Palestinians express frustration + Daniel Seidemann does too

Reuters reported that the Palestinian leadership sent a letter, signed by Riyad Mansour as Ambassador of Palestine, to UNSG BAN Ki-Moon and to the UN Security Council, accusing Israel “of planning to commit further ‘war crimes’ by expanding Jewish settlements after the Palestinians won de facto U.N. recognition of statehood and warned that Jerusalem must be held accountable”.

In the letter, Mansour wrote that Israel, after the decision to upgrade Palestine to state status last Thursday, was acting “in a rogue, hostile and arrogant manner, contravening all principles and rules of international law and reacting with contempt to the will of the international community”.

Israel was bitterly opposed to the Palestinian UN move, and warned it would retaliate — which it has started to do by announcing new settlement building around north, south and east of Jerusalem.,

In February 2011, the Obama cast the only negative vote on a Palestinian-drafted UN Security Council resolution against Israel’s settlement building, as we reported at the time here:
“All of the other 14 members of the UNSC voted in favor of the resolution, which would have condemned Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory. At least 120 UN member states co-sponsored the resolution, despite a few last-minute drop-outs… The draft resolution, if it had passed, would have ‘demanded that “Israel, as the occupying power, immediately and completely ceases all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem and that it fully respect its legal obligations in this regard”. The British Ambassador later made a point of saying not only that Israeli settlements are illegal, but also added that the three largest EU members hope to see Palestinian State by September of this year…The U.S. apparently preferred to say only that Israeli settlements were ‘illegitimate’.
From the State Dept. briefing:
QUESTION: Yes, Ambassador Rice, you say that you reject the continued building of settlements on the West Bank as being illegitimate. Yet you vote that no on a resolution that calls it illegal. Why is that, considering that the State Department, as far back as 1978, considered settlement activities illegal?
AMBASSADOR RICE: The United States has not characterized settlement activity as illegal since, I believe, 1980. And – but what we do believe firmly and have reiterated forcefully, including today, is that continued settlement activity is not legitimate”…

Meanwhile, Israeli-American lawyer and Jerusalem expert Daniel Seaman has been issuing warnings that could not be stronger, saying that the two-state solution, which he said is essential to the preservation of Israel’s existence, will soon become impossible because of the increased Israeli settlement-building activity in and around Jerusalem.

Daniel Seidemann standing in front of Maale Adumim - photo by Matthew J. Bell
Daniel Seidemann standing in front of Maale Adumim - photo by Matthew J. Bell - December 2012

Daniel Seidemann explained his concerns — in particular,his intense concern about an adviser’s advice to Obama to walk away from this problem — to Public Radio International/The World’s Middle East correspondent Matthew J. Bell:

The Quartet's 3-month "deadline" comes + goes

Today is the three-month marker of the Quartet plan presented to the Palestinian leadership after their “UN bid”, the formal request for admission of the State of Palestine as a full member of the United Nations, made on 23 September 2011 at UN Headuarters in New York.

The Quartet Plan was presented to stop the P.L.O. from pursuing their “UN bid”, or pressing it for a vote, because Israel was terribly upset, and the U.S. threatened to use their veto power to block it in the UN Security Council.

At the first 3-month mark, the two parties were to have met, and they were to have exchanged ideas on what the borders for a two-state solution should look like, and on security arrangements.

So, what has happened?

In December, the Palestinians let it be known that if Israel doesn’t present its idea of borders for a two-state solution by this date, the “hudna” or “truce would be over, and the Palestinians would again unleash all efforts for international recognition and admission to the international organization.

In a calm and rather leisurely reaction, the U.S. State Department said a few days later that the three-month marker was not a rigid or fixed “deadline” … and urged efforts to continue to bring the parties back to the table for direct negotiations.

[Only the Palestinians were refusing, saying it would be useless, mainly because Israeli settlement-building activities continued, while Israeli officials said to anyone who would listen that they were ready for direct talks, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even repeated his offer to go anywhere, almost anytime — even to Ramallah…]

Then, King Abdullah II of Jordan flew by helicopter over the Israeli-controlled West Bank and landed in the refurbished helicopter pad at Ramallah Presidential Muqata’a for a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas — a day before Abbas himself was due to travel through Jordan, on his way to another session of Palestinian reconciliation talks with Hamas officials in Cairo… Little was revealed publicly about that meeting, and some diplomatic sources suggested that the real purpose was that Abdullah needed help and had panicked, and was really asking Mahmoud Abbas for help .

