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".
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.
From: Michal and Efraim Perlmutter [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Saturday, July 14, 2012 10:03 AM
To: 'Aaron Sharif'
Subject: RE: Aaron Sharif's Israeli Chatterbox: "Now we are Kosher"
Sent: Saturday, July 14, 2012 10:03 AM
To: 'Aaron Sharif'
Subject: RE: Aaron Sharif's Israeli Chatterbox: "Now we are Kosher"
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 PerlmutterMoshav Sde Nitzan