D. Levy: Also too little, too late?

Daniel Levy is an engaging and energetic young Brit-Israeli who first made a name for himself helping to organize those– as it turned out ill-fated, and perhaps all along misguided?– “Geneva Accords” and who in recent years has been making quite a splash at Washington DC’s New America Foundation. His values and worldview are generally excellent. He has been honest and courageous in describing various aspects of the Palestine Question as they really are (and let me tell you, in the often completely toxic, AIPAC-dominated echo chamber of Washington DC, that is something that takes real courage.)
Today, Daniel has an article in Haaretz in which he argues correctly that in the wake of the Revolution in Egypt,

    Those governing Egypt will henceforth have to be more responsive to the public will.
    The package of regional policies pursued by the Mubarak regime lacked popular legitimacy. This included the closure imposed on Gaza, support for the Iraq war and for heightened bellicosity toward Iran, and playing ceremonial chaperone to a peace process that became farcical and discredited.

He is completely correct in arguing that the kowtowing (my word, not his) policies pursued by Mubarak had been experienced by most Egyptians as a national humiliation; and that the revolution has been about dignity as much as about anything else. He’s also correct to note– as I did here on Feb. 1 and here on Feb. 3– that there is a lot that a truly dignified Egyptian government could do to support the Palestinian cause that would not necessarily involve abrogating Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
He then proposes that the best course for Israel to follow in the new, post-Mubarak environment would be an option that has

    three components. First, an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 armistice lines almost without preconditions or exceptions (minor, equitable and agreed-upon land swaps and international security guarantees could fall into the latter category ). Second, Israel should undertake an act of genuine acknowledgement of the dispossession and displacement visited on the Palestinian people, including compensating refugees where appropriate, and thus set in motion the possibility of reconciliation. Third, there needs to be a clear Israeli commitment to full equality for all of its citizens, notably including removal of the structural barriers to full civil rights for the Palestinian Arab minority.

He describes this option as,

    perhaps our best and last chance for a two-state solution, one that would guarantee our future in this region. While it would involve cutting our losses, it would also have the potential of unleashing huge benefits – economic, security and more, for an Israel accepted as part of the tapestry of a democratic Middle East.

He describes the call that has come from some voices in Israel’s political elite for just “an urgent return to the peace process” as being “too little, too late.”
Besides what “peace process” are those people even talking about? And with what possible Palestinian interlocutors? The PA is imploding as we speak. (As I tweeted earlier this morning: “Almost pity Abu Mazen, Saeb Bey, what with 1st Palestine papers, then the fall of Mubarak… “)
But I think that what Daniel is urging is “too little, too late”, too.
Firstly, “an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 armistice lines almost without preconditions or exceptions”: Honestly, can he or anyone else explain how the 500,000 (not “over 300,000”, as he says) Israeli settlers now illegally living in the West Bank might be removed? He suggests some “minor, equitable and agreed-upon land swaps.” But now we’ve seen the maps that propose how those should work– both those from Geneva and those from the “Clinton parameters”, can anyone today say that those exercises in border-delineation (from the settlers’ perspective) or border-shifting (from the Palestinian and international law view) could be politically palatable to either the Palestinians or the settlers?
Second, note re that majority of the worldwide Palestinian population who are refugees refused the right to return to their homeland, Daniel calls only for some form of Israeli rhetorical act (“acknowledgment”) along with compensation “where appropriate”. He says nothing about any actual fulfillment of any of these refugees’ right of return.
Third, note that he makes no mention at all of Jerusalem. Indeed, by counting the settlers as “over 300,000” rather than “over 500,000”, he seems to be taking the whole Jerusalem question off the table completely! But the big shift in the Arab world presaged by the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions means that all Arab governments– not just Egypt’s– will have to become a lot more attentive to the will of their citizens… And regarding the Palestine Question, for most Arab citizens, Muslim and Christian (and for most Muslims everywhere in the world) Jerusalem is at the heart of it.
If Daniel’s proposal is the very best the two-staters can offer as a policy proposal for the post-Mubarak era, then it really does seem that the two-state formula is dead.

