Thursday, August 01, 2013

I'm Unenthralled

In the New York Review of Books, Nathan Thrall, who thralls me not, doesn't write a book review but notes three books and then goes off to compose a comment piece briefly referring to the books.

His subject is a peace agreement, or the lack thereof, between Israel and the Arabs-who-call-themselves-"Palestinians".

A few of my observations on selected extracts from his writing:-

1.   According to Olmert, his plan granted the Palestinians a state...Jerusalem would be a shared capital, its eastern, Arab neighborhoods part of Palestine, its Jewish neighborhoods in both halves of the city part of Israel...

I think there is a comma missing in there (its eastern, Arab neighborhoods, part of Palestine) but, in any case, there are Jewish neighborhoods in the "east" and there were Jewish neighborhoods there before 1948.  So it's not so quite clearly defined what is Jerusalem.

2.   ...Olmert frequently asserted that he never heard from Abbas again. “I’ve been waiting,” he recently said, “ever since.”  This story, which is widely accepted in Israel and has done much to discredit the idea of a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian settlement, contains a number of inaccuracies. First, Olmert and Abbas did negotiate again on more than one occasion, as noted in Tested by Zion, former US deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams’s detailed, frank, and perceptive account of the George W. Bush administration’s involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict...

That sounds rather definitive but a few paragraphs on, Thrall notes:

He presented his map the day before Livni was named as his replacement. Several days later, Olmert formally resigned. “The weaker he became politically,” Abrams writes, “the more Olmert seemed willing to risk.”

So, how could negotiate if he left office?

3.   Abbas had good reason to be cautious...There was no prospect of Hamas accepting such an agreement.

And there never was any such prospect and more importantly, there never will be, even with Fatah and surely not the Islamic Jihad.

4.  First, over the past two decades, Palestinian positions have barely budged.

Quite true, as I wrote above.  And their positions are the same as in the 1920s and 1930s, not to mention the 1940s.  And how does that assist peace-making?  If there is to be a "compromise", what are the Arab compromises?

5.   Yet Netanyahu’s declared support for Palestinian statehood seems to have grown only firmer. Last May, Netanyahu for the first time used a demographic argument for a Palestinian state—Jews now make up less than half the population of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza—saying that the purpose of an agreement was to prevent the eventuality of a binational state.

But are the numbers supporting this demographic "threat"?

6.   ...the Palestinians, who believe that the core of the conflict is Zionist settlement in Palestine and the expulsion of Palestinians during the 1948 war that established the Israeli state.

But how many Jews were left in the area of the proposed Arab state in Palestine and how many Arabs in the Jewish state in Palestine?  Who was more expelled?

7.   Jewish nationalist attacks against Palestinian communities in the West Bank have crossed into Israel, taking the form of arson, vandalism, and violence against Palestinian citizens of Israel.

As per a court decision of "guilty" or is that based on conjecture, press reports but not a fact?

8.   Jews and non-Jews cannot legally marry. Current residents of Jerusalem homes that were abandoned during the 1948 war have been evicted to make room for former owners and their descendants—but only when the deed holders are Jews.

Really?  No intermarriages?  And weren't Jews expelled from their homes in Shimon HaTzaddkit, Nahlat Shimon and the Old City of Jerusalem?
9.  The inequality of Jews and non-Jews within Israel’s pre-1967 borders—in which Palestinian citizens and residents lived under military rule from 1948 until the end of 1966—prepared the ground for still more unequal arrangements in the West Bank after the 1967 war.21 

21 Palestinians within Israel’s pre-1967 borders were not able to obtain citizenship until July 1952. Many remained unable to obtain citizenship even after 1952, because they lacked proof of identity or had not been counted in the population registry of 1949

First, who attacked in a war of aggression and second, what percentage is "many" and how are Arabs doing in the Knesset today?

10.  ...the forced displacement of a very large number of Palestinians during the war that followed is now a documented reality, one that for most Palestinians supports their claims to return, or to ample compensation for their losses, or to both.

A "documented reality"?  "Large"?  And does that not-so-quite-reality truly support claims to a "return"? 

11.   Many Israeli leaders believe that any such acknowledgment of responsibility or acceptance of Palestinian claims to return would shake the very foundations of the state, undermining its international legitimacy and upending decades of Zionist teaching by conceding that Israel was responsible for forcibly dispossessing large numbers of Palestinian civilians from their land and homes at its birth.

"Zionist teaching" or the historical fact?  As I've pointed out, he does not mention any Arab-initiated ethnic cleansing of Jews from the centuries-old residential locations all across the Land of Israel, what became "Palestine", the foreign-occupied country of conquerors be they Romans, Persians, Crusaders or Arabs, or British and Jordanian.

But let's be clear about a "peace".  As Shoshana Bryen succinctly sums up:

What are the competing claims between Israel and the Palestinians, and can they resolved such that a peace of some sort can emerge? In barest form, Israel's essential requirements are:

•Recognition of the State of Israel as a permanent, legitimate part of the region; the "secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force," that is the promise of UN Resolution 242.
•"End of conflict/end of claims." The Israelis expect this agreement to be the last Palestinian claim on additional territory or rights.
•Israel's capital in Jerusalem.

For the Palestinians, the requirements are:

•International recognition of an independent Palestinian state, while preserving the right to claim/restore more or all of "Palestine."
•The right of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to live in Israel if they wish, or to take compensation; the decision will be theirs, not Israel's.
•Jerusalem as Palestine's capital

The positions are incompatible.

As I wrote, I'm unenthralled.



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