Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Land for Peace in Gaza

In the Gaza Strip, some 8,500 Israeli settlers are being evacuated this week as part of Israel's first real commitment to a two-state solution. Until today, Israel has spoken of a two-state solution and tolerated a Palestinian Authority, but has pursued a policy of relentlessly increasing the size of its settlements, to change "facts on the ground" as they put it. Since the Oslo accord 10 years ago, the number of settlers has increased from about 100,000 to 250,000. The hope of many right-wing Israelis, fosteredin part by governments unwilling to defeat their dreams, was that if the peace process dragged on long enough, all of pre-1947 Palestine would be de facto Jewish. Ehud Barak said in 2000 that to make peace, you have to give up your dreams. He meant not only the dream of more than 2 million Palestinians to return to homes in Israel proper, but the Zionist dream of a Jewish state on all land west of the Jordan river.

Today marked the first real rollback of Israeli settlement, and the first time Israel has made a public commitment through actions, not just words, to leaving significant territories permanently under Palestian control. Over the next weeks and months, this should have a very salubrious effect on the region. Suicide bombings should decrease when there is a realistic hope that the future will improve. Free traffic flow without Israeli military checkpoints (and hours of delays) will be possible throughout Gaza.

While many Palestinians are skeptical that Israel will give up more land in the West Bank (does "Gaza First" mean "Gaza last?") , the whole dynamic has changed. The question is not whether Israel will withdraw, but how far. And not whether Palestine will be a state, but how big. Those changes will have a significant impact on the mindset of the negotiators and the public over time. Ariel Sharon has now made it clear that Israel is not trying to get ALL the territory, but only as much as it can. That is a big step forward. It is also a major defeat for right-wing ideology in Israel. The majority of the Israeli public supports this policy of disengagement and withdrawal. They are, perhaps, even in the process of giving up the dream of a Greater Israel, religiously defined, in favor of a modern state.

For the Israelis, there is now real hope relative peace and lack of terrorism these past few months will be connected, in the minds of Palestinians, with progress - rather than the opposite. Palestinian public demands for the past decade have been limited to the West Bank, Gaza, (parts of) Jerusalem, and the right of return to Israel. Privately, many wished to see a one-state solution, i.e., an end to a "Jewish State" altogether. Some wanted to drive Israelis "into the sea." Many have considered that the intifada in the 1980s marked the real renunciation by Palestinians of any goal greater than their own state (a two-state solution), and I agree, but bigger dreams die hard. I expect violence to further decrease (except among the true extremists) as Gazans enjoy new freedom, and the expectation of the end to occupation spreads to other regions.

The bottom line here is that peacemaking requires public commitments, private (real) commitments, and concrete actions that are difficult to revoke which lock the parties into the negotiation process. Sharon is not the man to make a final deal, I suspect, but he may have, for the first time, locked Israel into making a deal. The Palestinians have really been there for a long time, ever since peace with Egypt and Jordan, and the end of Soviet support for Arab clients, ended any realistic hope of military intervention on their side.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree that this is HUGE! The Israeli settlements in the Gaza strip and West Bank were/are a major impediment to lasting peace.

Of course there are other problems left to be solved. One of the biggest ones is the terrible state of development among the Palestinian political leadership. While Palestinian's as a population want and need a state of their own (having been already abandoned and abused by every state in the region - Arabs included), the leaders seem more concerned with being the biggest big shot in Palestine than with contributing to the formation of a Palestinian state.

One effect of the Israeli pull out will be to force the Palestinians to confront the failings of their own leadership both in Hamas and in Fatah. The ability of Palestinian leaders to blame Israel for every little problem will decrease as the Israelis pull out.

Let's see what happens next. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Dr. Strangelove said...

This is hardly Israel's "first real commitment to a two-state solution." Israel has taken many steps toward the two-state solution, such as recognizing and aiding the Palestinian Authority. This is also not the first time Israel has hauled settlers away from their homes (but it is certainly the first time it has been done on this scale.)

I hope you are correct that suicide bombings will decrease with a "realistic hope" that the future will improve. I fear, however, that many will see the pullout not as an Israeli sacrifice but as a Palestinian military triumph won through suicide bombings.

I suspect Sharon is moving toward a final deal all by himself. He is building walls, retreating to a defensible position, and defining the final border. He is through with trying to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority (if he ever seriously intended to). He's just going to draw the borders the way he thinks will work in the long run and say: here it is. But there will be a border, and there will be a settlement--on that, now even the right-wing in Israel must grudgingly accept.

