Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The US Plan Makes a Viable Palestinian State Untenable. By Jonathan Cook.

The US plan makes a viable Palestinian state untenable. By Jonathan Cook. The National [UAE], December 17, 2013. Also at

Al-Monitor’s money wasted on Zionist myths. By Jonathan Cook., November 6, 2013.

What Future for Israel? By Nathan Thrall. NJBR, July 24, 2013. From the New York Review of Books, August 15, 2013.

A Talmudic Precedent for a Just Solution to the Israel-Palestinian Conflict. By Charles H. Manekin (as Jerry Haber). The Magnes Zionist, August 8, 2007.


In recent days, US and European diplomats have been engaged in a frenzy of activity on the Israeli-Palestinian front, before they settle down for the usual two-week Christmas hibernation.
A sense of urgency looms because Washington is supposed to unveil next month its so-called “framework proposal” for the creation of a Palestinian state, in a last desperate effort to break the logjam in negotiations. For this reason, the outlines of the US vision of an agreement are finally coming into focus. And, as many expected, the picture looks bleak for the Palestinians.
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, who has invested much of his personal standing in a successful outcome, has grown increasingly forthright that an agreement hinges on satisfying Israel’s security concerns, however inflated.
During a speech to the Saban Forum in Washington this month, Mr Kerry said President Barack Obama’s highest priority was Israel’s “ability to defend itself, by itself”. Shortly afterwards, Mr Kerry headed back to the region to show Israeli and Palestinian officials what he meant.
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, was reportedly incensed by the US proposal. In recent days PA spokesmen have accused Mr Kerry of “appeasement” and of failing to be “a neutral mediator”.
The criticism looks more than justified. Under cover of a vision for peace, the US secretary of state is offering an Israeli security plan at the expense of meaningful Palestinian statehood.
That is not entirely surprising given that the plan was drafted by John Allen, a general formerly in command of US forces in Afghanistan, who has spent months quietly liaising with Israeli counterparts.
The main sticking point is the Jordan Valley, an area that was expected to comprise nearly a quarter of a future Palestinian state.
Gen Allen has indulged an Israeli demand that it be allowed to continue a long-term “military presence” in the Jordan Valley, with a reassessment by the US in 10-15 years’ time.
That is a retreat from Washington’s earlier commitment at the Annapolis talks of 2007 that no Israeli soldiers would be stationed in the West Bank following an agreement. Security guarantees were to be provided instead by Nato troops, under US command.
The new proposal should be a deal-breaker. The valley is a vital resource for the Palestinians, one they have been effectively stripped of for decades by Israel’s exaggerated “security needs”.
The Jordan Valley offers the only land border in the West Bank that would be potentially under Palestinian control. It is one of the few remaining undeveloped areas, making it a possible site to which hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees could return. And its lands are fertile and warm all year round, making it highly productive and a likely engine for the Palestinian economy.
According to Gen Allen’s plan, Israel’s security also requires that Palestinian security forces be only lightly armed, that it has control over the airspace and all borders and the US to install spying technology – euphemistically called “early warning systems” – throughout the West Bank.
In other words, the US vision of a Palestinian state looks remarkably like the model Israel has already implemented in Gaza.
One need only listen to the words of Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, from a decade ago to understand his role in this new plan.
In 2001 Mr Netanyahu spoke to a group of settlers in the West Bank at a meeting that was secretly filmed. There he boasted that during his earlier premiership, in the late 1990s, he had halted the peace plan of that time, the Oslo Accords, through what he termed a “trick”.
He foiled a Palestinian state’s creation by agreeing to limited withdrawals from Palestinian land while insisting on the retention of the most significant areas, especially the Jordan Valley, by classifying them as a “specified military site”.
Mr Netanyahu told the settlers: “America is something that can be easily moved. Moved to the right direction.” Those words now seem prophetic.
In rejecting the US plan, Mr Abbas appears to have the backing of his people. A poll published this week showed only 19 per cent believed the talks would lead to an agreement.
So, given the essential conflict between Israel’s “security” requirements and the Palestinian demand for statehood, how does Mr Kerry intend to proceed?
That too is becoming clear. The task of making Israel and the Palestinians play ball is being subcontracted to the European Union. That makes sense because, as the main subsidiser of the occupation, the Europeans have major financial leverage over both parties.
Earlier this month the EU brandished its stick. It warned that it would stop financing Mr Abbas’ Palestinian Authority if no agreement had been reached by the end of the talks.
Though widely seen as a threat directed towards Mr Abbas, whose political power base depends on EU money paying tens of thousands of PA workers each month, it was equally aimed at Mr Netanyahu. Were the PA to be wound up, the huge costs of running the occupation would again fall to Israel.
The 28 European member states have also warned Israel that should it carry on building settlements in the coming months, they will officially blame it for the talks’ failure.
On Monday, Europe unsheathed its carrot. It is offering both Israel and the Palestinians a major aid package and an upgrade in economic relations to the EU, conferring on them a status of “special privileged partnership”. This would reportedly bring each side huge trading and security benefits.
However vigorous the EU’s arm-twisting, the reality is that the Palestinian leadership is being cajoled into an agreement that would destroy any hopes of a viable Palestinian state.
Mr Abbas is said to have viewed the US plan as “worse than bad”. His agreement to it would be worse than disastrous.


