Sunday, September 15, 2013

[ePalestine] NYT: Two-State Illusion (By IAN S. LUSTICK) - A MUST READ!

New York Times


Two-State Illusion

Published: September 14, 2013

THE last three decades are littered with the carcasses of failed negotiating projects billed as the last chance for peace in Israel. All sides have been wedded to the notion that there must be two states, one Palestinian and one Israeli. For more than 30 years, experts and politicians have warned of a "point of no return." Secretary of State John Kerry is merely the latest in a long line of well-meaning American diplomats wedded to an idea whose time is now past. 

True believers in the two-state solution see absolutely no hope elsewhere. With no alternative in mind, and unwilling or unable to rethink their basic assumptions, they are forced to defend a notion whose success they can no longer sincerely portray as plausible or even possible. 

It's like 1975 all over again, when the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco fell into a coma. The news media began a long death watch, announcing each night that Generalissimo Franco was still not dead. This desperate allegiance to the departed echoes in every speech, policy brief and op-ed about the two-state solution today. 

True, some comas miraculously end. Great surprises sometimes happen. The problem is that the changes required to achieve the vision of robust Israeli and Palestinian states living side by side are now considerably less likely than other less familiar but more plausible outcomes that demand high-level attention but aren't receiving it. 

Strong Islamist trends make a fundamentalist Palestine more likely than a small state under a secular government. The disappearance of Israel as a Zionist project, through war, cultural exhaustion or demographic momentum, is at least as plausible as the evacuation of enough of the half-million Israelis living across the 1967 border, or Green Line, to allow a real Palestinian state to exist. While the vision of thriving Israeli and Palestinian states has slipped from the plausible to the barely possible, one mixed state emerging from prolonged and violent struggles over democratic rights is no longer inconceivable. Yet the fantasy that there is a two-state solution keeps everyone from taking action toward something that might work. 

All sides have reasons to cling to this illusion. The Palestinian Authority needs its people to believe that progress is being made toward a two-state solution so it can continue to get the economic aid and diplomatic support that subsidize the lifestyles of its leaders, the jobs of tens of thousands of soldiers, spies, police officers and civil servants, and the authority's prominence in a Palestinian society that views it as corrupt and incompetent. 

Israeli governments cling to the two-state notion because it seems to reflect the sentiments of the Jewish Israeli majority and it shields the country from international opprobrium, even as it camouflages relentless efforts to expand Israel's territory into the West Bank. 

American politicians need the two-state slogan to show they are working toward a diplomatic solution, to keep the pro-Israel lobby from turning against them and to disguise their humiliating inability to allow any daylight between Washington and the Israeli government. 

Finally, the "peace process" industry — with its legions of consultants, pundits, academics and journalists — needs a steady supply of readers, listeners and funders who are either desperately worried that this latest round of talks will lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state, or that it will not. 

Conceived as early as the 1930s, the idea of two states between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea all but disappeared from public consciousness between 1948 and 1967. Between 1967 and 1973 it re-emerged, advanced by a minority of "moderates" in each community. By the 1990s it was embraced by majorities on both sides as not only possible but, during the height of the Oslo peace process, probable. But failures of leadership in the face of tremendous pressures brought Oslo crashing down. These days no one suggests that a negotiated two-state "solution" is probable. The most optimistic insist that, for some brief period, it may still be conceivable. 

But many Israelis see the demise of the country as not just possible, but probable. The State of Israel has been established, not its permanence. The most common phrase in Israeli political discourse is some variation of "If X happens (or doesn't), the state will not survive!" Those who assume that Israel will always exist as a Zionist project should consider how quickly the Soviet, Pahlavi Iranian, apartheid South African, Baathist Iraqi and Yugoslavian states unraveled, and how little warning even sharp-eyed observers had that such transformations were imminent. 

In all these cases, presumptions about what was "impossible" helped protect brittle institutions by limiting political imagination. And when objective realities began to diverge dramatically from official common sense, immense pressures accumulated. 

