Diana Buttu & Gideon Levy on Israeli Settlements, Kerry, Military Aid & End of Two-State Solution

Democracy Now! December 30, 2016

Guests
Diana Buttu — attorney based in Palestine. She has served as a legal adviser to the Palestinians in negotiations with Israel. She was previously an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Gideon Levy — Haaretz columnist and a member of the newspaper’s editorial board. His new article is titled "UN Resolution is a Breath of Hope in Sea of Darkness and Despair." Levy is also the author of The Punishment of Gaza.

Secretary of State John Kerry has blasted Israel’s government, saying in a major address on Wednesday that the relentless expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank threatens Israel’s democracy and has all but ended the prospect of a two-state solution with the Palestinians. "If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or Democratic; it cannot be both," Kerry said. "And it won’t ever really be at peace." Kerry’s speech followed intense Israeli criticism of the U.S. for refusing to veto a Security Council resolution last week. The measure condemns Israel’s expansion of settlements as a flagrant violation of international law. The resolution passed in a 14-0 vote. The U.S. abstained. We speak to Palestinian attorney Diana Buttu and Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, a Haaretz columnist.


TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Secretary of State John Kerry has blasted Israel’s government, saying in a major address Wednesday that the relentless expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank threatens Israel’s democracy and has all but ended the prospect of a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: Despite our best efforts over the years, the two-state solution is now in serious jeopardy. The truth is that trends on the ground—violence, terrorism, incitement, settlement expansion and the seemingly endless occupation—they are combining to destroy hopes for peace on both sides and increasingly cementing an irreversible one-state reality that most people do not actually want.

AMY GOODMAN: Secretary Kerry’s speech followed intense Israeli criticism of the U.S. for refusing to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution last week. The measure condemns Israel’s expansion of settlements, a flagrant violation of international law. The resolution passed in a 14-to-0 vote. The U.S. abstained. Kerry insisted the U.S. had not abandoned its longtime ally, but said Israeli democracy would not survive under a single state.

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: But here is a fundamental reality: If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic; it cannot be both. And it won’t ever really be at peace.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: In the West Bank, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he was willing to resume peace talks in exchange for a halt to settlement construction. This is chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.

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Will Israel Echo South Africa’s Apartheid?

At this point, the South Africa example is most instructive. Recall the state of that country as the campaign to abolish apartheid built up steam — a privileged white minority ruling a black majority in a violent and brutal system. Economic and trade sanctions gradually beginning to strangle this nation that had historically been Africa’s most prosperous. The arrival of worldwide consumer boycotts, campaigns to sell off stock of any company doing business with this pariah state.

David A. Andelman, CNN, December 29, 2016

David A. Andelman, editor emeritus of World Policy Journal and member of the board of contributors of USA Today, is the co-author, with the Count de Marenches, head of the DGSE, of “The Fourth World War: Diplomacy and Espionage the Age of Terrorism.” Follow him on Twitter @DavidAndelman. The views expressed in this commentary are his own.

(CNN) — Israel, and by extension the United States, are poised at the entrance to a dangerous path. The model democracy of the Middle East risks transforming into a global pariah on the scale of South Africa when it was in the depths of its apartheid nightmare.

After decades of Arab-Israeli diplomacy, the idea of a one-state solution looms anew, as conservative elements in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition see the arrival of Donald Trump and his new ambassador to Israel as an opportunity to push their agenda.

If it is realized, it would reduce Israel’s Palestinian population to a permanent underclass and mean, in the not-too-distant future, that a Jewish minority would be ruling a Muslim majority, with the world on the side of the oppressed majority.

The United States would be its only friend and ally — relegating Washington to a role equally isolated from mainstream opinion throughout the region and far beyond.

This seems to be the role that President-elect Trump is carving out for America, and the role that Netanyahu is skirting perilously close to for Israel.

Trump’s ambassador-designate, David Friedman, the President-elect’s longtime friend and bankruptcy lawyer, has spent much of his career advocating and raising money for the one-state concept. His arrival in Israel will only reinforce the dramatic shift toward the more extreme parties in Netanyahu’s ruling coalition that now seem to be calling the shots.

It was not always this way. Three months after taking office, on June 14, 2009, just 10 days after a recently inaugurated President Barack Obama gave his landmark Middle East speech at Cairo University, Netanyahu, in a televised speech to his people, embraced a two-state solution.

Over the next eight years, Israel has solidified its position as one of the world’s most technologically innovative countries, a bastion of democracy surrounded by an ocean of autocracies or theocracies.

