Tuesday, October 12, 2010

When do We Get to the Real Issues?

Netanyahu yesterday offered to renew the settlement freeze if the Palestinians accept Israel's definition of itself as a Jewish State. The Palestinians promptly said no. This isn't particularly troubling, since the settlement freeze is a temporary matter and such recognition would have permanent implications, so it's like trading apples for ownership of land: not a serious proposition. It would have been much more helpful had Netanyahu offered a settlement freeze, to be monitored by the Americans, for a cessation of Palestinian incitement against Israel in the media and education system, likewise to be monitored by the Americans. Now that would be a move towards creating an environment of peace. But of course, no-one will ever be able to end Palestinian incitement, so no-one even moots it. Regrettable, actually.

Hussein Ibish, one of the more reasonable Palestinian voices out there (well, he's in Washington, not Ramallah, so he's perhaps not fully a "Palestinian" voice), rejects Netanyahu's call, while noting - plausibly - that in effect Netanyahu is talking about Jerusalem, not Jewishness of Israel: the essence of a Palestinian acceptance of Israel as a Jewish State would be no significant Right of Return; Netanyahu (speculates Ibish) hopes to achieve that goal without paying its price, which is the division of Jerusalem. This must be rejected, says Ibish, as Right of Return is a matter to be discussed at the very end of the process.

Perhaps. Yet this begs a question: if at Camp David in 2000, Taba in 2001, and the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations of 2007-2008, there were Israeli offers to divide Jerusalem, and none of which (so far as we can know) ever included any indication of a Palestinian willingness to relinquish their demand for a Right of Return - when, exactly, will such an offer be made? First Israel must agree to dismantle all settlements, move back to the lines of 1967 (with or without land swaps), divide Jerusalem, accept some responsibility for the Naqba.... and then what? Having achieved much of what they demand, the Palestinians will then, from the goodness of their hearts, give up on their dream of using the return of great-grandchildren of refugees so as to demographically take over Israel?

The negotiations have repeatedly reached their end station, and at least three times in the past decade Israel has made ever growing concessions on the most central of issues. The Palestinians have never even discussed the single greatest of their demands, much less offered any compromises on it. So when, pray tell, will it be politically correct to request this of them?


Barry Meislin said...

The Real Issues?

Should be "The Real Issue".

And, by the way, we've already "gotten" to it. In fact, it's been talked about---incessantly---since 1948/49.

The real issue is the disappearance of Israel.

So yes, let's talk about it. If you want. Some more. Why not? Yawn....

David Galant said...

I always have thought that some Israel government should simply say: there is an offer on the table, if you (the PA) don't like it, make a counter offer. And then walk away from the table. Let Obama react to that without seeming foolish.

Barry Meislin said...

Been there. Done that.

Been wiped from memory.

As you've so gallantly demonstrated.

Jonah said...


This is off topic but did you happen to see Yglesias' mention of your Hebron piece on his blog.


I think he completely missed the point of what you wrote, but then again it seems like he's missing the point of everything on his trip.

Anonymous said...

gee I admire you people who manage to read Yglesias - I read this one, it was my second try, the last was way back when he was still at the Atlantic - it will take me a long time before I'll dare to inflict that kind of pain on myself again.

and here we have the same picture we discussed over at the Shlomo Sand threat - colleagues continue to write about Yglesias as if he had something to say. All I remember is a given that post very mild aside by Goldberg.


To answer Yaacov's question - NEVER as long as the "west" insists on regarding the Palestinians as unruly children who just can't help themselves and are thus in need of another 10 hours of occupational therapy or whatever that stuff is called when inflicted upon children. Even real children tend to object to being patronised in the way "we" patronise "them".


Lee Ratner said...

At this point I think that Netanyahu or who ever is representing Israel should just come out and say that Israel expects the Palestinians to drop their right of return demand rather than recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Both lead to the same result and the former is a bit harder for the Palestinian side to misconstrue.

Anonymous said...

Nir Barkat's apparently latest talk at the Washington Institute



Avigdor said...

The tactical maneuvering here is really quite something to watch.

The Palestinian demand for a settlement freeze pits American (not to mention European) policy and commitments against Israeli policy and commitments.

Recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is a central plank of American and European policy towards the peace process, but runs counter to Palestinian policy.

Netanyahu gives the Americans and Europeans what they want: a settlement freeze, under terms that they are already committed to uphold - Israel being defined as a Jewish state - while forcing a policy confrontation between them and the Palestinians.

The Palestinians can have their temporary settlement freeze, under terms that are acceptable to everyone EXCEPT them.

You have to appreciate the finesse.

Saul Lieberman said...

Victor --
And Obama gets his opportunity to exit and blame both Israel and the Palestinians.
That works for me.

