Sunday, January 1, 2017

John Kerry Nails It: Realities of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict | The National Interest Blog

The first sentence of our Declaration of Independence and the French Revolution's cry of liberte, fraternite, egalite placed a contradiction in the tribal heart of the nation state.  A modern democracy is supposed to treat each citizen equally.  Few do.  Tribal domination is the norm.

We began as a tribal nation: enslaving Africans and their descendants, taking the land of the native Americans, conquering Mexico, and even the Philippines for a time.  Our civil war embedded in the Constitution the legal guarantees of citizenship, of life, and liberty.  Of course we gave it only occasional lip service for the next 100 years.

The central contradiction of Israel is similar: it formally aspires to treating its Arab citizens like others - but insists that they cannot become a majority, and exempts them from the national bonding experience - service in the army.  The dilemma of the occupation is that if it ended, if Palestinians became citizens of a democratic Israel they would be a majority.  That would destroy the tribal character of the state.  Its Jewish character would be lost and a secular democracy composed of competing ethnic groups would take its place, though the name Israel would probably survive it would no longer be the Zionist enterprise of its founders.
Some, like the late great historian Tony Judt embrace that.  Yasser Arafat proclaimed a single state as his goal.  But every experience of the fifty years since the Six Day War tells us that this option is not to be.  There is little constituency for it.  Therefore the two state solution is the only alternative to the occupation, to the domination of one people by another.  That necessity is what John Kerry and Barack Obama embrace.  - gwc
John Kerry Nails It: Realities of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict | The National Interest Blog
by Paul Pillar
(Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University and Nonresident Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution.  He is a contributing editor to The National Interest, where he writes a blog.)
Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech this week on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an excellent statement of the realities that are inescapable aspects of this conflict and that anyone who claims to deal with the dispute seriously must understand.  Most of those realities the secretary described with admirable clarity and directness.  A few others, at least as important, come through between the lines, although the hand of political correctness on matters involving Israel still weighs so heavily that even a secretary of state with less than a month to go before becoming a private citizen does not feel free to state them directly.
Important points that the secretary made explicitly, and that should be takeaways from the speech for everyone, include these:
For U.S. policymakers dealing with this conflict, U.S. interests must come first.  The United States should not, any more than any other outside party claiming to want to resolve the conflict, act as lawyer for one side or the other.  U.S. presidents and secretaries of state are paid to advance the interests of their own country, not those of any foreign government or entity.  As Kerry put it near the outset of his speech, “My job, above all, is to defend the United States of America – to stand up for and defend our values and our interests in the world. And if we were to stand idly by and know that in doing so we are allowing a dangerous dynamic to take hold which promises greater conflict and instability to a region in which we have vital interests, we would be derelict in our own responsibilities.”
A two-state solution, notwithstanding how much out of reach it seems to become each day, is still the only outcome that can provide lasting peace and enable Israel to be a Jewish and democratic state.  For the Palestinians, indefinite denial of their own nation-state means indefinite denial of the aspirations for self-determination felt by any other people, and indefinite subjugation, discontent and the inevitable violence that results from such denial.  For Israelis, the basic demographic and geographic facts that frame the national choice remain the same as they have always been with regard to being a Jewish state, being democratic, and being in control of all the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.  Israel can be any two of those things, but it is impossible to be all three.
To those inclined to discard the idea of a two-state solution right now and to speak of one state, Kerry asked this: “So if there is only one state, you would have millions of Palestinians permanently living in segregated enclaves in the middle of the West Bank, with no real political rights, separate legal, education, and transportation systems, vast income disparities, under a permanent military occupation that deprives them of the most basic freedoms. Separate and unequal is what you would have. And nobody can explain how that works. Would an Israeli accept living that way? Would an American accept living that way? Will the world accept it?”
Israeli settlements are not the only impediment to a peace settlement, but they are one of the biggest impediments.  Apologists for Israeli policies routinely argue in a monocausal way about troubles in the Middle East, saying that if X doesn’t explain everything then we should behave as if it explains nothing.  West Bank settlements have often been the X in this mode of argumentation.  Kerry went into considerable detail in his speech with facts and figures about how the settlement program is, as a straightforward matter of geography, making a viable Palestinian state less and less of a possibility.  He observed, “If more and more settlers are moving into the middle of Palestinian areas, it’s going to be just that much harder to separate, that much harder to imagine transferring sovereignty, and that is exactly the outcome that some are purposefully accelerating.”

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