Posts Tagged West Bank

Did the left give up on Israel or did Israel give up on the left?

I hear a lot of talk from the Zionist left and right about the abysmal state of the Israeli left. Take, for example, this report by Elisheva Goldberg on the recent Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) march in Tel Aviv:

The Israeli Left’s Identity Issues – The Daily Beast.

The trouble is this: when “leftism” becomes an identity element, it makes leftist politics involuntary. It turns marching with ACRI from a political act of free will into a necessary expression of self. It turns human rights activism from a fight for political victory into a fight for acknowledgement and recognition. And—most crucially—it turns the left from a movement of social change into a group of people who love each other, but have given up on winning and instead are just doing their best to preserve their community. Ella’s last comment to me was that “we need to feel that we’re part of something so that we can get up and go to work every day.” These ACRI marchers feel they’ve lost—and so they have. They’ve decided they’re content just to feel loved and appreciated by each other—and so they will be.

There are plenty of explanations for this from both sides.

Ask someone from the right, and they will tell you that the left’s policies failed — Israel withdrew from Lebanon and Hizballah fired rockets for 6 years until a brutal and bloody war; Israel withdrew from Gaza and Hamas took over and fired rockets for 6 years and counting, despite two brutal and bloody wars; Barak sat down with Arafat and made a generous offer and all we got in return was an intifada; Olmert sat down with Abbas and made another generous offer and we got nothing out of it; the Palestinians and Arabs continue to spread antisemitism in schoolbooks, on TV, and everywhere else; the Muslim Brotherhood is taking over the Middle East; they all hate us and they want to kill us like they did in the intifada, so  we need to be strong and defend our borders and prepare for the impending apocalypse by buying a camper-van and moving next to Ramallah so we can improve our security by burning down some Palestinian olive trees.

Ask someone from the left and you’ll hear all about how Israel’s continuing occupation of the Palestinians is eroding its moral character and transforming it into some kind of proto-fascist society — everyone goes to the army, and so militancy is being bred into the society; years of controlling the Palestinians and relating to them only as soldier to controlled society has led to them being seen not as humans, but as some kind of lesser creatures; the failure to halt the settlement enterprise has put Israel in permanent control of the West Bank and made the two-state solution impossible, meaning there is some kind of apartheid system in place; the religious-Zionist camp has become increasingly racist and has begun to have more influence over the secular right and over the haredim; Likud is being taken-over by Danny Danon and Moshe Feiglin, the Kahannists are the fastest-growing Knesset faction, they all hate us and want to kill us like they killed Rabin, so we may as well just give up and smoke pot in our run-down bauhaus apartment building in Tel Aviv while talking about how much smarter we are than everyone else and complaining that we don’t have jobs.

That’s not to say that there’s no merit in these theories. Maybe we can learn from both of them — for example, I don’t mind the idea of smoking pot near Ramallah and talking about how smart I am.

One thing that I do want to point out is that the two narratives are completely polarised in a way that is quite revealing of their respective mentalities: the Zionist left blame everything on the Israeli right and the Zionist right blame everything on the Arabs.

This annoys me, especially when I read things like this article by Peter Beinart, where he talks about how Obama has given up on Netanyahu without even mentioning that Obama may have also given up on Abbas — because it can’t be Abbas’ fault, the Israeli right is to blame for everything. Likewise for the many articles (I don’t have an example in front of me, but there’s no shortage) that keep talking about how much Israel just wants peace and it’s all the Arabs’ fault, as though the ruling party didn’t just preselect a lot of people who openly oppose a Palestinian state (the part about Danon and Feiglin taking over the Likud is true).

But anyway, that’s beside the point. I am going to posit another explanation for the state of affairs. We have a bad tendency in the Jewish community to think that we are the only ones affecting anything — when really, on a global scale, we are quite minor players. It’s probably some degree of internalised oppression resulting from antisemitic conspiracy theories, but that’s a different discussion.

