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

Democracy Now! December 30, 2016

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.


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.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Meanwhile, Donald Trump took to Twitter to blast Kerry’s speech, writing in a pair of tweets, quote, "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!" Trump wrote. On Capitol Hill, lawmakers in both parties blasted Kerry’s address. South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham called it "delusional," while New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer said Kerry had, quote, "emboldened extremists on both sides," end-quote.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we’re joined by two guests. In Haifa, Israel, we’re joined by Diana Buttu. She’s an attorney based in Palestine who has served as a legal adviser to the Palestinians in negotiations with Israel. Buttu was previously an adviser to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. And in Tel Aviv, we’re joined by Gideon Levy, a Haaretz columnist and member of the newspaper’s editorial board. His new article is headlined "UN Resolution is a Breath of Hope in Sea of Darkness and Despair." Gideon Levy is also the author of The Punishment of Gaza.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Diana Buttu, let’s begin with you. Your response to this resolution?

DIANA BUTTU: This is a resolution that is good on its face, except what it requires is it requires the international community to actually follow up with it. What I think is important to remember is that these types of resolutions have been issued by all of the U.S. administrations, with even President Reagan not abstaining from this resolution but actually voting in favor of it. So, what really needs to happen now is sanctions need to begin to be imposed on Israel. It cannot be allowed to continue its colonization of the West Bank for yet another 50 years. And Israel must be sent the message that they cannot continue to defy international law. There will be a price to be paid.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Gideon Levy, your response to the vote in the United Nations, and especially to Kerry’s speech this week?

GIDEON LEVY: Both are too little. Both are too late. And about both, I can say, better late than never. I think that the main importance is, for the Israeli public opinion, it’s a wake-up call, is a last wake-up call, maybe even it is a too late wake-up call, to remind the Israelis that the world is very, very clear about the settlements, that the United States is not in the pocket of Israel, as we used to think in the recent years, rightly so, and, above all, that it doesn’t go together, settlements and peace, settlements and justice, settlement and being a democracy. This is the message, and I hope at least some of Israeli public opinion will start to think about it.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech. He described the many ways the Obama administration has supported Israel over the years.

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: Time and again, we have demonstrated that we have Israel’s back. We have strongly opposed boycotts, divestment campaigns and sanctions targeting Israel in international fora, whenever and wherever its legitimacy was attacked. And we have fought for its inclusion across the U.N. system. In the midst of our own financial crisis and budget deficits, we repeatedly increased funding to support Israel. In fact, more than one-half of our entire global foreign military financing goes to Israel. And this fall, we concluded an historic $38 billion memorandum of understanding that exceeds any military assistance package the United States has provided to any country at any time.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s the secretary of state. Gideon Levy in Tel Aviv, this is not how all of this is being portrayed, that it may be unusual for President Obama to abstain from vetoing a vote on Israel, but, as Diana Buttu just said, going back to Reagan—in fact, when Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., began her speech, she quoted Reagan, who had been involved with a number of resolutions that criticized Israel, and that went right up through Republican and Democratic presidents. And here you have John Kerry talking about this unprecedented, historic military deal, $38 billion over 10 years. Can you talk about whether President Obama has been, whether in manner, in fact, friendlier to Israel than any previous president since Reagan?

GIDEON LEVY: You, Amy, may call it friendly, and I would call it very hostile, because supplying Israel with more drugs just to get Israel satisfied is not friendship. It is hostility. And I think that President Obama, as great as he is, he really thought that, with Israel, it will go only with carrots. And we know by now that the last thing you can do with Israel is treat Israel with carrots, because Israel learned in those years, in those eight years of Obama, more than ever before, that it can do whatever it wants. The United States is still in its pocket. Many times when you were watching the relations between Israel and the United States in the recent years, one could even ask himself, "Who is really the superpower between the two? And who is really the friend of whom here?" because, as Tom Friedman wrote just today in The New York Times, you don’t supply a driver with more alcohol, you don’t let him drive drunk. And Obama let Israel drive drunk.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Diana Buttu, I’d like to ask you, Mahmoud Abbas has said that he’s willing to resume negotiations if the settlements stop, but you have said that Israel is not really interested in peace. Can you explain that?

