as the true natives of Kent or Suffolk, with greater titles to these territories than the English who live in those counties.

      Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        Lisa – I by no means see how your comment is relevant to mine. The Arabs are not relevant to the issue of the population of 1st century Judaea.

        The relevant question is whether you can distinguish a Jewish from a non-Jewish population among the Judaeans at that point, or whether you have to say that the entire 1st century Judaean population must be considered effectively and indistinguishably Jewish, as I am saying.

        That being the case, the population of Palestine has to be regarded as essentially the descendants of this Judaean population, of the majority of this population, even though it gradually first Christianized and then Muslimized in terms of religion, and Arabized in terms of language and culture.

        In terms of descent, the Jews are the ancestors of the Palestinians as much or more as they are the ancestors of the diaspora Jews who retained, in a greatly modified form, their religion.

        Reply to Comment
        • lisa

          Aresteides you write that “The relevant question is whether you can distinguish a Jewish from a non-Jewish population among the Judaeans at that point, or whether you have to say that the entire 1st century Judaean population must be considered effectively and indistinguishably Jewish”…this exactly what i tried to explain to you. To write that the population on the spot in the 1st century was indistinguishably Jewish is totally inaccurate. Never ever in the history there was only one population on the spot. Never.
          Then i quoted rodinson because he explained, in a previous passage of that very same quotation that mistakenly i didnt copy&paste, that the philistes, for example, were never deported. they remained on the spot. so if u like u can say that many of them were judaized and afterward arabized…ect.
          Using your logic, history started with the jews and this is a position that not even the most extreme zionists claim

          Reply to Comment
          • aristeides

            No, Lisa, that isn’t what I’m saying at all. My position is that history started, for the purposes of the discussion, with the Canaanites. And that the population by the time in question was largely homogenized. Judaized.

            Reply to Comment
          • lisa

            aresteides, “judaization” was just 1 of many similar phenomena. You focus just on it. This is utterly wrong.

            Reply to Comment
          • aristeides

            Lisa, you mistake my focus. It is on the myth of the Jewish exile. I have no idea how you leap from there to the notion that “history began with the Jews.”

            Reply to Comment
    20. lisa

      aristeides, may be that i was not clear. The sentence “the Canaanite population had been effectively assimilated and subsumed into the Judaean. Even the Philistines, no relation at all to the Canaanites, had been effectively assimilated” is utterly wrong.
      This because the “judaean” were just one of many populations present on the spot. To claim that all or most of the Canaanite population or of the Philistines had been effectively assimilated and subsumed exclusively into the Judaean is utterly wrong and very problematic.

      Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        This is progress, at least we now seem to understand the issues on which we disagree.

        The Philistines, although a non-semitic people were definitely assimilated into the general Canaanite/Judaean population. Archeology finds no trace of them since well before the 1st century.

        The Hasmoneans forced assimilation on many local populations. The Edomites were so assimilated by Roman times that the kingdom of Judaea had Edomite rulers, and Edomites were presence in large numbers among the Zealots.

        You must be considering a different set of facts.

        Reply to Comment
    21. lisa

      yes this is a big progress. Now we know that “the Philistines…were definitely assimilated into the general Canaanite/Judaean population….The Hasmoneans forced assimilation on many local populations”.
      So now we know that to claim that all or most of the Canaanite population or of the Philistines had been effectively assimilated and subsumed EXCLUSIVELY into the Judaean, and not into MANY local populations, is utterly wrong.

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    22. alex

      Many, perhaps a majority, of the population at the time of Christ were not Jews.
      As time went on, they became an intermixture of bloodlines, ethnicities, and nationalities including Romans, Greeks, Armenians, North Africans, Persians, Endo-Europeans, Syrians and Arabs from the Arabian Peninsula. There are no pure Jews or pure Arabs in this area

      Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        Exactly, Alex. And also among the expats from that area.

        Reply to Comment
    23. iris

      @kolumn – you write that “both the matter of recognizing a Palestinian state and the matter of the settlements…are subject to negotiations according to the bilateral framework”.
      This is a misunderstanding of international law as well as bilateral negotiations. The future of the major settlements already built can be a matter of negotiation. But no one believes that the founding of new outposts or settlements are matter of negotiation: “Settlements – as reminded today by Lyall Grant – are illegal under international law and detrimental to any international efforts to restart peace negotiations and secure a two-state solution.”

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        “no one believes”

        What is this silly argument from authority? The settlements were explicitly included in the list of final status issues to be negotiated on a bilateral basis between Israel and the Palestinians. The general Israeli aversion to creating new settlements for a long period after Oslo was an unrequited and unappreciated gesture that in no way was forced by anything in the Oslo Accords. This interpretation of yours that seems to suggest some kind of special case for existing ‘large’ settlements makes no sense.

        Reply to Comment
    24. GKJames

      It’s the height of naïveté — or disingenuousness — to think that the US is an honest broker. Rhetoric alone shows the disparity. Palestinian conduct is routinely “outrageous.” Israel’s is “unfortunate” and “unhelpful.” Substantively, there is zero disincentive to Israel’s ongoing expropriation of land. Not a word about sanctions, or a turn-off in the flow of cash, or financial support for the Palestinians. And certainly no mention of the central tenet of Likud (Israeli) policy: no independent Palestinian state west of the Jordan River — ever, for that just would highlight the fraud on which the negotiated-two-state-solution trope is based.

      Reply to Comment
    25. ruth

      GK, I fully agree with u, but I didn’t read any comment, excluding the ones of Kolumn, in which is stated the US are an honest broker. Who said this? They are for sure the most important peace broker, unfortunately. To make light on the US double standards in Israel/Palestine and in other contexts does not seem to me useless

      Reply to Comment
    26. ruth

      kolums you simply prove my point.
      Faysal was the worst enemy of the Palestinian cause. The fact that you mention it is symptomatic.
      This is what Chaim Weizmann wrote about Faysal:
      “I made the acquaintance of Fayṣal [...]. He is not interested in Palestine, but on the other hand he wants Damascus and the whole of Northern Syria. He talked with great animosity against the French, who want to get their hands on Syria. He expects a great deal from collaboration with the Jews. He is contemptuous of the Palestinian Arabs whom he doesn’t even regard as Arabs “

      Reply to Comment
    27. meron

      Interesting article. I would add that the Fourth Hague Convention of 1907 clearly bound the occupier to use the resources in the occupied land only for the needs and benefits of the occupied people.
      The reality is instead that some 94 percent of the materials produced in the Israeli quarries in the West Bank (without speaking about water) is transported to Israel, accounting for the needs of more than a quarter of the market.

      Reply to Comment
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