election.jpg (image from Ynetnews.com)

Well, it looks as if Olmert is the next Prime Minister of Israel. You may think this is a sure thing, but it still has to play out as Kadima tries to build a coalition. Why is there some hesitation here? Because a bunch of OLD Israelis (Pensioners) managed to secure 7 seats out of 120 while Kadima only managed 28. This means that Labor could take on the Pensioners and Meretz and start negotiations for a coalition before Olmert gets to play his cards. It’s unlikely that this would happen, and Israel’s President Katzav will probably give Olmert the right to built a coalition first, but you never know. The most likely scenario is that Kadima will join forces with Labor and the Pensioners and then add one more party like Shas to get over the magical 60 seats necessary to secure a majority in the Knesset. Olmert will be the PM.

Who is Olmert? Nobody really knows. He is an intelligent man who didn’t run Jerusalem all too well when he was mayor and who didn’t fear sucking up to the city’s Haredi community, even as he knew they were using him, if it meant he could hold on to power. He speaks eloquently about Israel, but last time I watched him on a Town Hall Meeting on Nightline, Dr. Barghouti was doing a far better job explaining the Palestinian position while Olmert kept sounding quite condescending as he ignored the Palestinian’s claims. Then again, he happened to be right, so maybe the condescension was warranted.

Sharon picked him out to be his protegee. He would often send Olmert out to feed the press some of their trial balloons. If something needed to be done where Sharon wanted to be Oz behind the screen, it was Olmert who would do his bidding. If the Likud needed to be beaten down because their far-right fringe (which now IS the Likud) wanted to shout down Sharon, it was Olmert who was sent over.

The loyal lieutenant finally got the promised position of being heir to the throne, but probably didn’t wish it upon himself in the manner with which it happened. Then again, if your whole life is spent in pursuit of leading the Jewish state and suddenly another man’s stroke puts you in the perfect leadership position with the right party set-up and your opponents in a hollowed out shell of your former party, you probably have to think that there’s a God upstairs and he’s looking out for you.

In this election, presenting the final votes as a referendum on his ideas, Olmert has promised that Israel will have final borders within 4 years. He has promised to finish the security barrier and move the IDF and Israelis who live east of the barrier to its western side. He intends to keep a strip of the Jordan Valley for security reasons as well. He has promised to keep the larger settlement blocks near the Green Line as part of these final borders, and intends to build the E1 neighborhood linking Ma’aleh Edumim to Jerusalem. If this sounds familiar, it should because it is essentially a combination of Israel’s offers to the Palestinians at Camp David and Taba – sans access or sovereignty over Jerusalem.

Chances are that in order to achieve his goals, Olmert will have to accede to the demands of his coalition partners. Labor and the Pensioners will demand important portfolios, as will Shas. They will demand that this government roll back many of the cuts that took place under Netanyahu and Sharon, and that the government provide better resources for certain segments of the Israeli population. Subsidies might even come back into fashion. What had become a Republican-like government policy will revert to Israel’s Socialist roots, at least to some degree. After all, nobody in Israel cares about domestic policy because the Arab-Israeli conflict consumes all the attention. If Netanyahu wanted X, he got X. If Peretz or some elderly new Knesset members now want Y, they’ll get Y.

Olmert will also have some tough decisions to make regarding the Palestinians. No Israeli government can ignore a Palestinian government because there are so many areas where the two sides have to deal with each other. Yet, as I listened to Hamas’s newly appointed PM of the Palestinian Authority, Hanieh, I did not hear him mention the name “Israel” even once. He mentioned occupation and the “Judaization of Jerusalem;” he related to lots of other countries and leaders; pleaded for donor money to continue flowing (including a guarantee that the funds will only be used for their intended purpose); urged the world to recognize the democratic will of the Palestinians; etc., etc.. What he didn’t say was “Israel.” Of course, “right of return” and Jerusalem were also non-negotiable for him.

On the other hand, Mahmoud Abbas has indicated that he is willing and has the authority to negotiate for peace with Israel without any preconditions (!!). He promised final negotiations could be concluded within a year and that he will be able to bring the government, i.e. Hamas, to the table. Is he scamming so that international donations will keep coming? Maybe. Or maybe he realizes that this may truly be the last chance for the Palestinians for many decades to come if Olmert actually implements his plan.

Sharon used to ignore these folks. My sense is that Olmert will pay some initial attention, but if a single things goes wrong, like, say, a suicide bombing inside Israel, he will probably use the event as a reason to shut down talks and move forward unilaterally. The only reason he may reconsider this option is that it appears his party lost a projected 8-10 seats because of his public statements about a unilateral Israeli disengagement from the West Bank. Many people, especially among those who have voted for his likely coalition partners, would rather attempt to achieve a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians because they perceive the outcome as more secure. Some will say they are deluded that there’s even somebody with whom to talk. Then again, how can it hurt to talk a bit?

In other news, the Palestinians have fired a katyusha rocket from Gaza into Israel. This will have an impact on far more communities because the range and targeting of this rocket are far superior to the Qassems. As we know, Israel has no real solution for these rocket attacks but one would guess that if, God forbid, one of them hits and kills a few Israelis, the reaction will be a strong military one. Israel had Lebanese katyushas on its border for many years, and currently has a large number of rockets on its Lebanese border again. It survived and survives them.

