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Israeli experts to U.S.: Come up with a regional plan, ASAP

It’s conventional wisdom that due to the divided Palestinian polity and the lack of bold Israeli leadership and political will, not much can be done to advance a two-state solution, at least not in the foreseeable future. A panel of Israelis organized by Israel Policy Forum begs to differ. In a new policy paper, they assert that, on the contrary:

The current vacuum of leadership in this region provides President Obama with an opportunity to lead the Middle East toward greater moderation than in the past and enhanced prospects for accommodative efforts. A viable U.S. strategy based on a comprehensive regional vision and a two-state solution should be presented shortly after the new Israeli government is concretized.

There is much to be mulled over in this paper. Some of the people who signed it are former senior level Israeli officials (although there are no surprises on this list; they were all advocates of –or participants in– the Oslo process). The most important message is that some serious Israelis are asking Obama and his team to push hard, and to push quickly. The obvious implication is that this push should come regardless of the make-up of the Israeli government, and regardless of Palestinian divisions.

Indeed, in a conference call organized by IPF to discuss the paper, Colette Avital said, “It is important to have a plan and make it policy as soon as possible. Do it now!”

I don’t want to dumb this paper down by providing just a few excerpts. Here is a rather lengthy summary, plucked from the IPF web site:

Proposal for US Engagement Following Israeli Elections
February 25, 2009A Policy Paper of the IPF Israel Roundtable

The first visit to the region by newly appointed US special envoy George Mitchell at the end of January was a strong indication of the determination with which the Obama Administration plans to deal with the Middle East. Termed a “listening trip”, Mitchell undoubtedly heard a great deal of opinion on how best to move forward in resolving the enduring bi-lateral and regional conflicts that will occupy his time in office. With a long agenda that includes continuing tensions and reconstruction in Gaza, Hamas-Fatah reconciliation, Syria, Hezbollah, Iranian influence, the role of moderate Arab states and the future of the two-state solution, Mitchell’s portfolio is full.

The formation of a new Israeli government adds a critical element and new interlocutors to the mix. But given the convoluted results of the Israeli election, as the new government is being formed, many Israelis will be looking closely at the new messages carried by Senator Mitchell and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on their trips to the area in the coming days.

During Senator Mitchell’s first trip, a group of Israeli experts composed of academics and former diplomats and generals, brought together in a roundtable discussion by Israel Policy Forum, offered the US President their thinking. It is unusual for such a group to offer Americans advice in this type of forum, but they concluded that the challenges are great enough and the opportunities of a new and very promising American presidency sufficiently tempting, that these are the appropriate suggestions for the moment at hand. In this light, the group advocates that the new government in Israel continue the policies toward accommodation with Israel’s neighbors that was pursued by the Olmert government.

A brief summary of the results of these discussions is contained below.


It is critical that the American approach be regional and take into account the need to strengthen pragmatic Arab states and the Arab Peace Initiative, and further encourage their engagement in the peace process. At the same time, Iran must be addressed as a central component of the conflict.

There is a strong need to provide external support to those leaders in the region who are prepared to advance the peace process, in order to help them meet domestic considerations. It is therefore critical that the new president, with the hope that he inspires and the immense credit he currently has, show the way. This is not only necessary because of the propensity for leaders in this region to make wrong decisions and miss concrete opportunities, but because involvement in the peace process is in the U.S. national interest.

Effective leadership requires that a U.S. plan or vision be placed on the table. There is no need to dispose of earlier initiatives such as the Clinton Parameters, the negotiations that followed the Annapolis process (i.e. the Olmert-Abu Mazen draft agreement and the Livni-Abu Ala process), or the Arab Peace Initiative, but it is essential to go beyond what has been done by including a regional perspective and a clear vision for the end game including the tough issues of Jerusalem, refugees and borders. The imperative of a U.S. vision is such that it need not wait for an agreement of Israeli or Palestinian leaders; it must reflect the comprehensive thinking of the new administration on a final resolution of the conflict.


Key to this vision should of course be the urgency of a two-state solution. Recognizing that Hamas is a factor that cannot be ignored, and that the current PA is weakened, the majority of the group recommended the creation of a new paradigm that promotes Palestinian unity. They argued that any hope of achieving a two-state solution requires that both Gaza and the West Bank be party to it. Both the US and Israel will be able to deal with a Palestinian national unity government without engaging Hamas directly nor excluding it.

But the idea of a national unity government of the Palestinians encouraged by Americans and Israelis is more controversial within this group than the idea of an American initiative. No one objected strongly to a U.S. Plan, but the majority view of encouraging a national unity government was received by strong skepticism among a minority of the group.

It was acknowledged by all that while Israel currently conducts indirect discussions with Hamas vis-à-vis the ceasefire, border passages and Gilad Shalit, the overall goal continues to be the enhancement of the PA as the best option for Palestinian leadership. But several members, though a minority, argued that a PA-Hamas deal might empower Hamas and further weaken the PA. They claimed that unity would not enhance the chances for moving toward a two-state solution. Under present circumstances, a Palestinian unity government would lead to new Palestinian elections (constitutionally mandated within the year) that Hamas would win, which they believed would be a negative result for everyone.

The majority believe that it is impossible to ignore Hamas at this point, and therefore some formula must be found for dealing with both the P.A. and Hamas together. This group also argued that the idea of the creation of a Palestinian unity government would enable the moderate powers in the Middle East to play a positive role along with the US in solving this conflict, as well as other disputes in the region.


