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.

SAEB EREKAT: Mr. Netanyahu knows very well that he has the choice: settlements or peace. He can’t have both. Settlements are illegal under international law. Settlements are a flagrant violation to international law. Settlements are the antidote for the two-state solution.

AMY GOODMAN: In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reaction to John Kerry’s speech was swift and harsh.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I must express my deep disappointment with the speech today of John Kerry, a speech that was almost as unbalanced as the anti-Israel resolution passed at the U.N. last week. … Israel looks forward to working with President-elect Trump and with the American Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, to mitigate the damage that this resolution has done, and ultimately to repeal it.

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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.”

Trump has said he will move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, a move freighted with political significance in advance of any settlement, and his nominee to be ambassador to Israel, David M. Friedman, has said Jewish settlements in the West Bank are legal.

About two hours before Kerry started speaking, Trump tweeted his criticism of the Obama administration:

“We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect. They used to have a great friend in the U.S., but . . . not anymore. The beginning of the end was the horrible Iran deal, and now this (U.N.)! Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!”

Netanyahu, in turn, promptly tweeted his gratitude: “President-elect Trump, thank you for your warm friendship and your clear-cut support for Israel!”

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Boulder-Nablus Sister City Project!

Find out what happened at last night's hearing . . . and join us for a holiday celebration

Become a Member * Website * LIKE US ON Facebook  *  FOLLOW BNSCP ON Twitter

Last Night, Council Approved NABLUS As Boulder’s 8th Sister City . . .

We knew you’d want to know immediately, and we’ll send all the details later! We heard incredibly inspiring and heartfelt testimony last night. You guys are AMAZING! We are deeply grateful to each and every one of you who came out to support this effort. And for all the emails and letters that were sent in over the past weeks and days – all of these contributed in big and small ways!

There is no way we could have been successful without all the hard work and effort that YOU put into this. Together we ARE creating the world that we want to live in!

. . . Just in Time for Us to Celebrate At the Boulder- Nablus Sister City Holiday Party:

What: BNSCP holiday celebration
When: Tomorrow! Thursday, December 15, 2016 at 6 PM
Where: 2430 Vassar Dr., Boulder

Please Join Us!*

*& take this opportunity to holiday shop our fair trade goods from Nablus!

Reversing 2013 decision, Boulder makes Nablus a sister city

Boulder City Council members vote 7-2 in favor of sister city proposal

Alex Burness, DailyCamera Boulder News, 12/13/2016

Tom Hovestol, right, and Sid Fox listen to a speaker during a Boulder City Council meeting regarding the proposed sister city of Nablus, Palestine, onTom Hovestol, right, and Sid Fox listen to a speaker during a Boulder City Council meeting regarding the proposed sister city of Nablus, Palestine, on Tuesday at the Boulder Municipal Building. (Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer)

The West Bank city of Nablus in Palestine will become Boulder’s eighth international sister city, following a 7-2 City Council vote that reversed a previous council decision and capped a multi-year drama that was one of the city’s most heated in recent memory.

The action came more than three years after Boulder first denied the controversial proposal, by a 6-3 vote.

It also followed a 78-person public hearing Tuesday night on the sister city project, which followed a deluge of nearly 1,000 emails from the public to the council since May. That followed a 70-person public hearing in 2013.

Even by Boulder’s standards, this was a contentious matter.

Supporters maintained that making Nablus a sister city would create a non-partisan, enriching cultural exchange with a city not unlike Boulder in many ways.

“I think we are best choosing friendship over fear every time,” Drew Kelner said during the public-comment segment.

“It’s a time now when we need not to build walls separating communities, but to build bridges,” David Barsamian added.

Of course, making a Palestinian town in the West Bank a sister city is political, opponents argued. Approval will fuel anti-Israeli sentiment and present just one narrative of the Israeli-Palestinean conflict, they said.

“Who gets to decide what’s political? And how is it decided?” Mimi Ito said.


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Ken Toltz, a longtime opponent of the proposal, called the 3.5-year Nablus project a failed “experiment” successful only in highlighting existing divisions.

“How can it not be political?” Tara Winer asked. “I don’t think that a sister city is a venue for giving your side of the story, especially on this very complicated issue.”

These were the same general sentiments voiced by many when the proposal first came before the council three-plus years ago. But this time around, the council, two-thirds of which was not in office the last time the matter was voted on, was much more receptive.

“I can find no reason to vote against this,” Councilman Bob Yates said.

Sam Weaver and Aaron Brockett, who both voted yes, said they supported the plan and hoped that Boulder can consider adding an Israeli sister city in the future. Councilwoman Lisa Morzel said she was “proud” to vote for it.

“Being divisive is a choice. It’s a choice we can avoid,” Morzel said.

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Update October 22, 2016
Wisconsin Book Festival: The Way to the Spring

C-SPAN video link: c-span.org/video/?416995-3/ben-ehrenreich-discusses-way-spring

Wisconsin Book Festival

The Way to the Spring - Ben Ehrenreich - <span class="date-display-single">10/22/2016 - 12:00pm</span>

The Way to the Spring
Ben Ehrenreich
10/22/2016 – 12:00pm
Central Library – Community Rooms 301 & 302

Ben Ehrenreich first started reporting from the West Bank in 2011, on an assignment for Harper’s Magazine. He went back again for the New York Times the following year, which resulted in a powerful, much talked-about cover-story for the magazine. Palestine, it seemed, had gotten under Ehrenreich’s skin.

Eventually he moved to Ramallah, and started writing what would become The Way to The Spring: Life and Death in Palestine. Ehrenreich was moved by the injustices that he witnessed, and by the general silence about them in most U.S. media. As well informed as he was on the Arab-Israeli conflict, he nonetheless was consistently shocked by what he saw, and by how little the vast majority of people in the U.S. (and even in Israel, just few miles away) understood about the lived realities of the occupation. He felt strongly that he wanted to write to break through those silences.

In cities and small villages alike, men and women, young and old, a group of unforgettable characters shared their lives with Ehrenreich and made their own case for resistance and resilience in the face of life under occupation. Blending political and historical context with deeply human stories, The Way to the Spring makes clear that conditions on the ground are changing–and getting worse, in an accelerating dynamic that should provoke the conscience of us all. In a great act of bravery, empathy and understanding, Ben Ehrenreich, by placing us in the footsteps of ordinary Palestinians and telling their story with surpassing literary power and grace, makes it impossible for us to turn away.

Presented in partnership with the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.

Ben EhrenreichAbout Presenter Ben Ehrenreich

Ben Ehrenreich is the author of two novels, Ether and The Suitors. His writing has appeared in Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine, and the London Review of Books, among others. A recipient of the National Magazine Award, Ehrenreich lives in Los Angeles.