Posts Tagged peace process
Don’t you love it when someone succinctly puts exactly what you feel? Gershon Baskin using the “both sides” equivalency, but being right:
Q: The Palestinians breached every agreement they ever signed with Israel, how can we trust them?
A: Israel and the PLO, representing the Palestinian people, signed five agreements. Every one of those agreements was breached by both sides. Neither side fulfilled its obligations, and the breaches were substantive in all of the agreements.
…Breaches upon breaches piled up and created a total breakdown. The failure of both sides to implement in good faith and to repair the damage in real time led to a total collapse of trust between the parties. The basic idea of an interim period (of five years) was to develop the trust that would be required to negotiate the main issues in conflict.
That trust never developed – quite the opposite. Today, objectively speaking, there is absolutely no reason why Israel and Palestine should trust each other – they have completely earned the mistrust that exists between them.
… There is no possibility for progress without negotiations, yet while both sides recognize this truth it seems that the complete absence of trust, what I call the “trust deficiency,” is more powerful than the desire to reach an agreement at this time. This is enhanced by the complete belief on both sides of the conflict that there is no partner for peace on the other side. Both sides say that they want peace, and both sides blame the other for lack of any progress.
Yup, that’s pretty much the situation. Abbas doesn’t trust Bibi; Bibi doesn’t trust Abbas; neither of them trust Obama; Obama is sick of them both; Obama, Abbas and Bibi all don’t trust Hamas and Hamas’ leaders don’t even trust each other, let alone anyone else.
The Israelis don’t trust the Palestinians because Israeli concessions are just met with violence and condemnations; the Palestinians don’t trust the Israelis because no one in Israel can agree on anything and the same government seems to have 5 different policies; the Palestinians don’t trust each other because every second person is an informant for Israel or secretly working for whichever of Hamas/Fatah the first person is worried about; the Jordanians don’t trust the Palestinians because Arafat tried to overthrow King Hussein in the ’70s; the secular Egyptians don’t trust the Palestinians because Hamas is too close to the Muslim Brotherhood; the Israelis don’t trust the Egyptians because they think they’re all Muslim Brotherhood; The Muslim Brotherhood don’t trust Fatah because they’re against Hamas…
I’m going to stop here, you get the picture. Anyone see a way out?
Nathan Diament from the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America writes on uniting Jerusalem in the Atlantic. Some of the arguments that he uses (which are by no means his original material) really tend to bother me; the more religiously motivated Jews have a way of making extremely disingenuous attempts to sound like they are reasoning objectively, when they are quite transparently creating these arguments after-the-fact as a way to justify their ideological beliefs.
The reality, however, is that Jerusalem today is a demographically intertwined city. To be sure, there are neighborhoods, particularly east of the security barrier, where Jews seldom venture. But modern-day Jerusalem is far more an interwoven checkerboard of Jewish and Palestinian enclaves. The Arab neighborhood of Beit Safafa, for example, lies between the Jewish neighborhoods of Talpiot and Gilo, while the Arab neighborhood Sheikh Jarrah lies between the Old City and the Jewish neighborhood of French Hill. Separating these neighborhoods between two countries would create an unwieldy and unsustainable border.
What he is saying has some truth to it, but only if you are trying to draw a line that cuts every Jewish neighbourhood from every Arab neighbourhood. If there is some wiggle room so that maybe some Arab neighbourhoods are absorbed into Israel and others are handed-over, then there is no longer such an issue with dividing the city. After all, Diament is pretty adamant that keeping the Arabs in Jerusalem is a good thing (look at this map to see what I mean, although it has been carefully designed to make the Israelis look bad so don’t read too much into it). Also, it’s not a coincidence that some of the Jewish neighbourhoods cut Arab neighbourhoods off from one another – in many cases, that was why they were placed there.
The other argument that really irks me is the one below (emphasis mine):
One significant reason against dividing Jerusalem is that many of the Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem wish to remain under Israeli sovereignty. Recent polling indicates that, despite the fact that municipal resources and services have not been evenly allocated between Jewish and Arab Jerusalem segments of the city, a plurality of Palestinians residing in eastern sections of Jerusalem would move from Palestinian Jerusalem to Israeli Jerusalem, if given the opportunity, should the city be re-divided.
The hypocrisy in this this argument is unbearable. Diament is not for a second criticising the poor treatment of Arabs in Jerusalem or demanding that they are allocated resources evenly, and yet he is trumpeting the fact that even though we treat them badly, we’re not quite as bad as the alternatives. Now that’s a hasbarah line that can sell!
Israel: sure we treat our Arabs badly, but we’re still slightly better than an Arab dictatorship.
