How Palestinians Can Finally Achieve Independence

Jeffrey Goldberg’s suggestion:

There is a strategy the Palestinians could implement immediately that would help move them toward independence: They could give up their dream of independence.

It’s a very simple idea. When Abbas goes before the UN, he shouldn’t ask for recognition of an independent state. Instead, he should say the following: “Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza 45 years ago, and shows no interest in letting go of the West Bank, in particular. We, the Palestinian people, recognize two things: The first is that we are not strong enough to push the Israelis out. Armed resistance is a path to nowhere. The second is that the occupation is permanent. The Israelis are here to stay. So we are giving up our demand for independence. Instead, we are simply asking for the vote. Israel rules our lives. We should be allowed to help pick Israel’s rulers.”

Reaction would be seismic and instantaneous. The demand for voting rights would resonate with people around the world, in particular with American Jews, who pride themselves on support for both Israel and for civil rights at home. Such a demand would also force Israel into an untenable position; if it accedes to such a demand, it would very quickly cease to be the world’s only Jewish-majority state, and instead become the world’s 23rd Arab-majority state. If it were to refuse this demand, Israel would very quickly be painted by former friends as an apartheid state.

Israel’s response, then, can be reasonably predicted: Israeli leaders eager to prevent their country from becoming a pariah would move to negotiate the independence, with security caveats, of a Palestinian state on the West Bank, and later in Gaza, as well. Israel would simply have no choice.

This follows my own train of thought very precisely. Trying to fight the world’s second or third most powerful military with small artillery is a dead end that just kills Palestinians and gives Israel an excuse to continue the blockade of Gaza. Palestinian resistance has just hardened Israelis in their determination to hold onto the land. Violence has failed the Palestinians, and will continue to fail the Palestinians. In order to move forward, Palestinians need to completely reject violence, recognise the reality of the state of Israel and demand voting rights in the state under whose authority they now reside.

Goldberg concludes that none of this will happen because the Palestinians are shortsighted. Maybe, but maybe not. Shortsightedness can easily be corrected.

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What’s Next in the Middle East?

While the missiles, planes and rockets fly over Gaza and Israel, both Hamas and the Israeli government have been engaged in a battle of social media.

Hamas:

And Israel:

It is a battle to shape the perceptions of the rest of the world.

The IDF appears so far to have the upper hand in terms of social media, having notched up 143,000 followers on Twitter, although Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigades are in swift pursuit having just climbed above 20,000 followers.

Yet to view this as a simple conflict between Hamas and Israel is too superficial. It ignores the history and the context. This is a much bigger and broader tapestry.

Glenn Greenwald writes:

Israel‘s escalating air attacks on Gaza follow the depressingly familiar pattern that shapes this conflict. Overwhelming Israeli force slaughters innocent Palestinians, including children, which is preceded (and followed) by far more limited rocket attacks into Israel which kill a much smaller number, rocket attacks which are triggered by various forms of Israeli provocations  — all of which, most crucially, takes place in the context of Israel’s 45-year-old brutal occupation of the Palestinians (and, despite a “withdrawal” of troops, that includes Gaza, over which Israel continues to exercise extensive dominion). The debates over these episodes then follow an equally familiar pattern, strictly adhering to a decades-old script that, by design at this point, goes nowhere.

And Michael Chussudovsky writes:

On November 14,  Hamas military commander Ahmed Jabari was murdered in a Israeli missile attack. In a bitter irony,  barely a few hours before the attack, Hamas received the draft proposal of a permanent truce agreement with Israel.

“Hours before Hamas strongman Ahmed Jabari was assassinated, he received the draft of a permanent truce agreement with Israel, which included mechanisms for maintaining the cease-fire in the case of a flare-up between Israel and the factions in the Gaza Strip.”(Haaretz, November 15, 2012)

F-16 fighter planes, Apache helicopters and unmanned drones were deployed. Israeli naval forces deployed along the Gaza shoreline were involved in extensive shelling of civilian targets.

While Israel continues to enforce extreme restrictions on the lives of Palestinians, it has been inevitable that organisations like Hamas who promise resistance against Israel and Zionism will thrive. And while Hamas has thrived, Israel has continued to impose sanctions and restrictions. Both sides have been locked into a cycle of brutal retaliation (and a particularly suicidal cycle for the Palestinians).

In the latest skirmishes, Hamas has inflicted three Israeli casualties in rocket strikes, the Israeli military has already assassinated two high level Hamas commanders, and carried out successful strikes on dozens of Gazan targets resulting in thirty deaths.

