Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Land for peace? Sharon says no deal.

Relating this back to what I wrote yesterday, Sharon is not interested in a "land for peace" type of deal with the Palestinians. No, as one of his close advisors, Eyal Arad, admits:
Since 1967, almost the entire international community and at least half the public in Israel assumed the conflict would be solved based on the formula of territories for peace.... This formula is both false philosophically and naive politically.... The territorial problem was not the root cause of the conflict ... What the Palestinians sought was not really territories that they could control and run in the form of the Camp David proposal. What they really sought was independence.
That is, the Israelis don't need to deal with issues of borders or land or viability or Jerusalem or a resolution to the refugee situation — just announce that the Palestinians have a state and these problems are solved. In fact, this is exactly what Azmi Bishara said at the annual conference of the Palestine Center in Washington, DC, this past weekend. As Bishara explains (pdf):
When people like Sharon and Bush suggest a Palestinian state, they take it from the final status language, although in Oslo there is no mentioning of a Palestinian state — there is mention of solving these four issues [refugees, Jerusalem, borders, and settlements] whereby a Palestinian state would be a logical result, if Israel gives up Jerusalem — East Jerusalem — and withdraws to the border of June 4, 1967, and if the right of return is recognized and settlements are dismantled. Of course in that case there would be a free Palestinian state, but the logic of Bush and Sharon is to give the Palestinians a Palestinian state instead of all that.

Their logic is as follows: if you had a Palestinian partner for a Palestinian state without solving these four issues, whether the state is a final status solution or a transition period for 20 or 30 years, the four issues will be dissolved and will vanish. Take for example the refugees — if you had a Palestinian state without giving them the right of return, they would be citizens of the Palestinian state abroad. Instead of refugees they would be immigrants. They would be guests in Lebanon, etc., and would have Palestinian passports which would solve the problem of their settlements in foreign countries. They would no longer be a demographic threat in Lebanon because they have a nationality and a passport, yet at the same time they would not be given the right of return.... Their problem will remain, but they — as problems for others — would be solved just by these magic words, “statehood” and “passport.” Thus the refugees issue will become one of expatriates — they have their state, they can go back to their state if they like.

On Jerusalem and borders, the belief is that Palestinians won’t have to sign giving up Jerusalem and borders so that nobody will be called a traitor, and if they had a state — even if it is on 40 percent of the West Bank, as Mr. Sharon wants and as Mr. Bush agreed to [in Bush's letter of assurances to Sharon of April 2004] — this occupation and colonial issue will disappear magically by changing expressions and the word from one of occupation to a dispute between two states. You will have a Palestinian state and you have Israel. Between them, instead of the issue of occupation, you will have a “territorial dispute.”

Do you know how many territorial disputes there are in the world, even between Arab countries? So, the urgency of the Palestinian national issue as a colonial issue, and the sting, will be taken away. The Palestinian issue will be given its size, like Israel wants it to be given, as a trivial territorial dispute between two states. As you know, states have monopolizing power over violence, and the Palestinian state will be asked to monopolize violence, to monopolize arms, and to prevent struggle against Israel. It will be a struggle of two states, not a national liberation movement of resistance. It will be a territorial dispute between two states that has to be solved in a peaceful way, and an armed struggle has to be neutralized — for there is no place for it. Why? Because there is a Palestinian state now, and [armed struggle] is not contradicting Israel but it is contradicting the legitimacy of the Palestinian state. It will be thus a problem of the Palestinians, and no longer the problem of Israel. You see it is all very interesting.

