Resolution 2334 and a Two-State Solution: Part C: Analyzing the Resolution Itself and Its Effects on Negotiations

Resolution 2334 and a Two-State Solution:
Part C: Analyzing the Resolution Itself and Its Effects on Negotiations

by

Howard Adelman

Following the war in 1948, the borders recommended by UNSCOP, the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, shifted. Beginning with the United States, many countries recognized the new state of Israel. This was before the war broke out. After the war, these states, and the numbers increased, which recognized Israel, did not differentiate between the borders approved by the UN and the territory between those borders and the new armistice line. The latter was not referred to as “occupied territory” within the enlarged borders of the armistice agreement. It is more than noteworthy that the Fourth Geneva Convention (Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War) which defined the rights of a victor over territory and the treatment of local inhabitants, as well as the right to move or give permission to move its own population into those territories captured in that war, was not adopted until August 1949.

The inclusion of Jerusalem and the West Bank within Jordan was not generally recognized. Nevertheless, Jordan’s control and administration of Jerusalem and the West Bank and its subsequent annexation into Jordan became the de facto reality until 1967. In that year, UNSC Res. 242 set up a new framework for recognition. Israel was required to withdraw from occupied territories, and explicitly not the occupied territories. The drafters of that resolution explicitly did not recognize the 1948 armistice lines as borders. The big change was that Israel was now the occupying power of the West Bank, the Old City, East Jerusalem and Gaza. According to the generally established, but not universally accepted, interpretations of the Fourth Geneva Convention, a power that exercises military occupation of a territory following a war – and it does not matter whether that territory was the sovereign territory of another state or territory occupied by another power or legal state or whether the territory was captured in a defensive or an aggressive war – that power was not allowed to alter the demography of that territory by moving its population into that territory or even allowing its citizens to move in to occupy parts of that territory.

The left in Israel took advantage of the clauses that allowed changes “for military purposes.” The right in Israel claimed, that under the Balfour Declaration and its international endorsement, that territory was to be a homeland where Jewish people could settle. Others claimed that the Fourth Geneva Convention trumped those allowances of the 1920s. But the point became moot because international treaties between the parties in contention would trump both the Geneva Convention and the exercise of de facto coercive power and administrative control on the ground.
Which brings us to Resolution 2334. Resolution 2334 alters previous arrangements and does so in fundamental ways. It reaffirms, as I have previously explained, a general principle, but one only applied to Israel after 1967, the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by military force. It reaffirms the Fourth Geneva Convention about the transfer of populations and defines the creation of the barrier/wall/fence as a breach of that Convention and not justified by military or security needs, at least where it is located on territory administered by Israel. Israel’s actions were once again determined to be in contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Resolution 2334 explicitly condemns altering the demographic makeup of the territory, more significantly, biases any negotiations by calling the occupied territory Palestinian territory and not simply the West Bank, and specifically includes East Jerusalem which encompasses the Old City in its nomenclature.

Resolution 2334 adds to these old assertions, now somewhat modified in language, a “grave concern” that the continuous construction of settlements threatens the two-State solution. The Resolution explicitly adds, “based on the 1967 lines,” and leaves out any reference to land swaps. In this Resolution, the 1967 lines now acquire a status as a border reference. The Resolution goes even further to point to the settlements as THE obstacle, that is the major, though not exclusive, barrier to concluding a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. And it is, if you accept the Old City, East Jerusalem and all of the West Bank as Palestinian territory. And that is what the UN Security Council did in passing that Resolution. It effectively trumped Resolution 242 which had only required withdrawal from some territory and not all territory. Resolution 2334 effectively trumped OSLO by setting the 1967 armistice borders as the reference point rather than any swap of territories already agreed to between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

In effect, the weight of international recognition of what was Palestinian territory was added to the weight of the dominant interpretation of international law to offset the weight of coercive power and administrative Israeli authority over parts of that territory. In the near term, the Resolution seems to have had a stimulant effect, spurring the formalization of settlements and outposts underway or in the planning stage, as occurred at the beginning of the twenty-first century when another UN Security Council Resolution was passed. UNSC Resolution 1515 adopted unanimously on 19 November 2003, endorsed the Road Map proposed by the Quartet envisaging an exchange of territories to satisfy Israeli security concerns and the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The threat of terrorism featured prominently. In that phase, the establishment of new settlements, at least legally, by and large effectively ceased.

The focus of Israel became “natural” expansion. This is precisely and explicitly what Resolution 2334 mentioned. Did Resolution 1515 passed in 2003 indirectly accept the settlements built before 31 March 2001? Was their legality reinforced in distinguishing between settlements after 2002 from those authorized before 2001? Resolution 2334 seemed to state that this was not the case. The only changes to the 1967 lines that will be recognized are those made between the two parties. Does that mean that Resolution 2334 recognizes the lines between areas A, B and C? Quite the reverse. By not mentioning them, they are given no international imprimatur. Does that mean Resolution 2334 recognizes the tentative agreement on the territorial swap? Quite the reverse. By not mentioning that swap agreement, it is given no international imprimatur. These may be incorporated into a final negotiated agreement, but the diplomatic trading hand of the Palestinians has been greatly strengthened.

In the last eight years under the Obama administration, the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank, excluding Jerusalem neighbourhoods, has grown to about 400,000, a gain of more than 100,000 largely through the “thickening” of existing settlements. The number of “settlers” in East Jerusalem has grown to roughly 208,000, only 15,000 more than when Obama took office. The emphasis in policy of Israel has been on strengthening the West Bank settlements. Almost 13,000 new settlement units were initiated or completed in the West Bank. What Israel has lost in diplomatic leverage in the international arena it has tried to offset by facts on the ground and de facto coercive and administrative control.

Unlike the efforts at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the 2016 Resolution called on reversing the situation. Further, contrary to the contention of that Resolution, there is little evidence suggesting that efforts to grow and expand existing settlements entrench a one-State reality as claimed in Resolution 2334. But the clinkers come in the clauses much more than in the preamble. Those clauses reiterate that the settlements established anywhere in the occupied territories after 1967 are illegal., a flagrant violation of international law and impediment to a two-State solution and a just and lasting solution to the conflict. Resolution 2334 demands cessation of all settlement activities.

And what is a settlement activity. Expanding buildings? Repairing buildings, Working? Eating? Driving? Or is it just the collective initiatives such as providing for infrastructure and administration? The real substantive elements are the repeated references to the 1967 borders as the fundamental reference, the repeated reference to East Jerusalem, including the Old City, as falling within that reference point as not only occupied territory but occupied Palestinian territory, the call for reversal of trends that have significantly fallen off since the beginning of the twenty-first century, and the call for other states to differentiate, not only in trade, but in all dealings between what happens in the occupied territories and what happens within the 1967 lines recognized as sovereign Israel. The supplementary clauses denouncing violence on all sides appear pro tem, especially because the resolution explicitly excludes reference to activities which reinforce or encourage terrorism (such as treating terrorists as heroes and martyrs) while the targeting of demolitions is spelled out and focused solely on Israel.

In August of 2016, following a denunciation of settlement thickening expansion plans by 200 American rabbis, the U.S. sent Israel an unequivocal message that if demolitions proceeded in the Palestinian village of Sussia, a red line would be crossed. This echoed protests made by EU foreign ministers on 20 July 2016 following warnings General Mordechai delivered to the Bedouins. 340 of them live in the village. The fact that these disputes, so badly handled by Israel, may have virtually nothing to do with Israeli settlement activities and everything to do with Bedouin resistance to Israeli urban development strictures, whether in Israel proper or the West bank, seem to have had no influence on the wording of the resolution.
Quamar Mishirqi-Assad, a lawyer dealing with this issue on behalf of the villagers, claimed that Israel simply wanted to move the village to or near Area B and out of Area C, an area in which 400,000 Israeli live and only 100,0000 Palestinians do. The fact that the villagers were forced to move in 1986 and the homes they built on their agricultural land were demolished in 2001, rebuilt and demolished again in 2011, was not considered as part of the analysis. This demolition would be the third time since the village was built thirty years ago. Nor did the fact that the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favour of the government in 2015 seem to count. Nor, finally, did it seem to matter that this was a new village built during occupation.

All of this must be understood also within the context of diplomacy conducted over the last six years. The Americans refused to declare the settlements illegal in 2011 when the Palestinians attempted to declare their status as a state at the United Nations in the Palestine 191 initiative. How did Israel respond? It doubled down and announced the building of additional settlement units in response to the Palestinian diplomatic initiative. The Europeans resisted. Germany moved to stop delivery of submarines capable of carrying nuclear weapons to Israel. The following year, if some European states previously abstained, they then supported Palestinian statehood. If they previously opposed, they abstained in 2012 voting. The diplomatic war was running against Israel and criticisms mounted against home demolitions, expropriation of land and the refusal to grant construction permits to Palestinians.
These countries and their diplomats contended that Israeli actions and initiatives in the West Bank were completely contradictory to the stated and agreed aim of arriving at a two-State solution. But as I tried to demonstrate in my previous analysis, that depends on what you define as the two-State solution since there are many variations. If the plan is simply to incorporate Area C along with the accepted Jerusalem neighbourhoods into Israel, and to transfer equivalent Israeli land to the new Palestinian state, such thickening activities do not undermine a two-State solution. But if the reference point is the 1967 armistice lines, then such activities do conflict with a very different two-State solution. More importantly, by making the 1967 lines the reference point and by defining the occupied territory as Palestinian territory, the diplomatic hand of the Palestinians is significantly strengthened.

The situation, to say the least, has not been helped by the way Bibi Netanyahu conducts diplomacy in terms of domestic politics. He has bragged that his government is more committed to settlements than any Israeli government in history, in spite of the evidence to the contrary when comparing the expansion of the number of settlements under Arik Sharon’s government compared to Bibi’s. Further, Naftali Bennett and others in Bibi’s cabinet openly declare the two-State solution in any form dead. Donald Trump has appointed an ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who dubs the two-State solution in any form an illusion. All of these responses of the Israeli government stimulate an equal and powerful reaction from Western governments sympathetic to some kind of a Palestinian state being created side-by-side Israel.
As more Israeli politicians not only believe in but advocate implementing a one state solution unilaterally, increasing numbers of Palestinians have moved to advocate a bi-national state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean attracting idealist support and that of many European nations. But those efforts are NOT identified as a threat to the two-State solution because they ostensibly emanate from idealist principles rather than what is perceived to be a crass power grab.
In one interpretation of Resolution 2334, the world is trying to save Israel from its worst propensities, propensities likely to be reinforced by the new Trump government. In a very different interpretation of the very same international diplomatic initiatives, a sustained effort has been mounted to strengthen the Palestinian hand in negotiations and to keep the threat of terrorism at bay. As Israeli settlers marched from Ma’aleh Adumim to the Jerusalem neighbourhoods built on territory captured in the Six Day War (February 2014), when in 2016 Bennett openly advocated formally annexing those territories, the counter-movement strengthened.

Those who argue that settling people to mark territory is illegal under the dominant interpretation of international law, and, further, that such efforts are unsustainable, in turn, strengthen the hands of Israeli extremists demanding total annexation. The extremes are enhanced and the most reasonable compromises are undermined from both sides. This is especially true when the idealists and opponents charge Israel with creating an apartheid state – which is not outside the realm of possibilities. Certainly, hatred of Jews has been increasing among Palestinians. Suspicion and fear of Arabs, reinforced by extremist Islamic actors in the Muslim world, has increased among Israelis.

In response to my last blog, one reader wrote and asked, “To whom does the land belong?” I quipped back as if I were writing a Donald Trump tweet, “To God. We are merely the custodians.” The reader wrote back, “Well, that may be theological, but I’d like a more practical answer.” I offered a more serious response as follows:
“You are right to do so [object to my terse response]. In part, but only in part, this was written tongue in cheek. The reality is that the borders of a territory and the country that controls that territory are products of coercive power, administrative legal authority, legal treaties between and among nations and recognition by others. Is Taiwan part of China? Is Tibet part of China? According to the first two criteria above, the answer in both cases is yes. Over the last seventy years, the answer to the 3rd and 4th criteria has also increasingly been “yes,” even though there is often a distinction made between de facto and de jure recognition.”

Are the settlements illegal and does that mean they should all be condemned and torn down? Illegal means unlawful, but does not entail that what took place is a criminal act. Civil disobedience is illegal in many countries. Trespassing is illegal but not a criminal offence. Further, some practices are illegal, but the laws against them are not enforced. Some acts are considered illegal but the requisite authority lacks any enforcement mechanism. Most international legal experts in humanitarian law deem it illegal to transfer a conqueror’s population into the territory under occupation. Many Israeli experts in humanitarian law argue that if the territory is taken in a defensive war AND if the territory was never the possession of a sovereign state, settling the population of the new occupier in the conquered territory is not illegal and many even regard the territory as not occupied.

Since the International Court in The Hague has sided with the first set of interpreters, and those interpreters are in the majority, I simply take it as a descriptive fact that, currently, international law deems the settlements in the West Bank to be illegal. However, I myself believe that law is not the only determinant and often not the main factor in international affairs. The removal of such a large number of people would be immoral and politically catastrophic and those ethical and political considerations far outweigh the considered legal opinions of most international humanitarian legal scholars and even the interpretations of The Hague court.

Further who gives the recognition is critical. If it is a major power, that is one thing. If it is Honduras, that is quite another. Sometimes occupied territory is recognized as part of a state passively – namely by muting criticism of that occupation. This happened with the territory Israel won in the 1948 war. It has not happened with the territory won in the 1967 war. In fact, the vocal and legal opposition to the ownership by Israel of the “occupied territories” has grown. At the same time, the control via power and demography of some of that territory has increased. The next two decades will set the direction of the resolution of the recognition of new borders based on an admixture of these factors, but the determination will not be unilateral determined by Israel’s coercive power or formal administrative authority alone.

Those other factors will be significantly affected by influence, the growing role of Israel in wealth and in the world economy and the other kind of influence that is non-material, the respect Israeli politicians and friends earn for Israel on the international stage. The latter is usually called diplomacy.