What is more significant is that U.S. State Department envoy David Hale, who had met Abbas the evening before, was back in Jerusalem to meet Israeli PM Netanyahu just before Abdullah II landed in Ramallah. Then, Hale drove overland to Amman, and met Abdallah II back in Amman that evening.

Not long afterwards, Jordan announced that it would be hosting talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Amman — which would include direct meetings for the first time since September 2010. Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh announced that further contacts would be held — but not announced.

The U.S. Secretary of State then announced the date of the second meeting, in early January…

There was criticism from different Palestinian political groupings, from Hamas to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine [PFLP], and Palestinian “youth groups” organized a couple of demonstrations outside the Muqata’a to protest.

A total of five meetings were held in Amman, prior to today’s deadline.

The Palestinians presented their maps and border proposals in an early meeting.

It was not until the last meeting of negotiators [the P.L.O.’s Saeb Erekat, and Israel’s Yitzhak Molcho] that the Israeli delegation screeched up to the meeting, just hours before the deadline, with a kind of power-point presentation about its general ideas — but reportedly without any very specific indications of what Israel thought the borders for a two-state solution should be… and not much indication about security, either.

Continue reading The Quartet's 3-month "deadline" comes + goes

Sari Nusseibeh – again, on the two-state vs one-state solution

Former New York Times man Bernard Gwertzman, now a Consulting Editor with the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, has just published an interview with Sari Nusseibeh, President, Al-Quds University in Jerusalem — and a former Palestinian representative in Jerusalem — in which Nusseibeh has repeated again his support, and preference, for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Nusseibeh told Gwertzman: “I believe a two-state solution, if it’s realizable, is probably the best kind of option. It would involve compromises from both sides. The alternative is not really doable through negotiations. For example, if you think about a one-state solution, it’s not going to happen through negotiations because the majority of Israelis would probably be against it. And if you think of any other scenarios, again, you’ll find that most people will probably be against it. So we have a situation where if we are left without a two-state solution, then we’re going to be in for a long haul. I don’t want to overdramatize it, but it’s not going to be beautiful, or a good situation for either side”…

What does he mean by “in for a long haul”? Hasn’t it already been a long haul?

It seems what he means is, there needs to be a better occupation until the two populations can be separated…

Continue reading Sari Nusseibeh – again, on the two-state vs one-state solution

Gershon Baskin: It's the OCCUPATION

Gershon Baskin, co-Chairman with Palestinian Hanna Siniora of the Israeli-Palestinian media center, who has also become a columnist for the Jerusalem Post, wrote this week that “At the outset of Oslo, the world, including the Arab world (and also including the supporters of peace in Israel and in Palestine), actually believed that the peace process was about ending the occupation, peace between two states living side-by-side, building cross-boundary cooperation in every field possible, ending violence and ending the conflict. During those optimistic days, several countries without diplomatic relations with Israel established them, and several Arab countries even allowed it to open commercial interests offices in their countries. Some Arab countries even opened their own representative offices in Israel. This was possible because they believed the Oslo peace process would bring an end to the occupation. They had good reason to believe that. The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement of September 1995 stated clearly: ‘The two sides agree that West Bank and Gaza Strip territory, except for issues that will be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations, will come under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Council in a phased manner, to be completed within 18 months from the date of the inauguration of the council’. The agreement further stated: ‘Redeployments of Israeli military forces to specified military locations will commence after the inauguration of the council and will be gradually implemented’. The interpretation of these sections was that prior to the beginning of permanent status agreements Israel would have withdrawn from more than 90 percent of the West Bank. The US and the Palestinian calculated then that the land area connected to permanent status negotiations, meaning the settlements, accounted for 2%-5% of the West Bank (counting the built-up areas of the settlements with a radius of about 100 meters from the last home in each settlement). The ‘specified military locations’ was estimated to account for about 2% of the West Bank. When Binyamin Netanyahu was first elected in 1996, a ‘conflict’ of interpretation developed between the Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry. At that time I saw a document produced by the legal department of the Foreign Ministry explaining that the new interpretation of the Prime Minister’s Office was incorrect. It stated the following: According to the Prime Minister’s office, the settlement areas in question are based on the statutory planning maps of the civil administration and not on the built-up areas. Those zoning maps provide the settlements with about 40% of the West Bank. Furthermore, the Prime Minister’s office stated that instead of ‘specified military locations’ the real intention was ‘security zones’ – meaning that the entire Jordan Valley is a security zone, all of the areas around settlements are security zones, the bypass roads to settlements are security zones, and so are all of the lands adjacent to the Green Line. In other words, 60% of the West Bank would remain in Israeli hands, and in the negotiations with the Palestinians Israel would retain well above 10% of the West Bank, and if possible more. This, according to the Palestinians and even the US, was a major breach of the agreement and it was one of the significant reasons for the failure of the entire process. At that point, the process ceased to being about ending the occupation … Ariel Sharon always believed, as did other Likud leaders,that the settlements would be the best way of preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank. It turns out that they were probably right. Many today even question the very viability of a Palestinian state because of the settlements. Yet the entire international community … believes that a Palestinian state must be established on the basis of the June 4, 1967 borders. There is no other solution to the conflict. Instead of dealing with that reality, the government is trying to pressure the US and the EU to transform the peace process into a regional peace process. Netanyahu, Barak and other members of the government think that if they agree to a three-month settlement freeze, not including Jerusalem, the world will consent. The EU and the US in private meetings with Netanyahu and in public statements have insisted that Israel must focus on the settlement issue and not on tricks to avoid making the difficult decisions. All settlement building must stop”…

