Israel versus peace

the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war ...

United Nations Security Council Resolution 242

Israel has certainly been sincere in its desire for peace,
but unfortunately,
it seems to require that the Palestinians accept its terms, terms which
the vast majority of the nations in the United Nations, for example,
consider both
unfair to the Palestinians and
setting a bad precedent.
This document contains a number of articles which address this issue.

[The following is an excerpt from pages 7–8 of
Lords of the Land by Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar.
Emphasis is added.]

Presumably, at the time of the June 19 [1967 Israeli cabinet] decision,
Prime Minister Levi Eshkol had already seen
the proposal for the solution to the Palestinian problem
that had been written by some [four] officials of the Mossad,
Israel’s foreign intelligence service.
At the behest of the Israel Defense Forces Intelligence Division,
the officials had surveyed Palestinian attitudes in the West Bank
and submitted a document to the head of military intelligence on June 14 [1967].
The authors, experienced intelligence officers,
recommended that
an independent Palestinian state should be established as quickly as possible
“under the auspices of the IDF” and
“in agreement with the Palestinian leadership.”
The Palestinian state would be established
in the territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip
within borders based on the 1949 truce lines,
with minor adjustments in Jerusalem,
the Latrun Salient northwest of Jerusalem,
and the Gilboa area at the northern edge of the West Bank.
“In order to enable an honorable agreement,” the document said,
Israel would “examine the possibility of
relinquishing some Arab villages in its territory.”
In the framework of the proposed plan,
Israel would “take upon itself the initiative
to solve the [refugee] problem once and for all”
and head an international project to rehabilitate and settle the refugees.
This revolutionary proposal,
which stressed that
it was necessary to act quickly and in agreement with the Palestinians,
and which, had it been accepted and implemented,
could have changed the history of Israel and the entire Middle East,
was based, according to its authors,
on an inquiry they had conducted
among the political leadership in the West Bank.
They found that
“the vast majority of West Bank leaders,
including the most extreme among them,
are prepared at this time to reach a permanent peace agreement”
on the basis of “an independent existence for Palestine,” without an army.

[Endnote 10:
David Kimche (on behalf of Yitzhak Oron, Alouph Hareven, and Dan Bavli),
“Proposal for a Solution to the Palestinian Problem” (top secret),
unnumbered, June 14, 1967.
Kimche has informed the authors that
the paper came to Prime Minister Levi Eshkol’s attention
very close to the time of its writing.]

But the voice of sanity and the long-sightedness of the four Mossad men
was lost in the clamor of the euphoria of those days.

[End of excerpt from Lords of the Land.]

Miscellaneous Articles


How to Torpedo the Saudis
Thirty five years of occupation and settlement
have eroded Israel’s ability to reason,
leaving instead a mixture of arrogance and folly.

By Uri Avnery (Israeli peace activist)
CounterPunch.org, 2002-03-04

[Thanks to Norman Finkelstein for pointing out this article,
in his Beyond Chutzpah.
All emphasis is added.]

If, in May 1967,
an Arab prince had proposed that
the whole Arab world
would recognize Israel and establish normal relations with it,
in return for Israel’s recognition of the Green Line border,
we [Israelis] would have believed that the days of the Messiah had arrived.
Masses of people would have run into the street, singing and dancing,
as they did on November 29, 1947, when the United Nations
called for the establishment of a Jewish and an Arab state in Palestine.

But then disaster struck:
we conquered the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,
the Labor and Likud governments filled them up with settlements,
and today this offer sounds to many like a malicious anti-Semitic plot.

The leaders of Israel tell us: Don't worry.
Just as we survived Pharaoh, so we shall survive Emir Abdallah.*

This is an allusion to a famous Israeli song.

So what will happen?

In Israel,
every international initiative designed to put an end to the conflict
passes through three stages:
  1. denial
  2. misrepresentation
  3. liquidation.
That’s how the Sharon-Peres government will deal with this one, too.
It can draw on 53 years of experience, during which
both Labor and Likud governments have succeeded in
scuttling every peace plan put forward.

(We must nor suspect, God forbid, that
the successive Israeli governments were opposed to peace.
Not at all.
Every one of them wanted peace. They all longed for peace.
“Provided peace gives us the whole country,
at least up to the Jordan river,
and lets us cover all of it with Jewish settlements.”
Until now, all peace plans have fallen short of that.)

PHASE A is designed to belittle the offer.
“There is nothing new there,” the Political Sources would assert.
“It is offered solely for tactical purposes. It is a political gimmick”.
If the offer comes from an Arab:
“He says it to the international community, but not to his own people”.
In short,
“It’s not serious.”

One proven method is to concentrate on one word and
argue that it shows the dishonesty of the whole offer.
For example, before the October 1973 war,
President Anwar Sadat of Egypt made a far-reaching peace offer.
Golda Meir rejected it out of hand.
Her Arabists (there are always intellectual whores around to do the dirty job)
discovered that Sadat spoke of “salaam” but not of “sulh,”
which “proves” that he does not mean real peace.
More than 2000 Israel soldiers and tens of thousand of Egyptians
paid with their lives for this word.
After that, a salaam treaty was signed.

Such methods are already being applied now to the Saudi offer.
First it was said that Crown Prince Abdullah
had spoken about his initiative only with an American journalist,
but not addressed his own people.
When it transpired that it was widely published in all Saudi papers,
both at home and in London, another argument was put forward:
the prince has made his offer only because
Saudis had become unpopular in the United States after the Twin Towers outrage.
(As if this matters.)
In short, Abdullah has not become a real Zionist.

This point was widely discussed in the Israeli media.
Commentators commentated, scholars showed their scholarly prowess.
But not one (not one!) of them discussed the actual content of the offer.

PHASE B is designed to outsmart the offer.
We do not reject the offer. Of course not! We are longing for peace!
So we welcome the “positive trend” of the offer and
kick the ball out of the field.

The best method is
to ask for a meeting with the Arab leader who proposed the offer,
“to clarify the issues”.
That sounds logical.
Americans think that, if two people have a quarrel,
they should meet and discuss the matter, in order to end it.
What can be more reasonable than that?

But a conflict between nations does not resemble a quarrel between two people.
Every Arab peace offer rests on a two-part premise:
You give back the occupied territories,
and you get recognition and “normalization”.

Normalization includes, of course, meetings of the leaders.
When the Israeli government
demands a meeting with Arab leaders “to clarify details”,
it actually tries to get the reward (normalization)
without delivering the goods (withdrawal from the occupied territories).
A beautiful trick, indeed.
If the Arab leaders refuse to meet, well,
it only shows that their peace offer is a sham, doesn’t it?

Many peace offers have fallen into this trap.
Ben-Gurion offered to meet with Muhammad Naguib,
the Egyptian ruler after the 1952 revolution.
Several Prime Ministers asked to meet Hafez al-Assad.
Only Sadat outsmarted the smart ones and turned the tables on them.
He came to Jerusalem on his own initiative.

When the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted resolution 242,
the Israeli government did not accept it.
Only much later, when there was no way out, it accepted it
“according to the Israeli interpretation”.
This concentrated on the article “the” that is missing in the English version
(which demands withdrawal from “occupied territories”
instead of from “the occupied territories”),
contrary to the French version, in which the article duly appears.
(The Soviets were caught napping, because there is no article in the Russian language.)

The preferred method is
to kill the spirit of the offer slowly,
to talk about it endlessly,
to interpret it this way and that way,
to drag negotiations on and on,
to put forward condition which the other side cannot accept,
until the initiative yields in silence.
That’s what happened to the Conciliation Committee in Lausanne,
that is what happened to most of the European and American peace plans.

[For some further examples, see “Missed Opportunities (Partial List).”]

PHASE C: If phases A and B have not worked, the liquidation stage arrives.
Nowadays it is called “targeted prevention” or, simply,
“ascertained killing” by the army.
Against the original UN mediator, the Swedish Count Folke Bernadotte,
“targeted prevention” was applied literally: he was shot and killed.
The killers were “dissidents”, but Ben-Gurion did not shed any tears.

Israeli governments use two deadly torpedoes in their arsenal:
the US Congress and
the American media.

[Note clearly what the Israeli Avnery just said:
The U.S. Congress and the American media
are tools of Israeli governments.
Of course, that is absolutely correct.
Similarly, Ralph Nader called the American president and the congress
“puppets” of Israeli prime ministers.
What is a real problem for America, I believe,
is that many American Jews are so unhappy about
their power being openly discussed.]

William Rogers, President Nixon’s secretary of state, for example,
proposed a peace plan that included
the withdrawal of Israel to the pre-1967 border, with “insubstantial changes”.
Israel released its torpedoes and sunk Rogers together with his plan.
His job was taken over by the Jewish megalomaniac, Henry Kissinger,
and that was the end of peace plans.

Can the Saudi initiative be scuttled in the same way?
If the Saudis stay their course, it will not be easy to intercept it.
This time the target is not a small frigate, not even a destroyer,
but a mighty aircraft carrier.
A great effort will be needed to torpedo it.

But Shimon Peres and his foreign office are experts at this kind of job;
they have been at it for decades.
Ariel Sharon will push them.
The pitiful Labor party, under the leadership of a small-time copy of Sharon,
will join the chorus.
Faced with the terrible threat of having to end the occupation,
the Israeli media will rally behind the government.

Nobody revolts, nobody cries out.
In Israel, real public discourse has died long ago.
The national instinct of survival has become blunted.
Thirty five years of occupation and settlement
have eroded the nation’s ability to reason,
leaving instead a mixture of arrogance and folly.

A great, perhaps unique opportunity may be missed.
Hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands may pay for it with their lives.
They will not dance in the streets any more.

[This article was cited in endnote 44
to the Introduction to the Second Edition of
Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict by Norman Finkelstein.]

[Further ways to “torpedo the Saudi initiative”
are provided in the 2007-08-19 column
Seeing is Believing” by Thomas L. Friedman.]

So what if the Arabs want to make peace?
by Aviv Lavie
Haaretz, 2002-04-03

[The article, followed by one on a slightly different topic;
emphasis is added.]