It is in this context that I want to move on and examine the American approach to Resolution 2334 compared to the Israeli one.

With the help of Alex Zisman

Resolution 2334 and a Two-State Solution: Part B Current Contentions and Historical Background

Resolution 2334 and a Two-State Solution:
Part B Current Contentions and Historical Background

by

Howard Adelman

What happens when an extreme dove like myself agrees with Israel’s current Deputy Minister for Regional Cooperation, Ayoob Kara, who reiterated the Netanyahu cabinet position that the key problem with respect to peace is not the settlements. Kara is also part of the faction that contends that, “There is no way to put a state between Jordan and Israel.” He and other extreme right-wingers oppose the creation of any Palestinian state whatsoever. It is very dangerous to share one point of agreement with such proponents because you risk being identified with their entire position.

What if you share two positions? Arutz Sheva published the following in an OpEd by Ted Belman on 1 January entitled, “Since when did Palestinians become entitled to a state?” “Another example of invoking a law that doesn’t exist is the clause which cites “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force”. Howard Adelman makes short shrift of this proposition. There is no such law.” The citation was based on my first blog in this series which was re-published and circulated on Israpundit. Though this is not quite the way I would have worded a summary of my position, it is not a distortion either.

I agree with the Israeli right that the principle of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force is peculiar when it seems to be applied to only one case. I also agree with the Israeli political right that the key issue preventing peace is not the settlements, as much as I opposed settlements for years. I used to think the biggest issue was and would remain the refugee return issue, but there is now an understanding on that problem. I contend that the central issue preventing a peace agreement is Jerusalem, particularly the Old City and its immediate surroundings. Though I agree with Kara that the settlements are not the main obstacle to peace, I disagree with both him and the general thrust of and increasing tendency of the current Israeli cabinet to declare that, “First and foremost, the Palestinian issue is not relevant. There is no government and no leadership that will accept this state. Most of the citizens in the PA do not want for (sic!) Israel to leave. They want to be under the regime of Israel. Only the extremists want this state. They are trying to pretend that they want a peace process but they are liars.” Again, part of the problem when you agree on one or two points with the opposition, there is a propensity to believe you have other agreements with them as well.

The Palestinian issue is extremely relevant, and to dismiss it is the height of irresponsibility. Though there is currently no government or Palestinian leadership that will accept the Palestinian state on offer from Israel, it is blatantly untrue that they will not accept a state. The core problem is that they will not accept a state on offer from the majority of Jewish Israelis regardless of the differences among them. Further, most Palestinians do not want to be under Israeli rule. To assert that only the extremists want a Palestinian state is to engage in either delusion, propaganda or both. Why Jewish Israelis overwhelmingly do not want to give up the Old City is not a matter of security. It is a matter of identity and ideology, the same reason that the Palestinians want control of the Temple Mount or al-Ḥaram al-Šarīf. This, and no longer security, is the main obstacle to a peaceful resolution of the conflict, though security for both sides is extremely important.

However, Resolution 2334 does not reiterate, but alters, the fundamental framework for negotiating a two-state solution. It certainly does nothing except undermine the reality of Israel as a democratic state and the possibility of Palestine becoming one. Rather than stabilizing the region, the Resolution will further destabilize it. There are certainly negative trends on the ground. The expansion of settlements is definitely one of them. But the resolution attempts to reverse the negative trends on one side while only paying lip service to negative trends on the other side. In so doing, the saboteurs on both sides are strengthened, not weakened. In any case, those trends do not entrench a one-State solution as much as some might wish they do, especially the right in Israel.

There has indeed been a very aggressive effort by the Netanyahu government to both thicken and normalize the settlements. In questing for the former, thickening the settlements, he has undermined their normalization in the predominant view in the international community. But he has also entrenched the settlements more firmly as a de facto and irreversible reality, creating a significant hurdle for peace, but not the insurmountable one portrayed in the Resolution.

Under any scenario, settlements will indeed grow, but no longer in significant numbers. As a result, the possibility of a two-state solution need not recede, except for those who want to use the settlements as a propaganda instrument to advance one side, including idealist international diplomats who refuse to take realities on the ground as important components in conducting diplomacy.

The failure to recognize the above and allowing oneself to get caught up in that illusion is part of the explanation for the terrible mishandling of the Israeli-Palestinian issue by the international community. Rather than creating conditions for successful final status negotiations, the Resolution ensures that no such negotiations will take place in my lifetime. The Resolution does even more to undermine a lifetime of work on behalf of a secure and democratic Israel living side-by-side a proud and respected Palestinian state than all the efforts of either Netanyahu or Bennett on one side or Abbas and his cohorts on the other. The Resolution was a travesty and a reward for the politics of illusion and delusion rather than a politics which analyzes power and tries to constrain and direct that power by lofty values.

Will the Resolution do anything for the 100,000 Palestinians living among 400,000 Jewish Israeli, Palestinians who live under martial law and are denied equal rights with the Jewish residents of the area? Since Israel is the occupying force in the area, will the Resolution enhance and strengthen Israel’s responsibility to protect Palestinians in Area C and prevent some extremist Israeli settlers from attacking Palestinians and targeting their lands and properties? The reality is that Israeli authorities are lenient towards violent settlers, rarely charging them and even more rarely meting out proportionate punishment. At the same time, the Abbas government, while discouraging terrorism, also lauds the perpetrators and gives them honours.
Most recently, the fight over the Old City has focused on the immediate surroundings, in particular, Batan al-Hawa in Silwan. There are 50 parcels of land in Batan al-Hawa. The Ateret Cohanim Asociation now has control over nine of them. 81 families have received eviction notices. It is one thing for Israel to seek to reinforce the Jewish presence in a contested area like the Old City and its immediate surroundings. It is quite another to treat Palestinians unjustly. It is absolutely unacceptable to use Border Police and private security firms against local residents simply because they are living in properties to which they are deemed not to have legal title. It is incumbent upon Israel as the occupying power to ensure that all residents are treated with respect and dignity.

At the same time, will the Resolution do anything for the 80,000 Jews who live on the other side of the separation barrier among well over a million Palestinians, Jews who are subject to attacks by terrorists? Does it foster good will between and among those Jews as well as among the large majority of Muslims with whom Jewish Israelis live in the larger region and among whom they will likely continue to live even if and when Palestine becomes a state? Or will the resolution help perpetuate a belief that the Palestinian state should and must be Judenrein and cleansed of all Jews?

Is there any gain for passing the Resolution in advancing peace in the region? Or is the purpose of the Resolution to assuage the guilt of idealists who have proven so impotent in the past and have become even more determined than ever to reaffirm that impotence? Those so-called idealists, those pretenders to the throne of advancing Palestinian rights, never face up to the repeated question of why Israel is cited as the main villain in repeated resolution after repeated resolution while heinous crimes all over the world are relatively ignored? Will those movers and shakers face the possibility that efforts on behalf of the Palestinians have done more to harm the development of democracy within that proud and estimable community than the cumulative wrongs imposed on Palestine by the settler movement?

North Korea with its mad leader will become an effective nuclear power next year. There were twenty resolutions put before the UN denouncing Israel in 2016. One, Resolution 2270, imposed fresh sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) as the UN denounced in the most vigorous terms nuclear testing by North Korea. The UN has done nothing really and deeply effective to stop North Korea’s march, “in violation and flagrant disregard” of a succession of UN impotent measures, towards becoming an actual real nuclear power.

The Israeli right, joined on this issue by the centre and even the moderate left, are never given an answer for the query of why Israel is isolated for such focused attention and given such a persistent priority and such negative treatment in the UN. Have the idealists defending the just cause of a Palestinian state living side-by-side Israel ever asked themselves the question why such efforts have rarely worked? Demonstrating outrage is a poor substitute for a demonstrable lack of political acumen, especially when it is expressed in such a one-sided and distorted way. Is it not at least understandable why many Jewish Israelis and many other Jews around the world have come to believe that this form of criticism of Israeli politics is but a new form of anti-Semitism?

Why is the UN prone to demonstrate repeatedly that it is unable to wed lofty ideals with effective action? In the waning days of the Obama administration, why has the U.S. joined in this chorus of false moralizing? As the Oslo peace talks showed, the settlements are not the major barrier to peace between Israel and a nascent Palestine. The disposition of Jerusalem, particularly of the Old City, is, and its problematic status has little to do with the issue of settlements. Yet the resolution conflates the two issues and does so on such a weak historical foundation that it would be laughable if it were not so troublesome.

The Resolution went out of its way to explicitly condemn Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and failed to distinguish between the Jewish Quarter in the Old City from the West Bank or even the rest of Eastern Jerusalem. Instead, the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City and the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews pray, are treated and referred to as occupied territory. The failure of distinction in the Resolution is a travesty.

Is that not the most provocative claim that one could throw at the Jewish orthodox community such that it undermines any possibility of sympathy for the other side emerging? This mindblindness undermines any sincere effort to decrease the momentum in Israel for refusing to accept the idea of a Palestinian state. The Jewish quarter of Jerusalem goes back much more than two millennia. Making it part of an Arab Palestine free of Jews is such a flagrant betrayal of history. Resolution 2334 is an important landmark in promoting Jewish ethnic cleansing.

The Resolution does designate every home in the Old City as well as every home on French Hill and in Gilo and the other neighbourhoods of West Jerusalem as violations of international law. The Resolution predetermines the basis for negotiations by designating those populations as living on “occupied Palestinian territory,” not just occupied territory. But today, fifty years later, the effort to continue to condemn those settlements already built and occupied as not only the major obstacle to peace, but also illegal and even further, that they were built on Palestinian territory, prejudges the results of negotiating a peace agreement and favours the Palestinian cause, however just that cause of creating a Palestinian state may be. This step is as foolhardy as the initiative to build many of the settlements originally.

For the unmistakable fact is that they have been built. Hundreds of thousands of Jews live in them. The vast majority of those Jews will only be removed if Israel is destroyed as a predominantly Jewish state. Further, Palestinians in their negotiations understand that. They have negotiated land swaps for those settlements becoming part of Israeli territory. What the Palestinians have not agreed to, what, as far as I can see after following the negotiations over decades, they will not agree to is recognizing not only East Jerusalem but the Old City as part of Israel. It is a perfectly understandable position. But it is also a position which remains as the one obstacle to a final peace agreement, not all the settlements.

Right wing Israelis and Jews worldwide are fond of going back to the Balfour Declaration of 1917 as promising that the mandatory area of Palestine would be a “homeland” for Jews, though not a Jewish state. They leave out the latter. The Balfour Declaration was endorsed by the League of Nations in 1922. But that document did not designate Israel and the West Bank as a “Jewish national home” in the sense of a state, but as a home where Jewish nationals could live. In fact, the League of Nations document almost one hundred years ago created a recognized single legal territory of Mandatory Palestine out of the sanjak of Nablus, the sanjak of Acre, a segment of southern Syria and the southern portion of the Beirut Vilayet as well as Jerusalem. Until 1917, and until the recognition given to the British 1917 document by the international community, there was no Palestine. Following the Treaty of Lausanne, Palestine came into existence on 29 September 1923 and with it Palestine Arabs and Palestine Jews.

At the same time, Jordan also came into existence as a recognized international state in which the promise of its use for settlement of Jews was explicitly removed. The principle of all of Mandatory Palestine as a homeland for Jews had a very short lifespan and that authorization was now restricted to Mandatory Palestine West of the Jordan River. The territory east of the Jordan was ruled out for resettling Jews. Originally also a mandatory territory, it became recognized as an independent state in 1946.

Authorizing Mandatory Palestine as a homeland for the Jewish people explicitly did not entail Jewish sovereignty over the territory as either an aspirational goal and certainly not as a reality. The relevant and much repeated Balfour Declaration affirmed in the 1919 Peace Agreement provided: “Whereas the Principal Allied Powers have also agreed that the Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2nd, 1917, by the Government of His Britannic Majesty, and adopted by the said Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” Usually omitted by the heirs of Jabotinsky and the right in Israel is that the British and French together rejected drafts that recognized, “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and the claim which this gives them to reconstitute it their national home.” The Jews were not given the right to create a sovereign Jewish state. Nor was the Jewish historical connection with the land ever recognized. All that was recognized is that Jews had grounds and a claim for reconstituting a national home.

With the creation of the United Nations, the Mandate of Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea came under the auspices of the UN as a trusteeship of Great Britain, a trusteeship Britain “threatened” to abandon. The abandonment was endorsed by the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, UNSCOP, in 1947 and affirmed in a UN General Assembly Resolution. That committee recommended dividing the Mandate into three entities, one as a national home for the Jewish people, one as an independent Arab state, and the city of Jerusalem was to become an international city administered by the United Nations. In fact, those three territories became three very different territories with the cease fire lines of the 1949 armistice agreement serving as a de facto border between what was declared as the independent state of Israel, Jordan which occupied and annexed what became known as the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and Gaza occupied by Egypt, not because all of them were able to “stand alone,” as the previous colonial language had provided, but because new rulers were in place which were the de facto governing powers.

The territory governed by Israel after the 1949 Armistice Agreement became a sovereign state and was no longer occupied territory. The West Bank and Jerusalem continued to be occupied territory, occupied by Jordan, while Gaza was occupied by Egypt. When Egypt and Jordan were defeated by Israel in 1967, those territories were then occupied by Israel. What must be recognized is that throughout the one hundred years since 1917 and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, there has always been a disjunct between legal instruments recognizing administrative authority,
geographical references and sovereignty claims. Only the territory occupied by Israel in 1949 has been recognized as a sovereign territory, one governed by the State of Israel. The governing and administration of the other territory in former Mandatory Palestine has changed de facto over the years, but without de jure sanction since 1948. De jure sanctions are influenced by usage, but treaties or accession agreements are needed to determine the final internationally recognized areas under sovereign control. Unilateral annexation, whether of the Golan or an enlarged Jerusalem, does not change that, though sufferance of the governance of a territory over years does tend to shift towards legal legitimation as decade after decade passes.