20 thoughts on “D. Levy: Also too little, too late?”

  1. Your not being very fair to Daniel Levy at all.
    1. You say that the borders in the Geneva Initiative would not be acceptable to Palestinians or the settlers. Yet do you honestly think the settlers would accept a one-state solution? Even among Palestinians it seems much of the support for the one-state solution comes from the diaspora as opposed to those living in the Occupied Territories.
    2. The Geneva Initiative which Levy worked with does include a section dealing with the right of return and there is a provision that would allow some Palestinians a real right of return. Granted their are some major flaws in it, but it’s an important start. Furthermore, it appears the Palestinians themselves are not being fully honest with themselves about how ROR would be implemented. In the Palestine Papers it was revealed that the Palestinian leadership had offered an arrangement where 10,000 refugees a year over a period of 10 years would return to Israel. Yet the Palestinian street appeared to be furious upon hearing this offer was made.
    3. Just because Levy did not mention Jerusalem in a short article does not mean he doesn’t care about it! Levy’s mention of 300,000 settlers is probably a careless mistake that reflects Israeli discourse on how settlers in East Jerusalem are somehow different from those in the rest of the West Bank.

  2. “there needs to be a clear Israeli commitment to full equality for all of its citizens, notably including removal of the structural barriers to full civil rights for the Palestinian Arab minority”?
    Isn’t the two-state solution actually not a solution at all, but really no different from the “Recognition of the State of Israel”, or from the UN partition as simultaneously articulated and obscured in 1947?
    Is it not a shell-game or three-card trick, and is not the above quotation from Mr Levy just another piece of the same deception, an outright lie in fact?
    Because “full civil rights for Palestinian Arabs” is not a two-state solution. It is the essence of the one-state solution.
    This man Levy is a tosser. The tosser is the one who manipulates the cups and ball, or the three cards. The ropers bring in the crowd and the shills fake the game to make it look genuine.
    What is maybe more, this tosser is obscuring the necessary transition that the aggressive criminal colony, Israel, will have to make in order to become a republic, namely to recognise its working class as its citizens.
    I don’t know why one has to take such people as Daniel Levy at face value. It’s not a question of manners.
    The “two-state” shell-game is still popping up in obscure places after 64 years. I learnt today that somebody managed to smuggle two-state on to the agenda of the recent Vancouver meeting of the ITUC, the former ICFTU cold-war anti-communist TU federation. The ITUC has recently in other respects and on the surface been trying for respectability. But in fact once again the tatty business of trying to use the working class’s organisations to to undermine the rights of the working class continues. The ITUC, at this late stage, vomited up a two-state resolution in Vancouver.

  3. “Yet do you honestly think the settlers would accept a one-state solution?”
    The settlers have no right to be there. Either in international law or according to the rigged vote at the UN which authorised the 1948 partition (immediately breached by the Israelis. So the wishes of the “settlers’ should be restricted to a consultation on the where and when of their removal.
    That, plus the de-annexation of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, takes us back to the 1967 borders. Then the matter of the, undoubted and non-negotiable, rights of the individual victims of terrorist attacks and ethnic cleansing to return to their ancestral homes becomes the first priority.
    Nobody has ever been mandated to give away the rights of Palestinians, and nobody has less right to do so than Abbas and Erekat. There is nothing new about people who make a living out of giving away the rights of others, but when they do so, what they have ceded has no value.
    What is needed in Palestine is good will, a thorough understanding of the underlying realities and, in particular, history and for the Israelis to dispose of their fascist politicians, and their racist obscurantist allies. In other words there needs to be something close to a clean sweep of the Knesset. In this process the sort of positions that Mr Levy puts forward are an advance. But an advance only from the positions staked out by the Stern Gang and Irgun. There is a very long way to go.