Sometimes diplomacy and negotiation fail and unilateral actions such as the one we witnessed today are the only way forward.

Anonymous said...

I want to point out that the Palestinians had a pretty good start on a state with the Oslo accords and negotiations with Rabin. They had their airport up and running and the seeds of economic growth were being planted. Yes, Arafat was corrupt as were his cronies. However, the Palestinians were making a go of it. It was a radicalized Jewish settler followed by a very conservative anti-peace Prime Minister that put an end to that.

Isreal's move today is not just about making peace with Palestinians. Israel has been a country at war from day one. And wars have a way over time of destroying internal solidarity. Israel has to get it settlers under control, not only to hammer out an agreement with the Palestinians, but to bolster its own internal cohesion. The settlers are more radicalized, zealous, and fundamentalist than ever and they are putting Israeli "democracy" at risk. The government is fighting wars on two fronts, the Intifada on one side and the settlers on the other. You can't keep that up and have a viable state of your own. And the Israelis are abdicating their original dream of a greater Israel that many seem to think was promised to them in the Bible. This is true progress.

This is also a concession to decades of UN resolutions that have called for the end of the settlements. The settlements have been the stickiest issue after the status of Jerusalem for negotiators on both sides.

The thing to watch now is if Palestinians can use this new development to their advantage. They too are split into factions that quibble and argue all the time. Abu Abbas has not had an easy time keeping those groups under control and no doubt has had to make concessions and deals that we will never know about to sustain a cease fire.

I will end by saying that I was greatly impressed with how carefully the Israeli troops behaved towards the settlers. They were careful respect religious beliefs such as preventing yamakas from falling off of heads during arrests. They sent in negotiators who offered to pray with the settlers. They had trucks and buses ready to transport people and household items, etc. Settlers, who were basically given these homes, are being paid over $200,000 compensation for the inconvenience. It was truly impressive to listen to the accounts of those troops participating. One man who was a reservist officer and a settler himself said that he didn't mind what he was doing in removing these people. When asked if he would go quietly if his settlement in the West Bank were dismantled, he answered yes because "sometimes individuals have to sacrifice for the betterment of the whole. This is our responsibility in a democracy." Impressive stuff. Too bad the Palestinians weren't treated with the same respect and justice when their homes were bulldozed.
 

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

If you have the time, visit this page . It is an interactive version of a 1996 article done on Gaza in National Geographic. You can look at the photos and listen to an interview with the woman to lived in Gaza and who took them. It is moving and informative. 

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

I want to defend the comment that this is the "first real commitment to a two-state solution." As I stated before, the policy of each Israeli government until now was to increase the number and size of settlements. That is 100% incompatible with a two-state solution, and is expressly designed to make any potential Palestinian zone non-viable as a state. Even liberal Israelis acknowledge that a future Palestinian state will be smaller than it would have been in 1995, because of settlements. An increase from 100,000 to 250,000 is huge.

Dr. Strangelove is incorrect about Israeli willingness to change settlement policy in the past: the only previous times when Israel has dismantled settlments were at a handful of illegal "outposts" not authorized by the Israeli government. New legal expansions were continually authorized.

FYI: Israel's official position did not shift from Palestinian autonomy to a two-state solution until the "Road Map" was accepted in 2001. But even this came with no real commitment to actual withdrawal.

I do not mean to suggest that Israeli leaders and public did not understand that Oslo meant, ultimately, some form of Land for Peace and a Palestinian State. Rather, the government permitted the public to be in denial by steadily advancing settlements and (therefore) the hope that facts on the ground might ultimately negate the necessity to give up any land. Palestinians saw this as something worse - official policy to delay any real peace until it was moot. Even darker was the public discussion in Israel in 2002-2003 about "transfer of populations" (i.e., wholesale deportation). Just putting that on the table was damaging to professions of commitment to a two-state solution. Taking away the perception of bad faith delay is crucial to peacemaking. If neither side gains from delay, delay is less likely.

 

// posted by Law Talking Guy

Dr. Strangelove said...

LTG says, "the policy of each Israeli government until now was to increase the number and size of settlements. That is 100% incompatible with a two-state solution, and is expressly designed to make any potential Palestinian zone non-viable as a state."

I disagree. Expanding settlements is compatible with a two-state solution. It would just be a smaller Palestinian state. And the expansion does not make such a state non-viable (nor was that the intention--the intention was most probably to appease right-wing voters.)