The League of Nations document did authorize Jewish settlements in all of the Mandatory territory. The partition agreement changed that, but the outcome of the 1948 war, rather than UN Resolutions, effectively brought into being three territories, an Israeli State occupying a much larger territory than the one recommended in the partition resolution. West Bank and Jerusalem had been annexed by Jordan. Gaza was administered by Egypt. The West Bank and Gaza had been made Judenrein in that war. At the same time, 720,000 residents of Palestine, including 35,000 Jews, fled or were forced to flee and become so-called refugees, though most were internally displaced persons who continued to live in what used to be called Mandatory Palestine. A minority lived outside the borders of these three new entities.

With the help of Alex Zisman

Resolution 2334 and a Two-State Solution: Part A

Resolution 2334 and a Two-State Solution: Part A

by

Howard Adelman

Thus far, I have published two blogs in this series, one on the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Wall and a second on Demography, Settlements and Jerusalem. The point was to document both the legal issues and the facts on the ground. This blog, in its several parts, has more to do with policy and addresses the question of the two-State solution; namely, to what degree and why does Resolution 2334 depict the settlements as a threat to that solution. Usually, I indicate future installments of a series at the end of a blog. But this time I will do it up-front to assure readers that I intend to go into some matters more thoroughly in subsequent blogs. They will be, in order:
The American Approach to the Resolution;
The Israeli Approach to the Resolution;
The Consequences of the Resolution.

In defence of America’s abstention on UNSC Resolution 2334, John Kerry said that the Resolution reiterated the “vision of a region where two democratic States, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders.” He argued that the Resolution was a last ditch effort to “stabilize the situation and to reverse negative trends on the ground, which are steadily eroding the two-State solution and entrenching a one-State reality.” Further, he insisted that the resolution would help “create the conditions for successful final status negotiations and for advancing the two-State solution through those negotiations and on the ground.” All of this was said against a background in which John Kerry has clearly stated that, although he supports Israel and although the U.S. remains totally committed to Israeli security and legitimacy, the building of settlements was identified by Kerry as the main threat to the two-State solution. Further, and perhaps more importantly, he had concluded that Netanyahu was only paying lip service to the two-State solution, and was supporting settlement policies that threatened that solution.

Key elements in the current right-wing Israeli cabinet, the most right-wing in Israeli history, are absolutely opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace with Israel. Naftali Bennett, one of Netanyahu’s coalition partners, recently announced that, “the era of the two-state solution is over.” On the other side of the barrier, increasing numbers of Palestinians have come to the same conclusion, and did so when Bennett was merely promoting the idea and not yet declaring it a fait accompli.

Many past UN resolutions targeted settlements as a threat to a peace agreement and a two-State solution. If the United States belatedly came to this recognition, why did the Obama administration not support UNSC Resolution 2334? Why did the U.S. abstain? United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 adopted unanimously on 22 November 1967 established the principles for framing an Arab-Israeli peace agreement. It affirmed the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territories by force” that I discussed in an earlier blog. Israeli interpreters argued the inadmissibility clause was irrelevant to Israel because the territory was acquired in a defensive war and, in any case, was not taken from a sovereign power. Most international legal experts dispute this interpretation.

According to the drafters of Resolution 242, however, the Resolution not only required direct negotiations between the disputing parties, but also required withdrawal from captured territories. But not ALL the territories. The term “all” was deliberately excluded from the draft against the opposition of the Arab states. The drafters, and those who supported Resolution 242 at the time expected that, in the negotiations, there would be some exchange of territory in a peace agreement. This may be one case in which diplomatic equivocation and the use of ambiguity – central to the art of diplomacy – may have caused more trouble in the long run compared to the short term benefit of gaining a consensus in support of Resolution 242.

Meanwhile, Israel began its program of settlements, initially for military defensive purposes, allowed under international humanitarian law, but also to make claims for territory, initially in some of the areas captured near Jerusalem. In great prescience, Jacob Talmon, the late great Israeli historian, in 1967 raged and warned about the threat expanding settlements would pose for a peace agreement, then with Jordan. Ten years after the end of the Six Day War and four years after the disastrous Yom Kippur War, Menachem Begin became Prime Minister on 21 June 1977. During his period as head of government, he made a peace agreement with Egypt and gave the Sinai in its entirety back. For that, he and Egyptian President Anwar el-Sādāt won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1978.

In the shadow and the glory of that agreement, Begin’s government passed the Jerusalem Law on 30 July 1980 which declared Jerusalem to be the united capital of Israel, but without specifying its boundaries and without formal annexation. Nevertheless, that was sufficient to stimulate an enormous international backlash. The UN Security Council passed Resolution 478 declaring Israel’s 1980 Jerusalem Law, which de facto but not de jure annexed East Jerusalem, as illegal. The vote was 14-0 with the U.S. abstaining. Further, UN legal experts contended that, even though the Resolution was passed under Chapter VI, it was still binding on all states based on a 1971 ruling of the International Court of Justice. Consequently, there are no longer any foreign embassies whatsoever in Jerusalem.

The period from 1980 to the Oslo Accords marked a new phase of settlement activity under the leadership of a party that claimed all of the West Bank as rightfully belonging to Israel. Begin’s government began an aggressive program of expansion of settlements that clearly lacked even the pretence of any defensive military function. But the greatest fiery storm was set off, not by the settlements, but by what happened on the Temple Mount or what the Arabs call al-Ḥaram al-Šarīf, or the “Noble Sanctuary.” On 8 October 1990, when Bibi Netanyahu was Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Israeli Border Police killed 17 Palestinians and wounded many more in a so-called riot on that site. They were killed because, according to Netanyahu who treated truth with as much reverence as Donald Trump, the Palestinians were throwing stones down on worshipers at the Wall in a deliberate attempt to deflect attention away from Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait two months earlier on 2 August 1990.

It so happened that there were no worshipers at the Wall that day. They had been removed for their own safety. Instead, the Temple Mount Faithful, a group of Jewish Zealots promoting the reconstruction of the Temple on its original site, announced a plan to march on the Temple Mount in contravention of an explicit Israeli court order not to do so. To confront the Zealots, an extreme group of Palestinians gathered on the Temple Mount with rocks to confront the Jewish Zealots. In confusion, set off by an explosion of unknown origin among the gathered Palestinians, the Palestinians began throwing the rocks at the Border Police. The Border Police retaliated with live ammunition, initially killing one Palestinian.

That instigated a full-scale riot. With reinforcements, the Israeli Border Police launched an assault on the Temple Mount killing 17 and wounding many more. The uproar was not caused by the Temple Mount Faithful, even though their initial announcement had been an instigating factor. Nor had it been caused by Palestinian Zealots resisting them or raining rocks down on innocent worshipers at the Western Wall as Bibi then contended, though the Palestinians had indeed prepared themselves with rocks to protect the grounds of the Noble Sanctuary. The prime cause was the use of excessive military force in a volatile situation. (For a very recent recounting of the incident, read Barry Lantos’ blog published on 3 November 2016. He was one of the investigative reporters who had covered the story.)

James Baker, head of the State Department in the President George H.W. Bush administration, in 1990 banned Netanyahu from the State Department, not as rumoured because of disputes with American officials over policy or over the West Bank or the Temple Mount, but because of the same type of lies and distortions Netanyahu repeatedly made, especially in reference to American diplomatic efforts.

The situation changed with the election of Rabin and the conclusion of the Oslo Accord in 1993 and the 1995 extensions. In Oslo, settlements were recognized as matters for negotiation. Further, the territory of the West Bank was divided into three different areas, Area A under the administrative and security authority of the Palestinian Authority, Area B under the administrative authority of the Palestinian Authority and Area C under both the administrative and security authority of Israel. The situations of Gaza and East Jerusalem were left unchanged. The establishment and growth of settlements, as recognized in the Oslo Accords, did not indicate where the lines would be drawn between the Israeli and Palestinian states.

After a burst of expansion of settlements before Oslo and under the initial Netanyahu administration, by far the greatest expansion of settlements in the West Bank took place under the early years of Arik Sharon, who was Prime Minister from February 2001 to 2006 until he suffered a stroke. Resolution 2334 repeats resolution 1515 endorsing the 2003 Quartet Roadmap that required a freeze on settlement growth, including so-called “natural” growth, and dismemberment of all settlements constructed since 2001.

Why 2001? 22 settlements were established in 2001 and 19 in 2002 – Alt 468, Ancient Susiya Synagogue, Asa’el, Bat Ayin West, Elmatan, Gal Outpost, Gilad Farm, Gival Assaf, Givat Sal’it, Hakaron, Harro’eh, Kochav Ya’akov West, Migron, Mitzpe Lach, Mitzpe Yitzhar, Neve Danile North, Nofei Nehemia, Ramat Gilad, and T’koa D. In contrast, there were only two in 2003 (Kochav Ya’akov East and Mitzpe Eshtamoa), three in 2004 (Bnei Adam, Mishpatei Eretz and Ofra Zion Mizrah, and only one in 2005 – Omer Farm. The period of enormous expansion of numbers of settlements was over, but not the expansion of the size of Israeli settlements recognized as legal by Israel.

That period afterwards and before made the Oslo years seem an exception to the expansionist phases of settlements from 1980 to 1992 and then again after Rabin was assassinated. What changed from 12 or 13 years ago to suddenly make settlements the threat to a two-State solution for the United States at this time, but did not back then? Why not 2007 when Obama first came to power? Why not in 2014 following Bibi Netanyahu’s announcement that 1,260 new housing units would be built in East Jerusalem, 600 units to be constructed in Ramat Shlomo in north-eastern Jerusalem, a settlement founded in 1995 adjacent to Shuafat and Beit Hanina in the same year when the extensions to the Oslo Accords were agreed upon. Another 660 units were to be built in Har Homa established in 1997 in south-eastern Jerusalem near Beit Sahour with a view of nearby Bethlehem.

In 2015, Netanyahu responded angrily when the Jerusalem municipality froze the planned expansion of Har Homa by 1,500 homes. There was certainly a fight in 2014 over settlements. One Obama administration official called Netanyahu a “chickenshit,” echoing an insult directed at Netanyahu by an official in the Clinton administration. Why did the U.S. not officially declare settlements illegal then? Why did the U.S. at that time not depict settlements as an imminent and existential explicit threat to a two-State solution? Instead settlements were then called obstacles to peace and were sometimes dubbed illegitimate. But they had not been labeled illegal by the U.S.

Part of the difficulty in understanding the problem is that there are at least four two-State solutions. Settlements impact on each differently. But let me mention the various one-State solutions first. There is the vision held by a few right-wing Israeli extremists in Netanyahu’s cabinet who believe in incorporating all of the West Bank as Israeli sovereign territory. In one variation, many Palestinians who refused to pledge loyalty to Israel would be expelled. In another variation, Palestinians would be given permanent residency status, but not citizenship, but would be expelled if they proved to threaten Israeli security.

In a second version, there would be one sovereign state encompassing Israel, Area C and East Jerusalem. Areas A and B would have an independent internal self-governing authority as a satrap of Israel. In a third version, there would be a single state in all of the old mandate territory, including the Gaza Strip. Jews and Palestinians would have equal citizenship and equal rights in a single state. This is a vision that went back to idealists like Martin Buber and is still upheld today by current idealists. In a fourth version, Israel-Palestine would be a federated state with two provinces – Palestine and Israel with Jerusalem operated as a federal district. The federal authority would have responsibility for security, foreign relations, trade and monetary policy. Clearly, there could be many variations of all of these versions. Perhaps there are even one or two more versions, but the likelihood of anyone of them coming about is slim to none.

I could, of course, be wrong. After all, I was wrong about the extent that settlements would develop. I never believed that the settlement activities would take place to the extent that they did. But, in spite of the extent of the settlements, I still believe that a two-State solution is the only realistic option, though some of the versions of this option are as unrealistic as any of the one-State solutions. There is the vision of two states based on the 1967 cease- fire lines. Secondly, there is the vision of two states in which the settlements around Jerusalem are incorporated into West Jerusalem as the capital of an Israeli state but East Jerusalem, including the Old City, would become part of a Palestinian state. There is a version in which Israel assumes control of the Old City with religious rights guaranteed to Palestinians and, indeed, all Muslims. In a version John Kerry seems to favour, Jerusalem would remain united, but as a capital of both states. All of these versions, I believe, are unrealistic, but John Kerry’s is, I believe, the most unrealistic.

A more likely version would be that Area C would be transferred to Israeli jurisdiction with some deletions while an equivalent amount of Israeli territory would be transferred to the Palestinian state so that state would have approximately 22% of the Mandate territory, the amount under Arab control before the Six Day War. Though this option, given Oslo, is the one most likely, that likelihood is undercut by the argument over Jerusalem. In one variation, the Israelis in the settlements being transferred to the Palestinians would become dual citizens of both Palestine and Israel. In another scenario, the settlers would be offered an economic benefit in exchange for returning to Israel. In a quite different variation, everything would be settled except for the Old City; it would remain under Israeli jurisdiction until an agreement could be made about it. This seems the most likely outcome. The thickening of the existing settlements in the suburbs of Jerusalem and in Area C does nothing to threaten this version of the two-State solution.

The threat to the two-State solution now comes primarily from the issue of Jerusalem, not the settlements. The Palestinians see East Jerusalem, including the Old City, as the capital of their future state. Most Israelis support an undivided Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, though some of them would exclude East Jerusalem but not the Old City. The reality is that settlements have always threatened a two-State solution. They did in 1967 when they were created to assert claims on Jerusalem and to establish military defense positions in the West Bank – and then under a Labour government. Establishing new settlements reached a peak threat in the first years of this century. There is little reason to declare that the last few years, with the main focus on “thickening” the existing settlements, poses any greater threat than ever before. In fact, the pattern of settlements suggests that de facto borders are being made on the ground between an Israeli and a Palestinian state. That may not have been the scenario I defended for years, but it does take the reality into account that Israel will not be willing or able to resettle 400,000 of its citizens. It barely managed to resettle 9,000 from Gaza.

With the help of Alex Zisman

To be continued.

Demography, Settlements and Jerusalem

Demography, Settlements and Jerusalem

by

Howard Adelman

Thus far, I have attended only to the framing of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334. I now want to turn to the nub. There are four issues, not just one. I deal with three in this blog: demography and Jerusalem as well as settlements. In the next blog, I will take up the impact of the resolution on the two-state solution and the issue of borders.

