Last week, the Seattle Times published a ‘stealth’ op-ed by Nevet Basker, local board member of StandWithUs, that attacked Obama administration’s settlement freeze policy. It essentially argued that settlements were not the problem, but that the Palestinians were the real obstacle to peace. One of many things that was laughable about her piece was that she called herself a “moderate dove.” If she’s a moderate dove then Bibi belongs to Meretz and political terms have lost all meaning. That’s what I meant by using the term “stealth” above, since Basker was trying to mask her politics so that they would appear more centrist than they really are. It was also an attempt to inveigle SWU’s political agenda into the mainstream of the Jewish community, a place it does not deserve to be.
The Times agreed to publish my own op-ed supporting the settlement freeze and it was published last night. Given the nature of daily newspapers, I couldn’t address point by point the fallacies of Basker’s article. Rather, I put forward a positive vision of how a peace process would proceed and what it would look like, starting with the settlement freeze. I also emphasize that the freeze is supported by most American Jews. The position of the Israel lobby as expressed by Basker is not.
One point I found intriguing about Basker’s op-ed which I couldn’t address in my own piece is that she’s in favor of allowing settlers to remain within the Territories after a peace agreement. What she doesn’t clarify (naturally) is whether she accepts the principle that these 300,000 Israeli settlers would fall under Palestinian sovereignty and become citizens of the new Palestinian state. I’m guessing she rejects this idea in which case her supposed openness to a Palestinian state is actually anything but.
Nevet Basker says
Actually, it would be great to have Israeli citizens living in what becomes Palestine in the settlements given the option of Palestinian citizenship, just like Palestinians living in Israel (pre-1967 borders) have Israeli citizenship.
We disagree on many points — including the definitions of “stealth,” “dove,” and “mainstream” — but this isn’t one of them.
Richard Silverstein says
No, not “given the option” of Palestinian citizenship. They would have to accept Palestinian citizenship and also sovereignty over their settlements. Do you agree to that formulation?
If one were actually to go through with this in a really honest and straightforward matter, the problem would solve itself. The economic settlers would soon become dismayed at their declining living standards (“Listen, Mr. Goldfein, I am sorry you cannot fill your pool anymore, but the Palestinian National water conservation law is very clear”), sell their property to aspiring middle-class Palestinians, and move to Israel.
The hardcore, armed, fanatic settlers would either mend their ways end up in Palestinian jails – or Palestinian graveyards, as the case may be.
The tiny minority of peaceful religious settlers wouldn’t pose a problem.
But of course this would require an approach by Israel which says “Our hands are off – this is your sovereign decision now”. Fat chance of that ever happening. In fact, I am willing to bet that many fanatical settlers would stay just to provoke some kind of Palestinian violence towards them in the hope of triggering a new Israeli military invasion. In other words:
Nevet Basker says
Yes, the settlers in what becomes Palestine should be given the option of accepting Palestinian citizenship or moving back to Israel. And yes, a two-state solution means Palestinian sovereignty over Palestinian territory, including whatever and whomever is in that territory.
Why do you insist on disagreement where none exists? We have plenty of points of legitimate debate besides this straw-man argument (or your ad-hominem attacks on my ideology and values, about which you know exactly zero).
Okay, let us examine the problems of your proposal in a rational manner.
1. You portray the settlement freeze as something that it would be in the mind of many people on all sides to this conflict: A prelude to settlement dismantling. This may or may not be the idea, but in any case it is also something else: The attempt to keep Israel from continually pre-empting things that should be negotiated. When Obama says “settlement freeze” he also means to put a stop to the decades-old routine where Israel was, as one Palestinian negotiator put it, was eating the Pizza while the parties where still negotiating on how to divide it.
2. The old “Gaza retreat brought Israel rockets” does not go down so well among us liberal leftists. We know that the “disengagement” was followed by blockade, and we also know that settlements are not a part of security infrastructure. We know that things are more complicated than you paint them.
3. Comparing the settlers, who came – mostly in very recent years – as colonist and form an upper class of colonial masters in the West Bank to the Israeli Arabs who are the remnants for an expelled native population and form an underprivileged economic underclass is at the very least a little naive.
4. Now to the nitty-gritty. The land on which the settlers have built was liberally doled out by Israel as “state land”. By asking for the settlements to remain, basically the hypothetical Palestinian state will be asked to honor this principle – which basically means to accept another state’s sovereignty over its territory. Or the land will revert back to the Palestinian state – in this case we certainly would see a lot of settlements being cut down to size.