Anonymous said...

and watching it from very far away and very scarcely informed my gut reaction is more and more that Netanyahu and Lieberman are playing an elaborate game of bad cop good cop

if they don't do it intentionally - then maybe that's why they seem to be so good at it to me

(as I see it Lieberman effectively diminishes the pressure of the do-gooders on Netanyahu by performing as the "evil" obstacle very convincingly)


Barry Meislin said...

...under terms that are acceptable to everyone EXCEPT them.

This presumes that the Palestinians have "terms".

....They do, of course; though not in the sense that most (many? some? a few?) of us would prefer that they do.

("would prefer"----Heh! such a bourgeois concept.....)

Anyway, to be brief, their terms are:
1. Return to the May 1967 borders.
2. Return East Jerusalem.
3. Return the refugees to within pre-1967 Israel.

(or.... no deal, fellas.)

In other words, their terms are:
1. Israel must agree to dismantle herself.
2. We will (so very sorry) have to destroy her.

Simple. No frills. Nothing complicated. Nothing to "misconstrue".


(By the way, did I mention the "terms" are non-negotiable?)

Anonymous said...

not a serious proposition.

but isn't that exactly the kind of proposition they are making all the time?

or to put it more drastically

if their nonsense is taken seriously by everybody then out-nonsensing them is certainly a legitimate way to go. Especially when it is so nicely exposing them as is this one.


Empress Trudy said...

Recognition of Israel as The Jewish State, and repatriation of these so called refugees are fundamentally incompatible ideas. You can not have one w/o rejecting the other. This is why the Palestinians will never do EITHER ONE. They can't admit that Israel is Jewish w/o abandoning claims for repatriation and they can't demand repatriation w/o demanding the extinction of Israel. So they do what they do, which is nothing.

Barry Meislin said...

Well, not exactly "nothing". No, not exactly.

They most emphatically agree to continue to be "Occupied"(TM) and "Oppressed" (TM)---the most horrendous occupation and oppression the world has ever witnessed, mind you----while being inundated with money, sympathy, weaponry and military training. Plus benefitting from one of the highest rates of economic growth in the Arab world, not to mention one of the highest life expectancy (but, of course, so what?, who cares? who's counting? it's irrelevant....)

(Oh and did I mention "money, sympathy, weaponry and military training"?)

Barry Meislin said...

...all the while seeing Israel further delegitimized, degraded, disenfranchised, eroded.

...while more and more pundits and "analysts" and "experts" insist that there is no peace in the Middle East because, well folks, because "Israel just does not want peace QED" (TM---I think we can affix a Trademark sign to that as well, since it's practically achieved product status)...No sir: "Israelis would much rather make money (hint, wink, nod---pace "Time" Magazine), or just go to the beach (pace Daniel Drezner). Etc., etc.

While the liberal mindset (much of it, alas, Jewish) can't understand why Israel feels so "threatened" or why Israelis don't seem to appreciate the current occupant of the White House (the latest thing since sliced bread).

No. The Palestinians are sitting tight and sitting pretty.

File under: "So who says you can't have everything?" (?)

Barry Meislin said...


"latest thing" should be "greatest thing".

"sliced bread" could be "the napkin".

(And for some, no doubt, that's just for starters...)

Anonymous said...

Peter Hitchens' amazing piece has gotten approval from the Elder of Ziyon
it is a shame that reports like that aren't the norm but the travelling around the globe with lightening speed exception

for ever nitpicking I have two "objections"

as to "settlers" stealing water - to me it seems there must be a lot of stealing their own going on

zudem ist der Wasserverlust infolge dieser illegalen Bauma├čnahmen und Abzweigungen enorm. Er liegt in der Westbank bei etwa 33 Prozent, gegen├╝ber einem durchschnittlichen Verlust in Israel von elf Prozent.
(Loss of Water as consequence of illegal building - wells - and intentional leaks is enorm. Westbank 33 % vs Israel's average 11 % ...)



as to poverty - I am a bit weary getting told about it by a westerner in the mediterranean - on "my" Greek island I learned that people living in very basic houses with hardly a change of multiply patched sweaters might very well own more than one apartment building in Athens i.e. my learned signs of taxing somebody were toast - I learned things like that only after I spoke the language. It could also be the other way around that a guy paying his taverna bill from a big rolled up wad of bills might just be making the necessities plus very little on top.


NormanF said...

The real issue has always been Israel's right to exist as a Jewish State.

The Palestinian Arabs have repeatedly refused to acknowledge it.

I don't see peace happening with them in our lifetime.

Raed Kami said...

They say that Jews are intelligent, but I cant see this in this conversation. Here are the facts. Europe offloaded a bunch of malcontents into Palestine. They stole our land. They used falsifications of history to provide an ethical gloss to their theft. Now brave Jews such as Norman Finkelstein, Avi Shlaim, and Shlomo Sand have punctured the founding myths. We dont want to share al Quds or any of Palestine, just as you wouldnt share your property with a burglar if he were caught. If you want peace, leave to your true homelands