JUST as a balloon filled gradually with air bursts when the limit of its tensile strength is passed, there are thresholds of radical, disruptive change in politics. When those thresholds are crossed, the impossible suddenly becomes probable, with revolutionary implications for governments and nations. As we see vividly across the Middle East, when forces for change and new ideas are stifled as completely and for as long as they have been in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, sudden and jagged change becomes increasingly likely. 

History offers many such lessons. Britain ruled Ireland for centuries, annexing it in 1801. By the mid-19th century the entire British political class treated Ireland's permanent incorporation as a fact of life. But bottled-up Irish fury produced repeated revolts. By the 1880s, the Irish question was the greatest issue facing the country; it led to mutiny in the army and near civil war before World War I. Once the war ended, it took only a few years until the establishment of an independent Ireland. What was inconceivable became a fact. 

France ruled Algeria for 130 years and never questioned the future of Algeria as an integral part of France. But enormous pressures accumulated, exploding into a revolution that left hundreds of thousands dead. Despite France's military victory over the rebels in 1959, Algeria soon became independent, and Europeans were evacuated from the country. 

And when Mikhail S. Gorbachev sought to save Soviet Communism by reforming it with the policies of glasnost and perestroika, he relied on the people's continuing belief in the permanence of the Soviet structure. But the forces for change that had already accumulated were overwhelming. Unable to separate freedom of expression and market reforms from the rest of the Soviet state project, Mr. Gorbachev's policies pushed the system beyond its breaking point. Within a few years, both the Soviet Union and the Communist regime were gone. 

Obsessive focus on preserving the theoretical possibility of a two-state solution is as irrational as rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic rather than steering clear of icebergs. But neither ships in the night nor the State of Israel can avoid icebergs unless they are seen. 

The two-state slogan now serves as a comforting blindfold of entirely contradictory fantasies. The current Israeli version of two states envisions Palestinian refugees abandoning their sacred "right of return," an Israeli-controlled Jerusalem and an archipelago of huge Jewish settlements, crisscrossed by Jewish-only access roads. The Palestinian version imagines the return of refugees, evacuation of almost all settlements and East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital. 

DIPLOMACY under the two-state banner is no longer a path to a solution but an obstacle itself. We are engaged in negotiations to nowhere. And this isn't the first time that American diplomats have obstructed political progress in the name of hopeless talks. 

In 1980, I was a 30-year-old assistant professor, on leave from Dartmouth at the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. I was responsible for analyzing Israeli settlement and land expropriation policies in the West Bank and their implications for the "autonomy negotiations" under way at that time between Israel, Egypt and the United States. It was clear to me that Prime Minister Menachem Begin's government was systematically using tangled talks over how to conduct negotiations as camouflage for de facto annexation of the West Bank via intensive settlement construction, land expropriation and encouragement of "voluntary" Arab emigration. 

To protect the peace process, the United States strictly limited its public criticism of Israeli government policies, making Washington an enabler for the very processes of de facto annexation that were destroying prospects for the full autonomy and realization of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people that were the official purpose of the negotiations. This view was endorsed and promoted by some leading voices within the administration. Unsurprisingly, it angered others. One day I was summoned to the office of a high-ranking diplomat, who was then one of the State Department's most powerful advocates for the negotiations. He was a man I had always respected and admired. "Are you," he asked me, "personally so sure of your analysis that you are willing to destroy the only available chance for peace between Israelis and Palestinians?" His question gave me pause, but only briefly. "Yes, sir," I answered, "I am." 

I still am. Had America blown the whistle on destructive Israeli policies back then it might have greatly enhanced prospects for peace under a different leader. It could have prevented Mr. Begin's narrow electoral victory in 1981 and brought a government to power that was ready to negotiate seriously with the Palestinians before the first or second intifada and before the construction of massive settlement complexes in the West Bank. We could have had an Oslo process a crucial decade earlier. 

