Netanyahu chooses to warehouse Palestinians
by MainStreet, Wed May 27, 2009 at 09:39:32 AM EDT
Would Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu say the magic words "two states" after his meeting with President Obama? All Israel held its breath. (He didn't). The gap between the two is wider than those words could ever have bridged, however. Obama, I believe, sincerely - perhaps urgently - seeks a resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, a precondition, he understands, to getting on with larger, more pressing Middle Eastern issues. Netanyahu, who rejects even the notion of a Palestinian mini-state as grudgingly accepted by Barak, Sharon and Olmert, is seeking a permanent state of "warehousing" in which the Palestinians live forever in a limbo of "autonomy" delineated by an Israel that otherwise encompasses them. The danger, to which we all should be attuned, is that the two sides might compromise on apartheid - the establishment of a Palestinian Bantustan that has neither genuine sovereignty nor economic viability.
For his part, Obama seems to understand the strong linkage between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the hostility towards the West so prevalent in the Muslim world. His administration has been quite candid about the need to move forward on Palestine in order to deal with the Iranian nuclear issue, and his ability to withdraw from Iraq, stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan and deal with the challenge political Islam poses to the "moderate" Arab states also depend, to a meaningful degree, on forging a new relationship with the Muslim world , which requires an end to the Israeli Occupation.
Yet ending the Israeli occupation is furtherest from Netanyahu's mind, who still seems focused on continuing the colonization through what he calls "natural growth" expansion of settlements. Netanyahu's latest effort to defy Obama is to offer the dismantling of some illegal outposts, while continuing to build only in existing settlements, a plan that would potentially double the population of Israelis living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including the populations of large settlements (let's just call them what they are, cities) located beyond the Wall.
According to Halper, Netanyahu and his Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman are in the process of "reframing" the conflict: Here's how (details in article):
(1) The Iran threat is preeminent, uniting the US and Israel into a strategic alliance and completely overshadowing the Palestinian issue...
(2) Such "slogans" (as Lieberman characterized them) as occupation, settlements, settlers, land for peace and even the "simplistic" two-state solution must be abandoned in order to "go forward" according to a new slogan: "economy, security, stability" - meaning improving the Palestinian economy while ensuring Israel's security.
(3) Israel will continue to expand its "facts on the ground."
(4) "United Jerusalem is Israel's capital. Jerusalem was always ours and will always be ours. It will never again be partitioned and divided." (Netanyahu two days after meeting Obama)
(5) Both the US and Israel seek broader involvement in the peace process by the Arab states, but once again, Israel has its own particular spin on that. While the US is formulating a comprehensive approach to peace and stabilization in the entire Middle East region, Israel's formula of putting "economic peace" before any politically defined peace agreement tries to create a state of normalization between Israel and the Arab/Muslim world that would relegate the Palestinian issue indefinitely to the back-burner.
Then there all the mechanisms for delaying or undermining negotiations:
· Creating insurmountable political obstacles, such as the demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a "Jewish state."
· Delayed implementation. OK, the Israeli government says, we'll negotiate, but the implementation of any agreement will wait on the complete cessation of any resistance on the part of the Palestinians. (Another impossible provision: pacification.)
· Declaring a "transitional" Palestinian state. If all else fails - actually negotiating with the Palestinians or relinquishing the Occupation not being an option - the US, at Israel's behest, can manage to skip Phase 1 of the Road Map and go directly to Phase 2, which calls for a "transitional" Palestinian state before, in Phase 3, its actual borders, territory and sovereignty are agreed upon. This is the Palestinians' nightmare: being locked indefinitely in the limbo of a "transitional" state.
In conclusion, Halper concedes that a real two-state solution is anathema to the Likud-led government and that the best term to describe what Israel intends for the Palestinians is warehousing,"a permanent state of control and suppression in which the victims disappear from view and their situation, emptied of all political content, becomes a non-issue."
Without significant pressure, the Obama administration's call for a viable two-state solution, even understanding all of Israel's tricks, will not be answered. Israel's trump card has always been Congress, where it enjoys bi-partisan support. The leaders of Obama's own party may balk at pressuring Israel, fearful of not being re-elected. AIPAC is still a force to deal with in Washington.
What Halper sees as the most disturbing possible outcome of Obama's peace initiative is "compromise" between resolution of the conflict and the inability to get Israel to withdraw from the Occupied Territories so that a viable Palestinian state may emerge. Such a compromise may nothing less than Apartheid, even though other euphemisms may be invoked.
Where does Obama stand? According to Halper, there already are signs that "the Obama administration will allow Israel to keep its major settlement blocs, including a "Greater" Jerusalem, and prevent the Palestinians from having sovereign borders with the neighboring Arab states." Such outcomes would suggest that Obama is prepared to fold under pressure.
Halper's last word: "Israel believes that it can finesse an apartheid situation in the guise of a two-state solution."
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions is based in Jerusalem and has chapters in the United Kingdom and the United States. I will try to inform when Halper's article appears on ICAHD sites. Here they are: