Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bibi's Non-Concession Concessions

As reported in the NY Times, Mr. Netanyahu outlines his parameters for a deal with the Palestinians:
Mr. Netanyahu showed more willingness to yield territory than he had before, strongly implying that he would give up the vast majority of the West Bank for a demilitarized Palestinian state. He said Israel needed to hold onto all of Jerusalem and the large settlement blocs in the West Bank, thereby suggesting that he would yield the rest.

The other principles he enumerated included Palestinian recognition of Israel as the home of the Jewish people, an agreement to end the conflict, resolving the refugee problem only within the new state of Palestine and an Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley.

When he speaks to AIPAC and Congress (between the two of which there is, in truth, no real daylight), Bibi can count on screaming, foot-stomping support and adulation if he insists on these very points before both groups - and Christian Zionists across the US will be chiming in with their own hosannas. Bibi's speech will also include, from both the ritual denunciation of Hamas as "terrorists" - and, in so doing, the undermining of the new Fatah-Hamas reconciliation as illegitimate and unacceptable, as offering aid and support to the nefarious mullahs in Iran, and therefore as threatening a new Holocaust.

It's (sadly) unimaginable that Mr. Obama's speech to AIPAC will not hit the same notes, or not insist just as much on what Bibi asks for from the Palestinians.
But as the NYT also notes, what Bibi has on offer is not even close to what would be acceptable to them:
Palestinian leaders have repeatedly rejected every one of those. As a result of the impasse, they have been pursuing other approaches to statehood, including political unity with Hamas and a plan to ask the United Nations in September to recognize a state of Palestine within the 1967 boundaries. That would include East Jerusalem and all of the West Bank and Gaza.

And let's please remember:
  • Palestinian Arab sovereignty over East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza (and, for that matter, Arab control of the Golan Heights - a major sticking point between Israel and Syria) is essentially implicit in the United Nations' Resolution 242 - as well as in international law that asserts that Israeli colonization of those territories is illegal.
  • Both UN resolutions and international law assert the right of Palestinians forcibly dispossessed in 1948-49 and 1967 to return to reclaim their houses.  Even if that has become difficult to implement on a practical basis, it is incumbent upon Mr. Netanyahu - and the state of Israel - to admit to its moral and legal culpability in that dispossession.
Even more than democracy, what the Arab Spring has ultimately been about is the Arab demand for dignity.  Implicit in that demand is the demand for justice, including the justice that the dispossessed Arabs of Palestine have never been offered by the state of Israel.

Mr. Obama was fond of the exhortation, "Yes we can."  Both he and Mr. Netanyahu would do well to remember an oft-chanted slogan of several contemporary movements: "No justice, no peace."

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