Murderous Overtime

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Writing in London's The Guardian, the new Palestinian prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, essentially spells out Hamas' vision of relations with Israel. What he says, combined with the Israeli decision to move toward unilateral withdrawals in the West Bank if peace talks don't progress within a decent timeframe, only confirms that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is beyond a negotiated resolution, a delay perhaps lasting for decades.

For Hamas, the conditions are these, as Haniyeh writes: "No plan will ever work without a guarantee, in exchange for an end to hostilities by both sides, of a total Israeli withdrawal from all the land occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem; the release of all our prisoners; the removal of all settlers from all settlements; and recognition of the right of all refugees to return."

Most of this is not much different from what Bill Clinton offered Yasser Arafat in late 2000 (and which Israel accepted), except for that bit about the return of refugees. Return to where, is the question? If it's a return to the cities, towns and villages from which they left or were expelled after 1948, then no resolution is likely, since the Israelis would regard such resettlement as a Palestinian demographic Trojan horse.

Israel, in turn, wants to create a mosaic of separated Palestinian areas in the West Bank, even as it seeks to break off Gaza from the Palestinian areas in the West Bank and effectively push its development westwards so it can link its fate to the Egyptian Sinai. In the West Bank Israel will finish its wall, behind which it hopes to hide.

On both sides, these objectives aren't the substance of peace plans at all, just guarantees that Israelis and Palestinians will fight on until another generation loses interest. Palestinians will soon change tack, because the two-state option is no longer viable, with their state one only in name. They will, instead, begin demanding a single bi-national state in all of geographical Palestine, much like the PLO once did. The Israelis, in turn, will have to find out how to manage a failed Palestinian state on their borders, which will gravitate toward more anti-Israeli violence as factions use this to vie for internal supremacy.

Ariel Sharon and now Prime Minister-elect Ehud Olmert have been hailed as geniuses, but the fact is that the unilateral disengagement they advocate makes long-term conflict only more inevitable. Oslo was the only chance both sides ever really had to avoid their deadly embrace, and they blew it: the Israelis never used it creatively to help push for a truly democratic state in the West Bank and Gaza, which could have helped guarantee Israel's security down the road; the Palestinians never understood that the right of return was a red line for the Israelis, and that what Clinton offered them in 2000 was the most they could expect at the time.

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  1. Israeli politics should disabuse the most ardent anti-Semite of the notion that the Jews are clever enough to control the world.

  2. “…the Israelis never used it creatively to help push for a truly democratic state in the West Bank and Gaza, which could have helped guarantee Israel’s security down the road…”

    I don’t know what you mean by this. But, the Palestinian’s rejection of the offer and decision to resort to violence made further negotiations impossible. How can you blame Israel for whatever it is you are trying to say they didn’t do when the process was stopped by the other party?

  3. I think the Palestinian leadership realizes full well that Israel will never agree to a right of return. And that suits them just fine.

  4. Even if Yasser Arafat’s rejection of the proposal didn’t kill the notion of any deal, I’m not sure what “used it creatively to help push for a truly democratic state” really means. Can you clarify this, Michael?

  5. Michael Young, as is his custom, is being disingenuous in his description of the offer Arafat rejected. The Palestinians were not offered anything remotely resembling the 1967 borders. The starting point was the Israeli-fixed “Green Line,” which the Palestinians accepted.

    From there, the Israelis demanded an additional 9-10 percent of the West Bank, which the Palestinians didn’t like very much. Beyond that, they insisted on indefinite control of ANOTHER 9-10 percent of the West Bank, which was obviously an open door to more annexations. Just looking for a pretext, really. In exchange for giving away twenty percent of the land allocated to them by the UN, the Palestinians were to be “compensated” with a land area approximately one-seventh the size, conveniently located in the Negev Desert. Israel was to be given fifteen percent of the Jordan River frontage under the deal. When people say Arafat was “offered the moon,” that is quite literally true. The Israelis took the riverfront; the Palestinians would get a tiny bit of lifeless desert.