SYRIA. An American endorsement of a Syrian-Israeli dialogue can encourage new regional alignment whereby Syria moves away from the Iranian axis and toward the moderate Arab coalition. Given that prospects for an agreement with Syria seem more likely in the short-term than with the Palestinians, active American engagement can contribute to early success on this track and add momentum to the resolution of other outstanding conflicts in the region.

GAZA. Toward the Palestinians, Gaza must be Washington’s first priority, working to ensure a serious and lasting ceasefire and participating in the rebuilding process. It will be important for the U.S. to lead an aggressive reconstruction campaign by Western democracies that will outpace Iranian support. U.S. and international assistance should be conditioned on P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas controlling the funds, thereby enhancing the stature of the P.A. as responsible for the rehabilitation of Gaza, while precluding accusations of Israeli collaboration. The Saudi offer of one billion dollars in aid to Gaza underscores the importance of this arena, and their readiness to take on Iran in the race for influence there. But while all these efforts proceed, the economic boycott of the Gaza Strip should be reconsidered; the question of to what extent it strengthened Hamas should be examined.

THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN PEACE PROCESS. In order to gain critical public support for the peace process both Israelis and Palestinians will need to know that the U.S. is serious about promoting peace and is committed to meaningful measures and timely implementation. The Obama team will need to consider the priorities of each stakeholder in order to raise the level of trust in the process and in U.S. leadership. Key factors for Palestinians are settlements and borders; for Israelis, refugees and security; for both, Jerusalem. Within the context of a balanced American vision, both carrots and sticks should be used to show viability and demonstrate credibility with immediate results.

US STEPS TO TAKE TOWARD ISRAELIS AND PALESTINIANS. To seriously engage Palestinian support, Americans will have to enhance the economy of the West Bank and offer hope through a political vision. The U.S. will need to be firm on demanding Israeli adherence to removing outposts, freezing settlements and reducing checkpoints. But American support for a settlement compensation package for settlers who voluntarily leave the territories can provide an incentive. U.S. government assistance can come through funds that have been withheld from Israel due to past settlement expansion.

ISRAEL AND THE REGION. A broad regional approach that engages Egypt and Saudi Arabia and moves the process beyond bilateral agreements would be seen as beneficial by Israelis, coupled with concerted Egyptian, U.S. and international efforts to stop the smuggling of arms from Iran into areas that threaten Israel. At the same time, Israel’s fundamental concerns must be taken into account. Israel, after all, has a strong interest in a stable Iraq that can fend off undue Iranian influence, and therefore will want to discuss the US withdrawal with the Obama administration. Of course, the basic issue of Iran and the continued flow of arms to terrorists must be addressed through political and security commitments that will secure Israel’s place in the region.

IRAN. The Israeli government is focused on Teheran. For the last three years Israel has been forced to confront Iran by proxy through Hezbollah and Hamas. Therefore, it is important for the U.S. to address this central Israeli concern in a serious and determined way within a defined time frame and within the Palestinian-Israeli and Syrian-Israeli contexts, as part of a broad regional plan, and as a component of an Iranian-U.S. dialogue. Relevant U.S. security arrangements that strengthen Israel vis-à-vis the

Iranian threat will be viewed positively by any Israeli government and will help assuage Israeli fears.


The current vacuum of leadership in this region provides President Obama with an opportunity to lead the Middle East toward greater moderation than in the past and enhanced prospects for accommodative efforts. A viable U.S. strategy based on a comprehensive regional vision and a two-state solution should be presented shortly after the new Israeli government is concretized. In an effort to reinforce Abu Mazen, provide better economic and political conditions for the Palestinians in the West Bank, and underscore the poor existence that Hamas has imposed on Gaza, real change on the ground is needed. The US should present new policies that challenge all players, states and non-states, to change their current conduct. A new American engagement in Syrian-Israeli talks is an example of the changes that are necessary. At the very least, the parties must be convinced that the hopelessness of the present can be converted into a realistic chance for practical solutions.


Yossi Alpher
Ambassador Colette Avital
Major General (Ret.) Ami Ayalon
Brigadier General (Ret.) Shlomo Brom
Roberta Fahn Schoffman
Major General (Ret.) Shlomo Gazit
Prof. Galia Golan
Prof. Tamar Herman
Koby Huberman
Ambassador Alon Liel
Eti Livni
Dr. Bruce Maddy-Weitzman
Prof. Gabriel Motzkin
Brigadier General (Ret.) Israela Oron
Orni Petrushka
Ambassador Alon Pinkas
Dr. Ron Pundak
Ambassador Shimon Shamir


47 thoughts on “Israeli experts to U.S.: Come up with a regional plan, ASAP

  1. Here, apparently unwittingly, the “pro-peace progressives” show their total incomprehension of how the Arabs really view the so-called “peace process”
    US STEPS TO TAKE TOWARD ISRAELIS AND PALESTINIANS. To seriously engage Palestinian support, Americans will have to enhance the economy of the West Bank and offer hope through a political vision. The U.S. will need to be firm on demanding Israeli adherence to removing outposts, freezing settlements and reducing checkpoints. But American support for a settlement compensation package for settlers who voluntarily leave the territories can provide an incentive. U.S. government assistance can come through funds that have been withheld from Israel due to past settlement expansion.


    Here, I have a suggestion for a minor modification: instead of the US “incentive” for “(Jewish) settlers” to leave the territories, why don’t we pay to have the Arabs leave instead? Then there won’t be any need for a “Palestinian state”. Of course, that is “ridiculous”, unthinkable. This is because, deep down, the Arabs IN ADDITION TO MANY JEWS view the Jewish presence in the country as essentially an abberation, a temporary annoyance created by the Holocaust, which is now many decades in the past. Removing hundreds of thousands of Jews from their homes is NOT considered “unthinkable”….here we see Israelis trying to get the US to finance such a thing. So we see even people from the Israeli “Establishment” viewing the Jewish presence in the country as something ultimately reversible.
    After all, if Arab pressure brings Jews to leave Judea/Samaria, maybe a little more pressure (e.g. an Iranian A-bomb and a missile to deliver it) will then get the Jews to leave Tel Aviv as well. Former Israeli Cabinet Minister Efraim Sneh already raised that possibility.