The resolution condemned “all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem.” Secondly, the resolution reaffirmed “that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.” That is a mouthful. Demography and Jerusalem bracket the core thesis of settlements. The resolution demanded “that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.” UNSC Res. 2334 required the freezing “by Israel of all settlement activity, including “natural growth,” and the dismantlement of all settlement outposts erected since March 2001.

As I stated, in my next blog on Resolution 2334, I will discuss whether and to what extent the settlements “dangerously imperil the viability of the two-State solution, particularly in light of the claim of that resolution that the two-state solution must be “based on the 1967 lines.” It is certainly a key repeated theme of the resolution which insisted on non-recognition of “any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations.” But then why is there no reference made to the distinctions between Areas A, B and C that was arrived at through negotiations? As I stated above, a follow-up blog will focus on border issues and the impact of the resolution on the two-state solution.

Excluding Nahal settlements established by the IDF for security purposes and outposts created by Israeli settler groups that are not legally recognized by Israel, I focus only on so-called “legal” settlements, that is, settlements authorized by the Israeli government, though they may be considered illegal by most of the international community and, in a few cases (Ofra), even illegal under Israeli law because much of the settlement was built on privately held land. Further, it is important to distinguish between and among settlements in different areas.

I already wrote about the Resolution’s reference to the wall. Many settlements are on the eastern side of the wall. Excluding the 28 Jewish settlements in the Jordan Valley (population 15,000), there are less than 50,000 Israelis living in 10 different settlements that can be considered exurbs of Jerusalem as follows:

Kiryat Arba just outside of Hebron where the patriarchs and matriarchs
of Judaism are said to be buried and where Jews continuously lived
until the Hebron massacre of 1929. 7,100
Since the settlement was re-established in 1970, 16 settlers have
been killed in 8 different incidents, just over half the number
killed by Baruch Goldstein (29) in a single massacre.
Kokhav Ya’akov about 12 miles equidistant from both the Qalandiya
Checkpoint and Ramallah. 7,300
Beit El north of Jerusalem and just east of al-Bireh & Ramallah 6,500
Site of Jacob’s dream of angels going up and down a ladder
Geva Binyamin 5 km north-east of Jerusalem 5,200
Eli, Mateh Binyamin, north of Jerusalem and Ramallah 4,100
Ofra, northern West Bank between Jerusalem and Nablus 3,500
20 km. north of the old Green Line
Most built on expropriated privately owned land, hence illegal
under Israeli law; adjacent to Silwad and Deir Dibwan
Talmon, 18 km. north of Modin 3,700
Shilo, Mateh Binyamin 45 km. north of Jerusalem 3,400
Tekoa, Gush Etzion, 15 km. south of Jerusalem & 20 km. northeast of
Hebron; 5 killed in 3 separate incidents 3,500
Mitzpe Yeriho, 20 km. east of Jerusalem; 10 km. east of Ma’ale Adumim 2,300

Total 46,600

There are also over 90 settlements west of the wall or separation barrier with a total population of almost 400,000. In addition, there are almost 180,000 living in different very familiar Jewish neighbourhoods of Jerusalem on land captured in the Six Day War in 1967 – East Talpiot, French Hill, Gilo, Giv’at Hamivtar, Har Homa, Ma’alot Dafna, Neve Yaakov, Pisgat Ze’ev, Ramat Eshkol, Ramat Shlomo, Ramot and Sanhedria Murhevet. Further, there are about 3,000 residents and 1,500 Yeshiva students living in the Old City, overwhelmingly in the Old Jewish Quarter with a very few scattered Jewish families in East Jerusalem. This can be compared to a non-Jewish population of 30,000 in the Old City and just under 500,000 non-Jews in East Jerusalem.

As I indicated in my last two blogs, ALL of these areas are considered illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention, including the re-establishment of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City that was totally ethnically cleansed of Jews when the Jordanian government captured the Old City in 1948 and expelled all its Jewish inhabitants. Jews had continuously resided in the city for centuries. Under that Convention, it does not matter whether the case is one of a returned population or of voluntary movements as opposed to forced relocation of Israelis, these areas are all considered illegal since the population moved there after Israel occupied and annexed some of these areas after the Six Day War. Right wing defenders of Israeli actions insist they are legal under international law because a) they were captured in a defensive war; b) the territory did not previously legitimately belong to a recognized state. But most interpreters of international law simply make occupancy of a territory held by a belligerent following the cessation of a conflict as the relevant marker.

Currently, about 1 out of every 10 Jewish Israelis live in areas considered illegal under international law. International law may be an ass in not making any of these distinctions. It also may be totally ineffective. One need only recall the effort to evacuate 9,000 Jews from Gaza and the political storm that caused within Israel in the forced removal of a population living in an area lacking all the deep religious attachments of the sites under consideration. Can you imagine the effort it would take to move over 600,000? That would certainly tear the country apart. Anyone who opposed settlements all these years has to at least recognize this.

Well, what about the 65,000 living east of the separation barrier in the Jordan Valley and in the 10 neighbourhoods listed above? Many of the latter areas have deep religious significance for Orthodox Jews. Why do they have to be evacuated? Why could the population there not continue to live in a Palestinian state? After all, almost 1.5 million Arabs live within the Jewish state. This was precisely the question asked courageously by a Palestinian law student who was head of the youth wing of Fatah at a conference at al-Qds University that I attended. But then, what about all the settlements west of the separation barrier? If they stayed in Israeli hands, then Israel would be acquiring territory by force even if subsequently ratified by negotiations. After all, in the Oslo talks, the Palestinians had agreed to a land swap of an almost equal amount of territory in exchange for the territory on which these settlements were located.

Recall that the resolution condemned “all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem.” It did not call for a swap. It did not call for returning the settlements east of the separation barrier to a nascent Palestinian state, but leaving the settlers in place. The resolution condemned the whole effort to settle Jews on land cleansed of Jews between 1948 and 1967 whether or not they lived on that land prior to 1967. Why 1967? Why not include the territory captured by the new state of Israel in the 1948 war?

The answer is simple. If you go back to 1948 for the Jews, you have to go back to 1948 for the Arabs and the territory was not sovereign Arab land then. In particular, in the 1947 division of territory recommended by UNSCOP, Jerusalem was to remain an international city under UN auspices. But the two principles pushing the members of the Security Council last week were: 1) no acquisition of territory by force and then by movements of people into a territory; and 2) the principle of self-determination, namely that a territory should become the sovereign land of the national group constituting the largest majority in a territory. But then in the areas of settlement west of the separation barrier excluding Jerusalem proper, there are about 400,000 Jews and only 100,000 Palestinians. Does not a land swap already agreed to make sense and be worthy of endorsement by the international community? The supporters of the resolution were not being puritans about the issue. They did not condemn the occupation and seizure of different parts of Jerusalem in 1948.

The real answer is that using 1967 rather than 1948 is already a compromise, but one which allows control of both the Old City as well as Eastern Jerusalem to go to a Palestinian state. And though the two sides eventually agreed on water sharing and on refugees, they could not agree on Jerusalem. Hence, John Kerry yesterday rehashing an old condominium proposal on Jerusalem that had been consistently rejected by both sides.

Further, there had been two separate thrusts to the settler movement. One was the establishment of secure borders for the Jewish state. Second there had been the claims made by the Israeli right for sovereignty over the whole of the Mandate territory. The current right wing government in Israel includes heirs to that belief. They repeat the mantra and make most members of the international community believe that this is the ultimate goal of the settlements and not a two-state solution.

In the Oslo Accords, the territory of the West Bank had been divided into three zones. In zone A, the Palestinians had exclusive administrative and security responsibility. In Zone B, the Palestinians exercised administrative responsibility but security was a matter of joint responsibility. In area C, where most of the populated settlements are located, Israel retained both administrative and security control. The jurisdiction of the Israeli municipal regional councils cover almost two-thirds of Area C. Palestinians are forbidden according to their agreement to engage in construction and development in area C. Therefore, some could with some legitimacy claim that the settlements could now be said to have taken place in this area by agreement.

The resolution did not condemn settlement activity only in areas outside those in which Israel had been given the right to control and settle by previous agreements. Rather, 1967 and the old green armistice line became the dividing line. Why? Because by allowing the Fourth Geneva Convention to trump agreements already entered into by the parties, the status of the settlements west of the separation barrier were left in question. So, certainly, was the status of East Jerusalem and especially the Old City.

There are other issues. Some parts of a few settlements, specifically Ofra, were built on land expropriated from private Arab citizens, contrary to the legalization of those settlements by Israel. There were issues of division over water supplies, the provision of access roads and the provision of equality of water and sanitary sewers available to Palestinian towns in comparison to the Israeli settlements. Often, this was not because of intent but because of the difficulty of getting the two sources of authority to agree, especially when one authority disputed the legitimacy of the other. As a result, Israeli settlements enjoy advanced infrastructure; the nearby Palestinian towns do not. Further, Jewish settlers in the West Bank remain and retain full Israeli citizenship while Palestinians in Area C live under martial law.

I have concluded that the resolution is not really about the settlements, but about the status of East Jerusalem and the Old City and about using the humanitarian laws of war as leverage on behalf of the Palestinians who are in the much weaker position. Unable to defeat the Israelis militarily with or without the help of the Arab states, the Palestinians have enlisted the international community using international humanitarian law, diplomacy and economic pressure to confront the Israeli settlement policy.

There is, of course, for many Israeli Jews, and now perhaps most, the issue of the right to settle and live in the West Bank. Eugene Rostow wrote resolution 242 which ended the 1967 war. He has always claimed that it gave Jews the right to settle anywhere in the old Mandate territory since the resolution did not obligate Israel to return ALL occupied land, but only occupied land in anticipation that there would be a future further division. Further, resolutions calling for withdrawal of Israeli forces from ‘all’ the territories were defeated, not only in the Security Council but in the General Assembly as well. The 1993 Oslo Accord and the 1995 Israel-Palestinian Authority Interim Status Agreement specify that the issue of settlements was to be negotiated and neither accord prohibited Jewish settlements in the West Bank. However, the international community has come to the conclusion that in the over two decades since, it is Israel that has been the obstacle to concluding a final two-state solution. It is Israel that has been using the interim period to predetermine the results of the permanent status negotiations.

The mantra at the time and continuously preserved, but with a seriously diminished status, has been the refrain, “secure and defensible borders” when Israeli settlements and the wall were intended to put facts on the ground that would help predetermine the outcome instead of waiting for “secure and recognized borders” to be determined in negotiations. The number of applications for new homes in the West Bank continues to grow with almost 4,500 applications in 2015. The equivocation of diplomatic linguistic compromises allowed others to interpret the requirements of Resolution 232 in very different ways, and in a way that seems to have displaced its previous emphasis on security. Israelis have always contended that the old Green Line, the armistice line determined by the ceasefire agreement in 1948, was NOT a border and should not be used as a reference for applying international humanitarian law. Israeli courts have upheld that opinion, but the international court in The Hague did not in its advisory and non-binding opinion.

The situation had now been radically changed by the resolution at the same time as Donald Trump is coming into office and the Israeli right wing government is reacting to the passage of the resolution with very aggressive diplomatic and economic moves putting, as I will argue in my next blog, the prospect of a two-state solution in never-never land. The debate may be conducted over the rhetorical issue of whether Israel is an occupying power when the territory occupied did not legitimately belong to another state and, therefore, was not foreign territory, but the debate will be won, not in the diplomatic halls or through international and domestic courts of law, however useful they have been, but in power games which Netanyahu and the new Trump administration seem ready and eager to play.

With the help of Alex Zisman

Denial – A Movie Review Part I

Denial – A Movie Review Part I

by

Howard Adelman

Last evening, I did not attend the community memorial to Shimon Peres. I intended to do so. But I went to an afternoon movie to see the film, Denial. Directed by Mick Jackson, using a script by the British playwright David Hare, the film was based, in turn, on a 2005 book called History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier by Deborah E. Lipstadt. That volume recounted Lipstadt’s legal defence against three charges of libel allegedly contained in her 1993 book, Denying the Holocaust. The Growing Assault on History and Memory.

The suit was brought against her by David Irving, the so-called English military historian and Nazi sympathizer whom Lipstadt had described in her 1993 book as one of the most dangerous spokespersons for Holocaust denial. In his statement of claim against Lipstadt (as well as the publisher, Penguin Books), Irving cited Lipstadt’s descriptions of Holocaust deniers as those who, “misstate, misquote, falsify statistics, and falsely attribute conclusions to reliable sources. They rely on books that directly contradict their arguments, quoting in a manner that completely distorts the authors’ objectives. Deniers count on the fact that the vast majority of readers will not have access to the documentation or make the effort to determine how they have falsified or misconstrued information” (p. 111)

On p. 161, Lipstadt cited other scholarly descriptions of David Irving, specifically. “Scholars have described Irving as a ‘Hitler partisan wearing blinkers’ and have accused him of distorting evidence and manipulating documents to serve his own purposes. He is best known for his thesis that Hitler did not know about the Final Solution, an idea that scholars have dismissed. The prominent British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper depicted Irving as a man who ‘seizes on a small and dubious part particle of’ evidence using it to dismiss far-more-substantial evidence that may not support his thesis. His work has n described as ‘closer to theology or mythology than to history,’ and he has been accused of skewing documents and misrepresenting data in order to reach historically untenable conclusions, particularly those that exonerate Hitler. (Sunday Times, 12 July 1977)”

“An ardent admirer of the Nazi leader, Irving placed a self-portrait of Hitler over his desk, described his visit to Hitler’s mountaintop retreat as a spiritual experience, (Harris, 1986) and declared that Hitler repeatedly reached out to help the Jews. (Canadian Jewish News, 16 March 1989) In 1981 Irving, a self-described “moderate fascist,” established his own right-wing political party, founded on his belief that he was meant to be a future leader of Britain. (London Jewish Chronicle, 27 May 1983) He is an ultra-nationalist who believes that Britain has been on a steady path of decline accelerated by its misguided decision to launch a war against Nazi Germany. He has advocated that Rudolf Hess should have received the Nobel Prize for his efforts to try to stop war between Britain and Germany.10 On some level Irving seems to conceive himself as carrying on Hitler’s legacy.”