5. Private assurances by former president Bush have not legal meaning, especially not if they go so obviously against international law.
The road map, OTOH does – and as you probably know, calls for a settlement freeze. All Obama is doing now is to ask Israel to keep their previous promises. You speak of not ignoring previous agreements – but actually you are asking Obama to do just that.
I want Israel out of Palestinian territory and I want peace. But I can’t stand lies about historical happenings. The rocket attacks from Gaza on civilians started only 8 hours after the Israeli pullout. Leftists in the US basically ignored 11,000 rockets aimed at schoolkids, over 8 years but suddenly got interested in civilians when Hamas, apparently seeking to elect Bibbi, ratcheted up the attacks from what had been a near-truce. I condemn the Israeli attacks on Gaza, but there was provocation. If the Palestinians had followed the example of Gandhi they’d have a homeland by now. Freeze the settlements, stop the attacks, and get to the negotiating table.
Richard Silverstein says
If it’s one thing I hate more than a ranting Israeli settler extremist it’s an Israeli former leftist who’s been mugged by Hamas reality. Someone who can’t see an inch past the nose on his own face, let alone the faces of Palestinians. There ARE Palestinian Gandhis, you shmuck. But you’ve never heard of them, have you? Why is that? Have you bothered to spend more than a few minutes finding out anything about Palestinians, who their leaders are, what views they espouse? Or do you get all yr opinions fr. Yisrael HaYom?
What does the IDF do to those Palestinian Gandhis? It beats the shit out of them, knocks their teeth out & thanks them for turning the other cheek while they do so. If Israel acted toward the Palestinians as the colonial British overlords treated their Indian subjects, then a Palestinian Gandhi might have half a chance. Britain never showered Gandhi’s followers w. white phosphorus during a non violent march.
Err… no. Many rocket and mortar attacks were launched before the “pullout”, and they continued afterwards. (Though I have found nothing to support your “8 hours” claim.) They have not even much increased in volume (but switched from mostly mortar to mostly rockets.)
The cause-and-effect presentation “Retreat leads to rocket attacks” simply is not supported by the facts. You could argue, discounting all other factors, for “Retreat does not lead to a reduction in rocket attacks”.
But of course, since there is no problem with rocket attacks from the West Bank, and since we’re talking about settlements on the West Bank, this would make a lousy argument for keeping them. So the lie that the “disengagement” started the rocket attacks is repeated time and again.
That’s a distinction without a difference. Why, then, complain about the ensuing blockade? Peace requires both sides working toward peace. Of course the Palestinians have gotten the worst of it. So they should want peace even more.
But, in actuality, rockets replaced mortars — getting longer range with less accuracy and bringing new villages within range. And I distinctly remember noting the first attacks and writing about them, in a note that was more critical of Sharon, hours after they happened.
If you “can’t find,” you haven’t looked very hard.
What you say is beside the point.
The argument goes:
“We retreated from Gaza – we got rocket attacks in response. If we’ll retreat from the West Bank – we’ll get rocket attacks in response.”
This however is based on false information. Correct, if one were to subscribe to this reasoning, would be:
“We retreated from Gaza – this did not change the presence of rocket attacks from Gaza. If we retreat from the West Bank – this will not change the presence of rocket attacks from the West Bank.”
Which would, unfortunately for settlement apologists, mean that a dismantlement of settlements on the West Bank would *not* result in rocket attacks. So, quite simply, this argument to keep settlements is logically faulty on even its own terms (and a lot more so if carefully examined, but I do not need to dwell on that here.)
Bottom line: To connect a potential dismantlement of settlements on the West Bank with future rocket attacks is a non sequitur and therefor an irrelevant argument.
That’s not my argument at all, but obviously there have been plenty of attacks (more suicide bombers) from the West Bank. Not lately, of course, but Hamas is not in power there, either. And the tight Israeli security makes commerce difficult on the West Bank.
The Israelis have no legal or moral right to be in the West Bank (you can make an argument for small slivers around Jerusalem because they were in the original 1948 split, but Palestinians can make the same argument in a lot of other places).
But it would be foolish to ignore the fact that even many Israeli moderates believe such attacks will be more likely. Thus, the attacks are a barrier to peace, just as adding to settlements is a barrier to peace.