But, what is actually happening?

Obama speech in Cairo on Israeli-Palestinian conflict: "the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable"

Without comment (it is everywhere) here is the section of Obama’s big-deal, well-rolled-out, historic speech in Cairo on Thursday 4 June in which he speaks about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

Obama speech in Cairo 4 June 09 - Official White House photo by Pete Souza

Photos are official White House photos from Flikr photo stream – this one is by Pete Souza

“The second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.

“America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

“Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.

“On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians – have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations – large and small – that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.

Obama speaks in Cairo on 4 June 09 - Official White House photo by Chuck Kennedy

Photos are official White House photos from Flikr photo stream – this one is by Chuck Kennedy

“For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers – for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel’s founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.

Obama speaking in Cairo on 4 June 09 - Official White House photo by Chuck Kennedy

Photos are official White House photos from Flikr photo stream – this one is by Chuck Kennedy

That is in Israel’s interest, Palestine’s interest, America’s interest, and the world’s interest. That is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience that the task requires. The obligations that the parties have agreed to under the Road Map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them – and all of us – to live up to our responsibilities.

“Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.

“Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

Obama finishes speech in Cairo on 4 June 2009 - Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Photos are official White House photos from Flikr photo stream – this one is by Pete Souza

“Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. And just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel’s security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.

“Finally, the Arab States must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state; to recognize Israel’s legitimacy; and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.

“America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.

“Too many tears have flowed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer”…

The latest debate: Do the Palestinians (in the West Bank at least) really want a state?

The latest issue takes the “Two-State vs One State” solution even further. It is a debate that has so far taken place mostly among a few intellectuals, puzzled at some of what would otherwise appear as truly incompetent behavior of the Palestinian Authority, and the apparent near-collapse of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Now, it has been seized upon — largely for its lurid appeal (it’s sensational, runs against official positions, appears to be based on deep insights, and, it sells) to propagandists — by some of the Israeli and pro-Israeli media crowd.

Do Palestinians (at least those in the West Bank) really want a State?

Now, one writer in the Jerusalem Post (he’s Shmuel Rosner, based in Washington), has written — reviewing articles written in recent months — that the question of the moment is: “Do Palestinians really want a state”. And the answer, he wrote, is this: “In sum, two years ago, an open question, more recently, no, no and no“.

Rosner then went on to mock a comment by Ed Abington, former US Consul General in Jerusalem and former adviser to the Palestinian Authority, who, Rosner wrote: ” has commented yesterday on my link to these new articles with this sarcastic massage: “I’m sure Kaplan and Grygiel are right; most Palestinians would prefer to live under Israeli occupation forever than accept responsibility for running their own affairs. Duh“.

Yes, Duh. Because the Palestinians do want a state. The question for them is, what kind? And, of course, there is no real debate on the Palestinian political scene that might illuminate the issues on there side — they are too busy looking over their shoulders, worrying about what their enemies and rivals would say. So, instead of hashing out the issues amongst themselves, the Palestinians are just developing their critique of Israel.

There have been no real intellectual advances, of course.

Continue reading The latest debate: Do the Palestinians (in the West Bank at least) really want a state?

U.S. State Department on new Netanyahu government

The U.S. State Department spokesperson told journalists today that the U.S. will explain to the new Netanyahu government the American support for a two-state solution (or, the American support for the creation of a viable Palestinian state):

“QUESTION: On the topic of Benjamin Netanyahu stepping in as Israel’s prime minister today, I guess what kind of steps, if any, could we see – could we expect from the Administration regarding the – furthering the notion of a two-state solution, as well as curtailing expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank area?