Canada played a role in the trial. I am not referring to the fact that Lipstadt, like Donald Trump, was born in Queens, but her father was Canadian, a possibly important element in the conflict between truth and lies. Lipstadt in her 1993 volume locates David Irving’s conversion into an outright Holocaust denier to his attendance at the trial of Ernst Zundel for hate speech where he testified for Zundel and, most importantly, was introduced to the Boston engineer of execution machines, Fred A. Leuchter, who had claimed that the chemicals used in the so-called gas chambers were intended to kill the lice on the corpses of Jews who had died from typhoid.

“In his foreward to his publication of the Leuchter Report, Irving wrote that there was no doubt as to Leuchter’s ‘integrity’ and ‘scrupulous methods.’ He made no mention of Leuchter’s lack of technical expertise or of the many holes that had been poked in his findings. Most important, Irving wrote, ‘Nobody likes to be swindled, still less where considerable sums of money are involved.’ Irving identified Israel as the swindler, claiming that West Germany had given it more than ninety billion deutsche marks in voluntary reparations, ‘essentially in atonement for the ‘gas chambers of Auschwitz.’ According to Irving the problem was that the latter was a myth that would ‘not die easily.’”

None of these quotes are cited in the movie that I can recall. However, the Leuchter argument introduced at the trial of Ernest Zundel in Toronto plays a crucial role in the movie, it is simplified and summarized when Lipstadt argues that the amount of cyanide needed to kill humans would be 20X the amount needed to kill lice. Further, as Tom Wilkinson in the role of Richard Rampton pointed out in court, why would one want to sanitize bodies that were to be burnt in a crematorium? And why would you build a shelter for Nazis 2.5 miles from their barracks?

After watching the movie, I lost my motivation to attend the homage to the late Shimon Peres, a man I admired greatly. I was in attendance at the Jerusalem auditorium when Egyptian President Anwar Sadat on 20 November 1977 paid his historic visit to Israel and turned politics in the Middle East upside down forever. The visit, his talk and the subsequent negotiations led to the Camp David Accords and the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. In 1978, Sadat would justly win a Nobel peace prize for what he had set in motion. As he had said in his speech the previous day in the Knesset, “Let us put an end to wars, let us reshape life on the solid basis of equity and truth. And it is this call, which reflected the will of the Egyptian people, of the great majority of the Arab and Israeli peoples, and indeed of millions of men, women, and children around the world that you are today honoring. And these hundreds of millions will judge to what extent every responsible leader in the Middle East has responded to the hopes of mankind.”

On the stage of the Jerusalem Theatre the next day in addition to Anwar Sadat were Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Labour Party Chair, Shimon Peres. I was in Jerusalem that year as a Lady Davis Visiting Scholar at Hebrew University. The Jerusalem Theatre occasion was an opportunity to address the world press and I managed to get accredited as a journalist to get into the theatre. If you listened to the three speeches, they echoed much of what had been said the day before in the Knesset. I have not been able to locate their speeches given at the Jerusalem Theatre that day. But my recollection is very vivid – the day was so extraordinary for me.

Sadat’s speech was dramatic and very moving. The words I remember best came near the end: “Love justice and do right.” [I hope I remembered correctly and I cannot recall whether he went on to the echo the psalm and ask that right and justice be allowed to kiss.] In order for that to happen, you had to be straightforward and honest. Truth was not an end in itself, but a prerequisite to a just and peaceful world. I recall how Sadat’s speech exemplified those values.

Sadat did not try to hide the truth about the bitter enmity between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East. It was not a manipulative speech, but one addressed to all Arabs and Jews as well as the rest of the people in the world to come together and win together, to win a peace instead of a war. It was also poetic as he addressed the sorrowing mothers, widows, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters for whom the ghosts of their loved ones fill the air like the raindrops in a London downpour. Use that memory, he urged, to fill your hearts with the aspiration for peace where hope transforms the world to create a new reality in which lives can blossom. For Sadat, an international agreement was not the prelude to peace, but the culmination of a radical change in attitude which requires a struggle against both the whim of indifference and egocentric personal ambition.

Sadat had chosen not to dwell on the past, not to rehearse the struggle for Arab independence from colonial rule and the perception that the Balfour Declaration and subsequent events were understood by Arabs as a continuation of colonialism that led to a history of warfare between the Arabs and Jews, between Israel and Egypt, But, while recognizing the need for Israel to be guaranteed the right to live in safety and security, he did challenge Israel to recognize the injustice to the Palestinians, to end the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, to withdraw from East Jerusalem and to recognize the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination. He called on Israelis and Arabs together to make Jerusalem a free and open city for people of all faiths.

How did Begin and Peres respond to this prophet of peace? Like Sadat, Begin stressed a belief in right rather than might. However, in contrast, to Sadat’s speech, Begin focused on the past. He began with the Arab rejection of Israel’s offers to live in peace with her Arab neighbours from the very beginning of the founding of the state, only to receive the response of a military attack from three sides of the many against the few. He did not carry the history forward but went back to the history of Jews expelled from their land and sent into exile. Jews never forgot their land, even for a single day, but instead longed for and prayed for return. And they never forgot Jerusalem. But also never forgot the obligation of all religions to maintain and visit their holy sites, something that had not been allowed during the nineteen years of Arab control of the city. Then he dwelled on the Holocaust. For before Sadat addressed the Knesset the previous day, Begin had accompanied him to Yad Vashem. Never again! Israel had been built on the pledge, “Never again.”

Peres took a different course than either Sadat or Begin. Though he too believed in hope rather than cynicism, though he too knew that the past had to be recalled lest it be repeated, though he, like Begin, reiterated the commitment of all Israelis to peace, he stressed that a common past bound Arabs and Jews together and so would the aspirations for a great future, but Peres, ever the pragmatist, focused on the present. He began by recognizing Sadat’s courage in an Arab world hostile to Israel to travel to Israel and, specifically, to Jerusalem. He insisted that, in seeking peace and entering into negotiations, Israelis would accept this as a new beginning, a new start, where it would be necessary for Israelis to free themselves from pre-conceived notions.

On the other hand, Peres was brutally frank. He said that he disagreed, not with the aspirations for peace, but with much of the substance of Sadat’s opening position. But negotiations start with differences and only proceed if each party listens to the other and tries to forge a compromise. Sadat’s courage in coming to Jerusalem was proof that negotiations could now proceed on a new foundation so that with patience, a peace agreement might be forged. He then went on as a total realist, without circumlocution or deceit, to outline Israel’s opening position and then to list the actual steps that would have to be taken to achieve peace.

In the movie, Denial, the theme is not about how enemies can come together to forge peace, but how allies have to come together and make compromises in a peaceful way in order to expand the realm of peace and justice. That is where the dramatic tension is, not between the liar and falsifier versus those concerned with truth. In that case, there is no room for compromise, but one side must win.

With the help of Alex Zisman

The Washington-Israel Brouhaha

The Washington-Israel Brouhaha

Part I: The Washington-Jerusalem-Buenos Aries-Tehran Quadrangle

by

Howard Adelman

A brouhahah is building up steam as we approach Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled 3rd of March address to both houses of Congress in response to the 21 January invitation of U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader, John Boehner (with the concurrence of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell but NOT the Democrats in either the House or Senate, who were not informed about the invitation). Bibi is scheduled to address Capitol Hill in a joint session of Congress on the subject of Iran. Boehner did not coordinate the visit with the White House in an alleged breach of protocol. On the basis of separation of powers, Boehner denied any protocol breach. Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador, argued that proper protocol required Boehner to inform the White House, not Israel, and that is why he did not raise the issue with John Kerry in their two-hour meeting; that, he argued, would be truly “inappropriate.”

However, he said nothing about the accusation that he set in motion a precedent in inviting a foreign leader to interfere in American decision-making or in making Israel a partisan issue for the first time. As the debate over the invitation continues in Washington, the focus of the debate is really in Jerusalem over, in the first place, the impact of this dispute with Obama on the Israeli election, the impact of the dispute on Jerusalem-White House relations, the impact on relations with the American Jewish diaspora, which remains largely liberal but generally loyal, even if somewhat critical, of recent right-wing leaders in Israel, and, on a much deeper level, the extent to which Iran poses an existential threat for Israel, and, correspondingly, the way the Washington-Tehran nuclear negotiations will impact on Iran as a threat to Israel.

A parallel and seemingly unrelated imbroglio is taking place over the mysterious death of Alberto Nisman on 18 January in his Buenos Aires apartment. Nisman was the prosecutor who had been investigating the 1994 bombing of the Jewish center in Buenos Aires, which left 85 people dead. At first reported as a suicide, that belief was undermined with the passing of each day. Iran is involved because Iran had not only been accused of orchestrating the bombing, but of seducing the current Argentinian government into a trade pact that entailed setting up a Truth Commission on the 1994 bombing, but doing so, not to uncover the truth, but to shunt it aside as well as the Interpol arrest warrants for those Iranians viewed as responsible for the attack. Iran is the lynch pin between the two controversies.

The impetus for the first controversy above is a deep division over President Barack Obama’s policy of engagement with Tehran and the negotiations over Iran’s capacity to build nuclear weapons. Bibi is being invited to undercut Obama’s Iran initiative and, explicitly, criticize the President’s major strategic initiative. Trying to go over the head of the president to influence U.S. foreign policy is a no-no for many, even those who do not support Obama’s outreach to Iran. Would you not be furious if you worked in the White House and once again be willing to depict Bibi as “chickenshit”? The Republicans have been determined to introduce and pass new sanctions on Iran. In his State of the Union address in January, Obama promised to veto the proposed Congressional sanctions legislation. One day after Obama’s State of the Union address, Boehmer issued the invitation to Bibi. Among the anti-Iran pieces of legislation being forged in Congress is at least one that is intended to be veto-proof in instigating further promised sanctions if Washington cannot reach an agreement with Tehran before the end of June. So the Bibi-Obama dispute is merely a proxy for the conflict over the negotiations with Iran.

This is the first of a four-part series of blogs dealing with the Washington-Jerusalem-Buenos Aries-Tehran quadrangle. It will focus on the U.S.-Israeli axis and be centered in Jerusalem. I will discuss the Iran-Argentina axis centered in Buenos Aries next followed by the seemingly unrelated Argentinian-Israeli axis. I will end with the Tehran-Washington axis focused specifically on the nuclear negotiations that will be used to resolve the conundrums raised in the previous three analyses.

Iran ———2———–Argentina

!                                     !

!                                     !

!                                      !

-4-                                   -3-

!                                     !

!                                     !

!                                     !

U.S ———-1———–Israel

A central issue in Washington is how Bibi’s visit and how the Republican initiative will affect the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, though Obama offered as his reason for his unwillingness to meet with Netanyahu the proximity of the impending Israeli elections scheduled for 17 March. For Boehner, “There’s a message that the American people need to hear and I think he (Netanyahu) is the perfect person to deliver it…The threat of radical Islamic terrorism is a real threat. The threat of Iran to the region and the rest of the world is a real threat and I believe the American people are interested in hearing this.”

But that is not the primary issue for Israelis. In the opening to his blog yesterday morning, Rabbi Dow Marmur posed the question in a way that gave his position away. “Iran does indeed constitute a major threat to the existence of Israel. Both the pronouncements of many of its leaders and the actions of its stooges Hezbollah and Hamas point to it. It’s, therefore, not surprising that Prime Minister Netanyahu should want to alert the world to that danger and, at the same time, rightly stress that Israel is by no means the only country at risk from Iran. But a much greater threat than Iran is a rupture in the relationship between the United States of America and the State of Israel.” (my italics)

If Iran is only a major threat, then the relationship between Jerusalem and the White House ranks higher than depicting that existential threat. Further, a deep breach with Washington is “the much greater threat” for it could lead to a rupture in U.S.-Israeli relations. Of course, liberals and Democrats see the acceptance of the invitation as prioritizing Netanyahu’s domestic political interests over Israel’s relationship with the United States. Most Democrats, even Nancy Pelosi, will not boycott the speech lest they undercut even in a small way their domestic supporters, but their resentment will remain palpable.

Dow omitted, probably because he rations his words in his blogs, the consequences on Jewish diaspora-Israeli relations, for, as the Israeli consul generals in the U.S. all warned the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, fierce negative reactions can be expected to the speech from U.S. Jewish communities and many Israeli allies, including even right-wing Republicans who may agree with Bibi’s take on Iran, but are upset about the intervention of a foreign political leader in American debates over policy.

Israel has been warned of this danger by the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, by many American Jews, including 7 Jewish members of Congress, and by other Israelis. On the one hand, it is totally apparent that the Iran engagement by the White House is the central plank in Obama’s foreign policy during his second term. In the fading hope that Netanyahu will change his mind about visiting Washington, Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador in Washington, and the casino tycoon, Sheldon Adelson, are painted as the two evil masterminds “misleading” Netanyahu. (Dow’s words) This is only slightly different than Tom Friedman’s portrait of the four horseman of the apocalypse – Boehner, Bibi, Dermer and Adelson – as equally insensitive and mindblind, though not villainous. “Netanyahu; his ambassador; the pro-Israel lobby Aipac; Sheldon Adelson, the huge donor to Bibi and the G.O.P.; and Boehner all live in their own self-contained bubble.” Dow Marmur reduced Natenyahu’s status in service to his own hopes.

This portrait is consistent with American public opinion that 59% of voters expect little from the Republican-dominated Congress. Dow, by contrast, paints Netanyahu as a patsy in the hands of the partnership of an Israeli diplomat and an American tycoon. Netanyahu is not only a patsy, but a cynic willing to sell his country’s future relations with Washington down the drain just to win an election: “not losing the election may be more important to him than the future of the country and the wellbeing of its citizens.” As Nancy Pelosi suggested, the exploitation of congress as a political tool for Israeli domestic politics is scandalous. This interpretation is consistent with Michael Oren’s, Israel’s former ambassador to Washington and no bleeding-heart liberal. Thus, Dow can only fall back on his old bromide of “hope” to save the situation.