According to Mitfah.org (a pro-Palestinian website) the growth in land area of Israel's settlements in the West Bank grew from 1.3% of the land in 1992 to 2.6% of the land in 1999. I cannot find figures on present land area, but surely it is less than 5%. Furthermore, most of those settlers live in just 8 settlements. Sharon's policy is to group the settlers into a more defensible area and keep that area as part of Israel forever.

You might not like it, but it is compatible with a viable two-state solution.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

The architects of the settlement policy wanted to secure all the land west of the Jordan for a Greater Israel. That required a long-term plan of occupation and settlement resulting in a demographic defeat for Palestinian Arabs.

I want to be very clear that the majority of the Israeli public and government who supported this plan never endorsed such radical goals. But they never really gainsaid them either. They publicly accepted the idea of a two-state solution since 1995, but undercut that by being willing to let those who had such ideas pursue the settlement plan. Why such contradictory behavior? The Israeli public (like most people) wanted to have it both ways: pursue peace, but keep the dream of total victory. After all, the original Zionist vision was a Jewish state west of the Jordan, and that was pursued by many, at least in their hearts, both until partition in 1947 and afterwards. It's one thing to want peace; it's another thing to really deal with how much you'll have to give up to get it.

Gaza disengagement is, in fact, the first real physical commitment made to abandoning greater dreams and accepting perhaps just limited additional land for Israel next to a Palestinian state. It is a radical blow to the very many who enjoyed the dream that somehow, some way, they might be able to have peace and not give up land.

The Palestinians suffer from an ever worse condition of persistent destructive dreams. It is worth noting in this context that Israel has the military force and the land - when it comes to "negotiating" the Palestinians have little to exchange other than claims and dreams. The only other thing they have to trade is stopping terrorism, and Israel has rightly said it can't trade for that. Israelis rightly complain that they are the ones required to take actions, and Palestinians need only offer words (giving up dreams). I think Israelis may be learning that giving up dreams is, indeed, a tough sacrifice.

Peace can only come when everyone starts to actually settle for realistic, satisfiable demands. Arafat lost his grip on this idea in 2000 - Abbas seems to get it. Withdrawal of settlers from Gaza is very big. I think, it is psychologically a much bigger deal than Dr. Strangelove would believe.  

// posted by Law Talking Guy

Dr. Strangelove said...

I agree with LTG and others that the forcible removal of Israeli settlers from Gaza is a very big deal. I did not mean to imply otherwise. The disengagement is psychologically and politically very powerful. It is Israel's greatest sacrifice for peace yet, and it may well be Ariel Sharon's "first real committment to a two-state solution." But it was certainly not Israel's first real step toward peace.

Anonymous said...

Can you name a prior step that was a genuine commitment (in the sense of becoming committed, not in the sense of a public profession) to a two-state solution? Even at Camp David in 2000, Barak was discussing Palestinian autonomy rather than a separate state. 

// posted by Law Talking Guy

Anonymous said...

I heard on NPR that Abbas was thanking "martyrs" who made the withdraw possible. In other words, in front of the home crowd, Abbas is saying this was a military victory. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

Disappointing, but I'm much more interested in the fact that there have been no 'martyrs' lately than whatever rubbish the leaders wish to spew to their own people or one another. The real test is in the weeks to come: what will Gaza be like? Will rocket attacks from there dissipate? 

// posted by Law Talking Guy

Anonymous said...

"Disappointing, but I'm much more interested in the fact that there have been no 'martyrs' lately than whatever rubbish the leaders wish to spew to their own people or one another. "

LTG, your response strikes me as not only utopian, but ill-conceived. The absence of Palestinian attacks during the Israeli withdrawal is testament of nothing other than a people exhibiting a very basic level of common sense. First, the world is watching, and any attack initiated during this withdrawal would be indefensible, even among those that favor defending Palestinian terror; second, the withdrawal would end. In short, it’s not goodwill in operation among the Palestinian leadership, it’s a biding of time.

My next contention with your post is your casual dismissal of the words of the Palestinian leader. The words a leader speaks to his people are indicative of the words they want to hear. My advice: become interested in what Abbas is saying, especially when it calls a person who explodes rat-poison marinated nails into the face of children “martyrs.” 

// posted by Minton

Dr. Strangelove said...

Israel's biggest committment to a "two-state solution" has been Israeli consent and aid in the creation of the Palestinian Authority and armed Palestinian security forces in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel has also dismantled some "illegal" settlements and the wall ("security fence") they are building indicates an acceptance of a partition of land--whether one approves of the wall or not.