MR. DUGUID: Had the government been installed before I just walked in?


MR. DUGUID: It had been installed just before I walked in. We will then, of course, meet with the new government and begin our discussions, where we will go in and explain to them what our policies are and our support for a two-state solution and the way we see the best way going forward. But I don’t have anything more than that for you, as we have just now had a new Israeli Government”.

The One-State “threat”: a new manifesto? … continued

On the Electronic Intifada website, Ali Abunimah asks if the Palestine Strategy Study Group has come up with a new Palestinian strategy, or the same old failed one…

Abunimah writes. “The PSSG paper does indeed provide further evidence of the rapid crumbling of the dogma that the two-state solution is just and achievable and moreover that it has no plausible alternatives. And yet it is far less than a full embrace of the one-state solution. Rather, it would appear that among PSSG participants there are quite different and even contradictory goals. This is hardly surprising because as one participant, Sam Bahour wrote, the group included ‘Palestinians from all walks of life — men and women, on the political right and left, secular and religious, politicians, academics, civil society and business actors, from occupied Palestine, inside Israel, and in the Diaspora’. This group could never meet in one room due to Israel’s travel restrictions on Palestinians. The PSSG workshops were funded by the European Union and convened by the Oxford Research Group, a British non-governmental organization.

“Some participants clearly saw the PSSG as an opportunity for a badly needed, sincere and deep reassessment of Palestinian strategy and took part in that spirit. For Bahour it represents a challenge to ‘a never-ending ‘peace process’ that has created a peace industry in Palestine, all underwritten by taxpayers from around the world’…

“The paper does have several strong points that Palestinians and all those who support their cause should endorse and rally around. It calls on Palestinians to seize the initiative and to define the terms of the discourse rather than continue to allow Israel and its backers to do it for them. The PSSG calls for national unity and broad consultation among all Palestinians. It also calls on Palestinians to reject and expose the deceptive language of ‘peacemaking’ and ‘state-building’ that have been used to conceal and perpetuate a lived reality of expulsion, domination and occupation at Israel’s hands…

“In addition, the paper stresses that the appropriate discourse for Palestinians living under these conditions remains that of ‘self-determination’, ‘decolonization’ and ‘liberation’. The paper asserts — correctly — that Palestinians are not as weak as they appear and can prevent Israel from achieving its preferred option of maintaining the status quo by reconfiguring or even abolishing the Palestinian Authority, adopting ‘smart’ resistance and reorienting their goals towards a one-state solution.

“In spite of its positive attributes, a close reading of the PSSG final report entitled “Regaining the Initiative – Palestinian Strategic Options to End Israeli Occupation,” (available in English and Arabic at also offers reasons for caution.

“While the paper is strong on diagnostics, it becomes more problematic with what it prescribes and at key points Palestinian Authority heavyweights who participated might have steered it in a decidedly less principled direction.

“It suggests that one of the key Palestinian ‘strategic tasks’ is to ‘spell out the minimum terms acceptable for negotiating a fully independent Palestinian state on 1967 borders and to explain clearly why this is by far the best offer Israel will get’. The paper argues for ‘a final and conclusive push to compel Israel to negotiate immediately and seriously for a swift two state outcome acceptable to Palestinians — or face the reality of a concerted Palestinian strategic orientation in an entirely different direction — and one far less favorable to Israel’.

“”Using the one-state solution as a tactical threat is unlikely to move Israel and simply discredits such a solution in the long-run by playing into Israeli claims that a democratic state where everyone is equal would be a disaster for Israeli Jews. Indeed, the PSSG report explicitly warns against such an approach. Palestinians ought to be making the case that the one-state solution, as a democratic solution in accordance with universal rights, is the best and most moral outcome for all sides, not a victory for Palestinians and defeat for Israelis. Nor does the paper examine the relative merits of a two-state or a one-state solution from the perspective of achieving fundamental rights and justice for Palestinians.

“As long as the two-state solution remains the objective of the Palestinian movement, the report defines three ‘strategic objectives’, which I will examine in turn. Unfortunately these reproduce the vague and deceptive language that the peace process industry has long used to erode Palestinian rights and expectations. This is compounded by major, substantive discrepancies between the English and Arabic versions. (It is unclear how these came about; I heard from two PSSG participants who were familiar with the Arabic version which they considered authoritative, and both were surprised and shocked to learn of such differences.) First, let’s look at the English — which has been widely circulated and reported in the media:

”The first strategic objective is to end occupation of Palestinian lands’. (p.23) – Notably, this does not say which occupation and which Palestinian lands and fails to insist on a complete Israeli withdrawal from all the lands occupied in 1967.

