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The perils of American incrementalism

The pro-Israel peace camp, my camp, has been content to settle for incremental American diplomacy. We’ve rallied around the Obama team and its call for freezing settlements, for small but friendly policy changes from the Arab states, for “confidence-building” measures. That incremental approach didn’t work in the 1990s, but we are hoping beyond hope that somehow it will work this time, and that this American administration knows what it is doing.

But Jimmy Carter, James Baker, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft want no part of this piecemeal diplomacy. In videotaped interviews with Landrum Bolling that are being promoted and distributed by the Foundation for Middle East Peace, they urge the U.S. to be more ambitious. All of them want the U.S. to find a way to talk to Hamas. Scowcroft and Brzezinski urge the U.S to delineate precisely what the final agreement should look like. “The President needs to step up and say,`This is an American proposal,'” Scowcroft asserts. “Outline the parameters…Change the ballgame.”

Three of these men (not Scowcroft) have been reviled for many years by the Israeli right and its supporters here. That is reason enough to take what they say seriously.

Philip Wilcox, ex-diplomat and President of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, also should be taken seriously. He has been watching incrementalism fail for decades. His group opposes the emphasis on freezing settlements and he favors Evacuation Now, before it’s too late. As his right hand man Geoffrey Aronson writes in the Foundation’s latest newsletter.

As long as the diplomatic focus remains limited to a settlement freeze, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will remain within his comfort zone. Netanyahu would prefer to discuss and debate ad nauseum the finer points of settlement expansion, construction perimeters and the like—a contest Israel has always won—than to address the more fundamental issues of borders, settlement evacuation, security measures, Jerusalem, and refugees, which must be resolved to achieve a two-state solution…

…[There] will be a diplomatic “opportunity cost” if the settlement freeze debate is prolonged, and the issues of borders, settlement evacuation, and Palestinian sovereignty are deferred.

In today’s Haaretz, for similar reasons, Zvi Bar’el also comes down hard on the Obamanauts:

As long as the U.S. administration does not present a comprehensive plan that explains its endgame – what the end will look like and what the shape and character of the Palestinian state will look like – the demand for a cessation of construction is pointless…The demand to freeze settlement construction is like the demand to remove roadblocks or cease razing homes; all these demands and similar ones mean only one thing: making the continuation of the occupation a little more pleasant…

What do these arguments portend for the pro-Israel peace camp in America (J Street, Americans for Peace Now, Ameinu, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, etc)? We have focused on justifying the Obama team’s insistence on steps that, in the grand scheme of things, are actually very small. Some very wise men are telling us that we are wasting a lot of energy, much like the Obama administration. It is time to ponder carefully what they are saying, and to evaluate the wisdom of retaining a blind, hopeful faith in this administration’s Middle East policies, and of reflexively supporting whatever it wants us to support


87 thoughts on “The perils of American incrementalism

  1. So what you’re really saying is: “It’s time to stop coddling the Israelis, and putting up with their excuses about the need to preserve coalition governments. It’s time to stop tolerating their obfuscations, their games. It’s time to tell them to evacuate at least a 100,000 people, for starters.” If that is what you believe, why don’t you have the guts to write it?

  2. I don’t think that Marco’s summary is the 80’s/90’s generals’ ideas, nor Dan’s.

    I actually believe that Obama does have an end game in mind, and it resembles the Geneva Accords, and that that constitutes the political elements of a solution to the social/political issues at play.

    To presume that asking for a settlement freeze absent a next anticipated move is a bit presumptious.

    Bar El is asking Obama to play his cards, specifically. I think that the analysis that Netanyahu is content to nickel and dime on the scope of settlement freeze, is innaccurate.

    I take Obama at his word, that he is committed to a fair peace, that accomplishes realistic and viable sovereignty for Palestine and confident defense for Israel.

    In contrast to Dan’s statements on incrementalism relative to Brezhinski and Scowcroft’s recommendation that Israel address Hamas, I think that doing so will greatly slow the progress of negotiation, and end up nearly solely in incremental quiets.

    I don’t think Israel will willingly navigate the triangulation of PA/Hamas, nor should they. Short of actual Palestinian unification, or clarification of Gazan and West Bank permanent political separation, Israel will likely NOT open up land or sea routes to Gaza.

    It doesn’t matter what actions Code Pink or other dissenters take. Absent future accountability on the Gazan side, a normalized border is impossible.

    What happens when an impossible solution meets a necessary justice? The impossible solution prevails, necessary justice loses.

    The trick is to make what was formerly impossible, possible.

  3. Richard,

    Well, unsurprisingly I disagree with practically everything you just wrote. But one statement, in particular, strikes me as very strange, wishful thinking: “I think that the analysis that Netanyahu is content to nickel and dime on the scope of settlement freeze, is innaccurate.”

    Huh? What would you call what Bibi has been doing for months now, if not nickel and diming? Normally, the FMEP is too tame for my tastes, but the newsletter article Dan referred to is pretty smart. How can you possibly have the slightest bit of faith that Bibi will somehow change spots and agree to stop construction in Ariel, for example? No other Israeli PM did so.

  4. No peace will be completed without getting rid of the structural impediments to it on both sides. Namely:
    1) Israel’s dysfunctional electoral/party system.
    2) Palestinian disunity.
    3) The belief among the Palestinian pol class in the utility of “armed struggle,” which usually comes in the form of terrorism.
    4)The electoral weakness of the Israeli left.
    5) The corruption of the Fatah leadership.

  5. No peace will be completed without getting rid of the structural impediments to it on both sides. Namely:
    1) Israel’s dysfunctional electoral/party system.
    2) Palestinian disunity.
    3) The belief among the Palestinian pol class in the utility of “armed struggle,” which usually comes in the form of terrorism.
    4)The electoral weakness of the Israeli left.
    5) The corruption of the Fatah leadership.