But what if Bibi’s effort is his last hurrah, his final effort to sabotage the American-Iranian nuclear negotiations that he deeply believes will endanger the future of Israel? It may be an exercise in courage – or, perhaps, rashness – in his willingness to face the stormy blowback from his decision to come and refusal to back off. Such an approach is consistent with an ambition to win the next election on 17 March because he also believes he is the only one with the talent, experience and commitment to ensure Israel’s survival in the face of its greatest danger. He needs desperately to outshine his rivals on the right. One does not have to agree with either Netanyahu’s self-appraisal or his depiction of the danger facing Israel to suggest his actions may not be that of a cynic. His position may be incorrect, but it does reverberate with many Israelis who share his fear of Tehran. Further, this self-portrayal, sincere I believe, may have the added value of distracting voters from his inadequacies as a Prime Minister.

I contend that the issue of Netanyahu’s visit is ultimately a distraction and side issue, hence the choice of the word “brouhaha” instead of “imbroglio.” It is a failure to analyze the American-Iranian nuclear negotiations correctly. For the Iranians and the White House are another duo married at the hip, with Iran determined not to provoke further sanctions from Washington while tamping down on any domestic opposition while Obama needs a deal, with Iran as his own (and only???) foreign policy legacy. If the Republicans torpedo the negotiations, then both Iran and Obama may fail, but both can blame Congress for that failure. And Netanyahu will rejoice in a victory that will be pyrrhic, since Israel will have to endure a very deep rupture with Washington. This is the gospel according to my rabbi and my dear friend.

In fact, the rupture is only really with the Obama administration. The schism has been very deep for a long time. The central issue, which Dow did not raise, is whether Bibi’s intention is to torpedo the deal (which is what I will suggest) or whether Bibi is merely trying to stiffen Obama’s spine so that the White House maintains a tough line in the negotiations. Dow’s analysis is incorrect because the diagnosis is inadequate. I will follow a circuitous route to establish that beginning with the characterization of Iran and its historic involvement in Argentina and the deep-seated anti-Semitism of the ayatollahs.

Let me make my position clear up front rather than forcing you to wait for the conclusion to know where I stand.

  1. Netanyahu may be a pragmatist, but he is not a cynic in this case; he sincerely believes that Iran is and will remain an existential threat to Israel; he sincerely believes that a negotiated nuclear deal is only of use to Iran as a mask for its strategic plans and intentions in the Middle East.
  2. Given that conviction, which runs contrary to the analyses of a great many current and retired major Israeli intelligence and military officers, any effort to disrupt the process, however much it may appear as irresponsible and disrespectful (Herzog’s depiction) of the American president, if not churlish, inappropriate, reckless and dangerous, is worth it no matter how much it ruffles the feathers of the White House.
  3. The relationship with the White House is a brouhaha rather than an imbroglio, a subtle but important distinction suggesting a temporary deepening of the rift between Netanyahu and Obama rather than a deep fissure between the American polity and Israel because of Israeli interference in American affairs; The issue, though certainly more serious, is more akin to disputes over Israeli-sponsored junkets for rabid gay-bashing evangelical Christians and democratic supporters of Israel. Though I agree that it would be preferable on a number of grounds that Netanyahu NOT go to Washington, I do not believe one whit in the thesis that Netanyahu’s initiative will seriously jeopardize U.S. long term support, goodwill and readiness to stand by Israel. As Nancy Pelosi herself said, all members of Congress place ties with Israel above any political differences of opinion, based on the two countries’ mutual respect for democratic values and the national security interests of the two. More specifically, the U.S. will continue in its efforts to stymie Palestinian initiatives at the UN and the ICC.
  4. There are many other countries with a deep interest in the outcome of the nuclear negotiations with Iran, not just Israel and Saudi Arabia, but the European states – Britain, France, Germany and Russia – that have been sponsors of the negotiations, but, for very different reasons, even countries like China, another sponsor, which has a strategic interest in Middle East stability as it strives to develop a 21st century Maritime Silk Road conjoined with a Silk Road economic belt in the region to create an economic corridor across Eurasia as a main objective in its One Belt, One Road strategy.
  5. Though initially I not only supported the effort of a breakout with Iran and thought there was more than a 50/50 chance the negotiations could succeed, now I am very dubious that a positive agreement will result. This will not be because of Republican sabotage but because the differences between Iran and the U.S. over the terms of the deal run too deep.

In summary, the term “brouhaha” is rooted in the French brouhaha, a corruption of Hebrew בָּרוּךְ הַבָּא; barúkh habá, “blessed is he who comes,” a greeting of welcome in Israel. A brouhaha is welcome rather than an imbroglio because it is only a state of social agitation in which a relatively minor incident has grown out of all proportion and articulated in a hysterical fashion. It is not a very difficult and possibly irresolvable imbroglio. The controversy and fuss will eventually prove to have been a tempest in a teapot, but a cover for the very serious issue that underlies it.

And it is to that very serious issue I must now turn, even if it is by a very circuitous route.

The Data on Settlements and the Effects on the Peace Talks

The Data on Settlements and the Effects on the Peace Talks

by

Howard Adelman

Between January and June 2013 before the talks began, there were 1,708 housing starts compared with 995 during the same period the year before. In all of 2013 there were 2,534 housing units completed in the West Bank, slightly more than double the 1,267 units completed in 2012. When these figures were released by the Central Bureau of Statistics in Israel (www.cbs.gov.il) in early March 2014, is it any surprise that Israeli news headlines read:

“Settler housing  starts up by 124% in 2013” Jerusalem Post 3;

”Settlement construction more than doubled in 2013,” Haaretz;

“West Bank housing starts rise by more than 120 percent,” Jewish Journal;.

“Settlement housing starts nearly triple, in 2013,” The Times of Israel.

So what do you expect news outlets around the world from Fox News to the Japan Times to report?

Of the units completed in 2013, 853 had been started in 2012 and a further 1,421 units were under construction in 2012. So 90% of the units completed in 2013 had been started in 2012.

On 11 August, Uri Ariel announced plans to expand housing in Leshern as well as other West Bank settlements totaling about 400 new homes plus approximately 800 in areas of East Jerusalem that are part of Jewish Jerusalem. Another over 1200 units were announced later in the month. The breakdown of housing units approved and started in August 2013 were as follows:

Date                Approved    Started   Constr. Complete         Area

August 6         239                                                                  Ma’on

August 8         878                                                                              Jordan V, Binyamin, Etzion

August 12       890                                                                              Gilo Jerusalem

                                           63                                                 Jabal Mukabir, E. Jerusalem

                       392                                                                   Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel, Betar

August 27      942                                                                   Gilo

                                          66                                                  Neve Yaakov

                      283                                                                    Elkana

                   3,624            129

Uri Ariel, Israel’s Housing and Construction Minister, predicted the talks would fail, but did not acknowledge that the new housing starts would contribute to or be a key cause of that failure, although I believe he certainly hoped so.  While Israel insisted these planned housing units were in accord with an understanding not only with the Americans but with the Palestinians, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman, issued a statement: “We don’t accept any settlement bids and Israel should stop these acts to give negotiations the opportunity to succeed. For us, all settlements are illegal and Israel should stop putting obstacles in the way of peace and all its acts in this regard are illegal and void.”

When the talks had been underway for almost four months, in October 2013, just after the Israeli negotiating team once again met with John Kerry in Israel, the government announced that 1500 more housing units would be built in Jerusalem. Further, Netanyahu approved tenders for 2500 housing units in the West Bank, though the actual breakdown of approvals did not total 2,500.

The Palestinians protested by suspending talks for two weeks. The announcement timing seemed to offer a quid pro quo to the Israeli right because it immediately followed the release of 26 more Palestinian prisoners. The Jerusalem housing units were to be built in the non-Arab populated bare hills of East Jerusalem as fill-ins of existing suburbs. Similarly, the housing units for the West Bank were fill-ins rather than expansions of the boundaries of those settlements.

Date                Approved    Started   Constr. Complete         Area

October 10      58                                                                    East Jerusalem

October 31    582                                                       

                               296                                                           Bet El

                               160                                                           Yakir

                                 96                                                           Almog

                     640

By December, both the EU and the USA strongly lobbied with the Israeli government officials not to announce any new government housing activities as they anticipated such announcements would correspond with the release of more prisoners at the end of December, an anticipation confirmed by Netanyahu himself. The warnings were ignored, though the announcement was delayed. Israel announced tenders for 1400 housing units in the West Bank and Jerusalem in the second week of January. Although earlier leaks had indicated that the announcement would be for 2000 rather than 1400 new starts already downgraded from early December leaks of 1500 units for Ramat Shlomo in East Jerusalem and 3500 for the West Bank, actually, 2,553 units were approved.

The pattern is clear. Leak news of new announced housing starts to time with a scheduled prisoner release. Then, following the release, announce a smaller number than the numbers leaked and ignore European, American and Palestinian warnings that such announcements jeopardized the talks. The actual starts could be smaller still. The Israeli right and the Israeli left were united in the propensity to exaggerate housing figures in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

The breakdown for January 2014 were as follows:

Date                Approved    Started   Constr. Complete         Area

       6                       22                                                            Karnei Shomron

                              250                                                            Ofra

      10                    227                                                            Efrat

                                78                                                            Alfe Menashe

                                86                                                            Karnei Shomron

                                40                                                            Ariel

                                75                                                            Adam

                                24                                                            Betar Illit

                               102                                                           Emmanuel

                               169                                                           Elkana

                               600                                                           Ramot

                               182                                                           Pisgat Zeev

                                56                                                            Neve Yaacov

     21                     381                                                            Givat Zeev

     22                     256                                                            Nofie Prat

                                  5                                                            Ariel 

Three months later, Netanyahu postponed the prisoner release and the government also announced the construction of 700 new housing units, Kerry let it be known that he blamed Israel for the breakdown in the talks because of reneging on the prisoner release and for the continued building of new houses in the settlements though Kerry never overtly made the statement that was originally planned.

The announced housing starts before and after the talks began were as follows:

Date                                        East Jerusalem             West Bank          Total 

Jan-June 2013                                                                                         1708

August 2013                              800                              400                    1200

October 2013                          1500                            2500                    4000    6908

January 2014                                                                                                      1400

April                                         1400                             700                                2100

Total over period of peace talks                                                                      10,408

Total over 16 months                                                                                       13,116      

Actual authorized units totaled 8,217.     

By adding up the figures based on early leaks, one gets the total of 14,000 new unit approvals publicized by Peace Now. By including the first six months before the talks formally starter, one gets a figure of just under 14,000. Whichever way Peace Now made its calculations, the actual figures were much less.

Further, if the data from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, which everyone regards as the most reliable source, are used, since the beginning of 2013, 32,290 construction sites for housing units were slotted across all of Israel in 2013, an increase of 5.5% compared to the corresponding time frame in 2012. Work actually began on 2,534 new housing units, 1710 apartments and 824 homes, in the settlements in 2013, compared to 1,133 in 2012, that is, roughly one-third of the units approved Nevertheless, the total of new units that were constructed more than doubled rather than increased by just over 5%., though still only 50% of the units started under Barak in 2000. Further, 40% were subsidized public housing units, twice the normal percentage within Israel proper. This suggests a very deliberate government policy of expanding the settlement housing units beyond that required by any consumer demand as indicated in the following chart.

For Sale   Sold         Demand   

17,114     18,860     35,974 R       2009

17,584     22,786     40,370 R       2010

20,516     19,737      40,253 R      2011

20,251     22,526      42,777 R      2012

18,716     24,547      43,263 R     2013

Thus, the overall rate of housing construction over Israel, East Jerusalem and the West Bank increased by about 7.5%. But the amount of approvals, and especially of construction in the West Bank increased disproportionately. This is particularly significant because demand fell significantly for the purchase of housing units in the West Bank. Of the total number of 11,146 units built in all of Israel, 500 were for Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and 1,227 were for Jerusalem. Announcements of newly constructed units in the West Bank far exceeded demand which no where came close to the number of units approved for construction. The demand figure for 2014 fell even further than in 2013 to 212 in the West Bank, though 1891 for Jerusalem. Housing for sale took significantly longer to sell than in the rest of Israel. Further, housing on the market took longer and longer to sell – up to 8 months on average for new units. The number of housing units announced are clearly not a response to demand; the announcements, as well as the denunciations, are driven by political goals.

This is clearly indicated by the actual number of housing starts versus the numbers authorized, Announced numbers far exceed actual construction. Of those built on public land (all land in the West Bank is public land), and since housing is built on both government and privately owned land in an approximate 50/50 ratio, of the over 21,000 units to be built on public land in 2013, almost 40% were to be built in the West Bank or East Jerusalem. In reality, abut 30% were actually built, most in Jerusalem.  

Let me summarize what I believe is going on. For political reasons, presumably to both satisfy the demands of the far right critical of any peace talks, housing permission for starts are announced that greatly exceed demand or actual construction and disproportionate to housing starts in the rest of the country. and deliberately insensitive to public opinion, or rather, official public opinion in Europe, America or Palestine. Further, the permits for housing starts and actual starts are now confined to fill-ins within the established border of settlements or to connect with outlier sections to create continuity.

While headlines parade the more than doubling of West Bank construction in 2013, the reality is that the doubling is an aberration caused by the depressed number of starts over the previous few as the chart below indicates and do very little to make up for the depressed number of starts from 2010 to 2012. Further, 80% of units completed in 2013 were started in 2012.

The reality is, whatever the far right insists about ambitions for Greater Israel, that plan is dead. What is alive is the plan to consolidate settlements and trade them for other land to reinforce Israel’s security position and the thrusts it has already established consistent with Ariel Sharon’s strategic objective to “thicken” Israel’s narrow waist. Israelis generally concur that the settlement blocs of Ma’ale Adumim, Gush Etzion, Elkana and Ariel will remain within sovereign Israel as part of a final status agreement. Since the Palestinian Authority has agreed to these land swaps and the real debate is still over sufficiency with the exception of parts of Jerusalem – this suggests that settlements are a key part of the rhetoric of peace talks for the far right, for the left critics, for Palestine and for both Europe and America, but they are not the insurmountable obstacle to peace negotiations.

