23 thoughts on “Mitchell Slapdown: Refuses Netanyahu Demand That Palestinians Recognize Israel as Jewish State – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. Richard, you may not feel cursed because you are living in a dream world. Mitchell’s words are designed to make Obama’s constituency feel like he’s doing something. There is no way the Lobby will be thwarted, because all of Obama’s advisers – Emanuel, Ross, et.al are a part of it. Nothing has changed, nothing will change. The two state solution is dead!

  2. I’m with you, Richard, let us hope for the best… In the talkback section of the Ha’aretz article you mentioned, “Samy” from L.A. asks more highly relevant questions:
    “Israel is the only state that has NOT declared its borders. So WHICH Israel does Netanyahu want the Palestinians to recognize?
    Israel of 1948?
    Israel of post 1967?
    Israel that illegally occupies East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Golan Heights and Shabaa Farms?
    Nobody ever asks these obvious questions!!!”
    Thus, not only the character of the state of Israel but also its geography will be (once agin?) put to the test.

  3. George Mitchell is a master of detail and precision. It will behove us to emulate him. The statement is the State Department’s (according to Haaretz) not Mitchell’s.

    I first came to this website looking for some sense, some feeling, of Rahm Emanuel. If Obama really wanted to make progress on Israel-Palestine I thought Rahm would be a good pick (assuming, as I think is reasonable, that Rahm is prepared to support Obama’s policy). It would be very difficult for Obama to find someone better to exert the kind of effective pressure and influence (inside the US) that is absolutely necessary to make any progress whatsoever.
    That said I don’t think Obama is anywhere near shifting the US from being an Israeli partisan to an impartial mediator.

    If the Northern Ireland experience shows anything it is that an impartial mediator is a vital ingredient for any viable settlement. (That is the role which John Major and then Tony Blair assumed. Margaret Thatcher was a partisan who was unable to recognise the injustices at the root of the conflict and would never have been able to facilitate a resolution). It was Clinton’s inability to fully assume this role that fatally flawed the Oslo process. I remain a long, long way from convinced that Obama can achieve the necessary degree of independence because the body politic in the US is just not ready for it. However, even if he (or more accurately the US) fails he will have helped to prepare for future success.

    1. On the cardinality of States and Communities.

      In 1948 Jews (unless they were exceptionally farsighted) regarded a Jewish State controlled and dominated by Jews as an essential last refuge from future antisemitic outrages (which at that time seemed more than possible).
      As it turned out the modern state could not be established without inflicting colossal injustices to the existing Palestinian inhabitants and cannot be sustained (as it is presently constituted) without continuing to do so. Those injustices are also a colossal future cost to Jewish Israelis themselves. It is clear that the injustices are the principle driver of animosity toward Jews in the region where Jewish Israelis are hoping to build a permanent home.

      What is ultimately important is not that Jews have their ‘own’ state where they are able to dominate and freely discriminate against others but that Jews in Israel/Palestine or whatever it becomes should (like Jews elsewhere, and in common with everybody else including Palestinians) enjoy freedom, liberty and security. One of the central problems of the present situation is that the US is required to subvert these personal rights in Israel’s neighbours to ensure a benign environment for Israel. (One frequently reads that Egypt and Jordan are Israeli allies. What is meant by this is not that Egyptians and Jordanians freely accept the oppression of Palestinians, but that the governments of Egypt and Jordan are prepared to suppress popular dissent in return for substantial US subsidies.) Conversationally, ordinary Palestinians frequently use the word Yehuda to mean Jew, invader/settler, occupier and oppressor. There is rarely a distinction. All are Jews and Jews are all. Many in the West may not understand this because we are insulated from it but Palestinians and the citizens of Israel’s neighbours are connected by intimate social networks which transmit these daily personal experiences.

      A two state solution which leaves a Jewish supremacist State intact is not a solution. It will institutionalise the segregation and separation of Jews from their neighbours. It seems to me unlikely in the extreme that such a solution will substantially alleviate the grievances of Palestinians which is the source of popular animosity in Israel’s neighbours. Is it really viable to suppress dissent in perpetuity? A single state does not mean the extinction of the Jewish community(s) in Israel/Palestine, quite the reverse. A single state is the best potential guarantor of the enduring acceptance (rather than imposition) of Jewish Israelis as an integral (and ultimately, a valued) part of the social ad economic tapestry of the region. For Jewish Israelis to be genuinely and freely accepted they need their Palestinian neighbours to become their advocates rather than making Palestinians their adversaries. This may be hard to do but it is not difficult to achieve. All that is necessary is to treat Palestinians as equals, with respect and dignity and most importantly to recognise what has happened to them. There will be no acceptance and can be no enduring security for Jewish Israelis in the absence of this last condition. Palestinians can understand why it happened. What hurts is the denial of the fact that it happened.