    I look at the names on the list of people behind these proposals. They are the “usual suspects” whose policies have since the time of the Oslo fiasco in 1993 from one war to another, unprecendented hate, bloodshed and the delegitimization of Israel around the world, all of which are the direct consequences of the phony “peace process” these people brought to Israel.
    In the 1992 elections which brought the “peace gov’t” of Rabin and Peres to power and whom subsequently brought Arafat to Israel to carry out his plan for murder and mayhem, the two main “Zionist” Left parties, Labor and MERETZ had 56 seats in the Knesset between them. Today, 3 major wars and hundreds of terrorist attacks later and with over 1200 Israelis murdered and thousands more wounded, as a result of what Rabin and Peres did, in the recent elections, these same two parties received 16 seats….This is a decisive rejection of these people who brought this disaster on Israel by the people of Israel. I think it is the height of irresponsiblity for these same people (like those on this list above) who have proven to be wrong over and over to keep proposing the same policies that have been proven to be such a disaster. It is time for new thinking and new leadership.

  2. You are wrong, Y Ben David, the pressure you are talking about is not the same as the pressure from Iranian hypothetical A-Bomb or whatever, but a pressure to comply with international law. If Israel is worried about saving face while acceding to the Palestinian demands so that it doesn’t look like “surrender to terror” (as it indeed should be) it has plenty of ways to do so. Just as pragmatics in Hamas may try to find a way to reconcile with Israel’s existence without loosing face by proposing long terms hudnas and such.

  3. Y Ben David,

    The Oslo process was a calculated risk, It didn’t work. It was a risk worth taking. To blame the tragedies since 1992 on Rabin and the people who advocated Oslo is narrowminded and shortsighted.

    I count two major wars, one in Lebanon and one in Gaza. Which was the third one? The Iraq war? That doesn’t count…Or do you count that second intifadeh as a “war?” If so, you might recall that there was also a first intifadeh, which happened without Oslo. Are you confident that the violence and bloodshed would not have been even worse without Oslo? If so, on what do you base that confidence? Had there been no peace process, Hizbollah probably would have gotten even more support not only from the Lebanese people but also from the entire Arab world…

    The Oslo process failed for a great many reasons. One of the msot important was Israel’s adamant refusal to stop the settlement expansion (and the sewage lines, and the bypass roads) which convinced Palestinians that it was the Israelis who were not serious about peace. Why can’t you admit that?

  4. Teddy,
    Yes, I count the suicide bomber war that started in 2000. It started at a time when “peace talks” where at a fever pitch, NOT at a time of “a freeze”. Barak was offering to get rid of the settlements when that war started. Yes, there was a “first intifada” before Oslo, but isn’t a “peace process” supposed to stop wars? Oslo has ignited more violence than anyone (except that those of us who knew then it would fail)could have imagined.

  5. Y. Ben-David,
    The reason that removing Jewish settlers is not unthinkable but removing Arab residents is is that the former are there contrary to international law, namely the Geneva Convention of 1949. Even the most generous interpretation prohibits settlement when it involves the confiscation of land of the original inhabitants. Peace Now research has established that some 40 percent of settlements in area are on Arab land illegally. This illegal settlement serves to inflame the local population, erode support for the peace process, and increase international support for terrorism around the world.

    And in Oct. 2000 the peace process was not at “fever pitch” unless you mean by that that it was sick. There were very few meetings between Pal and Israeli negotiators between July 2000 and the Taba negotiations in late Jan 2001.

    The fact that so many Arab countries established trade relations with Israel after the beginning of the Oslo process demonstrates that most Arab governments had finally realized that Israel was a fact that was not going to go away anytime soon. Look at all the Arab dignataries who attended Rabin’s funeral. Who would have believed that only a few years previously?

  6. Dan,
    Based on the composition of the new Isr. government and the lack of Pal unity, Washington will soon have to prioritize one track of the peace process over the other. I believe that will be the Syrian track. There was an interesting piece in this Fri’s Ha’Aretz arguing for an interim agreement on the Golan similar to the 1975 Egyptian-Israeli agreement based on territory for a Syrian declaration of non-belligerency. This way Damascus would not have to normalize relations with Israel and Jerusalem would not have to withdraw from the entire Golan but only from the Druze villages and maybe a settlement or two. I thought along the same lines myself back in 1992-93 when Clinton first came to power.

    I predict that Washington will be busy with merely managing the Isr-Pal conflict.

  7. Thomas-
    The settlements are not illegal. Yes, there are people that say they are, but plenty, including those who count in Israel who say they are not. You are aware that Jews lived in Judea/Samaria prior to 1948. Also you should be aware that reports by “Peace Now” are NOT the last word on a matter.

    In October 2000, the offer made by Barak at Camp David was on the table, as you yourself point out, the negotiations continued after that from the point they left off. Arafat decided he wanted a war, regardless of what Israel offered. Also, recall that the first big wave of terrorist attacks occurred right from the beginning of Oslo, when it was too soon for the Palestinians to have “lost confidence” in the “peace process”.
    Terrorism is NOT a result of “frustration with the lack of progress”, it is part and parcel of the Palestinians political strategy…..negotiations accompanied by violence in order to keep up the pressure. The IRA in Northern Ireland called this same tactic “a rifle in one hand and a ballot box in the other”. This tactic is STILL the ones the Palestinians are using, and by this I mean the official Palestinian Authority of FATAH.