  6. Glad to see some daylight opening up between the “progressives” and the Obama Administration.
    Of course, all this thrashing around for the right formula to make peace and bring about a Palestinian is a waste of time. Maybe Obama really wants a “fair peace” as Richard put it, but this is not what the Palestinians want, and this is not what the Arabs want. They don’t want “peace”, they want a “peace process”. The Palestinians, on the one hand make a demand for all of Jerusalem and reserve the right to resort to terrorism if they don’t like the way things are going, but on the other hand, they have to release ambiguous press releases about how they want “peace” in order to keep the American and EU money flowing in. The Saudis have their “peace plan” which was made in order to deflect American and Western anger against them due to their being the biggest purveyor of antisemitic and anti-Western propaganda which led to 9/11 being carried out largely by Saudi nationals, and, in addition they need American security guarantees against Iranian and other threats, but when asked by Mitchell to make some meaningless “gesture” towards Israel to show that they supposedly really want peace, the turn the Americans down flat (BTW – did you note what Mitchell and Hillary said brushing this rejection off? They said “privately they are telling us the opposite”. You get that ? They are saying “YOU KNOW YOU CAN’T BELIEVE WHAT ARABS SAY..THEY NEVER MEAN WHAT THEY SAY” How is that for ethnic stereotyping….and from “progressives” no less!!)

    I recall a few months ago that veteran “peace industry” people like Malley, Agha and Aaron D Miller were writing that it is not realistic to expect a peace agreement in the near future. I think Obama’s people realize this. Obama really wants the US to takes its place as a leading Islamic nation – recall that Obama claims the US is one of the largest Muslim country – its 4 million ranking right up there with Indonesia’s 100 Million, India’s 100 Million, Pakistan’s 100 Million and Bangladesh’s 100 Million. He does this by making public demands and rebukes against Israel. So my guess is that he agrees with what I wrote here and is trying to make the best out of it.

  7. Tom,
    Why do you think “getting rid of Israel’s dysfunctional electoral system” will make getting peace easier from your point of view.

    Are you claiming that “really” most Israelis would be very glad to give the Arabs what they are demanding but somehow the fact that the “peace-skeptical” Right keeps winning most elections is some sort of fluke that does not truly reflect Israeli public opinion. Sharon destroyed Gush Katif as the head of a Right-wing Likud government with the support of most of the Right-wing Knesset members, in spite of the fact he ran his victorious election campaign saying explicitly that he WOULDN’T do it. What more do you want?
    I think what many “progressives” want is not a more democratic Israel, but an iron-fisted dictator that will ignore what the public wants and will implement the “progressive’s” agenda by force.

  8. Marco,
    The point wasn’t Netanyahu was nickel and diming. He is certainly. He’s a very slimy politician.

    The emphasis in the article by Dan, was that that was the end-game, which I think is an unfounded conclusion.

  9. Yakov,
    You’re engaging in self-talk.

    Test it, rather than just repeat it.

    The Arabs are various. They each have different perspectives, different set of references and upbringing, and different specific concerns.

    All, especially the one’s with borders with Israel, are seeking a contract that they can sign.

    As Israel should be.

    There are many (you for example), that seem to be seeking that no contract be signed. It would be unfair to me to imagine your motivation, but it should get the light of day, so you and others can consider the actual merits of the argument.

    I don’t know if you’ve ever entered a contract with someone that you don’t particularly trust. Its still possible. In this case its necessary, as there are MANY common problems that Arabs and Israel MUST work together to resolve. To allow an attitude of “you can’t trust an Arab” to dominate negotiations, is a great failing.

  10. Richard-
    I give you hard facts. You always reply with nice philosophical discourses. The Arabs, and I mean all of them, in their official internal propaganda, demonize Jews and Israel and make it clear that they never will really make peace with Israel. This is what counts. When the Saudi FM announces publicly, in front of the US Secretary of State that they will make no “peace gestures” and then Mitchell or Clinton say “you know, really, in private, they say the opposite” you have to ask what that means. Do you seriously believe that after a public statement, they can face their people if they turn around and do the opposite? Arafat made it clear when he arrived in 1994 that the Oslo Agreements were a temporary agreement like that which Muhammed made with the Quraysh, and that Arafat would go to war when given the opportunity. He kept his word to his people and he made war. I listen to what they say to their own people. You seem to place undue emphasis on their external propaganda.

  11. I don’t think it was “right wing Jews” who had a problem with Jim Baker. Ed Koch–former mayor of NYC is not exactly right wing.

    In fact, Baker’s “&%%$## the Jews–they don’t vote for us anyway” remark doesn’t seem to be about right wing Jews.

    Nevertheless–interesting 2006 article in JPost about why Baker might be a valuable presence in I/P negotiations.

    JPost article about Baker

  12. Ya’akov,

    The present party system hurts the chances for peace in several ways. First, every time the government is forced to advance a serious peace proposal a coalition member pulls out and the coalition collapses. The sole exception to this was the second Rabin gov’t in 1992-96. Second, the prime minister, particularly a Likud prime minister like Netanyahu or Sharon can use it as an excuse that he can’t do something because his coalition will collapse. Third, the elections and bargaining necessary to form a new coalition after a collapse means that the momentum is drained out of the process. An election reform will not necessarily mean that the Israeli public will want to suddenly withdraw from the West Bank or Jerusalem but it will force the gov’t to become responsible for its own rejectionist positions and when this causes problems in relations with the U.S. there will eventually be electoral consequences in Israel. At present there have been no consequences because as Marco says it is a shell game and has been so since the Rabin-Shamir plan of 1989.

  13. Suzanne-
    The joke going around us “right-wing extremists” now is that Obama says:

    “!$#*#&@~! the Jews, they’ll vote for us anyway!”

