The Israeli-Palestinian Confllict in Two Paragraphs

The two paragraphs come at the end of the New York Times‘ article about George Mitchell’s decision to step down from his position as U.S. envoy to the Middle East:

“What needs to change is Israeli behavior,” said Nabil Shaath, who heads the foreign affairs department of Fatah, the main party of the Palestinian Authority, in seeking to explain the stalled peace endeavor. “The man was not given any support and he failed,” he added of Mr. Mitchell, speaking by telephone. “I don’t really blame him. He found himself without any initiative or ability to move ahead. He found himself doing a futile job. I liked the man. He is honest and hard-working, with lots of experience.”

Zalman Shoval, a special envoy of Mr. Netanyahu, who focuses on relations with the United States, said Mr. Mitchell “made a major effort to try to move peace between Israel and the Palestinians forward but, at the end of the day, his efforts were undermined by the Palestinians’ refusal to engage in meaningful negotiations. But he deserves the gratitude of Israel and the Palestinians for his efforts.”

Now, I am one who believes that the Palestinians have given up almost everything and the Israelis almost nothing in these past 60-plus years since Israel became a state in 1948, but… just on the level of ironic metaphor, could these two paragraphs be any better?

Author: KATHY KATTENBURG

10 Comments

  1. Too many powerful people on both sides of the wall that hold power because of the conflict. Peace is against their best interest.

  2. “I am one who believes that the Palestinians have given up almost everything and the Israelis almost nothing in these past 60-plus years”

    Just out of curiosity, Israel has allowed an organization that once claimed the right to destroy it control over part of the West Bank. It has also given complete control of the Gaza strip. If you count this as “nothing”, then what would be “something”? Given control over the rest of the West Bank would just be more of what you are already dismissing. Lifting the blockade of Gaza would be less than giving it up in the first place (and, in the end, the blockade pretty much already being lifted by Egypt). So what are you expecting of them?

    I understand that one might expect them to do “more” (and I supported Obama’s move to try and halt settlement activity), but if one really regards things like giving up territory (something I consider the key to a settlement) as nothing, then I have to wonder if anything they do will be enough.

  3. Kathy Kattenberg wrote:

    I am one who believes that the Palestinians have given up almost everything and the Israelis almost nothing in these past 60-plus years since Israel became a state in 1948[.]

    Never mind that is the inversion, the opposite of reality! Israel’s nearly one-way record of concessions to evil enemies who have sought to destroy it (and its people) are an open matter of record.

  4. David (Summers),

    Israel still has complete control over the West Bank. The Israeli military occupation is still in full force on the West Bank. Israeli soldiers control every aspect of Palestinians’ lives. And that is not even to mention the fact that there are thousands of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which have both the effect and the intent of expropriating large portions of any future Palestinian state. They do that both because of the actual land they take up, and also because they are scattered throughout the West Bank surrounded by Palestinian land. So any future Palestinian state would be non-contiguous — an outcome that would be completely unacceptable to any sovereign nation. The settlements also divert water and other natural resources away from Palestinians, making it that much harder for Palestinians to survive.

    As for Gaza, I’m not sure what you mean when you say that lifting the embargo would be less than giving it up in the first place, but the fact of the blockade means that nobody and nothing can get in or out of Gaza without Israeli permission. Gaza has been called the world’s largest open-air prison, and that continues to be true.

  5. Kathy – As you know this is a subject near and dear to my heart. I want to add a little perspective on this issue. The 1948, 1967 and 1973 wars were fought primarily between armies. Neighboring arab armies and Israel’s army and para-military forces (Haganah, Irgun and Lehi) The vast, vast, vast majority of local Palestinians were civilians. While there is no doubt the Palestinians were rooting for the arabs, most Palestinians had no weapons. The British Mandate troops were quite successful preventing arms smuggling by Palestinians who had neither the money or the outside connections to secure arms that the Jews did. My Irgun grandfather personally brought many boatloads of arms from liberated France.

    Do not buy the Hasbara that the Palestinians voluntarily left Israel. They were either driven out forcefully or by fear. These villagers, at best, maybe had a couple of WWI Enfield rifles to defend themselves against the very well equipped Israelis. Remember, my Grandfather was at Deir Yassin and similar villages. In these wars, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians left their homes, some for internal refugee camps and some to other countries. As came out in the last couple of days 140,000 Palestinians have had their West Bank residency cards revoked. If you think that was not part of a deliberate plan, you are naïve.