Anyway, as Laya’s post tells us, we are probably not in for an exciting time:

“The hell it isn’t,” my father replied. “Listen, we’ve had so many Rabins and Pereses and Begins, people who tried to galvanize everyone with their charisma and energy. None of them ever really managed to bring us peace. I’m telling you, what this region needs is Olmert — someone who’ll bore us and the Palestinians so much that we fall into a kind of stupor. A stupor that’s a kind of co-existence. A co-existence that’s a kind of peace. Forget all that ‘peace of the courageous’ stuff Barak and Arafat tried to sell us. Even a child knows that courageous people go into battle, they don’t make peace. What this region needs is a peace of the tired, and Olmert’s the man to put us all to sleep.”

olmertatwall.jpg

Oh, did I mention that the Likud had its worst showing since 1955? It was clobbered. Who did the clobbering other than Kadima? It was a party called Israel Beteinu led by a certain Mr. Lieberman who advocates voluntary transfer of Arabs from Israel to the Palestinian Authority, along with some of the lands of the Galillee. In return, Israel would get to keep the settlement blocks. For this and his other strong views, he has been called a racist. The idea has been declared illegal both from an Israeli legal standpoint as well as an international one. But it’s an interesting idea and was first brought up by an American and a Palestinian – Malley and Agha – in 2002 as they were seeking a solution for the impasse of 2000.

A solution that satisfied the political demands only of the nonrefugees in the West Bank and Gaza while appearing to ignore the moral, historical, and political demands of the refugees, would be inherently unstable. It would have questionable legitimacy, would undermine the new Palestinian state, and — most alarming from an Israeli perspective — would leave open the prospect that a sizeable number of Palestinians would decide to carry on the struggle. Although denying outright the Palestinians’ right of return might seem a way to end Israelis’ immediate anxiety, it would not end the conflict; it would only transfer the seat of unrest to the Palestinian diaspora without eliminating the threat to Israel’s security.

The challenge is to find a stable and durable solution that accommodates both the refugees’ yearning to return to the areas they left in 1948 and Israel’s demographic fears. This can be accomplished by relying on two basic principles. First, refugees should be given the choice to return to the general area where they lived before 1948 (along with the choice to live in Palestine, resettle in some third country, or be absorbed by their current country of refuge if the host country agrees). Second, any such return should be consistent with the exercise of Israel’s sovereign powers over entry and resettlement locations. Many of the refugees presumably want to go back to their original homes. But these homes, and indeed, in many cases, the entire villages where they were located, either no longer exist or are now inhabited by Jews. The next best option from the refugees’ own perspective would be to live among people who share their habits, language, religion, and culture — that is, among the current Arab citizens of Israel. Israel would settle the refugees in its Arab- populated territory along the 1967 boundaries. Those areas would then be included in the land swap with Palestine and thereby end up as part of the new Palestinian state.

Together with generous financial compensation and other incentives to encourage refugees to resettle in third countries or in Palestine, this solution would promote several key interests. On one side, Palestinian refugees would carry out the right of return. For them, returning to the general area from which they fled or were forced to flee in the 1948 war would be extremely significant because it would cross an important psychological and political threshold. Although they would not return to their original homes, the refugees would get to live in a more familiar and hospitable environment — and one that would ultimately be ruled not by Israelis, but by their own people. Through the swap, Palestine would acquire land of far better quality than the desert areas adjacent to Gaza that have been offered in the past. For Israelis, meanwhile, this solution would actually improve the demographic balance, since the number of Arab Israelis would diminish as a result of the land transfer. Most important, it would pave the way for a stable outcome in which Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and the diaspora would all have an important stake.

Of course, such a solution would not be problem-free. Israelis might fear that it will add to the anxiety and discontent of the Israeli Arabs who remained under Israeli sovereignty. But the demographic and political problems posed today by the Israeli Arab community already demand urgent attention. How better to neutralize their potentially irredentist feelings than to resolve the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Some Palestinians might argue that the above plan represents nothing more than a sleight of hand, disguising resettlement in Palestine as a return to their pre-1948 lands. But do the refugees actually want to live in Jewish areas that have become part of an alien country? Would they rather live under Israeli rule than Palestinian rule? And short of calling into question Israel’s Jewish identity, is there any other way of implementing the Palestinian right of return?

It’s been a bit boring for the last few months. Not any more…

About the author

themiddle

46 Comments

  • Yikes! In an effort to remove about 700 spam messages, I erased Amechad’s comment that the economy might suffer. My apologies. Please repost. My response is below.

    Don’t be so sure. If anything, stability might contribute to a strong economy. Also, I have to think that if he can implement his plan, Israel’s economy will thrive for years.

  • Hmmm, my response somehow got eaten up too. Or else I misclicked in my deep frustration. My initial response was “… and the economy will suffer.”

    Two things: 1. This coalition will not be as stable as it ought to be because people abandoned Kadima at the last minute (for Labor and the pensioners, it seems). This is bad for a variety of reasons. My major problem is that it seems that Labor may end up with Finance, which Kadima wanted to keep (and which I wanted it to keep because Olmert knows Bibi was right. Last night he said “Bibi’s economic policies were done in Sharon’s cabinet. He should be proud of them.”

    Also, while I think Netanyahu discounted the peace dividend, it is an important part of the hole but it’s just a part. Ultimately, what is more important to Israel’s economy is an end to its statist policies. In this era of globalization, huge segments of Israeli society are still not competitive and huge segments are being kept down by the welfare state. Ultimately, Peretz’s policies will only hurt the poor, not help. Just as the strikes he brought this country as Histadrut trade union head caused billions of dollars of damage to the economy — which hurts the workers more than the business leaders, who can just outsource, if Labor gets the Finance Ministry, unless Kadima acts principled (and thus risks the possibility of not having the unilateral withdrawl), the people that are going to be hurt most are the people who voted Gil (pensioners)and Labor. Yet, they won’t realize it just as they punished Bibi and thus Likud for bringing economic growth to this country.

    Ultimately, the best policy for peace is free trade and a free market.

  • Yikes! Eek! The Muddled One trying to opine about Israeli politics!

    Although TM and Olmert *do* go well together – they’re both lackluster, half-baked hacks.

    Olmert is the slimiest of ward-heelers. An Israeli paper detailed his willingness to betray his own father to advance in the Likud.

    The Likud suffered – not because they are a crazy rightist fringe, but because they were ripped apart by the Sharon mafia, and (as amechad points out) Bibi implemented painful but much-needed reforms and got pounded by short-sighted Israeli voters.

    Any Kadimah-based coalition will not last long, and will be hamstrung by its coalition partners.