    Not content with guaranteeing permanent isolation and starvation of the Palestinians, the Israelis gratuitously threw in an insult to go along with the injury. They insisted on controlling the highway from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, effectively cutting Palestine permanently in half.

    None of this was in the Oslo Accords that Arafat agreed to. None of it would have been accepted by the Israelis or anyone else. If Barak and Clinton had genuinely offered the Palestinians the 1967 border, as Young claims, this conflict would have simmered down to a low-scale border dispute in 2001. The Arab world would have been mollified by the Palestinians’ acceptance of nationhood. The US probably would have gotten a lot of credit for it.

    But it was not to be. No nation would have accepted such a deal. Even the issue of return could have been finessed by allowing Palestinian refugees to return to the West Bank in exchange for the Palestinians formally recognizing Jews’ right to migrate to Israel. The private Geneva negotiations established this principle, as a matter of fact. The majority of Palestinians surveyed supported the Geneva solution. The refugee camps could have been closed. The Middle East might have moved on.

    But no. Instead we have to listen to tired rhetoric of “Israel’s right to exist,” the formulation that requires every Palestinian politician to alienate his constituency as a precondition for “legitimacy.” Every Palestinian leader must therefore break his own legs before the Israelis will deign to speak to him. Some do, some don’t. The Israelis can thus boast that they are experts on the divide-and-conquer strategy. How’s that working out for them?

    The “failed state” Michael Young describes is a creation of Israel itself, which has worked hammer-and-tong for years to undermine the very notion that the Palestinians are or might be a people, nation, or state. Now they have to live with the consequences. Unfortunately, so do the rest of us.

  6. the Israelis never used it creatively to help push for a truly democratic state in the West Bank and Gaza, which could have helped guarantee Israel’s security down the road

    Not if the Palis democratically elect a government with deep roots in terrorism and an ideological commitment to war with Israel.

    But that would never happen, right?

  7. James, so you’re saying that Dennis Ross is a liar?

  8. Instead we have to listen to tired rhetoric of “Israel’s right to exist,” the formulation that requires every Palestinian politician to alienate his constituency as a precondition for “legitimacy.” Every Palestinian leader must therefore break his own legs before the Israelis will deign to speak to him.

    If someone insisted on the right to murder your entire family, would you sit down and talk with him? Grow up.

  9. Please excuse me if don’t give a shit about ancient blood feuds.

    Please: one side kill the other side already (I really don’t care which side assumes which role) so the rest of us can move on. It’s getting a little repetitive already.

  10. Israeli politics should disabuse the most ardent anti-Semite of the notion that the Jews are clever enough to control the world.

    Huh! That’s exactly what They want us to believe!

  11. Ross is conflating the “Camp David II” negotiations and the “Taba” negotiations. He argues that Arafat was offered 97 percent of the West Bank, but that was Clinton’s suggestion and the Israelis were queasy about it. It was offered in December of 2000 and a month later Barak suspended the discussions for the Israeli elections. At the time of suspension both sides thought themselves close to a deal.

    The deal was never put down on paper, being read off quickly by Clinton to prevent the Palestinians internalizing the concessions and demanding more. Nonetheless, there was much work left to be done, particularly concerning East Jerusalem and the Right of Return. Barak lost the election, of course, and Sharon promptly repudiated the deal.

    It’s important to remember that Arafat didn’t reject the Clinton proposal. What was rejected was the proposal I outlined above. That was in July of 2000. It was the Israelis that balked at the Clinton proposal after Sharon was elected. The anti-Palestine lobby likes to confuse the two, insisting Arafat rejected the Taba plan when, in fact, he rejected the Camp David plan.

  12. Again, your scenario contradicts Ross’s account. I give him some credence since he was actually there.

  13. SY,
    I have never heard of Israel ever agreeing to terms that sounded like this “in exchange for an end to hostilities by both sides, of a total Israeli withdrawal from all the land occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem; the release of all our prisoners; the removal of all settlers from all settlements.” Israel can hardly uproot small settler groups, let alone all of them. East Jerusale is a touchy subject and the land Clinton offered was 97% of the size of the 1967 borders, but were some currently settled land was exchanged for worse land. Not to mention the highway. James is right on this one and I would love to see evidence of Israel agrreing to a deal that removes all settlers.