A while ago, I read this piece on the geopolitics of Israel by George Friedman, which made a point that has stuck with me:

The Geopolitics of Israel: Biblical and Modern | Stratfor.

Israel exists in three conditions. First, it can be a completely independent state. This condition occurs when there are no major imperial powers external to the region. We might call this the David model. Second, it can live as part of an imperial system — either as a subordinate ally, as a moderately autonomous entity or as a satrapy. In any case, it maintains its identity but loses room for independent maneuvering in foreign policy and potentially in domestic policy. We might call this the Persian model in its most beneficent form. Finally, Israel can be completely crushed — with mass deportations and migrations, with a complete loss of autonomy and minimal residual autonomy. We might call this the Babylonian model.

Israel is a small fish in a big pond, but is very strategically located and therefore will always be in someone’s interests to control. When great powers compete over Middle East hegemony (as they tend to do), Israel can either survive as a client state, or be subsumed.

Until fairly recently, Israel was a client of the Western secular left. At the moment, Israel is a client of the Christian right. Europe — dominated by the secular left — has been becoming increasingly anti-Israel for a variety of reasons (and correlated with a dramatic rise in antisemitism throughout the continent). The Western academic left has essentially fallen to the Edward Said mentality and now speaks about Israel as though it were the root cause of everything that is evil in this world. A similar attitude pervades the UN (which is essentially where the academic left go on secondment when they are tired of academia).

Meanwhile, support for Israel in the Christian right has never been stronger. The massive Evangelical population in the US has become fanatically pro-Israel. In response to the growing cultural tensions in Europe and the ‘unholy alliance’ between the secular left and the ultra-conservative Islamists, the European right has begun to shift strongly towards Israel. I often hear remarks in Australia that the conservative Christian right is more pro-Israel than the Jewish community, and I think there is genuinely some truth to that assessment.

What does this mean? Put simply, Israel needs to maintain itself as a client state in order to survive. It can no longer rely on the secular left for support as, in a fit of post-colonial guilt and profound ‘Orientalism’, the secular left has determined that since the Islamists were fighting against George Bush, and they don’t like George Bush, the Islamists must be ‘part of the global left‘. Never mind all that stuff about hanging the homosexuals, stoning adulterers, and killing the women in your family for ‘dishonourable’ behaviour. That part’s not important.

In other words, the Israeli right has huge support from the global right, and the Israeli left is being scorned by the global left. Given the dynamics of Israel, it is small wonder that the left is in disarray.

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NSW govt announces new transport plan

Eyebrows across the state were raised today as the NSW government announced its new plan to repair the state’s ailing transport ‘system’.

The Liberal government has come under criticism recently, with numerous claims that no real progress on transport has been made since they won power in last year’s landslide election. Government officials are heralding today’s announcement as the answer to these doubts.

“We are very proud of this announcement, and rightly so,” said Premier Barry O’Farrell. “How can anyone say that this government is doing nothing now?”

Mr O’Farrell observed that this is the third new plan announced this year, noting that the previous Labor government had generally waited at least nine months between transport plans.

Former Premier Nick Greiner, the head of Infrastructure NSW, pointed out the progress that the government has made since the previous plan.

“We are completely tearing-up Parrammatta Road now.” Mr Greiner said. “This is much more radical than the tunnel under Parrammatta road that we had planned before.”

“We have also decided to focus on expediting construction of the North-West rail link.”

Some residents of Sydney were not so sanguine.

“This all sounds wonderful, but who cares if they turn Parrammatta Road into a bloody super-highway?” asked Liverpool resident Cid Ne Seider. “It’s too bloody expensive to park my f**kin’ car anyway! This lot is just as bad as the last lot!”

Coogee resident and ADF Sergeant Neve Seth Welchman agreed, saying, “you know it’s a bad sign when you go on a tour of Afghanistan and find yourself admiring the efficiency of the public transport system in Kandahar.”

NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson also condemned the report, saying that Tony Abbott is a horrible misogynist and is not fit to be Prime Minister. Meanwhile, Greens leader David Shoebridge condemned the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and called for a complete ban on commercial fishing in the Tasman.

Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian rejected these criticisms, telling Major Karnage that, “this plan is so good, the people of Sydney will not know what hit them. In fact, they may not even realise that they have been hit!”

According to Mr Greiner, Infrastructure NSW is not taking its responsibility to the people of NSW lightly.

“We have just used the windfall from cutting the education budget to launch a whole new inquiry into our planning process,” he said. “We aim to have a new plan every two months by 2015.”

Mr Greiner also said that the government are due to begin construction on the new transport system by 2020, although he stressed that this is subject to the next transport plan, due to be released in December.

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No real politicians were interviewed in the writing of this blog post.

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Bibi Buries Report

No one saw this coming, right?

Well, that may be a lie.

Netanyahu set to bury Levy report on legalizing illegal West Bank outposts – Israel News | Haaretz Daily Newspaper.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to bury the Levy Report, which recommends legalizing most unauthorized settlement outposts in the West Bank and making it easier for existing settlements to expand, a senior politician who spoke with the premier about the issue told Haaretz yesterday.

I guess this must be awkward for Liam, who said this:

Levy Report, and responses from government ministers, spells bad news for Israel – Liam Getreu.

MK is right: Israel won’t be imploding today. But if the reaction from government ministers is anything to go by there will be action, or at least Netanyahu’s hand may be forced further than he’d like, especially as peace talks might be starting to begin again.

This isn’t something the Right wants to go away. It vindicates what they’ve been saying all along (‘there is no occupation’) and what they’ve been doing all along (treating the West Bank as a de facto extension of Israel itself despite the very different legal status conferred on it).

I guess everything after “Mk is right” really was redundant.

Far be it from me to gloat.

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BDS and the problem of not seeing the people behind the veil

West Bank Barrier (Separating Wall)

West Bank Barrier (Separating Wall) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No, not that veil.

I had an interesting conversation with a pro-BDS Israeli man (‘BDSM’) and an anti-Zionist Jewish woman (‘AZJW’) recently that made me think. To paraphrase, it went something like this:

MK: I get what you’re saying and I’m not denying that there are huge problems with Israeli policy in the West Bank, but why don’t you just target specific policies? Why can you only talk grandiose solutions, as though the only way to make the situation better would be for the Israeli government to fall and a whole new regime put in place? [Note: this would not make things better, but that wasn’t what I was arguing with them]

BDSM: Because it all comes from occupation! And the government is part of it!

MK: Ok, let’s take an example. Why don’t you advocate for Israeli soldiers to be responsible for preventing settler attacks on Palestinians? At the moment, they have to protect the settlers from Palestinians, but have no power to use any kind of force against the settlers. If they were able to arrest them and hold them accountable, the whole atmosphere would change in the West Bank. Settlers would stop feeling so entitled.

BDSM: It’s deliberate.

MK: Sure, but that doesn’t mean it can’t end.

BDSM: But that is just one part of the whole approach. Look at Susya, the settlers are making a big push to drive all the Palestinians out of area C so that they Israel can annex it.

MK: Yes, but if they couldn’t attack Palestinians without repercussions, it would make that much harder for them to do.

AZJW: But it’s part of the whole occupation system. It won’t just change.

MK: It can. There is one IDF officer somewhere who can sign an order and it will change overnight.

BDSM: But they won’t! The government supports the settlers.

MK: Not all of them do.

BDSM: What do you mean? It was Labor that started the settlements in 1967. Every party has supported them since then. During Oslo when the two state solution seemed so close, it was Rabin that was building more settlements and letting them carve-up the West Bank with settler-only roads.

MK: Yes, but it wasn’t his initiative, it was a deal that he made. Labor is not pro-settlement. Even Likud has a strong anti-settlement faction.

AZJW: Or is that just what you want to believe?

BDSM: What do you mean? The settlers and the government are one and the same!

It carried on like that for a while and I gave up eventually, but something did strike me about what they said.

