How Can Israel Convince the Palestinians That It Wants Peace?

16 October 2015

How Can Israel Convince the Palestinians That It Wants Peace?

Shlomo Aveniri and the Two-State Solution

How to convince the Palestinians – and much of the rest of the world - that Israel wants peace is a question that stands behind the thinking of many Israelis who occupy the political center or center-left. Numerous friends of Israel internationally also ask the same question. 

Various answers are provided. For example, Israel could show goodwill and seriousness by releasing more prisoners and halting settlement construction. Other proposals involve unilateral withdrawals by Israel. Marc Goldberg, a regular columnist with the Times of Israel and Harry’s Place, wants to withdraw all Israeli civilians from the West Bank and leave the IDF in place to prevent disorder and terror. If order ensues, this will be followed by IDF withdrawals and the handover of larger areas of control to the PA.

This is a variation of the approach proposed by Ami Ayalon in Israel and Cary Nelson in the USA, for a unilateral phased withdrawal from the West Bank. Each successive phase of the withdrawal will be contingent on a peaceful Palestinian response to the previous phase. The aim is to withdraw in this manner from up to 85% of the West Bank, by which time, assuming good Palestinian behavior, the situation would be ready for a 2-State Solution to the conflict (for a full-scale destruction of this perspective, see How Not to Rescue the 2-State Solution).

An Alternative Question


Islamic Wars and Palestinians

8 October 2015

Islamic Wars and the Palestinians

Lies, Damned Lies and Taqiyya

The current eruption of murderous attacks on Jews over the issue of the Temple Mount is causing speculation about a third intifada. It also provokes Jewish despair at the blatant lies of the PA leadership – and the repetition of Palestinian propaganda by much of the international media. The mixture of Islamism and Arab nationalism, neither of which accepts Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, continues to be the driving force of the conflict. 

As a fundamental factor, Islam divides the world into the Dar al-Islam (the House of Islam) and Dar al-Harb (the House of War) which is under the rule of Dar al-Kufr (the House of the Unbeliever). Apart from temporary treaties, war is permanent. A significant product of this idea is that anyone leaving Islam is seen exactly as we view someone siding with an enemy in war: as a traitor. 

Do all or the great bulk of Muslims think this? I've no idea. But in the UK I slightly knew someone who was a noted Catholic theologian. He would sigh in amused dismay at the distance between the beliefs of the Catholic hierarchy and himself and those of many of his fellow churchgoers. So it wouldn't be a surprise to find something similar in Islam. Not everyone is a theologian. 

However, with Catholicism, no-one can be forced to adhere to it any longer and there are lots of alternatives for those who don't like it. And anyone who prefers something else can denounce the Pope as the anti-Christ (or whatever) as loudly as they wish without fear of being burned at the stake. Alas, we know that in Arab states the public criticism of Islam is impossible and changing religion very dangerous. Therefore, as a generalization, Islamic intolerance has a far greater hold on minds and behaviors than, for example, modern western Christianity.

How to Cure a Disastrous Self-inflicted Diplomatic Wound

July 25 2015

How to Cure a Disastrous Self-Inflicted Diplomatic Wound

The Hidden Dilemma of Final Status Negotiations

Currently, the issue of negotiations with the Palestinians is not at the forefront of diplomatic activity and there is no indication that negotiations are imminent. PA President Abbas has set preconditions for talks which are unacceptable to Israel and this makes PM Netanyahu’s offer of talks without preconditions unacceptable to the Palestinians.  

But neither party can be confident that this diplomatic limbo will last forever.  
Outside pressures will once again provide the key impetus to renewed talks. Israel will then be subject to a major hidden obstacle that will completely nullify any diplomatic advantage expected by its participation. 
The hidden obstacle is that years of peace talks, interim agreements, on-off negotiations, recriminations over settlements, disputes over land-swaps, prisoner releases, and so on, have all reinforced the idea that a win-win approach to resolving the conflict is normal and possible.  As a result, the Palestinian rejection of the Jewish state is obscured from view.  Yet this is the rock against which all peace attempts crash.  

Therefore, by participating in final status talks as if the PA, or any other Palestinian body, were willing or able to agree to the necessary compromise to end the conflict, Israel’s diplomacy has the disastrous effect of hiding the Palestinian zero-sum approach behind the appearance of a win-win process. This conceals from the international public that the Palestinian/Arab rejection is the driving force of the conflict and the insurmountable obstacle to a genuine 2-state solution (see The Israeli Demand That Palestinians Accept Israel as a Jewish State).  