    Any attempt to implement far-reaching unilateral pullouts will also be hamstrung – both by coalition partners, and by the economic realities: it is going to take a lot of money to bring Labor, Shas, and the Pensioners into a government, since they all ran on a campaign of rolling back Bibi’s cuts. Not much dough left over for another large-scale evactuation.

    It’s more likely this government will fold before the security fence is completed.

    Oh Muddled One – we poor Israeli fools have trouble understanding your deep thoughts. Could you please explain:

    If Likud tanked because it was “fringe hard right” – why did Lieberman’s party gain, based on even more whacko theories?

    How does your opining that “most Israelis prefer a negotiated settlement” jibe with the repeated polling that indicates most Israelis feel ANY concessions at this point are a bad idea, and that there is nobody to talk to in Hamastan/Palestine? Here in Israel the pollsters have clear evidence that Olmert’s explicit promise of unilateral withdrawal LOST him votes, as did his heavy-handed actions at Amona.

  • “Here in Israel the pollsters have clear evidence that Olmert’s explicit promise of unilateral withdrawal LOST him votes, as did his heavy-handed actions at Amona.”

    Ben-David, elaborate. As far as I understand the people that really don’t like what went on in Amona weren’t gonna vote Kadima anyway. It seems to me that Kadima lost at least 5 mandates to Labor.

  • Middle– thanks for the overview. Hmm, I thought Olmert was the Republican-style choice. Guess I like him less now.

    And what’s with the lefty/handout parties beating the crap out of the pro-market Likud? Yikes.

  • Well, Ben David,

    Lieberman’s party succeeded while Likud faltered for a couple of reasons. First, it received a large ethnic vote from their Russian base, and two, they offered a home to many of the more staunch right wing voters around. Since most of Likud was center-right, their voters went to Kadima.

    I think there is significant opposition, even among many centrists, for another unilateral withdrawal. At the same time, there is a feeling of resignation, much along what Olmert expressed, which is that there may be nobody with whom to negotiate and Israel can’t continue to let others dictate how things proceed. I realize it’s a complex idea for you to comprehend, Ben David, but if you stare at it long enough, I’m sure you’ll understand it.

    Morrissey, in many respects Olmert can probably be perceived as a fiscal conservative mild Republican dude (you know, the dinosaurs) with a strong nationalism that once believed in an Israel that included the West Bank. He will have to do business with Socialists, however. Socialists are not all bad, Tom, Canada has done pretty well over the years. 😉

    Amechad, please reread my first comment to understand what happened to yours. Your other remarks are interesting and may represent how things play out. I am not as pessimistic, however, in that I think that security always trumps everything else in Israel and right now the big issue is what to do with the West Bank.

  • middle — nono, I posted a comment after your first comment but I must have clicked back or clicked something that it didn’t post. It was a response to your post about the post being deleted.

  • Benda, good comments. I’ve already said the same elsewhere, I’ll just ditto yours.

    middle,
    yikes!! Good thing you are not in Israel, because when we go to war again, you can send over supplies (if the Jews overseas won’t be persecuted at the same time). Olmert is a poltical weakling and likely to screw up before he gets a chance to pusure his total withdrawal up to the green line (all the talk of settlement blocs and Jordan Valley buffer zones is bullsh1t). I have no idea yet why he went to the kotel and then said the prayer for the state of Israel. I’m sure that the Arabs are a bit more suspicious of us right now.

  • Josh, are you saying you’ll go to war again because of Kadima, or that you would have gone to war again anyway?

    Of course he is absolutely serious about the settlement blocs and the Jordan Valley. Just as Barak was. This is a line of consensus among those in the center and to the right and left of the center. It is no secret that the security fence demarcates a future de facto border. That’s why Sharon and Olmert opposed it in the past and why the Palestinians oppose it now.

    As to why he went to the Kotel? Maybe it was a cynical move. Then again, maybe he is a Jew who perceives that place as extremely important to him.

    How do you feel about the fact that so few Israelis actually supported your parties of choice?

  • Hamas is in control of the PA now, Middle. It doesn’t matter a damn what government Israel has. War is inevitable, and it won’t be because Israel wants it, as you imply.

    Unless Israel has resigned itself to being bled white by the Death of a Thosand Katyushas, G-d forbid, some kind of pitched battle will have to take place, sooner or later, wall or no wall, Jordan Valley or no Jordan Valley, settlement blocs or no settlement blocs. Iran, which now effectively controls Southern Lebanon, Gaza, and now the PA, will see to that.

    And why bother to mention Ab-ass as though he was anything other than a dead man walking? He and his “Peace Plan” are about as relevant as that Geneva crap Yossi Beilin cooked up. Both deader than Arafat.

    Israel’s real hope is in a genuine paleostinian civil war, which I still think, hope and pray will break out in earnest soon. Fatah has been effectively sidelined, and I don’t think they will stand for it. I hope not, anyway.

    Any bets on how long it will take for every last Christian in the PA areas to leave?

  • well my comment wasnt too appropriate,but basically the Israeli (and your) attitude of “rockets falling on my head,but that doesnt mean my eyes will soon be turning red” makes me go insane. The answer to the unsolvable problem? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War
    They should read that first sentence and see that for some weird shocking incomrehensible reason it includes the word “lethal.

  • Great analysis Middle! I like that you quoted Agha and Malley. Transferring Arab portions of the Galilee to Palestinian sovereignty would involve some difficult moral questions and certainly has its downsides, but it also could have important benefits (as Agha and Malley note). It might even prove to be existentially necessary for Israel in the long run. It certainly shouldn’t simply be dismissed out of hand as “racist.” On another topic, I’m worried that Olmert’s unilateralism, if it results in beefing up certain settlement blocs, could wind up preempting the very possibility of ever achieving a peace agreement in the future. I’m not sure even a fair-minded Palestinian partner could accept an agreement in which Israel retained Ariel in the middle of the West Bank and in which East Jerusalem was cut off from a Palestinian state.