DIANA BUTTU: Look, what Israel wants is it wants to have the farce of having a diplomatic process and bilateral negotiations, because what that does is it gives Israel a lot of support from the international community. We saw that during the period of Oslo, that Israel got more money coming into its coffers as a result of the negotiations, that it was allowed to establish more diplomatic ties. In fact, 34 countries established diplomatic ties as a result of Oslo. It ended up signing a peace agreement with Jordan that wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for the diplomatic process. And so, for Israel, negotiations pay.

But at the same time, what Israel was allowed to do during the negotiations process was continue to build and expand its settlements. And we saw that the number of settlers ended up doubling just in the few short years that the negotiations were taking place. Within a seven-year period, the number of settlers went up to 400,000. Even now, we see that the number has more than tripled. So what Israel wants is it wants to have this farce of a bilateral process, but it doesn’t at all want to pay the price of peace. It doesn’t want to end its settlements. It doesn’t want to end the occupation. All that it wants is for the international community to reward it for entering into dialogue and discussion with the Palestinians, all the while continuing to steal more Palestinian land.

AMY GOODMAN: So, let’s talk about the issue of one state versus two states. Benjamin Netanyahu says he supports a two-state solution. Diana Buttu, you have changed your views on this.

DIANA BUTTU: Yes, definitely. In the past, my view was that the only way forward was to be able to have Palestinians have a state of their own. But the more that I’ve spent time here, the more that I’ve come to realize, and after spending time in the negotiations, if, Amy, this were a battle line, a line would have been drawn a long time ago. That’s not what this is about. This is about the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. And I believe that the only way that we can move forward is if we address that fundamental issue and if we begin to establish a situation in which all individuals living in this country are given equal rights, irrespective of what their religion is, irrespective of their race. And that is the only way that we’re going to move forward. At this point in time, continuing to believe in a two-state settlement, when what we’ve seen is that all that it’s done is to further entrench the occupation, is to believe in the concept of insanity. And I’m simply not somebody who believes in that.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I want to go back to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech. He said the future of a two-state solution is in jeopardy.

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.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Secretary of State Kerry went on to say a one-state solution would mean Palestinians will permanently be relegated to separate but unequal enclaves.

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: 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.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Gideon Levy, what about this, the issue of a one-state—can there be a Jewish state that is at the same time a democratic state, in a one-state solution?

GIDEON LEVY: I think what Secretary Kerry described so nicely about the future is the past and the present. He just described the reality in the West Bank and Gaza in the recent 50 years. Nothing changed. It’s exactly there. And therefore, my claim is that the one state is—has been established 50 years ago. The only question now is what kind of regime will this state have, because, by the end of the day, the Green Line was killed many, many years ago. The '67 borders are, unfortunately, irrelevant anymore. The settlers go to such a quantity, that it became an irreversible reality. And what Secretary Kerry described is very, very precise. But the only question I ask myself: "Mr. Secretary, don't you know that this is the reality by now? Don’t you know that this is the reality in the recent decades? You are speaking about the future." When will be the stage in which people like Secretary Kerry will admit that the two-state solution is dead? I think that if they had more guts and more honesty, they would have said it by now. But saying this means to reshuffle everything—all our concepts, all our beliefs, all our values. And it takes time for statesmen to change their minds. But by the end of the day, we have only one alternative. And the alternative is the one state, which exists already for 50 years. And the struggle should be from now on, like the name of your program, democracy now, equal rights. That’s the only issue at stake.

AMY GOODMAN: Gideon Levy, your response to Donald Trump? I want to play a clip of Donald Trump, who spoke about Israel Wednesday night when he briefly took questions from reporters.

PRESIDENTELECT DONALD TRUMP: I think you know what I believe. I’m very, very strong with Israel. I think Israel has been treated very, very unfairly by a lot of different people. You look at resolutions in the United Nations. You take a look at what’s happened. They’re up for 20 reprimands. And other nations that are horrible places, horrible places, that treat people horribly, haven’t even been reprimanded. So, there’s something going on, and I think it’s very unfair to Israel.

AMY GOODMAN: So, he’s saying he thinks it’s very unfair to Israel. And in that tweet, "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!" What is your assessment of Donald Trump and what he will mean for Israel and Palestine?

