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Americans for Peace Now breaks ranks again, thoughtfully

Americans for Peace Now has not gotten much attention for its recent, carefully reasoned call for a smarter U.S. policy towards Hamas.

While condemning Hamas for “heinous attacks on civilians” and for denying Israel’s right to exist, it states a fact that is willfully denied by those who want to keep punishing and pummelling the Gaza Strip until somehow, magically, Hamas just loses support and fades away:

In the wake of the Gaza War, with Hamas still representing the only governing force in Gaza, continuing to politically isolate Hamas and push it further away from the political process only guarantees Hamas’ role as a spoiler and increases the chances that the political process will fail, rather than bolstering the political process and those who take part in it.

Therefore, APN argues:

The only option is for the U.S. to support “Fatah-and Hamas-power sharing…in the form of a national unity government or a non-partisan technocrat government that includes Fatah, Hamas, and independent Palestinian political figures with credibility among Palestinians…

…Today, APN calls on the Obama Administration to make the formation of such a government an explicit U.S. goal, and to make clear that relations with such a government – including U.S. assistance and U.S. political engagement – will be determined based on the positions and actions of that government and the national security interests of the U.S., not on the basis of whether Hamas is included in it.

Such a government – one that is seen as representing all Palestinians – would have both the legitimacy and capacity to enforce its will in terms of security and governance. Such a government is vital to sustain the current fragile Gaza ceasefire and to provide a Palestinian counterpart capable of holding up its side of security arrangements. Such a government is also crucial to the stabilization of the current situation in the Gaza Strip, the rebuilding of Gaza, and to the achievement and implementation of any future peace agreement.

The opportunity to be included in such a government might provide a powerful incentive for Hamas to moderate its rhetoric and behavior, and potentially adopt more pragmatic positions toward Israel. Conversely, a Hamas decision to reject or torpedo such an opportunity – depriving the Palestinian people of the benefits of U.S. engagement and assistance – would likely have serious consequences on the group’s legitimacy in the eyes of all Palestinians.

A U.S. policy of engaging a government that includes objectionable political parties would find precedents in Lebanon, where the U.S. has for years maintained good relations with that country’s government despite the presence of Hezbollah in its ranks, and in Jordan, where the Muslim Brotherhood has for years been steadily making gains in the parliament, with no impact on U.S. relations.

There is more to it. Before anyone takes exception to it, or expounds upon it, I urge them to read it, and think about it. The APN brain trust –including Debra DeLee, Lara Friedman, Mark Rosenblum, Ori Nir and Noam Shalef– does not get the credit it deserves for the organization’s nuanced policy statements. These statements can’t be lengthy essays that belong in Foreign Affairs; they have to be short enough to be digestible by those who are not policy wonks –e.g, Members of Congress.

Finally, APN does not get the credit it deserves from the left when it cooly and calmly breaks ranks with almost every other American Jewish organization. There is no other group in the main umbrella body of the American Jewish community –the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations– that has recognized the need for the U.S. to be realistic, and to encourage a Palestinian unity government because every other alternative is much, much worse.

26 thoughts on “Americans for Peace Now breaks ranks again, thoughtfully

  1. The position is a potentially long-term approach. In the short-term, Israel has a right-wing government (not yet formed) that rejects the formation of a peer Palestinian state. (Its not a new position. Rabin for example, never went further than suggesting regional autonomy, demilitarized, subject to Israeli veto on some issues.)

    Hamas similarly has grown more committed to a rejectionist political approach to firm the backbone of its international supporters, while lying low directly in relation to Israel (allowing Islamic Jihad and PFLP to shell Israel, while it doesn’t).

    The factors that construct a nuanced approach rather than one-dimensional anti-Zionist approach (multiple simultaneous concerns) must be remembered.

    Willing, conditional, tentative, but not gullible.

  2. I am repeating this link which I posted at the bottom of the previous thread because it is very relevant to this thread:

    In it, FATAH’s man, formerly in Gaza, Muhammed Dahlan states that FATAH has never “recognized” Israel and so does not have a different policy than HAMAS.

