Israel

Guest review of Aaron David Miller’s book

First, another apology for not posting more than once a week. It’s likely that this will be the pattern until I finish my book about the Israel lobby. It is not adaptable to other media, but that doesn’t stop me from hoping Angelina Jolie will play my wife Lisa in the movie. Anthony Hopkins would be perfect for Mort Klein. Any suggestions for Bibi Netanyahu? (Anyone remember the name of the guy who played Darth Vader?).

At any rate, what follows is another contribution from Tom Mitchell, a very brief summary/review of Aaron David Miller’s new book. The last few paragraphs pry open the can of worms that has been opened before on this blog: the fact that Clinton’s Middle East team had so many American Jews. The “money quote”:

“While I don’t fault the participation, qualifications, or loyalty of any of the individuals in the team, I question the collective impact of having Middle East diplomacy dominated by one particular ethnic group, even if the individuals are executing the policy of the elected president. Imagine what American Jews and Israelis would think if the team was made up exclusively of Arab-Americans.”

When I first started hearing this complaint in the late ’90s, I had little patience for it. Now, piecing together what happened at Camp David and other critical junctures in the Clinton years, I reluctantly agree that it sent the wrong signal to the Arab world…
—————————————–
The Much Too Promised Land
By Aaron D. Miller
(NY: Bantam, 2008)

A review by Tom Mitchell

In 2003, Aaron Miller retired from the State Department after 20 years of service. He had played a major role in American Mideast policy during the administrations of George H Bush and Clinton administrations. The Much Too Promised Land covers the peace process from 1973 to 2003.

The first part of the book deals with American interests and goals in the region, as well as the domestic constraints on foreign policy. Miller deals with American Jewry and AIPAC at length and concludes that while AIPAC lobbying is a constraint, it is not an insurmountable obstacle and a determined administration can overcome it, as did Ford and Kissinger in 1975 and Bush and Baker in 1991. Much of what he writes about AIPAC is in conformity with what Dan Fleslher has written here and what Leonard Fein has written on his APN blog.

Next, Miller deals with American successes in Mideast diplomacy: the Kissinger shuttle diplomacy of the mid-1970s, Carter’s involvement from 1977-79, and James Baker from 1989 to 1991. In each period he focuses on the key American actor and the motivations and methods that he employed. The material is clearly based on his careful reading of participants’ memoirs, his own experiences and extensive interviews with American, Israeli, and Palestinian decision makers. But those wishing to learn in-depth the issues and details of the 1970s diplomacy will be disappointed. They should turn to William Quandt’s Peace Process for those details.

The next part is devoted to Clinton’s two terms and diplomacy on the Palestinian and Syrian tracts. Unlike other American decision makers such as Ross, Madeleine Albright, and President Clinton and Israelis Shlomo Ben-Ami and Ehud Barak, Miller does not blame the failure of the Camp David II summit in July 2000 exclusively on Yasir Arafat. The book seems to be a synthesis of the conventional American-Israeli version of events and the conclusions of Clayton Swisher, whose The Truth About Camp David blamed poor American preparation and strategy as well as Israel’s failure of nerve.

Miller blames everyone: the American team, Arafat and the Palestinians, Ehud Barak and even Syrian President Hafiz as-Assad. Assad is blamed for refusing to make the sort of political gestures that both Sadat and Arafat were willing to make in order to reassure the Israeli electorate and gain support for major territorial concessions. This resulted in Barak wasting much precious time on the Syrian track and not having enough time for the Palestinian track. Miller faults his own side for failing to make it clear to Assad that such gestures would be required and to the Israelis that a full withdrawal from the Golan would be necessary. And of course there was Arafat, who was pissed off with Barak for having given preference to the Syrians over him. Arafat chose to sulk during the summit.

Miller also reviews the diplomacy in the GW Bush Administration and asserts that Bush’s “hands off” approach won’t work in the Middle East. He concludes by arguing that successful Middle East diplomacy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is possible but not likely. This is because the easy lifting has already been done with Egypt and Jordan and conditions are not really ripe for a new breakthrough. Another advance would require major sacrifices by both sides—Israel in terms of territory, Syria in terms of gestures, and the Palestinians on the terms of settlement. He argues that to be successful. the U.S. would have to employ the deviousness of Kissinger, the missionary focus and attention to detail of Carter, and the ruthlessness of Baker.

Miller is clearly stating that successful diplomacy will not translate into domestic popularity. Each of the three successful figures he praises was anathema to large portions of the “organized American Jewish community.” Israelis understood that they were not paying for Kissinger’s salary, but many American Jews failed to understand that Kissinger’s first loyalty should be to his employer

He also deals briefly with the fact that the Mideast offices of both Baker and Clinton were mostly Gentile-free zones. He mentions that the Palestinians referred to him, Ross and Dan Kurtzer, the American ambassador to Israel as “the three rabbis” and Israelis close to Shamir referred to them as “Baker’s Jewboys.”

