Back in 2005, I wrote a
for resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict. I mailed it out to
a bunch of people -- an example of "running it up the flagpole to
see who salutes it" -- and it was uniformly ignored. The distinct
feature of my piece was a mechanism that would allow Israel to
keep all of the East Jerusalem environs they annexed in 1967. My
argument was that if a majority of the Palestinians in the new
territory voted to approve joining Israel, and annexation could
be separated from the UN's 1967 assertion of the "inadmissibility
of the acquisition of territory by war."
Jerusalem was one of the major sticking points in the "final
status" negotiations under Barak in 2000. Even though there was
at the time substantial support within Israel for a "two-state
solution" that would give up settlements in Gaza and the West
Bank, every opinion poll of Israelis that I was aware of showed
more than 90% refusing to return East Jerusalem. The equation
on annexation for Israel has always been the trade-off between
land, which Israel coveted, and people, which Israel feared and
loathed. The alternative to the "two-state solution" would be
for Israel to extend citizenship and equal rights to all of the
people in the Occupied Territories -- a scheme that has become
increasingly attractive as expanding Israeli settlements (those
"facts on the ground") have made it ever harder, both politically
and practically, to disentangle two states. However, Israel has
always rejected such a "one-state solution" out of hand, for fear
that its demography would tip against a Jewish majority.
However, I figured that the relatively small number of non-Jews
in Greater Jerusalem, balanced against Israel's intense desire to
keep the land, would be a trade-off that Israel might accept. I also
figured that requiring approval of that non-Jewish population would
do two things: it would justify annexation under self-determination,
grounds that no one could reasonably object to; and it would urge
Israel to campaign for the allegiance of a block of Palestinians.
Given Israel's past treatment, one would initially expect the latter
to reject such an offer, but Israel could offer much in the way of
inducements to win the vote, including reforms that would help make
Palestinians more welcome as Israeli citizens -- reforms that in
general would help to lessen the conflict.
Like I said, my proposal went nowhere. By that time, the Arab
League was floating a proposal that called for a full return to
the 1967 borders (per UN SCR 242 and 338), albeit with no serious
repatriation of pre-1948 refugees. The US was pushing a non-plan
called "The Road Map for Peace," which was rejected by Israel, as
was every other initiative. There have been proposals by ad hoc
groups of Israelis (e.g., the Geneva Accords, the Israeli Peace
Initiative of 2011), the coalitions running Israel, both under
Kadima and Likud prime ministers, appear to have no interest
whatsoever in ever solving anything. The problem isn't even that
they have a proposal that Palestinians can never accept. It's
that they prefer the status quo, where they face just enough
danger to keep their security state sharp, where the settlement
project continues to fire their pioneer spirit, and where their
low standing in world opinion reinforces the Zionist conceit that
the whole world is out to get them -- a unifying narrative with
little downside risk, least of all to their standard of living.
I bring this up because I see now that John Kerry is trying to
restart some sort of "peace process."
Stephen M. Walt writes:
News reports suggest that Kerry is trying to advance this goal by
employing a time-honored tool of Middle East diplomacy: bribery. No,
I don't mean direct under-the-table payoffs to key leaders (although
the United States has done plenty of that in the past and I wouldn't
rule it out here). Instead, I mean offering the various parties big
economic incentives to lure them back to the table. Back in the 1970s,
for example, Henry Kissinger got Israel to withdraw from the Sinai by
promising it enormous military aid packages and assorted other concessions.
Jimmy Carter did the same thing when he brokered that Egyptian-Israeli
peace treaty in 1979, and U.S. largesse also greased the subsequent
peace deal between Israel and Jordan in 1994. When domestic politics
make it impossible to use sticks, carrots are all you have left.
This time around, Kerry has reportedly assembled a $4 billion
investment package for the Palestinian Authority, designed to improve
economic conditions in the West Bank and demonstrate to the Palestinians
the benefits of peace. Presumably all they need to do is agree to resume
negotiations and the money will flow; the investment is supposedly not
linked to a final-status agreement. This approach is also a familiar
American tendency at work: The United States is happy if the parties
are talking, even if they are simultaneously taking steps that are "not
helpful" and if they never get to the finish line.