After the Israelis left Gaza (in a negotiation-free retreat) mortar fire declined but rocket fire increased to an average of 6 a day for 8 years. The rockets targeted civilian areas outside Gaza. Would the world have cared if one of those rockets had actually killed, say, a schoolbus full of kindergarten kids? The rocketeers surely wanted to do just that. Many if not most Israelis believe the world would NOT have cared. That’s also a barrier to peace.
Richard Silverstein says
I simply don’t have patience for this Israeli liberal perspective which comprehends the fact that Israel’s political & moral position is wrong, immoral & counter-productive to bringing peace, but simply throws up its hands saying it’s all the Palestinians fault & we simply can’t make peace with such people. That is a completely barren & bankrupt position.
Gaza was a situation in which Sharon refused to negotiate w. the Palestinians (as you note). So what did he expect? That they would be good little boys & girls & do what he wanted? If Israel wants peace it will have to negotiate for it. It can’t simply unilaterally do something & expect that peace will miraculously ensue. If it does that it is deluded–& you seem to be among the deluded.
You seem to think that what “most Israelis” believe has much bearing on reality. I’ve got news for you, many Israelis & most of the rest of the world don’t see it that way. If you all believe Palestinians are out to get you, you haven’t done anything much to deserve their hostility & resistance, & that no one in the outside world gives a crap–that’s totally, well, deluded. People like me do give a crap about the deaths of Israelis AND Palestinians. But we’re not going to listen to the plaintive tones of violins playing the song of Jewish suffering when we know that Israel has as much or more fault for this impasse as the other side.
If that’s not your argument: Cool. But it is the argument of many others, quite obviously including Nevet Basker, and I am genuinely sick of it.
1. I’m sick of the inaccuracies, including your original “point 2,” which is where this argument started. Being liberal is not an excuse to be inaccurate. You excused the rockets because of the blockade but the blockade started after the rockets (as you later seem to admit)!
2. Israel is a democracy. It elects its leaders. I can argue that the system there is badly set up to reach consensus, and that the country is badly led. But that’s the way it is. So public opinion there matters. It also matters in Palestine (see for instance the great polling efforts of Khalil Shikaki).
3. Neither side is going to negotiate in good faith when the other side is doing something inexcusably stupid or when one side has fears, no matter how rational or irrational. Both sides now target children. Innocents! How can that be justified by anyone?
4. Both sides know how to yank our chain, and they depend on repetitions of inaccuracies by their allies.
I think I know how Barney Frank feels.
Richard Silverstein says
No, you have amnesia. The blockade started after Hamas won the PA election & was Sharon’s response (I think he was still PM) to their victory. It had nothing to do w. rockets. There was no Gaza blockade after the withdrawal as you seem to imply.
This is another laughable concept liberals often present. We’ve got to be psychologists & understand all the psychic wounds borne by Israelis & coddle them until they’re ready for peace. But we musn’t ruffle any feathers or cause any sudden panic because there’s such deep seated suffering that we simply must understand. Bollocks to that! This is a conflict where there is equal suffering to go around. No side deserves any special sympathy or understanding of their “fears” if it means waiting for them to come around for peace. They’ll have to learn to deal w the fears. Personally, I’m good & ready to have a solution imposed on the parties. At times, both their prima donna poses make me sick because they’re so infantile & self-serving.
Richard Silverstein says
You’re a public figure in case you’d forgotten. I know plenty about your politics. Plus you’re a board member of StandWithUs about which I know plenty as well. And your colleagues at SWU are sleazy as well. Though I have to say that you’ve managed to keep a civil tongue as opposed to David Brumer and Rob Jacobs. I’m thankful for that.
There is only one pt. with which I agree w. you & it is this one. There is nothing more with which you & I agree.
BTW, most Israeli analysts believe that a very small percentage of settlers would remain under Palestinian sovereignty. Likely people like Rabbi Menachem Froman and his followers. I’m pleased they’d stay and I respect his motivation & attempt to forge common bonds w. the Palestinians. But the vast majority will return to Israel (within the Green Line).
1. No, I didn’t excuse anything. Stop making insinuations of this kind. I merely pointed out that “Gaza retreat -> rocket attacks” is not a correct conclusion, and that there are many more factors to the whole situation.
2. So? If the Israeli public (which is not a homogenous blob) believes something wrong, we should refuse to put it right?
