Only Nixon Could Go to China

In my previous post on this topic, I concluded with a warning that, if the UN recognizes Palestinian statehood, it needs to make this recognition contingent on Palestinian recognition of Israel’s right to exist—saying, in effect, that the 1948 War of Independence has been over for six decades.  Such a condition would require the UN to provide at least a rough guideline for the division of Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank into two distinct political entities, or else either side could claim that they recognize the other, in accordance with the UN declaration—just not here.

The possibility of a unilaterally imposed UN division of the territory will be looked on by many (Israelis and Americans; Jews and non-Jews) as disastrous.  While I agree that this could be the case, it is not the only possible outcome.  Though the three entities involved—the UN, the Palestinian Authority, and the Israeli government—always necessitate skepticism, a September UN vote could result in the peaceable creation of separate states.

This would require Netanyahu to behave differently than we have been led to expect—and for him to perceive the threat of de-legitimization following UN recognition of a Palestinian state as being, more than anything else, something which Israel controls as it shapes its response.  There is some evidence to suggest that this may be the case.

Yesterday, Netanyahu delivered an address to the Knesset, seen by many as a prelude to his coming meeting with President Obama.  While his language may have been hawkish, his proposal, as Jeffrey Tobin noted earlier today, would require redefining that word before we can apply it: a division based, roughly, on the 1967 borders and a willingness to engage in land-for-peace swaps.  While his ambiguous references to an “undivided Jerusalem” and retaining major “settlement blocs” in the West Bank do smack of an attempt to continue to border-shifting of recent years as settlements continue to expand, Netanyahu is now moving, steadily, toward the positions enumerated by his predecessors.  (And, keep in mind, he has a coalition to hold together.)  Furthermore, Ehud Barak, who was prevented from achieving a peace deal a decade ago primarily by Arafat’s insincerity, appears to be a growing influence on Netanyahu’s policies.

This is, in itself, movement in a good direction from Israel’s government—though an offer somewhere to the right of Olmert’s is far from perfect.  But the moment at which this change is occurring is either puzzling or revealing.  The odds of a negotiated peace agreement happening in the next six months are, with the inclusion of Hamas in the Palestinian Authority, all but none; the odds of a UN vote are significant; and, to top things off, George Mitchell has just stepped down as the US peace envoy.

So why now, at the moment when peace negotiations, for at least six months, will likely be unproductive as both sides wait?  If Netanyahu is offering this as an attempt to achieve a negotiated peace, then it remains puzzling.  But if this is part of a gambit to influence and shape an imposed peace…  After all, if the UN is going to attempt to declare a peace agreement of its own, and force it upon both parties, and if there is a significant possibility that the United States will at least tacitly accept this imposition, then the smartest action would be to attempt to manage this process and ensure an imposition that is acceptable to Israel—even if not ideal, or acceptable at all to the hard-right, or Bibi’s heart of hearts.

It is possible, then, that Netanyahu’s speech signaled the beginning of a new phase of his administration, and of the peace process itself, in which Israel has accepted that the UN will recognize Palestinian statehood in September and, therefore, begins to push (through the United States?) for a UN vote that would create a Palestinian state, roughly along the 1967 lines, but making allotments for settlement blocs and/or land swaps, while requiring that it publicly and openly accept Israel’s right to exist.  That is, a vote that Israel’s “moderate”* parties—Labor, Kadima, Likud, and Ehud Barak’s Ego Trip Express—could come together to accept, rather than risk genuinely undermining Israel’s international legitimacy.  This scenario would require Netanyahu’s proposal to sit to the right of Olmert’s for at least two reasons: so that any “compromise” does not land too far in favor of the Palestinians at the expense of Israel, and to hold, for the time being, Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition together.

Should this happen, Kadima and Labor would have no choice but to support Netanyahu’s government, lest they find Likud out-flanking them to right and left simultaneously—or, worse, be revealed as politicians more than patriots.  Israel’s politicians are no better than any other country’s, but I doubt Livni and what remains of Labour would risk scuttling a two-state solution, and Israel itself, over petty partisanship.  Israel has many problems; a lack of patriotism is not one of them.  The incorporation of Kadima and old Labour into the government would be necessary—because the right flank of Netanyahu’s coalition would disintegrate instantly, no matter how much of a “dove masquerading as a hawk” their Prime Minister may play between now and then.  Rather than suing for peace now, which would expose his coalition to attack from the left and right alike, and condemn it to collapse, perhaps he is waiting for a situation in which his hand is forced—in which he makes necessary but unpopular concessions because of a genuine, concrete threat to Israel’s legitimate standing.  While the Israeli populace would not be pleased—even the doves—at a UN-imposed settlement, we should remember the majority of Israelis are not part of the Yisrael Beiteinu or hard-right religious Zionist settlement movements.

