Leftist Rabbi to Obama: No More Negotiations to Nowhere! UPDATE

Huffington Post this Monday morning featured a Time.Com article, The Six Issues That Divide Bibi from Barack, to describe the stumbling blocks Bibi Netanyahu is expected to throw before Barak Obama's feet to avoid peace negotiations when they meet in the White House.

By contrast, Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun Magazine, chair of the interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives, and rabbi of Beyt Tikkun synagogue in San Francisco, put Netanyahu's tactics more succinctly by alluding to Israel's mastery of negotiations to nowhere. He entitled what is taking place this morning in the White House, Obama's Mistaken Middle East Peace Strategy or No More Negotiations to Nowhere!(emailed, not yet posted).

Rabbi Lerner's article provides a more transparent view of Netanyahu's strategy, which has been used time and again throughout Israel's history to avoid peace negotiations, i.e., to keep the colonization of the Palestinian territories moving forward.

Rabbi Lerner asserts that "nothing proposed by Obama is likely to change the realities on the ground in the West Bank." Netanyahu begins this morning's meeting already off the hook. Language is everything. Even if Netanyahu agreed to restart talks with the Palestinians, it would be about as meaningful as Olmert's famous "teas with Abbas," or the agreement to trivial concessions. It would amount to nothing.

But Olmert was not the first Israeli PM to ploy the Palestinians (or the US or the world) by carrying on the pretext of negotiating peace.

Obama's insistence that negotiations begin again between Israel and the Palestinians toward a final settlement agreement sounds "tough" and "standing up to Israel" only to those who have no historical memory. But Netanyahu and the Israeli right-wingers who now run the Israeli government remember very well the willingness of a previous Likud prime minister (and former underground terrorist) Yitzhak Shamir to participate in just such negotiations in the early 1990s. Shamir explained to his constituents that he could sit in such negotiations for the next twenty years and still never concede anything that would resemble a viable Palestinian state: that is, one not still dominated by Israeli settlers, with their own exclusive roads and military protectors, which would make such a state nothing more than a string of Palestinian cities isolated from each other.

Why then will Netanyahu resist such negotiations? Why will the 50% of the Congress that showed up at the AIPAC conference--to prove their loyalty to Israel's most extreme rightist government ever--also do everything they can to block Obama were he to decide to demand for Israel to start negotiating a 2 state solution? Because the Right has learned that it works to press for far more than they can settle with,and then appear to be "compromising" when they are actually giving little more than what they really wanted in the first place. .

Another point made by Rabbi Learner is Israel's ability to make meaningless right wing concessions.

Over the past several decades, by vehemently staking out extreme positions the Right both in Israel and the U.S. have managed to shift the center of public discourse far to the Right. Positions once advocated by centrist Labor Party people in Israel (dismantling all the settlements in the West Bank, not just the so-called "illegal settlements") or by centrist Democrats like Clinton in the US (universal health care) are labeled "extreme leftist" views (health care is now called "socialism," for example).

In response, yesterday's centrists, now stuck with the label "left of center," think they are doing well if they can achieve success by "winning" concessions that were once the positions of moderate Republicans or moderate Likudniks. So the Democrats in the U.S., and now the peace forces in the Jewish community, imagine that they are winning some serious victory if they get those peace negotiations started again, when there is no reason to believe that they would lead to the kind of Palestinian state that is economically and politically viable, and to a just settlement for Palestinian refugees-the only outcome that could actually provide the preconditions for lasting security for Israel.

Therefore, "don't put it past Netanyahu to make a dramatic 'concession,' warns Rabbi Lerner. Israel may even be willing to acknowledge the goal of two states, but will attach several "ifs," provisos that cannot be attained. It may be remembered that as PM, Sharon added fourteen such conditions that virtually stalemated peace talks.

....if the Palestinians (including Hamas) renounce all violence (something the US won't do in regard to its mission in Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistant)  and if they agree to recognize Israel as a Jewish atate (though the US would never recognize, say, Saudi Arabia as a Muslim state--because we'd never want to impose a particular religious or ethnic identification on any state we recognize).

Still, I don't put it past Netanyahu to let go of these demands at some point in the process, because he is a wily negotiator who knows how to deal with U.S. pressure--namely to appear to be making huge concessions while actually implementing none of them. Thus, when he was Prime Minister in the 1990s, he acceded to Bill Clinton's desire to appear to be making peace, but after a torturous process agreed to Israel to allow Palestinians some autonomy (not sovereignty) over about 2/3 of the West Bank (less than 14% of pre-48 Palestine). Meanwhile, he encouraged expansion of settlers so that between the signing of the Oslo Accord at the White House in 1993 and the time that the 2nd Intifda began in 2000 the number of settlers on the West Bank had actually doulbed (though to be fair, part of that process took place with the blessings of Rabin before he was murdered by an Israeli right-wing religious fanatic and by Ehud Barak who now serves at Defense Minister in Netanyahu's government). The point here is that Netanyahu knows how to play "cat and mouse" excellently, and unless the US is prepared to impose a fair settlement agreement, Netanyahu could easily agree to start negotiations again and then produce nothing that would satisfy even the most beaten-down and ready-to-compromise Palestinian Authority leadership.

Site rules prevent me from reprinting Rabbi Lerner's entire article, which contains many ideas about a solution to the conflict. Hopefully, the full article will appear on the Tikkun site shortly (link above). Otherwise, permission to reprint the above sections granted.

UPDATE: Juan Cole's sagacious two-cents.

Obama-Netanyahu must not be Kennedy-Khrushchev


Monday, May 18, 2009

Far rightwing Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is meeting Monday with President Barack Obama in Washington.

It is the most fateful encounter of two world leaders since Kennedy met Khrushchev. And Obama absolutely must not allow himself to be cowed or misunderstood as timid by Netanyahu, who is a notorious bully and warmonger. (Bill Clinton complained that Netanyahu when last prime minister thought that he was the superpower). If Obama can cow Netanyahu, his Middle East policy may have a chance. If Netanyahu comes away thinking he can thumb his nose at Washington, the whole Middle East could be in flames by the end of Obama's first term.

The two come to the encounter with starkly different agendas for the Middle East. Obama wants better relations with Iran (which he needs for a clean withdrawal from Iraq and for success in Afghanistan). And Obama wants to be the president who finally established a Palestinian state, implemented a two-state solution, and resolved the long-running Arab-Israeli conflict, which has generated so many wars and so much terrorism and instability. (As I have said before, the key problem in all this is Palestinian statelessness.)

Netanyahu on the other hand wants to attack Iran and attempt to destroy its nuclear enrichment research facilities. And he absolutely does not under any circumstances want a Palestinian state or to be forced to withdraw Israeli squatters from the Palestinian territories that they have been colonizing since 1967 (unlike most of Israel proper, the UN never awarded that territory to Israel, nor has it been recognized implicitly by international treaties, as Egypt's Camp David accords implicitly recognized 1949 Israeli borders.)