3. What are you asking me for?
4. At the moment, you seem to be yanking your own.
It was not my conclusion. You can’t set up a straw man. My conclusion (based on my own reporting at the time) is that the blockade could not excuse the rocket attacks because the rocket attacks came first.
You said, “We know that the “disengagement” was followed by blockade.”
No, disengagement was followed by stepped up rocket attacks, which was followed by stepped-up blockade. That’s a FACT. Was it justified? That’s an OPINION.
You admitted as much (blurring the distinction between mortars and longer range rockets) then went on to blame me for saying things I didn’t say.
Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, and G-d knows, everyone in the Middle East has many opinions. No one, no matter how well intentioned, is entitled to his own facts.
Part of the problem in the Middle East is that people keep inventing facts. All I was trying to do was prune a fake fact.
Turn that around into whatever you want. I can’t argue any more. As Barney Frank said, it would be like arguing with a dining-room table.
Richard Silverstein says
Yeah, like the “fact” you invented that the Gaza blockade resulted fr. rocket attacks by Hamas.
I didn’t say it resulted… just that it came after. It certainly did not come before, and that is what I was responding to. The timeline was withdrawal > stepped up (and longer-range) rocket attacks > (you’re right other stuff) > blockade.
I think the US, finally, is trying to “impose” a peace. The Northern Ireland playbook, and it worked there. Hope it works in the Middle East. The biggest problem I see is that the world imposes things on entities called “governments.” The Palestinians don’t seem to have a government that even a plurality of Palestinians trust (yes, I blame Israel in large part for this), and you are advocating that it is OK for Israel to go the same route — ignoring its “street” because the alternative is draconian. For that to work, it has to be a masterful “imposed settlement” indeed, and the mischief-makers on all sides have to be held at bay afterwards. Who does the holding? And can any imposed agreement, no matter how masterful, hold up? And doesn’t street cred (holding Palestinians responsible for targeting children, just as Israel is targeting children now) give the world more moral authority to intervene? I’m not talking fake balance here, I’m talking reality. Lebanon lasted a long time, but eventually failed.
I agree that an imposed agreement (as distasteful it might be to the rest of the Middle East, I might add) is a vast improvement over what we have. And even most Middle Eastern leaders agree.
I also like what I’ve read of the Goldstone report. I do not think its calling the rockets a war crime was done just for balance. Signatories to the Rome Statute get a chance to try their war criminals themselves. If they don’t, the ICC gets a crack. That’s a big stick. When might WE sign?
Richard Silverstein says
I’m so glad I’m finding something we can agree on & that you’re starting to make a lot more sense to me.
I don’t know that N. Ireland was an “imposed” peace. I think there were lots of threats. But I’m not sure anyone had the power to impose anything on those rowdy street cats the IRA & Unionists. But Mitchell worked his wonders in Belfast & I hope he can do the same in a warmer, even more contentious climate.
First of all, I’m not setting up a strawman. You’re setting up yourself as one if you’re standing up for an argument that’s not yours.
Second, this sentence…
“The rocket attacks from Gaza on civilians started only 8 hours after the Israeli pullout.”
… is objectively untrue. There were rocket attacks before the “pullout”, so they didn’t start after the event.
Third, the assertion that the “pullout” was followed by a blockade is objectively true. The settlements were dismantled – after that happened Israel implemented the blockade. Now, you can say, it didn’t happen *immediately* after that but that’s not the point. The argument is that even if we don’t take the “Gaza retreat -> rocket attacks” at face value, but are willing to read into it that in the years after said retreat, violence escalated rather than died down, we say: True – but Israel had a part in this too, as did the US, the EU and others.
The American position on settlements should be:
The more you build, the more costly it will be for you to have to withdraw from them. Period.
“It essentially argued that…the Palestinians were the real obstacle to peace.”
Nothing wrong with that argument. She’s absolutely right. The Palestinians ARE the real obstacle to peace. No matter what Israel does to them, no matter what horrors Israel subjects them to, no matter what basic human needs Israel deprives them of, those buggers just won’t go away and free up their land for Israel. What’s a Zionist to do?
Peter Churchill says
I have always been a defender of Israel but your editorial got me reading some more, and I cannot say now Israel is so innocent, just defending itself, etc. The amount of West Bank land and water resources taken in with the wall construction is huge, and looking at a map on just how many settlements there are was eye opening for me. It looks like nobody has clean hands.