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Recognizing that Europe and the U.S. support the occupation

On both sides of the Atlantic, the consensus on the need to avoid and resolve confrontations with Israel at all costs guarantees that diplomacy will not change the trends on the ground in the foreseeable future. 

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton with PM Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: GPO/Avi Ohayun)

There are more and more signs that Israel and the EU are about to resolve the mini-crisis created by the publication of a commission notice that would have limited EU loans to Israeli entities that operate beyond the Green Line and set stricter rules regarding the use of EU grants and prizes.

Some initial media reports (including on this site) were not accurate in explaining the nature of the guidelines. The commission notice, I was told, was never meant to make Israeli institutions that receive EU funding cease their operations beyond the Green Line. Europe’s effort to mend relations with Israel’s right-wing government, however, is telling: If Europe wanted to send a warning against the settlements and in favor of the two-state solution, the “business-as-usual” messages from Brussels are having the exact opposite effect, demonstrating that the Right was correct all along in declaring that the world would not confront Israel over the occupation.

Indeed, when you separate rhetoric from the realm of actions, the international community seems to be rather supportive of the occupation and indifferent – at best – to the colonization of occupied land.

The most obvious example is the United States, whose cooperation is vital for Israeli control over the West Bank at each and every level. The U.S. provides Jerusalem with the necessary diplomatic cover for the settlements by vetoing Security Council resolutions on the matter, even when they are drafted in the administration’s own words. It uses its influence in other international institutions to shield Israel and Israeli officials from legal actions against them. It provides Israel with the weapons used in the West Bank – the tear gas fired on unarmed protesters is made in Pennsylvania – and it even hands Jerusalem the funds to buy those weapons and ammunition. Washington also supports the PA, which operates as an Israeli sub-contractor in the West Bank and to a certain extent, in Gaza.

In short, don’t be fooled by the State Department’s rhetoric: the U.S. is the enabler of the occupation. One could actually wonder whether Israel carries out its own independent policy with regards to the Palestinians, or if it just operates as a client state with a few independent ambitions.

The European Union is not that different. While policy might occasionally vary on the state level, the EU — as a body whose influence is beyond dispute (it is Israel’s largest trade partner) — has spent the last decade working to secure stronger ties with Jerusalem, regardless of Israeli actions on the Palestinian issue. Whenever those ties come into conflict with the EU’s stated policy about the West Bank and Gaza, relations with Israel win.

Israel has become one of the EU’s most important peripheral states, and it enjoys special relations with the Union on almost every level, from science to economics to football. On all levels, EU officials do their best to shield Israeli entities from anti-occupation activism, from boycott calls and sanctions and from every other mechanism of accountability for the human right abuses taking place in the West Bank. And just like the U.S., the European Union is picking up the bill of the occupation in the form of its support of the PA, canceling out even the modest internal political pressure that could have resulted from the cost of the occupation.

There are internal, domestic reasons that contribute to the European-American support for the occupation. In the U.S. it’s local politics, which are influenced by a strong pro-Israel lobby, Islamophobic national sentiments and view of Israel as part of the larger American empire. In Europe, the Union is able to produce a coherent foreign policy only on economic issues and less so on human rights or security – an imbalance which works in Jerusalem’s favor. Other forces are at play, too, but the bottom line is a consensus view, by political players on both sides of the Atlantic, that seeks to avoid confrontation with Israel at any cost.

Local actors who wish to see change on the ground should recognize this reality. Diplomatic pressure from the outside is not likely to lead to the creation of a viable Palestinian state, mainly because nobody is willing to pay a political price or change policies in order to reach that goal. In fact, European-American influence works more in favor of the occupation than against it.

Europe and the U.S. will continue to try and contain the effect of the Palestinian issue, while setting certain boundaries on human rights abuses, armed operations and Israel’s colonization of the Palestinian territories, as they have done since the 2005 Gaza disengagement. Only a major shift on the ground, like the collapse of the PA or another Palestinian revolt, is likely to change those trends.

Israeli progressives should abandon the hope for change coming from outside, at least on a diplomatic level, and recognize the single-state reality on the ground. Palestinians could question the role the PA is playing and the future of the state-building project under those circumstances.

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    1. Rami

      One of the best, most coherent articles to be published by 972mag recently. A better intro to the “the future of the occupation” question than most lengthy, tiring reports you can find out there. Thanks, Noam.

