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06/09/2014 | Pyrrhic victories and glass houses: the Palestinians, the Jewish State of Israel, and the Wobbly Ceasefire

Martin Edwin Andersen

It wasn’t propaganda by the terrorists-cum-liberators of Hamas; nor the supposedly one-sided criticism emanating out of UN agencies, or even revelations of the content of a 9-page online al-Qaeda manual--Palestine: Betrayal of the Guilty Conscience al-Malahem (full of ideas for retaliating against the U.S. for its support of Israel)—that most called into question what, if anything, Israel really “won” in the recent 50-day war in Gaza, one of the Earth’s most densely-populated places.

 

A new paradigm for peace … indigeneity.

(Land is sacred, not arms.)

It wasn’t propaganda by the terrorists-cum-liberators of Hamas; nor the supposedly one-sided criticism emanating out of UN agencies, or even revelations of the content of a 9-page online al-Qaeda manual--Palestine: Betrayal of the Guilty Conscience al-Malahem (full of ideas for retaliating against the U.S. for its support of Israel)—that most called into question what, if anything, Israel really “won” in the recent 50-day war in Gaza, one of the Earth’s most densely-populated places.

Rather, what best cut to the chase were comments by U.S. Ambassador (ret.) Martin Indyk to Foreign Policy, made as the Israeli government announced that it was appropriating a large swath of territory for building settlements inside the occupied West Bank near Bethlehem.  Indyk, who served as the U.S. special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations from 2013 to 2014, suggested that policymakers in Jerusalem were engaged in an existential and dangerous folly, one based on far too great a cost to be in any way justified.

"What is it going to do about the 2.6 million Palestinians it has responsibility for now?” Indyk asked Foreign Policy Editor David Rothkopf. “If Israel continues to control 2.6 million Palestinians in the West Bank, it's going to have to decide sooner rather than later whether it's a democracy or a Jewish state, but it won't be able to be both." (Italics added.)

Indyk’s observations laid bare the fundamental contradiction between the Jewish state of Israel’s bottom line—that its rights as a legitimate nation state be recognized by its neighbors in order that real and lasting security is achieved--and an elemental calculation of regional demographics that show how Israel’s decision to keep Palestinians a captive nation also directly affect its own people’s national identity. They came just weeks after former U.S. envoy and Woodrow Wilson Center scholar Aaron David Miller reminded that the decades-long struggle is one “driven by memory, trauma, and political identity and existential issues.”

 *  *  *  *  *

Creative use of the UN-approved definition of "indigeneity" would have the effect of creating a new and unquestionably appropriate paradigm that would establish even among some of the most vociferous critics the right of existence of the Jewish state of Israel while at the same time nurturing the kind of process of transformation needed for a viable Palestinian nation-state to emerge and evolve. 

Only by both sides accepting the origins, construction and definition of the national identity of the “Other” can the means be agreed upon so that each accepts and recognizes the other as a nation state. And only a two-state solution ensures, as Indyk tellingly pointed out, that the state of Israel remain a largely homogenous democratic state, as well as being finally recognized by its neighbors as a people with a right to a homeland in the Holy Land.

Settling once and for all the question about who is "indigenous" to the lands of Israel and the Occupied Territories would help put the two-state option currently on life support on much firmer ground. The seemingly unending twin problems posed by Hamas and by illegal Israeli settlers are firmly rooted in erroneous assumptions that one people or the other, but not both, are indigenous to the Holy Land. 

As the UN definition of indigeneity has already been successfully used in other places of the world, and continues to be the world body's last word and ultimate judgment on the authenticity of claims on the subject, its application in the case of Israel and the Occupied Territories would make it exceedingly hard for one side or the other to continue to deny its mutual promise in the homelands of three of the world's most important religions. 

A recent essay--"Indigeneity: Opening the Door to Path of Peace Between the Jewish State of Israel and the Palestinians" (@ goo.gl/wAJgOJ )--written in the period immediately before the current hostilities broke out fleshes out the new paradigm, originally offered earlier this year in "Common lands, common ground: The indigenous agenda, Israel, Palestine and breaking the post-Oslo Accords logjam" ( @ http://goo.gl/OYCkYP ).

In addition, Elza S. Maalouf's forthcoming book, Emerge! The Rise of Functional Democracy and the Future of the Middle East, has a telling chapter on "Uncovering the Indigenous Intelligence," underscoring the need to focus Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts on the paradigm of indigeneity.

In it, Maalouf points out that the Palestinian population has, outside of Israel, one of the highest percentages of engineers per capita in the region.  She outlines the necessity of teaching youth on the West Bank to build "their own sustainable, indigenous constructs" as part the Palestinians’ need to focus on building their own institutions essential to creating there “the Mumbai of the Arab World.”

“Many of the youth who join the Intifadas out of frustration and boredom could have employment in high-tech manufacturing and in call centers that cater to 300 million Arabic-speaking customers.  Once a culture gets a taste of that … success, it will be difficult to get its young men to pick up arms or rocks and destroy what they built with their own hands.”

 *  *  *  *  *

Claims that the Israeli decision to appropriate part of an area long designated as a “settlement bloc” was actually due to Hamas’s responsibility for the June kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers fly in the face of the fact that the current war in Gaza resulted in what is largely seen as a disproportionate loss of life on the Palestinian side, together with the fact that Israel had for years discussed the possibility of expanding settlements there.