A foreign correspondent based here for many years
couldn’t hide his amazement this week.
“We were all anticipating the reaction in Israel to the Saudi initiative,
as soon as it became the official position of the Arab League,”
he said of himself and his colleagues.
“Some believed the Sharon government would reject it
and then have to deal with a wave of protest from the left.
Others thought the broader public would not be enthusiastic,
and there was one unrepentant optimist who believed
Sharon would surprise everyone and deal with it seriously.

“There’s only one thing we didn’t take into account:
that the decision would be greeted with nearly total silence,
that the media wouldn’t conduct a serious discussion
of the dramatic step taken by the Arab world.
History is happening in front of your eyes,
but you’re behaving as if it has nothing to do with you.”

The source of the rivers of blood now being spilled
are said to be found in the failure of the Camp David summit of July 2000.
The Israeli media - as we’ve noted in the past -
adopted Ehud Barak’s version of events hook, line and sinker.
Barak claimed that he offered the Palestinians
  • nearly total withdrawal (with territorial exchanges) to the 1967 borders,
  • a division of Jerusalem, and
  • a creative solution to the refugee problem.
According to Barak, Arafat said no.
That was proof that we want peace, he said then,
and that the chairman of the Palestinian Authority wants bloodshed.
But over time,
it turned out that there was a lot more to what happened at Camp David.

But let’s let bygones be bygones.
This past week,
22 Arab states put an historic proposal on the international table,
and it is surprisingly similar
to what Barak claims to have proposed two years ago.
  • Peace based on the `67 borders,
  • open negotiations on an agreed solution to the refugee problem, and
  • a division of Jerusalem.
As expected,
the Sharon government rejected the proposal with contempt.
the Israeli press, except for a few weak voices -
helped bury the proposal way underground.

Apparently we have more important things to deal with.

Journalists are not supposed
to tell the public which position to take on the proposal’s details.
Their job is to emphasize and reiterate
that the Arab League proposal is part of an historic process,
and requires a serious public debate before it is rejected or adopted.
The media’s role is to put the proposal on the Israeli table,
give it the appropriately important emphasis, and ask questions.
If two years ago,
we were all echoing Barak that
“the real face of the Palestinians has been exposed,”

what can be learned about Israel’s real face
if it is now the one to refuse the proposal?

Instead of doing its job, the Israeli press responded in two ways.
Some belittled the summit and its outcome,
shoving into the inside pages
as if it were some distant diplomatic event attended by a few heads of state.
That marginalization, conscious or not,
obviously is connected to the grave events that take place daily,
and sometimes twice a day.
But the media’s job is to rise above the daily flow,
identifying processes and defining priorities on the public agenda.
The media has failed.

There were those who sought out any flaw
to prove that it was another Arab plot to destroy Israel.
“Israeli assessments:
Without Mubarak, the summit will become an anti-Israel rally,”
said Yedioth Aharonoth,
preparing its readers for the worst on the day the summit opened.
On the day it ended, it ran a headline, “A threatening message.”

Threatening? Who was threatened?
Apparently it threatened the Israeli government and the newspaper itself,
which in recent days
has gone back to the jingoistic warmth of the political establishment.
Only a few weeks ago it seemed, at least for a few days,
to finally have taken on the proper job of journalism:
to question, criticize, be skeptical.

A public opinion poll conducted by Mina Tzemach for Yedioth on Friday
showed that
41 percent supports accepting the Saudi initiative, and
10 percent are undecided.
[Does that mean that the remaining 49 percent oppose it?]
That was before there was any debate at all about it.
That same day, Ben Caspit wrote in Ma’ariv that
“this decision
will serve as the basis for every public debate of the political process.
It will be the focus of the next elections in Israel.
It will became the main axis of political debate in Israel and the region.
It will be the watershed for any political debate,
or the basis for a draft peace treaty.
It embodies the great dream of Zionism from the days before the Six-Day War:
Let us live in this little land.”

At the moment, it looks like Caspit was somewhat naive.
For the Arab League decision to become the main subject of the debate,
first there has to be a debate.

In an excellent article in Ha’aretz,
commentator Zvi Barel analyzed the proposal
and quoted Hosni Mubarak as saying,
“I don’t believe Sharon really wants to reach any negotiations.”

There is hope that the Israeli public will adopt it
and make its leaders understand there is no other choice of action.
But for the public to examine the proposal seriously,
it needs a mediator, and currently, this mediator - the press -
is not doing its job.
Those are the same journalists who love to write about those
“who never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”
Usually, they refer to the Palestinians.

More Arafats to come
From the moment Sharon took office,
government spokesmen have focused on Yasser Arafat
as the fuel that is firing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The campaign demonizing him accelerated as the conflict escalated.
One after another,
ministers stepped up to the microphones to lay down the doctrine:
It’s impossible to do business with Arafat;
we have to wait until the right moment and then get rid of him,
and talk to the younger generation that follows,
which will certainly be more “pragmatic” and “moderate.”

But on the eve of the invasion of Ramallah,
when the government decided to “isolate” Arafat
and take him off the playing field (“at this stage”),
the slogans suddenly went through a quick rewrite.
When the moment of truth arrived,
it turned out that the articulate government spokesmen
understood that the promises they had handed out over the past year
were not going to be kept.
Overnight, a new line was formulated,
its main message being that even without Arafat,
there won’t be anyone to talk with because the next generation - Surprise!-
is “not ready” or “not capable” of reaching peace with Israel
(in other words, peace on Limor Livnat’s terms).

An interview to that effect
was broadcast right after the seder with Minister Danny Naveh.
He prepared the public for a big disappointment
after the great moment - when Arafat is neutralized -
explaining that he doesn’t see any Palestinian leadership
with whom a compromise is possible.
The interviewers didn’t bother to confront Naveh
with the false predictions he and his pals had been handing out freely until then.
A whole theory, on which a policy was based, collapses in a minute,
and in the passion of events, nobody stops to ask any questions.

Arafat’s isolation, as was expected,
has made things complicated
for the government of Israel’s public relations efforts.
After every terrorist attack in recent months,
the government issued a statement blaming it directly on Arafat.
After the attack on Saturday night in Tel Aviv, no such statement was published.
They have nobody left to blame.

[This article was cited in endnote 44
to the Introduction to the Second Edition of
Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict by Norman Finkelstein.]

Distorting the map
by Uzi Benziman
Haaretz, 2002-10-27

[This article was cited in endnote 44
to the Introduction to the Second Edition of
Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict by Norman Finkelstein.]


Missed Opportunities (Partial List)
By Uri Avnery
Antiwar.com, 2006-05-31

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

“The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity!” –
this phrase, coined by Abba Eban, has become a byword.
It also illustrates a wise Talmudic saying:
“He who finds fault in others (really) finds his own faults.”

No doubt, from the beginning of the conflict,
the Palestinians have missed opportunities.
But these are negligible compared to
the opportunities missed by the State of Israel in its 58 years of existence.

The list that follows is far from complete.

[Avnery lists examples from 1948 to 1979 here.]

In September 1993, a year after the return of Rabin to power,
a historic breakthrough was achieved.
The State of Israel and the PLO, on behalf of the Palestinian people
at long last recognized each other
and signed the Declaration of Principles of Oslo.
This envisaged that within five years the Final Status would be realized.

At the last moment, Rabin’s emissaries, mostly military men, made many changes in the text previously agreed upon. The Israeli obligations became much more vague. Arafat did not care. He believed Rabin and was convinced that the agreement would necessarily lead to the establishment of the Palestinian state.

But almost from the first moment, Israel began violating the agreement. Specific dates for implementation were laid down – but Rabin smashed the agreed timetable, declaring that “there are no sacred dates.” The passage between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, an essential item in the agreement, was not opened (to this very day). The third and most important “redeployment” (withdrawal) of the Israeli army was not carried out at all. The negotiations for the Final Status, that were meant to be concluded by 1999, did not even start in earnest.

In 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak compelled Arafat to come to a conference at Camp David, without any preparations or prior understandings. That was the last opportunity to reach agreement with Arafat, then at the height of his authority.

Instead, Barak treated Arafat with open contempt and submitted what amounted to an ultimatum – a list of terms that may have seemed “generous” from the Israeli point of view, but fell far short of the minimum needed by Arafat. Returning home, Barak declared that Arafat wanted to “throw us into the sea.” This way, Barak paved the way for Ariel Sharon’s ascent to power and to the siege on Arafat, which ended in his murder.

Arafat was a tough national leader who disdained no means to achieve freedom for his people – diplomacy, violence, even double-talk. But he had a huge personal authority, and he was able and willing not only to sign a peace agreement, but also to convince his people to accept it.

Those who did not want the strong and charismatic Arafat got Mahmoud Abbas, who finds it much more difficult to assert his authority.

In November 2004, Arafat died. In free elections, a large majority chose Mahmoud Abbas as his successor. “Abu Mazen,” as he is generally known, has been for a long time identified with the idea of peace with Israel, more than any other senior Palestinian leader.

The Israeli government, which had demonized Arafat for many years, could have embraced his successor. It was another opportunity to achieve a reasonable compromise. True, Abbas does not have the authority of Arafat, but if he had achieved impressive political gains, his position would have been much strengthened. But Prime Minister Ariel Sharon boycotted him, ridiculed him publicly as a “plucked chicken,” and refused even to meet him.

Those who did not want Abbas got Hamas.

In January 2006, the Palestinian public elected Hamas in an election that was a model of democracy.

There were several reasons for this choice. A part of the PLO leadership had become corrupt. More importantly: since the Oslo agreements, the living conditions of the Palestinians under occupation had become incomparably worse. And, most importantly: Since the Oslo agreements, the Palestinian people had not come a single step closer to the establishment of the State of Palestine, while the settlements were being enlarged and the occupation deepened incessantly. The “separation” from Gaza, which was carried out without any dialogue with the Palestinians, served Israel as a pretext for imposing a blockade on the Strip and turning life there into hell.