On the issue of settlements, what will a Palestinian state do for the settlements? Settlements inside the areas of the Palestinian state, which are called the (illegitimate) “outposts,” along with some of the settlements deep inside of the 40 percent of the land for the Palestinian state, will probably be taken out. However, all the rest — which make up 60 percent of the West Bank and which are called “Area C” according to the language of Oslo — will be expanded. Actually, there will be an apartheid system called “two states,” with cantons, etc. The system in itself will involve privileged settlers — owners of the place, sovereigns who have the right to move freely, who consider the land historically theirs — and cantons in which the Palestinians live, called a “state.”
This is the logical result of the thinking of Sharon and of Eyal Arad. The Palestinians don't need land. They don't need an end to occupation. They don't need any of these things that Israel doesn't want to give up. However, giving them a "state" (if it comes with none of these things) does no harm to Israel — it merely changes the terminology of the conflict — and indeed puts it in a much more advantageous situation vis-a-vis the international community, the Arab world, and so on, by changing the conflict from one of occupation and resistance (with much symbolic importance) to just another dispute between states.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Come on now, Prof. Cole

Juan Cole is happy that Sharon left the Likud. Yes, it's always nice to see unpleasant coalitions fall apart. But did Cole not notice all the Likudniks following Sharon over to his new party? It's not that Sharon's renounced Likudnik political thought -- he just got sick of hearing dissent from within his own party. But Cole seems to think that Sharon is simply a "security hawk" who isn't interested in the "expansionist, colonizing and fascistic" politics of the Likud. That "continuing to steal Palestinian land" and "never trading land for peace" are the kinds of crazy Likud ideas that Sharon could no longer tolerate. You wouldn't be surprised to hear Cole calling Sharon a "man of peace" in the next sentence.

Sharon is still about stealing Palestinian land. He just knows that its much easier to do with the approval of the international community. Please tell me where Sharon is offering land for peace, except only in the most perverted sense that Sharon thinks that Israel should get peace and the Palestinians might get to keep a few dunums of land -- with walls and checkpoints and settlements and settler roads, of course.

Is Cole so mesmerized by the Gaza withdrawal that he can't see what's happening in the West Bank, in Jerusalem? Did he buy into the hype?

Cole suggests that Israelis rally around Amir Peretz, who recently approved of the upcoming publishing of 350 tenders for new homes in the Ma'ale Adumim settlement in the West Bank. (You see, that's how land for peace works. Take the land, then offer back some part of it for peace.) And of course, if the Palestinians aren't so pleased about this, it only makes them rejectionists.

Indeed, Cole foresees a lack of "real progress on Arab-Israeli peace any time soon" because there is no strong Palestinian leader (and because Sharon isn't interested in talking to the current leaders) and laments the fact that "You can't declare peace unilaterally, the way you can war." Especially if the "peace" you are declaring is simply a rearranged form of domination and occupation. Perhaps one could unilaterally end the occupation, though? Does Cole really believe that the Palestinians should be forced to negotiate a partial withdrawal of the occupation and have it called "peace"?

Meanwhile, Yossi Sarid has one of the better comments on the Sharon situation that I have had the chance to read so far. His analysis is not limited to Israeli politics, and in my opinion critiques rather well the American Democratic party. It is very much a comment on the talk of the political "center" and of "moderates."
I've never understood what is meant by this "political center" that everyone fawns over. What's the secret of its charm that makes everyone rush to it, crowd around it, so that its suffocating crowdedness overflows. But it is possible the secret is not so deep, and is actually quite evident to the eye and easy to decipher.

The name of the secret is opportunism. Instead of adopting a clear position, this way or that, it is a lot easier and certain to adopt two positions at once, even if both don't suit one another, even if they are partially or totally contradictory. The political center is the playground of the seesaws - they sit there seesawing to their pleasure, this way and that, this way and its opposite. First they find out what the public mostly wants, and according to that ephemeral desire, they have fun. Constantly looking for "the middle ground," as if these knights of public opinion are saying to themselves "tell me where the Archimedes point is and I'll tell you where I am."

The people of the center are considered responsible. They are not, heaven forbid, extremists. Their approach is seemingly thoughtful and measured. They are people for all seasons, every situation, every person, even if they usually don't give a real answer to any situation.

Monday, November 21, 2005


Egyptian Elections

The Los Angeles Times reports widespread violence in Egypt as that country held a second round of parliamentary elections.