Five years ago, World Policy Journal used a basket of indicators to identify Israel, alongside Finland and Singapore as the world’s three most innovative countries. At the time, Israel had the largest number of startups in the world outside the United States — 3,850, or one for every 1,844 Israelis, according to the Israel Venture Capital Research Center. It had more companies listed on America’s tech-heavy Nasdaq than the entire European continent.

The pace has only accelerated since then. More importantly, today Israel has more than 250 research units owned by or doing business for multinationals, the vast majority American companies such as IBM, Apple, Intel, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Cisco and HP.

All of which makes Israel uniquely vulnerable. If Israel pursues the one-state solution, integrating ever larger stretches of Palestinian territory and population, while disenfranchising the people who live there, demographic realities will all too quickly make Jewish people a minority in their own country. Already, Israel’s own census bureau shows a virtually equal number of Jewish and Arab people sharing the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. And Arab people, largely Palestinians, are expected to outnumber Jewish people by 2020.

Neither choice of what would follow under a one-state scenario is particularly appealing. John Kerry described the alternatives in his Wednesday speech: “If the choice is one-state, Israel can either be Jewish or Democratic, it cannot be both. And it won’t ever really be at peace.”

But Kerry did not go far enough in painting the horrors that would result from Israel’s efforts to maintain a Jewish-ruled state, for this Jewish minority would be controlling an increasingly unruly and oppressed majority. The world, apart from the United States, will no longer be on its side.

At this point, the South Africa example is most instructive. Recall the state of that country as the campaign to abolish apartheid built up steam — a privileged white minority ruling a black majority in a violent and brutal system. Economic and trade sanctions gradually beginning to strangle this nation that had historically been Africa’s most prosperous. The arrival of worldwide consumer boycotts, campaigns to sell off stock of any company doing business with this pariah state.

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The Two-State Solution: What It Is and Why It Hasn’t Happened

“The two-state solution has for decades been the primary focus of efforts to achieve peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Here’s a basic guide.”

“With few viable or popular alternatives, the most likely choice may be to simply maintain the status quo — though few believe that is possible in the long term.”


Yet Israel has managed for 68 years. — Kevin Walsh

MAX FISHER, The New York Times, December 29, 2016

A construction site in the Israeli settlement of Efrat in the West Bank. (Credit: Baz Ratner/Reuters)

Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday joined a growing chorus warning that the so-called two-state solution, which he called “the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” could be on the verge of permanent collapse.

The two-state solution has for decades been the primary focus of efforts to achieve peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but the contours of what it would actually look like — and why it has been so hard to achieve — can get lost. Here’s a basic guide.

What is the two-state solution?

It helps to start with the problem the solution is meant to address: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At its most basic level, the conflict is about how or whether to divide territory between two peoples.

The territory question is also wrapped up in other overlapping but distinct issues: whether the Palestinian territories can become an independent state and how to resolve years of violence that include the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the partial Israeli blockade of Gaza and Palestinian violence against Israelis.

The two-state solution would establish an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel — two states for two peoples. In theory, this would win Israel security and allow it to retain a Jewish demographic majority (letting the country remain Jewish and democratic) while granting the Palestinians a state.

Most governments and world bodies have set achievement of the two-state solution as official policy, including the United States, the United Nations, the Palestinian Authority and Israel. This goal has been the basis of peace talks for decades.

Why is the solution so difficult to achieve?

There are four issues that have proved most challenging. Each comes down to a set of bedrock demands between the two sides that, in execution, often appear to be mutually exclusive.

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Kerry harshly condemns Israeli settler activity as an obstacle to peace

Secretary of State John F. Kerry speaks about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the U.S. decision to allow passage of a U.N. resolution condemning Israeli settler activity in the West Bank. (Andrew Harnik-Associated Press)

Carol Morello, The Washington Post, December 28, 2016

Secretary of State John F. Kerry on Wednesday offered a harsh and detailed assessment of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, saying their growth threatens to destroy the viability of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that the United States was obliged to allow passage of a U.N. resolution condemning the activity in order to preserve the possibility of peace.

Kerry noted that the number of Israelis living in settlements has grown significantly and that their outposts are extending farther into the West Bank — “in the middle of what by any reasonable definition would be the future Palestinian state.”

“No one thinking seriously about peace can ignore the reality of the threat settlements pose to peace,” he said.

Kerry, in the hour-long speech delivered at the State Department, also condemned Palestinian incitement to violence as a barrier to direct negotiations. But his focus was on defending the Obama administration’s policies and highlighting Israel’s actions at a moment of high tension between the two governments, following the passage of the U.N. resolution.

U.S. Department of State

“Regrettably, some seem to believe that the U.S. friendship means the U.S. must accept any policy, regardless of our own interests, our own positions, our own words, our own principles — even after urging again and again that the policy must change,” he said. “Friends need to tell each other the hard truths, and friendships require mutual respect.”