      One of the unintended consequences of the Oslo process has been to virtually eliminate ordinary contact between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians. That has been a disaster which a two state solution is likely to entrench in a manner almost guaranteed to produce future conflicts of an intensity it will be difficult to contain. Certainly, with hindsight, that has been the inevitable effect of the manner of the creation of modern ‘Jewish’ State of Israel.

      There are many problems which will be much more easily resolved in a one state context: the division of Jerusalem, settlements, precise boundaries and their policing, the subordinate status of Palestinian Israelis (which will be an inextricable consequence of two states), the subordinate status of a demilitarised Palestinian state and most importantly the rights of return of both Jews and Palestinian refugees.
      With respect to these last: It seems unlikely that substantially more Jews are going to immigrate so Palestinians would be able to concede the existing Israel arrangements relatively painlessly. The situation with Palestinian refugees is different. First, there is a principle at stake which should be upheld for wider reasons, regardless of whether Palestinians wish to avail themselves of it. That said, the reality is that the fabric of the communities which the refugees left behind has been largely destroyed. Most returning refugees would not be coming home; the home they left is no longer there. What justice demands is not that they return home but that they have the inalienable right to do so. In reality many are settled enough where they are that they will not prefer to exercise the right especially if they are offered compensation. What cannot be avoided is a full compensation for the loss they have suffered (which would also enable them to better settle themselves elsewhere). Israelis do not generally understand how important it is for many Palestinians just to see where their home was. They cannot bury the past because the body is missing.

      Nobody pretends that a single state of multiple communities would be easily achieved but it would be much more easily sustained and freely accepted.

      For what reason is a two state solution being pursued? It is because a Jewish State offers the illusion of security. In reality the segregation which would sustain the illusion is the quality which poses the long term threat. It will also enable Israelis to take the path of denial of the past rather than the path of catharsis which will heal the injuries of the past. It will institutionalise their ‘otherness’ in the hearts of their neighbours rather than challenge it. No one can absolutely guarantee the future but we should not allow it to be a prisoner of the past.

      There is too much focus on the mechanics of a settlement and not enough on the changes of the heart which will be necessary to sustain it.

      My apologies to Richard for the length of this comment (though it may be hard to believe, it is a lot shorter than it was).

  4. Miles said:
    Nobody pretends that a single state of multiple communities would be easily achieved but it would be much more easily sustained and freely accepted.


    Lebanon, Iraq and Syria are examples of Middle Eastern multi-confessional, multi-ethnic states like the one you are dreaming of for Jews and Arabs in what is now Israel and the Palestinian territories. Would you say that they represent an encouraging precedent for the solution you are recommending for us?

    1. bar_kochba132 – America is composed of fifty-one states, each of which is multi-confessional and multi-ethnic. I’d be willing to bet nearly every one if not all contains citizens of both Palestinian and Israeli origin who live with each other peacefully. The people living in the area of modern Israel/Palestine previous to the establishment of the State were multi-ethnic and multi-confessional. The supposition that for some reason those characteristics lead to failure does not appear to be more than that, a supposition.

    2. To Bar Kockba,
      Lebanon, Iraq and Syria are NOT the models I am envisioning. Israel has hitherto had a destructive effect on its neighbours but a successful solution could itself become a model and a positive influence.
      Is your comment motivated by a lack of belief that it is possible or that it is not desirable?

      To Donald, the reason the US had a civil war was precisely that it fudged the question of slavery at its foundation. I cannot bring myself to believe that an ethnically driven distinction of citizenship or treatment in either state will not lead inexorably to future conflict. A two state solution in Israel/Palestine will either come to resemble a one state solution or it will fail.

      In any case the critical ingredient is not the mechanics of the solution but a change in the image of and attitude toward the ‘other’, and the development of institutions which will act fairly without regard to sectarian considerations. I see nothing inherent in either community to suggest that this is not possible.

  5. Majority in US want Israel to be penalised

    James Zogby, Foreign Correspondent
    April 18. 2009 7:37PM GMT
    Despite claiming continued support for Israel, a majority of US residents want a change in policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A decisive plurality said US aid to Israel is “too much”, and a majority want to see Israel penalised for building new settlements on Palestinian land.