Now, as then, negotiations are phony; they suppress information that Israelis, Palestinians and Americans need to find noncatastrophic paths into the future. The issue is no longer where to draw political boundaries between Jews and Arabs on a map but how equality of political rights is to be achieved. The end of the 1967 Green Line as a demarcation of potential Israeli and Palestinian sovereignty means that Israeli occupation of the West Bank will stigmatize all of Israel. 

For some, abandoning the two-state mirage may feel like the end of the world. But it is not. Israel may no longer exist as the Jewish and democratic vision of its Zionist founders. The Palestine Liberation Organization stalwarts in Ramallah may not strut on the stage of a real Palestinian state. But these lost futures can make others more likely. 

THE assumptions necessary to preserve the two-state slogan have blinded us to more likely scenarios. With a status but no role, what remains of the Palestinian Authority will disappear. Israel will face the stark challenge of controlling economic and political activity and all land and water resources from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. The stage will be set for ruthless oppression, mass mobilization, riots, brutality, terror, Jewish and Arab emigration and rising tides of international condemnation of Israel. And faced with growing outrage, America will no longer be able to offer unconditional support for Israel. Once the illusion of a neat and palatable solution to the conflict disappears, Israeli leaders may then begin to see, as South Africa's white leaders saw in the late 1980s, that their behavior is producing isolation, emigration and hopelessness. 

Fresh thinking could then begin about Israel's place in a rapidly changing region. There could be generous compensation for lost property. Negotiating with Arabs and Palestinians based on satisfying their key political requirements, rather than on maximizing Israeli prerogatives, might yield more security and legitimacy. Perhaps publicly acknowledging Israeli mistakes and responsibility for the suffering of Palestinians would enable the Arab side to accept less than what it imagines as full justice. And perhaps Israel's potent but essentially unusable nuclear weapons arsenal could be sacrificed for a verified and strictly enforced W.M.D.-free zone in the Middle East. 

Such ideas cannot even be entertained as long as the chimera of a negotiated two-state solution monopolizes all attention. But once the two-state-fantasy blindfolds are off, politics could make strange bedfellows. 

In such a radically new environment, secular Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank could ally with Tel Aviv's post-Zionists, non-Jewish Russian-speaking immigrants, foreign workers and global-village Israeli entrepreneurs. Anti-nationalist ultra-Orthodox Jews might find common cause with Muslim traditionalists. Untethered to statist Zionism in a rapidly changing Middle East, Israelis whose families came from Arab countries might find new reasons to think of themselves not as "Eastern," but as Arab. Masses of downtrodden and exploited Muslim and Arab refugees, in Gaza, the West Bank and in Israel itself could see democracy, not Islam, as the solution for translating what they have (numbers) into what they want (rights and resources). Israeli Jews committed above all to settling throughout the greater Land of Israel may find arrangements based on a confederation, or a regional formula that is more attractive than narrow Israeli nationalism. 

It remains possible that someday two real states may arise. But the pretense that negotiations under the slogan of "two states for two peoples" could lead to such a solution must be abandoned. Time can do things that politicians cannot. 

Just as an independent Ireland emerged by seceding 120 years after it was formally incorporated into the United Kingdom, so, too, a single state might be the route to eventual Palestinian independence. But such outcomes develop organically; they are not implemented by diplomats overnight and they do not arise without the painful stalemates that lead each party to conclude that time is not on their side. 

Peacemaking and democratic state building require blood and magic. The question is not whether the future has conflict in store for Israel-Palestine. It does. Nor is the question whether conflict can be prevented. It cannot. But avoiding truly catastrophic change means ending the stifling reign of an outdated idea and allowing both sides to see and then adapt to the world as it is. 