This could all just be wishful thinking on my part, and the next few weeks alone will provide plenty of opportunity to make me look hopelessly naïve.  But of this much I am certain: Netanyahu’s shift on the peace process is part of a political strategy with a larger end in mind than merely making President Obama happier.  Regardless of what this end is, if there is a UN recognition of Palestinian statehood, Netanyahu is the only person in Israel capable of pivoting that into a manageable peace agreement.  I think he’s smart enough to recognize this, and I hope he’s sane enough—or egotistical enough; I’ll take either—to capitalize on it.

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*Yes, compared with Yisrael Beiteinu and, especially, everything to the right of that party, Likud counts as “moderately” right-wing.  Especially after Bibi’s latest speech.

 

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42 thoughts on “Only Nixon Could Go to China

  1. May 11, 2011:

    Hamas accepts 1967 borders, but will never recognize Israel, top official says
    Speaking to Palestinian news agency Ma’an, Mahmoud Zahar says recognition of Israel would deprive future Palestinian generations of the possibility to ‘liberate’ their lands.

    By Haaretz Service

    http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/hamas-accepts-1967-borders-but-will-never-recognize-israel-top-official-says-1.361072

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    • The idea that there has been a chance for “permanent peace” at any point in the last century in that area is something of a joke.

      In the 1920s, there was pogrom after pogrom led by various Arab groups trying to drive out Jews who had emigrated to their historical homeland. It got so bad that the British, ruling the “Mandate of Palestine”, eventually said “fine, Jews can only come to this tiny sliver” and created the nation of Transjordan across the river.

      The idea of a whole lot of “displaced Palestinians” is just as much a myth. Follow the 1948 UN partition and compare it to the 1949 borders, and you find that the vast majority of land was taken by the nations of Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Transjordan, and Iraq. The land the “Palestinian Refugees” were put into “refugee camps” on was… land stolen from the “Palestinians” by the Arabs themselves.

      The whole setup is one giant scam.

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  2. Is there a good link (or a future post) on the details of the machinations at the UN that are leading to the September vote on Palestinian statehood? I presume that the Palestinian representation at the UN and/or their proxies have been laying the groundwork for a while, but I gotta think that the events of the last few months have muddled things up, even as Abbas (for example) uses them as a reason for pushing forward even harder now.

    For instance, the Arab league is in a bit of a disarray, with, among other things, their member states undergoing leadership changes, their own leader just changed out, their summit postponed, a small rift between them and the GCC over what happened in Bahrain, and a large rift between them and the African Union over what’s happening in Libya. (and of these I think the last is by far the most important for rounding up UN votes)

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  3. Great post.

    About Hamas: I heard their deputy FM on NPR today and he sounded much more conciliatory on follow-up questions than what the initial talking point would lead one to believe. I’m not going to get too excited about anything Hamas says or does, because the group is obviously abhorrent, but it seems to me not beyond the realm of possibility for Hamas to still talk as if it can’t accept a 2-state solution, but in-practice do nothing to substantively derail the situation. I’m not an expert on the region — specifically the minutiae of recent events — but I do know that the blockade has done its job in crippling the Gaza economy and society on the whole, and that Hamas is battling against small groups even *more* radical than they. I think their joining with Fatah can’t be dismissed as not having potentially enormous implications.

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    • I’ll have to look for that (maybe I should have turned the radio on in my car this afternoon) — but you do bring a good point, re: while I’m up here guessing about Netanyahu’s motives for shifting his rhetoric, Hamas’ current motivations are potentially just as mysterious. If the goal of the merger is for Hamas to shore up Fatah’s “radical flank” through its mere presence, while the rest of the PA takes steps to peaceably create a state… that wouldn’t be a bad thing. Abbas’ op-ed today makes me skeptical, but that could very well have been a PR strategy to push a sympathy-inducing narrative. On the other hand, if Bibi has spent the last two years feinting right before moving left, anything’s possible — and since I’m thinking aloud that he might be, I suppose I’m not one to limit the realm of the possible right now.

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  4. From your lips to God’s ears J.L. I fear, though, that Bibi is going to move further to the right and do something disastrous. I suppose it depends on which Bibi wins out; the opportunistic politician soberly weighing the odds of his government and his country coming out in a good position or the religious man who still has to face Benzion Netanyahu (his religious fanatic Father) at the end of the day and admit he gave up the Jewish grip on greater Israel.

