September 5, 2012

EDITOR: The Two State solution – a train missed some years ago, lives on in Euro politicians fantasies

In the US they know and understand that the Two State so-called solution was always a mirage, a carrot held up to the Palestinians, to enable the continuation of settlement and land grab. US politicians have played their role in enabling this fiction, aiding and abetting Israeli crimes. In Europe it is different – some liberal politicians seem stuck to this view as if the chance is still there, asking Israel to reconsider its policies, so as not to miss the Two State train… now that would be interesting – Israel acting as if it believed in its own propaganda! Fat chance of that, of course. How do you explain this to nice Scandinavian liberals? They obviously have not heard of apartheid, either. Israel for them is still a small, vulnerable state surrounded by powerful enemies wishing to throw it into the sea… some fallacies seem immune to reality. It is exactly people like these, and their mistaken and bizarre policies, which make it possible for Israel to thrive and continue to oppress the Palestinians.

Israel, Palestinians may lose chance for two-state solution, Norway FM says: Haaretz

On eve of his visit to Jerusalem and Ramallah, Jonas Gahr Store says international community must consider how to relate to the import of goods that are produced in the settlements, ‘which we consider illegal according to international law.’

By Akiva Eldar | Sep.05, 2012 | 1:31 AM

Jonas Gahr Store in a meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak in 2011.

Jonas Gahr Store in a meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak in 2011. Photo by Defense Ministry

The international community must consider how to relate to the import of goods that are produced in the settlements, “which we consider illegal according to international law,” the Norwegian Foreign Minister, Jonas Gahr Store told Haaretz on the eve of his visit to Jerusalem and Ramallah.

Store, head of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee – a donor support group to the Palestinian Authority – said that Norway would “consider various options to demonstrate its policy in regard to the expansion of the settlements.”

Store arrives in the region as part of the preparation for the forum of donor states that will take place in New York at the end of the month.

One of the central issues on the group’s agenda will be Israel’s policy regarding the Palestinian residents of area C, which is under full Israeli civil and security control. Norway’s support of recognition of a Palestinian state, as well as the contacts it has with Hamas – including a meeting between a senior Norwegian diplomat and Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal – have caused tension between Jerusalem and Oslo.

In the interview, held in Store’s Oslo office, the minister expressed severe criticism of Israel’s actions in the occupied territories. Store said that Norway is very closely following the Israeli pressure against the Palestinians living in area C, especially in the south Hebron Hill.

“The idea of area C was part of the interim period. It was not meant to give Israel an opportunity to expand the settlements in 60 percent of the territories at the expense of the Palestinians who live in this area,” he said.

When Norway supported the acceptance of Israel into the OECD, he added, it made it clear that it meant Israel proper, not the occupied territories and the settlements in the West Bank. “I know that your government argues that these are disputed territories,” Store says. “Sorry, we believe that according to the international law, they are occupied territories.”

Are you aware of the argument that the donor states, including Norway, which contributes some $120 million to the Palestinian Authority (the third largest donor after the EU and the U.S. ), is actually funding the occupation?

“I am very aware of the argument that the AHLC’s money is actually financing the Israeli occupation and that Israel is the main beneficiary of the donors’ money. And who do we hurt if we dissolve the AHLC? Do we have any guarantee that the Israeli government will take responsibility for the welfare and security of the Palestinian people if the PA collapses?

“Having said that, we will not keep the AHLC forever. But my position until now has been that as long as the parties say they want to reach a two-state solution, we have to support it, but within a certain limit. Once it will be clear to everyone that the donors’ mechanism is perpetrating the status quo rather than contributing to peace, we will have to reconsider. We are not quite there yet.

“From a strictly humanitarian perspective, there may be poor countries in Africa that need help more than the Palestinians. But the point here is political, it is about our common vision to see the emergence of solid Palestinian institutions, which should also be in Israel’s interest. The World Bank’s recent report indicates the vulnerability of the PA’s financial situation.”

How can peace be promoted through a real process that would result in implementation of the Oslo Accords?

“The AHLC, headed by Norway, is promoting the process from the bottom up. But Norway and the AHLC cannot do much without progress in the top-down process, the political effort to solve the final status issues in the hands of the parties and the Quartet. The Oslo agreement is only the engine. In order to create momentum you must have wheels and a body. That is my deep concern. If there is no progress in the near future, we may miss the opportunity to reach the two-state solution.”

Are you aware that among Israeli politicians, the Oslo Accords have a very bad reputation?

“I am aware of the fact that Israeli politicians from the right are pointing the fingers to us, as if Norway carries a responsibility for the lack of progress in the peace process that started almost 20 years ago in Oslo. But the Oslo agreement belongs to those who signed it, the parties. We did our best to facilitate the negotiations and inject some ideas. I believe that the agreement is quite good, given that this was intended to be the first step. And even today most people come back to the Oslo agreement when they envisage a process of peace. Progress or lack of progress lies with the parties.

“The Oslo Accords have a variety of opponents. In their very different ways, the Israeli right and Palestinian terror contributed to weakening the agreements, and the leaders who were in charge were not decisive enough to stop them. Today I believe the continued settlement construction is creating a growing barrier to the peace process, making the two-state solution even harder to conceive.”

You have close ties with the Arab states. Are they doing enough to promote peace?