This appearance is compounded by the inevitable failure of the fake final status talks.  Without producing an agreement for a full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank or an agreement for a Palestinian state, the widespread belief is reinforced that Israel is to blame for denying Palestinian self-determination.  As a result, Israel is viewed as the obstacle to peace.  This solidifies international hostility, fosters criticism of Israel from the Jewish diaspora and fuels BDS activities. 

How Not to Rescue the Two State Solution

10 July 2015

How Not to Rescue

the Two-State Solution

Counter Arguments to Cary Nelson, Fathom Journal

By inviting comments to Cary Nelson’s essay A Proposal to Rescue the 2-State Solution, Fathom Journal (Issue 10, July 2015) has surely provided a useful forum for exploring and clarifying what is possible and not possible in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  In response, a slightly abbreviated version of the following article was submitted to the journal.  

The essence of the proposed plan is that in the absence of a final status agreement, there should be a series of major unilateral Israeli withdrawals from the West Bank.  The hope is for both sides to agree that each party would make moves that the other accepts to be part of any final status agreement.  Failing that, the tacit approval of the parties would be sufficient.  This means that each phase of the withdrawal would depend on positive reactions to the previous withdrawal.  

Cary Nelson envisages that this unusual process, which he terms coordinated-unilateralism, will initially result in around 85% of the West Bank being handed to the Palestinians.  Further Israeli withdrawals will be dependent on a final status agreement with the final border based potentially on the Security Barrier.  His hope and belief is that this series of unprecedented withdrawals will encourage trust and momentum towards the 2-State Solution.
These and similar ideas are also in circulation in Israel.  For example, Ami Ayalon, the former commander of the Israeli navy, former head of Shin Bet and former MK, featured in the documentary film The Gatekeepers, is a prominent advocate. 

Protecting Israel's Blockade of Gaza

29 June 2015

Protecting Israel’s Blockade of Gaza

The Legal Rules and Israel’s Hasbara

The new flotilla of ships from Sweden and elsewhere, currently attempting to breech Israel’s efforts to stop war-material reaching Hamas, will provide Israel with enormous diplomatic and hasbara opportunities.  These will be primarily in the areas for the promotion of Israel’s legal rights and opportunities to shift public perceptions of Israeli blame onto the Palestinians. 

Israel’s legal rights to act in international waters against attempts to break a lawful blockade are specific.  They include the legal permission to stop, search, divert, seize and even attack ships attempting to breech the blockade. 

The San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea, 1994 provides:

How Israel Can Benefit Diplomatically from the Dissolution of the Palestinian Unity Government

 18 June 2015

How Israel Can Benefit Diplomatically from the Dissolution of the Palestinian Unity Government

With the end of the PA-Hamas ‘government’, we can now expect greater international pressure on Israel to embark again on the ‘peace-process’ with the PA.  Indeed, only recently PM Netanyahu announced a readiness for such talks.  This may have been advantageous from an image point of view.  But it also involves a serious difficulty which can easily be rectified.  

The difficulty is that simply agreeing to peace-process negotiations with the PA creates a false impression.  This severely damages Israel by fostering the incorrect belief that a win-win solution to the conflict is possible.  Yet as long as the Palestinians refuse to accept Israel as a Jewish state, and to deny 2 states for 2 peoples, there can be no implementation of the favorite solution of the international community – the 2-state solution.

A diplomatic own-goal

That is, agreeing to talks as if a win-win solution to the conflict were feasible in these circumstances obscures from view the zero-sum/winner-takes-all strategy of the Palestinians. As a result, this remains the unseen driving force of the conflict (see Abbas’ Cairo Interview and The Israeli Demand that Palestinians Accept Israel as a Jewish State ).

Without this being clear, those who profess to believe that peace will only be achieved by an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank will continue to blame Israel for not agreeing to withdraw. Israel’s diplomatic approach is thus a key element that reinforces the belief that Israel is yet again to blame for the inevitable failure of any talks. 

In other words, the continued lack of international awareness of the Palestinian refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state is in part due to Israel’s own international diplomatic stance. This in turn is reflected in its non-existent public diplomacy on this core issue.

Solving the problem

Therefore, a better response is to ...

Elections and the Shell-Shocked ‘Left’

Elections and the Shell-Shocked Left

The Dangerous Mizrachi Red-Herring

Currently, it looks as if it may prove harder to form the new coalition government than expected. This will provide at least some uplift to the spirits of the Center-Left which is still in a state of shock. 