GIDEON LEVY: "Stay strong, Israel," as if Israel is just about to collapse and it’s only about the coming 20 days. With all the weapons and the F-35 and the submarines, "Stay strong, Israel," another 20 days. It is ridiculous.

But I’ll be very honest with you, Amy. Before the elections, I played with myself with the idea that maybe Donald Trump is the better choice for the Middle East, not for the United States, because we knew very well what will Hillary Clinton do, and mainly we knew what she will not do. And I thought that maybe an unexpected figure like Donald Trump might bring new air, new ideas, new approach, and stop this automatic and blind support to Israel.

But I’m really regretting this by now already, when I see his nominations, when I see his last expressions. I think that between the two, John Kerry is much more of a friend of Israel, friend of democracy and friend of peace in the Middle East, rather than Donald Trump. He is still very unexpected. Nobody knows—I doubt if he even knows—what are his plans about the Middle East. But my feeling is that Donald Trump will always go with the strong ones, and the victims will always be the weak ones. And in our case, we know very well who are the victims and who are the weak ones.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Diana Buttu, your sense of what should happen and what can happen under a Trump administration and Republican control of the Congress, as far as the United States is concerned? Your perspective on what needs to happen now in terms of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?

DIANA BUTTU: Well, you know, in the United States, it’s become clear to me that Israel is not an issue that you even can discuss any longer, when you have presidents—President-elect Trump and a would-be President Clinton talking very much in the same form. And in the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, the line is pretty much the same. What’s become clear to me, as somebody who lives in Palestine, is that the United States is no longer relevant any longer and that what we need to begin to do is focusing on—focus on all those other countries and pushing for divestment, pushing for sanctions, pushing for boycotts of countries all around the world, just in the same way that the South African apartheid movement ended up pushing for—end of apartheid movement ended up going around the United States and pushing legislation through different countries around the world. To me, it’s become apparent that the United States is an obstacle. It’s been an obstacle for decades now. And the only way forward is to go around the United States, rather than continue to try to go through the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about David Friedman, Donald Trump’s bankruptcy lawyer, who is his pick to be the next U.S. ambassador to Israel. Friedman said in a statement he aimed to, quote, "strengthen the bond between our two countries and advance the cause of peace within the region, and look forward to doing this from the US embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem." When his nomination was announced, Haaretz ran an article headlined "David Friedman, Trump’s Radical-right Ambassador, Makes Netanyahu Look Like a J Street Lefty." Let’s go to David Friedman in his own words. October, he was interviewed on the Israeli network i24news.

NURIT ZUNGER: Will Donald Trump recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s sole capital?

DAVID FRIEDMAN: Yes. He said that countless times, that he will recognize the city of Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital. And he’ll move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

NURIT ZUNGER: All right. So, Trump’s policies, as far as the Israeli Jewish American voter, why should Israeli voters, Israeli-American voters, vote for Trump?

DAVID FRIEDMAN: Well, if those who want to see a strong relationship between Israel and the United States with no daylight, those who want to see Israel protected at the United Nations, those who want to see the strongest level of military and strategic cooperation between the two countries, those who don’t want to see any daylight between the two countries, those that want to live in an environment where the United States doesn’t attempt to impose upon Israel a solution to the Palestinian conflict against the state of Israel, those that want to see Jerusalem recognized as the capital of Israel, you know, vote for Donald Trump.

AMY GOODMAN: So that’s Donald Trump’s bankruptcy lawyer, David Friedman, who’s nominated to be the U.S. ambassador to Israel. Diana Buttu, I wanted to—if you could explain what this means, moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, for an audience, for example, in the United States, who really may not have any idea? And I also just want to point out how rare it is to bring on a Palestinian to comment on this in the last few days since the resolution. I’m not talking about Fox here. MSNBC, CNN rarely interview a Palestinian. They interview Netanyahu’s representatives. They interview the Obama administration, as if that represents the Palestinian side. And that’s pretty much it. But if you can explain what this means?