From their perspective, they are completely right. The awful law-enforcement policies in the West Bank are part of The Occupation. Every Israeli government in history has supported The Occupation. There is no political party with any kind of record of ending The Occupation, so all Israeli governments would be bad and the only way to end The Occupation would be to overthrow the current regime.

The problem, as always, is a lack of nuance – but this nuance is particularly difficult to grasp. I can see why they are wrong because I have been immersed in the political/lawmaking system in Australia and all democratic systems work similarly on some basic level. They have been outside the system and so they cannot truly appreciate what is going on.

They see The Occupation and The Government. When governments do not end pro-settlement policies despite political leaders promising to do so, these two see that The Government is in bed with The Settlers.

I don’t. I see a holistic political system full of competing interests. The Knesset has 120 members, all from an unnecessary number of different parties, and within the major parties are factions.

An overview of the Knesset

The opposition: the traditional Israeli left represented by Meretz and Avoda (Labour); an Arab bloc made-up of socialists, secular nationalists and Islamists; the extreme religious-Zionist parties, which range from far-right to borderline Jewish Fascism;  and of course the leading opposition party Kadima – the largest single party in the Knesset – which contains a faction of former Likudniks who were loyal to Ariel Sharon and a faction of more leftist politicians sourced from various other places.

The Government: Shas, the haredi party that mostly cares about holding onto the State Rabbinate, welfare for large families and keeping Haredim exempt from the military;  Yisrael Beitenu, which has a large base of Russian immigrants, is fiercely secular and nationalist, has left-wing social policies, is very hawkish on foreign policy, and rife with anti-Arab racism; Habayit Hayehudi, the religious-Zionist, pro-settler party; Atzmeut, Defence Minister Ehud Barak’s offshoot of the Labour party; and, of course, Likud.

Likud is the party of Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s Revisionist Zionism. Jabotinsky was a strong, secular nationalist and a classical liberal. He believed in an Israel on both sides of the River Jordan and believed that the Jews had to fight for everything they get as the rest of the world hates Jews and would only ever try to hurt Israel. This message was being declared on the eve of the Holocaust – had he been listened to, history could have been very different.

Likud today has a pragmatic faction, led by Prime Minister Netanyahu, which stays true to Jabotinsky’s liberalism while keeping their thinking in the modern world. There is a less savoury faction, led by Deputy Speaker Danny Danon, which follows Jabotinsky’s militant ‘Whole Israel’ ideas while ignoring the humanitarian, anti-racist and democratic pillars of Jabotinsky’s beliefs. There is also a faction led by Moshe Feiglin, who is pro-civil liberties and does not believe peace to be a priority.

My Point

Why that little aside? Well, all of those factions have different agendas and interests that govern how Israeli policy is made. Netanyahu relies on pro-settlement factions for support in order to maintain government, so has every Israeli government for decades. In the scheme of things, Labour and Likud have always made a trade-off: they accept support from settlers, turn a blind eye to what they do in the West Bank, and concentrate on domestic and other issues.

The important thing to notice is that there is a majority in the Knesset who are against settlement, or at least indifferent. The problem is that they will not work together.

My pro-BDS interlocutors do not see this because they do not see through the veils of the parties and the government. They cannot break The Occupation down into a series of policies and policy vacuums that have evolved over time to create a certain dynamic in the West Bank.

The settlers are basically like spoilt children who become bullies. They have been allowed to do whatever they want in the West Bank without limits and have developed a sense of entitlement.

I believe that small changes could be very easy to make and could have huge consequences. One order from the Defence Ministry could introduce effective law enforcement and prevent daily harassment and abuse of Palestinians. Adopting some of the Levy Report’s recommendations could end the dubious zoning policies around Area C.

If these two things happened, the resentment from the Palestinian side would immensely reduce and the settlers would have limits to their actions. The entire mindset would begin to shift.

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Why the Levi Report would help Palestinians

Back on this theme, some detractors (who probably didn’t read the report before detracting) have attacked the Levy Report for bringing an end to the two-state solution and taking away Palestinian land rights.