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    • I settled on the title I used for more than the idiomatic reason. Bibi needs to listen to his inner Nixon. A little megalomania can, in the right time and place, work out for the best.

      For all I read about Benzion, I just have trouble imagining Netanyahu, if he thinks it might come to it, risk Israel for the sake of the old man’s dreams. Wouldn’t that, in its way, be like spitting on his brother’s grave?

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      • Gentlemen, I think it’s a mistake to view Israeli politics through the American left-right prism when it comes to its security. There is “right” and there is farther right. The “left,” the “peace lobby,” whatever, is a non-factor.

        Bibi, Nixon-to-China? If peace was to be had, the Palestinians could have had it with Ariel Sharon. Talk about a Nixon!

        If Hamas wants peace with Israel, it will have it. But no political two-state solution will ever see them guarantee Israel’s security, or abandon the “right of return” for the Palestinian diaspora.

        [I think it was Barak who gave away the Israeli endgame some years back—the settlements to be traded for “confiscated” Arab property inside Israel.]

        An independent Palestinian state will be no more than a forward base for more attacks on Israel proper. Fatah was bad, and began abrogating the Oslo Accords before the ink was dry. Hamas is even more radical. There is no political solution without Hamas, and as we see in Gaza, Hamas will never restrain or even discourage attacks on the Zionist entity.

        Israel, aside from its asinine but irrelevant left [which is genuinely “left”], as a people and a state are fully aware of this reality.

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        • Tom, even if it is as you suggest, that is merely more reason for Israel to untangle itself from the Palestinians as quickly as possible. Only two groups of people wish for the current state of affairs to persist; the radical right in the Settlement and Jewish orthodox movement in Israel and the most militant factions of the Palestinians no doubt including most of Hamas and Hezbollah. The former are fixated on somehow acquiring control of all of greater Israel and either deny the demographic time bomb Israel currently faces or harbor dreams of using force to solve that issue via ethnic cleansing sometime in the future. The latter know that if Israel separates from the Palestinians it will remove an enormous amount of the moral ambiguity that they use to cloud the issue of Palestinian terror. If Israel separates from Palestine with land swaps and ends its blockade on Gaza and the result is more sniping from the new Palestinian entity then only the most irreducible Israel haters in the global community would decry any forceful action Israel took in its defense.
          Israel is a strong little nation. There are a very limited number of ways that the Arabic anti-Semite groups can plausibly destroy it. Those ways, demographic destruction or separation of Israel from the global community/America, both require that Israel continue its settlement and possession of large disenfranchised Palestinian populations. I can’t imagine that there was a single dry diaper in Hamas command the day Ariel Sharon yanked all of those squalling settlers out of Gaza. No one wants the Israeli’s in Gaza and the West Bank more than its enemies do.

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          • Mr. North, Israel is “at peace” more then it’s been for much of its history. The status quo is a reasonable security day-to-day, esp compared to times past.

            The consensus in Israel is pretty narrowed, land for peace, details negotiable. The problem is Hamas, not Israel’s “right.” An independent Palestinian state will be a rogue state, without the buffer of the occupied West Bank, from which attacks on Israel itself will be permitted if not encouraged.

            Israel has been outmaneuvered on this UN thing, which has the support of the Western left, whose mindset certainly does “want to believe” that slivers and scraps of encouraging moderate rhetoric from ” a top Hamas official” have any real meaning, or that Abbas and the PA have any power to keep their own tribe in check.

            The Palestinians, as a whole—as a people or a nation—will never stand in the way of those whose ultimate goal is to swamp Israel demographically, and erase it from the face of the earth.

            In that respect, and although I favor trying to create one anyway, there really will be no two-state solution, only a “truce” on the way to a “united Palestine.”

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            • Tom, at some point the Palestinians are going to stop screaming for their own state and start screaming for human rights and votes in Israel. At that point the doomsday clock in Israel is going to start ticking very loudly and the right wingers and settlement fetishists will have no one to blame but themselves. Now it could end up several ways; enfranchised Palestinians moderate and modernize enough that Israel becomes a modern post race/religion state; viscous apartheid state or kristallnacht in the Middle East but wherever it lands on that spectrum the Jewish people would not be in full control of their destiny any longer and I consider that undesirable.