DIANA BUTTU: Well, first, to get to the issue of Jerusalem, not a single country around the world has recognized that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, including the United States. And the reason that nobody recognizes that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel is because under the partition plan, Resolution 181, the issue of Jerusalem was one that was to be decided in the future and to be internationalized. And this is why, when the negotiations actually began to take place in 1993, that Jerusalem was placed as one of those issues to be negotiated. The United States’s position has always been—and not just the United States, every country around the world—that the status of Jerusalem is one that will be decided bilaterally between the two sides and that neither side can impose their own vision for Jerusalem. And so, this is why the United States has never moved its embassy to Jerusalem and why you have to instead go to Tel Aviv. What Donald Trump is purporting to do is go behind—go around years of U.S. foreign policy to defy not only U.S. foreign policy, but international policy on the issue of Jerusalem and simply to appease Israel.

When it comes to the issue of representatives speaking before the media, you’re absolutely right, Amy. In order to get a Palestinian voice onto the mainstream media, the—I’ve noticed that the conversation ends up being between one Israeli faction and another Israeli faction, or sometimes you get somebody within the U.S. administration speaking. What I think that they need to know is that we are very capable of speaking for ourselves, and we should be invited to speak for ourselves, rather than having people speak about us. This is what one of the major problems is, is that, for decades, the Israelis have been speaking about us, but not to us. And the international community has spoken about us and not to us. And you see this particularly when it came to Secretary Kerry’s statement that people—that Palestinians don’t want to see a one state. The polls are actually showing the opposite, that people don’t believe in two states any longer, and even taking away the negative, not believing in it, that people genuinely want to see one state. So it’s time for people to start listening to the voices of Palestinians. We’re very capable of speaking for ourselves.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Gideon Levy, finally, your sense of what needs to be done now, not only here in the United States, but across the globe, by those who want a just solution in Palestine and—between Palestine and Israel? And also, your perspective on sanctions and the boycott movement?

GIDEON LEVY: Unfortunately, the only way to change things in Israeli policy will be only by pressure from the outside. I have very little hope that change will come from within the Israeli society, which is extremely brainwashed and nationalistic and religious and right-wing and even racist, more and more, day after day. I think the only hope is from international intervention and, above all, international pressure. It is about time that Israel will be punished for the crimes of the occupation. It is about time that Israelis will pay for the occupation that they all share responsibility for. We are all settlers. All of us Israelis carry responsibility for this occupation project, and all of us should be taken to pay, to be punished, to feel it, because the occupation is even not in the Israeli discourse. The occupation is not on the table. It’s not on the agenda. Nobody cares about the occupation. So, my only hope—and it’s a very limited hope—that gradually, gradually, the world will react, like it did react with South Africa. And hopefully it will be effective. And that’s right now the only optimistic scenario that I can draw.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, Diana Buttu, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is calling on President Obama to join 137 other nations in granting Palestine diplomatic recognition before Obama leaves office. In a New York Times editorial, Carter writes, quote, "The combined weight of United States recognition, United Nations membership and a Security Council resolution solidly grounded in international law would lay the foundation for future diplomacy. … This is the best—now, perhaps, the only—means of countering the one-state reality that Israel is imposing on itself and the Palestinian people." Again, so wrote the former U.S. president, Jimmy Carter, in a New York Times op-ed piece. We’ll end with you, Diana.

DIANA BUTTU: Look, for me, this isn’t about a question of recognition. This is a question of whether we will be able to get our rights enforced. And if that means that recognizing Palestine is a means of precluding us going to court, then, simply, I don’t want it. But what I do want to see is I want to see the Palestinian government taking Israel to court. I want to see them go before the ICC, the International Criminal Court, when it comes to settlements and when it comes to their actions in Gaza. I want to see that Israel is being sanctioned around the world. And I want to see that Israel is being isolated around the world, as well. If that means doing—if that means that we have to trade one for the other, I’ll take the going to court instead of recognition.

AMY GOODMAN: Diana Buttu, we want to thank you for being with us, from Haifa, Palestinian attorney, and Gideon Levy, speaking to us from Tel Aviv, the Haaretz columnist. We’ll link to your piece in Haaretz.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, Ava DuVernay. Stay with us.

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.

Recall the list of American companies currently operating in Israel; they would find themselves vulnerable to boycotts and sanctions. Their departure would quickly back Israel into a corner even more isolated than South Africa.

Inevitably, a Palestinian Nelson Mandela would emerge — a symbolic freedom fighter who Israel would have to demonize or imprison. I served as speechwriter to Mandela during his first visit to the United States after his release from prison. He was lionized from New York to Los Angeles and confided in me that he had no doubt his suffering was key to the end of apartheid in his country.