    These were some of the findings of a Zogby International interactive survey of 4,320 US adults conducted in April for the Doha Debate, a BBC programme based in Qatar. Zogby International is a polling firm headed by my brother John.

    Support for Israel remains high, with 71 per cent of US respondents having a favourable attitude towards Israelis and only 21 per cent holding a negative view. Attitudes towards the Palestinian people, on the other hand, are in the inverse, with a favourable rating of 25 per cent and an unfavourable mark of 66 per cent. Even Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, is viewed positively by 52 per cent of US residents, while Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, is seen favourably by only 19 per cent – with an unfavourable rating of 59 per cent.

    Establishing this support for Israel and strong negative views of Palestinians is important and makes even more significant the other findings.

    When asked whether they agreed with the proposition that “both Israelis and Palestinians are entitled to equal rights”, 84 per cent of respondents agreed. And by a margin of 67 per cent to 17 per cent, they continue to support the idea that “there should be an independent Palestinian state”.

    When asked to characterise the direction of the policies pursued by the Bush administration, 71 per cent said George W Bush favoured Israel, while only 15 per cent felt that the former president had a balanced policy “steering a middle course” between the sides. When asked about how Barack Obama should direct his policy – towards Israel, towards the Palestinians, or “steer a middle course favouring neither side” – 49 per cent of the public believe Mr Obama should favour neither side with 33 per cent pushing support of Israel and nine per cent saying he should favour the Palestinians.

    This almost innate sense of balance and fairness comes through once again when those questioned were asked how best to solve complicated “final status” issues. A plurality, for example, agree that Palestinians should be guaranteed “the right of return”. Similarly, a plurality agree that Israeli settlements built on Palestinian land in the West Bank “should be torn down and the land returned”. And on Jerusalem, respondents are evenly divided as to whether it should be partitioned or remain under Israeli control.

    Americans don’t like aid
    Foreign aid has never been popular with US voters, and amid the economic meltdown it is less so. Although citizens are evenly divided on whether the US should talk to Hamas “as they would with any other democratically elected groups”, this tolerance does not translate into support for aid to the group. Sixty-seven per cent support the US decision to suspend aid to the Palestinian Authority after Hamas’s victory – until Hamas agrees to recognise Israel, renounce violence and commit to previously signed agreements between the PA and Israel. Yet, strong pluralities also feel US aid to Israel – amounting to US$30 billion (Dh110bn) over the next 10 years – and the $900 million in humanitarian aid to the Palestinians is “too much”.

    Getting tough
    The specific issue addressed by the Doha Debate in its televised session from Georgetown University was “Resolved: This House believes it’s time for the US administration to get tough on Israel.” At the debate’s conclusion, the resolution won the support of 63 per cent of the audience.

    As the results of the Zogby poll show, the post-debate vote reflects a developing trend in US public opinion. When asked, “Should the US government get tough with Israel?” – a slight plurality agreed. But when asked about two issues that framed much of the debate’s discussion, US residents had sharper views. For example, asked whether “US support for Israel makes the US more or less respected in the world”, 44 per cent responded “less respected”, as opposed to only 13 per cent who said “more respected”. And when asked what the United States should do about Israel’s settlement policies, 50 per cent said “get tough with Israel and attempt to stop the expansion”, while 19 per cent said the US should “do nothing and allow the settlements to continue”; 31 per cent were unsure.

    ht tp://www.thenational.ae/article/20090419/FOREIGN/643719584/1002/NEWS

  6. Obama says, when talking about Indonesia in ‘The Audacity of Hope’, that that country has 240 million people and is the fourth largest nation in terms of population in the world, but that yet many Americans wouldn’t be able to point it out on the map. This view is of course in accordance with what we have heard for years about the abysmal ignorance of the rest of the world among American schoolchildren who, for instance, couldn’t find Mexico or Canada on a blind map.

    The popular media continue to sustain this ignorance, so critical commentators complain, because they cater to the lowest common denominator in the fare they are offering.
    Add to that the high amount of disinformation on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when the popular media do comment on foreign affairs.

    In the light of all of this the Zogby results are a bit surprising, and perhaps somewhat misleading, in that they suggest that a fairly high percentage of respondents knew what the questions were about. A plurality agreed, for instance, that Israeli settlements built on Palestinian land should be torn down and the land returned. But how many people knew at all that there were such settlements before they were faced with the question? Bewilderment at questions is not recorded in these cut and dried answers.

