Click on the map above and you’ll see just what isn’t going to be discussed seriously in the newly resumed ‘peace process’. When Ariel Sharon fell into a coma (not even a tenth of what he deserved) in one his better moments Christopher Hitchens thought it timely to summarise what he described as the “four alternatives in the Israeli-Palestinian quadrilateral”:
1) The status quo of mingled apartheid and colonization that would eventually see the Israelis ruling without consent over a people as large as or larger than themselves and that is now almost universally seen as intolerable and unsustainable.2) Move towards a state where those under its jurisdiction are equal citizens with the right to vote, which would be the end of Zionism.3) The destruction or removal of one people by the other or their common ruin in a catastrophic war.4) A partition between two separate states.
Since the negotiations are underway, once again, we should keep these possibilities in mind. The process of expansion is fully underway to the extent that the Israeli election acknowledged the question of stealing large chunks of the West Bank. Naftali Bennett proposed that 60% of the West Bank should be annexed, whereas it seems Netanyahu is looking to grab 10%. Netanyahu’s government is backing 1,200 more settler-colonies in East Jerusalem and the West Bank where a ’security barrier’ longer than the Berlin Wall is being built to secure the major concentrations of arable land for Israeli settlers. This is out of more than 3,000 housing units approved in December 2012 just after the Palestinians won a modicum of statehood. Incidentally, the Palestinians can now pass war crimes charges against the Israeli government thanks to the new status they have attained. Every year the UN General Assembly votes on resolutions to establish a two-state settlement and every year the votes are overwhelmingly behind the peaceful solution. And yet we find that there is an obstacle sitting on the UN Security Council, as highlighted by Professor Norman Finkelstein:
1989 – 151 to 31997 – 155 to 21998 – 154 to 22002 – 160 to 42003 – 160 to 62004 – 161 to 72007 – 161 to 7
The United States votes on the side of Israel regularly and works to block all progress at the UN (where there is a consensus on this question), occasionally finding allies in a coalition of votes from such countries as Dominica, Palau, Nauru, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia. In 2011 the US went as far as to veto a resolution which was consistent with its official legal opposition to settlements. This caught some attention because it was an unprecedented level of support. In 2012 the UN voted to bestow on Palestine the same statehood as held by the Holy See. The votes came in at 138 in favour of Palestinian statehood with 41 abstentions and 9 votes against the claim. We can expect the same approach should the Palestinians seek to pass any war crimes charges against the people responsible for the numerous operations carried out to stamp out all currents of opposition. There is a lack of any agreement on principle as well as any kind of framework for peace to be achieved. The Palestinian position is rooted in international law, e.g. that the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem are occupied territory, which is exactly what the Israeli government rejects. The preference for ‘direct negotiations’ is mainly about stalling for time as the encroachment into Palestinian territory extends and grows more and more bold.
The Netanyahu government insists that there must be a referendum on any peace deal, that’s in conjunction with continued settler colonisation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Any such referenda would be a gesture to justify and legitimise the theft of Palestinian land and not to safeguard a solution to the crisis. Ultimately, we find the Israeli government is morally culpable as well as negligent in its preference for expansion at the expense of security. In the meanwhile the Palestinians are accused of ‘rejectionism’, and worse, even when Arafat offered to concede 50% of Israeli settlements in the West Bank which Finkelstein’s calls “a monumental concession”. The international border is based on a 78:22 split of the land between Israel and Palestine, this is the world’s consensus in law which the Israelis have been opposing for 46 years. The border may now be so blurred as to undermine all hope of a two-state settlement. All of this begs the question: how much is enough?
Somehow we find ourselves incapable of asking this important question and we haven’t been able to do so for quite some time. The Israeli government has been even more stubborn in its refusal to answer such a question. That’s a part of this tragedy. The eastern border of Israel can’t be pinned down, the international border has been rejected, the ‘security barrier’ seems somehow insufficient and any limitation set on expansion is to be opposed it would seem. Technically Israel could extend its border further down the Jordan river and into Jordanian territory. It’s an ultra-nationalist fantasy, but we shouldn’t dismiss it as impossible. There were problems of this kind from the beginning and even before the beginning. Chaim Weizmann and the Zionist Delegation at Versailles laid out a map of the Promised Land. On that map the northern border of the Jewish state was going to be situated at the Alawi river in Lebanon. Over 65 years later and the borders remain in flux just as Israel remains without a settled constitution and the Palestinians remain without a proper state. It should be obvious to everyone that this is an intolerable state of affairs.
This article was originally written for and posted at the Third Estate on August 15th.