But if apartheid was toxic merely to South Africa, a one-state solution and a globally blacklisted Israel threatens to be toxic to the entire Middle East. Already, the United States has been marginalized in the latest Syrian ceasefire and peace process — with Turkey and Russia taking the lead. An apartheid system in Israel would risk leaving Russia to assume its long-sought role of dominance across the region, a position as peacemaker that would leave it paramount.

On the outside, nose pressed against the glass, would stand a newly powerless United States, with only a single, deeply ostracized friend in the region.

The text of the latest Security Council resolution calls on all UN member states “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967” — language that Netanyahu fears could lead to a surge in boycott and sanctions efforts. The resolution passed the UN Security Council 14 to 0 — with countries from Britain and France, to Russia, China, New Zealand, Egypt, even Ukraine, voting to approve.

Trump has set the US on this perilous path — hardly one that would seem calculated to end with the Middle East peace he hopes to broker. His initial statements in support of Netanyahu, along with a series of tweets, have been accompanied by the designation of Friedman as his new ambassador.

As it happens, Ronald Reagan, who dined with Friedman’s father, Rabbi Morris Friedman, in 1984 — his son, David seated at his side — was not seduced by the one-state solution. Today, most liberal Israelis also recognize this concept for what it is — an impossible dream.

The United States must seek to pull the region back from the brink and come to a similar realization.

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.

1. Borders: There is no consensus about precisely where to draw the line. Generally, most believe the border would follow the lines before the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, but with Israel keeping some of the land where it has built settlements and in exchange providing other land to the Palestinians to compensate. Israel has constructed barriers along and within the West Bank that many analysts worry create a de facto border, and it has built settlements in the West Bank that will make it difficult to establish that land as part of an independent Palestine. As time goes on, settlements grow, theoretically making any future Palestinian state smaller and possibly breaking it up into noncontiguous pieces.

2. Jerusalem: Both sides claim Jerusalem as their capital and consider it a center of religious worship and cultural heritage. The two-state solution typically calls for dividing it into an Israeli West and a Palestinian East, but it is not easy to draw the line — Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites are on top of one another. Israel has declared Jerusalem its “undivided capital,” effectively annexing its eastern half, and has built up construction that entrenches Israeli control of the city.

3. Refugees: Large numbers of Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes in what is now Israel, primarily during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that came after Israel’s creation. They and their descendants now number five million and believe they deserve the right to return. This is a nonstarter for Israel: Too many returnees would end Jews’ demographic majority and therefore Israel’s status as both a Jewish and a democratic state.

4. Security: For Palestinians, security means an end to foreign military occupation. For Israelis, this means avoiding a takeover of the West Bank by a group like Hamas that would threaten Israelis (as happened in Gaza after Israel’s 2005 withdrawal). It also means keeping Israel defensible against foreign armies, which often means requiring a continued Israeli military presence in parts of the West Bank.

Why do some consider the two-state solution dead?

There is plenty of blame to go around. The Palestinian leadership is divided between two governments that cannot come to terms. The leadership in the West Bank lacks the political legitimacy to make far-reaching but necessary concessions, and the leadership in Gaza does not even recognize Israel, whose citizens it frequently attacks. The United States, which has brokered talks for years, has taken more than a few missteps.

And most important, the current Israeli leadership, though it nominally supports a two-state solution, appears to oppose it in practice.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister since 2009, endorsed the two-state solution in a speech that year. But he continued to expand West Bank settlements and, in 2015, said there would be “no withdrawals” and “no concessions.”

Mr. Netanyahu appears personally skeptical of Palestinian independence. His fragile governing coalition also relies on right-wing parties that are skeptical of or outright oppose the two-state solution.

Israeli public pressure for a peace deal has declined. The reasons are complex: demographic changes, an increasingly powerful settler movement, outrage at Palestinian attacks such as a recent spate of stabbings, and bitter memories of the Second Intifada in the early 2000s, which saw frequent bus and cafe bombings.

And the status quo has, for most Israelis, become relatively peaceful and bearable. Many see little incentive for adopting a risky and uncertain two-state solution, leaving Mr. Netanyahu with scant reason to risk his political career on one.

Are there other solutions?

There are, but they involve such drastic costs that the United States and many other governments consider all but the two-state solution unacceptable.