  14. James,

    I agree that the deal Arafat rejected was unfair. But do you really think he would have accepted a fair deal, either? The Palestinian leadership didn’t reject the deal because it was unfair, but because they didn’t want to make a deal.

    If both sides wanted to, they could work out an equitable solution. Barak wanted to; Arafat didn’t. The unfairness of the deal just gave him the opportunity to spin his rejectionism in a favorable way.

  15. Ardent Anti-Semite:

    You’re on to us. The jig is up.

    Joe:

    One thing that has always bothered me is that Israel was expanding the settlements at the very time Barak and Arafat were negotiating. I think the Americans played a bad role in that they were too tilted toward Israel. So I don’t think the failure can be blamed entirely on Arafat. Both sides have been cursed with bad leadership and, in the case of Israel, with a bad ally and patron.

  16. For many years (since 1948) the Arabs have rejected making a deal with the Israelis.

    And as the years have gone on the deals the Israelis have put on offer have gotten worse for the Arabs.

    Most unfortunate.

    Hong Kong did quite a bit with very little. Let the Arabs show what they can do. Besides lose wars, of course.

    No Arab country wants the Palestinians. Why should the Israelis want them? They have a tendency to bite the hand that feeds them (Black September in Jordan fer instance).

  17. Uri,

    Settlements have never been an obstacle to making a deal. Israel dismantled Sinai settlements in exchange for a deal with Egypt.

    A lot of settlements on the West bank are going to be dismantled even without a deal.

    Settlements are bargaining chips. Not obstacles.

    I must say I think Sharon’s moves to get Hamas elected are masterful. i.e. giving the Palis Gaza. The best part of the outcome is that instead of hiding Pali objectives they are now in the open.

    Also note that pre- ’67 Jordan controlled the West Bank and Egypt Gaza. Neither of them wants the Palis back or the land that goes with them. Why?

    Kuwait had 250,000 Palis before Saddam invaded. The Palis sided with Saddam. After the Iraqis were kicked out of Kuwait so were the Palis.

    What makes these folks so unwelcome?

  18. The Arabs are still crying over the loss of Spain.

    Why would any settlement short of the disappearance of Israel lead to anything but a long term conflict? The Arabs are never going to be happy. Screw ’em.

  19. I have never heard of Israel ever agreeing to terms that sounded like this “in exchange for an end to hostilities by both sides, of a total Israeli withdrawal from all the land occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem; the release of all our prisoners; the removal of all settlers from all settlements.”

    Let’s be clear- the 1967 war resulted in Israel capturing big chunks of Jordan, Syria, and Egypt, who had been occupying those lands since 1949. There wasn’t any Arab “Palestine” during that time. Egypt and Jordan, the countries that got beaten the worst in that war, have made their peace with Israel. They all profit from that arrangement.

    The West Bank and Gaza Arabs, having been unwelcome by their former occupiers and Israel, are in no position to demand terms. You may not like it, you may think that there was something holy and magic about 1967 regional borders (as opposed to 1949, 1947, 1918, 1855…), but the reality is that the former Arab occupiers have washed their hands of their brethren and made their peace. It is as realistic to believe that Israel should, in its sincere view, give up its holiest places and return to borders that today would be indefensible as it would be for the Japanese in 1946 to expect the US to let them have Manchuria back.

    If the Palestinians are stuck with a worse deal than they could have gotten from Clinton, they can understand it as a consequence of starting yet another war they couldn’t win. Right or wrong has nothing to do with it.

  20. The people of the Middle East (and I mean all the peoples) are committed to killing each other. That will never change.

  21. Sadly, I don’t think there will ever be peace in the region without a really nasty war. One side will eliminate the other, and that will be it.

  22. Sadly, I don’t think there will ever be peace in the region without a really nasty war. One side will eliminate the other, and that will be it.

    Hey, I said that around here before too! I was immediately accused of being true to my barbarian namesake.

