Bird’s Eye: There has been a huge debate among those who care about Israel, in response to Peter Beinart’s “The Crisis of Zionism”. (All Amazon reviews are either 5 stars or 1 / 2 stars. No middle ground.) But what seem startlingly clear in the debate is a increasingly universal agreement that the time is finished when it might have been possible to have two states, an Israeli and Palestinian country side by side. No Israeli government could survive removing the settlers; no Palestinian country is possible while they’re there. So now the debate is about a one-state solution, and how best to get there.
* The Two-State Solution on Its Deathbed Robert Wright The Atlantic
Daniel Levy, a former Israeli negotiator, once told me that part of the problem is a kind of catch 22. When Palestinians aren’t threatening Israelis with violence, there’s no sense of urgency in Israel about dealing with the settlement problem. And when there is ongoing violence (which of course Levy doesn’t support), and therefore there is a sense of urgency, the fear that drives the urgency has an unfortunate byproduct: Israelis don’t trust Palestinians enough to offer a two-state deal that the Palestinians, or any self-respecting people, would accept. (Beinart’s examination of the Camp David talks–see chapter 4–undermines the official Israeli-American story that the Palestinians have been offered great deals but have inexplicably turned them down.)
My point isn’t that we should blame the Israelis for the death or very-near-death of the two-state solution. It’s not surprising that people with their history and geopolitical predicament would let fear get the better of them. (They’re being no more irrationally fearful than Americans were in the wake of 9/11, which led us to launch two wars, one of them against a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 and that posed no threat.) By the same token, it’s not surprising that the Palestinians wouldn’t endure 45 years of subjugation, during which they’ve been denied basic human rights, without any eruptions of violence (which of course isn’t to say I support the violence). That’s the depressing thing about the Israel-Palestinian conflict: It results from the Israelis and Palestinians acting more or less the way you would expect people in their shoes to act.
But that’s why it’s crucial that those of us who live at a safe remove from the conflict, and can in theory summon detachment, should try hard to see the situation clearly, succumbing neither to paralyzing fear nor cozy illusions. And the most common cozy illusion is that, though the time may not be right for a two-state solution now, we can always do the deal a year or two or three down the road.
The truth is that a two-state solution is almost completely dead, and it gets closer to death every day. If there’s any hope at all of reviving it, that will involve, among other things, somehow delivering a shock to the Israeli system. Peter Beinart has an idea for how to do that. Does Zvika Kriegert? Do any of the other well-intentioned liberal Zionists who keep affirming their allegiance to a two-state solution as if that ritual incantation was somehow helping things?
* Staying Up To Date On Israel-Palestine Stephen M. Walt
I haven’t commented on Peter Beinart’s new book The Crisis of Zionism for the simple reason that I haven’t read it yet. It’s on my list, but will probably have to wait till the end of the term. In the interim, here are a few things you ought to read if you believe that the Israel-Palestine issue is at least as important as our current obsession with Iran.
You might read Isabel Kershner’s New York Times piece on the eviction of an Israeli settler family from an illegal outpost in Hebron. The kicker, of course, is that the removal of one settler family was accompanied by an announcement that the Netanyahu government had authorized construction of 800 new homes in Har Homa and Givat Zeev, and intended “to seek the necessary permits to retroactively legalize three other West Bank settler outposts that went up without authorization.” And lest you be confused about the Netanyahu government’s intentions, here’s what Netanyahu himself had to say about it (my emphasis):
“The principle that has guided me is to strengthen Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. Today, I instructed that the status of three communities — Bruchim, Sansana, and Rechalim — be provided for. I also asked Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to see to it that the Ulpana hill in Beit El not be evacuated. This is the principle that has guided us. We are strengthening Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and we are strengthening the Jewish community in Hebron, the City of the Patriarchs. But there is one principle that we uphold. We do everything according to the law and we will continue to do so.”
So Netanyahu’s aim is clear: keeping control of the West Bank forever. And the reference to “doing everything according to the law” is revealing, because “law” here means the law of the occupation, which is the same law that has allowed a half a million Israelis to move onto the territories conquered in 1967 over the past forty years.
* The Real Radical Left Gideon Levy Haaretz
The battle for Hebron has been decided. All that remains is to ask what will replace the solution that was put to death. There will not be two states. Even a child knows the alternative: one state. There is no third option. Israel’s most radical left won. For years it said one state, even as we played with ourselves at two states. Now everyone says two states, in unison, only because they know that train has left the station, and the great train robbery was pulled off.
From now we need only take care with our definitions: The extreme left is whoever endeavors toward a single state – the plundering settlers, the establishment that embraces them and the majority of Israelis, who do not lift a finger to stop them.
The Palestinians, as everyone knows by now, aren’t going anywhere. There is even a handful of settlers that has begun talking about giving them citizenship. If this, too, is not a ruse, then this little group is openly reconciling with the great victory of Israel’s most extreme left.
The struggle? From now on it must focus on human rights. Yes, equal rights for everyone who lives in Greater Israel, just as you wanted.
* Why Continue To Build The Settlements? By Andrew Sullivan The Daily Beast
Why continue to build the settlements? …the evasions of this central point of Beinart’s book by its vitriolic critics are as legion as they are predictable. And they matter. Because the evaders do not want to answer the question: why continue to build the settlements? They do not want to answer that question and dodge it relentlessly because the answer is obvious and devastating to their position. The answer is that the settlements are there because the current Israeli government has no intention of ever dividing the land between Arabs and Jews in a way that would give the Palestinians anything like their own state; and have every intention of holding Judea and Samaria for ever. Netanyahu is, as Beinart rightly calls him, a Monist. He is the son of his father, Ben Zion, as Jeffrey Goldberg has also insisted on. But what Peter does is spell out one side of the Netanyahu vision that Goldberg elides.