Archive for the 'Palestine' Category

Netanyahu, last time round

Netanyahu was one of the single most obnoxious individuals you’re going to come into – just a liar and a cheat. He would open his mouth and you would have no confidence that anything that came out of it was the truth. With Barak and Arafat you were in the margin of error. I mean these were two relatively honest guys who had the right motive.

– Former White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart, interviewed by Clayton Swisher.

Danny Ayalon’s Open Letter to the Arab World- Why Bother?

Here is the “historic op-ed” of Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, from Asharq Al-Awsat and used as filler in the Independent:

Recently the Israeli government has made significant steps to restart negotiations with the Palestinians and reach out to the Arab world. In his Bar-Ilan speech in June, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clearly stated his acceptance of a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the state of Israel.

The Reality: Netanyahu’s speech called for peace negotiations without prior conditions. It then laid out a list of prior conditions, including recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people , any Palestinian state being demilitarized with no army and no control of airspace, and Jerusalem remaining the ‘united capital of Israel’. According to the International Court of Justice, East Jerusalem is illegally occupied by Israel. If Palestinian leadership were to recognise Israel as the state of the Jewish people then they would be prejudicing the rights of Palestinians within Israel who have been threatened with expulsion on the creation of a Palestinian state and already face widespread discrimination. But for many it was as much the tone as the substance of Bibi’s speech that grated. According to Peace Now in Israel, it included:

Not a word of self-criticism about Israel’s mistakes over the years, not a word about the moral need to put an end to the occupation, not a word about the Palestinians’ right to negotiate with Israel as equal partners in a real process.
 Freedom of movement and a normal life are a prize the government is willing to give the Palestinians in exchange for their loyal behavior towards Israel.

Having said this, the speech was notable in that it saw a leading right-wing Israeli recognise the theoretical inevitability of a Palestinian state. This was perhaps progress after decades of occupation and suffering. It was, for instance, a marked improvement over a speech Netanyahu made at Bar-Ilan back in 1989. Here he argued that Israel should have carried out “large-scale” expulsions of Palestinians at times when “the damage would have been relatively small”, that is, during the Tiananmen square massacre earlier that year. “I still believe that there are opportunities to expel many people,” he said.

Ayalon continues:

My government has removed hundreds of roadblocks to improve access and movement for Palestinians and has assisted the facilitation of economic developments in the West Bank, through close co-operation with international parties to expedite projects and remove bottle-necks.

The idea of an “economic peace” is a handy way to avoid the fact that Israel is evading international law and this is what has to end. The grassroots Palestinian group Stop the Wall has already detailed how economic development has been about making the West Bank economy function under and incorporate occupation, “relegating it to a subjugated and dependent position”.

During and after the second Intifada Israel brought the Palestinian economy to its knees. 60% of the population was living below the poverty line at that time. That Israel can let the economy function when it feels like it and claim this as evidence of their magnaninity is shocking.

Of course, more can and must be said about Palestinian economy and dependence (for now see: http://www.monthlyreview.org/mrzine/hanieh190708a.html and Oren Gross’ ‘The Economic Aspects of Israeli-Palestinian Peace’, American International Law Review, 2000 as well as Sara Roy on de-development). But back to Ayalon:

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a right-wing government has, in an unprecedented move, declared it would refrain from building new settlements in the West Bank. All of these moves taken together amply demonstrate Israel’s willingness for peace.

The Reality: Note the reference to “a right-wing government”. The concept of “Nixon in China” is very functional for bigoted right-wing governments anywhere – and it is a favourite of Danny Ayalon. But there is no substance to the idea that the Israeli right can be conducive to peace. In fact, Ayalon is part of a political party (Yisrael Beiteinu) that has proudly stood “opposed to the Road Map and the disengagement from Gaza and Northern Samaria” and advocates “Building in Yesha, the Golan and Jerusalem – Increasing the Jewish Presence in Yehuda, Shromron, the Golan and East Jerusalem by building more cities, towns and neighborhoods.” At the same time, Israel itself must have an exclusively Jewish character. The very idea of a two-state solution disturbs Yisrael Beitenu because at the heart of it lies a “disturbing disparity”. This disparity is not that Palestinians would be forced to live on at most 20% of their historic homeland. It is rather that 20% of Israel’s population would be non-Jewish: “A nation and a half for one state and half a state for the other”. Back in the real world, a two-state solution would likely lead to a dominant Israeli state on 80% of the land with large settlement blocs remaining in the West Bank.

There are now around 500,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank, cutting up the land so that a two-state solution is less and less viable. All of the settlements are illegal and have always been illegal. Why build new settlements if you acknowledge they are illegal and will have to be removed? Yet the “restraint” which Ayalon mentions refers only to “no new starts” and is quite different to an end to settlement activity. So what Ayalon says is an “unprecedented move” does not demonstrate Israel’s “willingness for peace” at all. In fact, it quite clearly demonstrates that Israel is still not complying with international law.

In fact it “allows the completion of nearly 3,000 housing units and 28 public buildings already underway in the West Bank, and it dosen’t include development in contested East Jerusalem.” As seen above, Israel denies that East Jerusalem is occupied. As in Shiekh Jarrah this doesn’t always lead to “settlement building.” You don’t need to build settlement homes if you can just kick out Palestinians and live in theirs:

And what does Israeli Foreign Minister and Ayalon’s party boss, Avigdor Lieberman, think of the settlement restraint?: “it is clear to everyone that in 10 months, we will be building again full force.” Great…this is someone who really craves peace.

That the bullshit brigade at Harry’s Place can blog this without any critical comment shows them up for who they are. The sometimes meaningful criticism of the left for apologising for anti-Western governments or bigoted Islam is defused when those making the critique so evidently struggle with comparable double standards. At least “the left” can make a better claim for standing up to power.

P.S. – if you’d like to hear Ayalon get his comeuppance at a speech in London look here.