  14. BTW–Yaakov

    I’m not getting any vibe whatsoever that Obama wants the US to be the number 1 Islamic nation.

    I don’t know where you get that from…heck he just bombed a jihadi terrorist and his wife to smithereens this week (which I’m sure Phil Weiss is screaming about on his blog lol).

  15. “The present party system hurts the chances for peace in several ways. First, every time the government is forced to advance a serious peace proposal a coalition member pulls out and the coalition collapses.”

    Tom–that’s an interesting point. This gives Israelis less credibility and leverage when they accuse the Palestinians of sabotaging every peace initiative.

  16. “The Arabs, and I mean all of them, in their official internal propaganda, demonize Jews and Israel and make it clear that they never will really make peace with Israel.”

    You know what “all of them” say and think, in Arabic (which you don’t speak). Give me a break.

    I’ve met my 50 that conflict with that. They each have regarded Israel’s policies and behaviors as excessive, largely unnecessary, and suspected that Israelis harbored a land-lust that they hid from their own self-examination.

    The way I know that their comments aren’t just straw, is that they took personal risk to take the positions and actions that they have.

    If those 50 can, you can start.

  17. Richard-
    I am referring to official propaganda put out by their state controlled media, not anecdotal, reasonable Arabs. This is what reflects the views of the regimes in power.

  18. And you read “all” of it, in Arabic, and interpret it in such a way as to distinguish between conditional and unconditional statements, and somehow KNOW what “all” Arabs think?

    I’ve NEVER met anyone that prescient.

    You mean an Arab that I meet face to face is a dismissable “anecdotal” Arab, and not a real person that answers real questions?

    Did you understand my comment about contracting with a business-person that you did not trust in many ways, but is still an agreement, still enforcable, still reliable?

    Sometimes you have to intentionally construct features into an agreement that you wouldn’t with some others, to accomplish that degree of accountability.

    That’s NOT what you are saying.

    Again, please use your skills for actual good, not to rationalize a land lust.

  19. ok…so let’s break it down state by state. What are the positions of different Arab countries towards Israel?

    By the way…I find it ulcer-inducing to forge a contract with an untrustworthy business person. Contract or no contract (God help you if there’s no written agreement…lol)

  20. The Saudis I have a trust problem with. Given what they teach their children in school about Jews. Plus the stranglehold the clerics have on that country.

  21. Egypt I have a better feeling about…perhaps I’m naive. However, the problem there is social unrest and the feeling the place could go up in smoke.

  22. Of direct borders with Israel:

    1. Egypt – Treaty kept for 20+ years
    2. Gaza – State of war, with periods of quiet
    3. Jordan – Treaty kept for 12 years
    4. Palestine – Agreements partially kept, both sides breaking, significant improvements in law enactment, enforcement recently
    5. Syria – Conflict, but no war, safe haven for “resistance” leadership
    6. Lebanon – Ambiguous status as Hezbollah controls southern Lebanon. Lebanon doesn’t. State of quiet with state of Lebanon. Deferred state of war with Hezbollah.

    Compared to 1967, when there was a deferred state of war on ALL of Israel’s borders, with only minor quiet with Jordan on the Negev.

  23. Richard-
    Egypt-20 years of cold war hostility with Israel, virulent antisemitic propaganda, boycott of almost all contacts with Israel, arming of HAMAS and aiding in their takeover of Gaza, then a certain amount of regret about this.

    Jordan-Peaceful border with Israel for decades BEFORE any peace agreement, very low level of contacts since then, antisemitic propaganda at levels of other countries that don’t have “peace agreements”.

    Palestine-recent improvements in economic activity and “law and order” were also seen BEFORE terror war erupted full blast in 2000.
    No real committment to peace-
    See this about Israel’s “peace partner FATAH”:

    Syria-border quiet on Golan since 1974 WITHOUT any “peace agreement”.

  24. Yakov,
    You might not like their intent. (I promise you there is similarly ugly intent stated towards Arabs from Israel, maybe from you personally even).

    But, they have kept their word, and THAT is what business and political agreements, marriage agreements as well, are founded on.

  25. Anon-
    Egypt has violated almost every clause of the peace agreement, except for the security clauses regarding the border and Sinai areas. Of course, this is important, but I keep hearing over and over how “well, its true they have violated the agreement, but there hasn’t been a war since it was signed”. There hasn’t been a war, NOT because of the peace agreement, but simply because the Egyptians didn’t want one. And if Egypt should decide to go to war in the future, the existence of this agreement won’t stop them. Like I said above, there hasn’t been a war with Syria on the Golan border front, either, in the same period, and there is NO peace agreement on this front.

    Egypt carries out a proxy war against Israel using HAMAS the same way that Syria does with HIZBULLAH in Lebanon. War on the cheap. The main idea is that there should be ongoing instability and that Israel should have to invest major resources in fighting these proxy wars.

    And I rather resent your implication that I have “ugly” intent against the Arabs. I live in Israel. Peace is more important to us living here than to all the cheerleaders living on the side.
    My policy is to limit the violence. Oslo and the Gush Katif disaster that Sharon inflicted on Israel led to THREE terrible wars within the space of 8 years in which thousands of Arabs, in addition to something 1500 Israelis were killed. IT IS THE ‘PEACE CAMP’ THAT HAS BROUGHT ALL THE KILLING HERE. The policies I and the “Right” advocate are designed to stop the violence.

  26. That was me, inadvertently anonymous.

    You live in a fantasy (in Israel), to dismiss the change in relations between Egypt and Israel as a result of forming, keeping, and reiterating the importance of that treaty.

    Treaties work because they are constructed well. They represent intent, whether short or long-term. If Palestine’s short-term intent were to reconcile, but current long-term intent were to annex, I’d treaty as a “bird in hand”.