              If, on the other hand, Israel disengaged from the West Bank and the Palestinians were insane enough to start launching attacks from it into Israel proper then the Israeli’s would simply go back in and there’s be not a single mask wearing raghead who’d be able to stop them and very few granola munching hippies left in a world (that’d be utterly disgusted with the Palestinians at that point) who’d want to. If the Palestinians are the caricatures the right makes of them then disengagement is the ultimate and only way of revealing them as such.

              Goodness, I never thought I’d see you and BlaiseP agreeing on anything but it seems you’re both one-staters.

              I doubt you and he’d agree on the Israeli far right though. Do you follow their politics very closely Tom? I watch them habitually (it’s #3 on my list after the US and Canada) and I’m firmly of the opinion that the Israeli right is a vigorous obstacle in the land for peace consensus.

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              • very few granola munching hippies left in a world (that’d be utterly disgusted with the Palestinians at that point) who’d want to.

                Why would the situation be any different from Gaza today? Rocket launches from scattered launchers with some barely plausible deniability from the government, and Israel having the choice of living with it or attacking targets that contains lots of civilians.

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                • Today in Gaza the apologists can say “well you see Gaza is still blockaded… and settlement is ongoing and millions of Palestinians in the West Bank are disenfranchised despite their good behavior”. Objectively this doesn’t justify it but it clouds the issue and provides a lot of cover.

                  If Israel ended the blockade on Gaza and extricated themselves from the West Bank what remaining rationale would the Palestinians possess for that kind of behavior? Even now the world responds poorly to it and that’s with the ability for apologists to point at settlements and disenfranchised populations as an explanation. If those issues were removed from the stage I don’t see anyone being particularly sympathetic to Palestinians who wanted to lob rockets and launch attacks.

                  And more importantly Israel itself would be demographically stable. Rockets and terror attacks can not destroy Israel; demographics possess significant potential to do so.

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                  • Mr. North, you speak of “rationale.” I submit that erasing the Zionist entity is not quite rational, nor negotiable. It’s a cause, a raison d’etre, and that’s not even figuring in the religious angle.

                    I don’t disagree with a word, except the Israelis ask themselves, what’s in it for us? We give Hamas a chance [or Fatah, that they’ll restrain Hamas], evacuate some turf, and after they kill us some more, we have to invade again for our own security.

                    None of this is going to make France happy or Israeli’s ideological enemies give them an ounce more of beneficience. In fact, Israel will once again be put into the role of aggressor, even worse than “occupier.”

                    The status quo is safer than it’s been at many times in Israel’s history. Why take more casualties and a less defensible perimeter for what will amount to nothing? [Or worse.]

                    The equation is always formulated with Israel as the variable, as if its enemies are not the real dynamic factor. If the Palestinians want a state, a peaceful, law abiding nation, they can have it.

                    Meanwhile, next door, we have no idea what kind of regime Egypt will install, or if the successor government will even abide by Sadat’s treaty with Israel. This is the reality of decades, not a few consecutive months of Hamas not misbehaving itself too terribly.

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              • Mr. North, it’s the Palestinians who are one-staters. Two states is just a rhetoric and strategy to that end.

                Your Israeli “right” is most of the country. These discussions always go to the rightist bogeyman in Israel. The real focus should be what the Palestinians say among themselves, not the pap they offer in English to the gullible West. If you follow the Palestinian question as you say you do, what you see on memri.org must be accounted for, not wishfully waved away.

                I wish I could. What you say all makes perfect sense, but nothing makes any sense over there.

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                • I would not deny that the right has become a larger part of the polity in the country; how could it not? Yasser Arafat may not have managed to destroy Israel but he blew the hell out of the Israeli moderate and peacenik left as a political movement. But there is plenty of centrist oomph left and even a significant leftist force that’s apathetic at the moment.
                  My “Israeli right” is the right side of their political spectrum. It starts with the hawkish wing of Likud and stretches out to Yisrael Beiteinu and an assortment of the smaller orthodox blocs. Do they think? I’m doubtful but they seem to follow the thought process of “Settle Land-> ??? -> Greater Eretz Israel Utopia!” They’re the religious underpants gnomes of the Israeli political scene.

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                • Gah, hit post too soon!
                  I acknowledge that the Palestinians say horrible things in their own language while saying peaceful things in English. Let the ignorant bigots do so. Talk is cheap so long as they behave themselves.
                  Once Israel is disengaged from them the Palestinians can make the West Bank into a prosperous modern statelet or a Gazan hole as they will; that isn’t Israel’s problem. Once the settlements are removed and Israel is out of the West Bank any Palestinians who want to lob rockets at them can take it up with Heil HaTothanim and Heyl HaAvir (the Artillary Corps and the Air Corps).