  8. All title questions should be determined by a color-blind court. Some of the land that settlements are on, have pre-existing Jewish ownership.

    What percentage of the total is that, 15%? The remainder was taken by some element of force, imprinted into law.

    But, the title on land that is taken by force and law that conflicts with normal transfers of title, will remain contested, not consented.

    To even think of removing Palestinians from their residence in the West Bank is in the fascist set.

    The intransigence of the settler movement and its advocates suggests to me that the best option is to ignore them, to transfer the sovereignty of the land to Palestine, offer voluntary transfer assistance to return them to Israel (right of return), and then let the settlers that choose to remain to live as law-abiding Palestinian citizens in spiritual Israel, but not sovereign Israel.

    The important transition is of the nature of title from coerced to consented, on each acre.

    The era of untitled or ambiguously titled land, occupied by residence, is over, over for Jews, over for Palestinians.

    The description of the prospect of US leadership of transitions from rock to rock eventually crossing the river, is helpful. There are some large jumps though.

    It does seem that the Syria route is a prospective one, if Israel/Syria can make a very large jump that establishes a great deal of trade between their two economies, that Syria would be very reluctant to later sever for whatever rhetorical reasons.

    Y Ben David seems to consider Israel an island in the middle east, which is very unlikely to achieve actual acceptance in the middle east by the prescription of continued gradual annexation or permanent subordination for non-voting West Bank residents. The fifty-year plan will likely not result in peace.

    After the world is dependant on Persian Gulf oil, it will still be dependant on Persian Gulf solar electricity.

    Thats in fifty years.

  9. Richard-
    The “gripe” of the Arab/Muslim world against Israel is not that the Israeli Arabs have to live as a minority without full ethnic rights, nor is it that the Palestinians in Judea/Samaria don’t have a full “vote” in a sovereign state (do the citizens of Saudi Arabia have a vote in a sovereign state?). The problem is that the existence of a dhimmi Jewish state within any bordersis an intolerable humiliation to the Arab world and an insult to Islam. This is the core of the conflict.

  10. “Also, recall that the first big wave of terrorist attacks occurred right from the beginning of Oslo, when it was too soon for the Palestinians to have “lost confidence” in the “peace process”. Terrorism is NOT a result of “frustration with the lack of progress”, it is part and parcel of the Palestinians political strategy…..negotiations accompanied by violence in order to keep up the pressure.Also, recall that the first big wave of terrorist attacks occurred right from the beginning of Oslo, when it was too soon for the Palestinians to have “lost confidence” in the “peace process”.
    Terrorism is NOT a result of “frustration with the lack of progress”, it is part and parcel of the Palestinians political strategy…..negotiations accompanied by violence in order to keep up the pressure. This tactic is STILL the ones the Palestinians are using, and by this I mean the official Palestinian Authority of FATAH.”

    The terrorist attacks in the 1990s were mainly by Hamas. On what basis are you saying those attacks were part of Fatah’s “strategy?” First of all, from what I have read, one of the principal motivations for the bus and mall bombings in 1995 and 1996 was revenge for the killing of the “Engineer” by the Shin Bet. They were also part of a fierce rivalry for power and attention between Fatah and Hamas. Now, Arafat clearly could have done much more to root out the terrorists infrastructure in his midst. He should not have given them a yellow light, if that is what he gave them. But within Fatah and the Palestinian camp were many moderates –some at high levels– who were deeply furious and frustrated at Hamas’ ability to screw things up throughtout the Oslo process. Violence was most certainly not part of THEIR strategy. It is those moderates that must be strengthened, which is what the U.S. is trying to do now (see today’s NY Times). Or do you think those relative moderates in Fatah are playing some kind of elaborate trick, and that they, too, sanction violence by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and terror cells that have roots in Fatah? Is that one of their “tactics?”

  11. Yitzhak,
    Since you mentioned NI, I’ll acquaint you with the facts. The quote is actually “with an armalite in one hand and a ballot box in the other.” This was eventually abandoned in the mid-1990s when the political wing of the Republican Movement was able to convince the military wing that a continuation of the terrorist armed struggle jeopardized recovering anything from The Troubles. The IRA was forced to settle for an updated version of the power sharing that was first offered in 1973-74 and that the IRA then opposed. The unionists also then rejected power sharing, with the leader of the main unionist party, the UUP, having to resign from the Assembly and lead a rump group of his party into a power sharing government. This is why SDLP Deputy Leader Seamus Mallon referred to the Good Friday Agreement as “Sunningdale (the 1973 deal) for slow learners.” The NI equivalent of you and your colleagues, the DUP, opposed any power sharing with the Republicans, giving them no incentive to end their terrorist struggle. Fortunately, the UUP supported power sharing and signed the GFA. After fighting for several years to get the IRA to disarm as called for in the GFA, the IRA disarmed in 2005. But it was too late for the UUP and the DUP reaped the benefits in 2007.

    Muslims are not a monolithic bloc anymore than Jews or Christians are. Those that are the most disposed psychologically to find grievances will do so. But those who can earn a decent living, don’t have settlers dispossessing them, and are left in peace will generally get on with their lives. The whole basis of counterinsurgency theory is dealing with the economic and social grievances of a particular group while thwarting their use of violence. By the way, how many Muslims today get upset over the fact that Spain and Portugal and southern France are no longer ruled by Muslims? Arabs talk of the Crusaders as temporary, but the Crusaders lasted for two centuries partly because they managed to make deals with local Saracen rulers and trampled on Saracen peasants as little as possible after the initial conquest.