With the advent of Hamas to power, the Israeli government retrieved from the attic all the old slogans that had served in their time against the PLO: that it was a terrorist organization, that it did not recognize Israel’s right to exist, that its charter called for Israel’s destruction. But Hamas has scrupulously abstained for more than a year from violent attacks. Coming to power, it could not abnegate its ideology overnight, but more than once it has found ways to hint that it would agree to negotiate with Israel and recognize it within the Green Line borders.

A government interested in peace would have grasped the opportunity and put Hamas to the test of negotiations. Instead, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert decided to break off all contact with them and to urge the United States and Europe to literally starve the Palestinians into final submission.

Probably, the same rule will apply again: those who do not want Hamas will get Islamic Jihad.

Throughout the region, extreme Islamist elements are gaining strength. One of the reasons is the festering wound of the Palestinian problem in the heart of the Arab world.

For 58 years,
our governments have missed every opportunity to heal this wound.

We could have achieved peace between Israel and secular-national Palestinian leaders. If the conflict, God forbid, turns into a clash between religions, there will be no opportunity to miss opportunities – there just will not be any opportunities.

The number of the opportunities rejected and the consistent way they were trampled upon by all Israeli governments may lead to the conclusion that they did not want peace at all. There has always been a tendency in Israel to prefer expansion and settlement to compromise and peace. According to this outlook, there always is “no one to talk with,” there is “no solution,” we shall “forever live by the sword.” “Unilateral” steps, whose real aim is to annex more land, are consistent with this tendency.

If this tendency achieves final victory in Israel, it will be a disaster for the state, which has just become 58 years old.

But it should be remembered that there are also tendencies in Israel that point in another direction. Slowly but steadily, the illusion that there is or can be a military solution to the conflict is evaporating. At the same time, support for a Greater Israel and for the settlements is dwindling. The implosion of the Likud and the growing support for “Convergence” are stages on the way to a realistic approach.

If this process continues, it will become clear that there is no lack of opportunities. All we have to do is grasp them with our two hands.


Next to Israel, not in place of it
By Uri Avnery
London Review of Books, 2007-03-08

[An excerpt:]

The demand now addressed to the Palestinian Unity Government
is far from sincere.
It has two political aims:
  1. to convince the international community
    not to recognise
    the Palestinian government that will shortly be established;
  2. to justify the refusal of the Israeli government
    to enter into peace negotiations with it.

Israel doesn't want peace
By Gideon Levy
Ha’aretz, 2007-05-21

[Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

The moment of truth has arrived, and it has to be said:
Israel does not want peace.
The arsenal of excuses has run out,
and the chorus of Israeli rejection already rings hollow.
Until recently, it was still possible to accept the Israeli refrain that
“there is no partner” for peace
and that
“the time isn’t right” to deal with our enemies.
Today, the new reality before our eyes leaves no room for doubt and
the tired refrain that “Israel supports peace” has been left shattered.

It’s hard to determine when the breaking point occurred.
Was it the absolute dismissal of the Saudi initiative?
The refusal to acknowledge the Syrian initiative?
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s annual Passover interviews?
The revulsion at the statements made by Nancy Pelosi,
the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, in Damascus,
alleging that Israel was ready to renew peace talks with Syria?

Who would have believed it?
A high-ranking U.S. official says Israel wants peace talks to resume
and instantly her president “severely” denies the veracity of her words.
Is Israel even hearing these voices?
Are we digesting the significance of these voices for peace?
Seven million apathetic Israeli citizens prove that we are not.

Entire generations grew up here weaned on self-deception and doubt
about the likelihood of achieving peace with our neighbors.
In our younger days, David Ben-Gurion told us that
if he were only able to meet with Arab leaders,
he would have brought us peace in his time.

Israel has demanded direct negotiations as a matter of principle
and Israelis have derived great pride from the fact that
their daily focus on “peace”
has concealed their state’s lofty ambitions.
We were told that there was no partner for peace
and that the ultimate ambition of the Arabs is to bring about our destruction.
We burned the portraits of “the Egyptian tyrant” at our bonfires on Lag Ba’omer,
and were convinced that all blame for the lack of peace lied with our enemies.

After that came the occupation, followed by terror, Yassir Arafat,
the failed second Camp David Summit and the rise of Hamas to power,
and we were sure, always sure, that it was all their fault.
In our wildest dreams, we wouldn’t have believed that
the day would come when

the entire Arab world would extend its hand in peace and
Israel would brush away the gesture.

It would have been even crazier to imagine that
this Israeli refusal would have been blamed on
not wanting to enrage domestic public opinion.

The world has been turned upside down and
it is Israel that stands at the forefront of refusal.
The policy of refusal of a select few, a vanguard of the extreme,
has now become the official policy of Jerusalem.

In his Passover interviews, Olmert will tell us that,
“The Palestinians stand at the crossroads of a historic decision,”
but people stopped taking him seriously a long time ago.
The historic decision is ours, and
we are fleeing from this crossroads and from these initiatives
as if from death itself.

Terror, used as the ultimate excuse for Israeli refusal,
only helps Olmert keep reciting, ad nauseum,
“If they [the Palestinians]
don’t change,
don’t fight terror and
don’t adhere to any of their obligations,
then they will never extract themselves from their unending chaos.”
As though the Palestinians haven’t taken measures against terrorism,
as though Israel is the one to determine what their obligations are,
as though Israel isn’t to blame
for the unending chaos Palestinians suffer under the occupation.

Israel makes a point of setting prerequisites
and believes it has an exclusive right to do so.
[Again, blog-author emphasis.]
But, time and time again,

Israel avoids the most basic prerequisite for any just peace -
an end to the occupation.

Of all the questions asked during his Passover interviews,
no one bothered to ask Olmert why he didn’t react with excitement
to the recent Arab initiatives, without preconditions?
The answer: real estate.
The real estate of the settlements.

It’s not only Olmert who is dragging his feet.
A leading figure in the Labor party said last week that
“it will take five to 10 years to recover from the trauma.”
Peace is now no more than a threatening wound,
with no one still talking about
the massive social benefits it would bring
in development, security, freedom of movement in the region
and by establishing a more just society.

Like a little Switzerland,
we are focusing more these days on the dollar exchange rate
and on the allegations of embezzlement leveled against the Finance Ministry
than on the fateful opportunities fading away before our very eyes.

Not every day and not even in every generation
do we encounter an opportunity like this.
Although it’s not for sure if the initiatives are completely solid and believable,
or if they are based on trickery,
no one has stepped up to challenge or acknowledge them.
When Olmert is an elderly grandfather, what will he tell his grandchildren?
That he turned over every stone in the name of peace?
That there was no other choice?
What will his grandchildren say?

The Great Middle East Peace Process Scam
by Henry Siegman
London Review of Books, 2007-08-16

[Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

When Ehud Olmert and George W. Bush met at the White House in June [2007],
they concluded that Hamas’s violent ousting of Fatah from Gaza –
which brought down the Palestinian national unity government
brokered by the Saudis in Mecca in March –
had presented the world with a new ‘window of opportunity’.
(Never has a failed peace process enjoyed so many windows of opportunity.)
Hamas’s isolation in Gaza, Olmert and Bush agreed,
would allow them to grant generous concessions
to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas,
giving him the credibility he needed with the Palestinian people
in order to prevail over Hamas.

Both Bush and Olmert have spoken endlessly
of their commitment to a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict,
but it is their determination to bring down Hamas
rather than to build up a Palestinian state
that animates their new-found enthusiasm for making Abbas look good.

That is why their expectation that Hamas will be defeated is illusory.
Palestinian moderates will never prevail over those considered extremists,
since what defines moderation for Olmert is
Palestinian acquiescence
in Israel’s dismemberment of Palestinian territory.

In the end, what Olmert and his government are prepared to offer Palestinians
will be rejected by Abbas no less than by Hamas,
and will only confirm to Palestinians the futility of Abbas’s moderation
and justify its rejection by Hamas.
Equally illusory are Bush’s expectations of what will be achieved
by the conference he recently announced would be held in the autumn
(it has now been downgraded to a ‘meeting’).
In his view,
all previous peace initiatives have failed largely, if not exclusively,
because Palestinians were not ready for a state of their own.
The meeting will therefore
focus narrowly on Palestinian institution-building and reform,
under the tutelage of Tony Blair, the Quartet’s newly appointed envoy.

In fact, all previous peace initiatives have got nowhere for a reason
that neither Bush nor the EU has had the political courage to acknowledge.
That reason is

the consensus reached long ago by Israel’s decision-making elites that
Israel will never allow the emergence of a Palestinian state
which denies it
effective military and economic control of the West Bank.

To be sure, Israel would allow – indeed, it would insist on –
the creation of a number of isolated enclaves
that Palestinians could call a state,
but only in order to prevent
the creation of a binational state in which Palestinians would be the majority.

The Middle East peace process
may well be the most spectacular deception in modern diplomatic history.

Since the failed Camp David summit of 2000, and actually well before it,
Israel’s interest in a peace process –
other than for the purpose of obtaining
Palestinian and international acceptance of the status quo –
has been a fiction that has served primarily
to provide cover for

its systematic confiscation of Palestinian land
an occupation whose goal,
according to the former IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon, is
‘to sear deep into the consciousness of Palestinians
that they are a defeated people’.

In his reluctant embrace of the Oslo Accords, and his distaste for the settlers,
Yitzhak Rabin may have been the exception to this,
but even he did not entertain a return of Palestinian territory
beyond the so-called Allon Plan,
which allowed Israel to retain the Jordan Valley and other parts of the West Bank.

Anyone familiar
with Israel’s relentless confiscations of Palestinian territory –
based on a plan devised, overseen and implemented by Ariel Sharon –
knows that
the objective of its settlement enterprise in the West Bank
has been largely achieved.

Gaza, the evacuation of whose settlements
was so naively hailed by the international community as the heroic achievement
of a man newly committed to an honourable peace with the Palestinians,
was intended to serve as the first in a series of Palestinian bantustans.
Gaza’s situation shows us what these bantustans will look like
if their residents do not behave as Israel wants.

