Friday, September 18, 2015

My Jewish New Year Dilemma

Dear Mailing list……….(or whoever sees this blog.)

Most of you, my friends and acquaintances, will probably not enjoy this Rosh Hashana letter. Nevertheless, bear with me as I rant and rave out loud about some of those turbulences gnawing at my insides.

Our Jewish New Year is a difficult time for me (then again, Yom Kippur is even more difficult). All of Israel wishes each other a happy new year full of prosperity, sweetness, fulfillment and, of course, PEACE. We do this year after year, whether through greetings, whether through prayers in whatever denominational synagogues we attend (once a year or more), or at home with family, and even when only silently within the deepest corridors of our hearts. We are participating in a communal desire for a communal happier New Year in which none of us forget to mention the hope for PEACE. This is true for all of us, those who are labeled "leftist" or "rightist", secular free-thinkers or God-fearing orthodox, Ashkenazi "voozvoozim" or Mizrachi "chach'-chach'im".  None of us forget greeting the New Year with our wish for PEACE.

And yet…… and yet…….. so much of what we do year after year through our legitimate representatives, whether local or national, are the very things that can only take us further and further away from our communally hypocritical wish for peace. And we bear them by our silence or by our sanctimonious parlor room head shaking. OK……….. OK……… not everyone is hypocritical…… maybe that's a bit harsh. Some of us simply don't believe peace is possible – so how can our actions spoil things? And some of us are simply afraid of voicing an opinion about a situation that is "too late"…….. like closing the stable doors after the horses are already galloping in the meadow. And evidently there are around us who actually believe that bringing peace is the hollowed job of our Lord…….. and he will do so in his good time.

Yes, I'm frustrated, often confused, always angry, sometimes in a state of paralysis at the absurd immoral political actions taken by my own government, my own people.

My government has brought us a gold medallion in the field of economics by greatly widening the gap between poor and rich, by privatizing fields as far apart as unemployment and social services in schools, and by creating veiled or open partnerships with the handful of oligarch families who run our economy. And perhaps a cold frost has also entered our economic hearts. (example?: last week a man took his own life in Tel Aviv. Ten years ago the laying of a new highway caused his building to collapse. Since then he has been trying to get fair restitution from the highway department or the Tel Aviv municipality…..ten years!..... Last month, out of desperation, while still homeless, he put up a small makeshift structure on his own building's plot. Last week the municipality ordered the structure torn down for lack of proper permits. This week he was buried. I know…. I've written this telegraphically, and there are many more details, but none of the details contain an expression of "heart".)

My government has brought us a substantial pile of gold medallions in the field of anti-Peace, through our relentless policies of military occupation in the West Bank. We consistently pay official lip-service and homage to some "peace process" and to our willingness to live side by side with a Palestinian State, while most of our government ministers have stated openly they oppose such a State and will always be against it. Our government, through our military occupation, has gone a long way, and is continuing, to make life unbearable for Palestinians living in 60% of the West bank (so called Area C), driving them away into the fragmented Areas A and B, and leading us on our way to the formal annexation of Area C to Israel proper, and the creation of a number of separate Ghettos in Areas A and B with a population still under military rule and with very meager civilian rights.  True…….. compromises need to be made by both sides of our Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and our Palestinian neighbors (prisoners, actually) are also still far from a possible compromise. Nevertheless, we as the occupying power are doing everything to show that we have no desire to reach any kind of modus vivendi, and are seeing to it that soon no compromise for a Palestinian State will be possible or viable. Why? Whhhyyyyyy?.................. we used to say that it is all in the name of "security". Today our government no longer hides only behind the security issue. Most of our ministers say openly that the West Bank is totally ours as an historical inheritance which is most definitely punctuated by the ancient promise of our God. Obviously, we cannot give up what God gave us. Please understand…….today our government actually speaks also for GOD. We are no longer Zionists who have come back home to shelter a people who had no place in the worldly scheme of things. No longer simply a "Jewish Democracy" (with all the problematics of that phrase). Today we are a Jewish Democra-Theocracy and an instrument of GOD.

We are inwardly obsessed with our Jewishness. No longer do we strive to be "a light unto the nations". We have slowly adopted an ultra-nationalistic xenophobia. We are in the clutches of fear, a fear of our island becoming a little less "Only Jewish" by accepting a few others into our midst. We are doing our best not to integrate refugees and asylum seekers who have already succeeded entering our borders. We are only looking for ways to ship them off to other countries, or back to where they came from, while burdening their stay here with hardship upon hardship.

Our Jewish xenophobia is turned also towards our Israeli citizens who are not of our tribe. The expropriation of Arab village lands, unemployment issues and other minority discriminations among our Arab citizens are already old hat. Today small Bedouin villages in the south are being destroyed and their people dispossessed in the name of "integration" that frees land for more Jewish villages. Since September 1st  33,000 children of Arab Christen schools are on strike to protest actions by our Ministry of Education, actions which have gravely reduced the budgeting of their schools, while Jewish Religious schools are blessed with budgets many times higher. They are not of our tribe.

I know, I know. I am told that nothing is simple, there are more explanations. We are in a complicated world.  But Hey………the truth is, sometimes things are as simple as they sound.

I am told by journalistic surveys that my kind of "leftist" approach to the metamorphosing of my country from a democratic State which is a homeland for the Jewish People to an entity I need to struggle against, is a dying approach which is becoming more and more miniscule as time goes on, as the realities of the Middle East become more aggravated and unstable, and as religious and xenophobic extremism overtakes logic and humanism within our society and government. I am told that I am part of a dying generation, my children and theirs will evidently be an even tinier democratic and humanistic Jewish minority here (I already have grandchildren joining protests I can be proud of).

I am told that history is leaving us behind. I don't accept it. In my lifetime I've seen dramatic changes in our world that were never thought possible moments before. It could happen here…….. maybe. It seems to me that it can happen only if we keep a flame burning……. or at least a candle……… if we keep talking, whispering, YELLING about our desire for a democratic and humanistic society in a State which is also the home of the Jewish People, and a "light onto the nations" rather than a darkness onto itself.

Meanwhile……………… I have difficulties with our well wishes of PEACE from one to another. Rather I wish everyone who also thinks we are going in a wrong direction would leave their parlor room, find a podium of one sort of another, and begin talking, whispering and YELLING all about it. That's how we'll keep the candle burning.

If any of you, my friends and acquaintances, feel the need to keep the candle burning, feel free to pass this letter on to others………….. perhaps it will help us get closer to a SHANA TOVA.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Confessions of a Liberal-Zionist

57. I counted. 57. There were 57 drivers who took time out this past week to wait at some border "machsom" in Northern Israel and drive Palestinian children with their parents to hospital appointments in Israel, and back to the "machsom" till the next time. All volunteers, last week, next week, and so forth.

As so many of my previous letters obviously attest, the issues of minority oppression in Israel and the forging of a modus vivendi with the Palestinians in the conquered territories are the most critical for the survival of liberal Zionism and the future of our small country.

I've always found my ability to have an impact on those issues fairly limited….limited first and foremost by my own endowed abilities, but also by other important responsibilities such as work, family, community, as well as, perhaps, a certain laziness at latching onto activist opportunities with others.