Obama, concerned that Israeli sabre-rattling might itself lead to hostilities, sent CIA head Leon Panetta to Israel recently to demand that the Netanyahu government tone down its belligerent rhetoric. Netanyahu maintains that Iran has vowed to destroy Israel, which is not correct. The Iranian government is hostile to Israel and wishes that the Zionist enterprise would collapse the way the Soviet Union or the shah's government did. But it has said that it would accept a two-state solution if that was what the Palestinians wanted. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad never threatened to 'wipe Israel off the face of the map,' since there is not even such an idiom in Persian. He was talking about an ideological collapse of a Zionist regime and its occupation of Jerusalem, Islam's third holiest city. Iran has not launched an aggressive war possibly since Karim Khan Zand took Basra in the 1780s.

Netanyahu's plan to attack Iran's nuclear facilities would fail, and would only cause Iran actually to seek nukes, which it is not presently doing according to US intelligence. I like Israelis, but they are understandably traumatized by all the things that have happened to them since the 1930s and have developed an unhealthy hysteria and tendency to shoot first and ask questions later. They were convinced that a US overthrow of Saddam Hussein would change the Middle East in their favor. It has not (Hizbullah in Lebanon has new friends in Baghdad, as does Tehran). Obama must impress on them that the answer to every problem is not a bombing raid. The good thing about having Rahm Emmanuel in the White House is that he will be able to phrase the instruction colorfully enough for it to be understood unambiguously.

An Israeli attack on Iran might well reactivate the Mahdi Army and Badr Corps as anti-American Shiite militias in Iraq- all hell could break loose in that country, leaving Obama's hopes for a withdrawal in tatters. And Iran has many clients in Afghanistan that could be mobilized against NATO-- in fact it could join an effort to keep military material from even getting to Afghanistan, leaving NATO forces vulnerable to being cut off and killed.

Netanyahu's talk of improving the economic lives of Palestinians instead of giving them a state is also nonsense. Statelessness prevents economic security and progress. And people aren't just motivated by material things. Palestinians want a concrete manifestation of their national identity, just as everyone else does.

Only a viable Palestinian state resolves this huge decades-long mess in the short to medium term. I think it may be too late but am willing to see what Obama has in mind.

Aljazeera English reports on the Obama-Netanyahu meeting from a pan-Arab point of view.

Cole also posted two videos of interest at the site link above.

Tags: Israel, Netanyahu, obama, Palestine, Rabbi Michael Lerner (all tags)



Re: No More Negotiations to Nowhere!

Email brings such interesting things, like this Take Action appeal from End the Occupation.

Take Action: Obama-Netanyahu Meeting Today
May 18, 2009

Amid growing signs of an impending policy clash between the United States and Israel over the issues of Israeli settlements, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and Palestinian statehood, President Obama meets today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Obama Administration has called for an end to Israel's siege of the Gaza Strip, a freeze on Israeli settlement building and home demolitions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and for the conclusion of a negotiated peace during the President's first term in office.

While the Obama Administration deserves credit for articulating these policy goals, they are highly unlikely to come about unless the United States exercises leverage on Israel.  The United States should end, or at the very minimum, condition its military aid to Israel to achieve these goals. 

However, earlier this month, President Obama sent his FY2010 budget request to Congress and, as expected, included in it $2.775 billion in military aid for Israel, an increase of $225 million from this year's budget.

The budget request now goes to the Senate and House Appropriations Subcommittees on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs for hearings and "mark-ups".

This request for an increase in military aid to Israel comes despite the fact that Israel consistently misuses U.S. weapons in violation of the Arms Export Control and Foreign Assistance Acts.

During the Bush Administration, Israel killed more than 3,000 Palestinian civilians who took no part in hostilities, including more than 1,000 children. During its December-January war on the Gaza Strip alone, Israel killed nearly 1,200 Palestinian non-combatants.

Especially during this acute economic crisis, is this how you want Congress to spend your taxes? If not, then take action below.

For additional analysis of the Obama-Netanyahu meeting, check out US Campaign Steering Committee member Phyllis Bennis' Institute for Policy Studies talking points by clicking below.


by MainStreet 2009-05-18 05:21AM | 0 recs
This is why I voted for Obama

Not the only reason of course.  But many of us became excited about Obama's candidacy because of how we perceived his persona.  Obama's detractors mocked this as "style over substance."  But I perceive Obama as someone with a substantive vision for how he would like to see the country and the world combined with a style and persona that may enable real progress toward that vision.  These stylistic qualities include deliberateness and flexibility, a commitment to idealism mixed with pragmatism, intelligence, charm, and fortitude.  I hope that persona proves effective and that I perceived its promise appropriately  No situation requires it more than this one.

Time to go to work Mr. Obama.  Good luck and give 'em hell.

But let's remember this is a first meeting.  As dire and desperate as this conflict is, there will be some jockeying for position.  Unfortunately, we'll know very little from today.  We'll parse everything for positive and negative signs.  We'll criticize everything that frustrates us.  But it's the first at bat.  No one hits a walk-off home run in the first inning.

by Strummerson 2009-05-18 05:54AM | 0 recs
Re: This is why I voted for Obama

Substance is the issue. For the most part, Obama is starting off in a weak position, asking Bibi to restart "talks" with the Palestinians. Beginning with Oslo, just how much talk has gone on and how much substance? The military occupation and colonization just went on and on, while talking went on and on...to nowhere, if I may quote Rabbi Lerner.

Talking is Israel's best suit, and as Shamir indicated during his stint at PM, it would go on forever.

Lerner's points are well made. If Obama cannot come up with more than talk, and if he accepts Bibi's stumbling issues as relevant, he's a dead duck, just another American president to be brushed off, in spite of his ambitions. Look at the way Clinton was taken for a ride. Remember that he actually flew into Gaza on Air Force One and made a speech announcing change. Just how many years ago was that? Yes, we saw change: settlement rate in the West Bank doubled as did the number of settlers.

And Clinton is supposed to be one of the smartest presidents we ever had. Is Obama smarter?

by MainStreet 2009-05-18 06:11AM | 0 recs
Re: This is why I voted for Obama

Style is the means.  Substance is the ends.  Style is tactical, as witnessed in the Likud's abuse of peace talks.  

What is missing from Lerner's and your invocation of Shamir is his statement after his defeat that had he remained in power he would have extended the Madrid process for a decade and in the meantime move 500,000 settlers into the West Bank.  This is a frequently quoted statement.  It's also what successive governments headed by Likud and Labour actually did.

Obama's multi-tenor approach, persona, and style, his interest in using all available tools in the optimal configuration is imperative.

by Strummerson 2009-05-18 07:22AM | 0 recs
Re: This is why I voted for Obama

Thanks for your enhancements. Much appreciated.

by MainStreet 2009-05-18 11:28AM | 0 recs
Re: No More Negotiations to Nowhere!

Interesting diary on Daily Kos this morning: the message is clear.

Israel thumbs its nose at Obama
by Paleo

Share this on Twitter - Israel thumbs its nose at Obama   Mon May 18, 2009 at 06:31:00 AM PDT

On the very day of the Netanyahu-Obama meeting, it was revealed that Israel will construct a new settlemement on occupied land, not the "natural growth" of an existing settlement, in the northern west bank.  Once again, Israel acts illegally, violates its promise to the U.S. under the "road map," and thumbs its nose at Obama on the day he is to meet with the Israeli prime minister.

Israel has has moved ahead with a plan to construct a new settlement in the northern West Bank for the first time in 26 years, pursuing a project the United States has already condemned as an obstacle to peace efforts.