‘The second strategic objective is to establish a fully independent and sovereign Palestinian state’. ‘In accordance with the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization] declaration of 1988’, the report adds, the second objective means ‘the establishment of a fully independent Palestinian state on 1967 borders with its capital in East’. – The lack of the definite article ‘the’ before ‘1967 borders implies that actual borders could deviate significantly. And, the 1988 PLO declaration of independence does not talk about a capital in Jerusalem (whose boundaries Israel constantly manipulates and redefines), but says that Jerusalem is the capital of the Palestinian state.

“Most glaring is the third strategic objective which is ‘to honor the right of return of Palestinian refugees’. – The use of the word ‘honor’ signals a less than firm commitment to actually implement the right of return as guaranteed in UN Resolution 194 among other key instruments of international law. This is confirmed a few sentences later when the paper notes that the demand for the right of return ‘rings alarm bells’ that it is really a ‘coded message’ to revoke PLO recognition of Israel because any substantial return of refugees would swamp the Jewish state demographically. Yet it assures Israel that ‘This will not be the case if Israel negotiates seriously and with time-urgency … and has been extensively discussed in earlier Palestinian-Israel negotiations notably those that took place in 2000-2001’.

“What is even more shocking is that the Arabic version of this same document contains substantially different language — as if Israeli and Western audiences were supposed to read one thing, and Palestinian and Arab audiences another.

“In the Arabic version’s ‘Strategic Objectives’ section (p.26), the three goals are as follows and they use firmer language in line with long-standing official Palestinian positions (my translation):
‘The first strategic objective is ending the occupation of the Palestinian lands occupied in 1967 and the realization of national independence’.
‘The second strategic objective is the acknowledgment of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination which guarantees its right to establish a fully sovereign Palestinian state whose capital is Jerusalem’.
‘The third objective is solving the refugee problem according to a just solution guaranteeing the right of return and compensation’.

“More telling is that the paragraph which appears in the English version, assuring Israel that the right of return is merely a threatening demand that would not be pressed if Israel quickly negotiated a two-state solution is omitted from the Arabic version.

“ater, in the English text, it is again asserted that various prior Palestinian-Israeli negotiations including those at Camp David ‘exhaustively and repeatedly clarified’ key issues including ‘the range of options for honoring the rights of Palestinian refugees’ (p.27). In the analogous sentence, the Arabic version refers to the ‘options for implementing [tanfith] the rights of Palestinian refugees’ (p.29).

These are not mere discrepancies in translation. They are substantive differences that recall the Palestinian leadership’s long-standing tactic of telling Palestinians that they will achieve their rights, while reassuring Israel and its backers that they will get all their demands which are incompatible with even minimal Palestinian rights.

“If anything, such destructive ambiguity indicates that for some the PSSG was a cynical exercise to maintain the peace process industry and the PA, and to conceal that the two-state solution is even less viable than realized, rather than to move in a new strategic direction.

“The PSSG document appeared just weeks after Ahmed Qureia, the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority’s former Prime Minister and now chief negotiator, issued another of his periodic warnings that Palestinians may abandon the two-state solution. With no chance of an agreement with Israel before the end of the year, PA heavyweights may be trying to use the PSSG exercise to shore up their own positions by scaring Israel into giving them anything at all that could keep the two-state show on the road… [But] These maneuverings do not invalidate the need for a fundamental reassessment of Palestinian strategy…”

This analysis by Ali Abunimah can be read in full here.

The One-State "threat": a new manifesto?

Is this the boogey-man strategy? Or is it an interesting new effort to mobilize a people that had been nearly paralzyed into lethargic and despairing submission? There’s still a lot of the same old rhetoric — is that really necessary?.

It is clear, however, that all the efforts (some more and some less successful) undertaken during the Second Intifida to reassure the Israelis, to soothe their anxieties and understand their psychological mind-set and their (directly and indirectly-expressed) security concerns has not changed one damn thing. The situation has only gotten worse and worse.

Sam Bahour, American-Palestinian businessman and activist living in Ramallah, sent this information in a message today with attached document by e-mail today. Here are some excerpts:


“Palestinians have been historically outmaneuvered, politically neutralized, and made totally dependent on international handouts. Or have they? A newly released Palestinian strategy document which outlines strategic political options gives witness to a renewed breath of fresh air in the Palestinians’ struggle for freedom and independence…[M]any of the world’s power brokers are convinced that the Palestinians are successfully being forced into submission and acceptance of the colossal injustices that have been carried out against them [after 60 years of dispossession and 40 years of a brutal Israeli military occupation].