      Reply to Comment
    2. CigarButNoNice

      European and US support for the Arab colonization of the Jewish land they illegally occupy is unjust and must end for the sake of peace. No justice, no peace! Palestine for the Palestinians – Arab invaders aren’t Palestinians, any more than Turks on ancient Hellenic territories are Greeks!

      Reply to Comment
      • Average American

        Let me understand your thoughts:

        It’s the Arabs who are illegally occupying Jewish land? USA must stop supporting Arabs?

        Arabs are not Palestinians? Anti-Arab sentiment is not directed at Palestinians? That is a distinction I hadn’t heard before.

        Palestine for Palestinians? Since Jews think Palestine is theirs, are you counting Jews as Palestinians? One and the same people? That is also a new one for me.

        Reply to Comment
    3. sh

      I wouldn’t dare to pronounce on your point about diplomatic pressure from the outside, but I think that from the point of view of popular support for a political position, Europe differs considerably from the USA and watching the gradual softening of the position that the EU took initially, I couldn’t help thinking that it must have come under a great deal of pressure from the USA. Kerry likely (and possibly correctly) saw the EU position as curtailing his clout with the Israeli side in the peace talks.

      The advice to Israeli progressives is perplexing. They should view Israel as one-state and wait for the PA to crumble or for the Palestinians to revolt?

      Shouldn’t Israeli progressives be doing something too?

      Reply to Comment
    4. Richard Witty

      “Recognizing the Europe and the US support the occupation”.

      They certainly don’t, but don’t regard the relationship between Israel and West Bank (or Gaza) as fundamentally unjust and anti-strategic as editors here.

      It is sufficient to note that that sentiment is not going to change fundamentally in the US, or likely in Europe to function as an “urgent” remedy.

      BDS will not have the D or the S from really any of the significant states that did relative to South Africa.

      And, without the D or the S, the B will nearly certainly be quixotic (tilting at windmills).

      And, the PA will continue. (Maybe the Europeans or Arab states that fund the PA will get impatient, or outraged at some behavior. I don’t see it.) That is not a “hope” either.

      I think all that is good, as ironic as that is to say and still consider oneself a progressive.

      I think it is good because it puts the onus back on the parties themselves, on the populace’s themselves to persuade that peace and democracy are a better state of being than animosity and force (even the force of BDS).

      The giant quirk remains the right of return, and frankly LESS because of the right of return itself, but primarily for the then impossibility of incorporating diasporas in actual democratic group process.

      It makes a consented agreement between the populace’s themselves, void, if the diaspora also needs to consent.

      It creates a fundamental tension as to what constitutes democracy, whether democracy is one-person one-vote among those that DO reside, or among those that a political criteria determines SHOULD reside.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        Given that in Palestinians’ terms, the occupation had started not in 1967 or even 1948 but in 1917 (Turks were Muslims so they had a right to rule Palestine, but Jews and Christians have no right to rule the Holy Land of Whatever so the occupation is illegal. How perfectly racist, isn’t it, by the way? What’s the right word? Apartheid? ROFL) it can only be ended by restoration of Arab rule over Palestine), EU and USA certainly support the occupation.

        The only fact to be recognized, basically, is that occupation had started when West came to Levant and will end when last damned kafir shall meet his, most peaceful of course, end.

        Reply to Comment
    5. Richard Witty

      There is an Arab League proposal still on the table, and MANY offers by the PA for specific application of accepting Israel.

      The very sad element of your accusation, is that to the extent that you argue for the exagerated application of the Balfour Declaration and the San Remo agreements (exagerated for selectively excluding the phrases that include reconciliation with the indigenous residents – present in both documents), you are in agreement with “the Zionists are taking over” theme.

      They see current expansionist actions as explaining or confirming what they previously understood as a speculation, gaining and gaining weight of certainty.

      Why prove their thesis right?

      Reply to Comment
    6. Kolumn9

      Good article. Agree. The US is an Israeli ally. The EU, as a whole, has limited capacity of sacrificing economic benefit for vague and questionable moral positions. Japan, Russia, China and India are basically friendly states to Israel. The Saudis and their clients in Egypt are more concerned with Syria and Iran. Iran is facing major economic pressure which may or may not ease up depending on that country’s ‘moderation’ and in any case is stuck in Syria’s swamp. Syria is a collapsed state. What’s left? Latin America is hardly a player. South Africa is verbally hostile to Israel, but takes no substantive action. Pakistan has India on one side and Iran on the other. The belief that external pressure will force Israel to sacrifice what it considers vital security assets was ridiculous from the beginning, but even worse for that argument is the practical fact that there are no players that are interested in or willing to apply any significant pressure. These players just don’t exist.