Ian S. Lustick is a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of "Unsettled States, Disputed Lands: Britain and Ireland, France and Algeria, Israel and the West Bank-Gaza" and "Trapped in the War on Terror.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on September 15, 2013, on page SR1 of the New York edition with the headline: Two-State Illusion. 



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Saturday, September 14, 2013

[ePalestine] Al Jazeera World: The Pain Inside

"The Pain Inside" dwarfs in comparison to the pain caused...

Al Jazeera World

The Pain Inside

After military service, many young Israelis travel abroad to distance themselves from distressing experiences.

21 Aug 2013 09:24


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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

[ePalestine] NSA shares raw intelligence including Americans' data with Israel

Hello America...time to wake up...

NSA shares raw intelligence including Americans' data with Israel

• Secret deal places no legal limits on use of data by Israelis
• Only official US government communications protected
• Agency insists it complies with rules governing privacy
• Read the NSA and Israel's 'memorandum of understanding'

Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill   

Wednesday 11 September 2013


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Wednesday, September 04, 2013

[ePalestine] NYRB: The American Jewish Cocoon (by Peter Beinart)

The New York Review of Books - September 26, 2013

The American Jewish Cocoon

by Peter Beinart

Speak to American Jews long enough about Israel and you begin to notice something. The conversation may begin with Israel, but it rarely ends there. It usually ends with "them."

Express concern about Israeli subsidies for West Bank settlements and you'll be told that the settlements don't matter because "they" won't accept Israel within any borders. Cite the recent warning by former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin that "over the past 10–15 years Israel has become more and more racist" and you'll be told that whatever Israel's imperfections, it is "they" who teach their children to hate and kill. Mention that former prime minister Ehud Olmert has called Mahmoud Abbas a partner for peace and you'll be told that what "they" say in Arabic is different from what they say in English.



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Sunday, September 01, 2013

Haaretz: Smoke and trash (By Amira Hass)

Dear friends, 

Reminds me of a past issue that I helped our mayor at the time write about:
Settlers and Trash, by MAYOR WALID HAMAD (November 06, 2002).
The issues just keep getting recycled...

Add the politics of trash to the matrix of occupation,



Smoke and trash || Palestinian town left reeking due to bureaucratic gap

In an unusual display of environmental sensitivity, Israel's Civil Administration shuts down El Bireh's landfill; the city responds by emptying its garbage trucks around town.

By Amira Hass | Aug. 31, 2013

An ad-hoc garbage dump in El Bireh; the official site's closure did not come as a surprise. Photo by Emil Salman
Garbage cans are overflowing and emitting a nauseatingly sweet smell, and in some of them there are flames at night that shoot off embers in all directions. There are piles of smoking refuse at the sides of the roads and in the various neighborhoods. That is the look and the odor of El Bireh these days, where a garbage war is being waged.

In the days following the closure of the El Bireh landfill by the Civil Administration on August 7, the municipality trucks still collected garbage from about 800 containers around the city but tossed it into open areas and wadis at the edges of the built-up areas. Unemployed young men showed up immediately and set fire to the piles, so that it would be easier for them to remove iron and other metals from the waste.

The neighbors responded to the double nuisance by blocking the paths to the improvised dump sites with tires and rocks to make it harder for the municipality’s trucks to reach them. They found an unexpected ally: the Israel Defense Forces. Because the improvised dumping sites are near the settlement Psagot and the Beit El checkpoint, soldiers and bulldozers were sent into the El Bireh municipal area (although it is defined as Area C, which is under Israeli security and civil control) to impound the municipality’s trucks and to pour dirt on the wreaking piles, whose smoke rose and reached the homes of Psagot.

Midweek, after the soldiers had confiscated the fifth truck, garbage collection from the streets stopped (another two trucks were being repaired). In the garbage war it is waging, the El Bireh municipality expects the Palestinian Authority and residents to understand that the closing of the site is not a municipal failure, but a reflection of the broader political reality of the relations between occupier and occupied.