“Leading the choir is the U.S. and its Israeli ally, along with several undemocratic Arab regimes. On the political front, they continue to take great pride in a never-ending ‘peace process’ that has created a peace industry in Palestine, all underwritten by taxpayers from around the world. This peace process has no intention of realizing peace with justice, but rather looks to fragment Palestinians’ national aspirations into bite-sized pieces with state-like trappings — the antithesis of a state with real sovereignty, let alone self-determination.

“On the security front, they claim that the Palestinian Authority (referring to the unelected government of Salaam Fayyad in Ramallah) is excelling by installing a heavy-handed security regime, frighteningly reminiscent of the undemocratic, police-state Arab regimes such as Egypt, Jordan and the entire batch of oil-rich Gulf states, which the U.S. has propped up for decades. Driven by US General Keith Dayton and sanctioned by the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership, this security-heavy thrust of activity appears to many observers to be nothing more than another outsourcing option for an Israeli version of its own “security” needs.

On the economic front, they point to grand plans to establish a handful of industrial mega- zones, the majority being located on the unilaterally-defined (illegal) Israeli border between the West Bank and Israel. These industrial zones are meant to absorb the over 150,000 Palestinian laborers that Israel has prohibited from working in Israel. Moreover, as I was recently told by an Israeli promoting these industrial zones, for every job created in such a zone, three will be created for Palestinians outside the industrial zones — thus, in essence, creating an entire artificial economy built around Palestinian and foreign-owned, but Israeli- controlled economic bubbles.

“The 1.5 million Palestinians trapped by Israel in the world’s largest open air prison, Gaza, are not even a part of the discussion.

“In short, the approach of the international community is one of creating a dynamic whereby Palestinians co-exist, not with their Israeli neighbors, but rather with the system of Israeli military occupation, or put simply, sugar coating the status quo which benefits Israel.

“What the international community fails to mention is that the dynamic on the ground is explosive.

“Over the past several months, I participated together with a group of 45 Palestinians from all walks of life — men and women, on the political right and left, secular and religious, politicians, academics, civil society and business actors, from occupied Palestine, inside Israel, and in the Diaspora. We were a group that is a microcosm that reflects the dynamics of the Palestinian society. We could not all meet in one room anywhere in the world because the reality (of travel restrictions) that Israel has created does not permit it, nevertheless we continue to plan and to act. Our mission is to open a discussion on where we go from here: What are the Palestinians’ strategic options to end the Israeli occupation, if any?

“After several workshops in Palestine and abroad and a continuous online debate we have produced the first iteration of “Regaining The Initiative: Palestinian Strategic Options To End Israeli Occupation.” The document is posted at and reflects an alternative to an official but impotent Palestinian discourse that will very shortly, in the judgment of most Palestinians, run head-on into a brick (cement) wall.

“Palestinian society is a dynamic, thinking society which has been so battered and demeaned by Israel and its supporters that many folk, including many Palestinians themselves, will be surprised that the Palestinians have any options whatsoever. One thing is for sure: No matter how long the illegal Israeli occupation continues, do not expect the Palestinians to wake up one morning and accept that they are somehow less human than any other free person in this world. The Palestinian people have given everyone – including their own traditional leadership – plenty of time to end this humiliating and brutal occupation. When all else fails, Palestinians will reclaim the initiative, and will continue to do so over and over, until this occupation is consigned to the trash bin of history, along with all the war criminals who allowed it to persist for so many years”.

Sam Bahour lives in occupied Palestine and is co-editor of “Homeland: Oral History of Palestine and Palestinians.” He may be reached at



“The central proposal in this Report is that Israel’s strategic calculations are wrong. Israeli strategic planners overestimate their own strength and underestimate the strategic opportunities open to Palestinians. There are four main perceived alternatives to a negotiated agreement that are attractive to Israel and therefore prevent Israel from reaching a final settlement on the terms offered.

First, the default option of prolonging negotiations indefinitely by pretending that ‘progress has been made’ and that suspensions are temporary as during the past twenty years, with ongoing encroachments and military incursions, few burdens, and considerable financial and other benefits from continuing occupation.

Second, a pseudo provisional ‘two state agreement’ with a strengthened but severely constrained PA masquerading as a Palestinian government while Israel disaggregates and picks off the ‘historic issues’ and retains permanent control.

Third, a unilateral separation dictated by Israel.

Fourth, a control of the occupied territories by Egypt and Jordan.