      So, then we are left with the possibility that the PA will collapse or a new intifada will break out. I am not convinced, given the experience of the second intifada, that a new outbreak of violence would be beneficial to the Palestinian cause. The Palestinian arguably achieved an independent Gaza as a result of that intifada. Or was it Israel that achieved an independent Gaza as a result of that intifada? I think the latter. Also, let’s say the PA collapses. If the PA collapses there is nothing to replace it. The PLO as a group is senile and is not likely to get funded by the Europeans or the Americans or the Russians or the Chinese in efforts to destabilize Israel. Hamas is not terribly photogenic. Its possible that a new leadership will emerge over time, but there is no really obvious place where it would find sponsorship. If it is violent then perhaps some spoilers like Iran might fund it, but then it is unlikely to be a palatable partner for negotiations. If it is peaceful it will have a fraction of the resources of the PA and no fundamental improvement in international conditions. And in the meantime the Palestinian cities will probably collapse into anarchy and chaos, surviving on international humanitarian aid while anyone and everyone that can looks for a way out. There will be some violent attacks on Israeli civilians, which will gradually decrease as Israel tightens restrictions and access rules and finishes building the security barrier. These steps will likely crush whatever is left of the Palestinian economy after the PA collapses. Then what? The Palestinians are even weaker. Israelis are still unwilling to sacrifice the Jewish State on a silver platter to people who are trying to blow them up. And it isn’t like we will have moved towards a solution. There would still be Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs here each demanding sole sovereignty regardless of the framework they choose to pursue that in. Whether you call that a ‘one state outcome’ or the ‘status-quo’ or the ‘1.5/.5 state solution’ or whatever it will still be a problem and a conflict with the Palestinians no better off than now (actually far worse off).

      So, seriously.. The most pragmatic outcome that can be achieved is a two state solution that leaves the Palestinians with a state and Israel with security. Why this obsession with trying to undermine Israeli security because the Palestinians *demand* a bigger state than what they could get in negotiations? What is this obsession with trying to idealistically and unrealistically maximize the gains of the Palestinians at the expense of Israel where it pragmatically gains the Palestinians (and Israelis) nothing but pain and suffering? Wouldn’t the Palestinians be far far better off had Arafat accepted Barak’s proposals at Camp David rather than resorting to blowing up buses and restaurants? The best outcome for the Palestinians is a state which can develop a modern economy through close cooperation with Israel. Why this perpetual obsession with trying to undermine, weaken or destroy Israel if the objective is to achieve the best outcome for the Palestinians? It is counterproductive and stupid.

      Reply to Comment
    7. “Israeli progressives should abandon the hope for change coming from outside, at least on a diplomatic level, and recognize the single-state reality on the ground.” : I think this inevitable. While a federated enclave can cordon off some social/cultural issues for awhile, WB economic development, which will involve Israelis on both sides of the green line and Palestinians, will require a somewhat neutral court system to handle contract and labor disputes. This will creep towards political and social rights, with economic transport eliding into social travel. One can call the Palestinian entity a “State,” but Israel will control military security, meaning that the IDF will have to face challenges to its behavior presently ignored. I suspect this is where the US wants to go.

      The US has never been inclined to turn on defined strategic allies; Congress moved against South Africa only after the fall of the USSR. At bottom, the US ignores what its allies do at home, with the exception of divided Germany. It has always been a mistake to expect the next President to do something about this conflict, with the proviso that the present Administration sees settler abuses as a sign of Israeli deterioration. There really is no need for them; that Israel acquiesces suggests selective application of the rule of law, which will ultimately work against economic development. Thus the work of foreign infiltrators like Yesh Din is actually essential for Israeli economic prosperity on the WB.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        1987 called and asked for its theories back. Please send them at your earliest convenience.

        Reply to Comment
        • What? 1987? By “divided Germany” I did mean prior to unification, you realize. And I think you do.

          Deal with the Yesh Din reports as they stand; jettison the McCarthy condemnation by association. Or you can agree with an article asserting a One State outcome while saying there will be a Two State solution.

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            By 1987 I mean your theories of the inevitable integration of the West Bank Palestinians into Israel are obsolete and have been fabulously undermined by the past 25 years. Your theory belongs in 1987.