The move comes on the eve of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's first meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, despite Western calls for Israel to halt its settlement activity.


A better title would have been: Netanyahu thumbs his nose at Obama.

by MainStreet 2009-05-18 06:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Leftist Rabbi to Obama: No More Negotiations t

Don't hold your breath waiting for Obama to stand up to the Israeli right. He will demand (in private) that Netanyahu not do anything to force his hand, like bombing Iran. Other then that, just like dealing with war crimes in the Bush Administration he would rather focus on the economic crisis including health care and Afghanistan for now.

Now if he has some success in Afghanistan. If he were to capture Bin Laden for instance well then he'd roll right over Bibi, but right now he'll probably settle for some meaningless promises and guarantees they won't launch any large scale military actions and in return he'll make some meaningless promises of his own.

A full scale confrontation with AIPAC, with not just Republicans, but Democrats against him is more then he can handle right now. And Netanyahu would rather avoid a public clash so long as he can continue with the colonization and ethnic cleansing of the West Bank. Slowly making sure that the establishment of a  Palestinian state will be impossible.

by hankg 2009-05-18 07:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Leftist Rabbi to Obama: No More Negotiations t

I find this supposition regarding Obama's intentions flawed for one major reason.  Obama has gotten out front and adamantly insisted on the two state path far more visibly, vocally, consistently, and immediately than any predecessor.  It's not clear what doing so gets him except if he's actually committed to progress toward that goal.  He could have been much more equivocal and quiet.  It seems to me he is actually interested in spending energy and political capital here right out of the gate.  Whether he will succeed is another question.  But it seems odd to interpret the focus he has shown on this issue as deflecting or serving some other indirect purpose.  I just do not see how that would make any strategic sense.

by Strummerson 2009-05-18 07:35AM | 0 recs
Re: Leftist Rabbi to Obama: No More Negotiations t

I agree that Obama is committed to making a two state solution and peace a reality. I would be surprised if he was ready right now to face the political consequences of confronting those determined to make sure it never happens. Not that he is not planning on doing just that at a time of his choosing.

You don't bring a knife to a gun fight and I'm not sure that he has a big enough array of weapons to engage his opposition right now. He will try and contain any further damage to the situation in Israel/Palestine as he prepares the ground.

This is just speculation based on his behavior with the issue of torture but I would be pleased to be proven wrong.

by hankg 2009-05-18 07:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Leftist Rabbi to Obama: No More Negotiations t

I think he understands that there is no way "to contain any further damage" at this point.  Things are critical.  The status quo is not static.  Things are moving forward, one way or another, and he has to step in and influence the direction.  Abdullah is rallying Arab League members to the Saudi plan that they have already endorsed.  More states in the region are putting full normalization on the table than ever before.  And settlements proceed apace.  It's not clear how long the current opportunity will last.  But things will get better or worse.  They cannot stay the same.  

Say what you want about Obama, but he thinks strategically.  We may not always agree with his strategies either long or short term, and some may not work.  But he has been clear about his intentions and expressed them purposefully to set up today's meeting, which is one of a set of pivotal opening gambits, perhaps the most significant of them so far indeed.  But it's still an opening gambit.  Let's hope it's a good one.  But we may not really know the answer to that for some time.

by Strummerson 2009-05-18 08:06AM | 0 recs
Re: No More Negotiations t

Actions are the key, just what Obama can make Israel do to move toward the two state solution.

From the perspective of Likud, actions can only mean making trivial concessions while the colonization moves forward. And trivial concessions is precisely what the US has achieved over the years, regardless of whether it was Likud, Labor, or Kadima running the Israeli government.

The danger is the Obama, like Clinton and Bush before him, will give up and accept trivia as substantial gains in working toward peace. Does anyone wonder why the Palestinian intelligensia are skeptical. They have been through this before.

by MainStreet 2009-05-18 08:29AM | 0 recs
Re: No More Negotiations t

Many among the Israeli intelligentsia are equally skeptical.  Yet both of these constituencies are following what is happening more closely than any other period in recent history.

Obama may be able to put Bibi in a bind: accept two states and lose the right, or obstruct and lose Labour and the confidence of the electorate that he has anything real to offer them.  I think today will be about sizing one another up.  The important thing for Obama to do is to clarify that obfuscation will not be tolerated.  He's set himself up to do that by his unequivocal support of two states and his underscoring of the urgency for progress.  He has stood up to AIPAC, both directly and through Emmanuel and Biden.  Clinton and Mitchell have also been firm about this.

by Strummerson 2009-05-18 08:44AM | 0 recs
Re: No More Negotiations t

ANALYSIS / Netanyahu's problem will be the Palestinians, not Iran
By Aluf Benn

The impression one gets on the eve of the meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama is that there has never been so much hype before. The media have employed typical hyperbole, describing it as a "clash of the titans" and speaking of a historic turning point in U.S.-Israel ties, and possibly in the Middle East at large.


Obama will receive Netanyahu in the Oval Office today, at a time when Obama's supporters expect him to brandish the stick and force Israel out of the territories. They see Obama's popular standing among the American public, the solid Democratic majority in Congress and the weakened pro-Israel lobby as combining to create unique conditions of political power that could end the occupation and the settlement enterprise and establish an independent Palestinian state.
Netanyahu is heading to the meeting with the knowledge that this is the chance of his lifetime. He will sit next to Obama and try to convince him to focus his efforts on stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear explosives. From Netanyahu's point of view, Iran is the first, second and third subject on the agenda, leaving everything else - including Israel's relations with the Palestinians and with Syria - at the bottom of the heap. If Obama shows understanding on the Iranian issue, Netanyahu will be more flexible on other matters.


Netanyahu's problem is the Palestinian question. On June 4, Obama will give an address in Cairo in which he will present his vision on the Middle East. While George W. Bush spoke of the two-state solution in 2002, Obama is likely to express greater commitment to Palestinian independence than his predecessor did. Netanyahu can be expected to attempt to influence the content of that speech in an effort to avoid a confrontation with his right-wing coalition as well as with Obama.


But Netanyahu is in a bind: He can't afford to anger the Americans over the settlements, but stands to lose a great deal among his supporters in Likud if he does take action. And so he will attempt to remove the settlements - not from the West Bank but from the center of discussion, using the usual method of establishing a committee. He will try to find a formula that will assuage the United States without declaring a freeze on settlement construction that could lose him the coalition. It will be interesting to see whether Obama opts for confrontation now or decides to go along at Netanyahu's pace.
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1086 225.html

I think Obama is too savvy to simply go along at Bib's pace.  But the way he confronts Bibi will matter greatly.  What if instead of Ali rope-a-doping Foreman, he found himself faced with a younger, smarter, better Ali?

That's what I want to see.

by Strummerson 2009-05-18 08:54AM | 0 recs
Re: No More Negotiations t

Based on the comments of Israeli government officials like the Defense Minister they seem arrogantly confident that they call the shots when it comes to American policy. One thing Obama needs to do whatever his short term goals are is instill some fear into Netanyahu and make it clear who is the Alpha dog in the relationship.

by hankg 2009-05-18 10:12AM | 0 recs
Re: No More Negotiations t

Agreed.  This is exactly what the Israeli press has been focused on in the run-up to this meeting.  The left and even some in the center want to see Obama face down Bibi's tired obfuscation tactics.  The right is already afraid.

by Strummerson 2009-05-18 10:26AM | 0 recs
I'm really wondering....