I recently watched an episode from the sixth season of “The West Wing” in which the Bartlett administration successfully mediates a Mideast peace agreement without the participation of the secretary of state, the national security advisor, or the assistant secretary of state for Near East. Instead the issue is debated among the president, his chief of staff, and two Jewish domestic affairs advisors. I wonder what Arabs not fully versed on the realities of American television and Hollywood thought when they saw it. Even if the episode was not shown in the Middle East, imagine all of the Saudi, Kuwaiti, and Palestinian students who might have seen it. While I don’t fault the participation, qualifications, or loyalty of any of the individuals in the team, I question the collective impact of having Middle East diplomacy dominated by one particular ethnic group, even if the individuals are executing the policy of the elected president. Imagine what American Jews and Israelis would think if the team was made up exclusively of Arab-Americans.

If I were teaching a course in regional conflict management I would have this book as a basic course text along with Jonathan Powell’s Great Hatred, Little Room on Blair’s Northern Ireland diplomacy.

76 thoughts on “Guest review of Aaron David Miller’s book

  1. David Prowse, the English bodybuilder, was the man in Darth Vader’s costume, most of the time. James Earl Jones was the voice. Fortunately, neither is Jewish so the far left can’t say we are responsible for that particular Evil Empire. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Prowse

    I would like to see Stephen King play Malcolm Hoenlein. Don’t know why, exactly, but it seems like a perfect, ghoulish match…

    Maybe PeeWee Herman as Arafat…

  2. What does Miller say about the Palestinian Authority’s demand that Israel admit 500,000 descendants of Palestinian refugees into Israel?

    Does Miller feel that this demand by Arafat played a significant role in the failure of the 2001 talks?

  3. Actually Rachel Pee Wee Herman is the perfect choice to play Arafat. Who was a homosexual who traveled with an entourage of young boys and died of aids.

  4. Jonathan, I read the Miller book too. I haven’t systematically scanned it again, but the Law of Return and the refugees isn’t singled out as the most difficult problem. It is part of the package of issues that he says neither Israel nor the Palestinians were ever close to agreeing upon. I found the book incredibly depressing. He seems to cling to a bit of hope but doesn’t provide much basis for it.

  5. There is some disagreement about what the Israeli position on settling Palestinians inside of Israel was.

    Barak said that he was never willing to agree to any right of return, but would agree to 12,000 family reunification cases on the condition that if Israel didn’t admit the 12,000 then the rest of the agreement would still be valid.

    Miguel de Moratinos, the EU observer, said that Yossi Beilin, the Israeli negotiator on the refugee issue, agreed to 25,000 as a “personal initiative” and later increased it to 40,000.

    Beilin says that the Palestinian side demanded 500,000. He says that at that time Clinton left office and the negotiations ended.

    When pressed for details about what he or Israel agreed to, Beilin has refused to discuss the matter further, saying that he was a part of confidential diplomatic negotiations.

    When asked by an Israeli reported why he had agreed to settle Palestinians in Israel when the Clinton peace plan said that Israel didn’t have to, Beilin responded that the Clinton plan permitted Israel to settle Palestinians in Israel if it wanted to.

    Beilin recently lost the chairmanship of the Meretz party. He went from #2 in Labor to #26 in Labor to the Chairmanship of Meretz, which then went from 10 seats in the Knesset to 7 to 4.

    Beilin says that he intends to remain politically active. I am sure that he meant well and is an Israeli patriot. But he is the only mainstream Israeli politician who ever supported settling Palestinians inside of Israel. Given what happened to him I doubt that any Israeli pols will follow suit.

    My point is that people who want peace can and should rail against Israeli settlement of the West Bank. But the flip side of Israeli settlement of the West Bank is Palestinian settlement of Israel inside of the Green Line.

    At some point people of good will are going to have to call on the Palestinian side to give up their demands to settle the descendants of Palestinian refugees inside of Israel. If that does not happen then a negotiated agreement is simply impossible, and it is better to build a wall.

  6. That Yossi Beilin went from 2 to 36 indicates something about Israeli intent to actually make peace, not a good sign.

    The opportunity may pass, and war will emerge as the only result.

    More bad news.

    Palestinians are human beings, and aren’t currently being treated as such, by Israel. (Whether others do similar or worse is irrelevant.)

    I believe that it is in Israel’s interest to affirm confidently that it is a state ruled by consistent law, as all civilized European and western states are.

    Currently, that is not the case. It is ruled by administration.

    Consistent law would then regard the status of title to specifically contested land even within Israel as imperfect, as verifiable and just claims against current title, remain.

    Each case would have the right to be referred to the Israeli Supreme Court, which hopefully would then evolve to a court of precedent rather than of single rulings.

    If the right of return was made to conform to a legal standard, rather than a rhetorical, then I would favor it.

  7. It is easy to react to the rhetorical, which is why polemic is such a stupid tactic for legal rights activists, or Palestinian solidarity to adopt.

    It would be more effective to insist that Israel rise to the standard of the west, to be a state of law, with equal due process afforded to all (even non-residents).

  8. Jonathan,

    What if Israel apologized for its role in the Naqba? What if it acknowledged the PRINCIPLE of the “right of return” and the moral validity of it? The apology and the acknowlegement are vitally important to the Palestinian people and the constant recitation of the other narrative, the Zionist narrative, is not going to change that. But what if the actual terms of an agreement were based on the grim realities of the region and the Palestinian Diaspora and modern Israel? What if both sides –and the Arab League– agreed that it is impossible to implement the right of return beyond a controlled number of family reunifications, the number to be determined by Israel and perhaps some kind of international arbitration panel that would include the Arab States? And what if, in return for this abandonement of long-cherished dreams (which would be accompanied by meaningful compensation to Palestinian refugee families), Israel finally took a stand against the settlers?