But Israel and Hamas share a deeply interwoven history. The WSJ notes:

“Hamas, to my great regret, is Israel’s creation,” says Avner Cohen, a Tunisian-born Jew who worked in Gaza for more than two decades. Responsible for religious affairs in the region until 1994, Mr. Cohen watched the Islamist movement take shape, muscle aside secular Palestinian rivals and then morph into what is today Hamas, a militant group that is sworn to Israel’s destruction.

Instead of trying to curb Gaza’s Islamists from the outset, says Mr. Cohen, Israel for years tolerated and, in some cases, encouraged them as a counterweight to the secular nationalists of the Palestine Liberation Organization and its dominant faction, Yasser Arafat’s Fatah. Israel cooperated with a crippled, half-blind cleric named Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, even as he was laying the foundations for what would become Hamas.

And co-operation has continued between Hamas and Israel, even while they throw rockets at each other, and even while Hamas continues to receive funds and weapons from Israel’s major rivals, including Iran. Upon Ahmed Jabari’s killing, Haaretz noted:

Israel killed its subcontractor in Gaza.

The political outcome of the operation will become clear on January 22, but the strategic ramifications are more complex: Israel will have to find a new subcontractor to replace Ahmed Jabari as its border guard in the south.

Co-operation between Hamas and Israel should not be surprising. The two factions of hardliners — on one side Hamas, and on the other side Netanyahu’s coalition — validate each other’s existence. Without a state of perpetual enmity, the hardliners would find themselves marginalised. Nothing strengthens Hamas in Palestine like an Israeli rocket attack, and nothing strengthens Likud and Yisrael Beitenu in Israel like a Palestinian rocket attack.

However, Israel’s co-operation with Hamas may now be at an end. The surprise strike on Jabari may well be a sign that Hamas is to be cast aside and driven out of Gaza. This seems like the beginning of a new era in the middle east.

Now that the American election is out of the way, Netanyahu may be stepping toward engaging with Iran.

John Glaser, writing for AntiWar.com lays out one theory:

Israel, lest we forget, instigated this resumption of missile exchanges last week when two Palestinian civilians were shot and killed and Israeli tanks intruded into Gaza, prompting Gaza militants to respond by targeting Israeli soldiers, which then gave Israel an excuse to unleash successive airstrikes. And Israel had numerous chances to pacify the situation, considering Hamas publicly offered to establish a total ceasefire and Egypt appeared about to broker a truce between the two. Israel has intentionally inched towards escalation from the beginning. Are we to believe this isn’t strategic?

A ground invasion, and a reoccupation of Gaza by the IDF could be the first step toward engaging Iran. It would allow for Israel to dislodge Hamas, and create a buffer between Israel and Egypt, and the forces of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Morsi government in Egypt has pledged to support the Palestinians — but is this a bluff? Does Egypt have the capability or the desire to really oppose Israel? Does Iran really have the capability or the desire to oppose Israel in a more active way? Ultimately, Iran may have no choice, as Netanyahu is certain that they are on the nuclear threshold.

The world is in motion. Israel is playing its cards. The intent? To create facts on the ground that cement Israel’s position as the dominant power in the middle east for the next century.

Now, Iran’s move.

Does Israel Seriously Believe Iran is a Threat?

From Zero Hedge:

Israeli political sources believe that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has majority Cabinet support for Israeli military action against Iran without American approval.

Really? Is second-strike-capable 200 megaton Israel really afraid of piddly little Iran? Do they not understand that Iran cannot lay a (nuclear) finger on them, for fear of sheer nuclear obliteration?

As I noted back in January:

Even Meir Dagan, the former head of Mossad recognises that Iran is not an existential threat to Israel.

Upon leaving his post, Dagan publicly warned against Israel attacking Iran to stop it from acquiring nuclear weapons.

In his latest comments, he said that if Israel attacks Iran, it will find itself at the centre of a regional war that would endanger the state’s existence. Dagan’s intervention is dangerous for Netanyahu because it comes from the right wing of Israeli opinion rather than the left, where the prime minister would expect criticism.

Dagan has been in charge of aggressive Israeli actions abroad in recent years, that have included assassinations in Lebanon, Syria and Dubai and an air attack on a suspected nuclear reactor in Syria. He also criticised Israel’s failure to offer any initiative to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians .

The absence of any workable plan, he said, will leave Israel in a dangerous and weak situation.

This really echoes my thinking: the real threat to Israel, and America is not inaction on Iran, but excessive force. Iran poses little threat, but military intervention to effect regime change in Tehran runs the risk of huge and widespread blowback throughout the Muslim world: terrorism, guerrilla warfare, and deeper intergovernmental hostility, a breakdown of regional trade, and even a wider land war involving Eurasian nations who wish to protect Iran, including China and Russia.