Israel’s disingenuous commitment to a peace process and a two-state solution
is precisely what has made possible
its open-ended occupation and dismemberment of Palestinian territory.
And the Quartet –
with the EU, the UN secretary general and Russia
obediently following Washington’s lead –
has collaborated with and provided cover for this deception
by accepting Israel’s claim
that it has been unable to find a deserving Palestinian peace partner.

Just one year after the 1967 war, Moshe Dayan,
a former IDF chief of staff who at the time was minister of defence,
described his plan for the future as ‘the current reality in the territories’.
‘The plan,’ he said, ‘is being implemented in actual fact.
What exists today must remain as a permanent arrangement in the West Bank.’
Ten years later, at a conference in Tel Aviv, Dayan said:
‘The question is not “What is the solution?”
but “How do we live without a solution?” ’
Geoffrey Aronson,
who has monitored the settlement enterprise from its beginnings,
summarises the situation as follows:
Living without a solution, then as now,
was understood by Israel as the key to
maximising the benefits of conquest
while minimising the burdens and dangers
of retreat or formal annexation.
This commitment to the status quo, however,
disguised a programme of expansion that generations of Israeli leaders
supported as enabling, through Israeli settlement,
the dynamic transformation of the territories
the expansion of effective Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan River.

In an interview in Ha’aretz in 2004, Dov Weissglas,
chef de cabinet to the then prime minister, Ariel Sharon,
described the strategic goal of Sharon’s diplomacy as being
to secure the support of the White House and Congress for Israeli measures
that would place the peace process and Palestinian statehood in ‘formaldehyde’.
It is a fiendishly appropriate metaphor:
formaldehyde uniquely prevents the deterioration of dead bodies,
and sometimes creates the illusion that they are still alive.
Weissglas explains that
the purpose of Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza,
and the dismantling of several isolated settlements in the West Bank,
to gain US acceptance of Israel’s unilateralism,
not to set a precedent for an eventual withdrawal from the West Bank.

The limited withdrawals were intended to provide Israel
with the political room to deepen and widen its presence in the West Bank,
and that is what they achieved.
In a letter to Sharon, Bush wrote:
‘In light of new realities on the ground,
including already existing major Israeli population centres,
it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations
will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.’

In a recent interview in Ha’aretz, James Wolfensohn,
who was the Quartet’s representative at the time of the Gaza disengagement,
said that
Israel and the US
had systematically undermined the agreement
he helped forge in 2005 between Israel and the Palestinian Authority,

and had instead turned Gaza into a vast prison.
The official behind this, he told Ha’aretz,
was Elliott Abrams, the deputy national security adviser.
‘Every aspect’ of the agreement Wolfensohn had brokered ‘was abrogated’.

Another recent interview in Ha’aretz, with Haggai Alon,
who was a senior adviser to Amir Peretz at the Ministry of Defence,
is even more revealing.
Alon accuses the IDF
(whose most senior officers increasingly are themselves settlers)
of working clandestinely to further the settlers’ interests.
The IDF, Alon says, ignores the Supreme Court’s instructions
about the path the so-called security fence should follow,
‘setting a route that will not enable the establishment of a Palestinian state’.
Alon told Ha’aretz that
when in 2005 politicians signed an agreement with the Palestinians
to ease restrictions on Palestinians travelling in the territories
(part of the deal that Wolfensohn had worked on),
the IDF eased them for settlers instead.
For Palestinians, the number of checkpoints doubled.
According to Alon,

the IDF is ‘carrying out an apartheid policy’
that is emptying Hebron of Arabs
and Judaising (his term) the Jordan Valley,
while it co-operates openly with the settlers
in an attempt to make a two-state solution impossible.

A new UN map of the West Bank,
produced by the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs,
gives a comprehensive picture of the situation.
Israeli civilian and military infrastructure
has rendered 40 per cent of the territory off limits to Palestinians.
The rest of the territory,
including major population centres such as Nablus and Jericho,
is split into enclaves;
movement between them is restricted by 450 roadblocks and 70 manned checkpoints.
The UN found that what remains is an area very similar to
that set aside for the Palestinian population
in Israeli security proposals in the aftermath of the 1967 war.
It also found that changes now underway to the infrastructure of the territories –
including a network of highways that bypass and isolate Palestinian towns –
would serve to formalise the de facto cantonisation of the West Bank.

These are the realities on the ground
that the uninformed and/or cynical blather
in Jerusalem, Washington and Brussels –
about waiting for Palestinians to
reform their institutions,
democratise their culture,
dismantle the ‘infrastructures of terror’ and
halt all violence and incitement
before peace negotiations can begin –
seeks to drown out.
Given the vast power imbalance between Israel and the Palestinians –
not to mention the vast preponderance of diplomatic support enjoyed by Israel
from precisely those countries that one would have expected to compensate diplomatically for the military imbalance –
nothing will change for the better
without the US, the EU and other international actors
finally facing up to what have long been the fundamental impediments to peace.

These impediments include the assumption,
implicit in Israel’s occupation policy,
that if no peace agreement is reached,
the ‘default setting’ of UN Security Council Resolution 242
is the indefinite continuation of Israel’s occupation.
If this reading were true,
the resolution would actually be inviting
an occupying power that wishes to retain its adversary’s territory
to do so simply by means of avoiding peace talks –
which is exactly what Israel has been doing.
In fact, the introductory statement to Resolution 242 declares that
territory cannot be acquired by war,
implying that if the parties cannot reach agreement,
the occupier must withdraw to the status quo ante:
that, logically, is 242’s default setting.
Had there been
a sincere intention on Israel’s part to withdraw from the territories,
surely forty years should have been more than enough time
in which to reach an agreement.

Israel’s contention has long been that
since no Palestinian state existed before the 1967 war,
there is no recognised border to which Israel can withdraw,
because the pre-1967 border was merely an armistice line.
Moreover, since Resolution 242 calls for a ‘just and lasting peace’
that will allow ‘every state in the area [to] live in security’,
Israel holds that it must be allowed to change the armistice line,
either bilaterally or unilaterally,
to make it secure before it ends the occupation.
This is a specious argument for many reasons,
but principally because UN General Assembly Partition Resolution 181 of 1947,
which established the Jewish state’s international legitimacy,
also recognised
the remaining Palestinian territory outside the new state’s borders
as the equally legitimate patrimony of Palestine’s Arab population
on which they were entitled to establish their own state,
and it mapped the borders of that territory with great precision.
Resolution 181’s affirmation of
the right of Palestine’s Arab population to national self-determination
was based on normative law and
the democratic principles that grant statehood to the majority population.
(At the time, Arabs constituted two-thirds of the population in Palestine.)
This right does not evaporate because of delays in its implementation.

In the course of a war [in 1948] launched by Arab countries
that sought to prevent the implementation of the UN partition resolution,
Israel enlarged its territory by 50 per cent.
If it is illegal to acquire territory as a result of war,
then the question now cannot conceivably be
how much additional Palestinian territory Israel may confiscate,
but rather
how much of the territory it acquired in the course of the war of 1948
it is allowed to retain.

At the very least,
if ‘adjustments’ are to be made to the 1949 armistice line,
these should be made on Israel’s side of that line,
not the Palestinians’.

the obstacle to resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict
has not been a dearth of peace initiatives or peace envoys.
Nor has it been the violence to which Palestinians have resorted
in their struggle to rid themselves of Israel’s occupation,
even when that violence has despicably targeted Israel’s civilian population.
It is not to sanction the murder of civilians to observe that
such violence occurs, sooner or later,
in most situations in which a people’s drive for national self-determination
is frustrated by an occupying power.
Indeed, Israel’s own struggle for national independence was no exception.
According to the historian Benny Morris,
in this conflict it was the Irgun that first targeted civilians.
In Righteous Victims, Morris writes that
the upsurge of Arab terrorism in 1937
‘triggered a wave of Irgun bombings against Arab crowds and buses,
introducing a new dimension to the conflict.’
While in the past
Arabs had ‘sniped at cars and pedestrians and occasionally lobbed a grenade,
often killing or injuring a few bystanders or passengers’,
‘for the first time, massive bombs were placed in crowded Arab centres,
and dozens of people were indiscriminately murdered and maimed.’
Morris notes that ‘this “innovation” soon found Arab imitators.’

Underlying Israel’s efforts to retain the occupied territories is the fact that
it has never really considered the West Bank as occupied territory,
despite its pro forma acceptance of that designation.
Israelis see the Palestinian areas as ‘contested’ territory
to which they have claims no less compelling than the Palestinians,
international law and UN resolutions notwithstanding.
This is a view that was made explicit for the first time by Sharon
in an op-ed essay published on the front page [!] of the New York Times
on 9 June 2002.
The use of the biblical designations of Judea and Samaria
to describe the territories,
terms which were formerly employed only by the Likud
but are now de rigueur for Labour Party stalwarts as well,
is a reflection of a common Israeli view.
That the former prime minister Ehud Barak (now Olmert’s defence minister)
endlessly describes the territorial proposals he made at the Camp David summit
as expressions of Israel’s ‘generosity’,
and never as an acknowledgment of Palestinian rights,
is another example of this mindset.
the term ‘Palestinian rights’ seems not to exist
in Israel’s lexicon.

The problem is not, as Israelis often claim,
that Palestinians do not know how to compromise.
(Another former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu,
famously complained that
‘Palestinians take and take while Israel gives and gives.’)
That is an indecent charge, since

the Palestinians made much the most far-reaching compromise of all
when the PLO formally accepted
the legitimacy of Israel within the 1949 armistice border.

With that concession,
Palestinians ceded their claim to more than half the territory
that the UN’s partition resolution had assigned to its Arab inhabitants.

They have never received any credit for this wrenching concession,
made years before Israel agreed that
Palestinians had a right to statehood in any part of Palestine.
The notion that further border adjustments should be made at the expense of
the 22 per cent of the territory that remains to the Palestinians
is deeply offensive to them, and understandably so.