    Since 1967, Israel has had one goal in mind – implementation of General Allon’s Plan to absorb the majority of Judea and Samaria. It essentially lets Palestinians govern themselves in their cities with Israel annexing everything else, including the Jordan Valley. This way Israel would control everyone and everything entering or exiting Palestinian cities or between their cities. If you look at the geography of the settlements you will see they follow the Allon Plan exactly. Whether Likud, Kadima or Labor all Israeli governments have followed the Allon Plan.

    Either the Palestinian state has to be viable from economically and culturally with a government capable of governing. This requires a continguous state with easy access to the outside world to have a viable economy. I have seen literally hundreds of Palestinian trucks and carts full of vegetables and fruit rotting in sun at checkpoints. Israel will not tolerate economic competition from the Palestinians.

    Until Israel, which holds ALL the power on the ground decides that the damage from being a full blow apartheid country ( it is now in the West Bank) is greater than the dream of a Eretz Israel, there will be no peace. I’ve going back and forth to Israel twice a year for 53 years now and I have seen it all. Every kind of degradation and gratuitous violence administered to Palestinians that can be imagined. From killing an unarmed man at a checkpoint because he got mad at a Israeli soldier pissing on his shoes to making a Palestinian family get down on their hands and knees and bark like dogs for ths soldiers amusement. These are just examples of the hundreds maybe thousands of things I’ve witnessed.

    I am a firm believer in the need for a Jewish homeland in Israel but I am losing faith in my own people. I have watched Israel and my people degenerate over the last half century into something bordering on evil. The cruelty heaped on Palestinians is bouncing back and blackening the souls of my people. The occupation has to end and soon or my people will cross the line into something abhorrent. The IDF is becoming an organization of ultra nationalists who in words and deeds are sounding more and more like SS troops. If you think I am hyperbolizing I urge you to go to the West Bank and see for yourself.

    In reality, the PLO runs nothing. The IDF routinely patrols the cities at night and won’t even let the Palestinians collect their own taxes. This is the status quo most Israelis want. A powerful Israel and a helpless Palestine good for nothing more than cheap labor.

  6. jdledell,

    Here’s what I don’t understand. I’ve often heard that there is more criticism of Israel’s behavior from Israelis than there is from American Jews. It makes some sense that that would be the case, because American Jews often feel (mistakenly, imo) that they have no right to criticize Israel since they don’t live there. But if it IS true, then how has Israel gotten away with these policies for so many years? I mean, If Israel actually is the “only democracy” in the Middle East, then why isn’t pressure coming from Israelis themselves to change these policies? Or do most Israelis really support the Allon Plan, and all the other details you described?

    Thank you, as always, for your comments. They are invaluable.

    Kathy

  7. Kathy – You need to understand that Jews who live in Israel think of themselves, first, second, third, fourth, fifth as Jews and sixth as Israelis. The tribal instinct of jews in Israel is perhaps the stongest tribal bonding in the world.

    The secular culture present at Israel’s founding is dying. The million plus Russians who are in Israel have raised nationalistic tendencies while the religious community’s growth is outstripping all other groups. It is these national and religious fervor which has turned Israel rightward.

    Israel is a Jewish Democracy. The prevelent concept is that if different strains of Judaism are allowed to compete for votes and governance that is all that is needed for democracy. The arabs and other gentiles are irrelevent.

    The reason that Israel is on the current path is that’s what it’s people want. In their heart of hearts they would not mind a wholesale transfer of Palestinians out of greater Israel. They would do it tomorrow if they thought they could handle the negatives imposed by an outraged world.

    Thousands of years of persecution has resulted into a ghetto mentality. Nothing but taking care of our “own” matters – not arabs, not the EU, not even American Jews. American Jews are for the most part “Americanized” and tolerant and empathetic of others. That is not true of Jews either born and raised in Israeli culture or whose tribal instincts pulled them to make aliyah.