Obama's tendency is much more the carrot, THEN the stick...

It gives him that "moral high ground" (yeah, like there is one in reality) then to play hard-ball right up front.

I DO think he has a short term tactical advantage, because the Israelis come to this meeting to a certain extent with their cards facing up.

So, I would not be surprised if this FIRST meeting is Obama playing Bibi, but not wacking him directly at first, but seeing how he wants to play it.

Where I have seen Obama fall down has been with the absoutely WRONG soldiers out there, Larry Summers is the worst example of that..

But I think SOS Clinton and Rahm have a pretty clear picture of Bibi, so I think advantage Barack as the unknown quantity in this first tussle....

by WashStateBlue 2009-05-18 10:52AM | 0 recs
Re: I'm really wondering....

Yes.  The one thing that I hope happened behind closed doors was Obama making clear to Bibi that this maneuver with the expansion of the settlement Maskiyot today, in order to develop more housing for settlers removed from Gaza two years ago no less, will not fly.  The Israeli gov't of course claimed that the timing was coincidental.  No one in the Israeli press is buying that.  I hope Obama looked Bibi straight in the eye and asked if he really wants to play games and show him up.  I hope told him not to fuck around and through the "coincidence" claim back in his face.  After all, even if it is coincidental, and it's not, such a coincidence should have been avoided.  You want to send messages Bibi?  Here are two or three messages I will send back if you try that crap again.

by Strummerson 2009-05-18 11:04AM | 0 recs
Playing Chicken as it were....

You wonder if Bibi bought the sell job the Republicans were doing in the general election, that Obama was a young dilletante, and would fold when pushed.

I think Obama has a stronger spine then many give him credit for.

Hell, he pulled the electoral rabbit out of hat, so maybe he knows something we don't?

This is all free money he is playing with at this point, and I think the mixture of that with a real sense of pragmaticism might make him stronger in these negotitions then the Israeli's suspect. I think they would have had McCain over a barrel, and just continued to run roughshod over him as they did Bush.

Obama has potentially 8 years to work at this, I think the Israeli right-wing underestimates his stamina for an extended contest with them at their own peril.

Domestically, I believe simply because of the absolute focus on the economy, Obama has much more latitude to play against the strong influence of AIPAC and the rest of the Democratic party influence.

I think this is the strongest hand a US President has had to deal with the Israelis, even stronger then Hillary would have had IMO.

This dance will be fascinating to watch, especially how the Israeli press sees this first exchange.

by WashStateBlue 2009-05-18 12:25PM | 0 recs
Re: No More Negotiations t

This scrap is from PBS.org dated September 13, 1993. Let's just see where we have come from there. Two states sounds familiar. Where are they 16 years later?

The historic Oslo accord is signed at the White House. Palestinians and Israelis agree to recognize the other's right to exist: "It is time to put an end to decades of confrontation and conflict" and "strive to live in peaceful coexistence and mutual dignity and security and achieve a just, lasting, and comprehensive peace." Soon Israel begins its promised withdrawal from lands occupied since the 1967 war; Jericho and Gaza are transferred to the Palestinians. Yasser Arafat -- Israel's implacable enemy for 30 years -- returns from exile to establish the Palestinian Authority. The parties agree that the most sensitive "final status" issues -- permanent borders, Jewish settlements, Palestinian refugees, and Jerusalem -- will be addressed later.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/ shows/oslo/etc/cron.html

???? Skepticism anyone?

by MainStreet 2009-05-18 07:56AM | 0 recs
Re: No More Negotiations t

The gist of this piece is that being committed to the two state solution is meaningless. It is the actions or inactions that follow that makes the difference. That settlements doubled in rate and number of settlers during the Clinton administration makes clear that what one says is unimportant. The reality, what is actually happening, is important.

This morning Israel announced that it is incrementing settlements (above).

by MainStreet 2009-05-18 08:01AM | 0 recs

Here's a clip of demonstrators outside the White House during the meeting.  

Notice the "pro-Palestinian" protester holding a placard that reads "I Agree, One State, One Person, One Vote."  Regardless of what one thinks of bi-nationalism (one state or one confederal state), and I think this is not the appropriate place to re-open that debate, this is exactly what should be argued to the Israeli center and right, i.e. that they have a choice between two states or the extension of citizenship, full democratic civil and national rights to all Palestinians.  In lieu of two states now, Zionist hegemony will lead to its eventual and inevitable demise. Apartheid will not be tolerated either way.

by Strummerson 2009-05-18 11:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Demonstrators

We talk about what Israel wants or doesn't want, one state or two states, and so forth, but not many seem interested in what the Palestinians want, in terms of national identity, freedom, self-determination, and all of those good things.

One state, and I too do not wish to bring it up, will just not satisfy the Palestinian sense of independence. As part of an integrated subpopulation within Israel, I do think that most Palestinians have already gotten as taste of what it means to be part of Israel's tail.

In short, Israel can never be Palestine.

by MainStreet 2009-05-18 11:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Demonstrators

My point, which you are about to twist once again and drag us down a road that ends with you slandering me, is that this is an effective rhetorical strategy to pressure Zionist hardliners.  Given that we agree that Israel is the obstructor of two states, shouldn't such tactical considerations be part of the discussion?

But for the record, I never advocated that Palestinians become an "integrated subpopulation within Israel."  You know that very well at this point.  As for your claim that "Israel can never be Palestine," you aren't attending to political realities.  Absent a two state solution, that is exactly what Israel will become within decades.  But more to my point, this is a deeply effective argument to use with Zionist centrists, who participate in delays and obfuscations, as well as with hardliner rejectionists who stand in the way of the two state solution.

The question is whether you can stop before you run out of arguments and accuse me of shilling for the Likud or apologizing for the occupation, simply because we disagree on some particulars.

Can you do that?

by Strummerson 2009-05-18 12:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Demonstrators

Somehow my post which was about Palestinian aspirations got twisted into something about you.

Believe me, I have no desire to talk about you. Still you insist on reading this self-involved kind of context out of my statements. As you wish.

by MainStreet 2009-05-18 12:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Demonstrators

Twist, then accuse.  


I'm not doing this today.


by Strummerson 2009-05-18 02:20PM | 0 recs
Come on MS

This entire situation is about Palestinian separations, and Strummerson is sympathetic to them.  Unfortunately, the Israel gov't does not seem to care too much about their aspirations, and holds most of the power in this situation.  Strummerson's only point is that if Israel says "no two-state solution" a strong rejoinder is "oh yeah?  How'd you like one state where Palestinians will soon be in the majority?  Because that's what you'll get."

by JJE 2009-05-19 07:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Come on MS

Cheers JJE.  I'm going to keep your directness and conciseness in mind from now on.  Part of the problem may be my tendency to over argue my points.  Nonetheless, your grasped my point here perfectly.

by Strummerson 2009-05-19 07:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Come on MS

I've told Strummerson that before: one state proposals are either alarmist, carry a threat to Israel, or they are idealistic. In the short term, they support Likud no state solutions which will lead to the annexation of the Palestinian territories into Israel. No, Likud nor the other Israeli parties have figured out how to deal with the Apartheid arrangement that will result.