    As far as your “ugly intent”, you EXPRESS it, by using generalizing terms for Arabs. You FAIL to distinguish the varying perspectives and parties involved.

    You don’t seem to have a concept of what “enough” could be constructed of, and then imagine that others universally similarly don’t.

    It ain’t true. As I’ve said, I’ve met my Abrahamic 50 (no Sodom/Gomorroh there if there is a God). If you bothered to make any contact with actual Palestinians, to take any risk at all for what you state that you desire – “peace”, you’d find some common ground and some basis to WORK for reconciliation.

    I don’t see it from you.

    I see you rationalizing over and over for your prior prejudice and rejection. Not trying, yet.

    “The peace camp has brought all the killing here”. That is an utterly lame statement.

    Also, your statement “Egypt has violated almost every clause of the peace agreement” is just an assertion. WHAT clause has it violated, and when, specifically.

    And, please turn the mirror around. What is your assessment of Israel keeping its commitment, item by item, shall we?

    Is that important to you? That Israel be known as keeping its word, or as violating its word?

  27. So I read Oded Yinon’s “strategy for Israel in the 1980s.”

    The only copy of it I could find was a translation by Israel Shahak–whom I don’t want to give any credit to so I won’t post the link. I don’t know if his mental illness was genetic or a result of being a holocaust victim…but whatever.

    Anyway…Yinon raises some valid points that are in sync with where Yaakov is coming from.

    I have to admit…I’m struggling with my own conclusions and stance on I/P because I’m looking for the truth–not what I want the truth to be.

    Anyway…Yinon said the pink elephant in the middle of the floor is the artificiality of Arab states. He gives that as the reason for their perpetual instability: different ethnic groups were thrown together by outside imposition–namely British colonialists–and it’s been an unnatural & contentious union.

    I don’t know if it’s still Israel’s objective to break up those states into less divisive territories–but that’s certainly what he seemed to be proposing. He also proposed Jordan come under Palestinian rule for the same reasons: most of the population is Palestinian.

    Anyway…I guess that view isn’t politically correct in some circles…but I wonder if it is counterproductive to ignore the artificial state element.

  28. We co-create the world, Suzanne.

    What you want it to be is a component of what you work towards.

    The defensive fixation is the one that is an illusion, demanding that one not have any responsibility for the relationships that one is part of.

  29. Here are the results of what I think is the first big head-to-head conflict between AIPAC and the Left-wing fringe lobbies like J-Street, Israel Policy Forum, etc. Big win for AIPAC….71 senators sign a letter urging Obama to press Arabs for concessions without any mention of Obama’s and the fringe-Left’s demands for an Israeli settlement freeze. J-Street and its fellow travellers were demanding that the letter either include a specific demand for an Israeli settlement freeze or that the Senators should not sign it….
    In America, to most Americans, to be “pro-Israel” means supporting Israeli government positions on security and vital interests…none of this “tough love” nonsense….

  30. I’d certainly sign that letter if I were in the Senate. It’s based on the premise that Israel has taken action–like easing roadblocks and agreeing to a 2-state solution.

    Now the ball is in the Arabs’ court.

    Including settlements at this early stage is like asking Israel to put down a 100% deposit with no service rendered.

    It won’t happen. No amount of arm twisting or ostracizing will make it happen.

    The settlements should be in phase 2 of this peace making.

    That’s my interpretation of how this is going down…and I see their point.

  31. Richard–I agree the defensive mentality perpetuates the problem. Both sides need to lose the defensiveness.

    If only one side ceases to act in that way it means nothing.

  32. I think Yakov’s take is an over-interpretation.

    The Arab League in the leadership of King Abdullah of Jordan, has taken much more steps to accommodate Israelis needs and sensitivities than Israel has come close to.

    Similarly for the PA.

    The ball is truly in Israel’s court to take the necessary and communicative step of ceasing settlement expansion entirely, from the present until the foreseeable future.

    There is no necessity to expand Jewish settlement further into East Jerusalem.

    The extension of the logic that the Maale settlement bloc is only secure if Israel takes over the rest of East Jerusalem is the recipe for war, in that to accomplish that the PA’s red line of some Palestinian capital presence in East Jerusalem must be abused.

    The effort to expansion and annexation is NOT the same as “natural growth”. That is a distortion told. It is not families, that can live anywhere anyway and still be families.

  33. The assertion “it is our right to build and settle” in East Jerusalem is puffery. Its a statement of screw you, you are insects to us.

    It is not a statement of need, nor of fulfillment of commandments, nor of maturity of a civilization.

    It is the childishness of one that is potentially humane.

  34. Richard-
    What steps have the Arab League taken that you think are so meaningful? Have they stopped official genocideal Judeophobic propaganda? Do they actually talk about looking forward to a future where there is peace and cooperation with a Jewish state? Of course not, only demands, complaints, and threats.

    I find it quite amusing when Jews go into a rage about other Jews living in Jerusalem. Do you know that Arabs are grabbing up land all over Israel and squatting on it? Does that bother you? There were a few Jews living in the Arab town of Peki’in the Galilee. They were run out of town in a riot a couple of years ago. Arabs are buying up Jewish apartments in mixed towns like Lod and Akko and this leads to more Jews leaving the towns. Does that bother you? How come that is okay?

  35. Title controls who owns land. If Arabs expropriate other Arabs or Jews or others by force, it does bother me.

    It CERTAINLY bothers me when the Israeli government participates in illegal expropriation that private Jewish individuals get the benefit of. The word for it is fraud.

    You know that I’ve argued hard and long to oppose the rhetorical statements by Palestinian solidarity that ignore equal due process under the law.

    The SAME applies to you and what you assert. The land is NOT yet Jewish, as title is not held by individual, collective, or religious Jewish institutions.