Nevertheless, I've attempted to set aside a day a week to join with others in an attempt to breech the walls that hamper progress towards those two issues. For a number of years I joined other dedicated Israelis in chaperoning West Bank Palestinian farmers to their fields and groves as protection against the harassment and violence of our Jewish settlers. As this became physically more difficult for me, I found and joined a group of other Israelis dedicated to driving ailing Palestinian children and their parents from the West Bank to hospitals in Israel. I've "toured" the Palestinian West Bank from the cave dwellers of the southern Hevron thru the villages of East Jerusalem and Northward to the villages near Shchem and into the city of Jenin. In Belien I was enveloped by the horrible smoke of tear-gas grenades. In Sheich-Jerach I sat with families evicted from their homes. I've spent some days in the Beduin areas east of Beer Sheva, and was enveloped in more gas grenades while demonstrating in Um-el-Fachem against the physical provocations of extreme right-wing Jewish Israelis. And, of course, I've written a good number of long letters to a long mailing list with the hope that a few hundred, or at least a few tens will actually read and be influenced.

In all of this I've always been a foot-soldier, or perhaps more correctly…a soldier of fortune, never joining any particular political group, never following a particular leader, but also never taking the initiative to lead others, almost always being a loner or piggy-backing on what others have organized. This, of course, because of my endowed nature and those limitations I mentioned above.

During one of my rides from the Jelamy barrier (near Jenin) to Rambam hospital in Haifa, the father of a child with some breathing disorder (something I'm personally familiar with) asked me if I'm paid to do this mission. I answered that all of us drivers are volunteers. He looked bewildered and puzzled, as I was probably bewildered by his not knowing. He asked "Why?". I remember answering something about the need to help people and also the need to show a bond of friendship between Israeli and Palestinian. Yet his question stuck in my mind as some questions often do, and I know that there are a few more answers I give to myself, and the answers are so much more complicated.

Perhaps, in the final analysis, I've been doing my small part in an attempt at a more organized and orderly retreat within a battle that can't be won. Perhaps I'm simply one more loser within a  liberal Zionist minority squirming to clutch at straws while the heavy machinery of a fundamentalist-nationalistic future drives on with assurance. Perhaps I'm an extreme pessimist vowing to go down fighting. Then again, I think with a sigh of relief, perhaps I'm really just an extreme optimist waiting for the "big change".

That "big change" certainly did not come with these last elections. About 25% of non-Arab party seats in our newly elected Knesset have placed the Palestinian issue as a major item in their agenda. More than 55% have placed the yearning for a Greater Israel at the core of their agenda whether through nationalistic, fundamentalistic, or messianic reasons. The rest of our Knesset's non-Arab seats (Lapid's Yesh-Atid) have taken up other issues as their core agenda while lining up politically (with Bennet and Habayit Hayehudi) to assure that Greater Israel has an even greater voice and influence in our new government. Greater Israel voices will therefore make up about two thirds of our new government coalition. The coalition also includes a less than 9% fig leaf strongly supporting a Two-State policy. The current fig leaf, Tzipi Livni's Hatnua, will be even less effective than Labor's dismal effectiveness in the previous government. Our new government will not promote a Peace Process based on compromise and Two States for Two Peoples. It will talk "peace-process" while promoting the continued and gradual evolvement of a Greater Israel with a Palestinian population oppressed by lack of citizenship and equal rights, while harassed by security precautions to nip rebellion in the bud. The Greater Israel part of our new coalition has also purified itself of its more democratic voices (Meridor, Begin, Eitan, Rivlin). We Leftist-Liberal cry-babies are "in for it".

The Palestinian from Jenin, while sitting next to me on the way to Rambam hospital, asked me "why?", why do I do this?. I answered what I answered, but I think I know the real reason:

There is the probability that some years from now my grandchildren will be pondering the question of whether to leave my country. My country may, by then, have formally become that Greater Israel I fear……the jingoist-fundamentalist-messianic land of apartheid, upheld by its Spartan militarism. In the hope that my grandchildren will be part of the small minority Liberal-Zionist opposition to that reality, I expect they will ask piercing questions of their ancestors, such as: "Where were you when there was still a chance to do otherwise?"………and I will be able to answer them: "I did not turn away. I did not do nothing. I did something. Not enough. I know. I'm sorry. But I did some things. And, also, last week (so many years ago) I was one of those 57 drivers from Jenin to Rambam hospital."

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Dear Friends in America(from North to South)
Just a thought before I get into the main content of this letter:
Imagine the Tea Party taking complete control of the Republican Party, and winning the elections in the U.S., including both congressional houses………. And actually beginning to pursue policies they hold dear to their beliefs. Imagine ………
Well, two years later, if you don't like it……. You could probably change it.

Here in Israel, after these coming elections (Jan. 22) the outlook portends that  our own Tea Parties, regardless of the bickering among themselves, will hold an extreme right-wing mandate for at least the coming four years…… enough time to cause many irreversible  changes and damages to  the fragile formula of a liberal, democratic, Jewish and Zionist State.

I have been worried for a long time. Today I am past worrying. I am trying to build for myself a Plan-B as to how I and others could still stay actively afloat as an opposition with hope within the kind of Government and country which are becoming more and more of a reality.

O.K. ……………..and now for this letter.
A couple of weeks ago I got into an exchange of opinions with a friend who is certainly far from a Bibi or Likud fan. Nevertheless we evidently have a difference of opinion about the road onto which Bibi is consciously taking us. I thought the exchange (probably too long for most readers) may interest a few of you, so here it is:

Exchange of letters

From a friend to his mailing list (actually a second mailing on the subject to that mailing list):

I was pleased to see some discussion of my analysis about the war [8 days of Gaza the previous month. A.S.] and its consequences. I will partially disagree  with some of the comments and will express those disagreements but I want to emphasize that for the most part I am in agreement in general with those comments.

First, as an Israeli I am also quite pleased that Obama was re-elected. Romney's father, George, was a good governor of Michigan when I was in graduate school there, and according to what I have read, Mitt was a fairly good governor of Massachusetts. But as a national leader he would have had to placate the right wing of the Republican party and I doubt that it would have been good for the USA or Israel.

It seems to me  that Obama has come a long way in his understanding of the Middle East since his first year or two in office, as he watched his original Middle East policies crash and burn and I think that this will benefit both the USA and Israel.

As for Israel, the latest public opinion poll conducted here shows that most Israelis are in favor of a two-state solution.  Polls carried out among the Palestinian population are not nearly so clear on that issue, with a majority of the Palestinians being in favor of negotiations and being in favor of armed resistance. I think that these polls may or may not be accurate but I think that the leaders of each side see their publics more or less in the same way; that is, as reflected in the polls. One consequence is that Bibi has tried to move his Likud party to the center and along the way publicly proclaiming his favoring the two-state solution including a Palestinian Arab state. Unfortunately in the last set of primaries, the Likud Knesset list has taken a couple of steps back towards the right. Bibi now faces the same kind of political dilemma that Romney faced when confronted by a large tea-party faction. He couldn't win without them but not disassociating himself from them cost him votes among moderates. Bibi has Feiglin and his friends while losing some of the moderate Likudniks from the party list. I suspect that Bibi's combining of party lists with Lieberman's party was an attempt to jettison some of the more extremist elements in the Likud. It's not the first time in Likud history that this sort of thing has happened. Menahem Begin insisted the Liberal Party make up about one-third of his list, even though that party attracted very few voters. What was important to Begin was who that combination kept off the list as opposed to who was on it.

