"Either this nation shall kill racism, or racism shall kill this nation." (S. Jonas, August, 2018)
For quite some time I have written on the policies of the right-wing Israeli governments towards the original inhabitants of the lands that currently constitute the State of Israel plus the "Occupied Territories" (occupied by Israel of course in contravention of a variety of UN resolutions), otherwise known as the Palestinians. In doing this one is invariably driven to the same conclusion: that since the time of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the subsequent slow, grinding death of the so-called "Oslo Peace Process," with the almost uninterrupted run of right-wing Israeli governments (under the general label of "Likud"), any settlement other than that resulting from the expulsion of all Arabs living in the so-called "Land of Israel," other than those who are citizens of the State of Israel (and maybe them too), is not in the cards. This policy is of course not openly stated, but every action, and inaction, taken by Likud-led governments in relation to the Palestinian people living within their orbit would seem to reinforce this conclusion.
In terms of the current fighting concerning the Gaza Strip and what may-or-may-not be an extensive underground there, such conflicts, for one given reason or another, arise on a regular basis. And for as long as Bibi Netanyahu has been in power (and even before him), the timing of these outbreaks of these conflicts do not seem to be coincidental. In fact, during his tenure in office they invariably coincide with some particular trouble that "Bibi" is in. And so, you might ask, how does that apply to this one? Well, for one thing Bibi has lost the best facilitator-in-Washington he has ever had, represented in the Middle East by his jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none, Jared the Kush.
Second of all, in the fourth election in two years, Bibi failed to gain a majority, which in itself is bad enough politically. But also, because once he would be out-of-office he would finally be subject to trial for the crimes for which he has been indicted. But then on top of that, the coalition government excluding Netanyahu which was on the verge of taking power was to include at least one of the Arab-Israeli parties, for the first time ever. The implications of that could only be imagined. And Netanyahu couldn't imagine such a thing happening. So, two reasons to escalate the conflict with the Palestinians in Gaza. Or is it just coincidence? Time may or may not tell.
But note a couple of points. First, Gaza must be riddled with Israeli agents. Otherwise, how could Israel possibly know about all the tunnels (or "tunnels"), their precise locations, and etc. Second, Hamas never seems to run out of rockets and now boasts about getting new ones. How exactly do they get into Gaza, supposedly from Iran no less, when the Strip is surrounded by a virtual wall on both the Israeli and Egyptian sides, and there is apparently a very effective sea-blockade along the Med.? Could it be, and I have speculated on this before, that when Bibi needs something to heat up from Gaza that it is Israeli agents provocateurs who are doing the heating up? (See the note on this point in the column from ten years ago, below.) Again, just speculating here. But my, so many coincidences. To say nothing of the fact that just now the Israeli government is evicting Arabs from homes in the traditionally Arab section of Jerusalem, the eastern quarter, at the same time that gangs of Israeli Jewish toughs are going around assaulting Israeli Arabs for no apparent reasons.
At any rate, one thing for sure is that Bibi has never sat down with anybody to attempt to negotiate a settlement of the Israeli-Arab conflict within the borders either of the present State of Israel or the so-called "Land of Israel." (See the comment in the text below by Danny Danon, an official of a Netanyahu government.) And here then, is a slightly edited discussion of that situation, which is the over-riding one, actually, that I originally published on The Greanville Post almost ten years ago to the day.
"Why the Current Israeli Government Will Not Negotiate (Seriously)"
By Dr. Steven Jonas
Siegman is a former President of the Synagogue Council of America and the
American Jewish Congress, and served on the executive committee of the
American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) for nearly thirty years,
from 1965 to 1994.
Rabbi Siegman recently published a lengthy column on the Israel-Palestine conflict in the June 11th, 2011, edition of The Nation entitled, "Can Obama Beat the Israel Lobby?" [One wonders if the same article could be written, substituting the name "Biden?"] In it Rabbi Siegman held that an understanding of the current state of affairs dealing with the conflict must begin with an understanding that the current government of Israel has absolutely no interest in negotiating with the Palestinians [emphasis added], never has and never will. I was fascinated to read Rabbi Siegman's lengthy column, for it supports a view that I have long held. Rabbi Siegman presents very convincing evidence for the position, including the fact that most Israelis, of whatever political persuasion, agree with it.