For all the verbiage thrown at determining whether or not Iran is “rational”, and despite the obvious fact that there are many “rational” people like Meir Dagan in power in Israel, perhaps we should have looked more closely at the question of whether the Israeli cabinet is “rational” or not.

Does the possibility of creating a wider war not trouble them?  Did they not pay attention to the recent bellicose statements from other Eurasian states in support of Iran? Do they — unlike the Israeli public — honestly believe that a war with Iran can be won without regime change in Iran, and do they believe they have the time, the resources, and the manpower to achieve such a thing? Do they honestly believe that the United States under Obama will back-up an Israeli attack on Iran, should a larger power move to support Iran? Do they honestly believe that the rest of world will be happy to see oil prices spiking as a result of an Israeli attack? Do they honestly believe that Israeli public opinion will countenance more resources being spent on war, and less on health, housing and public services?

In light of all these problems, I find it hard to believe that Israel will hit Iran. I believe instead that Israel and America will continue their covert war against the Iranian regime and hope to foment an Arab Spring-style revolution in Iran.

But that is to assume that Netanyahu and his cabinet are rational. Maybe they want a big, dangerous and scary war that imperils the Jewish state?

Jeffrey Goldberg Calls For War With Iran?

Jeffrey Goldberg, foreign policy hawk, is making the case for some more “liberal” interventionism.

From Bloomberg:

An Iran with nuclear weapons may be unbearable for Israel. It would further empower Israel’s terrorist enemies, who would be able to commit atrocities under the protection of an atomic umbrella. It would mean the end of the peace process, as no Arab state in the shadow of a nuclear Iran would dare make a separate peace with Israel. And it isn’t too much to imagine that some of Iran’s more mystically minded leaders, mesmerized by visions of the apocalypse, would actually consider using a nuclear weapon on Israel — a country so small that a single detonation could cripple it permanently.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who once told me he believes that Iran is led by a “messianic, apocalyptic cult,” is correct to view Iran as a threat to his country’s existence.

[President Barack Obama] has said, repeatedly, that an Iran with nuclear weapons is unacceptable to the U.S. Many Israelis, and many Americans, think Obama is soft on such matters. But I believe, based on interviews inside and outside the White House, that he would consider using force — missile strikes, mainly — to stop the Iranians from crossing the nuclear threshold.

We’ve been here before.

From Goldberg’s 2002  New Yorker piece calling for American intervention in Iraq:

Saddam Hussein never gave up his hope of turning Iraq into a nuclear power … There is some debate among arms-control experts about exactly when Saddam will have nuclear capabilities. But there is no disagreement that Iraq, if unchecked, will have them soon … There is little doubt what Saddam might do with an atomic bomb or with his stocks of biological and chemical weapons.

The trouble is, no evidence was ever found that Saddam Hussein had any weapons of mass-destruction. But that didn’t stop the military-Keynesians who steamrollered into Baghdad before embarking on almost a decade of wasteful, expensive occupation at cost to the American taxpayer.

In a late 2002 debate in Slate, Goldberg described Hussein as “uniquely evil” and advocated an invasion on a moral basis:

There is consensus belief now that Saddam could have an atomic bomb within months of acquiring fissile material. … The administration is planning today to launch what many people would undoubtedly call a short-sighted and inexcusable act of aggression. In five years, however, I believe that the coming invasion of Iraq will be remembered as an act of profound morality.

Yes — profound morality.

Because, of course, war, imperialism, torture and mutilation are “profoundly moral” acts.

For those with strong stomachs, here’s some more explicit pictures of that “profound morality” guiding American “liberal” interventionism.

Goldberg was wrong about Iraq, and he’s wrong about Iran. Far from plunging the middle east into the throes of war, an Iranian nuclear weapon could very well stabilise the region under the shadow of mutually-assured destruction — the same force that stabilised relations between the Soviet Union and America.

The big difference, though is that with Iraq there was no threat that any “liberal” interventionism would spill over into a wider regional war.

Israel, Iran & War

Forget the Eurozone — this is surely the scariest news of the year.

From the Daily Mail:

  • Fears mount that Iran could be ‘nuclear ready’ in a matter of months
  • UN intelligence suggests Iran was helped by foreign experts – including rogue Russian scientist
  • Russia foreign minister says any military action would be a ‘serious mistake’
  • Condoleezza Rice: ‘We must do everything we can to bring Iran down’
  • Mahmoud Ahmadinejad remains defiant
Russia and China have expressed growing concern about a mooted American military strike against Iran over its alleged nuclear programme.The UN last week warned it had ‘compelling evidence’ to suggest Iran is secretly building an arsenal of nuclear warheads.