Nonetheless, the Palestinians agreed at the Camp David summit
to adjustments to the pre-1967 border
that would allow large numbers of West Bank settlers – about 70 per cent –
to remain within the Jewish state,
provided they received comparable territory on Israel’s side of the border.
Barak rejected this.
To be sure, in the past the Palestinian demand of a right of return
was a serious obstacle to a peace agreement.
But the Arab League’s peace initiative of 2002 leaves no doubt that
Arab countries will accept
a nominal and symbolic return of refugees into Israel
in numbers approved by Israel,
with the overwhelming majority repatriated in
the new Palestinian state, their countries of residence, or
in other countries prepared to receive them.

It is the failure of the international community to reject
(other than in empty rhetoric)
Israel’s notion that
the occupation and the creation of ‘facts on the ground’
can go on indefinitely,

so long as there is no agreement that is acceptable to Israel,

that has defeated all previous peace initiatives
and the efforts of all peace envoys.
Future efforts will meet the same fate
if this fundamental issue is not addressed.

What is required for a breakthrough
is the adoption by the Security Council of a resolution affirming the following:
  1. Changes to the pre-1967 situation can be made
    only by agreement between the parties.

    Unilateral measures will not receive international recognition.
  2. The default setting of Resolution 242,
    reiterated by Resolution 338, the 1973 ceasefire resolution,
    a return by Israel’s occupying forces to the pre-1967 border.
  3. If the parties do not reach agreement within 12 months
    (the implementation of agreements will obviously take longer),
    the default setting will be invoked by the Security Council.
    The Security Council
    will then adopt its own terms for an end to the conflict,
    and will arrange for an international force
    to enter the occupied territories to
    help establish the rule of law,
    assist Palestinians in building their institutions,
    assure Israel’s security by preventing cross-border violence, and
    monitor and oversee the implementation of terms
    for an end to the conflict.

If the US and its allies were to take a stand forceful enough
to persuade Israel that
it will not be allowed to make changes to the pre-1967 situation
except by agreement with the Palestinians in permanent status negotiations,
there would be no need for complicated peace formulas or celebrity mediators
to get a peace process underway.
The only thing that an envoy such as Blair can do
to put the peace process back on track
is to speak the truth about the real impediment to peace.
This would also be a historic contribution to the Jewish state,
since Israel’s only hope of real long-term security
is to have a successful Palestinian state as its neighbour.

Henry Siegman, the director of the US/ Middle East Project,
served as a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations from 1994 to 2006,
and was head of the American Jewish Congress from 1978 to 1994.

Assassinating Annapolis
By Yossi Verter
Haaretz, 2007-11-22

[Paragraph numbers are added.]

“So,” someone said to Avigdor Lieberman this week
as it became increasingly clear that
the Annapolis summit had been shrunk, shredded and emptied
of any meaningful core issues,
“you were able to bend the prime minister to your will.”

“I did no such thing,”
Lieberman protested with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.
“I merely helped him clarify his ideas.”
This “clarification” process,
to which Ehud Olmert has been subjected in the past couple of months
by two of his coalition partners,
Yisrael Beiteinu’s Lieberman and ShasEli Yishai,
has been intensive, unyielding, partially coordinated
and apparently very effective.
This week, both were celebrating their victory,
each in his own way.

Paradoxically, for them,
the “Annapolis declaration” that will eventually be made
will be a double blessing:
It will leave them in their cabinet seats,
with all the goodies that go with that,
and will also allow them to boast to their voters about
their targeted assassination of the summit -
to which, by the time of this writing,
official invitations had yet to be issued.
(The joke making the rounds in right-wing circles these days is:
“Why haven’t invitations been issued for the summit yet?
Because you send out wedding invitations two months ahead of time,
but invites to a funeral only go out the day before.”)

People who have spoken with Lieberman, the minister of strategic affairs,
during the last few days got the impression that
he is taking most of the credit himself
for transforming Annapolis
from a formative event in the history of the Middle East
to a “get-together” lasting just a few hours,
which is supposed to “restart” lengthy negotiations on a final status accord.
In private meetings, Lieberman describes his original plan of action,
from the time the idea for this summit first debuted amid great fanfare:
He was the one who insisted,
both in talks with Olmert, EU envoy Tony Blair,
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her associate David Welch,
and in cabinet meetings, that
Israel must make any move contingent upon
implementation of the first stage of the road map,
which calls for the Palestinian Authority
to eliminate the terror infrastructure.

Yes, indeed, the man who once voted against the road map
now considers it a “great asset,”
because he understands that
the first stage will never be implemented,
the Palestinians will never combat terror and thus
Israel will be relieved of the obligation to make any move of its own.

He was also the one who
prevented Olmert
from committing himself to evacuating the illegal settler outposts,
arguing that it would “hurt national strength.”

He was the one who first brought up
the demand that the PA recognize Israel as a Jewish state,
a difficult thing to agree to.
And he was the one who foiled Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s clever idea
of holding “conditional negotiations” -
the concept that Israel and the Palestinians
would conduct negotiations and reach agreements,
but their implementation
would be conditional on
the Palestinians’ fulfillment of the road map’s first stage.
No way that’s going to happen, said Lieberman.
The moment we reach an agreement,
the world will be pressing us to start evacuating settlements.

A year after Lieberman’s surprising entry into the Olmert government,
which was battered and limping then, following the Second Lebanon War,
it seems that
the main strategic threat being fought by the minister for strategic affairs
is the Annapolis summit.
Now Lieberman is preparing for “the final battle”:
He hopes to get a decision passed at next week’s cabinet meeting,
the last one before Annapolis, which states that
no negotiations may begin
before the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
This is the final shackle with which
Lieberman wishes to restrain and weigh down Olmert before his departure.
With this kind of excess baggage,
the prime minister’s plane might not even make it off the ground.
There may be no point to a summit that is already starting to look like a farce.
“Let him (Olmert) go,” say people in Lieberman’s circle.

Israelis Cool to an Offer From Hamas on a Truce
New York Times, 2007-12-20

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

Officials in the Israeli prime minister’s office reacted coolly on Wednesday
to an indirect approach by the Hamas leader in Gaza
offering talks on a truce.

The offer was relayed through an Israeli reporter,
Sleman al-Shafhe, of Channel 2 television.
On a news broadcast on Tuesday night, Mr. Shafhe said
Ismail Haniya, the leader of the Hamas government in Gaza,
had called him earlier in the day to convey a message to the Israelis.

According to Mr. Shafhe,

Mr. Haniya said
he had the ability
to stop the rocket fire directed at Israel from Gaza,
on condition that
Israel stopped the killing of Palestinians there
and lifted the blockade of Gaza.

[Why on earth would Israel not explore that offer?
I know the reasons that Israel and its many stooges in America give,
that Hamas isn’t offering Israel enough,
but that same argument can be used by the supporters of the Palestinians as well.
Jews constantly say that Israel is under threat of attack,
and use that to justify retaining the settlements.
But this just adds to the many examples that prove that
Israel isn’t serious about negotiating with Hamas.]


which was at the vanguard of a suicide bombing campaign in Israel
in recent years,
calls in its charter for Israel’s destruction.
Israel, like the United States and the European Union,
classifies Hamas as a terrorist organization and refuses to deal with it.

[What bunk.
Deal with them, if they offer a truce.
Charters can be changed by negotiation.
There is absolutely no good reason to not offer to negotiate.
America should pressure Israel to negotiate.
Negotiations will not produce
that “existential threat” to Israel that Jews are always talking about,
while the lack of negotiations only invites such a threat.

There is, of course,
a hypersensitivity not only towards talking to terrorists
but even towards talking about talking to terrorists.
But the current policy of declaring
any organization that fights militarily Israel’s occupation and policies
as terrorist,
and refuses to negotiate with them,
I think is absurd.
How did Israel gain the West Bank except through armed force?
I hope that it is possible in America to criticize that policy,
without being accused of “supporting terrorism.”
Otherwise we are in for an endless war
with those who seek justice for the Palestinians.]

Israel Rejects Hamas Overture, and Presses Housing Construction
New York Times, 2007-12-24

[An excerpt;
paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel on Sunday
rejected overtures by Hamas, the militant Islamic group that rules Gaza,
for discussions about a temporary cease-fire.

At the same time, Mr. Olmert’s government
raised the ire of Palestinian representatives from the West Bank,
with whom Israel is embarking on negotiations for a permanent peace,
seeking budget approval to build more housing for Jewish residents
in areas that the Palestinians claim for their future state.

Israeli officials said
a Housing and Construction Ministry budget proposal for 2008
included plans to build 500 apartments in Har Homa,
a Jewish development in a hotly disputed part of East Jerusalem,
and 240 apartments in Maale Adumim,
the largest Jewish settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank
with a population of more than 30,000.

Israeli officials tried to play down the significance of the request.
Mark Regev, a spokesman for Mr. Olmert,
said that the budget still had to be approved by Parliament, and that
“there have been no new decisions authorizing building in Maale Adumim.”
It was unclear whether the budget request was for
new projects that had not yet been approved
or for units already approved but not yet built.

Either way, the action is likely to cast a pall
over a meeting of the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams set for Monday,
the second since
last month’s American-sponsored peace conference in Annapolis, Md.

The chief of the Palestinian negotiating team, Ahmed Qurei,
issued a statement saying
the Annapolis meeting and the ensuing negotiations toward an accord
would have “no meaning”
if Israel continued its settlement activities.
He added that the Palestinians would raise the issue with President Bush
during his visit to the region in January.
[Good luck.
If Bush ever says no to Israel, it will be the first time.
And the U.S. Congress is even worse.
Talk about Zionist control.]

Referring to the Gaza issue,
Mr. Olmert said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting that
“counterterrorist operations will continue as they have for months”
in response to the continued rocket fire directed at Israel from the Gaza Strip.


Ismail Haniya, the leader of the Hamas government in Gaza,
had expressed a willingness,
in a telephone call to an Israeli television reporter last week,
to enter into talks with Israel for a mutual cease-fire.
But Mr. Olmert said that
Israel had “no interest in negotiating with elements”
that did not fulfill the internationally approved conditions of
recognizing Israel and renouncing violence.

[Why should the Palestinians recognize the state that conquered them,
except through mutual negotiations?
The demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel in advance of negotiations
is unfair on the face of it.]