    It’s true that no Israeli government we are likely to see in the near future will be willing to accept those terms, but would you be opposed to them?

  9. Olmert is extremely unlikely to win reelection. Who knows if there is any other within Kadima that would.

    Israeli politics are in the winds now. I don’t have a read on where they are shifting.

    In what I read, there is NOT a lot of discussion of active peace-seeking given the conflict within Palestinian society, and the statements by Hamas that they will not regard prior agreements of Palestinian Authority or parliament as binding.

    As much as it is needed.

  10. “””Jonathan,

    What if Israel apologized for its role in the Naqba?”””

    My impression is that Naqba is an Arabic expression for catastrophe and that people who don’t like Israel use it to mean the creation of Israel.

    What kind of statement are you speaking of?

    “””What if it acknowledged the PRINCIPLE of the “right of return” and the moral validity of it?”””

    That is very unlikely. Should Palestinians keep fighting because Israel refuses to acknowledge a principle? Is that reasonable for them to do?

    “””The apology and the acknowlegement are vitally important to the Palestinian people and the constant recitation of the other narrative, the Zionist narrative, is not going to change that.”””

    The idea of Palestinians going to war, or keeping on fighting a war, in order to force Israel to acknowledge some principe is bizarre to me.

    What if Israel continues to say no? Should the Palestinians reject land-for-peace, reject a two-state solution, because they want some kind of a statement from the Israeli government?

    Does that make sense for the Palestinians, or anyone, to do?

    “””But what if the actual terms of an agreement were based on the grim realities of the region and the Palestinian Diaspora and modern Israel?”””

    The happy reality is that Israel says no. It might say yes someday, but I doubt it.

    “””What if both sides –and the Arab League– agreed that it is impossible to implement the right of return beyond a controlled number of family reunifications, the number to be determined by Israel and perhaps some kind of international arbitration panel that would include the Arab States?”””

    What if I had wings? I could fly away.

    What if Israel says no, as it has up to now? Should the Palestinians keep fighting to force Israel to agree?

    “””And what if, in return for this abandonement of long-cherished dreams (which would be accompanied by meaningful compensation to Palestinian refugee families), Israel finally took a stand against the settlers?”””

    Unfortunately, what you describe is not the abandonment of settling Palestinian refugees’ descendants in Israel, but the implementation of it.

    Even so Israel could still agree to what you propose. Maybe you can convince them. But if the Israelis continue to say no, should the Palestinians keep fighting to force Israel to agree?

    “””It’s true that no Israeli government we are likely to see in the near future will be willing to accept those terms, but would you be opposed to them?”””

    Israel is a democracy. Inside its internationally recognized borders it can admit or refuse to admit as many descendants of Palestinian refugees as it wishes.

    If Israel continues only to admit Palestinian immigrants under fairly limited circumstances (marriage to an Israel citizen is the most common) then the Palestinians should make peace with Israel anyway.

    Fighting to force Israel to allow Palestinians to immigrate to Israel is bizarre. The fighting will not convince a single Israeli to agree to it. If it did, then the Israelis would be convinced by now and we would not be having this discussion.

  11. “””That Yossi Beilin went from 2 to 36 indicates something about Israeli intent to actually make peace, not a good sign.”””

    It indicates something about Israel’s willingness to agree to settle Palestinian refugees’ descendants inside of Israel. What it indicates is that a politician who agrees to it will not have a very long career afterwards.

    Therefore, a reasonable goal of peace activists should be to persuade Palestinians to accept land for peace, and give up on limited-right-of-refugees-to-return-plus-land-for-peace.

    Peace activists should attempt to dissuade Palestinians from keeping on fighting Israel to force Israel to admit descendants of Palestinian refugees to inside Israel.

  12. What do you think about the issue of contested title?

    Even with legislation the imperfect status of title remains.

    As the Israeli supreme court can not set precedent, but can only make case by case decisions, the status remains.

    The taking of land without compensation nor due process, is a very large conflict with the assertion that Israel is a state that functions under the rule of law.

    The rule of law does not only mean rule of laws, but also means review for consistency, and ability for interested parties (including non-residents and non-citizens) to avail themselves of the Israeli courts.

  13. Richard Witty, we have discussed this matter before, and did not reach any resolution.

    It boggles my mind that there are people who deem it acceptable for the Palestinian side to keep fighting, not for a state, not for an end to occupation, but for the right of Palestinian refugees’ descendants to immigrate to Israel.

  14. They are fighting for multiple concerns.

    I think they should put their energy into telling their story without polemics, and arguing for their individual and collective rights on a legal basis.

    And, they should propose a carrot as well as stick.

    But, whenever I suggest anything like that, I’m shot down as complicit with Zionist objectives, attempting to shut down dissent.

  15. “””They are fighting for multiple concerns.”””

    Agreed. And one of those concerns, including among the Abbas people, is settling Palestinian refugees’ descendants inside of Israel.

    It is not simply a case of land-for-peace.

    “””And, they should propose a carrot as well as stick.”””

    “Stick” might be a euphemism for “going to war.”

    Again, we see someone proposing what I find unbelievable: namely, that Palestinians should reject land-for-peace, reject a two-state solution, and instead keep fighting in order to settle Palestinians inside of Israel.