I am confused by LTG's distinction between autonomy and a two-state solution. I understand the distinction in principle but I do not understand how it applies in this case. Specifically, how does the Israeli pullout from Gaza constitute a commitment to a two-state solution while all previous actions have only been a commitment to Palestinian autonomy?

They just pulled out the settlers, leaving the land in Palestinian control. Whether that control will constitute sovereignty or "mere" autonomy is still not clear...is it?

Dr. Strangelove said...

I agree with Minton's sentiment that Abbas' statement re "martyrs" is appalling. But I agree with LTG that we should not get hung up on rhetoric.

Frankly, if a spate of ill-conceived Palestinian triumphalism is the worst thing Israelis suffer as a result of the Gaza pullout, then Sharon's operation will have been a fantastic success.

Anonymous said...

What’s appalling is that this rhetoric is acceptable among the people. Not merely acceptable, but embraced, celebrated, and elevated. We aren’t dealing with a mere ‘poor choice of words’ among the Palestinian leadership, we are dealing with an ingrained ideology that has at its roots an inconceivable hatred of the Jews, and a blind acceptance of any tactic, however evil, employed against their existence. While I hope the withdrawal works, I must say that I know it won’t. Pray I’m wrong. 

// posted by Minton

Anonymous said...

"Frankly, if a spate of ill-conceived Palestinian triumphalism is the worst thing Israelis suffer as a result of the Gaza pullout, then Sharon's operation will have been a fantastic success."

I agree 100% 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Raised By Republicans said...

I think that Abbas' rhetoric is a symptom of a deeper problem. Abbas is trying to keep any other Palestinian politician from getting to his "right" (if we think of nationalist ideologies as being on the "right"). Abbas is willing to risk the embryonic spirit of compromise in order to make sure he's the biggest big shot in Gaza.

As I've said before, one of the biggest reasons there is no lasting peace between Israel and Palestinians is that the Palestinian leaders prefer to be the leaders of a stateless people than be assasinated or be the loyal opposition in a Palestinian state.

There is no Palestinian Michael Collins. Just a bunch of Eamon De Valeras waiting for the others to be the one to make the deal that needs to be made.

Anonymous said...

Minton writes: "The absence of Palestinian attacks during the Israeli withdrawal is testament of nothing other than a people exhibiting a very basic level of common sense."

Anybody else think this is a major step forward in the Middle East, i.e., "common sense."
 

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

To be fair, I'm implying a selfish common sense, not an infusion of common sense vis-a-vis the Palestinian ideal. In other words, I think the peace is temporary. 

// posted by Minton

Anonymous said...

Minton, if you are arguing that "common sense" means not doing anything that doesn't further your goals then I think you are correct. I'd use the word "rational" to describe that but that's just social science jargon really. "Common sense" is as good a word so long as one defines it.

But if we are thinking of what incentives the Palestinians have to bomb or not bomb, we have to consider not only what might happen between them and the Israelis but also what might happen within their own community. When we start doing that it gets very complicated very quickly and I'm not sure that what you call "common sense" is really all that obvious. Nor I agree with your implied assertation that any Palestinian who would attack the Israelis now would be insane or lacking in "common sense."
 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

Minton writes: "we are dealing with an ingrained ideology that has at its roots an inconceivable hatred of the Jews, and a blind acceptance of any tactic, however evil, employed against their existence."

I don't think that squares with the history of the region. Under Ottoman rule, from about 1500-1900, the small Jewish population and larger Christian Arab population lived without incident amid the Muslim Arab population of Palestine (then part of the 'vilayet' - province - of Damascus). The bitter hatred in the region between Jews and Arabs (and yes, it goes both ways) is the result of 20th century events, not "ingrained" ideology. The irony is that Minton's comment is really much more applicable to anti-semitism in Europe, where Jews have really never been able to live alongside rest of the population. 

// posted by Law Talking Guy

Dr. Strangelove said...

Minton's comment re "ingrained ideology" is, sadly, correct, but LTG's point is well taken: this hateful ideology has its origins in the 20th century, not Islam.

Anonymous said...

I'm not ready to accept LTG's utopian view of Ottoman Imperial Government. Check out this account of 19th century sectarian violence  in Ottoman Lebanon. And of course there was the method of recruitment for Janissaries (the Ottoman Sultans' elite military force). They were exclusively Chrsitian children who were caputred (i.e. kidnapped) and raised as Muslims to be soldiers.