So although I have always disagreed with settlements activity, my criticism now is mostly about bad public relations. What may be needed for peace on Netanyahu’s domestic political front plays very badly on the international arena and offers the Palestinian Authority free reign to win that public relations battle. Further, since both sides know they cannot agree on Jerusalem, Netanyahu has calculated that domestic political peace is of greater value than international public relations. Since Tzipi Livni clearly knows the full story, she recognizes this is a rhetorical and not primarily a political battle on the ground. The question for her remains whether a deal can be made on Jerusalem.

That remains the elusive target. Though housing starts are also about the Jerusalem issue, most of the blather about settlements is a public relations issue which in part explains why the American negotiators dumped on Netanyahu for sabotaging the talks. Someone had to be blamed. Netanyahu had been set up for blame right from the start, even though he had not agreed to a settlement freeze. Blaming Netanyahu is the clear easier choice. Otherwise, to focus on the central dilemma would lead to questions about why the initiative was taken in the first place. 

Finally, I personally applaud the initiative in spite of the failure and in spite of the political use of the blame game because the talks have really narrowed the end game. Since I do not see the conflict as resolvable at this time, I think the next stage will be more well thought-out unilateral moves by Israel to reduce frictions at minimal risk while further consolidating claims on territories Israel plans to annex. However, I am not imaginative enough to envisage how land swaps can be managed unilaterally. However, in order to understand how any unilateral moves can be made in light of the terrible experience with Gaza, and with Lebanon earlier, it is important to understand the nature of the newly announced realignment of Fatah and Hamas and the Palestinian position..

That is for tomorrow.

Jerusalem

Jerusalem

by

Howard Adelman

From my recent blogs, the two issues that seemed to arouse some need for further discussion were the conclusion about Jerusalem remaining the key obstacle to peace and the implication that the United States and Israel would be at odds over negotiating with a possibly reunited Palestinian entity involving Hamas as well as Fatah. In this morning’s blog I will focus on Jerusalem and, more particularly, on a report on the conference, “The Road to Jerusalem” that took place from Monday to Wednesday of this week in Amman, Jordan.

The conference was opened by HRH Prince Ghazi Bin Mohammad, Jordan’s King Abdullah II’s Advisor for Religious and Cultural Affairs. It was not just a conference of Muslims. Christian clerics and scholars as well as politicians from across the Arab world were in attendance. Secondly, the premise of the conference was that Jerusalem was an occupied city. Given that it was occupied, how were both Muslims and Christians to deal with their holy sites when the occupying and controlling authority was neither Muslim nor Christian. The conference was organized by the World Islamic Sciences and Education (WISE) University, the Lower House Palestine Committee and the Muslim World League, a clear indication that the dominant instigation for the conference was a Muslim one. Christians had a token role.

WISE, for example, located in Amman, was only established four years ago. Its purpose from the beginning was primarily political rather than educational since it was established to be the home of the Arabic League and National Identity Conference. The university has nine faculties including Theology, Sharia Law, Humanities and Education, Traditional Islamic Art and Architecture, Information Technology, Business and Finance, Basic Sciences, A Graduate Faculty and an Institute for Quranic Studies and Recitation complete the list. It is, in other words, a traditional religious-based university. Thus, the Faculty of Theology offers a PhD in Faith and Islamic Philosophy as well as bachelors and graduate degrees in “scientific interpretation” of religious texts and ritual. In contrast, its Faculty of Arts and Education only offers a bachelors degree majoring in either English literature or Education. There are no courses in social sciences or history. The applied professional fields of study – information technology and business and finance – are concerned with business management and accounting as well as information systems and technology. The Faculty of Basic Sciences has a program in “Islamic Sciences” not chemistry, physics, etc. It also has a department of English, finance and education. This is not your typical model of a western university.

The focus of the conference was the religious significance of Al Aqsa Mosque as well as other Muslim – and Christians – sites in Jerusalem. Given the special custodial role of King Abdullah II for the Al Asque Mosque, the issue was how “the Arab and Muslim worlds and the international community can come to the aid of the occupied city.” The assumption was that aid was desperately needed because of “Israeli arrogance and violations against the Palestinians in the West Bank” as well as to thwart Israeli schemes vis a vis Islamic holy sites, in particular the expenditure of $4 billion dollars by the Israeli occupation on the Judaization of Jerusalem. The clear thrust of the conference was to document the central importance of Jerusalem and its holy sites in the history of Islam. The explicit goal was to preserve the Arab identity of the “holy city”. There was absolutely no indication that at least 40% of the Jews in Israel came from the Arab world.

Within that core focus was the central theme – how to protect the Haram al-Sharif, the site of the Al-Asqua Mosque and the Dome on the Rock given that Article 9 of the 1994 Jordan-Israeli Peace Agreement assigned Jordan that prime responsibility, an assignment confirmed by an agreement signed between King Abdullah II and Mahmoud Abbas on behalf of the Palestinian Authority in March 2013. What is also clear is that this new focus on Haram al Sharif is also fueled by Jewish religious extremist rejection of the Muslim control over the Temple Mount. As stated in the conference, Israel traditionally had respected Islamic control and had agreed that the site was to be protected by unarmed guards paid for by the Jordanian government. However, given Israeli control of the one gate, the Mughrabi Gate, in order to allow access to the Western Wall, unauthorized visits of militant Jews using that gate have significantly increased to the  Haram al-Sharif.

A central theological issue was whether visits to Jerusalem by non-Palestinians were a) acceptable and b) to be encouraged, given that the sites were under the ultimate control of the Israeli authorities. Abbas and Mohammed Hussein, the Mufti of Jerusalem, were promoting such visits. Yehiya Soud, a Palestinian-Jordanian firebrand, recounted how, in spite of his Jordanian diplomatic passport, he was held up for five hours at the king Hussein Bridge before allowed entry. Given an Egyptian theological ruling, Muslims from Turkey, Indonesia and Jordan, countries who recognized Israel and whose passports would allow them to visit, were to be encouraged to visit Haram al-Sharif, but this was a ruling hotly disputed by Islamic scholars from Qatar, Yemen and Morocco who held that, while the holy sites were under Israeli – read Jewish – control, such visits only legitimized Israeli occupation. Further, the Arab Peace Initiative of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation prohibits normalization with Israel until Israel withdraws from Arab areas occupied in 1967. Yusuf Qaradawi, a prominent Egyptian cleric at odds with other Egyptian policies, had issued a fatwa against such visits. However, the trend to not recognize such visits and to view them as beneficial for the fight for Islamic control of the holy city was viewed as on the upswing. In parallel with the conference, Abbas I Ramallah pledged $1million towards an endowment to secure Muslim control of the holy city.

Abbas won. The majority of Islamic scholars in attendance reversed past practice and supported visits by Muslims in addition to Palestinians to Haram al-Sharif. This can be read in two different ways – as progress towards recognition of Israeli de facto control and sovereignty and as a source of further disruption and controversy for Israel as Islamic militants from Egypt or Turkey take to seeking access in large numbers. On the one hand, Islamic tourism could be fostered which could bring about greater understanding even if that was not the motive. On the other hand, the new move could be a source of new tensions

The situation is further complicated by corresponding shifts in attitudes and approaches by religious Jews. Traditionally, since 1967 the two chief Israeli rabbis, both Ashkenazi and Sephardi, have concurred and made visits to the Temple Mount off limits for devout Jews lest they trod on what was the Jewish temple. However, militant religious Jews have begun to challenge that ruling. In fact, recently right wing Israelis have begun visiting the area and provoking controversy by seeking to pray on the site. Muslims see this as an initiative to blow up the site – there have been incidents of such efforts in the past – in order to rebuild the Temple.

With the possible increase in both the numbers of Muslims and religious Jews visiting the Islamic holiest site in Jerusalem, the potential for clashes also increases enormously. But the way to sort out the issue of sovereignty also becomes more complicated as emotions get roused on both sides over incidents that are bound to take place. The more Jerusalem becomes the final redoubt in the negotiations between Israel and Palestine, the more the Old City is in danger of serving as a tinder box. The diplomatic issue exacerbates the concern, the concern exacerbates the security issue from both sides and the security issues compound the difficulties in resolving the conflict over Jerusalem and endangers the Israeli traditional stance of acknowledging Islamic religious control while insisting on sovereign control. Thus does the dialectic dance of extremism undermine the search for stability of moderates.

As Ezekial describes it, the road from Babylon split in two, one road going to Amman (then Rabbah in Ammon),  the other to Jerusalem then the capital city of Judah. Islam has always wanted to make the road to Jerusalem the ultimate destiny on that route as a path of Islamic religious expression. Jews have always recited, “Next Year in Jerusalem” and regarded Jerusalem as their one and only holy city, though religious Jews have other holy sites. Ezekial prophesied that the Babylonian king would set Jerusalem as his goal and thereby threaten Jerusalem as a Jewish city. Plus ça change, plus la même chose.

And for Christians and Messianic Jews, “Remove the turban, and take off the crown; things shall not remain as they are; exalt that which is low, and abase that which is high. A ruin, ruin ruin will I make it; there shall not be even a trace of it until he comes whose right it is; and to him I will give it.”

In such a controversial historical, religious and political quagmire, can anyone expect that proposals for international sovereignty over the city have any more headway and strength than when proposed in 1947. When the UN advance guard came to the city to take over administrative control in 1948, they were totally ignored as irrelevant.

Though I now see that all other aspects of the dispute are in principle resolvable – water, refugee return, security, even borders except for Jerusalem, I have no idea on how to resolve the Jerusalem issue except by divided authority. I think international authority – though international involvement in an advisory or observer role would be welcome – is not acceptable to either side. I do not even think joint control is possible. There will have to be continued divided authority, but Israel remaining the default sovereign control remains unacceptable to both Abbas and Muslims.

So that is why there will be no formal deal in the near future.

The greatest potential for violence has resided in Jewish zealots who are determined to pray on the Temple Mount under the guidance and incitement of the Temple Mount Faithful in defiance of Israeli political prudential decisions. On 7 December 2000, the al Aqsa intifada was instigated by a visit of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount and fiery sermons in response from Muslim pulpits. Neither side believes in sharing. Will the historic situation of the Second Civil War in 68CE repeat when moderates lost control of the Temple Mount to both the zealots entering from the West and the Edomites from the east?

Is Netanyahu to Blame?

Is Netanyahu to Blame?

by

Howard Adelman

Is Binjamin Netanhayu to blame for the termination of the latesy version of the Israel-Palestininian peace process?The answer – to get right to the bottom line – of course he is. But not in the way and for the reasons his die hard legions of critics think. He is to blame for not being willing to make a deal on terms Abbas might now accept. Just as Abbas can be blamed because he is not willing to make a deal on terms Netanyahu would accept, Netanyahu is not willing to make a deal on Abbas’ terms.

Those terms used to involve the crucial issue of the right of return of the Palestinian refugees. But Abbas has retreated from his stubborn insistence on that issue. The key issue separating the two parties is Jerusalem – in the case of Netanyahu, both the old city and East Jerusalem. Netanyahu clings to the idea of a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty just as strongly as Abbas once clung to the principle of the right of return of the refugees. A formula has been developed to finesse the latter. No formula has been developed to finesse the issue of Jerusalem because it is not a matter of finesse.

But, as my friend Michael Marrus keeps repeating to me, “It’s the settlements,” and, because he is a gentleman, he does not add the word “Stupid!”. I answer, “Yes and No.” It is the settlements insofar as Israel under Netanyahu has continued to build settlements – and not only the 700 units in Gilo in Jerusalem which will, without a doubt, remain as much a part of Israel as French Hill, also built across the Green Line. Further, it is the settlements insofar as the Palestinian Authority and the Americans make so much fuss over Israeli settlement activities. But it is not the settlements because that is not the item of negotiations preventing a deal. That item is Jerusalem. As long as the parties are divided on this central issue and a deal remains a chimera, Israel under Netanyahu will continue to build the settlements.

But why? Why continue to build settlement if it provokes the Americans so much and if it feeds the Palestinian propaganda cause so well? Why not freeze future settlements so it becomes abundantly clear to all observers that it is the Palestinians who do not want to make a deal? But that is the wrong way to phrase it. The Palestinians do want to make a deal now, but not on Bibi’s terms. But they were unwilling to make a deal with Olmert or even Barak earlier when each conceded East Jerusalem to the Palestinians. As former U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, reported in her memoirs, No Higher Honor, in 2008 Prime Minister Ehud Olmert when Tzipi Livni was once before in charge of the negotiations, had offered the Palestinian Authority their capital in East Jerusalem. However, the Old City would remain under Israeli administration. Further, Jerusalem would remain united under an Israeli Mayor and a Palestinian deputy mayor. Finally, an international body, to include both Jordan and Saudi Arabia, would serve in an advisory capacity with respect to the holy sites.
In 2011, Abbas conceded that he and Olmert had agreed that Jerusalem would remain united and East Jerusalem would be the capital of Palestine. But they did not agree on the old city. An Arab and a Jewish Jerusalem would be the result – two separate municipalities in two separate states but as a united capital under a joint administration. Further, when Al Jazeera released certain documents that conceded that most of East Jerusalem would remain in Israeli hands, the Palestinian Authority denounced the documents as a pack of lies. That is because the parts of East Jerusalem that would remain Israeli were those settlements built across the Green Line in what were barren hills in the eastern part of Jerusalem. Abbas, however, would not concede surrendering the old city to Israeli authority, especially the Mosque of Omar and the Dome on the Rock.

This was in spite of the fact that Olmert had offered Abbas 94% of the territory in dispute when swaps were taken into consideration and would later up the offer to 97% before he finally left office. There was no deal. The settlements were not the sticking point. Jerusalem was and remains the central blockage in concluding a deal and we have gone backwards from there since. Netanyahu, as far as Jerusalem is concerned, has never made an equivalent offer. Further, he has repeatedly used Abbas’ rejection of that offer – more accurately, failing to respond to the offer – as his argument why Abbas cannot be considered a serious negotiating partner.