After the vote in the UN on Palestinian representation, Bibi announced more settlements in the West Bank. Actually he didn't but appearances rather than substance are what count around here.  I think that by and large this was a sop to his own right wing to keep them quiet about having their representation in the Likud list reduced by combining with Lieberman's list. The elections are one month away and as long as he can maintain shalom bayit within his party he has the election in the bag.  The Israeli left and center are fragmented and it remains to be seen as to whether or not they will keep their collective egos in check and concentrate their campaigns on criticizing Bibi and the right; or will spend their time in internecine political warfare among themselves.  Shelly Yacimovitz's Labor party caught a break in this regard when Amir Peretz left the party and joined Tzipi Livni's party thus helping greatly to bring some shalom bayit to the Labor party. (By the way, I will most likely be voting for the Labor party this time around.)

Shelly has been running the kind of campaign (based mainly on social issues) that the Labor party has failed to run in decades and has lost election after election because of it. I think that Bibi's announcement about settlements was also bait for the Labor party to make the election about peace with the Palestinians. Shelly, showing (IMHO) great political sense, did not rise to the bait.  Much to my surprise she has turned out to be one smart lady.

As to the world's reaction to Bibi's settlement announcement; it reminds me a little about something said about the UN back in the 70's and 80's. If the Arab states proposed a resolution to the General Assembly that the Earth was flat, it would probably be adopted by a vote of 92 to 4 with 38 abstentions. Malke mentioned something about the moral high ground. It seems to me that if such a thing exists, it plays no part in world politics. You may remember that back when Rabin was prime minister and the government was left of center the UN General Assembly adopted the resolution stating that Zionism is racism. That resolution was rescinded by the UN General Assembly when Yitzkah Shamir was prime minister in a right-wing likud led government. If you think that Israel had achieved a moral high ground under Shamir's administration and the UN acted accordingly … well, let's just say that I disagree.

By the way, Abbas faces the same sort of problem that Bibi faces only in a more severe form. Not only does he have to compete with the Hamas but the Fatah elements in the PA are pressuring him to go for Palestinian victory instead of a compromise peace agreement. Helen (and most of the Israeli citizenry) is correct that a one-state solution would be a disastrous end to the State of Israel. That is why Abbas has set conditions for resuming negotiations such that agreeing to the conditions would be equivalent to agreeing to a one-state solution.  Right now neither Bibi nor Abbas want negotiations. Bibi will be in a better position to engage in negotiations after the elections. Abbas is in a pre-election situation but with no new elections in sight. He may be in this situation forever or until time and biology run their course. At any rate there is nothing short of committing ourselves to national suicide that will bring Abbas to the negotiating table. Certainly there will be no pressure put on the Palestinians to negotiate. Indeed the idea of putting any pressure on the Palestinians is completely absent from discussions about the Middle East, I suspect even in sincerely pro-peace organizations like J-Street.   

Anyway, it's about 6:30 AM on Friday morning here and I have rambled on for long enough. Soon my better half will be up and we will start cleaning the house for Shabbat. Have a nice weekend and please feel free to respond, even if it's to tell me that I don't know what I am talking about.
Have a nice weekend,

From  Aaron Sharif to a few recepients of the ubove letter

Being Iris (my wife) gets all the list's messages and I end up reading some of them, I ran into the sender's latest assessment of what's happening  politically here in our country. I have a few serious disagreements about some of what he writes and I thought I should tell you about  them. ……………………….

First and foremost: The sender seems to paint Bibi as the prudent good guy whose every action is mostly done to keep the bad guys down…….
Accordingly, Bibi is ideologically/politically in the Center between Left and Right, he really wants a two-state compromise, is doing his very best to bring the Likud party into the Center, and it's only the other guys, the bad guys in his own party, and those utterly non-compromising Palestinians, who are thwarting his every desire for a two-state solution.

To me this is a perversion of what is actually happening. The great majority of the Likud party is against a two-state compromise. This was true before Feiglin and his crowd, and remains truer than ever today. Most of those who changed their positions and saw that there are no other viable alternatives, had to leave the Likud Party. Arik Sharon, Olmert, Tzipy Livneh, split off from the Likud for that very reason. The remaining few (very few), those who stayed on as relics of nostalgia, have now been kicked into the far back benches of the Likud, with zero influence over political events. Bibi stayed on, and on top, because he supports those who are against a two-state policy, and they know this.  His only real difference with Feiglin is the kind of one-state target they are shooting for. Feiglin's would be totally theocratic. Bibi's would be a bit more democratic and secular. Both would rule over apartheid enclaves of Palestinians. Feiglin declares things openly. Bibi is a more perspective and shrewd politician, has a smoother tongue, and knows that what counts is what is actually done on ground zero rather than what is said.

On Ground Zero, meaning the West Bank, Bibi has supported, done, and implemented policies which have made a two-state resolve slip further and further away from reality. During his few years as finance minister and his many years as Prime Minister, settlements in the West Bank, both pseudo-legal and illegal, received constantly growing portions of our national budget. Area C, comprising 60 percent of the West Bank has been nearly cleansed of Arabs in a strategic process of making it a de-facto part of Israel proper. In doing so, we have knowingly split the rest of the West bank into a potpourri of smaller uncombined enclaves. The resolve to build settlements in area E1 is simply part of this ongoing policy. E1 is meant to drive a long arm eastward from Jerusalem towards the Jordan River, making accessibility so much more difficult between the southern and northern West Bank. We will do all that we can to see to it that even an only semi-viable Palestinian State becomes impossible.

It is absurd to suppose, as the writer seems to do, that Bibi joined with Lieberman in order to make the Party list less extremist in its jingoism. Aside from hearing Lieberman himself, please listen to the others who stand beside and behind Lieberman.  Some of the most racist and prejudicial statements against both Israeli Arabs and against the possibility of a Palestinian State have come from this quarter of Bibi's alliance. (Though Lieberman once wrote a scenario for a separate Palestinian Entity, he openly based it on getting rid of most Israeli Arabs and having overwhelming control over that separate entity.)  At most, Bibi thought to minimize religious fanaticism (Feiglinism) through this move. But mainly the alliance was done to make sure he has first crack at forming a government after the elections, rather than Shelly and her rejuvenated Labor Party if it succeeded in making an alliance with a reborn Olmert (but he remained stranded) or a rekindled Tzipy Livne (which Tzipy turned down). The next government will be a small but firm majority coalition of Bibi's Likud+Lieberman parties together with Bennet's Bayit Yehudi and the Shas Religious Parties. They will have the support of other smaller extreme right-wing parties. If Labor or Atid join the coalition it will be because Bibi is willing to show the world how moderate he is. They will have as little effect on Israeli-Palestinian policies as they had in our present government.