            I deal with Yesh Din reports as they stand. They are reports by an anti-Israeli organization made possible by European money guided by external considerations.

            Nor do I have to agree with an article asserting a One State outcome because no such thing exists. Israel has neither absorbed the West Bank Arabs nor does it rule directly over them. They are not citizens, they are not residents of Israel, the land they live on has never been annexed by Israel and there is a separate geopolitical entity that rules their day-to-day lives. The last part isn’t particularly important. Even if there was chaos and anarchy in the areas where the PA currently rules Israel still would have no obligation to the residents of those areas (unless you wish to declare those areas occupied which doesn’t sit terribly well with the argument that there is a ‘One State outcome’). There is already a Two State outcome even if there is no solution. The Palestinians have exclusive control over Gaza and day-to-day control over affairs over Palestinians in the West Bank. Whether they choose to declare statehood or not is hardly relevant. Groups like Yesh Din writing reports about areas where the Palestinians have limited authority due to Israeli security considerations have no impact on this position. Nor does pretending the inevitability of a vague, amorphous and undefinable theoretical construct like the ‘One State outcome’. The easiest way to puncture that theory is to point to Gaza.

            Reply to Comment
          • Of course, there is nothing to offer Gaza in the idealized present talks other than an offer to accept the supposed result. For some time now I have thought Gaza hopeless, either an impoverished enclave or attached to Egypt, Egypt not wanting it. So to use “Palestinian” in a blanket cover fashion no longer works.

            The actionable issue, if action is possible, is the WB. Oslo was an attempt at separation; the claim that the concept of integration has failed is an overreach, nor did I discuss complete integration. Common economic activity will require common tribunals. But starting there, not with some declared State, progress may be possible. Continuing IDF presence, which is foregone, means disjoint sovereignty is impossible. A confederation is what you can at best hope for, and confederation can evolve. I really can not see the US trying to push anything else. Common contractual courts have never been tried; they can evolve with evolving commerce. I do not think this need produce One State in the sense of a single encompassing Knesset; a confederation can avoid that, maybe for a generation or two, maybe longer or indefinitely. But to give this a chance IDF behavior will have to be reigned in. Which is why Yesh Din is important.

            Yesh Din is no more anti-Israel than Noam is, never mind Yossi. 972 also has had funding from Europe, if not the EU. By saying Yesh Din is anti Israel because if cares about abuses against Palestinians, you blot content for your own view of Israel. But Israel is going to have to live with the West Bank; the settler project all these years, plus security concerns, make this inevitable. Yesh Din is a corrective warning. People will live; Jews know this dearly in history; Palestinians are people too. Security and human rights/dignity need to be attached; only in this way can a confederation have a chance.

            Once more, I stress that a confederation is not a universal Knesset. But it will require common courts for commerce and investment. I think from that more will develop, but that is another matter. A confederation is not Two States nor One State, and Two States cannot exist with penetrating Israeli force. Warnings of a One State outcome, over decades, I suspect, like this post, focus on what may happen if the present system of impunity strengthens, which I fear is the default outcome, for many reasons.

            Yesh Din is neither your enemy nor anti Israel. Ignoring its data is not a scientific enterprise.

            Reply to Comment
    8. Kolumn9

      Gaza was just as ‘actionable’ in 1987 as the West Bank. It was entirely integrated economically into the Israeli economy. Settlements thrived and the Gaza labor force was employed for the most part in Israel. That you can only see Gaza as it is today demonstrates a lack of historical hindsight.

      There is no major common economic activity. There are some trade relations and there is some use of Palestinian foreign labor. Both of these are subject to the security situation which is historically unstable. A loose confederation is the best *you* can hope for and your hope for it is based on a series of unlikely events, which you argue are inevitable, even though they are anything but. IDF presence in some parts of the West Bank does not prevent Palestinian sovereignty in others. This is like arguing that Turkish military presence in North Cyprus prevents the Southern part of Cyprus from exercising sovereignty. It is an argument that makes no sense. Not only that, but Palestinian sovereignty like a Palestinian State isn’t relevant. The only thing that matters is whether Israel can continue to not exercise political control over areas where the vast majority of Palestinians live. As in the case of Gaza the answer is certainly yes and there is no power or sequence of events that can force Israel into starting once again to collect garbage or run the schools in Jenin.