In Israeli governments, this stance goes back to that of Yitzhak Shamir. Shamir was the Prime Minister after Menachim Begun, who had, under intense US pressure from the Carter Administration, negotiated the peace settlement with Egypt (but not the Palestinians). Shamir, a former leader of the "Stern Gang," a right-wing Zionist-terrorist organization formed during World War II to fight the British, famously said that he just loved negotiations. Just as long as they went on and on and never came to any conclusions. (Begun was actually the first former right-wing Zionist-terrorist to become Prime Minister of Israel. He was a former leader of Irgun, a larger and better organized group than the Stern Gang, from which the latter had split when it felt that Irgun was not radically anti-British enough.) Succeeding Shamir in 1992 was Yitzhak Rabin, a former Chief-of-Staff of the Israel Defense Force. It happened that Rabin had come to be firmly in favor of a negotiated settlement. In 1995 he was assassinated by a far-rightist Israeli. Negotiations, at that time based on a document called the "Oslo Accords" (in which the border between the two proposed countries was effectively to be the "Green Line" of 1967), came to a halt.
They were re-started at the end of the term of President Bill Clinton, with the last center-left Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak. They ended with a resounding thud at the end of the Clinton Presidency. Just who was or were responsible for the collapse remains unclear to this day. But at the time the Rightist Ariel Sharon had been elected Prime Minister and he was totally opposed to any meaningful negotiations. Under the Presidency of George W. Bush, he had nothing to worry about. But worry he did, so much so that whenever there seemed to be slight step forward being taken, somehow there would be a terrorist incident or two. [Sound familiar?] There was not just one voice inside Israel, including an occasional member of the Knesset (Parliament), who thought that at least on some occasions these happenings were not coincidental. (Yes, there were folk inside Israel, not just outsiders like me, who were talking about agents provocateurs, at that time.)
With the rise to power of Benyamin Netanyahu, guessing games about whether
the Right-Wing Israeli government is interested in seriously negotiating or,
as Rabbi Siegman firmly says, they are not, are no longer necessary.
Netanyahu's Foreign Secretary, a former Russian (and quite secular) Jew,
openly talks about expulsion, not only of the Palestinians from the Occupied
Territories, but also of Arab Israeli citizens from the State of Israel.* The
day before Netanyahu most recently met with President Obama, the Deputy
Speaker of the Knesset and a prominent Likudnik, Danny Danon, said, in an
Op-Ed published in The New York Times (May 19, 2011) that Israel
should simply go ahead and annex the Occupied Territories. Shortly
thereafter, Netanyahu refused to meet in Israel with a visiting delegation
from the US Congress organized by J-Street, the pro-peace US liberal Jewish
lobbying organization. "Just don't want to talk about negotiatin,' no way, no
Then there is the whole moving the goalposts gambit, like the bunch of right-wing Israeli government pre-conditions that is now so large that it includes the prior recognition of Israel not just as a state (which Saudi Arabia voluntarily agreed to in 2002 in a peace initiative totally ignored by their oil-soul-mates in the White House as well as Israel, of course) but as a Jewish state. And further: Hamas would not be allowed at any negotiating table (even though they are the elected representatives of the Gazan population and some respected authorities think that their "we don't recognize Israel" position [actually not held by all of its leadership] is nothing but a bargaining chip, of which they have precious few others); a discussion of Palestinian repatriation could not be on the agenda either, even though the leading Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, has, since the draft peace settlement "Geneva Accords," negotiated by himself and with former center-left Israeli government Cabinet Minister Yossi Beilin, in 2004 accepted a token 50,000 returnees as his negotiating starting point.
And so the question arises, "Why?" Why is the Israeli Right so opposed to a settlement with the Palestinians based on a two-state solution, with the Palestinian state being demilitarized and Israel having some kind of military presence along the Palestinian portion of the River Jordan? This is a question that does not often arise in discussions of the Israel/Palestine conflict, but to my mind it is the central one. For it explains why there will never be a settlement until either the Israeli people replace the governing Right-Far-Right coalition or the United States forces a settlement down its throat, as suggested in the article by Rabbi Siegman. So where does the current conflict stem from?