I agree with the writer's assessment of Abbas's situation, but fully disagree with his blanket assertion that  "there is nothing short of committing ourselves to national suicide that will bring Abbas to the negotiating table". That may be true as an end result to negotiation demands, but not for the start of negotiations. Abbas has consistently said he will sit for negotiations  as long as construction by us Israelis in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) will be stopped during the negotiations. We Israelis don't go for this and say that we already did so for a while, and Abbas still refused to negotiate. We overlook the fact that during that time we refused to include the construction in East Jerusalem, and continued in the West Bank with many places which already waved a permit (I was there to see the construction).  Our Bibi refused then and refuses today to halt all construction behind the green line (including East Jerusalem) during negotiations. I fail to see how such a demand is "nothing short of committing ourselves to national suicide" in order to bring Abbas to the negotiating table.  True, Abbas ( and also us) has other demands as well (such as to receive an initial map of what we think will be left of the West Bank to the Palestinians), but they don't impede the start of negotiations. We aren't even willing to try him out and say "O.K., we'll stop construction on the day negotiations begin, and continue construction the very day negations fall apart". We don't want negotiations.  So when our writer thinks "Bibi will be in a better position to engage in negotiations after the elections", I need to add that Bibi will go to negotiations only if terribly pressured against his will, and will do his sincerest to see to it that the negotiations lead nowhere. Of course this may also be the end-game situation on the Palestinian side, but we will never really know while we have a government that the great majority of its members (including the Prime Minister) are against a two-state compromise.

Netanyahu has been the most influential force in the Likud Party for the past two whole decades, the majority of these years with the Likud Party heading our Government. Of the last 15 years Netanyahu was an important minister in 4 of them, and a prime minister in 7 of them. He has definitely mobilized the Likud Party to create indelible chapters in our history. Soon those chapters may bring us to a point of no return. 

So……I simply can't be as lenient with Bibi as Frankie's letter seems to permit.
(As always…there is so much more to say about the above. I also have a few more points of disagreement with the writer's assessments: e.g., reading of opinion poll results, Obama and the Middle East. But I've chattered enough in this letter. )
My very best to you,

From the "sender" directly to Aaron
Hi Aaron,

First, thank you for your response. It helps my ego to know that someone takes my ramblings seriously enough to disagree. ………. I will reply below where I think that you are wrong or where I think you got me wrong. ………..

First, I don't hate Bibi or any other Israeli politician. I get the feeling that some think that I am supposed to hate him just as I was supposed to hate the Fascist expansionist Menahem Begin, who negotiated Israel's first peace treaty with an Arab state and withdrew from three-fourths of the land that Israel captured in 1967, or hate the militarist war monger Ariel Sharon, of whom it was predicted that within six months of his becoming prime minister Israel would be at war with all of our Middle Eastern neighbors and who pulled us out of Gaza and split the Likud party forming Israel's first major centrist party. So, no, I won't hate Bibi but I won't describe him as a prudent good guy either. In his second term he has proven to be a canny politician who is mainly concerned about winning and keeping high political office.  I don't know what goes on in his head intellectually or ideologically but his behavior can be observed and it has been to pull the Likud party to the political center because that's where the votes are. He publicly announced his agreement with the two-state solution in a speech at Bar Ilan University, in other words to people who make up his core constituency. It was not only a statement of his position but the beginning of his attempt to persuade his supporters that the two-state solution should be supported by them. It was an example of political leadership that was part of the process of bringing the Likud to the center.  

Bibi stayed on top because he still has the majority of his party supporting him. Feiglin and his buddies would like to see Bibi removed from leadership and replaced with a more likeminded leader. Bibi wil use every political maneuver that he can to get the Feiglin crowd downgraded within the Likud because, whether or not he agrees with them, they are a threat to his position and they are an electoral handicap with the voting public.

If I agree with you on one point, it is that way too much money has been spent on the settlements in the West Bank and in Gaza before they were withdrawn. The E1 issue is a bit of a fraud as far as Palestinian contiguity is concerned. The "long arm" reaches out about two miles from Jerusalem to Maaleh Adumim.  Beyond the group of Israeli settlements at Maaleh Adumim there is about another 11 miles of Palestinian territory until the banks of the Dead sea. I might point out that from the Security barrier adjacent to Kalkilya to the Mediterranean, the width of Israel is only about nine miles.  Certainly if Israel is not considered two enclaves then a solution to north south travel problems with the Palestinians is available for implementation.

Now here is where I disagree with you and most others, including the right wing nut cases who also see the settlements as barriers to peace. The settlements are not what is preventing negotiations. In fact, if one were to look at the Palestinian situation logically, rather than emotionally or by adopting propaganda narratives, one would see that the settlements are motivations to negotiate. Before you go ballistic I would suggest you consider that if Arafat had accepted the Clinton parameters at Camp David there would be at least 200,000 less settlers in the West Bank today. The same goes for Abbas in the past four years (and even more so in the next four). The logical way for the Palestinians to stop settlement expansion is to demand unconditional negotiations and reach a compromise peace  agreement with Israel as quickly as possible. There are several reasons why the Palestinians have not followed this policy and settlement expansion is not one of them. And by the way, just as a reminder, I think that settlement expansion is a very bad idea for all of us Jews.   

No one listens to Lieberman but just assume that he is Stalin reincarnated (unless they are Stalinists). An example of that is in the above paragraph where it talks about Lieberman's plans to get rid of most Israeli Arabs. I suppose this brings to mind visions of Israeli Arabs being driven out of their homes and into the desert or some such. This wasn't what Lieberman advocated though many people, perhaps including Aaron,  are left with the impression that he did. By the way that Lieberman advocates any sort of two-state solution puts him to the left of the Labor party of the 1970's and 80's. Mention of the Shas party is also interesting. I know that we are supposed to hate Shas and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. However, when Begin negotiated the withdrawal from Sinai, Rabbi Shlomo Goren (you remember him, the liberal rabbi who jumped out of airplanes with the Tzanchanim) issued a Halachic ruling that forbid giving back conquered territory. It was Rabbi Ovadia Yosef who issued the Halachic ruling that basically left that question up to the political rulers of the state, thus giving religious legitimacy to Begin's peace policies. So, no, I won't hate Shas or Rabbi Yosef. I won't agree with them on a lot of things either. However,  they have a constituency which demands social justice and the potential for a partnership with the Labor party is therefore not out of the question.   

Abbas has set three  preconditions to  start  negotiations. Israel must agree to pull back to the 1967 lines. Israel must freeze all construction. Israel must agree to accept all of the Palestinian refugees back within the green lines. The only alteration of these demands is the settlement construction freeze which was added to the other two when Bibi was elected. Abbas has been fairly consistent about these demands because his constituency has been educated to expect their fulfillment. Not long ago Abbas went on Israeli TV and indicated that the Palestinians no longer demanded right of return for the "refugees".  He immediately back-tracked on that statement when he had to face his own constituents. Here is a newspaper account from Ha'aretz:

I will reiterate that two of these three conditions are invitations to national suicide. The settlement freeze is thrown in because of the political difficulties it would cause Bibi.

Well, let's see. Natanyu in his first term decimated the Likud which more or less dumped him, leaving Sharon to clean up the mess. Bibi came back after Sharon split the party and proceeded to move the Likud to the Israeli center picking up bits and pieces of the party that had followed Sharon to the center and putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. In the meantime the center and the left fragmented over mostly personality issues. Where all this will lead to, I don't know. We have a month before Bibi will probably be re-elected but in Israeli politics a month is a long time. Moreover, Israeli politics are often effected by events and decisions which take place elsewhere, beyond the control of our politicians, but that effect us profoundly.   