  • Middleman, thanks for your link to the Agha & Malley piece. Without it, I wouldn’t have realized you selectively quoted. Here’s another excerpt:

    “Led by the United States, the effort should involve a broad coalition of European, Arab, and other countries and institutions capable of providing security, as well as economic and political support, to Israelis and Palestinians. The proposal should be sanctioned by a UN Security Council resolution and complemented by a number of third-party arrangements such as a U.S.-Israeli defense treaty, possible Israeli membership in NATO, a pledge by Arab nations to recognize Israel and move toward the normalization of their relations (a process that, to be completed, would also require a peace deal with Syria), American and European security guarantees to the Palestinian state, and a sizable aid package to help build the new state’s economy.”

    The piece reads like a neocon strategy, and I say that without judging one way or the other. In your excerpted quote, you fail to recognize that the authors are suggesting a forceful intervention by outside powers so to keep the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and their hundreds of “red-line” hangups, out.

    This might have been a good idea, as the authors take great pains to show that this outside intervention would not only be American, but also European and Arab, and would ensure the best interests of Israelis and Palestians through public referendums. Unfortunately, the invasion of Iraq killed any prospect of successful implementation of this proposal by demonizing any forced-up international intervention. Now, any interventionism, no matter how many differences there are in their approaches compared to Iraq, will inspire ire rather than appreciation.

    Further, to pretend that Leiberman views his plan in the same nuanced, evenhanded terms that Agha and Malley do, is preposterous. What motivates Agha and Malley’s proposal is peace and coexistence; what motivates Leiberman’s is Kahanist socio-political populism and separation. So while the quote you selected might make allies of these two camps, the nitty-gritty of their intentions really do show how different they are. Same ends–at least superficially–with very different means.

  • Sheesh Mike, you’d think it was some conspiracy to “selectively quote.” I’m not a big fan of Malley and Agha and their viewpoint which falls solidly in the pro-Palestinian camp. But it is precisely their serious work and noted reputation as advocates for the Palestinians that makes me point out that Lieberman’s ideas need to be considered in a light other than “racist.”

    I’m not sure what you mean by saying their ideas resemble “Neo-Con” ideas. I would think they would probably take offense to that characterization of their work. They have no interest in having outside powers intervene to control both sides. What they really mean is that the Israelis should be held in check. The Palestinians have been advocating for international forces to serve as a buffer between them and the Israelis for many years. The logic is that a tank might be stopped by a foreign force, but it’s unlikely a suicide bomber will be stopped. The recent experience of the international monitors at Gaza border crossings and in the Jericho prison shows why the Palestinians have preferred this arrangment. Malley and Agha are merely serving as advocates.

    Finally, I really do not wish to be the person defending Lieberman here, but however you wish to characterize Lieberman versus Malley and Agha, their premise is the same: the two cultures and peoples need to be separated in order to increase the odds for an ultimate peaceful resolution.

    In case you are unaware, Malley and Agha are the most prominent apologists for the Palestinians’ refusal to even negotiate at Camp David in 2000. As Arafat was busy launching his war right after that summit, these two were busy publishing reports that absolved him of responsibility for the failure of Camp David…and of course laying the blame at the feet of Ehud Barak and Clinton.

  • Alex, I don’t think I made a comment that reflects my feelings about the katyushas or the qassems. I noted that Israel has survived them before and their overall impact wasn’t devastating. If you’ll note, the Israelis don’t have an answer. Even when they were in Gaza, they couldn’t prevent the firing of these rockets. The only thing they can do is start firing artillery into Palestinian civilian centers randomly as revenge. They won’t do that and it’s a good thing they won’t.

    Daniel, thanks for your remark and allow me to wish you luck on your publication, the Brooklynite. My only concern about your comments is the notion that peace might be precluded forever if Israel acts unilaterally. The problem is that you need a negotiating partner who really wants to negotiate, not kill time. I think the disadvantage you express can also be considered an advantage because it may force the Palestinians to truly consider compromise. After all, we’re already at war.

  • Dude, I wasn’t trying to call a conspiracy at all. When submitting that post, I realized that my first few words could have seemed incendiary, if not sarcastic, but I felt that you’d understand it was friendly sparring.

    I got the gist that those two might have been Palestinian apologists, as their article did lay much of the brunt on Israeli obstructionism, and treaded softly when mentioning (if at all) Palestinian intransigence. Thank you for the added background on them, because I would not have known it otherwise, except for some inferences taken from their piece.

    Still, even if my camping them with the neocons is as uncomfortable fit as your camping them with Leiberman, the perception remains the same: just as them and Leiberman advocate the same type of plan, so do they and American neocons advocate forceful–whether militarily or not–interventionism. I fully concede that my analogy teeters somewhere between true and false, my calling out your quote was to show that your analogy certainly had a few major leaks as well.

    If you are to place Leiberman and the two authors in the same camp, then the majority of the Israeli electorate from Labor to Yisrael Biteinu and beyond, is also in that camp. After all, Olmert’s convergence plan operated on the same uniting premise you cite: that “the two cultures need to be separated in order to increase the odds for a peaceful resolution.”

    What it all comes down to is framing, and I believe you made this point in your original post. Indeed, that’s what I was arguing in my comment. And intent is a very important part of that framing, and can make all the difference in terms of popular support. What I was just trying to show was that even if Leiberman’s ideas sound similar to those of Malley and Agha, Leiberman’s framing and intent turn his idea repugnant rather than revelatory. Even further, framing and intent are why Labor is largely left off the hook for its role in the settlements from 67-77 while Likud is ultimately vilified for their post-77 expansionism.

    Again, TM (not Middleman…apologies), I wasn’t trying to pillory you for your selective quotation. If you had true malice in your heart, you wouldn’t have included the link to the piece, nor would you have lamented Duke’s loss.