  23. Hey, comes the libertarian paradise, the lion will lie down with the lamb, who will sell his wool to the wolf, and all will live in prosperity and peace.

  24. Thre is one sollution to the conflict. Two words, Palistinian Casinos. It worked for the Indians over here, why not the Palistinians?

  25. Two words, Palistinian Casinos. It worked for the Indians over here, why not the Palistinians?

    Because no one wants to see chorus girls in burqas…

  26. >Why would any settlement short of the disappearance of Israel lead…<<br /> Assume Israel disappeared tomorrow; would that result in more or less Islamic inspired violence. My bet would be on more.

  27. Palistinian Casinos. It worked for the Indians over here, why not the Palistinians?

    I like your theory. Anarcho-capitalism more or less grows in the space that would have been a national government.

    The only problem is the concept gap. Indian casinos don’t go “boom”.

    Psst: hey, all you Palistinians, listen up. People don’t like gambling in casinos that go “boom”.

  28. Hey, comes the libertarian paradise, the lion will lie down with the lamb, who will sell his wool to the wolf, and all will live in prosperity and peace.

    Whose paradise are you talking about?

  29. Y’know, Jericho’s economy at one point relied on casino tourism.

  30. Why would any settlement short of the disappearance of Israel lead to anything but a long term conflict?

    Since the Palis have publicly taken that position for years, you would be a fool to take it as anything by holy writ (so to speak).

  31. Assume Israel disappeared tomorrow; would that result in more or less Islamic inspired violence. My bet would be on more.

    Israel unifies all of them…without the Jews in ME to kill they would turn on each other and it would be Sunni vs Shite (ala Iraq) but writ large all over the M.E. It would be far more violent. We might just get to see this when Saudi oil runs out.

  32. For many years (since 1948) the Arabs have rejected making a deal with the Israelis. And as the years have gone on the deals the Israelis have put on offer have gotten worse for the Arabs.

    This is what happens when you have no leverage in a negotiation. The offers will continue to get worse.

  33. I am a proud Islamophobe. It is time to crush the ruling elites of the death cult. Enforce a reverse dhimmitude on the cult that invented the concept and transform the tenets in Mohammedanism that are murderous and evil.

    I can dream, right?

  34. And so now the argument is morphing from “they were offered a fair deal” to “there was no point in offering them a fair deal.” The same UN that created Israel’s “right to exist” also created Palestine’s. On the West Bank. They sketched out borders. The Oslo agreement established that was what was going to happen.

    At the eleventh hour, Clinton finally got around to proposing what they should have proposed in the first place. There were details to be worked out and the negotiators got to work, but six weeks later Clinton and Barak were out of office. Sharon repudiated the deal and Bush, his unilateralist soulmate, didn’t squawk.

    You can’t declare “winners write the history books” in one breath and then denounce the Palestinians for renewing the fighting in another. They’re just not going to stay down. And dismissing the settlements a bargaining chips ignores the fact that evicting Palestinians and building them creates a lot of personal misery for the Palestinians. They might not take the sporting view you take from your observation post in a comfortable American suburb. They took as bad faith and the deal Barak offered, which Ross never disputed was the July deal that Arafat walked out on, as far as I know, indicated the Israelis considered the new settlements permanent.

    Arafat’s genuine sin was not making a counteroffer. He played hardball and set his people into the streets. It was left to Clinton to make the counteroffer that Arafat should have made. But it’s likely that if Arafat had made it, it would have been rejected by the Israelis. By the time both sides started bickering over the details time was up. Clinton was gone, Barak was gone, and Bush and Sharon simply never wanted cohesive Palestinian state. You can argue that that’s what they get for losing, but they’re still fighting, aren’t they? And winning a war hardly does you any good if it doesn’t lead to peace.

    I repeat, Israel and the US have precisely the Palestinian Authority they engineered, no more and no less. Dayan had the right of it: as long as the Palestinians are on the West Bank, Israel can’t keep it. As long as the settlements are there, they can’t leave.

  35. And so now the argument is morphing from “they were offered a fair deal” to “there was no point in offering them a fair deal.”

