As Mideast peace talks recommence…

Here is something I wrote for the bloggingheadstv fora about ten weeks ago, just after the flotilla incident.  The post attracted a certain amount of praise, so I am putting it here also, as I probably should have done at the outset.

The blockade is not just collective punishment. It is collective punishment that may or may not be intended to elicit a particular reaction in the residents of Gaza, namely to oust Hamas, to take collective action to eliminate military and terrorist actions against Israel, and to recognize Israel’s right to exist.

But there are two possibilities here. One is that there is no such intention to elicit reactions, and in this case Israel’s announced desire for peace with the Palestinians and a two-state solution is disingenuous. The other possibility is that it is sincere, but misguided, because who, in his right mind, thinks that the Gazan population is going to be worn down to such an extent by Israel’s blockade and occupation without occupation that the ostensible desired political goals would be achieved? No people with even a minority of committed political actors who wish to retain their human dignity is going to give into this sort of blackmail, and, as I pointed out previously, the Jews of Europe ought to know this as well, or better, than any people. So the policy is either stupid and misguided, or it is dishonest. And my guess is that it is a mixture of these two things, it’s both at once, but that is small comfort to those of us who really want a two-state solution (please, Wonderment, don’t chime in here on cue, I know your views).

However, at the current moment the balance of power in Israel is with those for whom the stated goals of the occupation without occupation are disingenuous. But I’m not too sure, in this instance, what the proponents of the policy are really after. They are going to grind people down militarily until what, exactly? I don’t think even they know. Maybe it’s just a way of temporizing until the world is so overwhelmed by its other incalculably great problems that this festering sore just becomes a minor annoyance. And in this sense, the problem is analogous to America’s historical race problem, because clearly in the early 1960’s there were lots of white Southerners who thought the problem would eventually go away, that there was a legal/military solution that would be in favor of separate but equal.

The Israelis are on the wrong side of history here. Everyone seems to know this, except for the Israelis and the Americans. But the Americans will come to know it, they are coming to know it now.

So as we throw up our hands in despair, and the Eli’s of the world demand that Israel have a serious and reputable partner for peace on the Palestinian side which recognizes Israel’s right to survive as a Jewish state in the region,
the Heathers of the world just reply that, yes, it would be nice to eliminate the most radical elements on the Palestinian side and to be left only with those who are realistic and will accept the continued existence of the Jewish state in their midst, run by descendants of the people who stole their land, but that’s not going to happen, so Israel had better find another way of addressing the problem than the military way.

This problem has been complicated infinitely by Israel’s settlement policy. Every goddam person in the world knows this. Eli talks about the painful steps Israel took to dismantle some settlements in Gaza. That’s not enough, Eli, not nearly enough. The USA has sat by and watched Israel annex ever more land on the West Bank, it has a declared policy of saying that the settlements are either illegal or “unhelpful,” but in the end it does nothing. So if the USA wants peace there, and a two-state solution, it has to try to force Israel to take yet more painful steps, and either start dismantling settlements on the West Bank, instead of expanding them, or make it clear that some of those settlements are coming down in a final disposition of things. It’s that simple. Yes, that will be difficult politically, but tough.

Anyone who doubts the veracity of what I am saying can listen to a recent speech given by James Baker III to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, at foratv or on youtube. This is James Baker we’re talking about, not Noam Chomsky.

But hey, what does James Baker know, when compared with Victor Davis Hanson, or Rush Limbaugh, or Eli fucking Lake?

Israel’s strategic error has been to think that it could expand territorially and win its political struggle with the Palestinians militarily. At first, the expansion of settlements was probably thought of as a bargaining chip. Settlements would come down in a final settlement. The problem is that the policy got away from the Israelis, so that now dismantling West Bank settlements is, in fact, going to be extremely painful and difficult for Israel politically. What Israel ought to have done, and must still try to do, is to make it clear that it wants to make amends, that it will accept a final disposition that the EU, for example, would regard as just. It must regain the moral high ground in order to marginalize the Palestinian extremists. It cannot do this by offering a cantonized hodge-podge of territories to the Palestinians, that’s simply impossible. Israel’s entire problem has been that it has come to be dominated by the “peace through strength” crowd, every concession made in advance is regarded as a debilitating sign of weakness. It is true that peace through weakness is not a good strategy. Here, the problem is that peace through strength has been misinterpreted, and Israel cannot possibly win its struggle for survival if it continues on the path it is on. It is simply too small, and will be too isolated in the world, nuclear arsenal or not. The best parallel here is, in fact, South Africa.


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