The Civil Administration decided that for reasons of environmental protection, the El Bireh waste-disposal site should be closed, even before the construction of a modern and safe alternative, which has been under discussion since 1999. The municipality petitioned the High Court of Justice against the closure order, through attorneys Shelly Dvir and Yuri Gai-Ron. The legal procedure and the negotiations between the parties postponed implementation of the closure by a year and a half, from January 1, 2012, to this month. The closing did not come as a surprise to the municipality, although that is the impression one gets from its press campaigns.

On February 7, the High Court justices wrote that with the consent of the parties, the site would continue to operate until August 7, and during that period the use of one of the alternatives dictated by Civil Administration experts would be arranged: transport of the garbage either to a private Palestinian dumping site in Jenin or to the one in Abu Dis, which is itself about to be closed because it is hazardous.
From the start, the El Bireh municipality claimed that it doesn’t have the money for transport and for the dumping fees, that, according to an initial calculation, would eat up about a tenth of its budget − which itself runs some NIS 60-70 million annually.

With the PA in financial distress, and its principal donors suffering financial crises of their own, it was hard for El Bireh to consider taking on this extraordinary expense. And apparently there were some people in the municipality who hoped that a miracle would postpone the decree. This has also been the most difficult period in the history of this city, in terms of administration: The decision to close the site (first announced at the end of 2011) came when the municipality and the local council were headed by elected Hamas officials. In February 2012, the PA disbanded the elected council, but it wasn’t until the end of last year that local elections were held, in which the Fatah slate won, and the new council only started to realize what was going on.

The El Bireh waste-disposal site was built in 1978 in Wadi Shikhan. It covers some 70 dunams (about 17 acres), most of it private land owned by city residents. In 1981, the settlement of Psagot was built on a summit that overlooks all of El Bireh and in some parts is only a few meters away from its eastern neighborhoods. The disposal site is situated about one kilometer northeast of the settlement. According to the interim agreements that were signed in 1995, the site is within Area C − territory that is under Israeli civil and security administration.

Since the outbreak of the second intifada, 13 years ago, the road to the site has been blocked to Palestinians by a military gate, with the IDF and the Civil Administration restricting entry to garbage trucks to a few hours a day. Fences, roadblocks, locked gates, military patrols and settlements − all have become the impassable eastern boundary of El Bireh and its residents, although much of their land is to the east of it.

Bureaucratic maze

The closing of the site demonstrates the bureaucratic maze created by the interim agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, a situation that has in the meantime become permanent: The IDF remains the sovereign in the entire area of the West Bank, and as such it has shed responsibility for the welfare of the Palestinian residents and instead imposed it on the PA − with its consent.

The PA has the authority and ability to fulfill this responsibility only in separate enclaves that account for less that 40 percent of the West Bank. In over 60 percent, Israel maintains the civil authority to build, demolish, close or open new ecological facilities or prevent their construction. That is how Israel can order closure of a Palestinian waste-disposal site or delay the construction of a new one without having moral or budgetary responsibility for that. Even if the residents know this, for them the municipality is still the “address” at which to direct their anger.

But the Civil Administration had good reason for ordering the closing of the site, as proven by an opinion it submitted to the court on January 14, written by Einat Bronstein of the Environmental Protection Ministry. Her conclusion is unequivocal: “The site constitutes a focus for serious and continuing pollution of the environment. The site is operating without any environmental protection infrastructure and constitutes a potential of active pollution of the environment for many years, by releasing polluting gases into the air and introducing pollutants underground ...”

It turns out that the judges preferred this official opinion to an opinion brought by the petitioners, written by Daniel Morgenstern, an economic and environmental consultant. He wrote at the end of 2011 that the operation of the site should be permitted for another three years, until the opening of a properly regulated alternative.