The irreconcilable differences between Israel’s identity and its being stuck in a geo-political cul-de-sac after the most recent round of violence in Gaza demands—as Assaf Sharon noted in “Failure in Gaza” in the September 25th edition of The New York Review of Books, “understanding how we got to this point—and, more importantly, how we can move beyond it.”

"Before the current operation began, Hamas was at one of the lowest points in its history,” Sharon wrote “... Operation Protective Edge has been a strategic failure. It gave Hamas a way out of isolation, providing the organization with an opportunity to show that it could inflict harm on Israeli cities, kill IDF soldiers, and briefly shut down Ben Gurion Airport.” Reinstating control of the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas in Gaza, Sharon added, “as was possible and desirable last April, may now have become more difficult as a consequence of the operation."

In fact, as Vice News headlined on September 2, “Palestinian Support for Hamas Soars After Israel War, as Fatah Loses Backing.” According to an opinion poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh “would easily beat Western-backed” Abbas “should the two face off in a presidential election today.” Although a June poll showed that 53 percent of Palestinians would have supported Abbas compared to only 41 percent for Haniyeh, the latter “would now win 61 percent of the vote versus 32 percent for Abbas.”

Israel’s decision to engage in what anti-settlement groups claimed was the biggest appropriation of Palestinian land in three decades may also result in a cascade of unintended consequences. These include unwittingly serving to promote recruitment by ISI and al-Qaeda, as well as Hamas. The competing terrorist trilogy already thrives in the swamp of the seemingly dead post-Oslo peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

The “next stop is Israel,” Jonathan Fine, an Israeli analyst with the Institute for Counter-Terrorism, told CBN News on September 5th. The specific danger to neighboring Jordan, he added, “is embedded in the potential of Muslim Brotherhood supporters among the mass of Palestinians who might cling and adhere to the ideology of the IS in Iraq.”

“How will [Israel] have peace if it is unwilling to delineate a border, end the occupation, and allow for Palestinian sovereignty, security, and dignity?” Philip Gordon, the White House coordinator for the Middle East, asked in early July.

“It cannot maintain military control of another people indefinitely. Doing so is not only wrong but a recipe for resentment and recurring instability.” 

In other words, the status quo serves to fertilize and grow those swamps from which terrorist organizations emerge, as Israel continues to lose—at very least—a public relations war whose terrain it cannot change in the near term and, in doing so, risks becoming an international pariah.

In the September issue of The New Yorker magazine, Connie Bruck offered important background to the international public relations and security minefield that the Israeli government has backed itself into, amidst those disputing sides willing to forget or forgive very little in the absence of real, sustainable peace talks, noting that:

In a speech at Bar-Ilan University, in June 2009, [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu seemed to endorse a two-state solution, if in rather guarded terms. Leaders of the settler movement and even many of Netanyahu’s Likud allies were furious at this seemingly historic shift for the Party, though, with time, many of them interpreted the speech as a tactical sop to the United States. No less significant, perhaps, Netanyahu introduced a condition that could make a final resolution impossible—the demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. “It was a stroke of political brilliance,” the former Senate aide … told me. “He managed to take the two-state issue off the table and put it back on the Palestinians.”

In 2014, that positioning is no longer, as Indyk pointed out, desirable or defendable for the Jewish state itself, due to current and emerging demographics, or even possible, if protecting Israel from the gathering storm—posed by ISIS and al-Qaeda on one side, and Iran on the other—is to be secured. 

Netanyahu’s comment at an American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference last March in Washington, D.C.—where he somewhat uncharacteristically stated, “I hope that the Palestinian leadership will stand with Israel and the United States on the right side of the moral divide, the side of peace, reconciliation, and hope”—in recent months is no longer a lament or a wry challenge, depending on one’s personal stance.

Rather, as the threat in the Levant from ISIS dwarfs that posed by Hamas, it is a critical necessity as all peoples in the region face a new challenge in which distinctions found to be so important between Palestinians and Israelis pale before what they are confronted with today.  

 *  *  *  *  *

As the war continued, Salam Fayyad, the former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, spoke before the Atlantic Council in Washington on the state of affairs in Gaza and the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations. One of the heroes in trying to bring peace to Palestine Fayyad lamented dim horizon facing both peoples given the nearly moribund post-Oslo peace talks.  What was urgently needed, he said, was the emergence of a new paradigm as a foundation for long-term negotiations on the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Aaron David Miller’s work helps focus attention on the need for that paradigm to be based precisely on “memory, trauma, and political identity and existential issues”—a focus going far beyond today’s demands from one side or the other that their rivals are called into account for their role in the violence.  Key to that dialogue is an understanding of the ancestral rights of both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Muslims, and the mutual recognition of those rights as already sanctified by the United Nations. It is land that is sacred, not—as Ismail Haniyeh claims—arms.

Indigeneity offers the kind of paradigm shift that former Prime Minister Fayyad told the Atlantic Council was essential to occur in order to successfully restart meaningful peace talks. At the same time it fully incorporates Prime Minister Netanyahu's bottom-line demands, in that it clearly focuses on a mutual recognition of the validity of both peoples and their claims to a nation-state homeland.  In other words, it offers him the “new diplomatic horizon” he now says he seeks.

Time grows short, as a new and horrific barbarism emerging from Syria and Iraq casts its shadow over all the peoples of the Levant. If a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, the need to move forward urgently on a new paradigm that respects both peoples and their own history in the region is upon us. Let us begin.

 

Offnews.info (Argentina)

 



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