  12. Thomas,

    I am sure the vast majority of Germans during the Nazi regime simply wanted quiet lives and were not interested in starting a world war for Lebensraum. I am sure most Iraqis during the regime of Saddam Hussein were not interested in getting dragged into wars with Iran, the US and other countries. I am sure most people in the USSR were not interested in ongoing mass purges during the time of Stalin. People are people. But the problem is that it is the regime in power that dictates the policy, not public opinion polls. To this day, the FATAH-controlled Palestinian Authority keeps their people mobilized withe endless propaganda about the nefarious nature of the Jews and how all of Israel is illegitimate and temporary. I repeat, this propaganda is spread in their official state-run media TODAY, during the “Annapolis Process”. They do not talk about peace with Israel.

    Teddy-The relationship between HAMAS and FATAH is a complex one. Arafat needed HAMAS in order to be able to allow terrorist attacks against Israel while claiming that he wasn’t involved in them in order to keep the foreign money flowing into his pocket. This was the situation in the first couple of years of Oslo. There was a well-publicized meeting between HAMAS and FATAH people in Cairo at the end of 1994 (just after Rabin’s assassination) and it was made clear that Arafat was giving the go-ahead for a series of suicide bombings which occurred over the next few months. Benny Begin on the floor of the Knesset challenged then Prime Minister Peres with this information which he claimed not to know about, but it was discussed openly in the media. Clinton became enraged at Arafat because he was afraid that Peres would lose the upcoming elections as a result of the terrorism, which indeed happened. Arafat, at that point, did crack down on HAMAS. Another factor was the Arafat needed quiet for him to be able to anchor his new regime in the Palestinian territories. However, he also then built-up the “Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade” as part of FATAH in order to be able to have FATAH get credit for the suicide bombings which thrilled Palestinian society. IIRC, most of the suicide bombings carried out in the violence starting in 2000 were not by HAMAS but by the Al-Aqsa gang.

  13. Thomas-
    Regarding Andalusia (Spain), Muslim preachers refer to it all the time. I have seen film clips of them talking about the restoration of Spain to Islam. Of course, this is not meant in an immediate sense, coming out of military conquest, but rather by the large Muslim immigration to Spain and other places in Europe combined with the rapid decline of Christianity in those same places. You and I may think this seems rather far-fetched, but many Muslim apparently take this things seriously. This is why there are plans in Europe to build huge mosques in Europe (Rome, Cologne and London come to mind) to show that Islam is going eventually take over there.

  14. Y Ben David:

    Teddy’s point was not focused on Arafat. Whatever his motives and actions might have been, there were and are moderates in Fatah whose goals for a two-state solution have consistently been thwarted by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and yes, the Al Aqsa martyrs. So, the question remains, are the PA security officials General Dayton is working with secretly “terrorists,” even if they are arresting or facilitating the arrest of terrorists? Is Abu Mazen secretly encouraging terror? Salam Fayed? You are relying on a very narrow view of Palestinian leadership in order to make the generalizations you want to make.

  15. “I repeat, this propaganda is spread in their official state-run media TODAY, during the “Annapolis Process”. They do not talk about peace with Israel.”

    In this regard, you are either ignorant or lying.

    Abbas: Unity depends on Hamas recognizing Israel
    By Haaretz Service, Army Radio and the Associated Press
    Tags: Gaza, Hamas, Israel News

    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday any unity government
    with Hamas would have to agree to a two-state solution with Israel, a demand quickly rejected by his Islamist rivals.

  16. Richard,

    No, I am not lying. I would appreciate it if you would refrain from using that term, I am tired of hearing it from people like Richard Silverstein, MJ Rosenberg and other “progressives”. One can be make mistakes, one can be incorrect, that does not mean they are “lying” which I interpret as a wilful misrepresentation of the facts.

    You must not confuse statements made to the Western Media to those made to their own people. Yes, the official party line of the Palestinian Authority is that they support the so-called “2-state solution”. They have to say they support it because Western money flowing into their pockets is conditioned on expressing support for it. However, no “2-state solution” has actually been agreed to at this point, and as far I am know, none will be agreed to in the future. I recently saw a presentation of Palestinian Authority propganda by Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch and it is full of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel propaganda. They do not speak of the “2-states” living in peace with one and other. They totally delegitimize Israel.

  17. YBD,
    I don’t think you are lying, but I think you have an extremely one-sided view of the conflict that prevents you from seeing things in light different from the one that supports your pre-existing position. Maybe it has to do with you getting most of your info from partisan sources like the Palestinians Media Watch, maybe it is just opportunistic, I don’t know.
    We all, of course, have positions and tend to get info from sources we agree with. Each of us has to be honest in his or her attempts to form a position so that our prejudices don’t prevent us from seeing things as they really are instead of as they are portrayed by propagandists. There is no fool-proof recipe for doing that, rather, each has to try to see through the spin and propaganda as much as one can (as one senator once said referring to pornography: “I know it when I see it”.)
    Here, for example, you refer to PMW and Itamar Marcus, who is a settler. Their objectivity is suspect from the start and I would suggest you read this post from Lawrence of Cyberia and judge for yourself.
    On the in-depth reasons to the failure of the Oslo process I can recommend Kimmerling’s and Migdal’s “The Palestinian People” that I just finished reading. The late Baruch Kimmerling is a well respected figure even among right-wingers in Israel and a Zionist. Here is a short passage:

    The structure of the Oslo agreement with its imbalance of power between the the negotiating partners, the frontloading of benefits for Israel and backloading for Palestinians, inadvertently cut the legs out from beneath the continuing Oslo process. It eroded the backing of the public that the process needed in order to succeed, and it opened the door for the religitimization of violence as a tool for Palestinians to achieve their goals.