You can’t have your cake and eat it too. If you truly believe in uniting Jerusalem, then start working to unite it. That means reaching out to the Arabs and including them in Israeli society; it means advocating for equal treatment and equal allocation of municipal resources; it means finding money to make up for the years of neglect and bring their infrastructure up to the same standards as the Jewish residents; it even means allowing Arabs to buy land in Jewish areas.
If you aren’t comfortable doing that but you are still adamant that we cannot cede one inch of Jerusalem to the Palestinians, then the reality is you are not arguing for a united Jerusalem, just a Jewish-controlled but segregated one. That is something that I am a little uncomfortable with. Of course, this is in fact what Diament wants. He reveals his true argument near the end of the piece.
Proposals for joint sovereignty, deferred sovereignty, or even divine sovereignty ignore the deep-rooted significance of the holy city. The search for a “split the difference” compromise also ignores the fact that the Old City of Jerusalem has been the national capital of the Jewish people for the past 3000 years and is Judaism’s holiest site, while it is Mecca that plays that role for Muslims. The international community would never expect the Islamic world to cede sovereignty over Mecca; the Jewish people ought to be accorded no less respect with regard to the Old City of Jerusalem.
See, what he does right there is say that our claim over Jerusalem is stronger than their claim because it’s our number one whereas they have their number one already. That’s not quite how religion works. I don’t see many Jews saying “well, I guess the Mearat Ha Machpelah is less important than the Kotel, so we can give them that one and keep the more important one”. You can’t barter over who the site is more holy to, it’s holy for both and that’s pretty much as far as you’ll get.
Plus the Mecca comparison doesn’t hold up. Fortunately for the Muslims, Mecca is not claimed by two other religions. That said, I can definitely see a future where Shiite Muslims start demanding that Sunni Muslims cede control over Mecca and it’s administered by a joint Muslim authority rather than just Saudi Wahabbis.
The point is, Diament does not really want to keep the Arabs in Jerusalem and he doesn’t really want a united city. He doesn’t particularly care whether or not Muslims have access to their holy sites, which are not quite as holy to them as they are to him anyway, or so he says. No, he believes that Jerusalem was given to us by God and that means it should be a Jewish -controlled city. Arabs can live there if they want, but they can’t expect us to make it easy for them, they should just be grateful that they aren’t living in Syria or something like that.
Ironically, there is one point that he was completely right about, only he doesn’t seem to be doing much to change this:
One reason peace in the Middle East has not yet been possible is because most efforts to achieve it have been aspirational but untethered from reality
I was just linked to the below video from The Atlantic and the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. It’s brilliantly done, very simply and clearly explaining the whole concept of land swaps and going through the possible options and the difficulties that they create.
Christopher Hitchens in The Australian this weekend, speaking about the recent arrest of Serbian commander Ratko Mladic for genocide:
But the monstrous nature of his power and reach was paradoxically and enormously exaggerated not by those who wanted to confront it, but by those who did not. This meant that the whole nightmare was needlessly prolonged. On whatever basis the post-Tito Yugoslavia was to be reconstituted, there was one that was utterly impossible as well as unthinkable: a “Greater Serbia”, whereby smaller republics and their populations were forcibly cut to fit the requirements of a dictatorial tailoring.
It will one day seem incredible that NATO powers did not see this right away and continued to treat Milosevic as a “partner in peace”, opening the road that led straight to Srebrenica and the murder of people ostensibly under our protection.
Srebrenica is one of the best-documented atrocities in modern history. We have everything, from real-time satellite surveillance (shamefully available to the US even as the butchery was going on) to film and video taken by the perpetrators, including of Mladic. The production of this material in court will, one hopes, wipe any potential grin from his face and destroy the propaganda image of the simple patriotic man-at-arms. Whatever our policy on monsters abroad may be, we should be able to recognise one when we see one.
This is an extremely pertinent point today. It shows how Western naiveté and a desire To find people who want to work for peace can cause us to overlook glaringly obvious flaws in people and appease people like Mladic, in the hope that they will “see the light”, or so to speak. It also shows the consequences of this – Srebrenica happened because a genocidal maniac talking about peace was able to exploit Western sentiment to be given free reign to extinguish all of the ethnic minorities in Serbia.
The lesson here is that we cannot let a desire for peace cloud our judgment. Peace partners must be judged on the basis of their actions, not our hopes. And so (bet you saw this one coming) no unity government that includes Hamas will ever be able to truly make peace. Not when just one year ago, their leaders were saying things like this:
They want to present themselves to the world as if they have rights, but, in fact, they are foreign bacteria – a microbe unparalleled in the world. It’s not me who says this. The Koran itself says that they have no parallel: “You shall find the strongest men in enmity to the believers to be the Jews.”