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                  • Again, what you’d like to wave away as the mere bigotry of a few, what Palestinians say to each other when no one’s listening is the reality.

                    I’m sure you’re familiar with Israeli historian Benny Morris, who has good credentials as a lifelong critic of Israeli’s dealings with the Palestinians since Israel’s founding.

                    I didn’t look his take up until just now, but it’s exactly the same argument [and better]:

                    “Palestinian strategy is rather simple (and not particularly clever, though it does manage to take in a surprising number of Westerners): Because of the demographic threat (an Arab majority in a Jewish state) and because of international pressure for self-determination for the Palestinians and an end to Israel’s military occupation, Israelis will eventually accept, however reluctantly, a Palestinian state encompassing the Palestinian-majority territories of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

                    Israel will eventually unilaterally withdraw (as it has already done from the Gaza Strip). So why offer or give the Israelis recognition and peace in exchange?

                    Rather, once this mini-state is achieved, unfettered by any international obligations like a peace treaty—and having promised nothing in exchange for their statehood—the Palestinians will be free to continue their struggle against Israel, its complete demise being their ultimate target. Inevitably, the armed struggle—call it guerrilla warfare, call it terrorism—will then be resumed. And, alongside it, so will the political warfare—the delegitimization of the Jewish state and, most centrally, the demand for the refugees of 1948/1967 to be allowed to return to their homes and lands (what the Palestinians define as the “Right of Return”).

                    The refugee issue plays well with public opinion in the West, which somehow fails to notice that such a return will mean that Israel proper will become an Arab-majority territory, i.e., no more Jewish state. In democracies, what publics accept or support eventually becomes what leaders advocate.

                    And, on the military and political levels, no one will be able to fault the Palestinians. They will have broken no treaty and violated no solemn agreement. They won’t have signed a “no further claims” clause or a “no more war” commitment, as Barak, Clinton and Olmert had demanded as essential components of a two-state peace settlement. They will have received their mini-state, a launching pad for further assault on Israel, without giving anything in return.”

                    Either Morris is describing reality or he’s wrong. But how can Israel take the chance that he’s wrong?

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                    • Tom, I’m not waiving away anything. It’s entirely possible that near every Palestinian is a rabit antisemite. Which makes it all the more important that Israel seperate itself from them.

                      Benny Morris is an interesting character who I am only generally familiar with (my friends in Israel think he’s insane but they are depressed leftists so they would). I’m not going to go into him or his work because that’s a whole new argument but suffice it to say that I feel he greatly overstates his fears with regards to unilateral withdrawal. The occupation of the territories and the siege of Gaza, those are things that the Israeli’s actively must exert effort to maintain and were they to stop acting the status quos would be a Palestinian State. You’ll note that these are the issues that generally exercise world opinion, refugees are more of an afterthought. These are also the issues that provide the best photo ops. Were they resolved by a unilateral withdrawal I am skeptical that the refugees in other countries could command world sympathy in the way that the West Bank and Gaza do. Especially, mind, since the Israeli’s could say “that problem is resolved, the refugees can move to the West Bank.
                      Morris, and right wingers in Israel in general always do this circular argument. They claim that Palestinians are dishonest talking one way to the Israeli’s and world and another way among themselves and they cannot be trusted. But then they claim that in order to withdraw Palestinians must say specific things like renouncing the so called refugee right of return and acknowledging and endorsing Israel existence. This is incoherent.

                      And ultimately, of course, it’s moot. If Israel does not withdraw then the Jewish majority in the state ends eventually anyhow as a matter of course since Palestinian populations in Israel + it’s occupied territories are surging while Israeli birth rates are generally in keeping with the rest of the modern world.

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                    • Again, Mr. North, how can Israel take the chance that Bennie Morris is wrong? If this is poker, Israel is all-in.

                      Morris’ argument completely comports with reality: not only what Palestinians say when nobody’s listening, but their history in these things, and Hamas’ behavior today.

                      And where are the marching Mothers for Peace we saw in Northern Ireland? As Golda Meir said decades ago, there will only be peace when Arab mothers love their children more than they hate us.

                      Absolutely nothing has changed since she said that in 1957. Your necessary premise, that there’s a Palestinian consensus for peace, is simply unsupported in reality. And I don’t mean to get personal, but the “peace” argument does “wave away” all contrary evidence to its underlying Barney the Dinosaur fantasy. It’s always Israel’s “right-wingers” who are intransigent, and Palestinians the sentimental favorite as designated victim. Hamas? What’s that?