1. In the Woody Allen movie Sleeper, when he awakens from a (very) deep sleep after the end of a catastrophic world war and is asked what started it, he replies, "well, there was a man named Albert Shanker." A man named Ze'ev Jabotinsky is the one who started it for Israel/Palestine. He was a right-wing Zionist who in the 1920s laid down the dictum that that long-range solution for what would become Israel was to establish a state within what has been held for millennia to be the boundaries of "The Land of Israel" "granted to the Jews" "by God." Questions of logic, history, and legality do not figure into this configuration for a modern State of Israel.
For Jabotinsky the solution to the problem of the Arab peoples living there was a simple one: expulsion. In the 1930s, David Ben Gurion, the future first Prime Minister of Israel, referred to Jabotinsky as the "Jewish Hitler." Netanyahu's father was a secretary to Jabotinsky. Ariel Sharon's parents were close associates of his, and Begun's Irgun was strongly influenced by him. At the time of the UN-sponsored Partition of the British Palestinian Mandate into Jewish and Arab sectors in 1947, the one-third of the Jewish Agency that represented the Jabotinskyites voted against accepting it. So Jabotinsky's,
" 'The Land of Israel' is ours and no one else's regardless of who else happens to be living there perhaps for quite some time," position has been at the center of the political ideology of all of the generations of the Israeli Right. Of course, presently it is convenient for the Israeli Right to have the support of a strong branch of the US Republican-Christian Right which also supports the creation of the modern "Land of Israel," but for different reasons than those held by any Israelis.
2. Likud and its right-wing coalition partners know that if a GOPer wins the Presidency in 2012 they won't have anything to worry about for quite some additional time. So, stalling now is a very good idea for them.
3. If a settlement were to be arrived at, Israel would face the very real possibility of the outbreak of some kind of civil war. A significant proportion of the settlers (on Arab lands) are not Israelis by birth but in fact right-wing American Jewish e'migre's, often Orthodox. The biblical, "Land of Israel" story (which of course has no relevance to present day reality) is in their blood and they might very well be willing to spill quite a bit of the latter to defend the former. A right-wing Israeli government, politically built partially on the backs of the settlers, would have a very hard time opposing them, especially with force.
4. Finally, and this may be the key point, if there were to be a comprehensive settlement, with the establishment of a Palestinian state, the Israeli Right would likely become politically irrelevant. To administer a country finally at peace after decades of wars, pseudo-wars, and threats of war, almost certainly a new Center-Left coalition, with strong representation from the Arab-Israelis, would be voted into power. And then where would that leave the wealthy in a country which is rapidly approaching the United States in the rich/everyone-else split? Where would that leave the Israeli arms industry? Where would that leave the Israeli Defense Force and Mossad? Where would that leave the tiny religious parties and their out-sized influence on social policy in return for their few votes in the Knesset that puts Likud over the top? Not good for their side, one should think.
The day before the May 20, 2011 Obama-Netanyahu meeting, an ad in The New York Times signed by 100 Israelis, high-ranking former military and Mossad commanders, numerous winners of the Israel Prize, and a number of other well-known political and academic leaders, sponsored by the liberal U.S. Jewish organization J-Street, was headed, "Act Now: To Achieve a Two-State Solution," based on the 1967 borders. That in itself does not bode well for the Israeli Right, should peace ever be achieved. It would appear that if there is to be political movement on the issue of true negotiations, attention will have to be paid to these concerns, both within the United States and within Israel.
[And we can say that now (May, 2021), wound up by the Clockwork Bibi, nothing has changed except that life for the Palestinians, and now, it would seem, for the Israeli-Arab citizens, has gotten worse.]
* Israel has no Constitution. It does have a Declaration of Independence, dating from 1948. Here is what it has to say about Israeli citizenship:
"The State of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations."
** A later version of the original column was published at: "Israel-Palestine: Trumped, Part 1: Why the Israeli Right Will Never Negotiate," click here.
(Article changed on May 18, 2021 at 8:18 PM EDT)
(Article changed on May 19, 2021 at 8:05 AM EDT)