Mr. Olmert also seemed to oppose
any lull in the fighting based on an informal understanding,
describing the hostilities in Gaza as
“a true war” between the Israeli military and “terrorist elements.”

[So what is wrong with a cease-fire,
which at least provides a building block for something more substantial?
Why wouldn’t a cease-fire, if it were successful, be a confidence-building move?
Of course it would.]

Defense Minister Ehud Barak also ruled out talks with Hamas,
but suggested that if Hamas successfully stopped the rocket fire,
Israel might reciprocate.
Mr. Barak was quoted by the Israeli news media as telling the cabinet,
“If they stop firing, we won’t be opposed to quiet.”

[The historical record shows that is not so.]

But a Hamas spokesman, Ismail Radwan, said,
“The Palestinian people have a right to continue resistance.”

Khaled al-Batch, a high-ranking official of Islamic Jihad,
a militant group that has been firing most of the rockets lately,
said his group would be willing to talk about a period of calm
only after Israel had “paid for its war crimes” in blood.


Help! A Cease-Fire!
by Uri Avnery (Avnery is an 84-year-old Israeli peace activist)
Antiwar.com, 2007-12-25

[Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

Forget the Qassams. Forget the mortar shells.
They are nothing compared with what Hamas launched at us this week.

The chief of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh,
has approached an Israeli newspaper and proposed a cease-fire.
No more Qassams,
no more mortars,
no suicide bombings,
no Israeli military incursions into the Strip,
no “targeted liquidations” of leaders.
A total cease-fire.
And not only in the Gaza Strip, but in the West Bank, too.

The military leadership exploded in anger.
Who does he think he is, that bastard?
That he can stop us with such dirty tricks?

This is the second time within a few days
that an attempt has been made to thwart our war plans.

Two weeks ago,
the American intelligence community declared, in an authoritative report,
that Iran had stopped its attempt to produce a nuclear bomb
as early as four years ago.

Instead of heaving a sigh of relief,
Israeli officials reacted with undisguised anger.
Since then, all the commentators in Israel,
as well as our huge network of hired pens around the world
have tried to undermine this document.
It is mendacious, without foundation,
motivated by a hidden, sinister agenda.

But miraculously, the report survived unscathed.
It has not even been scratched.

The report, so it seems, has swept from the table any possibility
of an American and/or Israeli military attack on Iran.
Now comes the peace initiative of Haniyeh and
endangers the strategy of our military establishment towards the Gaza Strip.

Again, the army choir gets going.
Generals in uniform and out of uniform,
military correspondents,
political correspondents,
commentators of all stripes and genders,
politicians from Left and Right –
all are attacking the Haniyeh offer.

The message is:
it must not be accepted under any circumstances!
It should not even be considered!

On the contrary:
the offer shows that Hamas is about to break,
and therefore
the war against it must be intensified,
the blockade on Gaza must be tightened,
more leaders must be killed – indeed,
why not kill Haniyeh himself?
What are we waiting for?

A paradox inherent in the conflict since its beginning is at work here:

if the Palestinians are strong,
it is dangerous to make peace with them.
If they are weak,
there is no need to make peace with them.
Either way,
they must be broken.

“There is nothing to talk about!” Ehud Olmert declared at once.
So everything is all right, the bloodletting can go on.

And it is indeed going on.
In the Gaza Strip and around it, a cruel little war is being waged.
As usual, each side claims that
it is only reacting to the atrocities of the other side.

The Israeli side claims that it is responding to the Qassams and mortars.
What sovereign state could tolerate
being bombarded by deadly missiles from the other side of the border?

True, thousands of missiles have killed only a tiny number of people.
More than 100 times as many are killed and injured on the roads.
But the Qassams are sowing terror,
so the inhabitants of Sderot and the surrounding area
demand revenge and reinforcement for their houses,
which would cost a fortune.

If the Qassams were really bothering our political and military leaders,
they would have jumped at the cease-fire offer.
But the leaders don’t really care about
what’s happening to the Sderot population,
out on the geographical and political “periphery,”
far from the center of the country.
It carries no political or economic weight.
In the eyes of the leadership, its suffering is, all in all, tolerable.
It also has an important positive side:
it provides an ideal pretext for the actions of the army.

The Israeli strategic aim in Gaza is not to put an end to the Qassams.
It would still be the same if not a single Qassam fell on Israel.


The real aim is to break the Palestinians,
which means breaking Hamas.


The method is simple, even primitive:
tighten the blockade on land, on sea and in the air,
until the situation in the Strip becomes absolutely intolerable.

The total stoppage of supplies,
except the very minimum necessary to prevent starvation,
has reduced life to an inhuman level.
There are effectively no imports or exports,
economic life has ground to a standstill,
the cost of living has risen sky-high.
The supply of fuel has already been reduced by half,
and is planned to sink even lower.
The water supply can be cut at will.

Military activity is gradually increasing.
The Israeli army conducts daily incursions,
employing tanks and armored bulldozers,
in order to nibble at the margins of the inhabited areas
and draw the Palestinian fighters into a face to face confrontation.
Every day, from five to 10 Palestinian fighters are being killed,
together with some civilians.
Every day, inhabitants are being abducted
in order to extract information from them.
The declared purpose is attrition, to harry and wear down,
and perhaps also to prepare for the re-conquest of the Strip –
even if the army chiefs want to avoid this at almost any price.

One after another,
the Palestinian leaders and commanders are being killed from the air.
Every point in the Strip is exposed to
Israeli airplanes, helicopter gunships, and drones.
Up-to-date technology makes it possible to track the “children of death,”
those marked for killing,
a wide net of informers and agents, some of them under duress,
which has been built up well in advance,
completes the picture.


The army chiefs hope that
by tightening all these screws
they can push the local population
to rise up against Hamas and the other fighting organizations.
All Palestinian opposition to the occupation will collapse.
The entire Palestinian people will raise their hands in surrender

and submit to the mercies of the occupation,
which will be able to do as it pleases –
expropriate lands,
enlarge settlements,
set up walls and roadblocks,
slice up the West Bank into a series of semi-autonomous enclaves.

In this Israeli plan,
the job reserved for the Palestinian Authority is
to act as subcontractors for Israeli security,
in return for a stream of money
that will safeguard its control of the enclaves.

At the end of this phase of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,
the Palestinian people are supposed to be
cut to pieces and helpless in face of the Israeli expansion.
The historic clash between
the unstoppable force (the Zionist enterprise) and
the immovable object (the Palestinian population)
will end with the crushing of Palestinian opposition.

In order to succeed in this,
a sophisticated diplomatic game must be played.
Under no circumstances
may the support of the international community be lost.
On the contrary, the entire world, led by the U.S. and EU,
must support Israel
and look upon its actions as
a just struggle against Palestinian terrorism,
itself an integral part of “international terrorism.”

[Yes, that’s the party line of the American body politic.]

The Annapolis conference, and afterward the Paris meeting,
were important steps in this direction.
Almost the whole world, including most of the Arab world,
has fallen into step with the Israeli plan –
perhaps innocently, perhaps cynically.

Events after Annapolis developed as expected:
no negotiations have started,
both sides are just playing with images.
The very first day after Annapolis,
the Israeli government
announced huge building projects beyond the Green Line.

When Condoleezza Rice mumbled some words of opposition,
it was announced that the plans had been shelved.
In fact they continue at full speed.
[The Israelis play the Americans for fools.
And the American elite rarely, if ever, disappoints them.]

How do Olmert and his colleagues fool the whole world?
[Tell me again how
Jewish control of the media is “an age-old anti-Semitic canard.”]

Benjamin Disraeli once said about a certain British politician:
“The Right Honorable Gentleman surprised his opponents bathing in the sea
and took away their clothes.”
We, the pioneers of the Two-State Solution,
can say this about our government.
It has stolen our flag
and wrapped it around itself in order to hide its intentions.

At long last,
there now exists a worldwide consensus that
peace in our region
must be based on
the coexistence of the state of Israel and the state of Palestine.
Our government has slipped into it and is exploiting this agreement
with another aim altogether:
the rule of Israel in the whole country and
the turning of the Palestinian population centers
into a series of Bantustans.
This is, in fact,
a One-State Solution (Greater Israel)
in the guise of the Two-State Solution.

Can this plan succeed?

The battle of Gaza is in full swing.
In spite of the huge military superiority of the Israeli army,
it is not one-sided.
Even the Israeli commanders point out that
the Hamas forces are getting stronger.
They train hard,
their weapons are getting more effective, and
they show a lot of courage and determination.
It seems that
the falling of their commanders and fighters in a steady bloodletting
is not affecting their morale.
That is one of the reasons why the Israeli army is shrinking back
from re-conquering the Gaza Strip.

Inside the Strip, both the main organizations enjoy wide public support –
the demonstration to commemorate Yassir Arafat organized by Fatah
and the counter-demonstration of Hamas
each drew hundreds of thousands of participants.
But it seems that the great majority of the Palestinian public
wants national unity in order to fight together against the occupation.
They do not want religious compulsion, but neither will they
tolerate a leadership that cooperates with the occupation.

The government may be very mistaken in counting on the obedience of Fatah.
Competing with Hamas,
Fatah may surprise us by becoming a fighting organization once again.
The stream of money flowing into the Authority may not prevent this.
Ze’ev Jabotinsky was wiser than Tony Blair when he said 85 years ago that
you cannot buy a whole people.

If the Israeli army invades Gaza in order to re-conquer it,
the population will stand behind the fighters.
Nobody can know how it will react if the economic misery gets worse.
The results may be unexpected.
Experience with other liberation movements indicates that
misery can break a population,
but it can also strengthen it.

This is, simply put, an existential test for the Palestinian people –
perhaps the most severe since 1948.
It is also a test for the shrewd policy of
Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni, and the army chiefs.

So a cease-fire is not likely to come into effect.
At first Olmert rejected one out of hand.
Then this was denied.
Then the denial was denied.

The inhabitants of Sderot would probably have been glad to accept a cease-fire.
But then, who bothers to ask them?


Worse Than a Crime
by Uri Avnery
Antiwar.com, 2008-01-28

[An excerpt; paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

So what to do?
After all,
it is impossible to tolerate the suffering of the inhabitants of Sderot,
who are under constant fire.