May He annihilate this filthy people who have neither religion nor conscience. I condemn whoever believes in normalizing relations with them, whoever supports sitting down with them, and whoever believes that they are human beings. They are not human beings. They are not people. They have no religion, no conscience, and no moral values.
There are still too many people talking about Israeli intransigence. In the best rebuke that I have seen of Netanyahu’s various statements in the US last week (as in, the only one that didn’t read as if the author had presupposed that Bibi was wrong and then gone about finding reasons why), former mayor of Jerusalem Jeff Barak writes on why Bibi’s statements made negotiations and a peace deal look further off than ever. And to an extent, he’s not wrong.
This is inevitable, and it’s also the right move for those who wish to maintain Israel’s capital as a Jewish city. There is no escaping it.
As Jerusalem’s former mayor, I know this well, and it’s possible. Those who refuse to discuss it terminate the chances for a peace process. One can speak nicely, stir up rightist radicals and draw applause from the settlers, yet this will not bring peace, genuine negotiations or global understanding [of Israel’s position].”
INDEED, NETANYAHU’S remarks on Jerusalem slammed the door shut on any hope that his government had the slightest intention of entering into negotiations with the Palestinians. His stirring phrases might have boosted his standing in the opinion polls, but opinion polls do not change reality.
That said, there have been a lot of events spurring this supposed intransigence – there are some very good reasons why Israelis are giving up on peace. Elliot Abrahams, a prolific Middle East analyst from the Council on Foreign relations, has outlined all these, shedding light on exactly how far weak Palestinian leadership and confused policy from the Obama administration have allowed the situation to deteriorate.
The incoherence of U.S. policy is summed up in this passage from Obama’s AIPAC speech: “We know that peace demands a partner—which is why I said that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with Palestinians who do not recognize its right to exist. . . . But the march to isolate Israel internationally—and the impulse of the Palestinians to abandon negotiations—will continue to gain momentum in the absence of a credible peace process and alternative.” So Israel cannot be expected to negotiate and it must start negotiating.
That is where the president stands after two years of involvement in Middle East peacemaking, and his problems are largely of his own making…We would not be where we are had all three men—Abbas, Netanyahu, Obama—not given up on each other, a striking failure in American diplomacy.
As Abraham points out, this is causing the Israeli public to feel increasingly isolated and jaded, rallying them around those who seem to be taking a principled stand against the pressure that they are receiving from all sides.
British novelist Howard Jacobson summed this up well on Australian TV recently, observing that everyone points fingers at Israelis without trying to understand exactly how they feel and why they do what they do.
The Israeli Government has to deal with the problem that the people with whom it must negotiate – some of the people with whom it must negotiate say you’ve got no right to exist. You do not have any. So they’re frightened. Well, blow me the Israelis are frightened. It’s not often understood how frightened Israelis are. They are there surrounded on all sides by people who would like them not to be there.
As Larry Derfner wrote in the the Jerusalem Post, this sense of fear and isolation leads to exactly the policies that then spark further condemnation, which continues the spiral toward further fear.
Remember the hysteria over the coriander menace? Until a year ago, we were stopping coriander and God knows how many other edibles from entering Gaza – in the name of national security! Then the Mavi Marmara sails for Gaza, we shoot it up, the pressure’s on again, and suddenly a long list of previously banned foods – yes, even coriander – is moving into Gaza, and suddenly no one wants to remember how mindless and sheep-like they were to take the army’s and government’s word that this insane policy was necessary to keep Israel safe.
This is the problem with all of the pressure on Israel and the relentless condemnation of everything Netanyahu does – ironically, rather than forcing Israel to make concessions and advancing whatever vestige of hope there may be for a resumption of negotiations, it only increases the Israeli public’s sense of helplessness and drives public opinion to the right. As Abrahams points out, Israelis have made concessions in the past not under fierce condemnation, but rather when they feel that whoever is asking for concessions is on their side and that they are not the only side being forced to do so.
All of this makes life harder for Israel and in a way easier for Prime Minister Netanyahu. When a deeply sympathetic American president asks for concessions and compromises and appears able to cajole some from the Palestinians, which was the Clinton/Rabin and Bush/Sharon combination, Israel must respond. When a president most Israelis regard as hostile pushes them while the PLO leadership turns to Hamas, most Israelis will back Netanyahu’s tough response.
It is absurd to suggest that peace is ebbing away because of Netanyahu. He may have been a factor, but there has been a dramatic failure from the Palestinian Authority and the US to do anything conducive to a dialogue or compromise. At the moment, it looks like the best idea would be to top trying to make peace…and rather, start trying to prevent a war from breaking-out.