  4. Greg, your arguments seem fairly weird. Including, why does it matter if, as you claim, among Palestinians “much of the support for a one-state outcome comes from those living in the diaspora, as opposed to those living in the OPTs”? Do you think those forced by the draconian residency rules upheld by Israel to live outside their homeland for 63 years, or 44 years, or any length of time, somehow thereby lose their political rights and their right to be counted equally to any other Palestinian? Strange logic there.
    (Anyway, your premise may well be unfounded.)
    Secondly, given that, as you note, the G.I. did mention a small symbolic return of Palestinans to inside Israel isn’t Levy’s presently articulated position a significant backward step from that proposal?
    Thirdly, in any discussions of the Palestine Question, you can’t just “forget” about the Jerusalem issue. Oops! I just “forgot” about it– just like I “forgot” about the 200,000-plus Jewish settlers whose massive concrete fortresses have now strangled Palestinian life in the city… ? I don’t think so.

  5. Settlers, in general, have either run, as in Algeria or Mozambique, or they have had to taken their chances and stayed, with mixed results.
    Settlers are fated to discover that at a certain point they become expendable.
    The answer to the question as to whether these particular (Israeli) settlers will “accept a one-state solution” is that they are going to have to accept it, or otherwise run away.

  6. Please correct me if I am wrong, but I constantly read that the vast majority of the settlers are economic settlers, not ideological settlers. They live in the occupied territories because they are heavily subsidized by the Israeli government (and indirectly by the US government). Given an equivalent financial incentive to return to Israel proper, or even the removal of the heavy subsidies, most would willingly and quickly return. There are a hardcore of ideological settlers (several thousand?) who would resist. They could be allowed to remain, unsubsidized and without their weapons as residents of Palestine, subject to Palestinian laws. Alternatively, this relatively small group could be forcibly removed by Israeli forces and compelled, for the first time to be subject to even Israeli law. At least they would finally be subject to some law.

  7. I think you are wrong, Jack.
    A colony is created by a combination of genocide and ethnic cleansing. The idea of border, and therefore of “minority” (used above by Mr Levy to refer to Palestinians) is another shell game, because Israel does not recognise borders, and cannot do so until the day when it resolves to stop being a colony.
    So you are still moving the cups and ball around, Jack. There is no such thing as “Israel proper”. Such a phrase begs all the material questions.
    There are no innocent settlers, and their children cannot remain innocent, either. They all know what they are doing. Their prospects are not good. The misery they continue to inflict on others is worse. A colony is an abomination. The only honourable course for the settler is to commit the equivalent of “class suicide” and join the struggle of those they have oppressed, for liberation. Even that course is not easy.

  8. Domza, I must disagree with you regarding the innocence of the colonists’ children. Surely you are not suggesting that any child under the age of majority has a choice as to the environment in which he is born and lives. Your comment that “they all know what they are doing” simply makes no realistic sense. You and I might agree that at some point in life a person becomes responsible for recognizing right from wrong regardless of their early education, but an infant certainly cannot be charged with that responsibility, nor can a child who is completely dependent on the adults around him. They certainly do not have the decision-making power, and in most cases do not have the required information or the ability to reason independently. Hold adults responsible, certainly, but not the children.
    Regarding Israel’s refusal to recognize or declare borders, that of course goes back to 1948 when Ben Gurion refused to declare borders and made it explicitly clear that the purpose of the refusal was to allow Israel to expand its territory.

  9. Jack,
    I don’t know how “vast” that majority is, but certainly a majority of the colonists are there as a result of the very strong economic incentives they were offered. There is good evidence that a significant number of them would willingly return to communities within the pre-1967 boundaries if they could do so without suffering a huge financial loss.
    As for the ideological colonists, there is, as I understand it, a tiny percentage who would be just fine living in a Palestinian state either as citizens or as legal aliens, but of course for the majority, whose real goal is Jewish sovereignty over “greater Israel” that would be anathema.