Anyone who knows anything about this conflict can appreciate that Israel will never permit a full democratic nation for all the peoples who deserve recognition in this conflict, and that would be Jews and Arabs alike, and a few others thrown in.

Apartheid is it. I suppose when Israel has to face international condemnation, as South Africa did, it will conjure up some other red herring to justify Apartheid with some other name.

by MainStreet 2009-05-19 08:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Come on MS

1. You still refuse to recognize the point of the comment, despite JJE's clear statement.  It's not about a proposal but a rhetorical rejoinder to Zionist rejectionists.

2. Your evaluation of one state or confederal proposals does not constitute an argument, but an opinion based on suppositions.  It's a fair opinion, but it would be more convincing and less dogmatic if it took into account the actual arguments by a host of scholars and activists, some of whom you admire, and who understand the dynamics and particulars of this conflict better than either of us.  I have linked you to their arguments.  You choose to dismiss them without considering what they actually argue.

3. You've got it the wrong way around.  Binational (one state or confederal) will not lead to Apartheid; rather it is far more likely that sustained and formalized Apartheid will prove unsustainable given political and demographic realities and produce a binational arrangement of some sort in the long run.  And regardless of whether you agree with me on this, making this argument is the best way to push back at rejectionists who support the idea of a Jewish state.  That is what my comment was all about in the first place.

4. Your repeated conflation of the permanent Zionist hegemony envisioned by the Likud with a non-Zionist bi-national (one state or confederal) arrangement is a tired trick.  It's an obfuscation that purposely misleads and prevents any real dialogue, even on rhetorical strategies that may benefit two state advocacy.

by Strummerson 2009-05-19 09:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Come on MS

"3. You've got it the wrong way around.  Binational (one state or confederal) will not lead to Apartheid; rather it is far more likely that sustained and formalized Apartheid will prove unsustainable given political and demographic realities and produce a binational arrangement of some sort in the long run."

Do you have any estimates of the body counts, presumably largely Palestinian, it will take along the way to this binational ideal, where we have Israeli Jews eating falafel and Palestinians, pastrami? That's of course in the daytime; at night everyone goes home to his/her canton. But since Israel will control 90% of the land, that means Palestinians get 10% to do what they wish so long as it is inside the Wall. That's about what they control now, isn't it?

by MainStreet 2009-05-19 10:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Come on MS

I can caricature your views with equally hyperbolic and cartoonish cheap shots.  But I am not sinking to your level today.

1. You still refuse to acknowledge the context of my original comment.  Aren't you interested in formulating effective responses to 2 state opponents?

2. As I have said countless times with clear consistency, I support the 2 state process, not because of its ethical superiority, but because in the near term it is best for all involved.  I do not think any kind of bi-national arrangement will arise from a diplomatic process, but from its failure.  Long term this might produce a preferable situation on many counts, but not worth the current price.  But what I and many others, whom you choose to label without evidence or argument instead of engaging their analyses, envision will not resemble what you describe so absurdly above.  Yeah that's surely what Halper wants.  And he is an idealist alarmist who lacks your understanding of the situation.

Here are 2 questions:

Absent a 2 state solution, do you think Palestinians will simply give up and accept their subjection?

Do you think the trend that shows an increase of support for the rights of Palestinians in Israel and internationally will wither in that situation?  More Israelis than ever before use the term "occupation."  More Israelis than ever before recognize the conflict between their demographic situation and aspirations to be a liberal democracy.  More Jews and non-Jews around the world are criticizing Israel's policies.  Right wing Zionists have even begun to incorporate critiques of Israel's propagandistic mythologies by critical historians.  Given these phenomena, in the absence of a two state solution everyone will just say: Oh well, we tried, I guess Apartheid is acceptable?

If South Africa could not sustain Apartheid, why do you think Israel can?

Why do you oppose using the specter of a single non-Zionist state, which political Zionists fear more than anything else, to increase support for a two state solution?  Why not use the same political and demographic realities that the protester in front of the White House used yesterday?

by Strummerson 2009-05-19 10:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Come on MS

Oops.  More than two questions.  Just the standard dishonesty you find among us "Likudniks" and "apologists for the occupation."

by Strummerson 2009-05-19 10:51AM | 0 recs
Re: UPDATE from Juan Cole.

I added an update from Juan Cole's site about the Obama-Netanyahu meetings this morning.

What I find interesting about it is the way Cole is capable of destroying the myths that Israel is likely to use to delay real peace negotiations.

The Iran card is fake, and if pulled will have desasterous consequences on the Middle East, Israel included.

by MainStreet 2009-05-18 12:03PM | 0 recs
Juan Cole: a person with an opinion

Given what Obama stated in his press conferance today, I do not believe he shares Juan's opinion.

by oc 2009-05-18 04:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Juan Cole: a person with an opinion

Obama probably doesn't come close to Cole as an expert in the Middle East, but then again Cole is not the politician that Obama is.

Obama went along with the Iran card that Bibi keeps throwing out there, a purely concocted enemy presumably being used to stop any peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

Can anyone show a relationship between Palestinian statehood and Iran nuclear program?

No. But Obama went along with it.

by MainStreet 2009-05-18 04:28PM | 0 recs

Obama's and Netanyahu's remarks and answers to the press following their meeting today may be read here: http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1086387. html

by Strummerson 2009-05-18 02:58PM | 0 recs
Re: transcript

The Security question...

Q Right here. Thank you. Mr. President and Mr. Prime Minister, can you each react to King Abdullah's statement of a week ago that we really are at a critical place in the conflict and that if this moment isn't seized and if a peace isn't achieved now, soon, that in a year, year and a half, we could see renewed major conflict, perhaps war? And do you agree with that assessment?

Mr Prime Minister...


You're on, Pres...

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Look, I think there's an extraordinary opportunity and the Prime Minister said it well. You have Arab states in the region - the Jordanians, the Egyptians, the Saudis - who I think are looking for an opportunity to break this long-standing impasse but aren' sure how to do it, and share concerns about Iran's potential development of a nuclear weapon. In order for us to potentially realign interests in the region in a constructive way, bolstering, to use the Prime Minister's word, the Palestinian-Israeli peace track is critical.

It will not be easy. It never has been easy. In discussions, I don't think the Prime Minister would mind me saying to him - or saying publically what I said privately, which is that there is a recognition that the Palestinians are going to have to do a better job providing the kinds of security assurances that Israelis would need to achieve a two-state solution; that, you know, the leadership of the Palestinians will have to gain additional legitimacy and credibility with their own people, and delivering services. And that's something that the United States and Israel can be helpful in seeing them accomplish.

Point Netanyahu: Palestinians are too incompetent to govern themselves.

The President continues...

The other Arab states have to be more supportive and be bolder in seeking potential normalization with Israel. And next week I will have the Palestinian Authority President Abbas as well as President Mubarak here and I will deliver that message to them.

Now, Israel is going to have to take some difficult steps as well, and I shared with the Prime Minister the fact that under the roadmap and under Annapolis that there's a clear understanding that we have to make progress on settlements. Settlements have to be stopped in order for us to move forward. That's a difficult issue. I recognize that, but it's an important one and it has to be addressed.

