Thursday, March 22, 2012

How Right - Or Wrong - Is Wright?

Robert Wright, senior editor at The Atlantic, writes (inter alia attacking poor Jeffrey Goldberg) this in a piece entitled Who Is Responsible for the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse?.

In assigning responsibility for the can ask:

...Why is it that it's starting to look as if a two-state solution is impossible--or, at least, close to impossible and getting closer every month? The answer to that question, it seems to me, is the settlements. There are just too many settlements, interconnected by too many roads that restrict the movement of too many Palestinians, for a two-state deal to result in anything Palestinians could proudly call a "state." It would take a massive exertion of political will on Israel's part to uproot enough settlements for a two-state deal, and Israeli politics are nowhere near permitting such a thing. And here's the kicker: As the settlements grow, the amount of political will it would take to uproot them grows, while (as Hussein Ibish recently noted) the supply of such political will drops, since the Israeli constituency for the settlements grows.

...the settlements are the thing blocking the road. (At least, that's my view, and Goldberg, too, has in the past emphasized this pernicious effect of the settlements.)

At the risk of belaboring the metaphor: Suppose two people--a Palestinian and an Israeli--are in a car driving to a town called "two-state solution". Suddenly they see that a giant tree has been cut down and impedes further progress. The two people can, if they want, argue about which of them is responsible for not having gotten past this point before the tree was felled. (Who dawdled at rest stops more, etc.) That's question number one, and Goldberg says the two are about equally to blame. Question number two is: Who cut down the tree that now lies in the middle of the road?

That would be Israel. And the tree would be the settlements. (Which isn't to say that the settlements were necessarily put there in order to block a peace deal, though no doubt some settlers had that motivation--just that that is the settlements' effect.) And this would explain why Peter Beinart wants to put pressure on the settlements--because he thinks that they are what stand in the way of progress and that it's not too late to do something about that...

[Update, 3/21, 8:40 p.m.: I want to emphasize that I'm not saying that the settlements are the only current obstacle to a two-state deal. There are attitudes and positions on both the Israeli and Palestinian side that are obstacles. But the settlements are the biggest, closest-to-immovable obstacle, and they're getting closer and closer to immovable as the settler population continues to expand. If you ask the growing number of people who think it's too late for a two-state solution why they think that, a large majority will say, first and foremost, "the settlements."]

I left this comment there:

But ask yourself, using your example: who, even before that Israeli and the Arab set out on their car trip not stymied by a felled tree, was killing Jews, joining up with Hitler, pogroming, burning, chopping down trees, blocking up wells, refusing to accept partion plans and even receiving 70% of the original Mandate territory and pressuring the British Mandate authorities to halt immigration and then engaged in ethnic cleansing of Jewish communities in place in Hebron, Nablus, Gaza, etc. for centuries (what you would call "settlements") way before our current "occupation" began in 1967 (that nasty war we were forced to win) and way before any of the "settlements" that bother you were constructed.

I know you may say 'but that's so long ago' or even 'but what has that to do with contemporary and future peace deals', and I'll reply: the Arabs refuse to acknowledge any Jewish political national identity, will - and habe - done everything to halt it and even roll it back and are so concerned with this project that they give no thought to themselves, their people and their own identity, preferring to imagine who they are while refusing to recognize Jewish history.

Peace cannot be achieved given this history and this attitude.


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