    But Richard Witty and I have gone over that. I am not attempting to dissuade him.

    I am merely pointing out that Witty, at least, seems to agree that Palestinians should keep fighting (i.e., keep using the “stick”) to force Israel to agree to settle Palestinian refugees’ descendants inside of Israel.

  16. I think they should continue acting, definitely. I think it would be inhumane to ask Palestinians to passively accept the degree of insensitivity that many Israeli policies inflict on common civilians.

    While I disagree strongly with the current solidarity strategy emphasizing boycotts, divestiture, statements of contempt for Jews and Israelis, I empathize with the experience of being made to be “strangers” in a homeland that is/was intimate prior.

    For Jews and Israelis to continue that without qualms, is to violate the spirit and word of Torah, and to violate the spirit and word of rational ethics.

    On the part of Palestinians, the “stick” in the quote is punishment as a means of dissent (verbal, sometime physical, political), in contrast to offers of reconciliation means of dissent.

    One the tragedies of the wall is that it has broken the natural social ecology of mutual interdependance. Israel needs nothing of merit from the Palestinian community now.

    They don’t need knowledge of the land. They don’t need any particular skill or resource. To Israelis, indigenous Palestinians are now largely parasites, the Palestinian “problem”, as Europe used to refer to isolated Jewish community as the Jewish “problem”.

    Its not the strategy of “a good neighbor to a good neighbor”.

    Israel is currently near permanent completion of the rejection of Abbas’ offer to be a good neighbor.

    We need to have good conscience. Its important to me in my job that I have a sense that I earned my position, not just have it. I think the same of the Jewish nation, that has a collective sense of identity, that must be proud of its accomplishments through an ethical prism, where we what we deliver exceeds what we contract for rather than barely meeting it.

  17. Since the 1950s Israel has rejected settlement of Palestinian refugees or their descendants inside of Israel.

    Israel again rejected settlement of Palestinian refugees descendants inside Israel in 2001. That was one of the issues, perhaps the major issue, on which the Palestinians and the Israelis could not agree.

    If Israel continues to refuse and instead offers land-for-peace, should the Palestinians keep fighting in order to achieve limited-right-of-refugees-to-return-plus-land-for-peace?

    Or should the Palestinians accept land-for-peace?

    What is the answer?

  18. The two are not mutually exclusive.

    There are two legal possibilities from acknowledging that the title to much land within Israel is not in fact perfected.

    One is the right of return, whether resulting in removal of Israeli residents from their homes or the theoretical right to buy land elsewhere in Israel.

    The second is fair compensation

    I don’t believe that forced removal of residents is appropriate either in Israel or in the West Bank.

    I do believe that compensation is more than appropriate, it is necessary to accomplish peace. And, most likely a limited right of return will restore balance more confidently.

    The laws of the early 50’s prohibiting return, prohibiting non-residents from access to courts, and the annexation by the state of lands that were “abandoned”, were martial. If they were necessary then, they are no longer.

  19. “””And, most likely a limited right of return will restore balance more confidently.”””

    So what is the answer to my question?

    If Israel continues to reject “limited right of return” should the Palestinians reject land-for-peace and instead fight for limited-right-of-return-plus-land-for-peace?

  20. I can’t tell them what they should do.

    I think the ambiguous status of land title will remain until due process is afforded.

  21. “””I can’t tell them what they should do.”””

    Why? Who says you can’t tell Palestinians to accept land-for-peace, and not to keep fighting to force Israel to settle Palestinian refugees’ descendants inside of Israel?

    If not you, then who? If not now, then when?

    It is not yours to complete the task of persuading Palestinians to accept land-for-peace and stop rejecting it in favor of limited-right-of-refugees-to-return-plus-land-for-peace.

    But neither are you free to refrain from it.

  22. Again I ask the question: If Israel continues to reject “limited right of return” should the Palestinians reject land-for-peace and instead fight for limited-right-of-return-plus-land-for-peace?

    It is not simply Richard Witty who cannot answer the above question. I have never met a supporter of limited-right-of-return who could answer it.

    If any other supporters of limited right of return wish to try to answer the above then fine.

    While not answering the question, Richard does opine: “””Israel can live with a limited right of return. It can’t live with a hundred year war.”””

    Witty’s claim is all the more reason to:

    (1) Support land for peace; and

    (2) Oppose the Palestinians’ rejection of land-for-peace;

    (3) Oppose Palestinians waging war in order to implement limited-right-of-return-plus-land-for-peace.

  23. I’ll put my voice on the positive, that Israel should offer land, and should receive peace, and that if it takes an additional 100,000 Palestinians with the right to live in Israel as Israelis, that they should take that.

    There’s a corollary to your argument though Jonathon. Should Israel go to war just to keep itself from being subject to the rule of law?

    Why? Why shouldn’t it accept a proposal that is not harmful if administered carefully and fairly?

    Why continue the stimulus of rage of expropriation rather than accept legal remedy?

  24. The question I pose, and that no one seems to be able to answer:

    Should the Palestinians reject a land-for-peace agreement and instead attack Israel in order to force Israel to agree to limited-right-of-return-plus-land for peace?

    When asked this question, most believers in limited-right-of-return simply REFUSE TO ANSWER:

    * They refuse to say whether they support Palestinians rejecting land-for-peace.