What is being hidden from the embittered public is that
the launching of the Qassams
could be stopped tomorrow morning.

Several months ago Hamas proposed a cease-fire.
It repeated the offer this week.

A cease-fire means, in the view of Hamas, that
  • the Palestinians will stop
    shooting Qassams and mortar shells,
  • the Israelis will stop
    the incursions into Gaza,
    the “targeted” assassinations, and
    the blockade.

Why doesn’t our government jump at this proposal?
[Note: he is an Israeli; his government is Israel.]


in order to make such a deal,
we must speak with Hamas,
directly or indirectly.

And this is precisely what the government refuses to do.

Simple again:
Sderot is only a pretext –
much like the two captured soldiers were a pretext
for something else altogether.

The real purpose of the whole exercise is
to overthrow the Hamas regime in Gaza and
to prevent a Hamas takeover in the West Bank.

In simple and blunt words:
the government sacrifices the fate of the Sderot population
on the altar of a hopeless principle.
It is more important for the government to boycott Hamas –
because it is now the spearhead of Palestinian resistance –
than to put an end to the suffering of Sderot.
All the media cooperate with this pretense.
[And that is true
both in Israel and in its vassal state, the US of A.]

Palestinians Seek Support on Borders
New York Times, 2008-05-04

[An excerpt:]

JERUSALEM — Seeking a more active American role in talks with Israel, the Palestinians say they hope that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will “take a stand” on the borders of a future Palestinian state and define them as corresponding with the 1967 lines, a senior Palestinian official said Saturday.

“One-nine-six-seven — we need to hear these four digits,” Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said in a telephone interview.


Despite Mr. Erekat’s urging, it is unlikely that Ms. Rice will take an open role as referee. The Bush administration has made it clear that the borders must be settled in direct talks between the parties.

The Palestinians have been particularly angered by Israeli plans to build thousands of new apartments in territory conquered in the 1967 Middle East war. Israel says it is building in existing neighborhoods and settlements that it intends to keep under any future deal.

Alluding to a 2004 letter from President Bush to Ariel Sharon, the former Israeli prime minister, Israeli officials say that nobody should be surprised.

The letter stated that “in light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949,” referring to the boundary that existed until the 1967 war.

Israel interprets the letter, which was widely seen here as an incentive for Israel’s 2005 unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, as a green light for building in the large settlement blocs.

The Palestinians say they are ready for minor modifications of the 1967 boundary in return for equitable land swaps, but not for more significant changes envisioned by Israel.

Mr. Erekat, in the interview on Saturday, insisted that Ms. Rice step in to stop such settlement activity, adding that Israel was “eating up the land meant for a Palestinian state.”

But on Thursday, on her way to talks with the so-called quartet of Middle East peacemakers — the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations — Ms. Rice reiterated that “Israeli and Palestinian negotiators should decide once and for all where to draw the line between Israeli and Palestinian territory, ending the argument over Jewish housing expansion on disputed ground.”

Failure Written in West Bank Stone
By Gershom Gorenberg
Washington Post Op-Ed, 2008-09-30

[Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]


The latest phone call came from a journalist in Denmark.
Why, he asked,
has Israeli settlement in the West Bank continued
despite peace negotiations with the Palestinians?

As a historian of settlements, I’m used to this question.
Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
insists that Israel’s future depends on a two-state solution. [Cf.]
Building new homes in settlements only makes it more difficult to withdraw.
When President Bush convened the Annapolis conference last November,
there was media buzz about a settlement freeze.
Olmert said that every request to build from within the government
required his approval.
Yet in the past year, construction has increased --
despite Olmert’s talk,
despite Bush’s supposed commitment
to his 2003 “road map” plan with its freeze on settlement.

  • Nearly a thousand housing units are being built in Maale Adumim,
    according to Peace Now’s Settlement Watch project.
  • At Givat Zeev, another of the settlements ringing Jerusalem,
    a 750-unit project was approved this year.
  • The government has asked for bids
    on building nearly 350 homes in Beitar Illit, also near Jerusalem.
  • Meanwhile,
    hundreds of homes have been added at settlements deep in the West Bank,
    with the government’s acquiescence if not approval.

All this fits a historical pattern:
Diplomatic initiatives accelerate settlement building in occupied territory.
When the peace effort fades away,
the red-roofed houses remain as a monument.

Maale Adumim, a hive of apartment buildings
on the parched slope between Jerusalem and Jericho,
is the most imposing example.
Secret discussions about settling at the site
began within the Israeli government in August 1974.
At just that time, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger
was mediating between Israel and Jordan on an interim peace agreement.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yigal Allon
proposed that Israel would withdraw from Jericho
as a first step toward realizing his larger plan:
Israel would also give up major Palestinian towns deeper in the West Bank.

But Allon wanted to keep much of the West Bank under Israeli rule --
including a ring of land surrounding Jerusalem and separating it from Jericho.
By the fall of 1974, the Israeli-Jordanian contacts had failed.
But Allon’s political ally, settlement czar Yisrael Galili,
pushed on with Maale Adumim.
Building is easier than negotiating,
and it is harder to stop.

The government’s method of acquiring land for the settlement was audacious --
and, until now, well hidden.
After a tenacious freedom-of-information legal battle,
Israeli human rights activist Dror Etkes of the organization Yesh Din
recently received data from the Israeli army’s Civil Administration
on West Bank land expropriations.
In April 1975,
Israel expropriated 11 square miles east of Jerusalem “for public use.”
In 1977, another square mile was taken.

On his laptop,
Etkes showed me an aerial photo of the settlement today,
superimposed on a map of the expropriation.
Most of the built-up area of Maale Adumim
lies inside the land that was confiscated.

This is a prima facie violation of international law.
Under the 1907 Hague Convention,
an occupying power may expropriate land
only for the public use of the occupied population.
Taking private West Bank land for Israeli use is therefore barred.

That’s just one example of the historical pattern.
In 1970, Israel and Egypt ended their “War of Attrition”
under a cease-fire proposed by Secretary of State William Rogers.
The next stage of the Rogers initiative was supposed to be peace talks.
Fearing pressure to withdraw,
the Israeli cabinet approved the first settlement in the Gaza Strip
to stake Israel’s claim to the territory.
Diplomacy stalled, but settlement continued in Gaza.

The pattern repeated itself in 1998,
when President Bill Clinton convened the Wye River summit
to revive the Oslo process.
The summit ended with
an Israeli commitment to resume West Bank withdrawals and
a Palestinian pledge to suppress terrorism.
Neither promise was kept.
But Ariel Sharon, then foreign minister, returned home and
publicly advised settlers
to “grab more hills, expand the territory.
Everything that’s grabbed will be in our hands.
Everything we don’t grab will be in their hands.”

That spurred establishment of the tiny settlements known as outposts
that dot the West Bank.

Since Annapolis, hard-line settlers have continued building,
hoping to block any pullback.
The government, meanwhile, is building in the so-called settlement blocs --
settlements that it insists Israel must keep under any agreement.
As in the past,
it is writing its negotiating position in concrete on the hills.
That includes more construction on the expropriated land at Maale Adumim.

As shortsighted as Olmert has been to allow this,
the same is true of Bush.
The president began a negotiating process
but has invested little effort in pursuing it.
The administration’s objections to settlement expansion have been too faint.
The new buildings are a monument to Bush’s failure as well as Olmert’s.
They will make Israeli-Palestinian peace
a more difficult challenge for the next president --
assuming the next president cares about pursuing peace.

Gershom Gorenberg is the author of “The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967-1977.”
He blogs at http://SouthJerusalem.com.

[For a letter to the editor of the Post responding to this op-ed, see
What the Next President Must Do for Israel” by PAUL H. VERDUIN.]


Captive Nation
How Gaza became a Palestinian prison
By Avi Shlaim
The American Conservative, 2009-01-26

[Emphasis is added.]

The only way to make sense of Israel’s senseless war in Gaza
is through historical context.
Establishing the state of Israel in May 1948
involved a monumental injustice to the Palestinians.
British officials bitterly resented
American partisanship on behalf of the infant state.
On June 2, 1948,
Sir John Troutbeck wrote to Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin that
the Americans were responsible for the creation of
a gangster state headed by “an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders.”
I used to think that this judgment was too harsh,
but Israel’s assault on Gaza and the Bush administration’s complicity
have reopened the question.

I served loyally in the Israeli army in the 1960s
and have never questioned the legitimacy of the state of Israel
within its pre-1967 borders.
What I reject is the Zionist colonial project beyond the Green Line.
The occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip
in the aftermath of the 1967 War
had little to do with security
and everything to do with territorial expansionism.
The aim was to establish Greater Israel
through permanent political, economic, and military control
over the Palestinian territories.

With a population of refugees crammed into a tiny strip of land
with no infrastructure or natural resources,
Gaza’s prospects were never bright.
Yet this is not an instance of economic underdevelopment
but a uniquely cruel case of deliberate de-development.
To use the Biblical phrase,
Israel turned the people of Gaza into hewers of wood and the drawers of water—
a source of cheap labor and a captive market for Israeli goods.
Local industry was actively impeded
so as to make it impossible for the Palestinians to end their subordination
and establish the economic underpinnings essential for independence.

In 2005,
Jewish settlers numbered only 8,000 compared with 1.4 million local residents.
Yet the settlers controlled
25 percent of the territory,
40 percent of the arable land, and
the lion’s share of scarce water resources.
Cheek by jowl with these foreign intruders,
the majority of the local population lived in unimaginable misery.
Eighty percent still subsist on less than $2 per day.
Living conditions remain an affront to civilized values,
a powerful precipitant to resistance,
and a breeding ground for extremism.

In August 2005,
a Likud government headed by Ariel Sharon staged a unilateral Israeli pullout,
withdrawing settlers and destroying the houses they left behind.
Sharon presented the withdrawal
as a contribution to peace based on a two-state solution.
But the year after, another 12,000 Israelis settled on the West Bank,
further reducing the scope for an independent Palestinian state.
Land-grabbing and peace-making are simply incompatible.