                      And cause and effect are turned inside out–but Israel isn’t embargoing Gaza and food; it’s embargoing Hamas and ships full of weapons, and for damned good reason because Hamas is Hamas.

                      And Egypt had held up its end mostly, enforcing an arms embargo on their border with Gaza. Now Egypt is on the brink of creating a new regime, and noises are being made that its treaty with Israel will be “revisited.”

                      Oy.

                      So how can Israel take the chance that Bennie Morris is wrong, and now of all times? For a pocketful of mumbles, such are promises?

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                    • Tom, I am beginning to fear that we’re talking past each other, as I have said repeatedly Israel’s withdrawal is not dependant on any good will from the Palestinians. I do not carry any breif for the Palestinians. My personal interest is the welfare of Israel. While I wish the Palestinians well on an intellectual level; emotionally I don’t care what they do so long as they do it to themselves and leave their neighbors out of it. The Palestinians -can not- destroy Israel by physical force. They can’t. They don’t have the oomph. If Israel withdrew from the West Bank and the Palestinians were hostile and threw rockets and suicide bombers then the Israeli’s would level the launch sites (they’ve gotten quite adept at screening out bombers too). Who, in that scenario, would gainsay the Israeli’s the right to do so? What miserable fig leaves for excuses would remain to be proffered? Only the refugees in Syria et all and Israel can easily retort that the refugees can go back to Gaza. The original residents are almost gone now anyhow, their descendants are going to look pretty goofy waving around those keys. Prior to the debacle of Cast Lead the world opinion swayed pretty far Israel’s way due to Palestinian misbehavior. With the settlements and Gaza removed as an issue the parts of the world Israel depends on for its trade and prosperity would likely tune out and good riddance to em.

                      Unilateral withdrawal depends not one jot on Palestinian good will. Any good will from the Palestinians would be gravy. Golda Meir was right; true peace won’t come until the Palestinians change. But the Palestinians won’t likely change until there’s a cold separate peace and that can’t happen with settlements and checkpoints crisscrossing the West Bank and the Palestinians smuggling powder milk in tunnels into Gaza (and weapons too of course but the Israeli blockade blocks far more than weapons). And as you very astutely noted (with dismay where as I look at it with hope) Egypt may well not hold up their side of the blockade much longer.

                      And why must Israel take the chance? Because if they stay then they either loose their souls (by becoming an apartheid state) or their Jewish majority when the Palestinians abandon the two state solution and start going after a one state solution. Now Bennie Morris as I understand it seems to maintain some insane notion that the Palestinians will somehow come around and give up their violent notions if Israel keeps doing what it’s doing now. This ignores, (insanely!!!) the fact that more moderate and pragmatic elements seized power after Arafat shuffled his HIV ridden ass off to Allah’s embrace. Bibi actually has the chutzpah to claim that the relative peace and quite currently going on is due to his staying tough with the Palestinians. Already we’ve seen the worm turning on the current Palestinian leadership (if nothing else the wikileaks events blew a huge hole through that particular right wing meme by revealing that the PA privately offered to get with the program on refugees so long as it could be done quietly). If they can’t deliver tangible results from their moderated course then the Palestinians may well huck them and go back to violence and complete intransigence. That Bibi sat on his wrinkled ass and squandered this opportunity leaves me incoherent when I think about it much. And already we see the window of opportunity closing; this Hamas deal is fruits of Netanyahu’s incompetence with PA moderates beginning to move back towards Hamas since Israel rewarded their cooperation with bupkiss. I hope that Israel doesn’t have to pay dearly for the mans near sighted idiocy.

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                    • Well, Mr. North, we’ve done well, but yes, I think you’re talking past me and most of my specific arguments. I do appreciate your acknowledging the Egypt complication.

                      Bibi actually has the chutzpah to claim that the relative peace and quite currently going on is due to his staying tough with the Palestinians.

                      Well, now you’re simply discussing the tactical situation. Which is OK, except for your de rigeur lashing out at Bibi, which I find simply ideological/partisan. Ehud Barak is his defense minister, a gentleman of the left, and I doubt there’s much daylight between them on the tactical issue. You may call this the “right,” but it’s the Israeli center.

                      The position, in short, as I noted early on, that Israel is safer now with its [occupied] West Bank buffer zone than it has been for much of its history. Bibi’s chutzpah and his “wrinkled old ass” are entirely correct on this point. For Israel, this is cold peace, this “relative peace” as you put it, and as close to peace they’re ever likely to get until the Palestinians have that change of heart.

                      Someday, if ever. Not now. And I should extend my appreciation for your acknowledgment of that fact as well. The chimera of Palestinian good will is now off the table.