    Rock.
    Mike

  • Mike, thanks for the kind words but please stop apologizing because I did not take offense. If you’ll look above, you’ll see harsher attacks on my positions and those didn’t offend either. The point of being in the middle is that you offend both the Right and the Left. 😉

    Here is the article that put these two on the map: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/14380. Make sure you read the follow-up articles listed at the very bottom of the page. This article has become perhaps the premise for much of the Palestinian advocates’ contention that Camp David was inherently unfair to the Palestinians and therefore it was justifiable that they didn’t really negotiate. The irony, of course, is that Malley held a lower rank than Ross in these talks and Ross disagrees with many of Malley’s views on this subject.

    I happen to think their article in Foreign Affairs is interesting and well thought out, even if I don’t agree with all of it. If you’ve seen recent polling stats from Israel, you see the Israeli Jewish population seeking to keep itself physically apart from the Israeli-Arab population. If you look at the history of the Arab side of this conflict, you will see that they have been seeking to entirely remove the Jews from the land under their control (East Jerusalem and the West Bank 1948-1967 being excellent examples of this, as is Gaza circa 2005). So the notion of dividing the two peoples is not new and has its basis in historical events.

    Also, one cannot ignore the reality of war after all these years and one would have to be blind not to see that many Israeli-Arabs reject the idea of Zionism if they have to live within a state that defines itself as a Jewish state.

    So without getting into the fears that the Arabs represent a fifth column within Israel, as Lieberman may point out, it is realistic to note that after all these years of war, it is not unnatural that Arabs and Jews may want to live apart. Covering up this reality with politically correct wishful thinking is not going to address the reality of the division that exists between the two peoples. This land and population exchange, however, can provide a solution.

    The challenge is legal, however. Can a state disown its citizens? The consensus seems to be that a state cannot. This was also certainly not on the agenda of any party except for Lieberman’s, so I do think it’s a moot issue, at least for now.

  • Middle, thanks for the encouragement. On unilateralism: I’m not inherently opposed to Israeli unilateralism. It’s a matter of WHAT SORT of unilateral actions it takes. What I do think is dangerous is if Israel takes unilateral steps that end up tying its hands and making it more difficult (or even impossible) for it to eventually make a peace deal when (and if) a Palestinian partner emerges. I’d love to think that Olmert’s talk of setting Israel’s final borders and holding on to settlements like Ariel are designed to scare the Palestinians into negotiating in good faith, because they’ll feel they have something to lose if they don’t. However, if Olmert’s serious about holding on to places like Ariel, and he reinforces and increases the population of settlements like this one, which is deep inside the West Bank, it’s simply going to be more difficult to make peace down the road.

  • Understand: There is no consensus. Each day there is a new consensus. The nation was clearly against retreating from the Pals under fire, but Sharon packaged the withdrawal in a clean ‘disengagement’ to digest. Many, many and perhaps most Israelis were very gullible (like you to jog your memory) in thinking that drawing a line in the sand around Gaza would mean that anything coming over that line would be an act of war. Many lusted over the scenario to get the Jews out of Gaza in order to set up the situation for the Jew blood-thirsty Pals to continue launching surface to surface missiles at us so that we could finally retaliate with real force. Mofaz even said many times that the earth of Gaza would rumble. ALL lies. Our retaliation is limited to sonic booms and 155mm howitzers launching expired artillery at empty fields. Should I mention that Hamas rose to power on the anti-corruption platform as well as something about succeeding in kicking Jewish butt and promising more.

    There’s no such thing as a consensus around Ariel and the Jordan Valley, but that doesn’t mean anything except to continue living in the Kadima/Olmert illusion of ‘we will decide our own borders’.

    It might be construed that you were accusing me of wanting a war. I definitely do not. I’m trying to prepare my wife and myself to get the kids and ‘hit the deck’ the instant we see an extremely brilliant flash of light appear (exploding nuke). I’ve seen “The Day After” a few times, not too enticing. The thought of needing to get into my tank and have my head ranged in a sharpshooter’s sight doesn’t appeal to me either. The war is inevitable. Israel thinks it is strong (like pre-yom kippur), but our deterrence is sliding. The Ashkelon power plant has been hit a couple of times already – no response from Israel. The leaders don’t even posture with empty threats anymore, just simple silence. If that power plant is damaged severely, Israel goes into rolling brownouts. Our power supply is almost maxed right now.

  • I’m glad you’re not a war monger, Josh, and didn’t think you were (for the record). I don’t disagree with your comments about Israel’s relatively weak response to the firings from Gaza. I will point out that they have had some good hits on terrorists launching these rockets in recent weeks. You and I both know that they haven’t responded aggressively because they are weighing the benefits and advantages of being out of there versus going back in. Sometimes it’s better not to show strength or to let your opponent dictate your reaction.

    I agree there is no consensus around either the Jordan Valley or Ariel. The Jordan Valley does have a security purpose and that may affect its role in any outcome. Ariel seems to me be a bargaining chip for the future despite Israel’s huge investment in it. Either way, this election probably will force Olmert to think long and hard about any unilateral move because he seemed to have lost seats after he spoke publicly about his plans. Then again, as happened with Sharon, you have plenty of other parties involved and they were democratically elected. If they vote to join in a unilateral move, that will then be the consensus.

    Perhaps, if I were you, I would start looking at my options regarding moving into a community closer to the Green Line. I don’t say that with malice, but with sadness. Honestly, I consider Samaria and Judea to be as important to our history and heritage as Jerusalem and it saddens me greatly that we will leave them behind. However, I am also a realist. Israel will most likely unilaterally depart most of the West Bank within the next couple of years. Once the process begins, your housing values will plummet so those who move sooner rather than later will probably benefit. It will also help to prevent being part of the trauma of being forced to leave, and give you a leg up on finding alternative employment if you need to do so.

  • What are your suggestions when Hamas starts chipping away at the Green Line, Middle? It’s only a matter of time. I still don’t see why anyone thinks that a partial retreat by Israel to this or that green, purple, chartruese, pink, red or polka-dot line will mean anything at all to people like Hamas and Hizb’allah. The writing is on the wall.