I think the humanitarian situation in Gaza has to be addressed. Now, I was along the border in Sderot and saw the evidence of weapons that had been raining down on the heads of innocents in those Israeli cities, and that's unacceptable. So we've got to work with the Egyptians to deal with the smuggling of weapons and it has to be meaningful because no Prime Minister of any country is going to tolerate missiles raining down on their citizens' heads.

Point Netanyahu: Gaza is tragic, but Israel is not at fault. Borders remain closed.

Go on Mr. President...

On the other hand, the fact is, is that if the people of Gaza have no hope, if they can't even get clean water at this point, if the border closures are so tight that it is impossible for reconstruction and humanitarian efforts to take place, then that is not going to be a recipe for Israel's long-term security or a constructive peace track to move forward.

So all these things are going to have to come together and it's going to be difficult, but the one thing that I've committed to the Prime Minister is we are going to be engaged, the United States is going to roll up our sleeves. We want to be a strong partner in this process.

Point Netanyahu: Sympathy for the Gazans, but don't expect anything to happen overnight.

And what do you think of the Prime Minister, Mr. President?

I have great confidence in Prime Minister Netanyahu's political skills, but also his historical vision and his recognition that during the years that he is Prime Minister this second go-around, he is probably going to be confronted with as many important decisions about the long-term strategic interests of Israel as any Prime Minister that we've seen in a very long time. And I have great confidence that he's going to rise to the occasion and I actually think that you're going to see movement in - among Arab states that we have not seen before.

Point Netanyahu: money quotes to bring back to Israel.

So what's taking so long, Mr. President...

But the trick is to try to coordinate all this in a very delicate political environment. And that's why I'm so pleased to have George Mitchell, who is standing behind the scrum there, as our special envoy, because I'm very confident that as somebody who was involved in equally delicate negotiations in Northern Ireland, he is somebody who recognizes that if you apply patience and determination, and you keep your eye on the long-term goal, as the Prime Minister articulated -- which is a wide-ranging peace, not a grudging peace, not a transitory peace, but a wide-ranging, regional peace -- that we can make great progress.

These are the words.

by oc 2009-05-18 03:59PM | 0 recs
Re: transcript

Humor is never to be condemned, Osk.

But this one: "Point Netanyahu: Palestinians are too incompetent to govern themselves."

Ergo, Palestinians should be satisfied with living in bantustans, to be told when they can leave and return to their hovels.

Are you a supporter of Apartheid?

by MainStreet 2009-05-18 04:31PM | 0 recs
Re: transcript

Pretty loaded question. "No, I am no longer beating my wife."

My previous comment was w/o opinion on my part, I was merely given a light hearted translation of the press conf. It is Obama who hinted at the Palestinians ability to govern themselves (at least today). That is how I interpreted the potential meaning behind his words.

But one press conf does not a policy make.

by oc 2009-05-18 04:51PM | 0 recs
Re: transcript

This seems to be Obama's 'money quote' to me:

We also had an extensive discussion about the possibilities of restarting serious negotiations on the issue of Israel and the Palestinians. I have said before and I will repeat again that it is I believe in the interest not only of the Palestinians, but also the Israelis and the United States and the international community to achieve a two-state solution in which Israelis and Palestinians are living side by side in peace and security."

Natasha Mozgovaya - What Obama and Netanyahu really said to each other Haaretz 18 May 09

That was a pretty unequivocal restatement of policy made in Bibi's presence.  And the Mitchell comment was as much a threat as anything else, subtly invoking the intransigence of the Ulstermen and the IRA.  Three points from 'downtown' if you ask me.  'Not a grudging peace,' indeed.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-18 05:26PM | 0 recs
Re: transcript

And right after that comment he stands next to Bibi with statements like

Those obligations were outlined in the road map; they were discussed extensively in Annapolis. And I think that we can - there is no reason why we should not seize this opportunity and this moment for all the parties concerned to take seriously those obligations and to move forward in a way that assures Israel's security, that stops the terrorist attacks that have been such a source of pain and hardship, that we can stop rocket attacks on Israel


So let me just summarize by saying that I think Prime Minister Netanyahu has the benefit of having served as Prime Minister previously. He has both youth and wisdom

You pointed out an important quote from Obama, yet when you look at what was said at large one gets the impression that Obama believes in a two-state solution with certain preconditions that Bibi would favor.  All Obama did was repeat a known talking point in front of Netanyahu (nothing new), what is new (or less emphasised) is what followed.

It's just my impression that Bibi is walking away from this first meeting feeling pretty good about himself. The media generated (and certain diarists here) expectations of Obama pounding Bibi in todays meeting and I think it's fair to say those expectations were not met.

In short, one can not make too much of these press conferences, there's always alot of hugs and kisses.

by oc 2009-05-18 06:15PM | 0 recs
Re: transcript

I didn't have great expectations for a breakthrough here, it is just the 'weigh-in' before the bout, and Obama gave Bibi some souvenirs to take home with him.  But he set the US frame of reference pretty clearly.  And that 'there is no reason why we should not seize this opportunity and this moment,' kinda' runs roughshod over the current rhetoric of right-wing Israelis.  If Bibi is smart he will take the 'hugs and kisses' at market value and go seriously consider his next moves.  

And just in passing, wasn't Obama's remark about 'youth and wisdom' a bit curious?  Bibi's sixty, one is left to ponder how wise he will prove to be.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-18 06:33PM | 0 recs
Re: transcript

"Obama believes in a two-state solution with certain preconditions that Bibi would favor"

Keep in mind that Sharon invoked 14 such preconditions, with the intent to put a stop to peace negotiations, and they indeed went nowhere. So if this constitutes a win for Bibi, it is not a win for peace. It is just a rerun of the past.

And that rerun will eventually lead to Apartheid. Is that a win for Israel?

by MainStreet 2009-05-18 06:43PM | 0 recs
Re: transcript

Nope.  The eventual nail in Political Zionism's coffin.

by Strummerson 2009-05-18 06:46PM | 0 recs
Re: transcript

One of the first things Bibi's government did was to disavow the road map.  Lieberman declared Israel was not bound by it.  Obama's invocation of the Road Map, which explicitly aims at a Palestinian state, and then his underlining of the security assurances it also contains, deftly overrides Bibi's disavowal of that process: "No reason not to pursue the Road Map leading to two states as it also addresses your security concerns, you weasel.  Now I'll flatter you a bunch."

But, as you write, "one can not make too much of these press conferences."  Of course, no one is making as much of this press conference as you are.

by Strummerson 2009-05-18 06:45PM | 0 recs
Re: transcript

Agreed.  Layering the rhetorical dismissal of most of the Right-wing's objections to settlement within a restatement of the areas where US and Israel policy agrees is a sound negotiation tactic which does nothing to undermine Obama's position.

And just a thought, if you could refrain from your little digs at other posters I'm guessing you would make it easier for the rest of us to mojo your otherwise insightful and well-informed comments, it would for me, at least.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-18 07:05PM | 0 recs
Re: transcript

Incorrect, you state "One of the first things Bibi's government did was to disavow the road map.  Lieberman declared Israel was not bound by it.". This is not true.

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?p agename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid =1238562881455

"There is one document that obligates us - and that's not the Annapolis conference, it has no validity," Lieberman told Foreign Ministry employees gathered in the ministry for a changing of the guard ceremony together with outgoing foreign minister Tzipi Livni.