While I agree that current problems have their roots in current conditions (espeically social-economic conditions), I'm reluctant to portray sectarian violence in the Middle East as entirely a problem that has arisen only in the 20th century (Come clean, LTG. Is that code for "since Israel?). 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

Exactly, RBR. The Arab-Israeli conflict did not predate the large Jewish migration to what is now Israel beginning (in substantial numbers) around 1910. That is somewhat tautological, but very true. Some Israelis like to claim that there was always a Jewish presence in the Palestine. True, but very small. I use 1910 because the Jewish Agency for Palestine put the pre-1910 Jewish population at less than 50,000 in all - and before the 1890s, even smaller yet. I have composed a very long post on the regional history, but I'm keeping it for now until a more opportune moment. Suffice it to say that saying that the Arab-Israeli conflict dates from the 20th century is not "blaming" Israel -it's an historical fact. 

// posted by Law Talking Guy

Anonymous said...

But you didn't start with limiting your comment to Arab-Israeli conflict. You suggested that Arabs of various religions and other Middle Eastern ethnic groups were living in relative harmony under the rule of the Ottomans. That's what I objected to.

Your historical account so far seems to imply that it was the addition of a large Jewish population that was the neccessary condition for ethnic violence in the Middle East. I contend that that is incorrect. Poverty is the neccessary and sufficient condition for such things.  

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

I thoroughly disagree with RBR. Minton stated that the problem was an ingrained ideology of hatred of Jews. I disagreed with the word "ingrained." The hatred did not stem out of DNA or thin air, nor was it a natural outcome of Islam. It is incorrect to suggest that Arabs started hating the Jews just because they (the Arabs) were poor. As noted, the history shows that Jews had long lived in the area (in smaller numbers), the Arabs in Palestine had long been poor, and such poverty and coexistence did not result in the monstrous anti-semitism we see now.

Rather, the Arab hatred of Jews was a concomitant of increasing Jewish migration to the area, particularly as it became clear that the leadership of those immigrants wished to live separately from, and as rulers over, the other inhabitants of Palestine. It is important to remember that the Jewish migration took place during the period of British and French rule over much of the middle east, i.e., under the auspices of colonialism. RbR is correct that the poverty has exacerbated the problems that resulted, but it was far from a sufficient condition for present realities. In fact, Israelis are correct that the lives of Palestinian Arabs were (until recently, at least) far better in material terms than their Arab neighbors in Jordan and Syria.

No. I believe that the Jewish migration to Palestine in the early 20th century (under the aegis of British colonial rule) has many parallels to the Protestant Scots-Irish migration to Northern Ireland (under the aegis of British rule) in the late 17th century. Both created political problems that have not yet been sorted out, with demographic and religious aspects that make them extremely intractable.

I note, of course, that the British rule in Palestine was far, far milder than the rule in Ireland, and the Jews normally bought (rather than expropriated) land, so I sympathize with Israelis who contend that Arab reactions were disproportionate. I also note that the present politics of the regions are quite different, in that the Irish Protestants wanted to remain part of Britain, while Israel sought, fought for, and secured independence. It's not too much to notice that the biggest "blame" for the resulting tragedies, in both cases, lies with the British, because I believe that British leaders had the widest latitude in action (with so little at stake and such a monopoly on power) thus had both the greatest capacity for foresight and careful planning, yet exercised the least.

For the record, I advocate multi-ethnic secular states and democratic decisionmaking. In Ireland, at least, things are looking up.  

// posted by Law Talking Guy

Anonymous said...

"Under Ottoman rule, from about 1500-1900, the small Jewish population and larger Christian Arab population lived without incident amid the Muslim Arab population of Palestine (then part of the 'vilayet' - province - of Damascus)."

That is the statement I objected to. It is incorrect. Christian Arabs and Muslim Arabs did engage in periodic sectarian violence under the Ottomans. Also, Christians were systematically oppressed by the Ottomans in large parts of their empire.

Poverty is a neccesary condition because if Palestinians were as wealthy as the Israelis the appeals to affected historical grievances wouldn't have the same appeal.

Poverty is a sufficient condtion (this is a weaker argument), I believe because politicians will take advantage of economic disparity to create social/ethnic divisions even when none existed before. The conflict between the Jordanians and Palestians could be an example of this. Of course, this point is moot in the case of the Isreali-Palestianian conflict as there are identifiable ethnic differences. But whether those get politicized or not depends on economics I believe. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

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Anonymous said...

Has anyone heard of a Israelli policy, official or unofficial, to remove, or force, Christians from proposed settlement areas? 

// posted by Larry