Nu?  Now it's your turn.

From Aaron to the "sender"

NO, we've done this before. I don't intend getting into a long back and forth debate with you regarding the direction taken by our government and the reasons and ramifications of such. I trust that your own heart and desires for our future belong in the right place, and I'd rather argue at length with those who think quite the opposite but are still willing to listen.

Nevertheless, I can't but include a few comments on your response to my response:

No, it’s not about "hating" Bibi. It’s about knowing where he's taking us. Learning from past History needs to be done judiciously. Please don't place Bibi neither as a Begin nor as a Ben-Guryon. Nor is he an Arik Sharon or Olmert who came to the realization that in order to change course they needed to leave the Likud. Bibi isn't leaving. He isn't going to change course. He is deepening his reliance on a Party and its leadership who state openly their objection to a 2-state compromise. Our next President will most likely be from the Likud and states openly that he is for a Greater Israel scenario….. and he's one of the few "good guys" left in the Likud leadership. Bibi got forced into his announcement at Bar-Ilan, but is doing a wonderful job at scuttling the 2-state direction, at giving Abbas lots of inducements to refuse negotiations, and at bringing us closer to the One State status which will mortally endanger our Zionism, or our Democracy, or probably both. 

As for Bibi's reaction to the Feiglin crowd, don't mistake internal political tactics for long range strategic motives, directions and ideologies. Just as there are internal tensions for getting out the votes between the Likud and the Bayit Hayehudi Parties, so are there internal tactics within the Likud itself regarding leadership and its color. But all this is happening within a consensus of objection to any kind of Palestinian State. Bibi has always been, and remains, in that consensus.

As for E1, strategically it has lots to do with breaking up the West bank into North and South. The settlement (and de-facto annexation) enterprise has learned and operated much on the premise of Dunam after Dunam, upgrading it to square mile after mile. E1 is the second leap forward on that principal, between Jerusalem and the Jordan. (The first leap was enlarging and building up our Jewish population in East Jerusalem way beyond the original 1967 borders of East Jerusalem). Don't worry, there is a third leap already sitting on the desk, probably heading west from the Jordan valley which we fully control within Area-C. Likewise, your argument of "fraud", using our 9-mile waistline as an example is a bit weak. Aside from what I wrote above about "leap" stages, check out the difference in geographical terrain.

You are mostly mistaken about Abbas's prior conditions for opening negotiations. Two of your three conditions are statements of unequivocal demands during negotiations; just as we have our own unequivocal demands which we say are non-negotiable (e.g. recognizing us specifically as a "Jewish" state). Perhaps all of these mutual “unequivocals” will destroy the negotiations. Perhaps not. But for initially opening talks only one thing is needed from us: a total freeze of construction during the talks, including East Jerusalem. We refuse to do that even as a ploy to "call his bluff" and gain points in the international political game.

You are certainly right about politics being able to take a variety of turns (such as Shas going with Labor, as you wrote). This is our reason for saying that there is hope for change regardless of how dismal things may look like today. This is a good reason for continuing to put up a struggle for change. But as a rule, the struggle is not with you or about your political positions, which are probably somewhere in the same neighborhood as mine. My problem was mainly with your assessments. Therefore, it is moot to continue arguing with you when we should both be out there arguing and convincing the general Israeli public.

I know…. I know….. I know….. you feel the urge to respond (I know the feeling), and perhaps you will. Nevertheless, you are not my target, and though there is so much more to say,  I'll do and discontinue with the above…… and that's it.

Be well…. and keep writing and talking

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Good-bye Two-State illusion ??

Unfortunately, A two state modus-vivendi for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is on its way out. It seems less and less feasible under today's circumstances:
1. Palestinian conditions for such an eventuality are far from acceptable to us Israelis.
2. Our Israeli conception of such an eventuality is far from acceptable to Palestinians.
3. Our constant Israeli drive at expanding Jewish settlement and "government land" in the West Bank, while "adopting" Area C (see below) has made a viable Palestinian State almost impossible geographically.
4. Palestinians, recognizing the growing geographical unviability, are becoming quite satisfied with the possible alternative of being annexed into Israel, and eventually defeating the Jewish Zionist state through the reality of demography.

True, the Palestinian Authority is trying a bid via the UN to become a recognized State, and perhaps it will legally succeed. Such a success would put Israel in a weaker legal position as an occupying power, and make our legal arguments even less tenable in the eyes of the world. But this legal maneuver would still change little on the ground. The above circumstances would still hold true. Little would change in the difficulties of occupation, in the expansion of settlement, and in the probable lack of desire on both political sides to actually "want" a two-state compromise.

A two-state compromise, based on maps drawn by either Barak or Olmert, could have been implemented by us in the West Bank even unilaterally, without yet relinquishing our military control of the area. It would have meant giving "area C", which constitutes about 60% of the West Bank a similar status to that in areas A or B. Of course this would mean the end of easy settlement expansion into Area C. It would also mean the relocation of many settlements (against every grain in our present leadership's silo). This would also mean relinquishing a good deal of the present limitations on economic development. This would have given the ability to gradually build up and test the geographical and institutional viability of a Palestinian State.  But this also would have assured us of enough military control when needed until we came (if ever) to a feasible mutual compromise agreement with the Palestinians over issues which seem today uncompromisable. It may even have led us to some type of Federation which still would leave us a greater latitude and freedom in the realm of army and defense. (This of course, is what we should have done in Gaza….. Getting the settlements out – definitely YES; but leaving the army IN until reaching a mutual agreement along with the West Bank. Yossi Beilin said something like it then, and I totally agreed, but our governments no longer listened to us cry-baby, goody-goody, crazy Leftists. Not then, and certainly not today.)

(If you know everything about Areas A, B, and C in the West Bank, skip this paragraph; otherwise, read …..and weep or smile…..depending on your political inclination.) Between 1993-95 the Oslo agreements between Israel and the PA temporarily divided the West Bank into three areas of control, A+B+C. Areas A and B constituted the populated areas of the West Bank and ceded much security and civilian control to the Palestinian Authority. Area C gave Israel complete security and civilian control. Area C was a reasonable Israeli desire to have a temporary defense posture around all large population areas in the West Bank. It therefore took all the lands that surrounded those population areas and left the population areas in A+B as cantons with meager lands of their own surrounding them. (This is like taking all the land between Tel-Aviv and Hertzeliya, between Herzeliya and Natanya, between Natanya and Haifa, and from there till Nahariya and naming it as one district completely surrounding all these cities and their suburbs.) Of course this was temporary and was to last no more than five years, and mainly as a defense measure till we get the Oslo agreements moving.

Meanwhile, 20 years later, Area C has become the greatest permanent gift to our Right-Wing governments who are looking for ways to establish as much of a Greater Israel as possible. Why is that?? Well…… Area C is no longer there as a temporary defense measure. Area C is 62% of the West bank, surrounding all the population cantons of A+B, while therefore holding only about 5% of the Palestinian population itself. Area C is convenient for settling Israelis and has therefor seen a wondrous growth of Jewish settlements surrounding most cantons of areas A and B.  Area C is also suitable for pronouncing it as government or military land, regardless of actual ownership. (And, of course, with only 5% of the Palestinian population, it makes it a lot easier to find ways of making Palestinian life in Area C difficult as an incentive to move on, or, as is being done in the Hevron area and east of Jerusalem, actually forcing people out. Given enough time, we may even get area C to be completely "Arab-Rein".)