    * They refuse to say whether they support a Palestinian attack on Israel order to force Israel to agree to settle Palestinians inside of in Haifa, Ramle and other parts of pre-1967 Israel.

    * They refuse to say whether they believe a Palestinian attack on Israel to force it to accept limited-right-of-return would be a just war.

    As for Witty’s question, the answer depends on what Witty means by “go to war.”

    If Witty is asking whether Israel should attack peaceful believers in limited-right-of-return who are not physically attacking Israel, then the answer to his question is no.

    If Witty is asking whether Israel should defend itself against violent believers in limited-right-of-return who attack Israel, the answer is yes.

  25. Those are silly and loaded questions Jonathon. Thats why I don’t answer them.

    I don’t favor anyone attacking Israel for any reason.

    And, I don’t favor Israel taking arbitrary positions that might prohibit peace, rather than negotiating in earnest.

    I wonder about the attitudes of those that don’t value peace that they would make real compromises to achieve.

    Land for peace is currently not the same phrase as it was 15 years ago. Land for peace now means a declining sliver of a sliver of land that sincerely once was relatively unencumbered homeland to the Palestinians. The worst restrictions they had were relative to a feuding village, or feuding clans.

    You’ve stated that you consider the three laws from the 50’s that denied Palestinians right to return, prohibited them from entering Israel to research or petition courts for their land claims, and then annexed “abandoned” property as Israeli state, as confidently perfecting title.

    I don’t. Most of the civilized world regards that sequence as an expropriation. (If the sequence is described as a blind description.)

    As such, it doesn’t pass a test of law to the extent of reasonable consent.

    Now that Israeli society is firm, confident, a clearly dominant majority society in Israel, the idea of limited right of return is NOT threatening, and liberates a great deal.

  26. “””I don’t favor anyone attacking Israel for any reason.”””

    So you would oppose Hamas and Fatah if they continue to reject land-for-peace?

    You would oppose Hamas and Fatah if they instead used violence or the threat of violence to demand limited-right-of-refugees-to-return-plus-land-for-peace?

  27. I oppose violence on civilians.

    Is that not clear to you?

    If Fatah rejected land for peace, but did not resort to violence on civilians or any cross border assault, I would not be “opposed to them”, I would respect their decision to take the position that they did, neither supporting nor opposing.

    I don’t think of Eastern side of the green line as “prospective Palestine”. I think of it as Palestine.

    Similar to as I don’t think of myself as a prospective Jew, but as a Jew.

  28. “””If Fatah rejected land for peace, but did not resort to violence on civilians or any cross border assault, I would not be “opposed to them”,”””

    A supporter of land-for-peace would be against the decision by Fatah to reject land-for-peace.

    “””I would respect their decision to take the position that they did, neither supporting nor opposing.”””

    Fine. But a supporter of land-for-peace would oppose Fatah’s decision to reject land-for-peace.

  29. Why is a limited right of return repugnant to you?

    It will not result in anything close to a Palestinian majority in Israel, but will demonstrate the intention to actually reconcile, to actually adopt color-blind law as the basis of Israeli governance.

    Why could that be unpalatable?

    Again,
    It is the PA’s right to determine their own negotiating positions. The few PA advisors and past representatives that I’ve seen or spoken to, demonstrated an enormous charitableness and high-minded willingness to compromise for peace.

    To pose it as a litmus test, is to create an unnecessary obstacle in the face of real negotiation.

    Its not a slippery slope if clear and fair and agreed.

  30. “””It is the PA’s right to determine their own negotiating positions.”””

    It is NOT the PAs right to reject land-for-peace and threaten continued war if Israel won’t agree to limited-right-of-refugees-to-return-plus-land-for-peace.

    Indeed, the PA is acting VERY WRONGLY when it rejects land-for-peace.

    “””To pose it as a litmus test, is to create an unnecessary obstacle in the face of real negotiation.”””

    I agree absolutely that limited-right-of-refugees-to-return ought not to be a litmus test for the acceptability of an Israeli-Palestinian peace. The Palestinian side should not reject a land-for-peace agreement.

    “””Its not a slippery slope if clear and fair and agreed.”””

    For believers in limited-right-of-return to reject land-for-peace agreements and fight to settle Palestinian refugee descendants inside of Israel is a VIOLENT undertaking. Peacemakers should oppose such an unwise Palestinian policy.

  31. The PA has never rejected land for peace overtly, that I’m aware of. They’ve never yet had the opportunity to, so its not a question that could be answered.

    You do get my point about establishing arbitrary lines in the sand, in contrast to substantive.

    The purpose of the limited right of return is an affirmation of law as social basis, rather than arbitrary position.

    The right of return is a subset of allowing title claims on dispossessed land without due process.

    The status of the compromised title remains unless cleansed by the legal process practised fairly and clearly.

  32. If a Palestinian is deemed through the legal process to still own land, then it is rational to allow him/her to reside on it.

    Certainly to be compensated for the forced taking without due process.

    Again,
    Jonathon you speak as if the limited right of return (even where it does not result in any diminution in the nature of Israel as Jewish majority state) is what you consider most important important, rather than peace.

  33. “””They’ve never yet had the opportunity to, so its not a question that could be answered.”””

    Of course it can be answered:

    * Yes the PA should accept land-for-peace.