For a quick and easy, cut-and-paste style rebuttal, I figured I would take a post by Benedict Roth on the latest uproar in the West Bank, followed by an excerpt from the Levy Report’s conclusions, then some commentary.

To wit (my bold):

The Prayers of Susya – The Daily Beast.

Susya is a tiny Arab village–more a shanty-town than a village–sandwiched between two Jewish settlements at the southern edge of the West Bank.  It has been repeatedly demolished by the Israeli army since its creation in the 1980’sIt is about to be demolished again, by court order, because it is sited on agricultural land and its residents have not been granted permission to build.

The Arabs whose shacks are being demolished have documents attesting title to their land. Ironically, they also hold title to the site of one of the Jewish villages, a few hundred yards away.  Indeed they lived there until the early 1980’s.  But they were ordered to leave by the military government after archaeological remains were found.  So they camped on their fields nearby.

… So, today, nearly every Palestinian construction site is “illegal” and is subject to demolition while the Jewish settlement programme proceeds apace, fuelled by a ready supply of building permits and funds.  By controlling Area C through its civil administration, Israel obtains all the benefits of annexation without incurring any obligation to grant its Arab residents legal and political rights.  Water, electricity, land, public services and votes are all reserved for Jews.

Levy:

a. The area of municipal jurisdiction of each settlement, if not yet determined, must be determined by order, taking into due consideration future natural growth.

f. In the event of conflicting claimants to land, it would be appropriate to adopt a policy whereby prior to any determination by the state regarding petitions for eviction or demolition, a thorough examination of the conflicting claims be conducted by a judicial tribunal dealing with land issues. This is all the more necessary with respect to claims of prior purchase or prescription, or where the possessor acted in a bona fide manner. Pending such determination, state authorities should be instructed to avoid taking any position in land conflicts and carrying out irreversible measures, such as eviction or demolition of buildings on the property.

g. To this end and with a view to facilitate accessibility by local residents to judicial tribunals, we suggest the establishment of courts for the adjudication of land disputes in Judea and Samaria, or alternatively, extending the jurisdiction of district court judges in order to enable them to handle in their courts, land disputes in Judea and Samaria.

h. It is necessary to draft into the security legislation a right for the public to review data banks administered by the various official bodies, including the Civil Administration, concerning land rights in the area of Judea and Samaria.


j. The composition of the Appeals Committee should be changed. It is presently manned by uniformed reserve officers, jurists, who are, of necessity, perceived at the least to be subordinate to, and even under the command of the Head of the Civil Administration. We feel that this situation is not proper, and therefore recommend that the Appeals Committee be composed of non-uniformed jurists, a factor which would contribute to the general perception of the Appeals Committee as an independent body, acting according to its own discretion.

k) The “Procedure for Dealing with Private Land Disputes” must be revoked. Such disputes must only be considered and adjudicated by a judicial body.

So let’s recap. A huge part of the problem (which, by the way, is a huge problem — I completely agree that the way the people of Susya are being treated is a disgrace) is that the people of Susya have been arbitrarily moved around and denied the right to enjoy land over which they hold title. This has been made possible due to the current Israeli Civil Administration in Area C; which has an Appeals Committee that is not a proper court and is essentially made-up of Administration officials; and which is overly secretive, extremely bureaucratic and very difficult for Palestinians to work with — whether they seek information or building permits.

I will note that I have a lot of (completely anecdotal) reason to believe that the difficulty in attaining building permits is not all down to direct discrimination, there is a significant amount of bureaucratic incompetence and corruption that presents hurdles to people who can’t “work the system” like Israelis can.

So what does the Levy Report recommend? That the Appeals Committee is abolished and replaced by a proper independent judiciary; that no new construction or demolition may take place without prior approval of this judiciary; that the judiciary is given the power to examine the land ownership rights that are currently ignored; and new freedom of information laws to make the whole process more transparent.