A little demography: Area C has today somewhere between 80-100,000 Palestinians. It has about 400,000 Jewish settlers (including 50,000 students in yeshivot and other facilities). East Jerusalem, de-jure annexed to Israel and a basic bone of contention, already has an additional 200,000 Jews adjacent to Area C.

And so…….here we are. We failed to set up some type of two-state situation, and we have succeeded in creating geographic and demographic developments in most of the West Bank which make such further endeavor assuredly useless. We are on our way to a de-facto (and perhaps later de-jure) annexation of at least "area C" into the State of Israel while leaving 40% of the West Bank as many small separate cantons with perhaps two million (!!) Palestinians and growing, and each individual canton surrounded by the greater "Area C".

Our right wing leadership sees all this as a win-win situation. We will have annexed most of Greater Israel, while resolving the demographic problem by not annexing two million Arabs into the Jewish State.

The "sane" right-wing vision of the future sees these two million Palestinians living peacefully with municipal civil rights within their autonomy of separate cantons, hopefully with citizenship rights in Jordan, but without national civil rights (nor citizenship) in Israel itself. The "non-sane" right-wing vision is certain of God's intervention in our affairs. He will legitimize all actions we take to make life miserable for these two million Palestinians, so as to see their exit from the promised land. Both visions are unethical, undemocratic, apartheid oriented, and are a certain way to keep our Army from being a Defense Force to remaining a Police Force saddled with the need to oppress a constant and growing opposition by the oppressed.

So where do we go from here ?? ………"we", meaning those of us who have been fighting to preserve our Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State with equal civil rights for all its citizens. ……. "we", meaning those of us who have fought, protested, gotten our feet wet, and also voted for our governments to do all possible means for arriving at a two-state compromise.

Seems likely that those "we" will divide up into four different categories (actually it's already happening):

Category one: Give Up. …….. Join all those leftist and pseudo-leftists among our Jews in Israel who watched the developments from their living-room couch and had no time or energy to walk outside and YELL …. And fight back.

Category two: Never Give Up !! ……..continue a rear-guard action for a two-state compromise regardless of the geographic and demographic realities which have overtaken us and assure us that such a rear-guard action is futile……. An expression of remaining in the world of nostalgia……. What could have been …. If only.……….oh my, oh dear…….. at least we hold on to our allegiance.

Category three: Give Up Zionism …….. decide there is no way to have a Democratic Jewish State under these circumstances and begin fighting for a Democratic State without apartheid; a state where all citizens are equal… four million Arabs and six million Jews (Gaza is not in the picture)…… knowing that down the line we Jews will probably no longer be a majority and will forego our Zionist dream of a Jewish State.

Category four: Keep Searching !! …….. there may be other formulas for two peoples living on the same land but in different worlds. ……..perhaps some kind of Federation ……. Perhaps some kind of more extensive demographic autonomy extending into the whole of the land of Israel. ………perhaps some kind of…….something…….

Wait a minute…… this can't be one sided…… there needs to be a category in which both peoples talk to each other and want to come to a formula which each can swallow. Who knows what can happen once two peoples talk after realizing they can't get rid of each other.

Among those of us who have realized that the two-state formula is no longer viable today, I hear and read about a number of models based on Categories three and four above. None, so far, seemed feasible to me (explain and expand? ……perhaps some other time.). But I'm still in the "Keep Searching" category, and as lame as it may sound I'm into the following direction:

1. let's agree we can't get rid of each other….  and if so……..
2. talk and talk and talk…….till we get a compromise.

What do we talk about??
1. What we each want.
2. What we each can't give.

Hold on! …..What am I saying? …….Talk? Talk? Talk? ……..compromise??
But the compromise between what we each want and what we each can't give will eventually bring us right back to some kind of  two-state model………
So why leave it……………………………………??????
Perhaps what is no longer physically feasible today will be more palatable tomorrow.
Once cornered (and we surely are on the way to corner ourselves), it becomes easier to swallow.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Continuation to "Now we are Kosher"

OK, this is a bit long.......
Efraim Perlmutter is another veteran Habonim person from D.C., living in Israel many years with his family in Moshav Sde-Nitzan down south. He has often written wih great insight while grappling with our Israeli reality. He wrote a long response to my last letter. Some days later I answered him. Below you will find first my (perhaps too long) answer, followed by his response to my previous letter "Now we are Kosher".

Hello Efraim,
Sorry for the long delay in responding to your much appreciated letter and comments. One of my problems in having blog-comments reaching many mailboxes is the need to respond to many responses. It takes me a long time….. and I am generally slow. (Though I have no doubt that most mailboxes hit the "delete" without reading.)

I guess we really do belong to the same minority in our country who actually tries to think of what's ahead in the future as a result of what we do in the present. Nevertheless, we see some of the things in the present a bit differently or at least in different shades of the same color.

You write regarding the Levy Report "…. and this is the part you missed, it ends the ability of the settlers to unilaterally act on their own in setting up new settlements." Unfortunately, there was no need to miss this. For some time now the settlers had already given legitimacy to the government, which in turn has done (among other things) its best to fund and expand all settlements listed as "legal", and to find ways to legalize all others, and to clear the area of "unwanted" Palestinians (most notably in Area C). The settlers became quite happy even before the Levy nonsense (this is regardless of the noises they make towards the government).

You also seem to think that most Israelis are in the "Center". Perhaps…. But if so, the Center has moved considerably to the right. Previous and future elections show this……. most prominently within the Jewish vote. Our Jewish demography has also changed radically and bolstered this slide of the center towards what we call "Right".

It seems a bit unfair to complain how badly Israeli leaders from Shamir to Bibi have managed the "Peace Process".  From their point of view (which they have written about, spoken of, and acted upon) they have succeeded beyond expectations. Greater Israel was, is, and will remain their goal. They did everything they had to do within and around the "Peace Process" to insure its demise. They and their many supporters are quite satisfied with the process.

I certainly agree with you that the Palestinian leadership has not been the greatest and most wonderful partner for negotiations. How much we pined for a "Nelson Mandela" as a partner. But come to think of it… Mandela had a White Partner who was convinced of the need for change. It certainly bolstered his ability to be what he was. We have neither a Mandela nor a White Partner.

You write "… the truth of the matter is that since the beginning of this conflict about 90 years ago, the Palestinians have not had much of an idea about what they wanted for themselves". History is so much different than this belief, which is one of the fairy tales in some of our Zionist history books. The end of WWI brought the demarcation of countries within the Ottoman Empire according to the wishes and interests of England and France (mainly).

Already in the early 20's Arabs of Palestine demanded self-government after being torn away from the political possibility of Greater Syria. Eventually, not without bumps along the way, all of the new Arab States received self-rule…….but one…..Palestine…….and only because we, a small minority in Palestine, were in the way with other promises from foreign rulers. Ever since the beginning, and all the way till 1947 all Palestinian leadership demands (through conventions, insurgence, and obstinacy) were centered on self-rule on the basis of determination and/or elections by the local population……something the Western world called "self-determination" in the rest of the world. It is unfortunate to mix this up, as you do, with Arab League politics which had their own incentives.