  8. Kathy Kattenburg wrote:

    Israel still has complete control over the West Bank. The Israeli military occupation is still in full force on the West Bank. Israeli soldiers control every aspect of Palestinians’ lives. And that is not even to mention the fact that there are thousands of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which have both the effect and the intent of expropriating large portions of any future Palestinian state. They do that both because of the actual land they take up, and also because they are scattered throughout the West Bank surrounded by Palestinian land. So any future Palestinian state would be non-contiguous — an outcome that would be completely unacceptable to any sovereign nation. The settlements also divert water and other natural resources away from Palestinians, making it that much harder for Palestinians to survive.

    As for Gaza, I’m not sure what you mean when you say that lifting the embargo would be less than giving it up in the first place, but the fact of the blockade means that nobody and nothing can get in or out of Gaza without Israeli permission. Gaza has been called the world’s largest open-air prison, and that continues to be true.

    This reply is mostly a litany of things that Israel hasn’t done. I don’t see how that argues that the things that Israel _has_ done is “almost nothing”, especially since I explicitly made the point that Israel may need to do more, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t done anything.

    In fact, to me what you said in original article implies that, in spite of the complaining about Israel not giving up complete control of the West Bank in your reply, if they were to give up complete control, like they did with Gaza, you would still say that they have done almost nothing. And that is the problem. Those who ignore what Israel have done, and the legitimate needs they have, are essentially telling Israel that any more concessions they make will buy them nothing and encouraging the right wing governments that are only willing to take a hard line.

    As to lifting the embargo vs. giving up Gaza, when Israel ruled Gaza, they have control of what moving in out of it. They also had military forces there, settlements they could patrol and arrest people, they could control media outlets, they could not let Hamas do what they wanted, etc. etc. etc. It seems self-evident to me that having just later is less than having the former _and_ the latter. And I don’t believe for a second that if Israel were to move in take control agains, the would be regard as taking “nothing”.

  9. “Those who ignore what Israel have done, and the legitimate needs they have…”

    Davidpsummers – Do the Palestinians have any legitimate needs? Does Israel recognize those needs? Do you realize how restrictive Palestinian commerce is? Do you really think Israel allows Palestinian goods to be sold or exported thru Jordan? The answer is no. Israel buys the produce produced in the west bank at ridiculous prices ONLY when Israel proper cannot produce an adequate supply.

    Would it surprise you to learn that Israel’s minimum wage law does not apply to the west bank and Palestinians are paid as little as 50 NIS per day to work for Jews vs Israel’s minimum wage of 21 NIS/ hour!!!

    Do you understand that even in Area A you need Israel’s approval to run a business that moves goods to other Palestinian cities. If you don’t have approval or if your product competes with Israeli business your product cannot go anywhere.

    Gaza was not an altruistic move by Israel. The Gaza settlements took up 25% of Gaza for less than 1% of the total population. It took almost 10,000 IDF troops to protect the settlements. It simply was too expensive for Israel to remain in Gaza for 8,000 people. Sharon thought he would kill two birds with one stone. Look like a peace maker in the eyes of the US and the rest of the world while saving a ton of money and headaches. As his Chief advisor, Dov Weinglass, put it – Leaving Gaza was putting formaldehyde on the peace process. Israel has no real historic connection to Gaza unlike Judea and Samaria so Sharon thought he could trade something worthless and improve his chances of keeping the West Bank.

    The IDF did not patrol Gaza. You think they would be crazy enough to venture into Gaza City? No way, the used their informers and planes with bombs to achieve their police objectives. Gaza is the most densely populated area on Earth. Do you really think that it was fair for 1% of the people to hog 25% of the land and prevent expansion of Palestinian towns to hold their increasing population?

    You are correct that Israel has done many things but 90% of them have negative consequences to the Palestinians.

  10. jdledell….

    Again, talking about what one thinks Israel _should_ do is not the same thing as talking about whether what Israel _has_ done is “almost nothing”. I think if you want Israel to do more, ignoring what they have done isn’t the way to go.

    I agree that what Israel did wasn’t purely altruistic (nor is anything the PLO, Egypt, Lebanon, etc. etc. did. Most cooperation between countries is based on trades, not altruism). I’m looking for Israel to be willing to trade some things they want for other things they need. I believe the phrase is “territory for peace”. If we aren’t willing to recognize the territory they gave up, they won’t be willing to believe that can get peace for it.

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