    Nope, my argument morphed from, “they were offered a fair deal” to “they were offered a fair deal that was WAY better than they could have expected and INFINITELY better than the deal they got from Jordan and Egypt between the partition and ’67.”

    By your own admission, the deal was there, Arafat started possibly the stupidest war of all time, and now these poor people are fucked yet again.

  36. The deal was NOT there. Sharon yanked it off the table. Arafat never rejected the “97 percent” deal. He rejected the “divided Palestine” deal, which he was right to do, because it led to the Clinton plan. Which both sides accepted as the basis for further negotiations, concerning the refugee question and East Jerusalem. Sharon terminated those negotiations, not Arafat.

    You slyly confuse the two plans in an attempt to place the blame on Arafat. But there were TWO plans. Arafat rejected the Barak plan and Sharon rejected the Clinton plan. If the Israeli government pulled the Clinton plan out of the dumpster Sharon consigned it to there would be a possibility of peace.

    But, realistically, the Israeli people didn’t want the Clinton plan, either, which is why they elected Sharon. The Palestinians were sick of the new settlements and the new wall, which amount to a unilateral implementation of the Barak plan, which is why they elected Hamas. And the game goes on and on. None of this lifts the siege of Israel.

    The Saudi plan would have gotten them the semantic construction they have long craved, the universal declaration of Israel’s right to exist. But that would have required them to give the West Bank back to the Palestinians. It amounted to having the Arab League sign on to the Clinton plan and would have terminated the official state of war between Israel and the Arab world. I guess it can be said that the Israelis never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

  37. Arafat’s genuine sin was not making a counteroffer. He played hardball and set his people into the streets.

    Your own words. Before Sharon ever took office, Arafat started a war in lieu of negotiating. Blitheringly stupid. It got Sharon elected, ended the path to the best deal the West Bank Arabs would ever get, and destroyed what was left of their economy. Arafat died in squalor, and now it’s all just gang territory.

  38. Yes, Palestinian casinos! And Israel could ask Jack Abramoff to float some of the proceeds to second sniper school in the West Bank.

  39. I think any talk of a negotiation between Israel and the PA must take into account the extreme power differential between the parties. If Israel wanted the conflict to end, they could end it. They don’t want to end it. To forget that the Israelis consistently engage in collective punishment, illegal settlement, and violence against the Palestinians makes it possible to think that the PA rejected an offer because of the nature of that offer. I would bet that Arafat rejected the offer because he knew he couldn’t trust it. He knew it was an attempt by the powerful side to manipulate the situation to look like the PA had control over events that they do not have. Hamas et al play into the hands of Israel when they blow things up. The Israeli government makes sure to keep things just stirred up enough to assure that the violence doesn’t end so that they can continue to build settlements. A unilateral solution initiated and implemented by Israel is the only solution that will ever work. That solution will require that they provide for a viable Palestine with borders rather than a mosaic of Palestinian and Israeli settlements.

    Israel knows this. They don’t want it. The power of an evil other has been shown to be an effective driver of policy throughout history (as the Jews know only too well). Israel has used this strategy consistently and created a giant pain in the world’s ass for far too long. Israel wants to solve the “Palestinian problem” using techniques that Andrew Jackson favored for solving the “Indian problem” but they can’t get away with it in the modern context. At least not until the rest of the world believes that the Palestinians have a choice in events. Electing Hamas takes things one step closer. I think, in the end, it is gonna blow up in Israel’s face.

  40. Indeed. My own words. Barak offered a Balkanized Palestine and Arafat refused. The fighting started again and ended with the Clinton plan. Arafat walked out in July but didn’t restart the intifada for two months. The Clinton plan appeared in December. Would the Clinton plan have been proposed if the Palestinians didn’t show willingness to fight? The Barak deal was fundamentally unacceptable. It wasn’t “the best deal that Palestine was ever going to get.”