The closure order is a testimony to the progress that the Israeli authorities have made in their environmental awareness. In its response to El Bireh’s petition, the state declared that the site built by the El Bireh municipality “is operating unlawfully and without planning arrangements.” What it neglected to mention, however, is that it was constructed during a period when not a stone was moved without the knowledge and approval of the military commander − during a period when the IDF, and later the Civil Administration, were theoretically responsible for Palestinian residents’ welfare and issues such as planning and environment. Those are the authorities that permitted Psagot to bury its garbage, starting in 1982, in the unregulated site. They are also the authorities that in the early 1990s allowed the settlements in the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council to inter their garbage at a site that was operating “unlawfully.” From 2003 to 2010, the Civil Administration also permitted Modi’in Illit and Givat Ze’ev to transport their refuse there.

In 2010, El Bireh buried 13,380 tons of waste at its site, as compared to 29,478 tons interred by the settlements. The settlements paid fees to the Samaria Town Association for Environmental Quality, which, starting in 2003, became the acting administrator of the site and hired the operations contractor. El Bireh municipality officials say that from the start, the site was designated for the city’s garbage, and not for the substantial amount of additional waste that was forced on it.

One of the riddles that remained unsolved during the legal discussion is related to the fact that on February 27, 2011, the Civil Administration was still suggesting an expansion of the site, although already then there was awareness of the environmental damage it was causing. It was decided at the time that a team from the Samaria Towns Association for Environmental Quality would prepare an expansion plan that would make its operation possible until the opening of the modern and environmentally friendly site, and implementation of an advanced recycling plan in the settlements. The municipality claims that the moment they expressed reservations due to the proximity of the proposed expansion to the homes of El Bireh − the threats to close the site began, and were in fact carried out.

The justices also preferred the Civil Administration’s position to that of the Towns Association, as reflected in its reply to the El Bireh petition. “The Civil Administration refrained throughout recent years from intervening in the administration of the site apparently because professional environmental groups in the Civil Administration backed the Associations’ in the administration of the site,” wrote attorney Rina Avenchik, representing the association. “The reservations of the Civil Administration regarding the plan submitted by the association to continue the use of the site on a temporary basis for the El Bireh municipality and the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council, is therefore surprising ...”

Sharon Ahdut, spokesman of the Towns Association, told Haaretz that “in our opinion, too, the site is not environmental (especially with regard to polluting ground water), but we claimed that as long as the Palestinians have no better alternative, it should continue to operate, while it is rehabilitated with Israeli funding (which could have been increased), since El Bireh didn’t have money to pay for the interment. Rehabilitation after the cessation of that process can and should be done with external funding. We sent a proposal to the head of the Civil Administration to build a facility for sorting the waste and treating it using the MBT (mechanical-biological treatment) method − anaerobic + aerobic digestion in closed containers to produce energy and compost [a German method] that can be built at the site itself.”

According to the association’s inspections, the site in Jenin that the Civil Administration dictated as an alternative for El Bireh’s waste is neglected in terms of environmental operation. Like the municipality, the association thinks that transportation to that site would itself not be environmentally friendly “in terms of the energy cost of the transportation and in terms of the dispersal of pollutants.”

In the meantime, the garbage is rolling around in the streets of El Bireh. One night firefighters were summoned: In their frustration, supermarket employees had set fire to the contents of the overflowing garbage container and didn’t notice that it was standing directly beneath a high-tension wire. One of the municipality employees shouted over the phone at the person responsible: “You could have incinerated not only the container but the entire city.”

The spokesman for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories responded to an inquiry from Haaretz with the following statement: “In protest of the High Court ruling and the closure of the site that operated illegally, and without the required permits, for many years, the Palestinians began to burn their own garbage there, thus exacerbating the environmental damage. This hurts both the Palestinian and Jewish populations in the area. In light of this, the Civil Administration has been active in conducting talks and meeting with PA officials and representatives of the El Bireh municipality, in an attempt to come to an arrangement and to an end to the protests, and also in enforcing the regulations. The latter includes impounding various equipment as well, including four garbage trucks.”