    The paleostinians are thinking in terms of decades, if not longer, not a few years. Israel’s only hope is that they overplay their hand and force the issue too soon by putting Israel in a situation where massive retaliation will not only be inevitable, but accepted (if not approved of) by the nations.

    When Israel does not bomb the swearing-in of the Hamas “parliament” in retaliation for a Katyusha strikle on its power plants in Ashkelon, something is seriously, seriously wrong.

    They had them all in one place and they let them go. Unbelieveable.

    The other hope is a real paleo civil war. I still think this is a distinct possibility, and I hope they get on with it with all possible dispatch.

  • Israel is right to let Hamas create its own damage without attacking them as you suggest. Why get them sympathy or create an opening for the Europeans to restart warm relations with the PA?

    I completely reject your silly comment about chipping away at the Green Line. If there isn’t consensus about Ariel, that’s one thing, but there is plenty of consensus about the Green Line and both Jerusalem and the settlement blocs around it. And yes, they think in decades and I have good news for you: Israel has been around for 6 decades.

  • There may be consensus in Israel about the Green Line, but there isn’t that much anywhere else, except perhaps in the US. The Euros talk a good came but they always cave when the chips are down.

    My point is that Hamas will keep attacking regardless of where Israel’s borders are. I am not convinced that the world will stick up for Israel even if it were to retreat all the way back to the ’49 armistice lines, and if they did, everything that has happened so far indicates that this will do nothing but embolden Hamas to increase their attacks.

    The only reason thr ’49 armistice lines were defensible is because Israel attacked Egypt and Sryia pre-emptively, once it was clear that war was inevitable. I simply cannot see Israel retreating to those lines again. Israel can only defend them with a first strike.

  • If Israel retreats fully to the Green Line, without coopting the Ariel and Ma’ale Adunim, and assuming a deal is worked out for sharing sovereignty over East Jerusalem, then Hamas will be an emperor with no clothes should it try further aggression.

    If Israel makes every concession demanded by the Palestinians, they will no longer have the occupation as their rallying cry, and they will also have their own state. Once they have their own state, they will have no reason to point fingers at Israel for oppression and the far left int’l community will have no more reason to scream about Israel’s human rights’ abuses in the territories.

    Since 49, the armistice lines have been the legally recognized borders by both Israel and the international community. The legal integrity of the 49 border has never been questioned outside the Arab world, and since 67, if an Arab country has refused to recognize Israel, it has been in protest of the military occupation, not on the actualy existence of the state of Israel.

    Now, back to my statement about clothelessness. If Palestine were to further aggress against Israel, it would find that it no longer has any legal justification to rally its sympathizers. It would find that its former supporters in its struggle would realize they got duped by believing it was all about the occupation. And most importantly, it would find that with sovereignty, its own aggression would no longer be seen as a struggle or as freedom-fighting, but as simple belligerence. Then, Israel would have full justification, and international support, to defend itself against a hostile neighbor state.

    Remember, the occupation is a key rallying cry across the world, and Israel’s role in it has allowed the victim/victimizer dynamic to be upended. If Israel is truly suspicious of the Palestinian intent, then the best way to call the bluff is to get back fully to the Green Line and facilitate the birth of Palestine in the current occupied territories. Their sovereignty would end the armed struggle as they’ve defined it and would shackle their lawless militants into lawful submission or face legal recourse. If the state of Palestine is created, and Israel, the US, the EU, the Arab states, etc, all did their best to get it off the ground, it could no longer claim victimhood. Without that claim, it won’t have any terror apologists in the West, and with set borders, it won’t have any ground for chipping away at an internationally recognized, inviolably-bordered Israel based on the armistice lines of 49.

  • ‘Twas a different time when we tried them. Geopolitically, things have changed since 67 and 73, and they’ve changed in favor of the 49 border’s integrity. The Pals themselves have positioned their existential claims around those borders, Egypt and Jordan have made peace, and now the greatest threat comes from Iran, and they don’t share any borders with Israel.

    As I said, if Israel goes back to those borders, Israel’s enemies will find that they will have a hell of a hard time getting anyone to buy into their causes.

    Please, please, please read Gershom Gorenberg’s “The Accidental Empire.” It’s a brand new book examining the birth and growth of the settlements from 67-77, and explores documents and issues that had yet to be examined. It is by no means a bleeding-heart lefty-assault on the settlements.

  • The Pals themselves have positioned their existential claims around those borders

    Ummmm…..no they haven’t, actually. Have you been listening to what Hamas has been saying, Mike? And have you thought about the significance of the fact that they are now the “governement” of “Palestine”?

    2+2=????

    Do the math.

    I know that some lying paleostinian spokesliars have been lying about how they have recognized Israel within the pre-’67 borders. But since they are lying liars, only a fool would believe their lying lies.

  • I do not claim to believe their “lies,” but as long as Israel and its supporters refuse to call their bluff and continue to frustrate their overtures towards negotiation, no matter how disingenuous, we give them more and more of a claim to victimhood and sympathy.

    What I do claim is that the world is at a place now to call their bluff, take their word at face value, then hold them fully accountable should they give up their ruse and expose their lies.

    In other words, they’ve already sabotaged their dreams for the whole land by painting their entire cause into a corner with the rhetoric of ending the occupation. Legally, diplomatically, politically, any attempt to take land outside of the West Bank and Gaza will hold absolutely no water. If they have their own sovereign state, and that sovereign state becomes belligerent to Israel, Israel will have full license to strike back with devastating force. And for those who think of the Palestinians as “paleos” or troglodytes, wouldn’t just an unencumbered response be your dream come true? Think about it: Israel’s targeted, retaliatory killings and their raids on refugee camps are now condemned because they are part and parcel of Israel’s military rule and administration over the Palestinians. Such criticism pisses you off because you think Israel has every right to strike back against terror, right? You wish Israel could just bomb the hell out of the Palestinians now and get it over with, right? But the reason they can’t is that pesky occupation and all the legal crap that comes along with it. So wouldn’t it be a dream come true for you if Israel could actually, and without legal impediment, vanquish those pesky “paleostinians” for real, and stop taking these annoying precautions to distinguish between terrorists and civilians?