Abbas would not then, and has not indicated any change of mind since. He will not concede giving up on claims of sovereignty over the Old City, especially the sites so holy to Islam. So what role do the settlements play? Does Israeli continuation of its settlement activities mean that Netanyahu still holds to the old Likud position opposing the surrender of most of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians? No. There remain, of course, some in Likud who adamantly cling to an insistence on retaining sovereignty over the West Bank. But even Naftali Bennett, leader of the Aish Hatid Party, has agreed to land swaps with the Palestinian Authority. But the areas now occupied by the settlements must not be transferred. And certainly not Jerusalem.

When Bennett addressed the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, he said, “We will never agree to give up a unified Jerusalem.” He warned Netanyahu about the dire consequences of giving up Jerusalem after praying for its return for 2000 years. Though not nearly as severe, ambitious or inflexible as Bennett, this is Netanyahu’s position now. If that is the case, why does Netanyahu continue with such an ambitious settlement program? Why is he not content with what Israel has already taken? As the Americans have observed, the government’s settlement policy is unequivocal, deliberate and unremitting.
US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice (mentioned previously with respect to the Jerusalem issue and the negotiations between Olmert and Abbas) criticized Israel in 2008 when plans were announced to build thousands of more homes in East Jerusalem, specifically 1,300 more homes in Ramat Shlomo. Further, Jerusalem’s city council at the same time unveiled plans to build 40,000 new apartments throughout the city over the next ten years, many if not most in what was East Jerusalem. In 2009, Hillary Rodham Clinton as Secretary of State enunciated the position that all settlement activity must stop. When in March 2010, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Israel, to his great embarrassment Israel announced at the time of the visit plans to build 1,600 more homes in East Jerusalem.

Let’s be clear. These homes are not being built in the part of East Jerusalem densely populated by Palestinians but in the barren hills east of the old Green Line within the larger Jerusalem. Further, within the confines of the larger West Bank, last year Israel declared thousands of dunams to be state land. The Civil Administration approved 28,000 dunams as state land available for settlement.

A close examination of those tracts indicates that Israel is focusing not so much on expanding settlements as on thickening the ones they already have and linking up outposts in anticipation of a future land swap. This is especially true of the 3,479 dunams declared as state land adjacent to Ariel that projects far into the West Bank. All the land claimed and planned for settlements is in area C totally under the control of the Israeli government. Further, though there was a de facto construction freeze during the just terminated peace negotiations – though Israel had refused to sign onto such a freeze – plans for 13,850 housing units were initiated in Area C of the West Bank and tenders were prepared.

Note that of the 28,000 dunams made available for settlement, almost 80% fell within the boundaries of existing settlements. Most of the rest was land on which construction had already gone ahead previously. What has been observed is a program of consolidation more than expansion. Israel is preparing for the day when an independent Palestine state is declared on the West Bank, when land swaps will take place and when the settlements are incorporated into Israel proper.

Though I do not agree with the settlement activities outside of Jerusalem, I also do not see the settlements as a key obstacle to a peace agreement. They do, however, more than annoy America and certainly send an erroneous signal that Israel is not serious about an independent Palestinian state along side Israel, but the settlement activity is not what stands in the way of a peace agreement.

Was it the delay in the prisoner release? No, this was simply a pause pending a commitment by the Palestinians to extend the negotiations for nine months. Progress was made in these talks, particularly over the right of return and by making it clear that Netanyahu does accept a two-state solution. But progress was NOT made in defining the precise borders and in what would happen to Jerusalem. The failure of a positive outcome, which most informed observers always saw as a long shot, can be blamed on both Abbas and Netanyahu, but only because their positions on Jerusalem cannot be reconciled, certainly not at this time. The issue is not a lack of will to make a deal, but a lack of will to make a deal that the other party would or could find acceptable.

Were the negotiations worth it? I believe so. The areas of difference are now quite narrow but run very deep. There are many proposals for resolving the Jerusalem issue, and Canadian diplomats have been intimately involved in a task force on developing a creative answer. From what I have heard of the plan, it will not be acceptable to either party even though it is a rational compromise.

What can be done in the interim to advance peace. Engage in de facto consolidation of what has been agreed upon. In particular, this requires a number of initiatives by Israel to withdraw from Area B and hand over jurisdiction for security to the PA. Eliminate areas of irritation in preparation for implementation of the two-state solution even if the land swaps remain in abeyance and even if no solution can be found to the differences over Jerusalem.

Netanyahu, Joseph and Moses

by

Howard Adelman

Over Saturday night dinner, a close friend bemoaned how badly Netanyahu was handling the fallout from the peace talks. My friend is not a leftist but nevertheless thinks that Netanyahu should have shown a greater interest and willingness to forge a permanent peace agreement – not so much for the sake of the Palestinians as for Israel’s reputation in the world. My friend was not alone in this criticism. It is rather widespread. It became more acute with Netanyahu’s unwillingness to free the remaining Palestinian prisoners on time that he had pledged to free as a condition for the Palestinians resuming the peace talks last year, though reports often conveniently omitted the commitment Netanyahu had made to do so if Abbas agreed to continue the talks past the deadline. The fact that this condition to resume the talks was not part of the original agreement did not seem to matter for the defenders of Netanyahu.

Instead of joining in either the criticism or the defence of Netanyahu, I want to first characterize Netanyahu as a leader using the background on Joseph and Moses as foils of two contrasting types of leaders. For example, Joseph made his name and reputation as a political leader on the basis of a domestic political platform, not as Phillipe Couillard did who won a clear majority for Liberals last night on a program of jobs, jobs, jobs versus a boring repetitive refrain of referendum, referendum and referendum by the Parti Québecois. Joseph won popular acclaim for a program even more fundamental tha Couillard’s stressing food, food and more food. In contrast, Moses was a far less popular leader for he was both a top-down chief magistrate with only ears for a divine voice rather than the pleas of the masses, as well as one whose almost exclusive concern was a unique form of separatism, separating one’s own followers from the body politic within which they had lived for over four hundred years and finding a new land to call home under one’s own jurisdiction and under the rule of law handed down from heaven. Ideals rather than daily domestic concerns would or should motivate the people to vote with their feet was Moses’ belief.

Was domestic or international policy the prime concern of Netanyahu’s leadership, granted that security always had to be the number one concern of any Israeli leader. But had security concerns been pushed into the background? After all, look at the long list of domestic political agenda items for Netanyahu. Whatever was on the list, issues of social justice did not seem to have a high priority among them as it did for Québec Solidaire which increased the number of seats it held in the provincial assembly from 2 to 3. Netanyahu seems to have no or little interest in any of the following issues: discrimination in housing against and anti-discrimination protection with respect to jobs for Israeli Arabs; racial profiling of Israeli Arab citizens undergoing security checks at Ben Gurion airport; fair and equal access to purchasing land, though the Supreme Court of Israel did force the hand of the government on this issue by obligating the Israel Land Authority, which controls over 90% of the land available in Israel, to have a fair representation of Israeli Arab citizens (and women as well) on its board (I was not able to find out whether that included Bedouin and especially Bedouin women); racism against Arab-Israeli citizens in general which two-thirds of Israelis recognize, though Israelis believe the racism against Ethiopian Jews is even more prevalent; fostering anti-racism in sport, particularly in soccer; in general, the Israeli government, again unlike the new Quebec government, is not committed to promoting a shared and inclusive society as distinct from one that fosters divisions; fostering a charter of values based on inclusiveness rather than divisiveness; my own particularly important issue, the problem of refugee claimants and illegal economic migrants in Israel, though once again the Israeli court intervened to ensure that the children of these refugees and migrants, especially those born in Israel, had legal rights; protection for Jewish orthodox women unable to divorce their husbands (agunot) when their husbands refuse them a timely and fair get (divorce); the increasing disparities in salaries experienced in Israel (and around the world) compounded by salary discrimination between Ashkenazi versus Mizrachi, Ethiopian Jews, women and especially Israeli Arabs, though the Netanyahu government did get legislation passed to publish information on gender wage gaps; protection and adequate welfare for the 1,754,700 million Israeli citizens or 430,000 households out of a population of eight million who live below the poverty line, including 180,000 seniors and 817,200 children as documented in the National Insurance agency (according to an OECD Report the poverty rate in Israel went from 15% in 1995 to 21% in 2012), although the government did pass a law that made welfare payments payable jointly to a husband and wife rather than just to a husband; Netanyahu, after much dithering, did finally appoint Karnit Flug as the first woman governor of the Bank of Israel; the court’s order and perhaps surprisingly, Netanyahu’s instructions, for the government to implement Israel’s 1998 Public Housing Act; ignoring the problems of the homeless, though when our television program, Israel Today, did a program on the homeless in Tel Aviv where the majority of homeless are to be found, compared to Toronto, we were surprised at how relatively few homeless there were and even more surprised at the large number of agencies and professionals working on this problem; the government did cancel tax hikes on healthcare and housing; fairness in the treatment of Reform and Jewish rabbis and congregations in comparison to the treatment of the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox, though on this topic the Netanyahu government has demonstrated a degree of initiative, perhaps because the overseas American Jewish community is so important for the issues Netanyahu does prioritize, so the State Attorney’s office ruled that that the Ministry of Religious Services must allow Reform and Conservative rabbis  movements to serve as community rabbis; the requirement of military service by Haredi, however imperfect, is in process of being implemented.

With some notable exceptions, Netanyahu does not run a social justice government or one committed to social inclusiveness. He fails the Joseph test. What about foreign policy, especially the near-to-home policy of dealing with peace with Palestinians? As everyone knows, I strongly supported the Obama-Kerry peace initiative even though I only had faint hope that it would succeed. But that hope was bolstered by the excellent team Kerry had assembled led by Martin Indyk who was committed unreservedly to Israel and had been a student in Israel when the Yom Kippur War took place, authored U.S. President Clinton’s Middle East strategy, had been active in the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).was a former American ambassador to Israel and, as Vice-President at Brookings, the Washington liberal think tank on foreign affairs, led its Middle East program. But the talks are now on life support and most observers seem ready to publish an obituary, though Indyk and Kerry have not thrown in the towel. Just on Sunday, Indyk led serious and evidently sincere talks among Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Isaac Molho, Netanyahu’s personal representative at the talks, senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, and Majed Faraj, the head of Palestinian intelligence services.

Who is to blame for what appears to be an immanent failure? The Palestinians blame Netanyahu for not keeping his promise to release more prisoners. Israelis, especially Lieberman, counter with the argument that why should more prisoners be released if there is no likelihood of the talks continuing past the 30 April deadline let alone any realistic prospect of a deal. Further, while admitting Israel did not release the prisoners, the government had vowed to do so if there was a Palestinian commitment to continue the talks. Instead, the Palestinian Authority, to the surprise of both Israelis and Americans, took unilateral steps to initiate Palestine’s membership in fifteen international bodies in which only states can be members by signing letters of accession, an initiative taken, contrary to the negotiation agreement, without Israel’s permission let alone knowledge. However, the decision to join the International Criminal Court has been held in abeyance. This was a response not only to the non-release of the prisoners but to the Israeli government decision to let a tender for 700 additional residential housing units in Gilo, though the construction ban really only applied to the West Bank and Gilo is virtually an integral part of Jerusalem. Both the Israeli and the Arab negotiators at Sunday’s meeting did ask Indyk to convene another session. But Likud ministers in the government gloated that “the danger of peace had been averted”

Tzipi Livni has come in for particular criticism for being part of an artificial process when the head of the government, Netanyahu, had not truly been committed to the peace process. I believe this criticism is unwarranted and that Netanyahu is committed to a two- state solution, but a commitment not based on a possible deal he can make with the Palestinians. More importantly for an assessment of Netanyahu as a political leader, he was very astute in including Livni in his government, and more astute in appointing an individual with a relatively dovish reputation to be in charge of the negotiations.

The reality is that the negotiations are very painful and complex because Netanyahu and Abbas are totally at odds and equally uncompromising on Jerusalem. Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state can be dealt with through creative ambiguity and indirection by endorsing UN resolutions recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. The issue of Palestinian refugee return, which is so central to Abbas’ history, has witnessed a seismic shift with Abbas’ admission that very few Palestinians would return to Israel, but Abbas remains stubbornly wedded to the principle of the right of return. In the scheme of things, the tractable issue of settlements and borders seem to be the least important issue in these negotiations as everyone seems to recognize the broad outlines and agreement on that policy just as they long ago recognized the deal and discussions over water.  In fact, Netanyahu has initiated steps to demolish illegal building in Yitzhar which has led to clashes between settlers and the Border Police.

So, again, who is to blame? Will the Republican controlled House of Representatives blame the Palestinians and initiate a move to block the half billion dollars of aid America gives the Palestinian Authority?  Abbas has already taken steps to counter such an expected initiative by asking the Arab League to make up for American shortfalls. Most observers sympathetic to the Palestinians place the full blame on Netanyahu. And my friend on Saturday evening who belongs probably to the centre, tends to place the primary blame on Netanyahu. Rabbi Dow Marmur casts equal blame for, as he writes, “the Palestinian and Israeli narratives are irreconcilable”. I do not happen to agree with him. The narratives are reconcilable if both parties give up the claim that, “all of the land is ours and ours only”. Both Netanyahu and Abbas have given up that claim. The issue is not that they are not pragmatists, but their pragmatism has drawn red lines in the sand, now specifically over Jerusalem, that need to be bridged but, given both current governments, no one has been able to build the divide on the ground including the experts and committed members of Kerry’s team.

So though pessimistic, my pessimism is shallow compared to Dow’s. I do not believe that either Abbas or Netanyahu is simple engaged in shadow boxing to keep the Americans entertained and off their respective backs. The fact that Livni has not turned on Netanyahu is but one among many clues. Netanyahu’s problem is that he does not carry a divine magic rod and lacks the backing of a transcendent belief and agent. Abbas and Netanyahu, with all their clever political skills – skills that Moses never mastered – lack a mediating formula which would allow them both to go home discontented with the result but delighted there was a result.