There are multiple versions of the so-called one-state solution, which would join all territories as one nation. One version would grant equal rights to all in a state that would be neither Jewish nor Palestinian in character, because neither group would have a clear majority. Skeptics fear this would risk internal instability or even a return to war.

Another, advocated by some on the Israeli far right, would establish one state but preserve Israel’s Jewish character by denying full rights to Palestinians. Under this version, Israel would no longer be a democratic state.

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.

What happens if there is no solution?

A common prediction, as Mr. Kerry stated, is that Israel will be forced to choose between the two core components of its national identity: Jewish and democratic.

This choice, rather than coming in one decisive moment, would probably play out in many small choices over a process of years. For instance, a 2015 poll by the Israel Democracy Institute found that 74 percent of Jewish Israelis agreed that “decisions crucial to the state on issues of peace and security should be made by a Jewish majority.” That pollster also found that, from 2010 to 2014, Jewish Israelis became much less likely to say that Israel should be “Jewish and democratic,” with growing factions saying that it should be democratic first or, slightly more popular, Jewish first.

Many analysts also worry that the West Bank government, whose scant remaining legitimacy rests on delivering a peace deal, will collapse. This would force Israel to either tolerate chaos in the West Bank and a possible Hamas takeover or enforce a more direct form of occupation that would be costlier to both parties.

This risk of increased suffering, along with perhaps permanent setbacks in the national ambitions of both Palestinians and Israelis, is why Nathan Thrall, a Jerusalem-based analyst with the International Crisis Group, told me last year, “Perpetuating the status quo is the most frightening of the possibilities.”

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!”

In a statement released by his office, Netanyahu called Kerry’s speech “skewed against Israel.”

“For over an hour, Kerry obsessively dealt with settlements and barely touched upon the root of the conflict — Palestinian opposition to a Jewish state in any boundaries,” Netanyahu said

Kerry offered six principles that he said would satisfy Israeli security needs and Palestinian aspirations for a homeland. Most have been proven sticking points in previous negotiations — among them, Jerusalem as a mutual capital for two states; normalized relations with Arab states in the region; and financial compensation for Palestinian refugees, along with acknowledgment of their suffering.

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)

Following the “logic” of such texts, the Palestinians are now the new Hittites, Girgashites and Canaanites to whom no mercy is to be shown or property rights to be honored. Zionist theology dishonors Judaism.

The worst of mad men, said the poet Alexander Pope, is a saint gone mad. Ironically Jews should know the horrors that religiously motivated people can wreak. Nothing so animates the will for good or for ill like the tincture of the sacred. Christian animus against Jews unleashed slaughters, pogroms, segregation and influenced the anti-Jewish venom that Nazism mechanized with genocidal force.

The survival of Israel living in accord with international law, alongside a Palestinian state, is the goal that has no need of obstructive faux theology. Mr. Netanyahu like the High Priest is rending his garments in outrage, threatening to smite all nations that would challenge Israel’s manifest destiny to build in Palestine like the French can build in Paris. A bit of curative theology is needed to correct this brutal and ignorant madness. The Security Council gave the cure a jump start.

Daniel C. Maguire is a Professor of Moral Theology at Marquette University, a Catholic, Jesuit institution in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is author of A Moral Creed for All Christians and The Horrors We Bless: Rethinking the Just-War Legacy [Fortress Press]). He can be reached at daniel.maguire@marquette.edu

Israel rejects ‘shameful’ UN resolution amid criticism of Netanyahu

“Resolution 2334 shatters the [Israeli] government-induced illusion that the settlement project has been normalised, that it passed the point of no return, that it is now a fait accompli that will remain unchallenged”

Peter Beaumont, The Guardian, 24 December 2016

Israel’s ambassador to UN rejects ‘shameful’ resolution to halt Israeli settlements

Jerusalem — Israel has responded furiously to a UN security council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, recalling two of its ambassadors to countries that voted for the motion and threatening to cut aid.

The security council adopted the landmark resolution demanding Israel halt all settlement building and expansion in the occupied territories after Barack Obama’s administration refused to veto the resolution on Friday.

A White House official said Obama had taken the decision to abstain in the absence of any meaningful peace process. The resolution, which passed by a 14-0 vote, was met with loud applause in the packed chamber after the US ambassador, Samantha Power, abstained.