    * Yes, the PA should give up the demand for limited-right-of-return-plus-land-for-peace.

    * No, believers in limited-right-of-return should not attack or threaten to attack Israel if Israel refuses to settle Palestinian refugee descendants inside of Israel.

  34. No one is claiming that you should give up your belief in limited-right-of-refugees-to-return.

    Even those who believe in ideas that are more radical than yours, such as one-state-solution, or Islamic-state-with-Koranic-protection-for-minorities, can continue to adhere to those beliefs.

    Such beliefs are harmless unless violent believers in these proposals attack, or threaten to attack, Israel in order to implement them.

    But I am stating that attacking Israel–or threatening to attack Israel–in order to accomplish any of the above goals, including your own, is immoral.

    Now, historically you are incorrect. Israel under PM Barak, in conjunction with President Clinton’s peace plan, offered a complete implementation of land-for-peace in late 2000 and early 2001.

    Thus you are mistaken when you state that:

    “””Israel does not offer land for peace, as it has not done yet, functionally.”””

    Israel absolutely offered land-for-peace at the conclusion of President Clinton’s term, in a manner consistent with President Clinton’s own land-for-peace plan.

    Recall that President Clinton stated that Israel could admit Palestinian refugees to Israel if it wanted to, but that such a requirement was not a part of President Clinton’s peace plan.

    Israel offered:

    * 97 percent of the West Bank. Contrary to claims by Noam Chomsky and others, this area was contiguous. In other words, you could travel to any part of that 97 percent without passing through Israel.

    * 100 percent of Gaza

    * Portions of East Jerusalem

    * Shared sovereignty over the Temple Mount and the Western Wall

    * Areas of pre-1967 Israel near Gaza equivalent to about one percent of the land-area of the West Bank. This aspect of the agreement would have expanded Gaza’s size by about one-quarter.

    I am certain that everyone and MOST OF ALL THE PALESTINIANS THEMSELVES would have been better off today if the PA and Arafat had accepted this proposal.

    It boggles my mind that any rational person could believe that rejecting the above, and fighting on to settle descendants of Palestinian refugees inside of Israel, is either just or wise.

    By any stretch of the imagination the above Israeli offer was a land-for-peace offer.

  35. My understanding was that proposal was never put on paper, never articulated as a whole, never presented before multiple people for verification.

    Have you read the Aaron book? I haven’t.

    I neither believe nor disbelieve you, Jonathon.

    From the tone and construction of your comments, I think your position on limited right of return is arbitrary, and likely designed for static, rather than for peace.

  36. “””I think your position on limited right of return is arbitrary, “””

    It doesn’t matter what my position is. It matters what Israel’s position is. It matters what the Palestinian Authority’s position is.

    If Israel continues to reject limited-right-of-return, should the Palestinians reject a land-for-peace agreement and insist instead of limited-right-of-return-plus-land-for-peace?

    The answer is no. It is immoral for violent believers in limited-right-of-return to reject land-for-peace.

  37. Its unlikely that a peace deal will emerge soon, given the deferred (or not so deferred) state of civil war in so much of the Islamic world.

    Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine.

    The idiocy of the US invasion of Iraq is even more obvious now. (Maybe everything will work out in the end?) “The US fought a successful war in Iraq. Iran won.”

  38. So talk to them. Convince them that it is in their interest.

    A hard sell given the way that Israel caused the PA to realize NO GAINS from its willingness to drop militancy in favor of negotiation.

    Israel looked and looks insincere.

  39. Land-for-peace is not enough. In addition to land Hamas and the PA also demand the right to settle the descendants of Palestinian refugees inside of Israel’s pre-1967 borders.

    Hamas and the PA look insincere. Their hard sell of rejecting land-for-peace and demanding instead limited-right-of-return-plus-land-for-peace isn’t working.

    In fact, Hamas and the PAs hard sell of right-of-return-plus-land-for-peace has caused Israel to realize NO GAINS from Israel’s acceptance of land-for-peace.

  40. They don’t look particularly insincere to me.

    Perhaps you haven’t made any contact with them, sufficient to judge one way or another.

  41. It’s insincere for the PA to claim to support land-for-peace, and then reject land-for-peace as not being enough and demand instead right-of-return-plus-land-for-peace.

    It’s insincere when anyone does that.

  42. Anybody have more certainty about what occurred at Camp David?

    Was the Barak offer as Jonathon represented?

  43. Richard and Jonathan,
    Almost all the American and Israeli accounts have the main deal breakers at Camp David II being the right of return and the Temple Mount issue.

    I personally don’t see rejecting peace on the Palestinians’ part because of not having a limited right of return as any more immoral as rejecting peace by Israel because it can’t have a theoretical sovereignty over Har haBeit. The likely path to solution in the Mideast conflict involves the Israelis giving up a theoretical right–of Israelis visiting the Temple Mount–in exchange for the Palestinians giving up a similar theoretical right. This will require both courage and political sensitivity by the leadership of both nations. Right now that leadership is lacking. Clearly Arafat was not up to the task; but neither was Barak, despite his going beyond the limits of previous Israeli concessions.

    A good lawyer will tell his client never to make admissions of guilt before the case is resolved. The Palestinians expect Israel to take total responsibility for the refugee problem, on a “trust us” basis, without taking any responsibility of their own. If there was trust between the two sides it would be much easier to solve the problem. But it is precisely because such trust is lacking that the problem is difficult to solve.