    This is what I have been stating for a long time here. There is no difference in the ultimate goals of HAMAS and FATAH. Yes, Dahlan points out that the “Palestinian Authority” has stated that it “recognizes” Israel. This “recognition” was done to get US support in setting up the PA and getting the billions of dollars they have received in aid since Oslo.

    Of course, there is bad blood between the groups. There is a major argument about which clans are going to get the money the US is giving, there is a major argument about the public role of Islamic law in Palestinian society, there is a major argument as to whom the Palestinians view as their major allies are in the Middle East. BUT THERE IS NO ARGUMENT AS TO THE GOALS…which are the elmination of Israel as a result of an ongoing war of attrition. Thus, to me it is a matter of indifference as to whether there is a Palestinian coalition government including HAMAS or not. Sure, HAMAS has learned the value of “plausible deniability” that Arafat used for many years “its not our group that is carrying out the attacks on Israel, is rogue groups that we have no control over”, so now HAMAS is doing the same thing in Gaza saying “we are not firing rockets into Israel, it is the Islamic Jihad over whom we have no control” (isn’t a sovereign power supposed to control its own territory?). So the game will go on no matter whether HAMAS is in the government in Judea/Samaria or not…..FATAH even now is claiming it has “no control” over the terrorist groups in that territory and the Palestinian police that Keith Dayton is so proud of do nothing to stop the terrorist groups, their only job is internal Palestinian security protecting the PA regime. It is the IDF that is working against the Palestinian terror groups in Judea/Samaria. Thus, if there is a Palestinian coalition gov’t, the IDF will still have to maintain security, because having HAMAS in power will make no difference…the Palestinian regime will still maintain that “it has no control over the terrorist groups”.
    The only consideration the US might want to think about is that if they do encourage the PA to accep the HAMAS into the coalition, HAMAS can now say “you see, the Americans now recognize us without us making any concessions. Thus, all we have to do is continue to refuse to make concessions and they (and the Israelis in their wake) will eventually accept all our demands….a recipe for continued conflict, with an American stamp of approval.

  3. Yitzchak,
    That Fatah and PA publicly signed a recognition statement is NOT rejection.

    That Dahlan has a slightly different opinion of what that constitutes, does not change the legality and clarity of an assertion of recognition, nor of its behavior.

    Second, and importantly, is your goal to annex the West Bank?

    If so, then politically, you are what you object to.

    And religiously, then you advocate for the violation of Torah in “coveting thy neighbor’s possession”, in “stealing”, in “killing”, in “having other Gods before ME”, in “bearing false witness against thy neighbor”.

    It takes two to be willing to make real peace. Are you willing?

  4. Maybe this could work in the context of something akin to the 5-state solution?

    I’m personally doubtful that the Palestinians are stable enough politically or economically to achieve this on their own without oversight. Seems like any attempt in the past has fallen apart largely because of THAT.

    Israel needs some sort of guarantee on this.

    And also, if Fatah and Hamas are so fractionalized now, what exactly is going to change that?

    Finally, I may be missing the bigger point here, but Israel still pounded the heck out of Hezbollah–and Lebanon along with it.

    So whether or not we recognize a country with terrorist representation in parliament doesn’t really change anything on the ground. Israel is still going to defend itself with incursions etc

  5. Bottom line: nothing else has worked. Trying to slaughter them, imposing collective punishment on everyone in Gaza, and not talking directly to them have not worked. Might as well try what APN recommends. Susan, the only way to make them economically stable is to encouragement foreign investment and allow them to open up to the global economy (or what’s left of it) That can’t happen unless access to the outside world is provided. Surely a unity government will have more incentive to clamp down on the kind of behavior that prompted the Israelis to block access to ports, destroy the airport in Gaza, etc..

  6. Richard,

    First, for the record, my name is Yaakov, and not Yitzhak.