    I don’t have the litany of citations of King Abdullah’s very skillful and very generous diplomatic efforts, but it is deep, and deeply committed to on his part.

    Your distrust, your generalization is ugly, alienating if applied, and utterly impractical at any reasonable goal.

    It takes some self-questioning to determine if your assumptions and conclusions are valid or invalid.

    To date, you’ve rejected any recognition that Palestinians are indivdiually human (deserving of equal human rights), or collectively deserve to self-govern.

    Security is designable, if you try.

  36. How is evicting all settlers from E. Jerusalem and the West Bank while simultaneously insisting on Arab right of return assertive?

    That’s an outright recipe for stalemate.

  37. Suzanne-
    I have stated before….if the Palestinians gave up the right of return, ANY Israeli gov’t, including one of the Likud, would have no choice but to agree to a withdrawal pretty much to the pre-67 lines, just like was the case with Sadat. It is interesting that the Arabs REFUSE any kind of deal like that, although it has been repeatedly offered to them. This, of course, proves that the problem is in 1967 (Judea/Samaria/Gaza), but rather 1948 (the very existence of Israel) which says that the existence of a dhimmi Jewish state it completely intolerable to the Arab world, regardless of what its borders are. In 1937, the Arabs rejected a Jewish state MUCH smaller than that which was achieved after the War of Independence.

  38. Well–right of return is at the heart of the matter and the rest is all red herring. Although settlement expansion is a belligerent way of trying to force the Arab hand.

    Until they abandon right of return, everything else is a waste of time, in my opinion. A lot of international peacemakers traveling to the region for nada.

  39. I think the fault is more Israeli on the issue of right of return, or even Suzanne’s comment on the imagined Palestinian insistence to remove all settlers.

    Recently, Queria (no longer in power in Fatah), commented that the settlers should be allowed to stay, but as Palestinian citizens.

    I think they should abandon the right of return for ancestors of displaced, but should affirm it for actual displaced.

    That applies the rule of law as a coherent body of consistent thought, rather than rule of laws (not enforced or tested by precedent against the primary law).

    A body of law that is not reconciled with precedent can be horribly inconsistent, incoherent.

  40. I’m glad to hear Yakov, that you consider there to be a valid basis to determine sovereignty at roughly the green line.

  41. That point about settler removal came from the Jpost article Yaakov posted.

    So either the writer is full of it–or the only ones to get the real scoop are those who understand Arabic.

  42. Richard-
    I didn’t mean to say that I would support a withdrawal to the Green Line, I am just being realistic, based on previous experience. However, the Arabs are not interested in peace on such a basis.

  43. I think realism is the name of the game.

    That if the goal is security, it is achieved by treaty more than by weapons and strategems.

    Neither provide perfectly confident security. Security is a relative value, not yes/no.

    I differ with you on the assertion “the Arabs are not interested in peace on such a basis”.

    The Egyptians are, as indicated by 20 year treaty that they’ve kept. The Jordanians are, as indicated by 12 year-treaty that they’ve kept. The Syrians clearly are interested in the green line as border.

    The question relative to them is whether they will prefer to be in the Mediterranean community predominately, or the Central Asian. Historically, they’ve been part of the Levant community (Mediterranean).

    Similarly for Lebanon. Hezbollah only achieves power in periods of instability. So, order and quiet and interraction is the means to its own end.

    Palestine is similar to Syria. They are primarily part of the Levant, NOT Central Asia. The are Mediterranean, more than Iraqi.

    There are always ideologs, and there will be on both sides.

    They divert from reason. On the part of Israel, it is necessary to seek normalization rather than isolation. Reconciliation rather than fortress.

    And, the tipping issue is still the settlement expansion. It indicates intent.

  44. “And, the tipping issue is still the settlement expansion. It indicates intent.”

    Richard, fair enough. But right of return ( a tipping issue in its own right) indicates intent as well.

    As Yaakov points out…the Israelis have their conditions for abandoning settlement expansion.

    Can the same be said for Palestinians and right of return?

  45. As “right of return” is an ambiguous phrase, it is used opportunistically by those that advocate for it, and negatively opportunistically by those that oppose it.

    In this case, Yakov is maximizing what could be meant and implemented, which does not resemble what is tangibly proposed.

    The settlement expansion question is something that is within Israel’s current power to address. It is so important an indicator, that to continue stubbornly is abusive and ultimately self-destructive if a healthy Palestine is preferable to a desparate one.

    From what I’ve read, Palestinian leaders are asking for a theoretical right of return (maybe with a token applying it), but NOT a tangible one.

    From my perspective, the issue looks like it is being brought up as an excuse, a distraction, an effort to avoid real discussion, real compromise.

  46. Richard-I see you are repeating the old stereotype that “Arabs are stupid” or “Arabs don’t mean what they say” regarding your naive belief that they will accept a “theoretical Right of Return” and not a REAL “right of return”. What you are stating is an old canard of the Israeli Left which stated for decades that the Arabs are bluffing in their demands and that deep down, they want the same things Leftist Israelis want, which is nonsense.
    I see it stated that somehow, through clairvoyance, the Leftist Israeli know that the the Palestinians will accept a “symbolic 300,000 or so returnees” and that supposedly the rest will accept compensation. Tell me, who is to decide who the lucky 300,000 are? Who will pick them? What if the Ulema (the Muslim scholars) say that any refugee who accepts the right to return when most are not accepted is a traitor, and that it is either all or nothing? Such an offer, if accepted by the Arab side would lead to a civil war. They are not going to accept such a situation. They don’t want “real compromise”. Just read the declarations of FATAH from the recent conference. They are not bluffing. They mean each and every world of their declarations.

  47. The right of return coalition doesn’t look like some innocuous little hokey-pokey party to me.

    Palestinian Stalemate Objective

    They appear to have 17 chapters around the globe–and quite a few in California.