"The Israeli government never ratified Annapolis, nor did the Knesset," Lieberman said. The one document that obligates Israel - and he stressed that Israel is bound by its ratified commitment - is the 2003 road map, officially called "A performance-based road map to a permanent two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

Lieberman declared Annapolis DOA, not "the road map". This must mean that Lieberman supports a two-state solution, just as Obama does. Not sure about Bibi as of yet. It makes sense that Lieberman supports the two state plan, he wants Israel as a Jewish state and is a non-religious man.

Now you may believe Lieberman is full of it and not being sincere, but don't place quotes around the man which he did not state. And please don't put egg on my face by pulling up a quote that contradicts this one.

Re the press conference: it is possible to write a few comments about it AND at the same time not make much of it. That's just me.

by oc 2009-05-18 07:05PM | 0 recs
Re: transcript

1. I stand corrected.  Mixed up RM and Annapolis in my head.  My argument still stands.

2. I put eggs in omelets not on faces.

3. Given your point by point scorecard of the statements and press conference in which you emphatically handed everything to Netanyahu with more declaratives than arguments, you should be able to understand why it would read like cheerleading.

4. Given the space and energy you devote to declaring Bibi the winner without considering nuances, without qualifying that we have no idea what went on in private it seems as if you are indeed making much of it.  In fact, you only suggest that it's unwise to make too much of it when presented with counter-interpretations.

5. If I and others have indeed misunderstood you, I hope this clarifies why.

6. As I argue upthread, we will not know the significance of this meeting for some time.  It's a gambit, of which we are only privy to part.  It seems to me that both of them held to exactly the same positions they stated ahead of the meeting and both were flattering of one another.  Your arguments for how this constitutes such an overwhelming victory thus do not persuade me.  

7. If Bibi did win, then political Zionists everywhere should be very worried.  The right can only produce Pyrrhic victories at this point.  The only way to secure Israel's future as a state that is formally and institutionally "Jewish" is a partition of land and population.  Do you see another solution that preserves Israel in its current framework?  Do you actually see the right's end game, whatever it is and it's not clear at all to me, as feasible?

by Strummerson 2009-05-19 05:04AM | 0 recs
One Brief Observation On Your Quote and Comment

As you know, I'm refraining from commentary on the I/P situation until I feel more qualified. I just wanted to respectfully point out a logical flaw in your quote and subsequent comment above.

Lieberman's statement indicates that he recognizes that currently Israel is legitimately bound by the 'road map' that calls for an eventual permanent two-state solution to the problem. But that doesn't mean HE necessarily supports it, or a two-state solution. The quote leaves his personal beliefs and his commitment to those beliefs as an open question.

Just sayin'.


by RecoveringRepublican 2009-05-19 10:03AM | 0 recs
Re: One Brief Observation On Your Quote...

Nice point. You are correct, it does not mean that he support a two state solution. But given that Lieberman can not snap his fingers and have the Palestinians just disappear, he probably understands that this is the option on the table to ensure a Jewish state. Declaring that Israel is bound to the 'road map' is supporting a two state solution, regardless of what Liebermans personal feelings regarding a future state . He is the FM and he stated Israel obligated to the road map.

Here's what he stated again:

The one document that obligates Israel - and he stressed that Israel is bound by its ratified commitment - is the 2003 road map
That's a pretty strong & clear statement

But the purpose behind my posting of the Lieberman's stance was to dispute a previous comment that Lieberman stated that Israel was NOT bound to the road map. That comment was innocent error.

But you're right to question the words of Lieberman, or any politician, at this stage it's all a game of words. For example, here's a quote from Pelosi today...

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1086 580.html

"There have been previous agreements that talk about a two-state solution, but I emphasize the word solution," she said. "It must be a solution that provides for a Democratic, Jewish State of Israel, living side-by-side with her Palestinian neighbors."

That can be read a couple ways, I read it as two states, but she emphasised the word 'solution' for some reason. And followed that with 'Democratic, Jewish State of Israel' and 'her Palestinian neighbors'. Maybe she didn't get the memo from Obama to call Israel's neighbor 'the State of Palestine'.

by oc 2009-05-19 11:58AM | 0 recs
Re: No More Negotiations to Nowhere! UPDATE

The same old boloney. An example....

"If, however, the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, if they -- if they fight terror, if they educate their children for peace and to a better future, then I think we can come at a substantive solution that allows the two people to live side by side in security and peace and I add prosperity, because I'm a great believer in this."

No expressions of Palestinian statehood. Just reasons why it cannot be done, like the Iran card, which Bibi keeps insisting is causally related to peace with the Palestinians.

The negotiations, in short, did not go well for Obama. Well, that was predictable when Bibi pissed on Obama's leg with the announcement of the start of another settlement. I'm certain that Obama felt the warmth.

by MainStreet 2009-05-18 03:57PM | 0 recs
Look right above your comment

Now this meeting is not the Finals, but if it were Netanyahu took home the championship ring.

Not really sure what Obama's plan is, he pumps out a great deal of two-state rhetoric, but clearly did not appear comfortable with it today.

by oc 2009-05-18 04:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Look right above your comment

And you're not the only Likudnik on this site. No matter. Keep blogging. It helps liberals and progressives like me to hear this stuff.

by MainStreet 2009-05-18 04:33PM | 0 recs
Re: Look right above your comment

I did not write what I support, I simply 'scored' the event.  Obama lost, Bibi won. One can state that Netanyahu 'won' this round w/o supporting Likud. You agree that Obama's performance was rookie, does that make you a 'Likudnik'? I think not.

Don't connect so many dots, it only creates false conclusions.

by oc 2009-05-18 04:58PM | 0 recs
Re: Look right above your comment

If Bibi won, as you contend, then it was really a loss for everyone, for peace, and for liberal and democratic values. We are now in a situation where it is the Israeli right wing versus the world, versus freedom and self determination for a people deprived of it since 1948.

So you may be right, but how unfortunate it is to be right in this situation.

by MainStreet 2009-05-18 06:37PM | 0 recs
Re: Look right above your comment

"freedom and self determination for a people deprived of it since 1948."

This is historically inaccurate and plays directly into the hands of the right wing.  Palestinians have never had national self-determination, something which only arises in the modern period (see the English revolution and founding of the Dutch republic in the 17th centuries and the French revolution in the 18th century).  Prior to WWI they were subjects of the Ottoman Empire.  Between WWI and WWII, Palestine was mandated to the UK by the League of Nations.

Zionists on the right invariably argue several related points.

1. That Palestinians only belatedly emerged as a nation and thus do not have equally legitimate claims to self-determination as other nations.

Our answer:  So what.  It does not mean they do not have national rights.  There is a population of several million people who share a culture, a dialect of a language, a historical narrative, and a connection to one another and to a geographical location.  They have all the hallmarks of a modern nation.  Either one acknowledges the rights of nations to full sovereignty or not.  You cannot pick and choose.