    Secondly, I have stated this before, but I will repeat it….what is going to happen to Judea/Samaria is this: an INFORMAL Jordanian/Israeli/Palestinian condominium will eventually evolve in Judea/Samaria…Jewish settlements will remain and grow within the confines of the regions outlines for this (Area C) according to the Oslo Agreements. Overall security will be in Israeli hands with local police functions in Palestinian/Jordanian hands. This is the current situation. As security hopefully improves, the roadblocks will be removed and the Israeli presence will be drawn down, but not totally removed. Ultimately, the goal will be the situation before the Oslo fiasco in 1993 was imposed on Israelis and Palestinians alike….free movement for Palestinians with a minimal Israeli security presence (recall that there was even free movement between Gaza and Judea/Samaria, something that the “west bankers” didn’t really like since they resent the presence of Gazans on their turf). Palestinians will be represented as they are in their Palestinian parliament and possibly in the Jordanian parliament as was the situation before 1967. Of course, none of this is Western-style democracy, but that is not in the cards for the Palestinians in any event, even if they G-d forbid, got rid of Israel entirely.

    Of course they won’t like this arrangement and they can never formally accept it, but this is the best deal they are going to get. Israeli settlements MUST remain in place, under Israeli rule. If they were removed, as was the case with Gush Katif, that would only inflame the situation and push peace further back. The only way towards a modus-vivendi is by strengthening the settlements. I think the Israeli Left is beginning to return to this view which they held in the years after the Six-Day War.

  7. Teddy,
    Can you give me an example of an Arab state that doesn’t have oil that really has a prosperous economy? Yes, Lebanon is something of an exception but the problem of the Palestinians is not the roadblocks and such. They are not capable of building a state and the necessary state institutions which can allow a prosperous economy. That is the real problem. If they ever decide to really develop their economy which would mean devoting their time and energy to that and giving up mobilizing their people for their endless war of attrition against Israel, then, in cooperation with Israel, they can try to develope their economy. An “independent Palestinian state” could never do such a thing, it would be a constant source of instability and would be a permament “welfare queen” state permanently dependent on international handouts, as they are today, with the majority of the operation budget of the Palestinian Authority being covered by US and EU aid. Since such a state would be constantly, albeit queitly, encouraging terror against Israel, the resulting instability would prevent outside investors from ever getting involved there.

  8. You predict too much Yakov.

    I agree with you on elements of the irony of pre-intifada and post-intifada status. (I think the intifada was the dividing line, not Oslo.)

    I spent 2 months in Israel in 1986, before the intifada. (I know that makes me not an expert.)

    Part of the time I spent with third cousins who were leaders in the then Arad folk festival that had evolved from Zionist tradition to include Druze, Bedouin, and in 1986 some native Palestinians.

    I arrived there the week after the festival, when many of the performers were still hanging around in Arad and Beersheva. Every night we went out to local cafes and met and sang with other performers, Zionists, Bedouin, Druze, Palestinians. One of my third cousins spoke Arabic, and we were welcomed (tentatively) in an Arab cafe in Beersheva.

    After the intifada, in which Palestinian consciousness became pronounced and asserted, they told me that they could not socialize with their former acquaintences (pressure from BOTH Israeli and Palestinian community).

    In 1986, I could travel freely in the West Bank, and as I met Palestinians from Bethlehem and Ramallah in Jerusalem, I assume that they could travel freely in Israel.

    Its an irony for them, a painful one frankly. Rather than progress towards a hope and a goal, they only achieved distinction, but not yet dignity, full civil rights.

    My sense Yakov, is that you harbor some racist generalizations about Arabs and Palestinians. I’ve met good and bad, some that scare me to the bone, and some that I prospectively could trust very deeply.

    I don’t buy the “they are not capable” line. In my business school education, I was in a study group that included a Palestinian student from East Jerusalem. We avoided politics in discussion, but did eat at each other’s home, socialized, collaborated on projects that we were jointly graded on (requiring trust).