He said the vote at the United Nations was about “Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living side by side in peace and security with its neighbors. That’s what we are trying to preserve, for our sake and for theirs.”

Although he did not mention Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by name, he addressed head-on the Israeli leader’s assertions that the United States had “colluded” and “orchestrated” last week’s U.N. resolution affirming that settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution.”

Kerry denied that the United States drafted or promoted the resolution, and took a swipe at the rhetoric coming from Israeli leaders.

“It will be up to the Israeli people to decide whether the unusually heated attacks that Israeli officials have directed toward this administration best serve Israel’s national interests and its relationship with an ally that has been steadfast in its support,” he said. “Those attacks, alongside allegations of a U.S.-led conspiracy and other manufactured claims, distract and divert attention from what the substance of this vote really was about.”

Kerry acknowledged that his vision is not shared and is unlikely to be followed by President-elect Donald Trump.

“President Obama and I know that the incoming administration has signaled that they may take a different path, and even suggested breaking from long-standing U.S. policies on settlements, Jerusalem — and possibly the two-state solution,” Kerry said. “That is for them to decide — that’s how we work. But we cannot, in good conscience, do nothing, and say nothing, when we see the hope of peace slipping away. This is a time to stand up for what is right.”

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How Israel Misuses the Bible

By fuming over a U.N. resolution against Israel’s settlements on Palestinian land, Israeli leaders reveal their final solution for the Palestinians – to deny them property rights and displace them.

Daniel C. Maguire, Consortiumnews.com, December 27, 2016

Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, let the theological cat out of the bag.   When the Security Council rebuked Israel for their land thefts (euphemized as “settlements,”) Mr. Danon replied with pious indignation: “Would you ban the French from building in Paris?”

There, in all of it effrontery, is the imperial theology that birthed Zionism. David Ben Gurion said of Palestine “God promised it to us.” Yitzhak Baer wrote in 1947: “God gave to every nation its place, and to the Jews he gave Palestine.”

Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

So in this hallucinatory theology, just as God gave Paris to France the Zionist deity gave Palestine to Jews including the right to build whatever they want wherever they want it. If the Zionist god posted a “Jews only” sign on Palestine, the presence of non-Jews is a sacrilege and their land claims are specious. If nothing is intelligible outside its history, as the Jesuit paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin put it, Ambassador Danon’s French allusion can only be understood against this theological backdrop.

Yigal Allon, a commander of the Palmach, the elite fighting force of the Haganah, the paramilitary force that fought to drive the British from Palestine, did not eschew the language of “cleansing,” a term now used to describe a “crime against humanity.” He boasted that the Zionists were “cleansing” Palestine of Arabs.

The religious goal of Zionism Ben Gurion said is to “secure … that the whole of Palestine will be Jewish, and not only a part of it.” Joseph Weitz, the administrator responsible for the colonization of Palestine, stated the creed bluntly: “Between ourselves it must be clear that there is no room for both people together in this country. … The only solution is a Palestine … without Arabs.”

In 1919, a fact-finding mission appointed by President Woodrow Wilson reported that in meetings with Zionists it was clear that the Zionists looked forward to a “complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine.”

Zionist ersatz theology imagines a capricious god who is into real estate distribution, a god who hands out eternal deeds to people of his choosing. It is the will of the Creator that all others be cleansed and their property rights be negated.

Misunderstanding the Bible

Zionist theology depends on a fallacious exegesis of the Hebrew Bible. The two key words for properly understanding the Bible are descriptive and prescriptive. Many of the texts of the Bible describe the horrors of a barbaric time. They are not normative or in any sense admirable. The Bible is revered for its prescriptive texts which imagined with classical excellence a whole new social order where “there shall be no poor among you,” (Deut 15::4) and where swords will gradually be melted down into plowshares as violent power is subdued. In the prescriptive texts we see the beauty of Judaism which Zionism violates.

A section of the barrier — erected by Israeli officials to prevent the passage of Palestinians — with graffiti using President John F. Kennedy’s famous quote when facing the Berlin Wall, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” (Photo credit: Marc Venezia)

The Zionists don’t know the distinction between descriptive and prescriptive. They take ugly biblical descriptive texts and use them to make imperial policy. Texts such as this from Deuteronomy: “When Yahweh your God brings you into the land that you are about to enter and occupy, and he clears away many nations before you – the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canannites, the Perizzites, the Hivites … and when Yahweh your God gives them over to you … you must utterly destroy them. … Show them no mercy.” (7:1-11, 91-5, 11:8-9)

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