The move was immediately condemned as “shameful” by the office of the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. A spokesman pointedly referred to Israel’s expectation of working more closely with the US president-elect, Donald Trump.

On Saturday Netanyahu said Israel would reassess its ties with the UN and had ordered a review of the funding of UN institutions and the presence of UN representatives in Israel.

“I have already instructed to stop about 30m shekels (£6.3m) in funding to five UN bodies that are especially hostile to Israel … and there is more to come,” he said, without giving any further details.

The security council last adopted a resolution critical of settlements in 1979, with the US abstaining then too. The US vetoed a similar resolution in 2011, which was the sole veto cast by the Obama administration at the security council.

US abstains from UN vote to end Israeli settlement building

Amid emerging criticism of the handling of the vote by Netanyahu, whose manoeuvres were seen as an attempt to sideline Obama and his administration, Israel ordered action against a number of countries.

The response included the recall of the Israeli ambassadors to New Zealand and Senegal, who voted for the resolution, the cancellation of a planned visit by the Senegalese foreign minister to Israel in three weeks’ time, and the cancellation of all aid programmes to Senegal.

New Zealand’s foreign minister, Murray McCully, said his country’s vote should have been no surprise to Israel. “We have been very open about our view that the [security council] should be doing more to support the Middle East peace process and the position we adopted today is totally in line with our long-established policy on the Palestinian question,” he said.

The UK, France, Russia and China also voted in favour of the resolution, which described Israeli settlement building as a “flagrant violation” of international law.

The vote has sharply underlined the extent of Israel’s international isolation under Netanyahu, and in particular the hollowness of Netanyahu’s boast at the UN general assembly in the autumn over Israel’s purported diplomatic advances at the UN, not least among African members.

While Israel may expect a much easier ride after the inauguration of Donald Trump, support for the motion from countries such as the UK and France demonstrates the deep frustration in Europe with the policies of Netanyahu’s rightwing coalition over settlements and the moribund peace process.

For its part, the Obama administration made clear that the US decision to abstain was in direct response to choices made by Netanyahu on settlements.

The resolution also serves as a warning to the incoming Trump administration over its policies after the selection by Trump of a far-right pro-settler, David Friedman, to be ambassador to Israel.

While the US and EU have worked closely together in coordinating foreign policy on the Israel-Palestine question, there has been growing support among European governments for tougher steps against Israel, which has already resulted in a directive on the labelling of settlement products.

The strength of the language in the resolution reiterating the illegality of Jewish settlements built on land intended for a Palestinian state, occupied by Israel in 1967, is likely to have an impact on multinational companies operating in the occupied territories or working with Israeli enterprises with links to the occupied territories.

Although the resolution is not binding in legal terms, it will have other practical effects, not least in the impact it may have on the Palestinian complaint to the international criminal court, which includes Israeli settlements.

The resolution also includes language calling for differential treatment of Israel within the pre-1967 borders, calling on states to “distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967”, which could potentially pave the way for future sanctions.

Israeli supporters in the US – both senators and lobby groups – were aghast. Morton Klein, the president of the rightwing Zionist Organization of America, railed in unequivocal terms: “Obama has made it clear that he’s a Jew-hating antisemite.”

Leading pro-Israel Republicans also weighed in, including the House speaker, Paul Ryan, who denounced the US abstention as “absolutely shameful” and promised that “our unified Republican government will work to reverse the damage done by this administration, and rebuild our alliance with Israel”.

In Israel, however, questions were being asked about Netanyahu’s handling of the vote. Writing in Haaretz, the columnist Chemi Shalev was particularly scathing about Netanyahu’s diplomatic failure.

“Resolution 2334 shatters the [Israeli] government-induced illusion that the settlement project has been normalised, that it passed the point of no return, that it is now a fait accompli that will remain unchallenged,” he wrote.

“In recent years, after President Obama desisted from efforts to advance the peace process, Netanyahu, his ministers and settler leaders had behaved as if the battle was over: Israel built and built, the White House objected and condemned, the facts on the ground were cemented in stone.

“You can have your cake and eat it too, the government implied: thumb your nose at Washington and the international community, build in the West Bank as if there’s no tomorrow and still get $38bn in unprecedented [US] military aid.”