Don't get me wrong. I believe so deeply in our Zionist Dream of Eretz Yisrael being our homeland where we are able to decide ourselves about our existence and future. I have written more than once about my underlying legitimate reasons for this. But I've also recognized the fact that the Palestinians have had legitimate reasons for wanting the same piece of land for themselves. I've recognized the fact that the conflict is not one of "We know positively what we want and they are just negative". The conflict has been one of two legitimate "Wants".  We are simply stronger and can more easily please our "want".

You write "… that most Israelis, especially those engaged in the social issues demonstrations, have reached the conclusion that nothing can be done until the Palestinians are ready for peace. The Israeli peace movement fell apart… over a single fact. The Palestinians did not react in the way the peace movement predicted." To a certain degree I agree. But I think many of those Leftists you are talking about are either my age and above, and are either dead or spending their time at home or at a "Home".  Today, those engaged in social issues read correctly the political map and know that there is no way of getting public support for a change in the "peace process", being the government has a great deal of Jewish public support in its defense, funding and expansion  of the settlements. Still……I believe you are correct in saying that many Leftists were terminated by the fact that "The Palestinians did not react in the way the peace movement predicted." This is also certainly one of the aspects which aided the movement of Left to silence or Center, and the Center to the Right.

So many of our Israelis thought that our "Peace Process" was one of making a pleasurable arrangement between friends. We are not friends, we are enemies …… and at most we can come to some kind of modus vivendi which will allow us to taste and investigate the possibility of not harming each other too much in the near future. (I dread the alternative, for both of our peoples.)  Perhaps further on down the road we may learn that neither of us is as monstrous as we seem to be today.

In any case, my own string of thoughts about the "Process" brings me to wish for a unilateral process if a negotiable one is unavailable. Unfortunately, a negotiable process is not "unavailable", it is "undesired" and a unilateral process is therefore unavailable. (Yes, though we made every mistake possible in our departure from Gaza, it was a better choice than having stayed there with our settlements. No one really wants it back today. And yes, up here in the north my family has also lived under the threat of constant katyushot for many years, and know we shall probably return to those times …… But we are better off than those many years we occupied southern Lebanon. And yes, our army should and can be the arm of protection and the fist that answers aggression, rather than the police force that legislates conquered territories in order to protect our new settlers and settlements in those territories.) Today a negotiated process, whether possible or not, is not at all desired by our government, who is working diligently towards a Greater Israel,  while doing all it can to show us and the world that negotiation is not possible only because of "the other guy".

I appreciate your asking me to comment on your " Principles for a Palestinian-Israeli Peace Agreement." I certainly enjoyed reading these principles, though I would think it has no way of being taken seriously by Palestinians. It properly skirts, among other issues, the very main immediate issue for Palestinians …….. the settlements ……. An issue considered to be the theft of private or national lands, and one that is making the possibility of viable demarcation of a Palestinian State absolutely untenable. As a matter of fact it validates all of the settlements…. And this needs further explanation.

Perhaps one example out of many would be easy to understand. Israel, being the strong one in such negotiations as you propose, would insist that areas of elections (which you propose) in the west bank would conform to the Oslo boundaries of A, B, and C. This would even sound reasonable to a non-knowledgeable Israeli. So let's go over some things you probably already know about the Oslo partition of Area C.:

Area C, under complete Israeli control, was a reasonable Israeli desire to have a temporary defense posture around all large population areas in the West Bank. It therefore took all the lands that surrounded those population areas and left the population areas in A+B as cantons with meager lands of their own surrounding them. (This is like taking all the land between Tel-Aviv and Hertzeliya, between Herzeliya and Natanya, between Natanya and Haifa, and from there till Nahariya and naming it as one district surrounding these cities and their suburbs.) Of course this was temporary and mainly as a defense measure till we get the Oslo agreements moving.

Meanwhile Area C has become the greatest permanent gift to our Right-Wing governments who are looking for ways to establish a Greater Israel. Why is that ?? Well…… Area C is no longer there as a temporary defense measure. Area C is 62% of the West bank, surrounding all the population cantons of A+B, and therefore Area C holds only about 5% of the Palestinian population itself. Area C is great for settling Israelis and has therefor seen a wondrous growth of Jewish settlement. Area C is great for pronouncing it as government or military land, and absolutely great for the kind of elections which you are proposing and in which Israel will have the upper hand in naming election areas. 62% of the West Bank becomes Israel under your proposals. I know….there can be other scenarios, but gerrymandering has often been a useful tool to the more powerful hiding under democratic slogans. (And, of course, with only 5% of the Palestinian population, it makes it a lot easier to find ways of making life in Area C difficult as an incentive to move on, or as is being done in the Hevron area and east of Jerusalem, actually forcing people out. Given enough time, we may even get area C to be completely "Arab-Rein".)

Your disregard for negotiations regarding the so-called East Jerusalem is also inexplicable to a Palestinian. You obviously know that East Jerusalem before and up until 67' was less than 10% of what it is in land area today. The great majority of today's East Jerusalem was the annexation of many villages in the vicinity. Your proposal ignores these annexations completely…… not even giving them a right to vote democratically, as you think you are doing with other areas. Your proposal has Jerusalem's annexations being unilaterally part of Israel.

There are certainly other parts of your well-meaning proposals that could not be accepted by Palestinians. There are also parts that would be anathema to most Israelis, but I shall skip that issue. Anyways, being settlements and East Jerusalem are core issues with the Palestinians, and being that your proposals seem to be completely divorced of these issues, I would imagine Palestinians could not take them seriously.

As I read over what I have written to you, I find so much missing and so much left unanswered. But I have already taken up too much of your time (if you still managed to stay awake till here). I hadn't realized how lengthy this was, and how rambling it sounds at times. I wish I could, like some other people, say it all clearly in one-tenth the space. No can do. Perhaps that ,too, is the problem of today's marginal Leftees.

Be well

From: Michal and Efraim Perlmutter []
Sent: Saturday, July 14, 2012 10:03 AM
To: 'Aaron Sharif'
Subject: RE: Aaron Sharif's Israeli Chatterbox: "Now we are Kosher"

Hi Aaron,

It seems to me that the latest legal committee findings are more like legal overkill in response to what is going on in the United Nations and in the international law institutions and academies. Having immersed myself in much of that material, I have come to the conclusion that today there is a continuation of the fine old tradition of international law, dating back to British use of international law to legitimize its policies in the 19th century.  International Law is being selectively used  to lend an aura of legitimacy to governmental policies that are based on good old national interest. I suspect that is one of the reasons why International law is not and has never been a stepping stone to world government or even world peace.  In that light the Levi Committee's report does two things. First it jumps into the International Law debate, which may keep the propagandists busy for a while but doesn't substantially alter very much as the future of the settlement project will be dealt with as a political rather than a legal issue. Second, and this is the part you missed, it ends the ability of the settlers to unilaterally act on their own in setting up new settlements.  The government is clearly in charge and that is the case whether the government is right, left or center. Once again, though discussing everything in legal terms the Levi Committee dumps the whole settlement issue back into the political arena, where it belongs, at least in my opinion.