    You simply refuse to acknowledge that Young’s premise isn’t true: Arafat and the Palestinians didn’t refuse the 97 percent plan. They refused a 90 percent plan that would have cost them much of the Jordan River and left the Israelis in control of the main east-west highway. When offered the Clinton plan they jumped at it. Young is twisting the facts, trying to pin the blame on Arafat for rejecting a reasonable plan when he did no such thing.

    So I acknowledge Arafat was not entirely without blame and you extrapolate that to assert that the Israelis must therefore be completely blameless. That’s a pretty handy summarizing of what passes for analysis among the Arab-haters.

  41. Uri,

    On settlement activity during Barak’s term:

    The context here is that Barak didn’t start the settlement activity, or even ramp it up. It was an ongoing activity that he inherited, and that had a powerful political constituency behind it. If he had shut it down, his entire term would have been about the political fight around stopping settlements. He wanted his term to be about a peace deal with the Palestinians.

    Achieving such a deal, in turn, would have given Barak the political backing – both through greater domestic political support for “the new Peres” and through the ability to shift the blame to the obligations of the peace treaty – to shut down, and even revese, settlement activity. Not to mention a natural desire to increase one’s bargaining chips.

    So while the continuing settlement of Palestinian land no doubt poisoned the atmosphere, I’d be careful about attributing it to a grand master plan on the part of Barak.

  42. Joe:

    You make some good points. Nevertheless, I think it is wrong to discount the role that Israeli rejectionism has played in the conflict. During the negotiations, Palestinians had reason to believe the Israelis were not negotiating in good faith. By insisting on by-pass roads, for example, the Israeli/American side offered the Palestinians non-contiguous territories, possibly in the hope that the offer would be rejected. But with the election of hamas, the palestinian “victim narrative” is going to wear pretty thin. Demonizers of Israel will be working overtime.

  43. “the Palestinians never understood that[…] what Clinton offered them in 2000 was the most they could expect at the time.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought that it was precisely their understanding of this fact that made the Palestinian leadership reject Oslo – this was as good as a deal as they could get under the current circumstances; this deal involved compromises they were unwilling to make; thus, they rejected the deal in hopes that they could get something better further down the line. No?

  44. If the public ever wakes up to the real cost of supporting this regime in Israel we may actually see some of the “new antisemitism” these alarmists are always waving in the world’s face.
    Norman Finkelstein has said as much, and been rewarded by having ADL types call him “something that crawled out from under a rock.”
    The reaction to criticism is so extreme that it discredits whatever valid rebuttal that is being made. The whole discourse is out of control. I mean, when Alan Dershowitz endorses “writs of torture” you know we are ALREADY around the bend.

  45. First the US stops all US taxpayor money to Egypt and Israel…

  46. Skip:

    With all respect to Norman Finkelstein, who I think does fine work, most Americans are very pro-Israel, and I suspect a small minority of Americans seriously begrudge the tax money that goes to it. As for alarmism about Anti-Semitism, it may be a problem in Europe, but in the U.S. it’s pretty much confined semi-literate losers. No question that the pro-Israel lobby is powerful and does its best to silence Israel’s critics, but U.S. policy probably wouldn’t be much different without it. Both the pro-Israel lobby and its critics greatly exaggerate its influence.

  47. Michael Young you have no business reporting on the issue if you are going to trot out fairy stories or conflate Taba and Camp David.

    James it was really Barak who walked away from the Taba deal for a lot of reasons. He could see that his country was rejecting him and all his concession making, Arafat did not put his neck on the line for those talks, while Barak lost his head. Sharon played some role in the rejection but it was really the whole country who rejected it and not one man. And Taba was withdrawn before the election.

  48. I think most people are aware of why Hamas’ attitude is a problem, but this article and this observation by Michael Young (Israelis would regard such resettlement as a Palestinian demographic Trojan horse) really sum up what’s wrong with the prevaling Israeli attitude towards the Palestinians.

    In the current situation, even if the US/US were somehow able to create a functional, democratic Palestine, Israel would still be an unacceptable, undemocratic, apartheid state.

  49. we will have to find out how to manage a failed Palestinian state on their borders, which will gravitate toward more anti-Israeli violence as factions use this to vie for internal supremacy.

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