But these four alternatives are unacceptable to Palestinians. They do not take Palestinian national aspirations seriously. Indeed, they aim to undermine Palestinians’ national identity and rights altogether. So, if Israel refuses to negotiate seriously for a genuine two-state outcome, Palestinians can and will block all four of them by switching to an alternative strategy made up of a combination of four linked
reorientations to be undertaken singly or together.

First, the definitive closing down of the 1988 negotiation option so long abused by Israel. This blocks the first two preferred Israeli alternatives to a genuine negotiated agreement.

Second, the reconstitution of the Palestinian Authority so that it will not serve future Israeli interests by legitimising indefinite occupation and protecting Israel from bearing its full burden of the costs of occupation (it may become a Palestinian Resistance Authority). This also blocks the first two preferred Israeli alternatives, and also helps to block the third.

Third, the elevation of ‘smart’ resistance over negotiation as the main means of implementation for Palestinians, together with a reassertion of national unity through reform of the PLO, the empowerment of Palestinians, and the orchestrated eliciting of regional and international third party support. The central aim will be to maximise the cost of continuing occupation for Israel, and to make the whole prospect of unilateral separation unworkable.

Fourth, the shift from a two state outcome to a (bi-national or unitary democratic) single state outcome as Palestinians’ preferred strategic goal. This reopens a challenge to the existence of the State of Israel in its present form, but in an entirely new and more effective way than was the case before 1988.

Is this what Israel wants? Israel cannot prevent Palestinians from a strategic reorientation along these lines. Does Israel really want to force Palestinians to take these steps?

The result of a reorientation of Palestinian strategy will clearly be much worse for Israel than the negotiation of a genuine two state outcome on the basis of the existing 1988 offer. Although many Palestinians may still prefer a genuine negotiated two state solution, a failure of the present Annapolis initiative will greatly strengthen those who argue against this. Most Palestinians are then likely to be convinced that a negotiated agreement is no longer possible. What is undoubtedly the case is that a reversal of the 1988 offer and the adoption of an alternative strategy is much preferable for Palestinians to any of the four preferred Israeli alternatives to a negotiated agreement. So, if current negotiations fail, Palestinians will be driven to replace the 1988 offer by a new strategy, not just rhetorically but in reality. The negotiated two state outcome will then be definitively cancelled. Palestinians will ensure that Israel is seen to be responsible for the closure of their 20 year offer. Israel will have lost an historic and non-recurrent opportunity to end the conflict and to secure its own future survival on the best terms available for Israel.

The first strategic task is the detailed working out of a fundamental reorientation of Palestinian strategy along the lines outlined above, including the new preferred strategic path, and the full range of means of implementation. All of this is commented upon in the main body of the Report. This task must be undertaken in all seriousness and on the assumption that present negotiations will fail. Even if only used as a strategic threat in order to force Israel to negotiate seriously, the intention must still be to implement the new strategy should negotiations fail. An empty threat is strategically no threat. A mere bluff does not work. So it is now an urgent priority for Palestinians to agree and work out in detail their alternative to a negotiated agreement and to communicate this as soon as possible and as forcefully as possible to Israel. This must be the immediate focus of unified national strategic planning that includes all Palestinians, from different backgrounds, generations, genders, and political affiliations, both those living in the occupied territories and those living elsewhere.

The second strategic task is to make sure that Israel understands the terms on which the 1988 offer is still held open by Palestinians and is clear about what Palestinians can and will do should these terms not be met. Has a national movement ever made a concession on a similar scale to that made by Palestinians in 1988? In negotiations Israelis repeatedly say ‘we do all the giving and the Palestinians do all the taking’. This is the opposite of the truth. Palestinians continue to demand no more than 22% of their historic land. It is Israel that has done all the taking through continuous government-backed settler encroachment on this remaining 22%. The second strategic task for Palestinians, therefore, is to spell out the minimum terms acceptable for negotiating a fully independent Palestinian state on 1967 borders, and to explain clearly why this is by far the best offer that Israel will ever get, including guarantees for Israel’s future security from neighbouring Arab states. Palestinians will set out a clear timetable for judging whether this has been attained or is attainable. It is Palestinians who will judge ‘success’, and it is Palestinians who will decide how long to persist in negotiations and when the moment has come to change strategy entirely.

The third strategic task is to ensure that it is the Palestinian discourse that frames international discussion of the Palestinian future. This is elucidated in the Report. The aim is to make clear to regional and international third parties that in all this it is not Palestinians who are lacking in commitment to a negotiated outcome, but Israel. Palestinians have persisted for twenty years with their historic offer of 1988. Israel has refused to honour it. That is why Israeli protestations are no longer credible to Palestinians. Israel has given Palestinians no option but to look elsewhere for fulfilment of their national aspirations. Israel bears full responsibility should negotiations fail.