I read your comments about the end of the two-state solution and I understand your disappointment. I would like to point out that the alleged end of this idea (I wouldn't write it off just yet) is being cheered by those on the extreme right and on the extreme  left both in Israel and among the Palestinians and their supposed sympathizers. In the Israeli center, where I think most Israelis are located, no one is particularly interested in Greater Israel or in keeping most of the territories. I have a lot of complaints about the way Israeli leaders managed the peace process with Shamir (R.I.P.) and Bibi running neck and neck for who was the worst. But the Palestinian leadership including Abbas, Arafat, Haniyah and all the rest, have been absolute disasters when it comes to negotiating a peace agreement with Israel, making even Bibi look good, and that's quite an achievement. Salam Fayyad is the only one who shows that he has any motivation to achieve Palestinian statehood and he doesn't have the political base to get much of anywhere.

Aaron, the truth of the matter is that since the beginning of this conflict about 90 years ago, the Palestinians have not had much of an idea about what they wanted for themselves but have been quite single minded about what they don't want for us. This negativity has prevented them from accepting any compromise, no matter how beneficial to themselves, because none of the compromises allowed for the destruction of Jewish national self-determination. The very idea of a Palestinian state was first originated in the Arab League as an instrument designed to lead to Israel's destruction. That many Palestinians picked up on this idea as a means of structuring a better life for themselves in a future state of their own gave me hope that through the two-state idea a solution to this conflict so that all sides would benefit could be found. I think that in the final analysis, the peace process fell apart because the Palestinian leadership (or enough of it) could not reconcile itself to Israel's continued existence.

My guess is that most Israelis, especially those engaged in the social issues demonstrations, have reached the conclusion that nothing can be done until the Palestinians are ready for peace with Israel. The Israeli peace movement fell apart, again in my opinion, over a single fact. The Palestinians did not react in the way the peace movement predicted given the offers made by Israel in the negotiations.  Some of the peace movement finds solace in denial of this fact. But for most, the situation is crystal clear and they have concluded that it is time to move onto other issues.

Aaron, about a year ago I came up with my own principles for a peace agreement. I showed it around on several forums and got almost no response from Palestinians. Their sympathizers responded with rejection. I will include it below and would appreciate your telling me as a person of peace or as a person in favor of a two-state solution what's wrong with it.


Principles for a Palestinian-Israeli Peace Agreement

The following should be viewed as a set of general proposals or Principles upon which a peace agreement to be negotiated between the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority should be based. It is my opinion that the Palestinian party to the negotiation should be a Palestinian State. However at the moment one does not exist and my preference is to work with what exists now rather than add the complicating issue of statehood for the Palestinians to the situation. It should be recognized that the end result of the proposed principles is, among other things, Palestinian statehood.

The principles below do not constitute a peace agreement. The details of such an agreement would be worked out through direct negotiations between the two parties. The principles are based on generally accepted practices under international law, precedents of existing successfully functioning political arrangements and institutions and, where possible, reciprocity. The principles are also based on lessons drawn from past attempts, both successes and failures, of peacemaking efforts in the Middle East and elsewhere. The order of these principles is not random but represents the order of each element of agreement which, in my opinion, must be concluded before the next can be negotiated.

1.      The agreement will be an end of conflict agreement. Once negotiated, signed and properly ratified, no additional claims or demands by either party can be made against the other.

2.      The Palestinian Authority will formally recognize the legitimacy of the national aspirations of the Jewish people and the Israeli state will formally recognize the legitimacy of the national aspirations of the Palestinian Arab people. The Palestinian and Israeli governments will undertake all necessary educational and cultural steps to ensure that such legitimacy is accepted by the citizenry of both states.

3.      The land boundaries will be based on current residency, contiguity, dual citizenship, reciprocity and self-determination. Areas of the territory on the Jordanian side of the 1949 Armistice lines containing a majority of Jewish residents and contiguous with the 1949 Armistice lines will be demarcated and the populations within those territories will, by democratic vote, decide whether to be annexed to the State of Israel or annexed to the State of Palestine. Jewish residents outside of those areas will be offered the option of dual citizenship in the Palestinian and Israeli states. They will also be offered the option of moving to areas of Israeli sovereignty, the costs of such moves to be borne by the Israeli government.

4.      Areas of similar size on the Israeli side of and contiguous with the 1949 Armistice lines containing majorities of Arab residents will also be demarcated. The populations of those areas will decide, by democratic vote, whether to be annexed to the State of Palestine or annexed to the State of Israel. Arab residents outside of those areas will be offered dual citizenship in the State of Israel and the State of Palestine. They will also be offered the option of moving to areas of Palestinian sovereignty, the costs of such moves to be borne by the Palestinian government.

5.      When the democratic decisions of the relevant populations have been made an international border recognized by both states will be demarcated, taking into account the democratic plebiscites in the areas designated in paragraphs 3 and 4.

 6.      The city of Jerusalem will be placed under the sovereignty of the State of Israel. Arab residents of Jerusalem will be offered dual citizenship in the State of Israel and the State of Palestine.

 7.      Areas of Jerusalem designated as Muslim holy sites will be governed under an extra-territorial regime, modeled after that of the Vatican State in Rome. The Organization of the Islamic Conference, upon agreement, will administer this extraterritorial area. Along with administrative personnel there will also be an Islamic Guard Force which will be responsible, in cooperation with the Israeli civilian police and judicial authorities, for the security of the area. The Islamic Guard will consist of 313 personnel commanded by an officer selected by the State of Palestine. The personnel will be provided equally by each member state of the Organization of the Islamic Conference which has diplomatic relations with the State of Israel and establishes an embassy to the State of Israel in the City of Jerusalem. The States of Egypt and Jordan will not be required to establish an embassy in Jerusalem in order to participate in the Islamic Guard Force.

8.      The State of Israel and the State of Palestine will sign a mutual defense treaty. Under that treaty any foreign military force which enters the State of Palestine for any reason will be considered as an act of aggression against the State of Palestine and the State of Israel. The State of Palestine will create and maintain a civilian police force of a size that its government shall determine as necessary for domestic security. The State of Palestinian will establish an armed force of a size to be determined by its government. This armed force will not possess any offensive military weapons. The designation of what constitutes offensive weapons is to be determined in negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and the State of Israel and will be an integral part of the peace agreement. Negotiations between the State of Palestine and the State or Israel aimed at revising such designations may be requested at five year intervals or when seen necessary by either party. Such revisions as may be made will require the agreement of both parties.

9.      Immigration into the State of Palestine will be subject to the Laws of that state. Immigration into the State of Israel will be subject to the laws of that state.

10.   All economic, trade and other agreements will be concluded by the Israeli and Palestinian sovereign governments once the peace agreement has been signed and ratified by the relevant authorities.

11.   Upon ratification of the peace agreement by both parties, the State of Israel will recommend full membership for the State of Palestine in the United Nations Organization to the United Nations Security Council.

The eleven principles suggested above are offered as a possible guide to implement what has become known as a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. They are not meant to result in a peace agreement to die for but in a peace agreement with which everyone can live.

Efraim Perlmutter
Moshav Sde Nitzan