    And check out the Point of Unity page where Israel always appears in quotes and they talk about the return of Palestinians to all of Palestine.

    I wouldn’t call that theory exactly.

    I’d call it pipedreaming your way to mo’ of the same. *rolling eyes*

  48. Yakov,
    You’d have to talk to them to know what they think.

    I’ve read statements by Arabs that support the view that they are not looking for a literal right of return to Israel of all direct and indirect descendants of formerly displaced residents. (At least you acknowledge that a great number were forcibly displaced.)

    And, I’ve read statements that indicate that they want more than a token right of return, but an actual.

    The danger with Yakov’s position is that he is stating his fears, or the statement of some, as a basis to talk to none, and as a basis to neglect considering a fair deal, or even considering what is consistent with Torah.

    Its easy to rationalize not trying. We all do often.

    Its just not good to.

  49. Richard-
    I thought J-Street was “impure” even before their revelations since their openly-expressed goal is to divide the American Jewish community. Why on earth do you think people who are anti- Israel are financing J-Street? (and I am sure others like IPF, Peace Now and others are on the Arab gravy train, too). To divide the enemy (us). Why do you think Martin Shlaff, who was Arafat’s business partner gave Gush-Katif-destroyer Sharon illegal money? The big money guy behind J-Street, George Soros has always been very hostile to Israel. None of this has anything to do with “peace”, “brotherhood”, or even “a prosperous Palestinian state living side by side with Israel”.

  50. I should explain more fully my antipathy to J-Street. It is not that they are “Leftist”, there are many other organizations like this, the Israel Policy Forum, Peace Now, MERETZUSA, etc, etc. What gets me is their arrogance in saying “WE REPRESENT MAINLINE AMERICAN JEWISH OPINION”. That is simply false. They trumpet this deception by use of their phony polls which are distorted to make it seem like most American Jews support their positions.

    (I repeat the link I brought above showing examples of this):

    A perfect example of their attempts to divide American Jewry was Obama’s transparent attempt to help them in this goal at the “summit meeting” he called with Jewish leaders. Obama invites J-Street and other fring Leftist groups but he pointedly did not invite Mort Klein’s ZOA and the National Council of Young Israel. These groups represent far more activist Jews in America than do J-Street or IPF.
    All I can say is that I am glad the truth is coming out on these people and I hope they have already crested and are heading down.

  51. I think J Street does represent the weight of Jewish American opinion. That is not its definition of mission, “to represent”, but to present a logic to Congress and other decision-makers.

    I think that logic is sound, that a border governed by treaty is more likely to be secure than a border governed by a deferred or active state of war.

    And, that Israel is now close to having treaties guide the protocols between 100% of its borders, rather than a state of war.

    If I’ve stated their thesis accurately, then in response you really have two valid options (hundreds of intellectually corrupt approaches, but two valid ones).

    One is to contest the thesis, that a state with treaties with all of its bordering state frontiers is likely a safer status than a state of deferred or active war.

    The second is to contest the means to achieve the thesis.

    In objectively looking at the current status, I conclude that settlement expansion is the single substantive issue that distorts the possibility of peace.

    All other issues of trust and other tangible issues can be resolved by analysis, with the underlying statement of intent inherent in the ACTION by Israel of voluntarily ceasing settlement expansion, including in East Jerusalem.

    So, in that light, it looks to me that Netanyahu and his supporters desire to delay all substantive peace efforts, for the land-lust of hoped annexation of the West Bank.

    Shortly after the West Bank would prospectively be annexed, the neo-religious will refer to the Deuteronomy described borders to the Tigris, and certainly to the tribal lands on the East Bank of the Jordan.

    Land-lust fueled by religion is a mundane lust, as is land-lust fueled by the “defensive” logic of protecting one’s flank during time of war. (There is always a new flank, hence the need of empires to continually expand, to protect their flanks.)

    That logic contrasts sharply with reconciliation, even with harsher tangible features than say between US and Canada.

  52. Ya’akov,
    Your hutzpah is amazing! You cannot correctly describe the Israeli political spectrum, you pose as an expert on Arab political opinion and now on American Jewish opinion. American Jewish opinion has been divided for a long time on Israel. Its just that the Likud tries to delegitimize all those in America who disagree with it. They are dubbed “self-hating Jews.” Obviously if one disagrees with the Likud one must hate oneself or one’s ethnicity. Until Brit Tzedek was founded, American Jews didn’t have much of a vehicle for expressing dissent from their designated role as cash cow for Israeli political parties and p.r. spokesmen for whatever Jerusalem decides.

  53. I still don’t think the case has been made that Arabs are willing to give up right of return.

    The best I can find is there’s a remote possibility of discussing it. No meat yet.

    And I disagree that it’s an intangible…rocket attacks on Israel–and by extension occupation itself–is all because of this objective.

    The only reason why there isn’t suicide bomb missions into Israel is because of the roadblocks etc–it’s not anything the Palestinians volunteered to stop on their own.

    Yaakov–why hasn’t Israel made right of return the focal point? Doesn’t it pretty much cut to the chase–and clarify things even for those who rely on sound bytes to get information?

  54. To add to my last point…why is Israel demanding that Arabs recognize the Israeli state? Who cares? Just give up right of return.

  55. “The only reason why there isn’t suicide bomb missions into Israel is because of the roadblocks etc–it’s not anything the Palestinians volunteered to stop on their own.”

    I actually think that is innaccurate. The wall is easy to get through. In Jerusalem for example, there are hundreds of cracks that civilians routinely walk through to get from here to there.

    I think the reason that there aren’t suicide bombings now is that the leadership has realized that they alienate far far more than they affect.

    I think it is a rational strategic maturation.

    Israel is only threatened by a mass right of return. A token of right of return that affirms the rule of law as a fabric, is no threat to Israeli identity.