CNN yesterday was running a program called "Egypt: A Test Case for Democracy." Of course, the unstated is that it's a "test case" for "democracy" in the Middle East or the Arab world or the Muslim world. After all, if Egypt were none of these things (Arab, Muslim, located in the Middle East), this would not be the kind of language being used. Describing Egypt as a "test case" implies (1) that "democracy" is previously unknown in the generally undefined Arab/Muslim/Middle Eastern world and that (2) the outcome there can generally be used to predict the path ahead for "democracy" elsewhere in the generally undefined Arab/Muslim/Middle Eastern world. That is, if things go well in Egypt, perhaps other Arabs/Muslims/Middle Easterners should be permitted to vote; if not, "democracy" over there might be something we should be scared of.

And watch out, warns CNN, because: "the first flush of freedom [could] trigger an explosion leading to Washington's worst nightmare: Islamic extremists in power in Cairo, on the border with Israel". And I guess we better be really really worried because these clashes between opposition supporters and the government could well be the "explosion" that they're talking about.

Which just goes to show you that these Arabs/Muslims/Middle Easterns just keep failing their "tests." I mean, they can't seem to handle the "freedom" we gave them in Iraq. And even after we gave them lots of "democracy" and purple ink for their fingers, they still can't get along. They went to France, where democracy was practically invented (not to say that we don't do it better here in the good ol' U.S. of A.), and they couldn't seem to get along there. I mean, how many more tests do these people have to fail before we all get the point. They are just simply incompatible with democracy, culturally/religiously/regionally, or whatever. And so that means it's okay to kill them. In the name of democracy, of course.


Sharon's new party

So I'm still trying to figure out how Sharon leaving the Likud is going to play out. Obviously, it hurts the Likud. I mean, when the incumbent prime minister quits your party, that's not a good thing. And Sharon has taken 14 Likud MKs with him, which means he gets some Likud money for his "National Responsibility" party -- another blow to Likud.

But Likud is not disappearing. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Benjamin Netanyahu will vie for the leadership. Bibi is a fanatic, but he is a former prime minister of Israel. That ain't nothing. And Shaul Mofaz, the Likud defense minister who Sharon would like to come join his new party, it seems will throw his hat into the ring for the leadership of Likud.

And although Yossi Beilin thinks this is a victory for the "peace camp" (whatever that means these days in Israel), that doesn't seem to be the case. It remains to be seen how Labor will do under the leadership fo Amir Peretz, but I would guess that the two most powerful parties will be the Likud (the incumbent party) and Sharon's new party (the party of the incumbent prime minister). This appears to be a shift to the right (in theory if not practice).

I think it's quite possible the big loser here will be Shinui. Shinui presented itself as the "moderate" or "concervative" option to those folks who thought that Labor was either ideologically bankrupt or too far to the left but didn't want to get into bed with the religious far-right.

Or it could be that Labor keeps slipping. Either way, any true peace camp remains totally marginalized. Somehow Beilin still gets his name in the paper, despite his belief that Sharon and the 14 Likud MKs are part of the "peace camp." What a joke.

Oh, and speaking of people you're tired of hearing from or about, the Washington Post hints that Peres may soon join Sharon's party. However, Ha'aretz reports that the word from Peres's camp is that he's going to stick with Labor (for now).

In other news, every public school student in Israel today will spend an hour learning about Jonathan Pollard.
Today, for the first time since he was incarcerated over 20 years ago for spying for Israel, a local government authority is seeking to express what it sees as the broad public support here for "Pollard's contribution to the State of Israel."

In accordance with a directive by Education Minister Limor Livnat, all schools will spend one hour tomorrow learning about Pollard's case. Teachers will recall the events leading to his imprisonment in the United States, and they have been instructed to discuss the obligations of Israel toward him with their students.
Ugh. It's good to know that your closest allies can celebrate somebody imprisoned for spying against you! That's what friends are for, right?

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