2. That the Palestinians were offered a state in 1947 and chose war instead.

Our answer: We can argue whether their rejection of the UN partition plan was valid or not and whether the move toward war was justified.  But all of that misses the point.  There exists today a people that bears all the hallmarks of a nation as we understand nationhood that seeks full expression of national rights alongside the rest of the nations of the world.  Their situation is economically and politically intolerable.  It is in the interests of all nations to recognize the validity of their nationhood and demands for national self-determination as a moral and practical matter.  Statehood provides an opportunity for their development of civil society and economic prosperity.  Refusal prolongs oppression and feeds conditions for violence.

Regardless, arguing that Palestinian self-determination was stripped in 1948 undermines one's credibility by revealing a lack of command of history and feeds obfuscations that are, by definition, beside the point.

by Strummerson 2009-05-19 10:08AM | 0 recs
Re: Look right above your comment

Stop pumping Zionist propaganda.

Ben Gurion: "They (Palestinians) think we stole their country." This refers to the ethnic cleansing of 1948, and, of course, he was correct and the country referred to was Palestine.

When the British decided to become nation-makers after WWI and deposed the Ottomans who were occupiers for the previous 400 years, they did so along ethnic lines, creating Palestine out of Palestinia, which existed back to the Roman era, and had been primarily settled by an Arabic people now known as the Palestinians. The British essentially did what Garabaldi did for Italy decades earlier: he unified like peoples into countries (screwing up Iraq on the way, of course).

"We can argue whether their rejection of the UN partition plan was valid or not and whether the move toward war was justified.  But all of that misses the point."

Your point here misses the point, the claim that the Palestinians moved toward war. Never happened. The Palestinians did not have the ability to make war. The war you are talking about was started by the ethnic cleansing that the Zionist militias engaged in starting two months before Independence by the surrounding Arab countries. About 250,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed before that point, many of whom fled after the Zionist terror gangs commenced massacring villages like Deir Yassin, which garnered world wide attention. The Arab countries united to come to the rescue of the Palestinian people.

And of course the Palestinians refused the partition plan: 400,000 Palestinians in numerous villages and towns were trapped in the proposed Jewish Partition. Did anyone really think that these people would choose to leave their homes, property, way of life, their villages and towns for residence in refugee camps?

by MainStreet 2009-05-19 11:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Look right above your comment

Was there an independent sovereign Palestine before 1948?

Your comment implied that there was.  There was no national self-determination for Palestinians at any time in history.  This does not mean that there should not be.  My comment clearly argues the opposite.

Your statement makes an opening for Zionist propagandists.  Are you so eager to be their dupe?  

I pumped nothing here.  I simply demonstrated how such fumbling of the historical record plays into the hands of those we should be arguing against as effectively as possible.  I parroted their objection in order to offer a sample refutation.  You even mojo'd it.  Now you take the sample propaganda as my position and ignore the effective refutations I offer.  Did you actually fail to comprehend the comment or are you just being a jerk again?

So now I am a Zionist propagandist.

I recommend you slow down and read a comment and try to understand it before slandering the commenter.  It's much more productive.

by Strummerson 2009-05-19 11:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Look right above your comment

I routinely mojo comments to indicate having read them, not that I agree with them, unless they are pure boloney, like comments intended to defame individuals.

Your statement: Was there an independent sovereign Palestine before 1948? is an old bit of Zionist propaganda, including the notion that Jordan is Palestine, and that the Palestinians are not a self-identified people, just Arabs. Sadly for this argument, Jordanians can actually tell the difference, and Palestinians who are Jordanian citizens can as well. You can say the same thing about Israelites. Was there ever a sovereign country called Israel or was there a group of independent tribal groups who shared a culture? By the same token, was there ever a sovereign Italy before 1850 or so, or was there a group of independent city states? The concept of a sovereign state, as you well know, came late to many regions as it did to Palestinia.

by MainStreet 2009-05-19 05:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Look right above your comment

"The concept of a sovereign state, as you well know, came late to many regions as it did to Palestinia."

This comment is proof that you did not read my comment before bashing it as "Zionist propaganda," an empty and unsupportable slur.  I made this very point myself.  You simply neglected it.

My point in my original comment is that arguing that Palestinian self-determination was stripped in 1948 provides an opening for this "old bit of Zionist propaganda" that tries to delegitimize Palestinian rights, history, and aspirations, which I consistently support.  And your agreement that modern nationhood and self-determination is a late historical phenomenon shows that you know this very well.

Why butcher the historical record and create openings for obfuscation?  There was no "independent sovereign Palestine before 1948" nor has there ever been.  That has little to nothing to do with the validity of Palestinian nationhood at present and the injustices they have faced.  But instead of working from our agreement on this as a point of departure for a discussion of tactics, you invent imaginary disagreement in order to manufacture enmity.  What's your point?

by Strummerson 2009-05-19 06:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Look right above your comment

Whether you like it or not, myths concerning the nonexistence of Palestinian identity and the lack of attachment of Palestinians to the lands of Palestine are part of the Zionist propaganda effort. That's all. That there was never a sovereign Palestinian state is just an extension of that propaganda, because it is often said without the context.

That Palestine was a land without a people is just another version of this myth. Ask Alan Dershowitz, who loves to repeat this dishonest nonsense.

by MainStreet 2009-05-20 05:16AM | 0 recs
Again, MS

it seems you are missing Strummerson's point.  He is saying that if you say "Palestinians were stripped of nationhood in 1948" the right-wing rejoinder is "they never had nationhood before 1948," which, unfortunately, is true.  

Since all are in agreement that the right-wing rejoinder is irrelevant to whether Palestinians should have statehood now, it is inadvisable, as a rhetorical strategy, to frame your arguments in a way that makes them vulnerable to right-wing rhetoric.  Better to say "for a people [Palestinians] who have been denied their national rights by a series of occupiers, of which Israel is the latest."

by JJE 2009-05-20 05:28AM | 0 recs
Re: Again, MS

More importantly, I would never argue that Palestinians were stripped of "nationhood" in 1948 because I do not believe a people can be stripped of its national identity by anyone.  I also think Palestinian nationhood existed in recognizable form in 1948.  It existed and was inalienable, as subsequent history has demonstrated conclusively.

The problem is in arguing that Palestinians were stripped of "self-determination" and/or "sovereignty," which they never had.  These are not the same as "nationhood."  Arguing otherwise enables rejectionists to offer the argument that there must be a precedent of "self-determination" and "sovereignty" for "nationhood" to be valid.  This is bunk, or course.  "Nationhood" is the basis for the right to "sovereignty" and "self-determination," not the other way around.  At least until we get to the point that national identity can be detached from the nation-state.  We are not there yet.

But I would never deny Palestinian national identity.  And you correctly pick up on my intention to undermine those who would use this misreading of history as an opening to do so.

by Strummerson 2009-05-20 05:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Again, MS

And just what was Strummerson's point, which I did not disagree with, but only drew attention to the fact that that very point is often used by Zionist propagandists to nullify Palestinian aspirations for a sovereign state.

I also made that point that Italy and even Germany were countries that lacked sovereign statehood until the latter half of the 19th century, when they were unified. Before that they were collections of independent city-states and principalities.

That's all. Your last statement is true. So are mine above.

by MainStreet 2009-05-20 06:53AM | 0 recs
Re: Again, MS

Hmmm.  However did JJE and I misinterpret "Stop pumping Zionist propaganda" as disagreement?

by Strummerson 2009-05-20 07:07AM | 0 recs


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