That, to me, looks a lot better for the people of Susya than the opaque, corrupt system they currently face, in which their claims are adjudicated by the people that they are going up against.

Please correct me if I’m wrong.

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Levy report and NYT getting basic facts wrong

I complained earlier about the sensationalism around the recent Levy Committee Report in Israel. I am looking in more detail at the parts that have been translated into English, and the more I see, the more vindicated my gut reaction seems to have been (ie this was completely blown out of proportion).

I also just went back and read the New York Times editorial that the anti-Israel left have been raving about since it slammed the report. What I saw was a little embarrassing for a paper of the Times‘ repute:

Wrong Time for New Settlements in the West Bank – NYTimes.com.

Most of the world views the West Bank, which was taken by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 war, as occupied territory and all Israeli construction there as a violation of international law. The world court ruled this way in 2004. The Fourth Geneva Convention bars occupying powers from settling their own populations in occupied lands. And United Nations Security Council resolution 242, a core of Middle East policy, calls for the “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.”

So:

  • There is no “world court”. The editorial must be referring to the International Court of Justice, which issued an advisory opinion (not a ruling) in 2004 that related to the security barrier being built by Israel and only tangentially to the construction of settlements. There are a lot of other issues with the judgment, but they are beyond the purview of this post.
  • The Fourth Geneva Convention prevents civilian populations from being forceably transferred onto land that is under belligerent occupation. That is not the same as “settling”.
  • That is what you call selective quoting. Res 242 did call for that, but the next paragraph called for this:

Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.

It’s funny how the anti-Israel crowd likes to forget that part. There is also the fact that the Resolution called for withdrawal from “lands captured”, not “all lands” — Israel has already withdraw from “lands” and has committed to withdrawing from other lands if a viable deal is reached. The other parties to the 1967 conflict? Well, Egypt complied with that second condition… 12 years later. It took Jordan another 15 years after Egypt and we have yet to see Lebanon or Syria even consider it, never mind the Palestinian Authority or Hamas.

Whatever else may be said about the Levy report, this is just sloppy journalism from the Times. Shame really.

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More on the Levy report

IN A rather surprising move, Liam had this to say in response to my previous post:

Levy Report, and responses from government ministers, spells bad news for Israel – Liam Getreu.

MK is right

Of course, I knew that before, but it’s just so nice to see it on Liam’s blog.

On the other hand, Liam doesn’t really think I’m right and I don’t really think he’s right. So to briefly respond to what he actually said:

This isn’t something the Right wants to go away. It vindicates what they’ve been saying all along (‘there is no occupation’) and what they’ve been doing all along (treating the West Bank as a de facto extension of Israel itself despite the very different legal status conferred on it).

In fact, the Ynet report also discusses the radical departure from the current interpretation of the legal status of settlements and settlement outposts in the West Bank, based on the Sasson report delivered to right-wing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2005…

The Zionist Right prefers land to democracy. That’s fine. But it’s not Zionism. And it won’t enable the Jewish-democratic state of Israel to exist far into the future.

So aside from pointing out that sentence one directly contradicts sentence three,  in that last paragraph (the Zionist Right is not Zionist eh?), I would like to ask the following question: “so what?” Yes the report contradicts what Sasson said in 2005, but – as Liam points out – what it does do is merely re-iterate the “Zionist Right” position on the matter, one that has been consistent since the 1970s.

I see this as another example of an alarmist trend in Israel/Palestine commentary that is increasingly bothering me. Somehow a conflict that seems to change very little and very gradually (excepting the occasional sudden flare-up of violence) has a huge “turning point” every second week.

I don’t see anything particularly notable in a clearly stacked panel of dubious jurists – which was put together in order to appease people Bibi has won several victories over recently – releasing a report that says exactly what everyone thought it would. It isn’t indicative of any new trends or schools of thought in Israeli society.