      Yesh Din is very much an anti-Israel organization and Yossi is an extreme left opponent of the state of Israel as a whole. I don’t even think he would deny such a description for himself. Yesh Din is anti-Israel because as a goal it seeks to damage the state of Israel which is technically fine and legal, but there is no good reason why Israel should accept a situation where such hostile organizations are 94% funded by external institutions, mostly by actual European states. We need no such benign intervention on the part of the culturally superior European states to correct our backwards heathen savage ways. Europe should mind its own business and it is irritating and antiquated that the Europeans think they have the right and duty to impose their political and ideological views on the rest of humanity. As before, when Europe was trying to spread other ideas and ideologies around the world, it is not welcome and it is not a friendly act.

      Once more I stress that a confederation is based on more than common courts. A confederation is a political construct which requires the parties to agree on administrative units, borders, and a distribution of powers. A confederation is nothing if it has no political context. Since no such agreement is forthcoming you might as well talk about a free trade agreement. Nonsense about a ‘one state outcome’ does not make it real whatever it is. There are at least two political entities on the ground with at least two well-defined and very nationalistic populations. The trend is for more separation between these populations with some violent interactions between them which further drives them apart. Contrary to your belief that Yesh Din is documenting some kind of inevitable integration, what they are actually documenting is the inevitable partition and the friction that it is generating. That is the default outcome.

      Reply to Comment
      • Average American

        “Europe should mind its own business and it is irritating and antiquated that the Europeans think they have the right and duty to impose their political and ideological views on the rest of humanity.”

        That’s what European Zionists did when they came to Palestine. Are you in favor of the results of that?

        Reply to Comment
      • Your comment on Gaza’s removal leads me to wonder if you want the same for Palestinians in the West Bank. Maybe you do.

        You seem to want removal, not Two States. A confederation would evolve, not appear overnight by signed agreements. I suspect the Americans are urging economic growth as a commonality. An early signed agreement would be contractual dispute resolution. If you refuse even that, then you want them out. Completely. For, like it or not, some Jews will try to make money by employing Palestinians and trading with them. And contractual conflict will result, written or implied.

        If you want to treat people as sheep, eventually there will be rebellion. You will put it down. Eventually, even the American government will not want to deal with it. Obama’s statement about settler behavior in his Jerusalem speech is a warning. To make this strategy work, you will need some suicide bombing to cover up all other process with indignation.

        Yesh Din is anti-Israel only because it places military and police action under scrutiny. Even the High Court has questioned IDF and police action; but as you said once, High Court orders can be ignored or removed.

        972 has also accepted foreign funding, but you say nothing. Israeli universities and private corporations have and will accept EU funding, and this you approve of. All hinges on whether the proffered aid enhances your view of Israel. To be anti-Israel is to be anti K9’s thought.

        You know, I recall Sakharov being placed in a mental institution. Why was the “father of the Soviet H-bomb” placed in such an institution? The Party had declared socialism achieved in Russia if not the entire USSR. Once socialism is achieved, there can be no dissent, for dissent is a production of class struggle. So if one continues to dissent, one must be either a foreign infiltrator (sound familiar?) or–mentally ill. Sakharov being the father of the H-bomb, I guess only the second option was available. Anti-Israel? That which is not compulsory if forbidden.

        Reply to Comment
    9. XYZ

      The main factor regarding international apathy regarding the Palestinians, is that outside of various groups including anarchists, antisemites, Communists and some “human rights activies”, few people in the world care about the Palestinians or the settlements or the Arab-Israeli conflict, viewing it as one of the many intractable conflicts in the world. You hears what Obama and Rice said…they are tired of the US getting involved in problems far from home (shades of Neville Chamberlain talking about Czechoslovakia!). Even the Arabs couldn’t care less about the Palestinians, their hatred of Israel is due to wounded Islamic pride, not Israel’s policies.
      If you don’t believe me, look at the international unconcern about what is happening in Syria or Iraq or Libya or Lebanon. I don’t even see the “progressives” here worry about the suffering of the Syrian refugees and the killing going on there.

      Reply to Comment
      • “few people in the world care about the Palestinians or the settlements or the Arab-Israeli conflict, viewing it as one of the many intractable conflicts in the world. You hears what Obama and Rice said…they are tired of the US getting involved in problems far from home (shades of Neville Chamberlain talking about Czechoslovakia!).”

        Ah, give up, give up, so we may complete our final solution.

        (Try to keep your metaphors consistent. If you want foreign noses out, best not to evoke Chamberlain and the Nazis.)

        Reply to Comment