    All snarkiness aside, what I am arguing for provides for both the hawks and the doves. I, personally, think that Hamas was voted in because of its call for internal reform and uncorrupt leadership, not for its terrorism. I believe that the majority of Palestinians was peace and want sovereignty, and they didn’t trust a corrupt Fatah to handle their own affairs. I believe that if Hamas fails to moderate itself, its electorate will regard it as a failure and look for better options. I believe that if a Palestinian state emerges, it will be buttressed by Western aid and its economy will be tied to Israel. I believe that economic tie will be Palestine’s lifeblood, and that its growing economy will act as an antidote to terrorist militarism. I believe that with prosperity comes a cult of life that will no longer celebrate martyrdom.

    But I also believe that if my optimism is proved naive, this scenario will allow Israel to exercise its might with unprecedented force validated by the rest of the world.

    You see, Ephraim, I’m not against you. I’m presenting an idea that will allow us both to have our cake and eat it, too.

  • I, personally, think that Hamas was voted in because of its call for internal reform and uncorrupt leadership, not for its terrorism. I believe that the majority of Palestinians want peace and want sovereignty.

    I’m taking bids on that bridge, Mike. How much should I put you down for?

  • Ephraim, name your price and I’ll buy it.

    TM, I defer the answer to you. I feel as though I’ve said enough here the last few days and have stated my thoughts ad nauseum. I feel kind of sticky now that I’ve entered the Blog Commentariat, actually…I think I might take a break. I’m off to the Lakers/Spurs game to root for the Sixers.

    But E, I will take that bridge.

  • Aw shucks, Mike, don’t feel sticky, we’re proud to have good-hearted softies among the Jewish people. Even Ephraim here, is in some ways a softie.

    I think you’ll find that age has made us cynical while you are still young and fresh. It’s not as if you had all your hopes and optimism dashed in 2000. I mean, at the time, you were focused on getting laid at Duke, right? Some of us, unfortunately, found that the world wasn’t as rosy as we had imagined and some people just want to kill us and destroy Israel whatever it takes. Sad but true.

  • Spurs kicked the crap out of the Lakers tonight, and it was a lovely sight. The Lakers have no heart.

    I understand that “some people just want to kill us and destroy Israel whatever it takes.” I get that. Everything I’ve said above takes that into account. What I outlined was a way to cut through all the bullshit and call a spade a spade, because as it stands now, neither side trusts each other, and both sides see its worst elements as indicative of the whole.

    And in 2000, and for the next few years, I regurgitated a hard-line Begin-esque philosophy I inherited from my pops and from the most vocal elements of the US pro-Israel camp. But then I started actually reading things for myself and finding out that what I once thought wasn’t exactly what was true. And it took a lot for me to concede my former perspective…it wasn’t some activist awakening at all. I never went so far as, say, the groups on campus that brought Norman Finkelstein in to talk against Israel or who coddled Abdullah al-Arian’s hateful diatribes in our campus newspaper (look him up if the name is unfamiliar). What I say now comes after a lot of thought, observation, and my own resistance.

    Now with Arafat gone, we’ve entered into yet another chapter of relations that could very well turn extremely sour, but might, just maybe, turn out ok. But the fact remains that it is a new era that requires a new approach, regardless of how one sees it. The idea I wrote above–the having our cake and eating it too, if you will–is one such way really to get to the most basic truth without confounding factors. You know my own rosy hopes. But I am also providing for the alternative: if a Palestinian state chooses to show the world that it unequivicably wants to destroy Israel, let it try when it can no longer make any excuses for violence. As I said, if that happens, no nation will stand in Israel’s way when it decimates an aggressive, hubristic, sovereign Palestinian state and makes those who sought a legitimate war long for what would then seem the relative pitter-patter of these past few years. If that is soft or rosy, fellas, then I fear for pragmatism itself.

    This is the last I’m saying on any of this. I’ve enjoyed the back-and-forth, but all of our own incalcitrance has stalemated this topic. If either of you, or anyone else, wants to shred me or condescend to me or sell me a non-existent bridge, right on, but I’m done. No hard feelings at all. This is how I bond with my father, actually. But we both know when to call it a night, and I’m calling it a night.

    Rock.
    Mike

  • Mike, the occupation is Israel itself. There is no such translation into Arabic of ‘occupation of West Bank or Judea and Samaria’. The West Bank is a merely imaginary geographic territory occupied by Jordan after the 49 armistice. Occupation means everything, river to sea. There is no compromise with an Arab on this. He will say nice things in English to you, and laugh at you in Arabic.
    Stop trying to project your western ‘compromise’ mindset on them. They simply don’t think like us.

    ‘joint control’ of Jerusalem? Uh, yeah. Fairy tale.

  • Mike, Israel left Gaza and it hasn’t changed a thing as far as the Palestinians are concerned. If you read Ben Ami’s interview with Ha’aretz after Camp David and Taba, you will see that the Palestinians refused to even discuss joint control over the Temple Mount. Ben Ami isn’t some sort of Beginesque politician or a “vocal pro-Israel American,” he’s a Left wing politician who sat across from the Palestinian leadership and walked away shell-shocked because he simply couldn’t believe that even after agreeing to share Jerusalem, the Palestinians did not respond with any serious or significant attempt to find common ground or compromise.

    I understand what you want. You want to be able to say to anybody who comes at you about Israel, “But we did what they wanted and even what the international Left claims they want. We went back to 1949 lines.” You think that this will finally get the world to let Israel be in a diplomatic sense, and will also free up Israel to fight back aggressively if the Palestinians do anything wrong.