NOW THAT Kadima has joined the Netanyahu-led coalition, the settlers actually have far less power than they had a few months ago. Regardless, Bibi has always been playing a double game – he fought the settlers on evacuating Ulpana and won, all the while declaring himself pro-settler and commissioning new homes in the settlement blocs that no-one believes are actually going anywhere. He clearly has his objectives in mind and he has his political strategy – one that has served him very effectively to date. I honestly cannot see how this report would make any difference to either his objectives or his strategy.

Bibi talks big, but he is a very cautious actor and his achievements come gradually and incrementally. For a while now, he has been very subtly undermining the outposts while maintaining the “pro-settlement” pretence. I don’t see how this report would change that, or anything else really.

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Levi report: don’t worry, the end of days is not quite upon us

There has been a lot of hysteria over the Levi Commission Report, released in Israel last night Australia time (for anyone who can read Hebrew, the report is available HERE. Unfortunately, my limited grasp of Hebrew does not extend to complex legal documents).

Like this for example:

Israeli report declares there’s no occupation, opens path to end of Zionism – Liam Getreu.

Accepting the substantial elements of this report means this: no more occupation, annexing the West Bank, giving citizenship to Palestinians, end of Israel as a Jewish-democratic state. Or, of course, it could really become apartheid, and not give Palestinians citizenship at all. This is what the Zionist Right is leading us to: the end of the two-state solution.

 I wouldn’t go searching for the four horsemen just yet. There were definitely some bad points in the report:

Netanyahu-appointed panel: Israel isn’t an occupying force in West Bank – Israel News | Haaretz Daily Newspaper.

the Levy Committee avers that government encouragement of any construction conferred an “administrative assurance,” even if there were no legal and official permits issued.

Now, Israel uses the same British common law system as Australia does to form the basis of its legal system. I have never heard of any concept of “administrative assurance” that can be used in lieu of a permit. Generally, you have no permit, you can’t build.

There are a few other recommendations that also sound a little poorly thought-out, like removing various powers to evict settlers and making it easier to build settlements.

But then there’s this:

The committee recommends legalizing all the outposts even without a retroactive government decision, and to do so as follows: To issue an order delineating the settlement and designating the adjacent areas as needed to accommodate natural growth; to cancel the need to get permission from the political echelons for every single stage in the planning process, and to not implement demolition orders that have already been issued.

See, that sounds a little familiar. It’s similar, in a way, to something Ehud Barak was suggesting a couple of months ago. That sounds like Israel unilaterally annexing parts of the West Bank, which is altogether not a terrible idea IMO. It could reduce the bickering that goes back and fourth about borders and land swaps if Israel just says something to the effect of, “this is what we want, this is what we don’t want. You don’t like it? Make us a better offer.”

Also,

The committee also recommends the cancelation of the “bothersome use order” that allows the head of the Civil Administration to force settler-farmers off ostensibly Palestinian land, even if there is no Palestinian complainant … Levy believes that these are land disputes that the state should not involve itself in, but that should be sorted out before the courts. The committee, in fact, recommends setting up a special court to deal with land disputes in the West Bank.

That doesn’t sound like a terrible idea either – mostly because a court ruling is more binding than this strange state restraining order thing they have at the moment.

Finally, I’ll address the point about the Fourth Geneva Convention and belligerent occupation. I have looked into this at length, and it is basically true. The current international humanitarian law never predicted anything like the situation in the West Bank, so it is a huge grey area. Everyone who tells you it’s definitely legal or illegal is making laws where there aren’t any.

Irrespective of that, the current legal regime applied in areas B and C of the West Bank is a bizarre military administration derived from the Jordanian law as it stood in 1967 – it needs to be overhauled, and exercising some form of sovereignty is the only way that Israel could actually do that.

So basically, some good may yet come of this report. I’m also very skeptical of news reports on an 89-page document that was released a few hours before – we’re pretty much seeing reports on the executive summary. It’s never a good idea to jump to conclusions on these things.