                      So it seems whatever disagreement we have comes down to two factors, our assessment of the tactical situation and the possibility that Palestinian attitudes would moderate if Israel got “softer.”

                      How much “softer” would it take? Would such a softening make a damn bit of difference to an enemy that is existentially committed to its destruction?

                      My replies are that the current tactical situation is about as optimal as Israel can get. And no, “softening” will make no difference to a people—or an ungovernable minority—whose entire “reason for being” is not life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but to swamp and replace the Zionist entity with its Palestinian-Arab-Muslim majority, and erase “Israel” from the map of the earth.

                      This is beyond tactics, politics, reason and sense. “Transcends” them, we might say, although it’s more a race to the bottom.

                      So, not bad, Mr. North—props to us both for delineating the issues and being damned civil to each other in doing so.
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                      I also think President Obama just royally fucked Israel with committing the US to backing the 1967 borders not as the end of negotiations but as the starting point. From what I understand, he completely sandbagged Netanyahu with this. Now Israel’s negotiating position is undermined: to use the poker analogy, Obama just showed Bibi’s hand. Some ally.

                      But that would open the door to more partisan stuff, and we just succeeded in mostly steering around it. It’s somewhat a separate issue from the two points limned above, but here was as good a place as any to register that I think it stinks.

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                    • Mr. Schilling, pls don’t douchebag an adult discussion with the specter of “anti-Semitism.” It was civil and productive precisely because of the absence of such grenade-tossing. President Obama is not anti-Semitic, nor even are most of Israel’s Muslim enemies. The question at hand is Zionism, not Judaism.

                      As for the content of your link, we shall see how the political dust shakes out in the coming days, weeks and months. The Middle East keeps time by sundials and calendars, not stopwatches.

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                    • I’m not into this line of inquiry, Mike. I can separate anti-Zionism from anti-Semitism [anti-Jewish bigotry]. I’m an adult. I can read. I can hear. I can listen. I can discern.

                      The President is not an anti-Semite. The thought never crossed my mind. Actually, Mr. Wall has opened a very interesting door in his latest comments.

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                    • Tom, the ’67 borders has been official U.S. policy for as long as I can remember. It’s true, that’s not often shouted to the world, but I’m quite sure Israel knew it, even if they didn’t know he was planning on telling everybody on television.

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                    • Tom, the status quos is a ticking bomb clutch in Israel’s hands. We know -know- that it will detonate sooner or later. Netanyahu and the Israeli right’s position is that refuse to discard the bomb because they’re afraid that it’ll blow up when they try and discard it.

                      The reason Israel has had such a good couple years is that the Palestinians leaders adopted a new tack in the wake of Arafat’s death; they increased cooperation, tamped down harder on their own terrorists and generally tried to win points for good behavior. Netanyahu has given them nothing in return for this and we have seen (the Hamas reconciliation is a good example) that as a result the PA leadership is viewed as ineffectual chumps and are beginning to be forced out. When those moderates are gone I fear the clock will have been turned back to the Arafat years. Security cooperation will likely end, Israel will have to deal with another surge in violence and the demographic entanglement will deepen.

                      You say (as does Morris) that the Palestinians must change before Israel can withdraw but this is a Gordian knot. How on earth would you expect the Palestinians to change while under a military occupation by the Israeli’s? Morris answers, reprehensibly in my view, that the Palestinians need to be put into a “cage” until they can be trained to behave appropriately. Do you honestly think that will work? The Israeli right adopts this position, again, because they don’t want to withdraw. They don’t appear to have a plan for dealing with the growing Palestinian masses within the borders Israel controls. They just kick the can down the road and delay. It will lead to a dangerous end. Whether that be ethnic cleansing, apartheid or the end of the Jewish majority in Israel it will end. That much is a certainty.

                      Regarding Obama’s speech, it’s beyond me how anyone could consider Obama’s speech anything but a tremendous victory for Israel.
                      -Obama explicitly smacked the PA on bringing Hamas into the tent.
                      -He specifically required that the PA acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state
                      -He emphatically smacked down the idea of the PA declaring independence via the UN.

                      I can’t conceive what Netanyahu has to whine about. Everyone even remotely aware of the history of these talks knows the 1967 lines were the beginning point for negotiations. It’s been said repeatedly by administrations both Labor, Kadima, Republican and Democratic. Obama gave nothing away and made huge gifts to Israel and still Bibi and the GOP whine. And now Netanyahu has actually stated that he expects Obama to walk the border part back when they meet next. Now there’s some cheek.