In conclusion, it needs to be understood clearly that we Palestinians will never allow Israel to continue its encroachments and domination under the pretence of insincere negotiations, nor to go on imagining falsely that there are better alternatives available to Israel. Israel will have to decide whether to accept the time-limited negotiation offer that is evidently in its own best interest, or not. And we Palestinians will then act accordingly at a time and in a way of our own choosing.

It is now up to us as Palestinians to regain the strategic initiative and to take control of our own national destiny. Israel, regional partners, and international actors, must understand definitively that Palestinians will not be divided in their strategic objectives, and that the Palestinian people, steadfast and determined, will never give up their national struggle…”

This document can be read in full here.



Here is the daily SUMMARY OF EDITORIALS FROM THE HEBREW PRESS, compiled and sent by email from the Government Press Office … the gap between this and the Palestinian document appears very great:

“Yediot Ahronot accuses Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of behaving irresponsibly in the negotiations with the Palestinians given that his is a lame-duck administration. [n.b. – this seems to suggest Olmert must not make any concessions…]

Ma’ariv suggests that the, ‘peace activists,’ like those who recently sailed into the Gaza Strip, ‘bubble over with hatred, preach boycotts and miss no opportunity to justify our most murderous enemies.’ The editors add that, ‘Those whom our objective media has coronated with the crown of peace are aggressive, war-mongering enemies, people who have nothing to do with peace and tranquility.'”

Yisrael Hayom surveys the history of the peace process and asserts that, ‘The fact is that the withdrawals have not succeeded, not because this or that detail has not been honored but because of the discovery raised by the Palestinians’ conduct since the Oslo accords – they do not want peace.’ The editors believe that too many Israelis hold to the concepts that, ‘We need only to find a partner and there will be peace or that in order to assure the continuity of the Jewish state, we must sign peace agreements as quickly as possible.’ The paper warns that, ‘Re-entering the Jewish ghetto inside the 1967 borders will crumble Israeli society, deepen hatred and – mainly – invite further terrorism and unnecessary wars.’

[Gilad Sharon, Eiland, Nadav Haetzni and Dror Edar wrote today’s articles in Yediot Ahronot, Ma’ariv and Yisrael Hayom, respectively.]”

Is there any realistic alternative to a two-state solution?

Here are a few excerpts from remarks made by veteren Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery, taken from a transcript of a Gush Shalom debate about a One State vs. a Two State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

Avniery: “There are three basic questions about the one-state idea: First: Is it possible at all?
Second: If it were possible, is it a good idea? Third: Will it bring a Just Peace?

“About the first question, my answer is a clear and unequivocal No. It is not possible.

“Anybody who is rooted in the Israeli-Jewish public knows that this public’s deepest aspiration – and here it is permissible to make a generalization – the far far deepest aspiration is to make a state with a Jewish majority, a state where Jews will be the masters of their fate. This takes precedence over any other wish and aspiration, it takes precedence even over having a Greater Israel.

“You can talk of a Single State from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, define it as bi-national or supra-national – whatever the term used, in practice in means dismantling the State of Israel, destruction of all that was built for five generations. This must be said out loud, without any evasions. That is exactly how the Jewish public sees it, and certainly also a large part of the Palestinian public. This means the dismantling of the State of Israel. I am a bit disturbed by the fact that these words are not said explicitly.

+We want to change very many things in this country. We want to change its historical narrative, it’s commonly-held definition as ‘Jewish and democratic’. We want to end occupation outside and discrimination inside. We want to build a new framework in the relations between the state and its Arab-Palestinian citizens. But you cannot ignore the basic ethos of the vast majority of the citizens of Israel. 99.99% of the Jewish Public do not want to dismantle the state …

“There are those who say: it already exists. Israel already rules one state from the sea to the river, you only need to change the regime. So, first of all: there is no such thing. There is an occupying state and an occupied territory. It is far easier to dismantle a settlement, to dismantle settlements, to dismantle ALL the settlements – far easier than to force six million Jews to dismantle their state …

“There can be no doubt that the One State Idea gives its holders moral satisfaction. Somebody told me: OK, maybe it is not realistic, but it is moral, this is where I want to stand. I respect this, but I say: this is a luxury we can’t afford. When we deal with the fate of so many people, a moral position which is not realistic is immoral. Because the final result of such a stance is to perpetuate the existing situation.” Excerpts from Uri Avnery’s remarks in a debate with Ilan Pappe about a Two State vs. a One State solution.