    1949 lines were based on the outcome of a war Israel didn’t start. What is critical about them, however, is that in that war, Israel lost east Jerusalem and its Old City. As you know, the Western Wall is there, as is a history of Jews going back a couple of thousand years. As you know, the foundation of our history as a nation and as a religion lies there. I realize that other conquerors built an important mosque compound there, but that area is the physical embodiment of the heart of Judaism. You could argue that Judaism became a portable religion in many respects not only because of their eviction from Israel by the Babylonians and then the Romans, but also because of their inability to access that physical place. As you also know, when it was in Arab hands, Jews had very limited access, and following 1949, all Jews were evicted and no access was granted.

    According to what you would have Israel do, this area should fall into Palestinian hands. Now, we haven’t seen any evidence that Palestinians want to have any Jews in their midst at all or that they will respectfully treat this core of Judaism. Quite the contrary. Hamas’s charter (and to remind you, this is the elected government of the Palestinians now) completely denies a Jewish connection to any part of Israel, much less Jerusalem. The PLO’s covenant which had become the PNC’s charter also contained similar language. Somebody tried to convince me recently that those clauses in the PNC’s charter had been abrogated as part of Oslo, but although the Palestinians had promised to Clinton that they no longer hold those clauses true, it seems they forgot to keep the promise of having the special session where they were supposed to actually vote on removing those clauses.

    Also to remind you, at Camp David, Israel offered 100% of Gaza, 90% of the West Bank and Palestinian control over most of east Jerusalem. The Palestinians didn’t negotiate and a couple of months later launched a war they had been planning for months.

    At Taba, just a few months later, on the basis of Clinton’s suggestions and further concessions by Israel, the map on the table offered a contiguous Palestine with 100% of Gaza, 97.5% of the West Bank, control of east Jerusalem, sovereignty over the Christian and Muslim holy places and even shared sovereignty over the Temple Mount/Haram Al Sharif was discussed. Although negotiations were terminated early because the war had become so brutal, that Barak couldn’t enter the election season while talking to a people who were also waging war. What we know, however, is that the Palestinians did not relinquish any of their previous demands.

    One more important issue here is that even though Israel made these offers, was outside of Areas A so that over 95% of the Palestinians were living under an autonomous PA government, and had made an offer of a Palestinian state next to it, the Palestinian war on Israel continued and, more important, they were getting international sympathy as if Israel’s efforts were meaningless. Yes, initially it wasn’t that way, but all it took was a few months of concerted diplomatic efforts by the Palestinians, backed by the vocal international Left and vocal pro-Palestinian intelligentsia such as many of the academics who populate Middle East programs at US universities, to make moot all of Israel’s efforts and in fact, convert the positive sense of the offers into the opposite sense of some sort of unfair trickery.

    100% of Gaza, 97.5% of the West Bank (with compensation for the other 2.5% in the form of other land and money), reparations, control over east Jerusalem, control over Muslim and Christian holy places, removal of Israeli soldiers from the important Jordan Valley with international soldiers and only for a few years, an international port, an international airport, and the right to live in a state called Palestine which would be the first time in history the Palestinians had a state.

    They didn’t budge on their positions, continued the war which progressed into this disgusting orgy of suicide bombings against Israeli civilians, and managed to get the international community to back them against Israel at the UN, at Durban, etc.

    So now you want to come along and say that even though Arafat died and Abbas has kept the same strategy in place. Even though Israel left Gaza and the Palestinians elected a party of Jew-murderers who don’t recognize Israel, if Israel would just up that 97.5% to 100% of the arbitrary lines drawn up by a 1949 war, give up east Jerusalem to people who have negated our historical connection to it and have restricted Jewish access to it in the past, and merely walk away entirely (as in, remove all the Jews) from an area where Jews have lived for far longer than Muslims or Palestinians, then somehow that little bit extra will make the Palestinians stop and make the international community also step back and stop their pressure on Israel.

    Oops, you forgot their demands about the so-called “right of return.”

    It’s not condescension, Mike. I value that your intentions are so good. I really do believe that your views as to what will happen are entirely naive. What is worse is that not only are you wrong about what will happen, and I’m saying this based on what we’ve already seen happen in the last few years, but that if someone were to actually follow your ideas, it would take a tremendous amount of pain and bloodshed to ever rectify the situation.

  • Because I’m a fucking liar, let me return to the comments to say one thing: thank you for this. If all people I had arguments with carried on with your amount of reason, then I’d always be happy.

    I hear and know the facts you tell me, and it’s not that I don’t sympathize. But it really does seem to me that at this stage, to follow most everyone’s ideas will take “a tremendous amount of pain and bloodshed to ever rectify the situation.” It’s just a matter of which idea one believes will be most effective despite whatever atrocities that will surely come with it.

    I started out as a cynic and ended up where I am now. And I’ve gotta say, my cynicism was borne out of a far greater naivete–in terms of understanding the issues and the histories, etc–than my current state. Because of that journey, I stand behind what I say. But it’s also why I obsessively follow what’s going on: so that with each new event, I can reevaluate my beliefs and change accordingly.

    Again, TM–you’re a class act and I’d love to continue getting to know you and the rest of the Jewlicious folk on issues entirely divorced from all this talk. But as for all this talk, here’s to hoping that you’ll never have to tell me, “Told you so,” and that if you do, you’ll do it with a heavy heart, not a hardened one.

  • I won’t have to tell you, “I told you so” because any Israeli government even as far to the Left as Meretz recognizes the problem with going back to 1949 lines.

    As for returning to comment, please do keep coming back because there’s no reason as to why your voice and your perspective shouldn’t be part of the discussion.

    Consider, however, one more thing. The fence, should it be completed as Olmert has said, will actually create a reality that’s not too far off Camp David. It will establish a physical division between two warring nations. That will certainly cause a significant pause in any bloodshed and to a large degree allow both sides to lick their wounds and take care of domestic issues. The fight may erupt again at some point, and in fact probably will, but it could be a long time before it does. That’s not a bad thing.

    Of course, first things first and right now there’s even a remote possibility that Olmert won’t be the next prime minister until all the horse-trading and coalition-building is concluded.

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