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      • You would think J.L. and I honestly want to believe. But this is a man who is on record bragging about how he personally undermined previous peace accords. I honestly would like to think Bibi can be a great man (goodness knows I was wrong about Sharon) but the politics is personal and Netanyahu has an awfully long rap sheet of obstruction on these issues. He also leads a very right wing coalition. If he took just a slightly less longsighted political view than you do or genuinely drinks some of the right wing’s kool-aid then he’d view movements like what you describe as political suicide.

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  5. it needs to make this recognition contingent on Palestinian recognition of Israel’s right to exist

    I’m confused by who you mean by the Palestinians in this sentence. The Fatah led PA has recognised Israel since the Oslo accords, Hamas are commited by their charter never to do so. So who does that leave, are you proposing polling the Palestinian public on the question or is there some other group I’m not aware of who don’t recognise Israel’s right to exist but could be persuaded?

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    • Your Oslo point is correct, but I’m more concerned, in this context, with recognition by a hypothetical Palestinian government than by individual factions/parties, especially in the aftermath of a Hamas/Fatah unity government in the PA. Hamas insists they can’t recognize Israel; Fatah has insisted in the past that Hamas must abide by prior PA decisions if it joins a unity government. It’s not exactly clear what the attitude of this new government will be going forward, especially in the case of a UN declaration of statehood.

      Now, as a commenter to the post I referred to in the quoted line has argued, it’s quite possible that a de facto, “I disagree but I’ll abide by it” attitude toward Israel’s borders might suffice. That’s something that my original posts were slightly too blunt in their wording on recognition to acknowledge — but I also remain skeptical of a merely de facto, or inverse, recognition (roughly a Palestinian acknowledgment of where the authority/sovereignty of their hypothetical state begins and ends along the Israeli border).

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  6. All right, so it seems Obama’s speech tonight has made this post/theory, probably, shift from “terribly unlikely” to “in all likelihood, irrelevant.” That was fast(er than expected).

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      • Oh, I wasn’t surprised by the non-change “change of policy” tonight (if that’s what you were referring to). I was surprised that there was an explicit rejection, TONIGHT, of the plan for UN recognition of a Palestinian state. (I was kind of expecting him to hold out at least through the weekend, maybe use it as some sort of negotiating ploy in the coming meetings.)

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          • I think so. I got the impression not merely of, “We’re vetoing the thing, if it comes to that,” but, “We’re pulling strings to see that it never actually sees the light of day and if the PA knows what’s good for it, it’ll play nice and withdraw the motion.”

            I expected American opposition to it, barring some unforeseen, game-changing disaster in the area, but I didn’t expect it quite as vociferously, or nearly as early.

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            • OK, JL, I’ll hang with yr explication pro tem. A politician—a statesman!—talking out of both sides of his mouth is de rigeur, prudent, and even admirable. I’m easy.

              You should read Sen. Hilary Clinton’s statement on authorizing military force in Iraq. It see-saws from paragraph to paragraph so much I got seasick.

              http://earthhopenetwork.net/forum/showthread.php?tid=147

              Now, that’s statesmanship, and I really do have the sarcasm toggle set to “off.” I really am easy.

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              • Haaretz: Netanyahu essentially has no choice: after Obama accepted his procedural and security demands, he cannot remain apathetic to the U.S. president’s suggestion regarding borders. But Netanyahu has nothing to worry about – there is no chance the Palestinian leadership will agree to return to negotiations under these principles.

                I go to Haaretz first on these things, and this analysis rings true to me. Wiki sez “Despite its relatively low circulation, Haaretz is considered Israel’s most influential daily newspaper.Its readership includes Israel’s intelligentsia and its political and economic elites.

                Haaretz describes itself as broadly liberal on domestic issues and international affairs. It is described alternatively as liberal, centre-left, left-wing, and hard left. J.J. Goldberg describes it as “Israel’s most vehemently anti-settlement daily paper.”

                According to the BBC it has a moderate stance on foreign policy and security issues. The newspaper’s op-ed pages are open to a variety of opinions. Rosner described the opinions as coming “from the right (not many), the center-right (still not many), the center (quite a few), the center-left (many), the far-left (let’s say that Haaretz has more than its fair share coming from this political camp).”

                If President Obama’s double-speak results in [or firmly attempts, behind the scenes] the heading off of the UN resolution declaring “Palestine” a state, which Bennie Morris [above] charts as disastrous for Israel, I’ll give full props to the admin for master statesmanship here.

                Thank you, Mr. Wall.

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