The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is this week due to publish a damning report on the findings fuelling fears Iran could be ‘nuclear ready’ within months.


Sticking my neck out a little, if a rampant communist dictatorship like the Soviet Union can have nuclear weapons for over forty years without nuclear apocalypse (not to mention ethnocracies like Pakistan and Israel) then I can’t see what the problem is with Iran having them. Surely a last ditch strike on a pre-nuclear Iran would confirm the scary post-Qaddafi reality that dictatorships, autocracies and theocracies are not safe from Western liberal interventionism until they have gained a nuclear arsenal?

More concerningly, a Western attack on a nation at the heart of Eurasia — and a friend to the other Eurasian autocracies, particularly Russia and China — is surely a message that America and Israel will do everything in their power to maintain the petrodollar status quo, something that rising powers like Russia and China find distasteful and disrespectful.

But the emerging reality of a multi-polar world will do nothing to stop the hawks from clawing and shrieking against the reality of change.

From Haaretz:

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said she is sure the Israelis will defend themselves against the Iranians if they were to reach nuclear capabilities.

“I don’t have any doubt that the Israelis will defend themselves if the Iranians look as if they really are about to cross that nuclear threshold,” Rice told Newsmax in a TV interview.

I — on the other hand — have no doubt that the era of American-Israeli-British primacy is drawing to an end. The global system of floating fiat currencies is being gutted by years of competitive debasement. The international financial system is a house of cards, swaying in the breeze. Western industry has been gutted, and shipped to the East. Western capital is exported away to the East via humungous Western trade deficits. Western labour markets rot, beleaguered by high unemployment, evaporating skills, and huge inequality between the rich and poor. Western discontent is rising. Most dangerously, the West remains highly dependent on foreign oil — a supply that a new war, or some other black swan might disrupt — wreaking havoc.

So, as I wrote last month:

Sadly, we know how that aphorism from Winston Churchill goes: that Americans will do the right thing — after they’ve tried everything else.

Which is why I’m coming to believe that the military-Keynesian establishment might try and kill every bird with one stone — a new regional war in Eurasia, probably involving Syria, Iran and Israel. Let’s look at what that might accomplish:

  1. Create a new post-9/11-style hard-to-question patriotism — “There’s a war on — we all need to rally together around the flag — the complainers and protestors must hate America”
  2. Put America back to work — in weapons factories, and on the front lines.
  3. Give the economy a large Keynesian injection — through war spending.
  4. Take out Iran, a powerful enemy of America — and send a threatening message to other uppity Eurasian autocracies like Russia and China.
  5. Curtail civil liberties & censor the internet — “There’s a war on — we all need to rally together around the flag — and those who don’t must be working to undermine America”
John Maynard Keynes noted that in the long run, we’re all dead. I hope that in the short run, we’ll all still be alive.

Palestine: Obama Plays With Fire

Barack Obama discovered very early in his Presidency that in spite of his campaign promises he cannot be all things to all people. And, with the UN gearing up to a highly-charged vote over whether or not to recognise Palestine as a sovereign state, the future status of Palestine, Israel and the Middle East lies with the Obama administration, which is expected to veto any such proposal.

From the BBC:

Barack Obama has told the UN General Assembly the Palestinians deserve their own state, but that this would only be achieved through talks with Israel.

The US president’s speech came as diplomatic efforts for Palestinian UN membership intensified, while thousands rallied in the West Bank.

“Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN,” he said.

He added there could be no “short cut” to peace, and is expected to urge the Palestinians to give up the initiative.

Mr Obama is holding talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and is to meet Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas later.

Mr Abbas is set to launch the statehood bid on Friday, after his address to the UN General Assembly, with a written request to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

If his request is approved by Mr Ban, the Security Council will then examine and vote on it. In order to pass, the request must get the votes of nine out of 15 council members, with no vetoes from the permanent members.

If America vetoes this resolution, global opinion — which is broadly favourable to the Palestinian cause — may treat Obama and America rather unkindly. The middle east has recently seen a wave of revulsion toward Israel, including frenzied mob attacks on embassies in Jordan and Egypt. Turkey has cooled relations with Israel. Globally India, Russia and China have all expressed support for the resolution.

If America vetoes this resolution against the global consensus, Israel and America will simply be alienating themselves from other nations, by pursuing a widely detested course that puts all of the power in the hands of Israel.