    In googling a bit about this matter I saw an old article by Laura Miller in Salon which confirmed the notion of American ignorance about foreign affairs but also stated that after 9/11 there was both a widespread demand for information and a media attempt to provide it. The article dated from 2001. I am just an outsider looking in. Can we assume that this sudden interest was more than a flash in the pan and that the American electorate is now better informed than it used to be? The Zogby results seem to suggest this.

    Now what is surprising, and per haps a bit misleading

    What I find rather surprising in these results is that they suggest that a fairly high percentage of respondents knows what the questions are about. This doesn’t stroke

  7. Sorry about the last two sentences. They are the remains of an earlier draft I failed to notice when I posted my letter.

  8. Incidentally, that “Chinese curse” is spurious. It’s earliest known usage is from a 1950 English-language science fiction story by Eric Frank Russell, who seems to have invented it (although he *called* it an ancient Chinese curse). From there it spread. Much more here.

  9. It is interesting to see the number of expressions favoring a one state solution. A couple of years ago, such expressions would be unheard of, until writers like Ilan Pappe came along and pointed out the advantages. Prior to the establishment of the state of Israel, there were many who believed one state was the only fair way – Buber, Scholem, Einstein, et al. Now, because of the Zionist errors of insisting on Eretz Israel, it is coming back into fashion. May this trend continue, until it is accepted and accomplished. It is the only way peace will ever come to the region for both peoples.

  10. Israel exists right now as a country. They would no more give up their country and become a minority in their own state than Americans would give up America. There is no trend of Israelis Jews towards a “one state” solution, even among Israeli leftists.
    The reality is Hamas is really no threat to Israel’s survival and life in Israel is very good. Israelis see very clearly how minorities like the Coptic Christians are treated in the Muslim world and want no part of it.

  11. Richard-
    I didn’t mention Northern Ireland, Canada or Switzerland because the minority population Israel is dealing with is Muslim/Arab and Israel is located in the Middle East where these types of states have not been too successful. Israel is not located in North America, Europe or the British Isles.

    1. Israel is located in the Middle East where these types of states have not been too successful

      The reasons for this are many and varied but they have nothing to do with an innate deficiency of the peoples of those states, Muslim or otherwise. The principle factors which have driven the post colonial events are the Cold War, continued destructive foreign interference and the direct and indirect impact of Israel itself and its creation.
      There is no reason to believe that Jewish Israelis can only secure their own future by perpetually dominating those around them, quite the reverse. The attempt to do so will continue to foster their alienation from the communities around them and from those in Europe and the US whose support for Israeli policy and practice of domination is withering and will inevitably at some point be exhausted. Israelis have yet to realize that the racism inherent in the existing arrangements is repellent to those of us on the outside and we will not support it in perpetuity.
      What then?

      Israelis have a right to live in peace and security, but it is the same as the right of others, it does not trump others’ rights.

  12. I stand by my disagreement, Donald. Adverse discrimination is institutionalized in Israel, as racism was institutionalized in the US. People don’t even realize the extent of their bigotry because it is considered the way things are supposed to be. It’s learned behavior and reinforced in hundreds of ways.

    There is nothing inherent to either group of people that prevents greater social harmony. There is much inherent within the current State structure that buttresses and succors enmity among the peoples of the land. Protect Palestine from Israel and IMO the result for Israel will be severe internal disruption, for a multitude of reasons.

  13. You emphasize the Civil War; IMO the revolution that began in 1776 is more relevant. It hasn’t ended.

    The acceptance of ethnocentric gradations in citizenship is a denial of human equality. Israel’s declaration of itself, as Eurosabra holds, as a theocracy is a declaration that equal rights are not relevant in state affairs. The ramifications include a denial of the goals and intentions of the US civil rights movement. The noise my message represents to you arises from all the people who do support that movement; it is but a murmur now.

    In American, we live in states. State’s rights often are debated. Most citizens of the US unconsciously relate to the rest of the world as if it is comprised of states. Doing so results from and reinforces insularity, but I would argue that the same experience is shared by everyone, with flavoring from their culture and political system.

    So I wonder why it is controversial for there to be two states or one – either, whichever the people agree upon. Why is this controversial? It seems evident from history that if Israel continues to deny the equality of non-Jewish residents (the existence of) within Israel/Palestine, it will keep exploding. Although harm in the past has come primarily from one actor, the backlash to it is creating a diverse population of groups in opposition, and we who use the net can respond from among them to some purpose in speaking out.

    Since the danger of Israel exploding outward, against others, and causing harm in the process isn’t potential -as so often the topic of Eurosabra’s discussion is- but has been a continuous fact for a while now, I feel compelled to agitate for someone to do something to stop the killing.

    Umm… do you agree?


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