Monday, May 23, 2011

The True Face Of The Israeli Government

President Obama has been largely ineffective in his foreign policy. But he has had at least one significant effect with his latest speech on the Middle East. He has exposed the true face of the Israeli Government. And it is a face that rejects what almost everyone else assumes is a fair solution to the Israel Palestine problem. It is a face that prefers land over peace and military dominance over even minimal justice. That is now clear.

Netanyahu articulated three "No's", in response to Obama's call for negotiations based on the "1967 borders with mutually agreed upon land swaps" - itself hardly a radical formulation: really just a new phrase for what everyone has been talking about since president Clinton, at least. (When pundits say - ad naseum - that "everyone knows the shape of the final peace arrangement, we just don't know how to get there" - this is what they are talking about. But it turns out not everyone did have the same vision of the final arrangement!)

Netanyahu said no to the 1967 borders with minor land swaps - he wants to keep "the large settlement blocs" deep inside the West Bank, and he wants to keep the Jordan valley - and he certainly does not want to give equal territory in return. Explicitly demanding the Jordan valley was an upping of the Israeli ante. No one has mentioned that demand in a decade - and even then it was mentioned as a temporary military presence.

Netanyahu said no a Palestinian polity that includes Hamas. Prior to the PA-Hamas reconciliation his aides and sycophants often derided the possibility of reaching a peace deal with the PA since it represented only half of the Palestinians. Now that the PA can again speak for all Palestinians, Netanyahu declares the situation even more unacceptable.

Netanyahu said no to the Palestinian right of return - in any form. It is strictly a Palestinian problem, and Israel will not accept any responsibility and will certainly not accept any refugees back into its territory.

All this is designed to veto the possibility of a "two state solution" - and to be seen as such, at least by Netanyahu's coalition mates and his half of the Israeli electorate. And all this is designed to confront Obama - to embarrass him, to defeat him, and to teach him (and any other American politician who might have similar ideas) a lesson. Netanyahu is gambling, not without good cause, that AIPEC, the Christian right, and the Likud's friends in Congress will slap Obama down - and hard.

Is this good news? No - not if you are for a peaceful compromise in Israel/Palestine. But it may have the salutary effect of making the issues crystal clear: peace is not possible without the return of the occupied territories, and the Israeli government prefers the territories over peace.

The question for Jews everywhere is - will we continue to go along, now that the choice is clear?

The question for Obama is - will he put his money where his mouth is? Or is he the "anti Teddy Roosevelt." Will he continue to talk loudly and carry a tiny stick?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Syd, are there any present-day Israeli politicians who do support a two state solution? I am interested in learning more about individuals within Israeli politics who are committed to the goals that Obama has outlined.

2:22 am  
Blogger Sydney Nestel said...

Obama's stated goals are quite minimal - by my standards - and may not be sufficient to convince Palestineans to sign a deal. In his recent speeches he called for peace based on the 1967 boundaries with agreed upon land swaps (thus allowing Israel to retain some of the illegal settlements, but compensating the future Palestinian state with equal land area). In previous statements Obama has said he also supports a demilitarized Palestine, substantial territorial contiguity on the West Bank and a travel link between the West Bank and Gaza, some sharing of Jerusalem, and a Palestine with open borders with Jordan and Egypt. He has also stated that the refugee problem should be solved without mass immigration of refugees into Israel.

The political parties in Israel that support such a vision (or more "dovish" ones) are the Labour Party (what is left of it after Barak bolted), Meretz, Hadash, Taal, and Balad. Kadima (the largest party in the Knesset - though in the opposition) also supports most of these points - though it is often deliberately vague on the details, and frankly I think it talks more dovish than it really thinks (but who am I to know for sure.) Together these parties have 50 of the 120 seats in the Knesset.

11:08 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your reply, Syd. The mass media here in North America does not provide much coverage on the other political parties in Israel that are working for peace. I will read more about them.

Secondly, I just came across this article: "On Israel, Harper stands alone at G8",

I think it might be interesting to devote one of your blog posts to Harper's stance on Israel (maybe you already have) and his opposition of Obama's plan. I originally thought that his unflinching and uncritical support for Israel at any cost was a tool he was using to align himself with the U.S. government. Now that Obama has taken a more liberal approach, I find it quite strange that Harper has decided to be the odd man out at the current G8 talks. I think it would be interesting to explore what his position might mean for Canada and its place in the world.

1:48 am  

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