And alienation is bad, both for Israel and for America, because they are both dependent on imported energy, imported natural resources, and imported goods. America spends trillions of dollars a year on military hardware, manpower and infrastructure to police the world and keep the global infrastructure stable. Why would Obama choose to stir the hornets’ nests by going against the wishes of the world? Certainly, the American political system and the Obama administration is influenced by Jewish interests who have no wish to see a Palestinian state.

But should those interests be of more importance to Obama than the wishes of global powers like China, India, Russia, and the European Union?

The real question is what impact these events will have on regional power. Does the Arab world have the chutzpah to bend Israel to its will? Or will Israel take stronger action to meet its interests?

UPDATE:

Ehud Olmert states this is the last chance left for the two state solution. From the NYT:

AS the United Nations General Assembly opens this year, I feel uneasy. An unnecessary diplomatic clash between Israel and the Palestinians is taking shape in New York, and it will be harmful to Israel and to the future of the Middle East.

I know that things could and should have been different.

I truly believe that a two-state solution is the only way to ensure a more stable Middle East and to grant Israel the security and well-being it desires. As tensions grow, I cannot but feel that we in the region are on the verge of missing an opportunity — one that we cannot afford to miss.

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, plans to make a unilateral bid for recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations on Friday. He has the right to do so, and the vast majority of countries in the General Assembly support his move. But this is not the wisest step Mr. Abbas can take.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has declared publicly that he believes in the two-state solution, but he is expending all of his political effort to block Mr. Abbas’s bid for statehood by rallying domestic support and appealing to other countries. This is not the wisest step Mr. Netanyahu can take.

In the worst-case scenario, chaos and violence could erupt, making the possibility of an agreement even more distant, if not impossible. If that happens, peace will definitely not be the outcome.

The parameters of a peace deal are well known and they have already been put on the table. I put them there in September 2008 when I presented a far-reaching offer to Mr. Abbas.

According to my offer, the territorial dispute would be solved by establishing a Palestinian state on territory equivalent in size to the pre-1967 West Bank and Gaza Strip with mutually agreed-upon land swaps that take into account the new realities on the ground.

The city of Jerusalem would be shared. Its Jewish areas would be the capital of Israel and its Arab neighborhoods would become the Palestinian capital. Neither side would declare sovereignty over the city’s holy places; they would be administered jointly with the assistance of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

The Palestinian refugee problem would be addressed within the framework of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. The new Palestinian state would become the home of all the Palestinian refugees just as the state of Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people. Israel would, however, be prepared to absorb a small number of refugees on humanitarian grounds.

Because ensuring Israel’s security is vital to the implementation of any agreement, the Palestinian state would be demilitarized and it would not form military alliances with other nations. Both states would cooperate to fight terrorism and violence.

These parameters were never formally rejected by Mr. Abbas, and they should be put on the table again today. Both Mr. Abbas and Mr. Netanyahu must then make brave and difficult decisions.

We Israelis simply do not have the luxury of spending more time postponing a solution. A further delay will only help extremists on both sides who seek to sabotage any prospect of a peaceful, negotiated two-state solution.

Moreover, the Arab Spring has changed the Middle East, and unpredictable developments in the region, such as the recent attack on Israel’s embassy in Cairo, could easily explode into widespread chaos. It is therefore in Israel’s strategic interest to cement existing peace agreements with its neighbors, Egypt and Jordan.

In addition, Israel must make every effort to defuse tensions with Turkey as soon as possible. Turkey is not an enemy of Israel. I have worked closely with the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In spite of his recent statements and actions, I believe that he understands the importance of relations with Israel. Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Netanyahu must work to end this crisis immediately for the benefit of both countries and the stability of the region.

In Israel, we are sorry for the loss of life of Turkish citizens in May 2010, when Israel confronted a provocative flotilla of ships bound for Gaza. I am sure that the proper way to express these sentiments to the Turkish government and the Turkish people can be found.

The time for true leadership has come. Leadership is tested not by one’s capacity to survive politically but by the ability to make tough decisions in trying times.

When I addressed international forums as prime minister, the Israeli people expected me to present bold political initiatives that would bring peace — not arguments outlining why achieving peace now is not possible. Today, such an initiative is more necessary than ever to prove to the world that Israel is a peace-seeking country.

The window of opportunity is limited. Israel will not always find itself sitting across the table from Palestinian leaders like Mr. Abbas and the prime minister, Salam Fayyad, who object to terrorism and want peace. Indeed, future Palestinian leaders might abandon the idea of two states and seek a one-state solution, making reconciliation impossible.

Now is the time. There will be no better one. I hope that Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas will meet the challenge.