  18. Yitzhak,
    Propaganda is much more effective if it is in line with the reality that people are experiencing. Palestinians saw for themselves that settlements actually increased–including the rate of settlement–during the Oslo process. This meant land confiscation. And the security measures implemented to protect the settlers meant that Pal peasants were actually worse off, as were Pals who needed to commute to work from one town to another through Israeli checkpoints. The Islamists exploited these weaknesses. If the settlers weren’t on the West Bank it would have been much easier to have implemented Oslo. Sure Arafat was opportunistic, corrupt, and dishonest. But he was followed by figures who were less corrupt, more principled, and more honest. But the settlers have a vested interest in them failing. This then allows them to repeat their mantra of “ein breira” and “The Arabs just want to throw us into the sea.”

    So if Muslims build mosques in European cities that proves that they are planning to take them over? So the Jews must have been planning on taking over all of Eastern Europe, France, and Britain. You are basically just putting a new twist on an old anti-Semitic canard. You are a Jewish anti-Semite (the Semites that you create fantastic stories about being Arabs).

  19. I think Abbas has been consistent in his approach for so long that your claims that he is two-faced is ludicrous.

    It is a certainty that he regards the 67 borders as the basis of reconciliation, and that modifications to that can only occur by actual consent. It is a certainty that he regards the sovereignty of Palestine to includes a parallel extent to Israeli sovereignty.

    I am very critical of Hamas, more than critical, if you’ve not read here or elsewhere.

    His publicly describing to Hamas the requirement that they recognize Israel as Israel is sincere, and very courageous and risky. That he insists that Hamas join the world of civil disagreement (rather than terror) as a pre-requisite to participating in a government, is the RIGHT approach.

    Settlers that acquired their land by means that are subject to question are scared. Its a tragedy that they are being urged to more and more strident positions on very questionable interpretations of Torah.

    For clarification is use the term “ignorant OR lying”.

    Peter’s suggestion is that I add “ignorant, brainwashed or lying”.

  20. The guy discredits himself with phrases like “But Sharon also believed that the military pullout from the entire Gaza Strip would convince the Gazans of our goodwill.” while we know Sharon had nothing of the kind in mind.
    Also, take his example of the exit from Lebanon. Does he suggest Israel would be smarter to stay there? If anything could be concluded from both Lebanon and Gaza pull-out fiascos, is that unilateral moves like this have little chances to work. If Israel tried to negotiate both withdrawals under right circumstances the results would have been very different.
    I predict that it won’t take 5 years before Israel is talking to Hamas… I am an optimist 🙂

  21. “The guy discredits himself with phrases like “But Sharon also believed that the military pullout from the entire Gaza Strip would convince the Gazans of our goodwill.” while we know Sharon had nothing of the kind in mind.”

    How do you know what Sharon had in mind?

  22. Going through Lawrence of Cyberia archives, I find more and more pearls, like this one. Y. Ben David, did you do due diligence to ensure your sources on the Palestinians propaganda are not fooling you?

  23. Sharon did not want to control 1.5 million hostile Gazans, or even have the standard of occupier responsibility.

    Is that a bad thing?

  24. Did you read the end of the article, in which Hamas declared that even if Israel left Gaza, they would not stop shelling Israeli civilians?

  25. I was objecting to description of Sharon’s motives as somehow being about “convincing the Gazans of our goodwill”, as this was never the purpose, not even stated.
    The comment was also not about Hamas.

  26. You referred to an article, which included comments about Hamas in its description of Sharon’s motives.

    Leaving Gaza was an expression of goodwill.

    Would you prefer that IDF remained?

    It was a test of how Hamas and Gaza would conduct itself absent Israeli direct presence. A real life test, NOT a perfect conditions test.

  27. As I already said above, I’d prefer the move to be negotiated (both in Gaza and in Lebanon) with the resulting independent mechanisms of arbitration of potential conflicts. Additionally, I’d prefer Israel did not impose blockade on Gaza. You make it sound, on Silverstein’s blog and elsewhere, as if the blockade is some sort of closed border situation as between other countries, while in reality it is much more vicious. Both sea route and Israeli sides are controlled by Israel. The Egypt is also to blame as it imposes its own blockade for its own reasons. But this doesn’t make me feel better anyway about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, not to mention the withholding of basic human right of free movement from the Gaza population.

  28. “Leaving Gaza was an expression of goodwill.”

    It was formaldehyde more than “goodwill”. It was more of a “concession” to the U.S. than it was to Hamas or Gazans. It’s as if just leaving Gaza was going to wipe the slate clean and make people forget that Israel still occupies the West Bank, the Golan, the Sheeba and imposes so tight restrictions on Gaza that Hamas and Gazans in particular were going to have Sharon over for dinner.

    Gee, I wonder if any Gazan or even Israeli official would even surmise this pertaining to Gaza: “…absent Israeli direct presence.” Why controlling borders isn’t “direct presence”?

  29. Controlling borders is NOT direct presence.

    EVERY state exists within borders and must CHOOSE to establish good relations with its neighbors if it wants those borders to be open.

    Hamas is analagous to a teenager that claims, “Its not fair that I can’t have the car. I “need” it.”

    “Did you do what you had to do to earn it?”

    “It doesn’t matter. I need it.”

    “Are there other ways that you could get to where you want to get?”

    And, then the choice of whether to do nothing, find another way of getting his needs met (even to pander to parental power, say by doing some extra chores), or stealing the car.