    On the contrary, it affirms Israeli identity as being BOTH Jewish and democratic. The foundations of Israel are dual, not single.

    As Fayyad reiterated yesterday. “Who cares how Israel thinks of themselves. That is none of our business.” It would be an intrusion to state any conclusion.

  56. Richard-
    There is ONE force that ended the suicide bombings…that is called THE IDF. If they stopped their ongoing operations in Judea/Samaria the terror infrastructure would rapidly rebuild itself. The wall is secondary and the Palestinian security forces are a negligible force in fighting anti-Israel terror, although there were supposedly a couple of incidents where “Dayton’s PA forces” killed some HAMAS operatives.

    You also didn’t answer my question about who was going to decide which Palestinian refugees would be the lucky ones to be part of the “symbolic” group that actually gets back into Israel. BTW-do they get their actual original property back?
    All I do is go by what official Arab organs say about Jews, Israel and the peace process, particularly what they tell their own people. It is you who ignore that.
    I never said AIPAC is the official representative of American Jewry. You are correct, there is divided opinion but only a minority support Obama coercing Israel to make the concessions the “progressives” are demanding. J-Street is lying about them being the most representative of American Jewry and you know that.

  57. “You also didn’t answer my question about who was going to decide which Palestinian refugees would be the lucky ones to be part of the “symbolic” group that actually gets back into Israel. BTW-do they get their actual original property back?”

    I’m an advocate of court-determined title, remedy, and that residence should follow that.

    So, for example, in the majority of cases, residence supercedes removal, but if title is imperfect, then it must be remedied by compensation according to some reasonable guideline.

    In cases where the wrong is so aggregious and obvious and there is a simple chain of beneficiaries of obvious wrongs, then in those cases the property might be returned. If there is no residence currently where there was one formerly, that would be a basis to transfer legal title to the prior owner and allow their construction and residence.

    Its NOT complex at all.

    YOU are wrong about American Jewish opinion. The majority regard the settlement expansion as an illegal expropriation of others’ land, and support the application of the rule of law, rather than the land-lust of expansionist Zionism.

    You state you go by what official Arab organs say, but you acknowledge that you don’t speak Arabic and you don’t have direct communication with the organizations or representatives.

    In fact, you are told what they think, and likely told what you should think.

    I’m sure that actions by the IDF had a great deal to do with the relaxation of terror from the West Bank and Gaza. Currently, Hamas has voluntarily ceased shelling, so that clearly originates from their decision-making process.

    By my math, the prior majority of terror communities have realized that it does not serve their strategic ends. They have grown older, and seen some prospect of improvement when law and order prevail within their communities, and that comes as a result of the PA actions within their communities, than external IDF policing.

    There are exceptions clearly. But, any generalization that Arabs are unequivocally untrustable is false.

    The consequences of generalization are unnecessary harms (therefore unethical and in conflict with Torah) committed against Palestinian civilians, AND in waves and waves of missed opportunities for reconciliation and security.

    Its amateurish, pretending to be mature and sophisticated.

    The appopriate effort is to proceed determinedly but carefully, asking for help where bi-lateral negotiation is difficult to complete or implement.

    It is DOABLE. It is only negligence or cynical rationalization that keeps it from happening.

  58. Richard-
    On the contrary, I believe every word the Arabs tell their own people about their intentions, the people they live with. You “progressives” accuse Netanyahu of being deceitful when he says he wants a Palestinian state, or even Olmert, saying they “really” don’t want to give the Palestinians a truly independent state. Well, ALL leaders do posturing in order to get advantages for their country. People said that Bush sent the US Army into Iraq “not to liberate them, but to get ahold of their oil”. The Arabs are no different, they don’t lie on the international state anymore than anyone else. But they tell the truth to their own people because they feel a very deep sense of loyalty to their religion, their culture and their history, in ways that Westerners no longer do. That is the difference.
    I see you and your fellow “progressives” making stereotyped generalizations against those you don’t like no less than what you accuse me of doing (“land lust”, “extremist settlers”). And finally, most American Jews DON’T oppose settlement expansion. Most don’t know enough about the subject to express an informed opinion. I could change the minds of a significant number of them who say they oppose it if you gave me five minutes with them. I actually did this during the campaign to save Gush Katif before Sharon’s Likud referendum on the matter.

    I do have contact with people who speak Arabic, and they confirm what I say. You are the one who doesn’t know anything about the Arabs and simply swallow propaganda wholesale. Anecodotal Arabs you meet on the street and who express genuine aspirations for peace are not representative.

  59. Yakov,
    You read Mondoweiss, and you have the audacity to state that I gullibly digest propaganda?

    Do you read Fayyad, the PA prime minister? I’m sure he says some things that you find objectionable, assertions of Palestinian rights in some respects that you don’t believe they have in fact or can legally justify.

    I would question your assumption about American Jews support for settlement expansion. American Jews SUPPORT the existence of Israel, but criticize and don’t understand (as its not really understandable), the incremental expansion of settlements, especially as they are such sensitive element of creating and indicating peace.

    EVERY time a settlement expands resulting in a functional annexation, and an Israeli government accepts that, it is telling the world that it prefers territory to peace.

    Again and again, why have you ignored the dilemma of a nation at war when it does not have to be, constantly has exposed flanks, which it can only defend by further conquest?

    In contrast, borders with states and communities that have functioning treaties, still require attention, but do not require aggression or large military buildups or active military operations. And, if you think that maintaining only 450 roadblocks (down from 470) is not aggression in some form, or experienced as such, then you are not a sober Jew, but a deluded one.

    Backbone and skill.

    I personally don’t think that you have honestly described your true intent on settlements. I don’t believe that you honestly hold that settlement expansion is primarily for the purpose of defense in some form. I believe that for you that is a smoke-screen, a deception.