In fact, in all probability, nothing will ever come of this report. It is dated 21st June – presumably when it was made available to cabinet, even though it only became public yesterday – meaning that the government has had it for over three weeks and hasn’t moved on it. My bet is that they won’t, this will be consigned to the massive vault of reports that caused a minor media shitstorm and were subsequently forgotten. The Israeli government must have somewhere.

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EXCLUSIVE LEAK: Palestinian Authority letter to Netanyahu

BIG NEWS!

After years of refusing to negotiate or meet with the Israelis, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has sent Israelis Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu A LETTER!

PM Netanyahu meets with Saeb Erekat and Majad Faraj 17-Apr-2012.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority are committed to achieving peace. This evening, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with representatives from the Palestinian side who gave him a letter from President Abbas. Within two weeks, a letter from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be given to President Abbas.  Both sides hope that this exchange of letters will help find a way to advance peace.

Against all odds, the letter itself has been leaked to Major Karnage and is reproduced below in its entirety:

Dear Bibi,

I know I haven’t been in touch for a while, but I thought that it may be time to give it another go.

I have to admit, I never got over Olmert — even after he was indicted for corruption and then launched that whole “Gaza incursion” thing. I just… I guess I was so hung up on him that I didn’t give you a chance.

You know, it’s sometimes so hard to accept that someone can change. We used to fight all the time when we were younger. It was just so hard to believe that you were serious when you said you wanted a two-state solution too. And there’s the whole settlement thing of course.

I feel so stupid now, I should have trusted you. I know it couldn’t have been easy to come out like that! I know your dad has always been against the whole idea and you’re the first Likkudnik to take this step. I know how important Lieberman and Yishai are to you, you must have been under so much pressure!

I’ve had to come a long way too, you know. I can see why you would doubt that I had really renounced terror — especially when I’m still putting on parades for released terror convicts and naming schools after suicide bombers. But I’ve grown up, really. All that’s in the past, it’s not worth us sulking like this.

Look, I can’t promise that I can reign-in the other guys, but I have finally realised that I have to do this. I guess we both have to take a leap of faith, but let’s face it, we’re not getting any younger.

Anyway, I’ll understand if you need time to think about it, but please write back. I can’t face not hearing from you for another three years.

 

Sincerely,

Abu Mazen

xxox

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Olmert Rebukes J Street at their own Conference

Anyone else who just watched Ehud Olmert addressing J Street saw a great performance from the former Israeli Prime Minister. I have a feeling that it was not quite what the organisers of the conference had envisioned when they organised for him to give the keynote address at their conference.

Olmert did criticise the current Israeli Government (he is from the opposition party after all) and he did laud J Street as a legitimate pro-Israel organisation, but he made a lot of points that run counter to J Street’s narrative and policy platforms.

For instance, he spoke about the Iranian threat to Israel and made it clear that the military option, while a last resort, is on the table in order to prevent a nuclear Iran. Also, after speaking at length about the need to make peace and how the current Israeli Government is not moving towards peace (which I don’t entirely disagree with), he very bluntly stated that Palestinians have responsibilities and they do not always meet those responsibilities — proceeding to detail the generous proposal he made to Mahmoud Abbas and how this was walked away from.

(I will note that he spent a while heaping praise on Abbas and explaining that Abbas does not support terrorism and is a partner for peace. My feeling is that this may be true, but Abbas faces a lot of internal opposition in Fatah.)

Most importantly, he said that he will not ask J Street to go to their government and ask them to pressure the government of Israel. As he said, “is this an American problem?” This is exactly the argument I have been using against J Street’s methodology. Israeli government policy is an Israeli problem, it is not America’s place to pressure them one way or the other and doing so often backfires — creating resentment for America in Israel, winning sympathy for the more extreme elements of Israeli society and generally hardening the Israeli mindset against America’s agenda.

Barukh Binah, the deputy chief of mission at Israel’s Washington embassy, made a similar point when he addressed the conference. I hope (but don’t expect) that J Street’s leaders will take this on board and start re-evaluating their raison d’etre. There are a lot of more productive uses of their time than lobbying Congress.

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