  30. Richard,
    I’m always amazed whenever I see leftists rejecting some action because it wasn’t done for pure motives. This just shows that they want their own naive views of human motivations and international politics to be reaffirmed. And if they are not, the actions are rejected as being not worthy.

  31. Thomas,
    Not sure whether you referred to anything I said. Anyway, I have no problem with good actions done with bad motives at all (as opposed to good intentions that pave the road to hell). In the case of Gaza pull-out, however, it was really a way to keep the de facto occupation without the settlements (and with collaboration with Egyptians). Even without mentioning destruction of infrastructure and homes and greenhouses that the Palestinians asked to keep, the fact that Israel kept its tight grip on the commerce and freedom of movement etc really debunks the notion of any “good will”.

    Richard, you say “Controlling borders is NOT direct presence.” It is not, and nobody claimed it is. You are completely sidestepping the real issue though. There is a difference between a blockade of an impoverished strip of land like Gaza and maintaining a close border policy between two countries.
    On a human level, it irks and actually infuriates me that Israel did not feel any moral debt to the Gazans. In life it is expected that a person who wrongs another person not only stops doing so, but also compensates for the past wrong and shows some sort of contrivance. Israel did exactly the opposite. I, like you, still have some (however irrational) sympathy to the idea of Jews being “light unto the nations”.

  32. My sense is that Israel hoped beyond measure that Hamas would get to work on building its nation and reject a preference for assaulting Israelis.

    You enable Hamas by not acknowledging that it EFFECTS and is more than just a victim.

    Without question, the people of Gaza are victims. And, it is an enormous dilemma as to how to help the people of Gaza without firming the power of Hamas. An example of their depravity is their armed theft of UN relief goods a couple weeks ago. They later relented, but it was as cynical as a faction can get.

    This week, Hamas rejected ANY wording of a statement relative to co-existing with Israel as a theme of unity Palestinian government.

    They are committed to what they are committed to.

    When they change, they will have changed. It will take a LONG time to garner the trust of either Israel, Egypt, Europe, US. Those that support its militant approach are starting from morally insolvent.

  33. Peter,
    Maybe because I don’t have any expectation that Jews will behave better than other nations in their situation, I don’t feel the need to irrationally condemn them when they do behave as other nations have behaved in similar circumstances.

    I agree with Richard, Hamas may be capable of change, but it will take quite some time. And those who proclaim that they are ready for peace before they are indeed ready are doing no favor to peace.

  34. I assumed those statements.

    There are LARGE flaws of consistency, ethics, and non-conformity with Jewish law in them.

    You fail to distinguish between title and sovereignty.

    Title to land is determined by the consent of the reasonable man test. If an entity did not acquire property by a fair and consented exchange between parties that had the right to enter a fair and consented exchanged, then the title that one presumes is “imperfect”.

    It requires some action, some compensation to become perfected.

    Claiming title to land based on “sentimental attachment” rather than legal chain of consent, IS fascism.

    In all traditions, including Jewish, there is a means of acquiring title to land by residence. Its a concept that supports Jews’ relative and gradually perfected title to land that is unoccupied and they reside on, improve, settle.

    And, it supports historical Palestinian relative and gradually perfected title to land that is formerly unoccupied and they reside on, improve, settle.

    Sovereignty is the description of legal jurisdiction. What specific application of law applies within which jurisdiction? What is the geographic or even social population extent of formal governmental decision-making?

    I get that you want the sentimental affinity to the land to empower Jewish title, but that conflicts with Torah (consider all of the references to patriarchs and Moses buying land from pagans).

    It conflicts with color-blind LAW, which enables ALL to predict legal outcomes and avoid legal conflicts, by abiding by consentable law.

    The sentiments of determination to restore the “at-home” reality of a Jewish people, I personally support. I support it by legal means though, buying land legally, and particularly respecting “the stranger” as instructed by our similarly “sentimental” historical legacy.

    Zionism that regards the land as primary, rather than as land, is a form of idolatry. Its what the prophets fought against, regarding a thing as God. Land is more analagous to food, that could be the object of greed, but also can be the means to support a healthy, thoughtful, prayerful individual and community.

    The land-fetished form of Zionism, forgets that the time-honored preservation of Jewish identity and life, occurred through social and religious definitions of identity RATHER than geographic.

    Frankly, you may be pursuing an evil, rather than a fulfillment.

  35. Y Ben David, you are disappointing. You link to an article as if it had anything new to say or clarify. Do you think any of the regulars here are not already familiar with every word in it?
    One thing to point out is this. The article says:
    “Palestinian state, which would be, of course, terror-based and Judenrein.”
    A telling word is “of course”. Because there is no “of course” here, except for it being a convenient argument-stopper. Who said there couldn’t be a deal worked out for the settlers that refuse to leave to stay under the Palestinian authority with adequate protection provisions? I actually agree that demanding that no Jews stay in the Palestinian state is morally wrong. Let those that will leave for compensation leave (from my experience with settlers, even religious, there are many that would, if push came to shove.) Let those that refuse, live as Palestinians citizens or some other arrangement acceptable on both sides. And, naturally, let those that reside illegally on private Arab land even by Israel lax definition moved out and persecuted as a question of rule of law.

  36. Hey fellas. First, thanks for keeping the thread going while I’ve been out there earning a living.

    Second, Sharon’s motives for the Gaza disengagement are impossible to decipher completely. Surely ridding Israel of the “demographic problem” in one fell swoop and thereby retaining the West Bank without turning into pre-apartheid South Africa was one of them. But he also needed to placate Condi Rice and the Americans who, albeit without making much of an effort, did want to foster tangible progress –as they defined it. And he knew that the muddled middle of the Israeli electorate was sick and tired of sending a truckloads of troops and risking young men’s lives in order to protect a few settlements with no strategic value or religious significance. He thought he could solve several problems at the same time.