  10. “Honestly, can he or anyone else explain how the 500,000 (not “over 300,000″, as he says) Israeli settlers now illegally living in the West Bank might be removed?”
    Sure. UNSC commands it, with a schedule and strict sanctions in place for failure to meet the schedule. Do same in UNGA if UNSC vetoes.
    THE COMMAND: In 1-year, remove 550.000 settlers to pre-1967 Israeli territory and dismantle all settlements and the wall, on a published schedule with measurable milestones, sanctions if milestones missed.
    Israel expected/allowed to build another wall and new housing or tents for the returning settlers on pre-1967 territory.
    Impossible? With today’s politics, US, UK, and others would veto and resist all this. But what with the South American blok, what with Tunisia and Egypt, what with water shortages and opportunities for regional water-sharing could expect the rest of the world (the fundamentally decent, the non-Anglophone (darn!), world) to support the resolution and the sanctions.
    And in 1-year, the hor4se might speak (i.e., an I/P treaty be arranged to forestall part of the scheduled removals).

  11. Fair enough, Shirin. I agree that children are innocent. I don’t believe in original sin. But the time comes in every settler child’s life when he or she becomes conscious and responsible. Exactly at what point that responsibility arrives is a discussion we don’t need to have right now, but arrive it does. So that no-one who is adult may say: “I didn’t know.” Or “I was not aware”. In South Africa, returning after 1990, one found adults saying “We had no idea”. This is not acceptable.

  12. There are a hardcore of ideological settlers (several thousand?) who would resist.
    several, like 30-50,000. and there are thousands of them and their supporters embedded in the idf.
    enough to ignite a civil war and worse because of the price tag attacks.

  13. re 300,00O vs 500,000. the settlements bordering jerusalem are now called ‘neighborhoods’ thus according to israel jerusalem has ‘grown’. then they call jerusalem part of israel and don’t include them in the occupied territory of the west bank.
    it’s just shuffling perceptions. there’s still 500,000 of them.
    maybe it’s against the rules to say that in the israeli press (and the diaspora neocon press, that goes w/out saying), but we’re not stupid.

  14. There are a hardcore of ideological settlers (several thousand?) who would resist.
    several, like 30-50,000. and there are thousands of them and their supporters embedded in the idf.
    enough to ignite a civil war and worse because of the price tag attacks.

  15. There are areas in Jerusalem that no Palestinian state has any reasonable claim to, like the Jewish Quarter, the Hurva Synagogue, the Western Wall. There are areas beyond those (in Sheikh Jarrah, Nebi Samwil, etc. that contained Jewish communal properties which would have to remain with or be restored to the Sephardic Community Trust no matter what state they are in.
    Anyway, it’s nice that you plan to expel me, gives me a motive not to let those who come to expropriate my house survive. See, I’ve already been exiled once.

  16. Hi Euro,
    You don’t have to go into the sea, or over the sea for that matter. Just be a citizen. If you stole your house you may have to give it up and get another one. Don’t worry. Be happy. Stop thinking about going out in a blaze of gunfire. It’s not healthy. It’s not Jewish. It’s just mad.

  17. If we can develop civil society political parties, sure, but that’s regional. The Central district and the Galilee have the Islamic Movement, which handles issues of politics and society while still conceding only an instrumental role to its contacts with the State of Israel, i.e. “we have to deal with them while they are still here. Someday they will leave and all Palestine will be Muslim again.” East Jerusalem Palestinians accord no legitimacy to the State of Israel, are not citizens, do not vote, and generally create “no-go” zones for municipal maintenance employees, with the rationale that this discourages settlement. West Jerusalem Palestinians are citizens and “buried treasures” found in their expropriated properties have sometimes been restored on that basis. So I think things are simultaneously very fluid and very discouraging, with much more violence between ordinary people than in South Africa and much more institutionalized violence.

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