    I’ve since met many that are decent, effective individuals, capable of responsibility and leadership.

    The standard of Israeli leadership is NOT a great contrast. (How many of recent prime ministers have been indicted on serious corruption charges?) Both Netanyahu and Lieberman have been the object of serious accusations. (I know that an accusation is not the same as a conviction.)

    Distinct states is a more likely path to reconciliation, than your proposal of very limited powers of self-administration only.

    It is a path that neglects responsibility, rather than fulfills it.

    When you say that removing the settlements would inflame the situation (rather than expanding them as is currently occurring), are you saying that the Palestinians will take that as “they’re running”, or that Israelis will act out violently?

    I’m not in favor of removing the settlements. My understanding is that the land IS already Palestine, and the clarification of sovereignty is just an acknowledgement of what is.

  9. I have no doubt that under the right conditions Arab individuals can be economic success stories. Most of the Arabs I run into here are professional…and the poorer ones have close knit families that are pushing their kids to succeed. That’s my observation albeit limited.

    That said, I agree with Yaakov in that you have to question whether the lack of natural resources combined with a pre-industrial cultural mindset really lends itself to economic and political stability in the modern age.

    The fact that they went in and destroyed a lot of the settlement structures instead of taking them over (heck, I personally would have moved right in in and taken ADVANTAGE)–is a good indicator of what the reality is.

  10. I still think this proposal has enough validity to be explored and further developed though.

    It’s just that a lot more questions need to be answered, imo.

  11. Ya’akov,
    My apologies, it had been some time since you had used your first name and I had forgotten it.

    Dahlan and other Palestinian leaders are like Moshe Dayan who used to say many different things depending on his political needs at the time. He condemned the capture of the Golan at one point in the 1970s without acknowledging that he himself as defense minister had been responsible for the decision. Actually, Dahlan said that it was the PLO (not the PA as you state) that had recognized Israel and not Fatah. As the PLO was and is a Fatah-dominated organization it is a distinction without a difference. It is akin to the distinction between Sinn Fein and the IRA.

  12. I’m sorry, I’m still flabbergasted that Y. Ben-David labelled Horowitz a “moderate”. That to me is satire at its best: a settler calling someone else who advocates the legitimacy of settlements a “moderate”. Your massive debasing of Palestinians is very objectionable and also seems to have plenty of resentment. You are very defensive and I guess that should be natural when everyone is under the belief that your home is to be vacated for “peace” to happen, especially to those who you damn every single day being incapable of “peace”. For instance the selection of Dahlan, as if he even has a voice for any of the Palestinians. He is perhaps the most discredited man in Palestinian recent history, and his role in the attempted coup in ’07 really does not make him any sort of authority on Palestinian politics. Dahlan also benefits mightily from these stupid peace processes and he really would have nothing to gain with a resolution here. They are happy living like kings amongst the fellaheen.

    (Also odd is that even I’ve noticed that everyone here has been calling you Yitzhak for quite some time now.)

    Amusing is that Israel can insist on whatever terms they want and believe that they can impose something on the Palestinians. Like imposing anything has achieved so much for them huh? We continue to repeat the same episodes of decades past. Why do we still not learn a thing? You want to continue to bypass the Palestinians by silly proposals of “economic peace” and “5-state solutions” which really has no Palestinian self-determination at all with Israel’s law snaking through it like it is doing now, then you will have another recipe for disaster, for intifadas and for more repression, except with other states involved. The British saw their folly in thinking they could police it; now many advocate someone else to try to police it since Israel doesn’t want to do it anymore after doing so much damage and taking so much land?

    Lastly to Ben-David: you had so much reservations with the possibility of U.S. pressure for a two-state solution, and yet you have NO problem applying pressure to the Palestinians. What makes you think that because you won’t accept someone else making a choice for you that a Palestinian would taking it lying down? You speak of the imminent danger of evacuating settlements because of obvious reasons and yet you want to quell another peoples hopes for independence. Good luck; no matter how many jobs you want to give them access to (and I doubt that they would be high paying ones either), making them less than equal will create tensions that might make this period look bland.