  37. Yitzhak,
    When I was an undergrad in Jerusalem I heard a speaker from Gush Emunim speak on campus. He said that if “the call of Eretz Israel isn’t heard by you then I won’t be able to convince you” or words to that effect. Apparently nothing has changed in 30 years–forced to rely on logic and reasoning the movement falls back on ethnic folk appeals and cliches. Sound familiar? Although Gush Emunim may not resemble the Nazis, they resemble the other nationalist movements in Germany at the time whose members readily became Nazi supporters after Hitler outlawed other parties.

  38. Its definitely getting late for a peaceful solution.

    There was an article in American Prospect posted today describing the prospect of a non-violent equal voting rights movement in Palestine/Israel.

    Hamas gives Israel cover to retain its Likud permanent suppression-lite approach. That is that it takes the wind out of any prospective non-violent voting rights movement, that would press the issue of human rights for Palestinian humans.

    I know that the left considers any solidarity with anyone opposing Israeli version of apartheid-like relations in the West Bank and different ones re Gaza as solidarity.

    In fact though, that takes the wind out of any potentially effective real mass sympathy for the Palestinians. When stated in solidarity for terror, it is impossible to become a mass movement, but will remain a fringe movement.

    The liberal left was partially duped frankly relative to South Africa as the ANC and other more radical anti-apartheid parties did actively undertake terror as its means of dissent, which if more widely known would have dissolved the compelling mass anti-apartheid movement.

    As Olmert referred, now is the time to acknowledge that a peer to peer peace agreement is essential for Zionism to exist for more than a decade longer.

  39. Otherwise, US liberal activists will prefer the democratic application (not the current Palestinian nationalist fraud version) of a single-state, post Zionism as they say.

  40. Richard:

    Actually the external ANC did not engage in terror if terrorism is defined as targeting normal civilians. Internal elements associated with the ANC but not directly under its control did engage in terrorism in the townships against those they deemed to be collaborators. Winnie Mandela praised the necklacing (burning alive) of suspected collaborators and for this she was shunned by the official internal wing of the ANC, the United Democratic Front. This lack of terrorism against white targets is one of the reasons that late 20th century South Africa is not really comparable in most ways to Israel.

    Having said this to Richard, let me qualify it. I feel that Sharon’s pullout from Gaza was in many ways largely a reaction to the Geneva Initiative. Sharon was deeply offended by it and felt he had to reply in some way that didn’t endanger longterm Israeli control of the West Bank. I have found analysts who have agreed with this conclusion.

    When the Geneva Initiative was announced I felt that it would have a positive effect even if it was never implemented. This is because it had a parallel in South Africa. In 1986 the Natal Provincial Council, the only one of four provincial councils not controlled by the ruling National Party, facing its own abolishment under a government constitutional reform in June 1986, decided to initiate negotiations with all major and minor players in the KwaZulu/Natal region. KwaZulu was the Zulu homeland that was scattered in over a dozen pieces within the borders of Natal and ruled by Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi, the only homeland leader with his own source of popular political support independent of the ANC. The negotiation lasted from April to Nov 1986 and produced a plan for a partial merger of the two entities. The National Party government rejected the Indaba plan, as it was known after the Zulu word for negotiation, and refused to permit it to be implemented. This led three prominent NP supporters to break ranks and form an independent movement and run as independents in the May 1987 general election. Only one of the three, a sitting MP, was elected but the former ambassador to Britain lost to the minister for constitutional reform by only 37 votes out of over 10,000 cast. The minister did not run for reelection in 1989. The Indaba continued as a shell organization with financing provided by major Natal businesses for polls and other publicity efforts. In Sep 1989 the independents united with the existing Progressive Federal Party to form the Democratic Party. The Democrats won a record no. of seats for any liberal party in South Africa. Six months later President F.W. de Klerk began his major reforms that led to an end to apartheid.

    Unfortunately, because Israel is faced with the corrupt Fatah and the terrorist Islamist Hamas instead of the ANC, things haven’t turned out as well in the Mideast.

  41. I just attended a pro-peace/pro-Israel demonstration in Amherst, MA, led by students from Hampshire College that opposed the recent divestiture petition at Hampshire thats gotten a lot of news.

    I shook hands with David Grossman, former head of AIPAC. I didn’t know of him really at all, or conversed with him, just said hello.

    There was a counter demonstration that was largely restrained, but still quite a few in the group were aggressive, taunting.

    Even as there is a good point to reform within Israel and dissent against settlement expansion and use of contreversial weapons for example, is relevant, the tone of the counter-demonstration was really very ugly.

    A large component was the slogan “Zionism is racism”, I regard as false. In fact, I consider the slogan “Anti-Zionism is racism” to be more true, though there are tensions and confusions inherent in each.

    Most of the speakers articulated peace movement views, pro-Israel, but acknowledging, respecting Palestinian experience and condition and desiring to help.

    Some were more negative. There was an official from CAMERA (which I really didn’t have any personal contact with, never even looking at a website, in spite of the thousands of contemptuous allegations that I and others were somehow “CAMERA”-parrots.

  42. Thomas:
    I feel that Sharon’s pullout from Gaza was in many ways largely a reaction to the Geneva Initiative.

    I wonder how I myself managed to omit this! There are indeed many commentators that say exactly that. Regardless, the point was that the piece that YBD linked to either intentionally or out of ignorance misled the reader and thus discredited itself.

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