The real question is: Should Abbas & Co. take the money and
Of course they should, but not because it will produce an agreement.
Any talks that do resume are going to lead nowhere, and the Palestinians
might as well get paid for engaging in an otherwise meaningless activity.
The talks are meaningless because Israel is not going to agree to a viable
Palestinian state, and certainly not one based on the 1967 borders.
Remember that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's entire career has been
based on opposition to a Palestinian state and that the official platform
of his Likud party "flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab
state west of the Jordan river." Netanyahu is under no domestic pressure
to cut a deal either; on the contrary, he'd be in political hot water if
Ever since the Oslo Accords, the basic Israeli strategy has been to
negotiate endlessly while continuing to expand settlements, with the
number of settlers more than doubling since 1993. Even then Prime
Minister Ehud Barak's supposedly "generous" offer at Camp David in
2000 fell well short of an acceptable deal, as his own foreign minister,
Shlomo Ben-Ami, later acknowledged. Netanyahu now leads the most
right-wing government in Israel's history, and his government would
collapse if he were to agree to allow the Palestinians anything more
than a handful of disconnected bantustans under complete Israeli
control. That's why Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been
reluctant to resume the negotiations; he knows that talks merely
provide a cover for further colonization.
But acknowledging that reality could also be liberating. Given that
negotiations are pointless and that more and more people know it, the
Palestinians should simply take the money that Kerry has assembled and
agree to the charade, while making it clear that they will not settle
for less than the Clinton parameters. They can also hint that if a
viable and sovereign state is not in the cards, then they will begin
to campaign for full civil and political rights within the "Greater
Israel" that now exists.
Walt is unsure why Kerry is even bothering, but the US has long had
interests in the Middle East beyond Israel, and they demand a certain
facade of balance. On the other hand, the Saudis (in particular) don't
seem to be very demanding of results, much like they buy sophisticated
American aircraft then never really learn to use it. Rashid Khalidi's
Brokers of Deceit: How the US Has Undermined Peace in the Middle
East details how the US initiated three major attempts at "peace
process" in Israel-Palestine, then bowed to Israeli pressure (or in
some cases just anticipated it) to get nothing accomplished. Kerry is
most likely to just add another chapter of failure.
Khalidi has a good description of how this works (pp. 119-120):
Over a period of more than sixty years, beginning in fact many
decades before our starting point of 1978, and before even the
occupation of 1967, Israel has created for the Palestinian people a
unique and exquisitely refined system of exclusion, expropriation,
confinement, and denial. Above all, this system is buttressed by a
robust denial that any of this is happening or has ever happened. In
some ways this denial is the worst part of the system, constituting a
form of collective psychological torture. Thus some deny that there is
any such thing as an "occupation." Others refuse to call the West
Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem the "occupied territories";
they are instead referred to as "the administered territories," or
"the territories," or worse, "Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza district,"
as Begin and his acolytes put it. Arab East Jerusalem is not Arab, it
is not "occupied," and it has not been conquered: it has been
"reunited." Jerusalem is not a city that has been a center of Arab and
Muslim life for nearly fourteen hundred years: it is the "eternal,
indivisible capital of Israel," not only now and forever into the
future, but also at every moment in the past, back to the dim mists
before recorded history. The Palestinians were never expelled from
their homeland. A nomadic people without roots in the land, they
simply wandered off, or left because their leaders told them
to. Violence employed by Palestinians is "terrorism"; violence
employed by Israel, usually producing approximately ten times the
casualties, is "self-defense." There is a "peace process." One could
go on and on with equally grotesque examples of such Orwellian
newspeak, which effectively constitutes a tissue of falsehoods, an
enormous web of denial.
Israel has not only worked tirelessly to create "facts on the ground"
that dim the prospects of peace. Israelis have also created a mental
clutter of catch phrases and jargon that make peace impossible to talk
I'll break this post here, and put a first draft of my thinking
about how to resolve the conflict after the break . . .