The fading importance of the pre-1967 borders means a breaking with illusions and a return to the true nature of the conflict: a struggle between two ethnic groups between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The peaceful arrangements they have so far discussed have all fallen short of both the full sovereignty Palestinians desire and the hard ethnic separation the Israeli center and left seek. As Susser writes:
The Palestinian state that the Israelis were willing to endorse was never a fully sovereign and independent member of the family of nations, but an emasculated, demilitarized, and supervised entity, with Israeli control of its airspace and possibly of its borders too, and some element of Israeli and/or foreign military presence.
This was as true for Netanyahu as for Olmert, Barak, Peres, and Yitzhak Rabin, who a month before his assassination told the Knesset that the Palestinians would have “less than a state.”
. . . .
If renewed talks break down, Israelis may begin asking themselves whether the time has come to abandon hopes of a full peace in order to achieve—perhaps through cease-fires or further unilateral withdrawals—a partial separation. They would thereby create something more than one state but less than two, which is, in fact, all that was ever on offer.


I have lived in Israel for over thirty years, and to this day, I know of virtually no Israeli within the so-called national consensus who favors a genuine two-state solution. Don’t believe what Benny Morris, Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert, Tom Segev, Amos Oz, Shimon Peres, or any of the so-called Israeli “moderates” or “leftists” tell you. They are all in favor of a one-state/one-“state” solution, where the former is a powerful state with an independent economy, foreign affairs, and military, and the other is a “state-minus,” in which the Palestinians are allowed a certain degree of autonomy provided that they don’t pose a threat to the first state. Even the much-vaunted Geneva Initiative perpetuates inequities when it proposes that a Palestinian state be left without a modern Palestinian defence force, without making a similar demand of Israel – even though one hundred years of Zionism teaches us that the Palestinians have much more to fear from the Zionists than vice-versa. Only one side has ever actually wiped the other’s country off the map – and it wasn’t the Palestinian side.
Better we should go back to the Mishnah. An imposed solution of an equal division of territory, with neither side giving up its narrative or its most cherished beliefs, and with neither side coming out with more hegemony than the other – that is the ethical archimedian point from which we should begin to examine the situation.

Young Men Are Falling Further Behind. By Kay S. Hymowitz.

Boy Trouble. By Kay S. Hymowitz. City Journal, Autumn 2013.

Economic Mobility is a Male Problem. By Walter Russell Mead and staff. The American Interest, December 17, 2013.