    PS Suzanne, under the “right conditions” anyone can be a success story.

  13. Joshua–the thing is, I don’t have some flippant, easy attitude about the “right conditions.”

    It still boils down to natural resources and how much the Palestinians are willing to change. The aggressive attitude towards Israel is a symptom, imo, not necessarily the main cause of their plight.

    I’m not writing them off…but I’m skeptical. History is filled with cautionary tales of people who don’t adapt.

    On top of everything else, if the environment does start to change due to global warming they are going to have that headache too.

    I’m not an expert on Palestinian demographics, so I’m wondering how much priority the leadership gives to engineering and medical training programs and subsequent projects etc

    The Palestinians receive quite a big of financial aid from various sources. Exactly how is it being used?

  14. Its not an easy point to argue, Suzanne.

    One feature of an Ethan Bronner interview (NPR) from Gaza following the Gaza assault, was that Gaza DID have a vibrant internal economy relative to his expectations.

    I think there is that prospect among Palestinians.

    They are hindered by roadblocks, arbitrary restrictions on communications, physical logistics, financial transfer restraints that Israel imposes on Palestinians.

    They rationally suggest that more open borders have, do, and will likely also enhance their ability to import and construct weapons.

    That weapons (say Qassams) are built of very routine consumer and commercial materials, suggests that too harsh restrictions on Palestinian economy is NOT the way to accomplish even stopping terror.

    But, that the only way is to establish rule of law that undeniably reconciles land title claims, and establishes sovereignty at definable (and accountable) borders.

  15. Here is an interesting infrastructural analysis of the Palestinian territories by RAND.

    I didn’t have time to read the whole thing and would like to read more thoroughly later.

    One thing of note is that while the conflict with Israel obviously does impact the economy, this study does not indicate that it’s the primary factor. It lists a whole lot of other things, and I hope the impartial reader can take that into consideration.

    Also, the recommendation this study makes for growing the economy largely relies on Palestinian workers finding employment in Israel.

    This suggests to me that they are very, very, very weak and the onus is on Israel to nurture and support a hostile neighbor.

    Anyway…here is the link:

    Building a successful Palestinian state

  16. They don’t have an inter-regional economy, they are blockaded. Internally, they grow things, make things, build, educate, exchange.

    He cited that he was surprised at how active an economy it was.

    Its a two-edged sword, in that if the economy is not functional, then Hamas’ and human rights’ assertions that the society is in dire straits, is accurate.

    If the economy is functional, then the assertion that Palestinians by nature cannot maintain a functioning economy is false.

    I think they need help, but not welfare-state help as Yakov suggests.

    Economies don’t thrive in isolation. Israel should therefore be willing to facilitate trade.

    It is humane to seek a good neighbor to good neighbor relationship, and to insist that that is applied. It is INHUMANE to seek a dominant to suppressed relationship.

    It indicates a failure to use one’s GOD-given skills for good, instead retreating to angers and futility.

  17. Richard, I agree–a dominant to suppressed relationship is wrong.

    What Bronner says is encouraging–although it seems to me experts in that kind of thing need to take a deeper look and confirm what he says.

    If true though…what does that mean for Hamas and those human rights outfits? Aren’t they arguably too tainted to play any further role or have any credibility?

    At some point, Israel needs some sort of guarantee…and that’s the other thing that hasn’t been addressed yet either.

    Why would Israel ever trust that Hamas is going to abandon its mission?

  18. Richard and Suzanne,
    From 1967 to the mid-1990s or 2000 Israel had an apartheid economy that was dependent on a cheap supply of labor from the territories. Israel’s migrant labor system much more resembled South Africa’s than it did the labor market in Germany or in CA or TX. But because of the Hamas and IJ terrorism starting in the mid-1990s much of the Pal labor has been replaced with labor from East Europe and SE Asia.