    Hopefully I’m wrong, and you will take the first opportunity to make a real peace, on the basis that a real peace is made.

  60. I find it hard to believe suicide bombing ceased because Hamas et al decided it was against their interest to keep doing it.

    Hasn’t it pretty much been established that physical barriers put a stop to it?

    I’d need to see some hard data from several different [neutral] sources before I’d buy that argument.

  61. “Hasn’t it pretty much been established that physical barriers put a stop to it?”


    Multiple concerns led to the reduction of shelling and elimination of suicide-bombing, including decisions by the activists, policing by the PA, roadblocks and intelligence by IDF.

    The wall, at least in Jerusalem, is unlikely to be a major cause, as it is easy to slip through.

    All of the other factors contributed, including the DECISION to not shell. I don’t know if that was solely a tactical decision, political recognition, or moral.

    But, it DID happen. There is no shelling of Sderot in months. They have the metal and other materials to do so.

  62. Well, there was a recent mortar attack on Israel and just this past week they bombed a Gaza tunnel in retaliation.

    As for the drop in suicide bombings–here’s an interesting analysis:

    Where have all the bombers gone?

    He (Dr. Nathan Toronto) is a researcher at the Foreign Military Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth.

    While he too subscribes to the idea suicide bombings stopped for a variety of factors– including a decision by various terrorist networks–he has a different interpretation for their motive…namely political self-advancement–not peace negotiations.

    His conclusion is that Israeli counterterrorist initiatives have made it difficult enough (though not impossible) for them to perform suicide operations…and their failure to do so with relative ease makes suicide bombing less palatable to the Palestinian public.

    In other words…there’s marketplace competition to win the hearts and minds of Palestinians. Any type of failure in this climate spells doom the faction.

    I think that’s an interesting argument. And what it says to me is–bottom line: Israeli initiatives played the dominant role in ending suicide bombings.

  63. “Dan’s article is in a post on Mondoweiss today.”

    Ugh! I can just imagine the macabre celebration over there for what they imagine to be another Jewish “convert” to their line of thinking.

  64. Richard-
    Don’t know what kind of “smokescreen” you think I am putting up. I believe Eretz Israel belongs to us by divine right and this was recognized (whether by divine right or historical connection of long standing) by the Balfour Declaration and League of Nations Mandate granted to Britain in 1922 on the basis of implementation of Balfour. We have the right to settle Jews anywhere in Eretz Israel within the constraints of recognition of individual Arab property rights.
    The “defense arguments” are also valid and I fervently believe in them, and it is interesting that the two factors (divine/historical rights and defense imperatives) converge!

  65. “view[ed] with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

    You did read the Balfour Declaration?

    “it being CLEARLY understood that NOTHING shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.

    The term used was “A” Jewish home, not ANY implication of the whole mandate as Israel.

    Did you make that up?

    I’m glad that you came out as far as your political attitude.

    Mine is DIFFERENT. I can’t really tell where your assumptions originate. Torah delineates wider borders than river to sea. And, Torah explicitly does not sanction taking of the land by force or by theft.

  66. Richard-
    No mention of Arab NATIONAL rights, anywhere within the Palestine Mandate, which up until 1922 included Transjordan, and certainly included Judea/Samaria/Gaza where both Zionist and pre-Zionist settlements were found up until 1948.

  67. There CLEARLY is a tension between your interpretation of the Balfour Declaration and the written text. And, also CLEARLY a tension between your interpretation of the Balfour Declaration and the UN and ALL of the world’s other states’ interpretations. (Maybe Fiji is an exception.)

    You exagerated the term “A” Jewish Home to exclusively Jewish. It isn’t supported in the original. It isn’t supported in the League of Nations descriptions of mandatory powers. It isn’t in the British repeated subsequent clarifications of its intent in two white papers in 1930 and 1939 (I believe). It isn’t supported in the original British proposed partition agreement of 1947. It isn’t supported in the ratified boundaries by the UN in 1948. It isn’t supported by the armistice agreement of 1949. It isn’t supported by resolution 242 in 1968.

    There are a dozen determinations of international law (in the case of the UN, ratified by General Assembly and Security Council), versus one self-defined interpretation.

    I asked an orthodox rabbi once if it were permitted to ride a bicycle on shabbat. He said that relative to the actual riding, it wasn’t, but relative pushing pedals, it was prohibited. Relative to lifting even an inch over a driveway, it was prohibited. Relative to adjusting anything on the bicycle, say even braking, it was prohibited.

    It reminds me of your statement above. That relative to a single phrase, you can “ride a bicycle”. But relative to halacha and international law, your insistence is false.

    I guess that you base your assertions on Torah in some direct or indirect respect. Is that true Yakov?

  68. That should be:

    I asked an orthodox rabbi once if it were permitted to ride a bicycle on shabbat. He said that relative to the actual riding, it wasn’t prohibited, but relative pushing pedals, it was prohibited. Relative to lifting even an inch over a driveway, it was prohibited. Relative to adjusting anything on the bicycle, say even braking, it was prohibited.

  69. YBD,
    Its interesting that you admit using the same basic logic as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Al Qaeda–divine right. Your fight is just over whose God is the real God and whose divine book written or dictated by God is the genuine one. So for all those secular people out there, why should they care for your divine rights any more than the Palestinian divine rights? After all, there are a lot more Muslims in the world than Orthodox Jews.

  70. I guess divine right is where I draw a blank.

    I respect religion as a means to live righteously and have structure and share common values…but when you start getting into literal interpretation of unproven events–the credibility is lost.

    That’s all I’ll say at the risk of offending sensibilities.

    If it weren’t for this problem called displaced Arabs (as annoying as they are)…I’d think the settlers were right where they should be. The historic profoundness is not lost on me.

    But yet…there’s this problem of displaced Arabs.

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