The election result obviously disappointed and dismayed many – especially in the media. As a result, many have been casting about for a scape-goat. This turns out to be voters of a Mizrachi background. They are variously supposed to be too hostile to the Arabs to appreciate the finer points of genuine peace-mongering, or too poor or uneducated to understand that by voting for Bibi they were voting against their own interests. 

This reminded me of a talk I attended many years ago in the UK given by James Klugmann. James was one of the brilliant group of Cambridge communists associated with the spies Philby, Burgess and others before the Second World War. He was also a marvelous lecturer. Almost everyone who met him immediately called him James (his name was actually Norman). 

In this particular talk, his purpose was to answer the question of why the then British Prime Minister, the Labour leader Harold Wilson, was such a failure and had betrayed the working class yet again. Klugmann said he had asked this question at an earlier version of the talk and a voice in the audience had shouted, 'because he's a bastard'. Klugmann responded that while this theory certainly had its attraction, he wasn't entirely sure it satisfied as an explanation.

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Loading the Legal Dice against Israel

08 March 2015

Loading the Legal Dice against Israel

The Core Legal Deceptions of Israel’s Opponents

1. The Framework of Deceit

Legally framed attacks on Israel by critics and enemies feature prominently in the international mass media with propaganda hostile to Israel.  Repeated by political leaders, commentators and at every opportunity by the Palestinians, their claims have become more or less standard ‘truisms’:

1. The West Bank is occupied;

2. The occupied West Bank is Palestinian territory;

3. The border of the Occupied Palestinian Territory is the 1949 Armistice Line between Jordanian and Israeli military forces: the Green Line;

4. The Jewish communities inside the Green Line are illegal under international law;

5. Israel is required to withdraw from the West Bank.

Yet all this has been almost without public challenge by Israel’s hasbara.   This has created the impression that Israel has no adequate response to the accusations and that it is guilty as accused.   As a result, the allegations have been widely and uncritically accepted as established truth. 
A ‘key feature’ of these accusations is that they are conducted in a very peculiar way.   The dice are loaded against Israel by a major deception.

The Israeli Demand that Palestinians Accept Israel as a Jewish State

15 January 2015

The Israeli Demand that Palestinians Accept Israel as a Jewish State

Why the Deal-Maker for Israel is the Deal-Breaker for the Palestinians - and Vice Versa

Part 1 Reut and wrong

Gidi Grinstein is founder and CEO of the Re’ut Institute of Tel Aviv. The great thing about his article Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People / Palestine as the Nation State of the Palestinian People (Re’ut-Institute website), is that it takes as its subject the crucial issue at the heart of the Israeli conflict with the Arabs. The not-so-great-thing is that it does this with a shallow analysis that trivializes and distorts a serious matter.

The issue is the Israeli requirement that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish People.   Prime Minister Netanyahu has regularly made this the fundamental building block of any 2-State Solution.  For example:

There will be no Palestinian state before the state of Israel is recognized as the Jewish people’s state, and there will be no Palestinian state before the Palestinians declare an end to the conflict.
( 02/12/2012)
Gidi Grinstein finds that this Israeli demand is:
a just one, yet non-essential, and therefore unnecessary.  
Unfortunately, he supports this view with some silly arguments. Yet, Gidi Grinstein is both smart and substantial.  Therefore, his use of explanations that trivialize the issue is worrying.  For example, he says this:  

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Abbas' Cairo Interview: The Demise of Israel: Hidden in Plain Sight

12 December 2014


The Demise of Israel:  Hidden in Plain Sight

Here are three quotations from the interview given by PLO appointed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to the Egyptian newspaper ‘Akhbar Al-Yawm’ on 30 November 2014.

Israel must recognize the June 4, 1967 border.
We cannot recognize a Jewish state.
There are six million refugees who wish to return, and by the way, I am one of them.
(MEMRI 05 Dec 2014 Special Dispatch 5898)

The occasion was the meeting of the Arab League on the previous day in Cairo where the Arab League restated its position as:

categorical rejection of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state
(Al-Ahram online 29 Nov 2014)

These terms were almost identical to a statement by the 22-member body made earlier in the year when the Council of the Arab League stated that it:

emphasizes its rejection of recognizing Israel as a ‘Jewish state’
(Al-Jazeera online 09 Mar 2014)
The same Al- Jazeera article observed that:

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