On Biden and Israel

12Mar10

No surprises there. I’ll leave it mostly to my fellow TNC commenter, Emily Hauser.

The settlement issue is, well, look at this map, via Sullivan:

This has happened with direct aid from the United States. Look, it’s true that Palestine has blown chances at peace with more reasonable Israeli governments. But it’s worth considering that’s not where we are now, and peace requires cooperation from both sides. Right now, the Netanyahu government has no interest in pursuing peace, as it further encroaches onto post 1967 territory.

I think that, as a practical matter, both sides know what they have to do. But at various times, for illogical reasons, that hasn’t happened. Currently, the Netanyahu government is extremely influenced by the equivalent of American neoconservatives. As a liberal, on principle, it’s intellectually consistent to oppose further settlement construction. And furthermore, if settlement construction is to persist, what exactly is the end game? Subject all Arabs within the borders to apartheid after there’s simply no Palestinian territory left? That can’t be allowed, and indeed, it hurts our foreign policy. The plight of the Palestinians is demagogued by vicious leaders such as Mahmood Ahmedinejad to gain support for nuclear and other military ambitions. Why give them the political ammo? Are we really eager to get into a major military conflict–one that would dwarf our international commitments that already have us stretched beyond our means?

It’s worth considering also, who the Palestinians are demographically. These are people in extreme poverty, and the average age is 20 years old. It’s hard for them to resist Hamas’ aid. Hamas’ is quite literally a suicidal, irrational, self-righteous organization. So why not try to win good faith with the Palestinian people, withdraw from the West Bank, and increase international aid to the Palestinians, on the condition that they don’t take money from Hamas?

I guess this makes sense from the outside. But it’s hard to be too judgmental. Rigid, irrational ideology is preventing America from moving forward too. And yes, I’m also looking at you Dennis Kucinich.

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4 Responses to “On Biden and Israel”

  1. 1 Andrew

    I think the map that you give above is a bit deceiving and used more for your own political points than to actually think this through rationally. The first map is irrelevant, since it is clear no nation can be made of this, and in order to divide the two groups into their own countries, the UN made a rather fair partition plan, even though it basically divided Israel into 3 separate land masses. Despite this, Israel was the only country to accept the 1947 partition plan. After the following war (of Independence, or the naqba, depending on your view), it only seemed logical that Israel would try and make its borders more secure. Once again, your 3rd map is deceiving, since calling this land “Palestinian Land” during this time is a stretch. They may have lived there, but it was Jordan who ruled the West Bank and Egypt who controlled Gaza (and it is clear that an ethnic people living someplace does not make it their land, otherwise Jordan would be Palestinian land too).

    After the 6 day war, in which Israel was completely justified in their pre-emptive strike, Israel was not keen on continuing to hold the West Bank, but Jordan did not want it back (the Palestinians were becoming too much trouble for the crown), and there was no government to hand it off to.

    This is where Israel does go into the wrong, and when your argument does begin to have some merit, since the clear settlement of such land that they admit is not their sovereign territory is a clear violation of international law. However, now looking to today, it is also clear that many of the settlements cannot simply be removed like they were huts. There are hundreds of thousands of settlers in the bigger settlements, and for a country Israel’s size, that might as well be an exodus.

    It is clear that a land-swap is needed, but again your maps are skewed, since only in the 2nd to last map does it show Palestinian land as the land to be governed by them, yet your last map is a map of the Palestinian population areas mixed with smaller Israeli settlements (most are smaller, though not all), with a clear preference to mark over Palestinian land there with white Israeli settlement land wherever possible. If the point in the last map was to show where Palestinians lived versus Israelis, a fairer map could have been made, as well as a map showing where large numbers of Palestinians live inside Israel (who are Israeli citizens), hence showing how a reasonable settlement could be made, instead of making it look like one gigantic ethnic cleansing.

    • 2 emilylhauser

      Andrew, you make some good points here, but I feel that in making them you’re missing the most important one.

      The maps show “Palestinian land loss” — meaning land that was once considering Palestine/was once under Palestinian control (even when the Egyptians controlled Gaza, for instant, they didn’t think Gaza was Egypt, if you see what I mean) and today no longer is.

      For me, an American-Israeli Jew who has advocated for a two-state solution since the first intifada, the most important point to be made with this map is that the Palestinians have already been defeated. If you look at the 3rd map, the map the represents what the two-state solution is supposed to look like, you’ll see a situation in which the Palestinian people have already conceded their loss of 78% of the land they consider theirs. A two-state solution in which Gaza and the West Bank (in their entireties) become Palestine would create a state out of 22% of Palestine. They have made their concession.

      And, as an Israeli, let me say that those hundreds of thousands of settlers went to the West Bank/were encouraged to go there for the precise purpose of making it really, really hard to get them back out. That is not the Palestinians problem. Its ours. We have to deal with it.

  2. 3 poliology

    I think using the map was probably a mistake, as really the last two apply to my argument. That being said, I think there are still problems with this critique. I’m not one to say that there are no Palestinians in Israel, but it’s worth noting how they are treated inside Israel, and it’s certainly worth noting how they are treated in settlement territory. Will probably tease this one out more at a time when I’m not at work.

    I think something that got lost in this post, ironically, is what happened with Biden. It increased the perception that Israel can do whatever it wants because its politically impossible for the US not to back them.

  3. 4 emilylhauser

    Hey Dan thank you so much for linking to me! It was fun to see that at TNC’s place today.

    I wanted to recommend that anyone interested in what the hell just happened in Jerusalem read what MJ Rosenberg wrote today about the whole sorry affair: http://mediamattersaction.org/blog/201003120004

    There are several great points made, but the two that most jump out at me in this moment are:

    1) ” …it occurs to me that the Israelis may not be as worried about Iran’s nuclear development as they say they are.

    They say it is an existential threat, one that poses the possibility of the total destruction of Israel.

    But, if they really believed that, would they have sabotaged a summit with Vice President Biden designed to coordinate actions to deter an Iranian bomb? Would they have blown up the summit over settlements?

    Because that is what they did and it indicates that the Iranian threat may be is less important to the Netanyahu government than keeping the settlers happy, even at the price of disrupting joint US-Israeli efforts to counter Iran. ”

    2) “[The chain of recent events] led to an unprecedented US condemnation of Israel’s behavior. Speaking of his immediate reaction to Israel’s plan to expand settlements, Biden later said, ‘I, at the request of President Obama, condemned it immediately and unequivocally.’ Speaking at the White House, Robert Gibbs also condemned the Israeli plans.

    In response, Netanyahu made clear that he wasn’t changing a thing. His Deputy Foreign Minister said there would be ‘no more concessions.’ No more?


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