“I told Arab leaders that they must be more active in promoting the Arab peace initiative. We believe that this is a good basis for regional peace and security. But more creativity is needed, to see how peace can lead to economic activities and more security for all.”

What is your position concerning a possible strike of Iranian nuclear facilities?

“We have been in contact with the Israeli government with regard to the Iranian nuclear program. We understand Israel’s profound concern. We support the sanctions, but we remain very reluctant toward a military option at this stage. We are consistently defending Israel’s right to defend itself against all kinds of threats and terror. Norway is a friend of Israel and will always be. But as Israeli leaders speak out against Norwegians views where they disagree, so do we [when disagreeing with Israel’s views].


Requiem for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Haaretz

There are moments when the truth flies into your face and you realize your political program is no longer viable. But while I have no alternative to offer, I know one thing is sure: the two-state solution is dead.

By Carlo Strenger | Aug.29, 2012 | 2:34 PM |  2

Migron - Emil Salman

Construction work underway at the Migron outpost. Nachum Barnea suggests Israel’s High Court has turned into an accomplice of the settlement project. Photo by Emil Salman

Nachum Barnea is considered to be one of Israel’s most influential journalists, independent in his judgment, fair and balanced in his reporting and analysis. A few days ago he wrote an outspoken column in which he comes to the conclusion that the settlement project has reached its goal: the situation on the ground is irreversible, and the two-state solution is no longer possible.

The context of the column was Barnea’s visit to Migron, an outpost currently under the spotlight of Israeli media. The Palestinian owner of the land claims he never sold it, and Israel’s High Court ruled that it must be evacuated.

But Barnea is not impressed with this ruling. Around Migron there are many other settlements that no one touches, because they are not built on private land. Barnea claims that this turns the High Court into an accomplice of the settlement project:

“The original sin was committed by the High Court. In the second decade after the six-day war, when the settlement enterprise transformed from a marginal whim to the government’s primary policy in the territories, the High Court was asked to present its stance by ruling on a series of petitions. Over the years the court’s judges ignored the international law, which forbids the establishment of a settlement on conquered land, and instead focused on the issue of ownership: Jews are permitted to settle anywhere in the West Bank as long as the land is not Palestinian-owned.”

Barnea rarely expresses such outspoken views. He was interviewed in the popular TV Program “London and Kirschenbaum”, and said that the governments of both Israel and Palestine are not willing or able to pay the price of implementing the two-state solution, concluding that “Everybody knows how this will end.” When asked what he means, he answers, “There will be a bi-national west of the Jordan… the two-state solution is no longer possible.”

This was, of course, a surprise: most center-left politicians and commentators have a standard line: “Everybody knows how the Israel-Palestine conflict will end.” It is generally taken as a matter of course that they imply the two-state solution as proposed by Clinton in 2000. Barnea assumes that this received wisdom is, at this point, devoid of any realistic foundation.

As of late summer 2012, I cannot see any coherent plan to deal with reality on the ground. Only Israel’s extreme right takes a clear stance: National religious Rabbis quite simply say that Palestinians will not have political rights in the Greater Land of Israel, and some of the leading settlers say that Israeli democracy must be replaced by a theocracy.

Most leaders on Israel’s moderate right do not make clear statements. Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and former Likud minister Moshe Arens are laudable exceptions: they think that Israel should annex the West Bank and give Palestinians full political rights, while maintaining its Jewish character. The problem is that they base this on a theory by Yoram Ettinger that there are only 1.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank. None of Israel’s professional demographers endorses this idea, and neither does Israel’s Central Bureau of statistics.

The situation is unpalatable to say the least: Israel’s extreme right argues for theocratic apartheid, and the moderate right builds its political program on demographic illusions – or thinks that Palestinians will settle for some disconnected Bantustans. The center and the left are silent for the simple reason that they do not have a coherent position. They prefer to talk about social and economic issues and disregard the elephant in the middle of the room.

I came to the conclusion that the two-state solution was dead at the end of 2011, when Abbas’ bid for recognition of Palestine by the UN failed. Ever since I published this assessment, friends and readers have asked what I suggest as an alternative. Some thought that I had finally moved to the extreme left’s endorsement of the one-state solution; others thought that I had moved to the right.

Neither is the case. There are moments when reality flies into your face, and in which you realize that your political program is no longer viable, even though you do not endorse any of the alternatives. I do not derive much comfort from being in good company: The remainders of Israel’s left pay lip service to the two-state solution, knowing that there is no longer a way to implement it.

My conversations with European diplomats and politicians generate the impression that the same holds true for Western Europe. For lack of an alternative to the two-state solution, European governments have not endorsed any alternative conception, but they are beginning to realize that the two-state solution won’t happen.

As I do not have any coherent strategy to propose, I’ll end on a more general historical reflection: the Middle East is currently in an ongoing upheaval. Except for Egypt, Iran and Turkey, none of its states have historical depth and most of them have lacked political cohesion once dictators were removed. Nobody can safely predict how the Middle East’s map will look in a decade: for starters it is very unclear whether Syria will continue to exist as a unified state after Assad’s fall. Other states may disintegrate along ethnic and religious lines, too.

It may well be that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is but a reflection of the Middle East’s inherent instability. Unfortunately, this means that the area’s fate – including that of Israel – will be determined by blind historical forces rather than by foresight and planning.

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