The real purpose behind the move was
to redraw the borders of Greater Israel
by incorporating the main settlement blocs on the West Bank
to the state of Israel.
Withdrawal from Gaza was thus not a prelude to peace
but to further Zionist expansion on the West Bank.
It was a unilateral move undertaken in what was seen as
the Israeli national interest.

Israel’s settlers were withdrawn, but
Israeli soldiers continued to control all access to the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli air force enjoyed unrestricted freedom to drop bombs,
make sonic booms by flying low and breaking the sound barrier, and terrorize the hapless inhabitants.

Israel portrays itself as an island of democracy in a sea of authoritarianism.
Yet Israel has never done anything to promote democracy on the Arab side and
has done a great deal to undermine it.
Israel has a long history of secret collaboration with reactionary Arab regimes
to suppress Palestinian nationalism.
Despite all the handicaps,
the Palestinian people succeeded in building
the only democracy in the Arab world with the possible exception of Lebanon.
In January 2006,
free and fair elections brought to power a Hamas-led government.
Israel, however, refused to recognize the democratically elected government,
claiming that Hamas is purely a terrorist organization.

America and the EU joined Israel in demonizing the Hamas government
and trying to bring it down.
A surreal situation thus developed
with a significant part of the international community imposing sanctions
not against the occupier but against the occupied.

Israel’s propaganda machine purveys the notion
that the Palestinians are terrorists,
that they reject coexistence with the Jewish state,
that their nationalism is little more than anti-Semitism,
that Hamas is just a bunch of religious fanatics.
But the truth is that
the Palestinians are a normal people with normal aspirations.
They want a piece of land on which to live in freedom and dignity.

Like other radical movements,
Hamas began to moderate following its rise to power.
From the ideological rejectionism of its charter,
it moved toward pragmatic accommodation of a two-state solution.
In March 2007, Hamas and Fatah formed a unity government
that was ready to negotiate a long-term ceasefire.
But Israel refused to negotiate with a government that included Hamas.

It continued to play
the old game of divide-and-rule between rival Palestinian factions.
In the late 1980s,
Israel supported nascent Hamas in order to weaken Fatah,
the secular nationalist movement led by Yasser Arafat.
Now Israel began to encourage the corrupt and pliant Fatah leaders
to overthrow their religious political rivals and recapture power.
American neoconservatives participated in the plot
to instigate a Palestinian civil war.
Their meddling was a major factor
in the collapse of the national unity government and
in driving Hamas to seize power in Gaza in June 2007 to preempt a Fatah coup.

The war on Gaza is the culmination of confrontations with the Hamas government.
In a broader sense, however,
it is a war between Israel and the Palestinian people who elected it to power.
The declared aim of the war is to weaken Hamas until it agrees to a ceasefire
on Israel’s terms.
The undeclared aim is to ensure that the Palestinians are seen by the world
as a humanitarian problem,
derailing their struggle for statehood.

As always, mighty Israel claims to be the victim of Palestinian aggression,
but the asymmetry of power leaves little room for doubt
as to who the real victim is.
To be sure, Hamas is not an entirely innocent party.
Denied the fruit of its electoral victory and
confronted with an unscrupulous adversary,
it has resorted to the weapon of the weak—
The damage caused by these primitive Qassam rockets is minimal,
but the psychological impact is immense,
prompting the public to demand protection from its government.
Israel has the right to act in self-defense,
but its response has been disproportionate.

In the three years since the withdrawal from Gaza,
11 Israelis have been killed by rocket fire.
In 2005 to 2007 alone,
the IDF killed 1,290 Palestinians in Gaza,
including 222 children.

Whatever the numbers, killing civilians is wrong.
This applies to Israel as much as it does to Hamas—
and Israel’s record is one of unremitting brutality toward the inhabitants of Gaza.
Israel maintained the blockade after the ceasefire came into force,
which in the view of Hamas leaders amounted to a violation of the agreement.
During the ceasefire, Israel prevented any exports from leaving the strip.
Officially, 49.1 percent of the population is unemployed.
At the same time, Israel restricted the number of trucks carrying
food, fuel, cooking-gas canisters, spare parts for water and sanitation plants,
and medical supplies to Gaza.
It is difficult to see how starving and freezing civilians could protect Israel.
But even if it did, it would still be immoral,
a form of collective punishment forbidden by international law.

The brutality of Israel’s soldiers is matched by the mendacity of its spokesmen.
Eight months before launching the war on Gaza,
Israel established a National Information Directorate.
Its core messages are that
  • Hamas broke the ceasefire agreements;
  • Israel’s objective is the defense of its population; and
  • Israel’s forces are taking the utmost care not to hurt civilians.
But it was not Hamas but the IDF that broke the ceasefire,
with a raid into Gaza on Nov. 4 that killed six Hamas men.
Israel’s objective is not just the defense of its population
but the eventual overthrow of the Hamas government
by turning the people against their rulers.
And far from taking care to spare civilians,
Israel is guilty of indiscriminate bombing and of a three-year blockade
that has brought the inhabitants of Gaza
to the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.

No amount of military escalation can buy Israel immunity
from rocket attacks from the military wing of Hamas.
Despite all the death and destruction that Israel has inflicted on them,
they kept up their resistance.
This is a movement that glorifies victimhood and martyrdom.
The only way for Israel to achieve security is not through shooting
but through talks with Hamas,
which has repeatedly declared its readiness
to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with the Jewish state
within its pre-1967 borders.
Israel has rejected this offer
for the same reason it spurned the Arab League peace plan of 2002:
it involves concessions and compromises.

Israel’s record over the past four decades
makes it difficult to resist the conclusion that
it has become a rogue state with “an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders.”
A rogue state
habitually violates international law,
possesses WMD, and
practices terrorism—the use of violence against civilians for political purposes.

Israel’s real aim is not peaceful coexistence with its Palestinian neighbors
but military domination.
It keeps compounding the mistakes of the past
with new and more disastrous ones.
Politicians are of course free to repeat lies and mistakes.
But it is not mandatory to do so.

Avi Shlaim is [professor of international relations at Oxford and] author of
The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World and
Lion of Jordan: King Hussein’s Life in War and Peace.
This essay is adapted from a piece that originally appeared in The Guardian.

Does Zionism legitimize every act of violence?
By Gideon Levy
Haaretz, 2009-02-13

Israel’s Bad-Faith Negotiating Position
by William Pfaff
Antiwar.com, 2009-05-08

‘Israel won’t yield to U.S. demands,
won’t halt settlement construction’

By Haaertz Service
Haaretz, 2009-05-24

Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon spoke to Channel 2 on Saturday
about the meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
and U.S. President Barack Obama,
held earlier this week,
saying that
Israel’s government will not allow the U.S. to dictate its policy,
and that
“settlement construction will not be halted.”


“Settlements are not the reason that the peace process is failing,
they were never an obstacle,
not at any stage,”

Ya’alon told Channel 2 News.
“Even when Israel pulled out of [Palestinian] territory,
the terror continued.
Even when we uprooted [Jewish] communities, we got ‘Hamastan.’

That is why I propose that we think about it -
not in slogans and not with decrees.”

According to Ayalon,
“we will not halt the construction in the settlements within the framework of natural growth.
There are people here who are living their lives, raising children.
Housing is required ? it wasn’t housing that has prevented peace.”

In reference to the illegal West Bank outposts,
which Israel has vowed to evacuate and has begun to do so,
Ya’alon stressed that
“the government will not permit illegal settlement,
as we’ve proven with our actions this week.”

Some believe that
the evacuation of the outpost of Maoz Esther on Thursday morning,
which came a day after Defense Ministry sources told Haaretz
that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak
had agreed on a plan to evacuate illegal outposts in the West Bank,
was carried out in accordance with U.S. pressure.
Barak denied any correlation between
the Netanyahu-Obama meeting on Monday,
and the evacuation.

Ya’alon also addressed reports that the U.S. had upped its demands
and was trying to dictate Israel’s next moves
in the negotiations with the Palestinians.
“What the U.S. is asking is not a demand,
we’ll see whether their declaration become actual demands,”
he said.

“[U.S. envoy to the Middle East George] Mitchell will come,
and we’ll talk to him.
I suggest that Israel and the U.S. don’t set a timetable.
We won’t let them threaten us,”
Ya’alon added.
[Just don’t stop supporting us financially, diplomatically, and militarily,
literally bankrupting yourself,
while we take offense
at the slightest attempt on your part to restrain our actions.]

“From the banks of the Potomac in Washington
it is not always clear what the real situation here is,”
Ya’alon concluded.
“This is where Israel must step in and help her ally understand the situation.”

Ya’alon also criticized Israel, saying that
“the Israeli discourse paints us as hostile, the problem is within us.”

Jordan Valley may be hurdle in peace talks
Israelis, Palestinians each stake claim to section of West Bank
By Howard Schneider
Washington Post, 2009-11-02

[First, just what gives Israel any right to stake a claim in the Jordan Valley?
If ever there was a clear-cut case of territorial aggression, this is it.

The article contains the following:]

Israeli officials and others close to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
have been saying that
the Jordan Valley should remain in Israeli hands,
encircling any Palestinian state to the east and
controlling the international border with Jordan --
steps needed, they say,
to make sure militant groups don’t infiltrate.

[Wait a minute.
Israel has been putting up a much-criticized “security fence”
to control the border of the expanded area it lays claim to
and to prevent infiltration.
So why does it need to control a second, yet more advanced, border?

Israel justifies all its aggression against Palestinians
under the rubric of “self-defense”.]


Greater Israel—or Peace?
Pathbreaking scholars Norman Finkelstein and John Mearsheimer
speak out about
the precarious future of the Jewish state.

The American Conservative Blog, 2011-10-19


Israel Claims Nearly 1,000 Acres of West Bank Land Near Bethlehem
New York Times, 2014-09-01

[Actions such as this only reveal
what total liars are those who claim that
"The 1967 Israel conquest of the West Bank was a defensive war."
Are those 1000 acres necessary for the defense of Israel,
or simply part of Israel's takeover of the West Bank?]

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