    Jonathan, you might want to think about the fate of Israeli politicians willing to give up control over the Temple Mount. Why is this reality to be respected but the difficulties of Palestinian politicians to be deplored?

  44. It is important to distinguish between the Israeli offer at Camp David in 2000 and the later Israeli offer at Taba in January 2001. The Israeli offer at Taba was the most favorable one they made to the Palestinians.

    I was incorrect about the 97 percent figure. The Foundation for Mideast Peace ( http://www.fmep.org/reports/vol11/no2/04-deconstructing_taba_talks.html ) says that Israel at Taba offered to withdraw from 95 percent of the West Bank:

    “The final status map presented by Israeli negotiator Gilad Sher in January 2001 proposed Israel’s annexation of 5 percent of the West Bank.”

    The Foundation for Mideast Peace article confirms that the West Bank state proposed by Israeli negotiators on 95 percent of the West Bank was contiguous.

  45. “””I personally don’t see rejecting peace on the Palestinians’ part because of not having a limited right of return as any more immoral as rejecting peace by Israel because it can’t have a theoretical sovereignty over Har haBeit.”””

    Neither do I. However, what Tom accurately refers to as “rejecting peace on the Palestinians’ part because of not having a limited right of return” means that the PA is rejecting land-for-peace.

    No matter how much land Israel does withdraw from in a land-for-peace treaty, the PA has said that it will not agree because Israel is not also agreeing to a second condition, “limited right of return.”

    Thus I say that the PA rejects land-for-peace and demands instead limited-right-of-return-plus-land-for-peace.

  46. The term “land for peace” is a very general rhetorical term that at best roughly summarizes the main emphasis of a treaty.

    It is not meant to be a specific and limited formula, a litmus test, but a guideline.

    To make it into a litmus test is stopper, an arbitrary line.

  47. Land-for-peace requires only withdrawal from land.

    Thus, Wikipedia states (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Land_for_peace):

    “””Land for peace is a general principle proposed for resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict by which the State of Israel would relinquish control of all or part of the territories it conquered in 1967 in return for peace with and recognition by the Arab world.”””

    Peace proposals which require limited-right-of-return are adding a second requirement, and it is appropriate to call such proposals limited-right-of-return-plus-land-for-peace.

    It is immoral for believers in limited-right-of-return to reject land-for-peace and instead fight to force Israel to settle Palestinians inside of pre-1967 Israel.

  48. Exactly. To use your phrase, land is already one “litmus test” in land-for-peace. The key question is whether a SECOND litmus test is being added to the formula of land-for-peace.

    The PA at Taba in 2001 asserted that limited-right-of-return was also litmus test, and the Israelis must agree to this litmus test of limited-right-of-return.

    If Israel refused to agree to limited-right-of-return, then the PA would not sign a peace treaty with Israel.

    Thus limited-right-of-return became a litmus test for whether the PA would sign a peace treaty with Israel. The formula put forward by the PA at Taba, and still to this day, was limited-right-of-return-plus-land-for-peace.

  49. Jonathan,
    A very limited right of return such as limiting it to actual emigres of 1948 (within a numerical ceiling) rather than to their descendants would give cover to Palestinian pols. They could then say that the right of return had been fulfilled. Just as either turning over sovereignty on the Temple Mount to the UN or to God would give some cover to Israeli pols.

    You shouldn’t get too hung-up over what was agreed to at Taba as the accounts vary even more widely than for Camp David. Shlomo Ben-Ami’s account is very different from Yossi Beilin’s. I find Ben-Ami to be a more credible witness.

  50. “””A very limited right of return such as limiting it to actual emigres of 1948 (within a numerical ceiling) rather than to their descendants would give cover to Palestinian pols.”””

    Everyone has their own theory of what the Palestinians are demanding when they demand right-of-return-plus-land-for-peace.

    Some say it is 200,000 Palestinians of all ages. Some say 300,000. Some say 70,000. You say only people who were alive in 1948 and not their descendants and spouses.

    Some say that family reunification cases (typically where an Israeli Arab marries a Palestinian Arab, not necessarily a refugee descendant) count towards the above numbers. Others say not.

    At Taba the PA demanded 500,000, and family reunification cases didn’t count towards the half a million.

    Whatever the limited-right-of-return demand is, it seems to be a litmus test on the Palestinian side. They won’t sign a peace treaty without it.

    Hence the Palestinians are rejecting land-for-peace and demanding limited-right-of-return-plus-land-for-peace. Any realistic analysis of the situation (e.g., one by a “Realistic Dove” should take that into account.

    Land-for-peace won’t be enough.

    “””You shouldn’t get too hung-up over what was agreed to at Taba”””

    The basic outlines are known. The PA demanded that Israel agree to settle 500,000 Palestinian refugee descendants inside of Israel. The PA demanded limited-right-of-return-plus-land-for-peace, and rejected land-for-peace.

    Does Ben-Ami dispute that? Not to my knowledge. Beilin was in charge of the refugee issues committee, and he said that the PA demanded entry to Israel for 500,000 Palestinians.

  51. “””“””You shouldn’t get too hung-up over what was agreed to at Taba””””

    I just noticed a bigger problem with the above statement. There was no agreement at Taba. The two sides failed to reach agreement on Land, Temple Mount and Return.

    Pursuant to a statement agreed by both sides at the start of the talks, if the Taba or Camp David talks failed to produce an agreement then no statements made by either side during the talks would be binding.

    Therefore, I don’t think that anyone, particularly me, can be hung up on what was agreed to at Taba, because nothing was agreed to.

    It is, however, appropriate to do some post-mortems on what went wrong. One thing that went wrong is that PM Barak, at least, was offering land-for-peace, and the PA was demanding limited-right-of-return-plus-land-for-peace.

    Those who are wise will learn from the past and at least be aware of the danger that it could repeat itself in any future negotiations.

    Those who are even wiser will urge the Palestinians to accept land-for-peace, and not keep on fighting in order to force Israel to settle Palestinians inside of the Green Line.

  52. I think they might accept that if every vestige of Israeli presence is removed from the Palestinian side of the green line.

    Not my first choice. I would favor acceptance of minorities within each.

  53. “””I think they might accept that if every vestige of Israeli presence is removed from the Palestinian side of the green line.”””

    Such acceptance of land-for-peace, if it occurred, would be a real step forward, and would help make a peace agreement possible.

  54. So, argue for that clearly and conspicuously, so the rest of the world isn’t confused into thinking that you’re most interested in obstructing land for peace, in the name of seeking it.

  55. OK. clearly and conspicuously.

    The following activities obstruct land-for-peace:

    (1) Rejecting land-for-peace;

    (2) Threatening to keep fighting in order to force Israel to agree to settle Palestinian refugee descendants in Israel.

    (3) Demanding right-of-return-plus-land-for-peace instead of land-for-peace as the litmus test of any agreement.

    It is immoral for violent believers in right-of-return-plus-land-for-peace to engage in the above activities.

  56. Those are criticisms of others, NOT clear and conspicuous advocacy yourself.

    Do you know the difference?

  57. I think your post 63 is wrong frankly, anyway.

    It is in no-way a contradiction for Palestinians to have multiple objectives, even within a primarily “land for peace” negotiation.

    Israel pursues multiple objectives obviously, and rationalizes quite a lot of land-grabbing as consistent with the peace process.

    Do you ADVOCATE for the green line as border?

    Clearly and conspicuously.

  58. As you say, the Palestinian side has at least two objectives. One objective is for settlement of Palestinian refugees inside of Israel. Another Palestinian objective is for land.

    Which objective, Land or Return, is primary? It doesn’t matter as long as the Palestinian side is demanding BOTH and refusing a peace treaty which only achieves one.

    The PA position at Taba was that it would only sign a peace agreement which provided for limited-right-of-return-plus-land-for-peace. It did not accept land-for-peace.

  59. Jonathan,
    I should have written, “what was proposed at Taba…”

    I wasn’t aware that Beilin acknowledged a Pal. demand for a return of .5 million refugees. In his memoirs he only states that they were close to agreement, made significant progress, etc. This is why I find Ben-Ami’s brief remarks on Taba to be more credible.

    But Israeli governments that refuse to remove unauthorized outposts, as called for under the Roadmap, let alone official settlements, also don’t exhibit much willingness to implement land for peace. Land for peace is a slogan that is more fitting of Israel’s relations with the neighboring Arab states than with the Pals. The Egyptian track, Syrian track, and Jordanian track were basically focused on the modalities of Israeli return of territory and security measures. The Pal track is much more complex.

  60. Jonathon,
    The question was about what you advocate for, not what the Palestinians do or don’t.

    Please don’t be evasive.

  61. I advocate for the Israelis, the Palestinians and the Americans to support land-for-peace, which probably won’t involve a complete return to the Green Lines.

    I also advocate that peacemakers oppose efforts by violent supporters of limited-right-of-return-plus-land-for-peace to derail land-for-peace by making extraneous demands to settle Palestinians inside of Israel.

  62. Akiva Eldar cited the 500,000 figure in the 5/31/01 Haaretz. However, the Beilin himself has also cited it:

    According to Eldar:

    “””A Palestinian source involved in the refugee negotiations relates that what concerns them is that not enough candidates will be found to fill the agreed-upon immigration quota. For that reason, says the Palestinian official, no importance should be placed on the numbers bandied about on the last day of the talks. [Israeli negotiator Yossi Beilin spoke of 40,000 in five years, while his Palestinian counterpart responded with 500,000 – A.E.]”””

  63. In future negotiations the PA would demand limited-right-of-return-plus-land-for-peace, the Israelis would offer land-for-peace, and the negotiations would fail.

    The concern is that the Palestinian side would then keep fighting in order to force Israel to settle Palestinian refugee descendants in Israel.

  64. It wasn’t clear to me.

    If the answer is yes, that is the only thing that you are concerned about, then please confirm that.

    I want to be sure that I’m understanding you accurately.

  65. If that is your primary concern, then I would think that considering with an entirely open mind, what would accomplish that fighting to actually cease, would the question of the day.

    Its not now.

    The fighting is continuing, and the idiots (Iran, militant Sunni Islamicists, etc.) have cover to continue it, gaining credibility on the ground.

    All at a time, when they could just be quickly made irrelevant to internal Lebanese and Palestinian political struggles, as there would be none.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.