    Israel can open up extensive trade relations with Pal. but that requires fairly peaceful relations. Hamas doesn’t want peaceful relations and will exploit open borders to carry out terrorism both to kill Israelis and to put an end to them. So for now, the PA will probably have to develop an autarkic economy that doesn’t depend on extensive trade with Israel but rather possibly trade with the W Bank and Jordan if truck convoys can be organized from Gaza to the W Bank and back.

  19. Thomas

    Why was it considered apartheid? And how was it different from the system going on in Texas today where daily migrant workers return back over the border at the end of the day?

    I thought apartheid was extreme segregation of CITIZENS.

    Of course it’s a moot point now because that arrangement is over with.

  20. Many countries, including the United States use certain ethnic groups for “cheap labor”. For example, Germany brought in the Turkish “Gasarbeiters” in the 1960’s and as I understand it, they still don’t have equal rights. The Muslim immigrants to Western Europe do most of the menial labor there.

    Israel was never depedent on “cheap Arab Labor”. In the 1930’s it was decided to emphasize “avoda Ivrit”-Jewish/Hebrew labor even though it was more expensive. Let’s be honest, how many parents who are educated want their children to grow up to be farm laborers or street sweepers, even though these jobs are vital in every society?

  21. Suzanne and Ya’akov,
    It was apartheid because Israel de facto considered the Pal territories to be part of it under the Greater Israel or Eretz Israel haShlema ideology that was in vogue during this period. Israel was in charge of the economic development of the territories. Actually under apartheid, the residents of the homelands or bantustans (to use an older South African term) were concerned citizens of independent foreign countries that just didn’t happened to be recognized by any other countries except South Africa and each other. Mexico and Turkey are recognized all over the world. The creation of the PA in fact advanced this situation because now there is an authority equivalent to the independent homeland goverments.

    And, Ya’akov, I’m referring specifically to the 1967-95 period, not the prestate Yishuv.

  22. “They are hindered by roadblocks, arbitrary restrictions on communications, physical logistics, financial transfer restraints that Israel imposes on Palestinians.”

    I think Richard really pinpoints the main obstacle that prevents normalcy for any economic vibrancy to take place. It’s easy for yourself, Richard and even myself to lay down the platitudes and ask questions to where all of this “aid” is going (if you ask me, most of it should not even be going to the body that is holding it). I don’t suggest that the PA, the PLO, the PNC and others are not lacking. Why do you think there are so many articles talking about the stupidity of both Fatah and Hamas to reconcile and unify under one banner for normal Palestinians to revive? I don’t know where you browse but through the Arab media, they don’t hold punches on the PA and other Arab states on their failures. Richard has stated it best: isolation won’t work for the Palestinians. It has to be interconnected with all surrounding states as well as able to trade with the EU and the West.

    Y.Ben-David, just because other countries do it does not give it credence. It’s more of an indictment for other states than it is for Israel. Secondly, the level of perversity and the impugnity of the authorities in Palestinian life does not bear comparison with the immigrants of other nations. (In Australia, they house them in pens in some of the worst conditions ever for all to see.) Just because they do it does not give Israel any justification to do the same either. Last I looked, most are against the awful conditions that immigrants have to live by.

    I have to lean with Thomas about the situation of apartheid also. Y.Ben-David was right: Israel is NOT dependent on this labour unlike South Africa was (being 10% minority would do that), hence its capability to remove them and substitute them with other menial works from East Asia. The reverse was true: the Palestinians are dependent on Israel’s labour. Why so many of them built the wall because they needed jobs? Is this the way for trade to happen?

    “I thought apartheid was extreme segregation of CITIZENS.”

    How “extreme” would you apply that? And when the population shares a territory and is under the aegis of one authority, then how would you term “citizen” here?

  23. Joshua–extreme was the wrong word to use. I was really thinking along the lines of legislated segregation of people who live in–and participate in a greater state.

    Israel inherited a hostile population through war. If they had to do it all over again, I wonder what they would do differently…

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