Obama, J Street, and Middle East peace

By Bernd Debusmann
October 30, 2009

Bernd Debusmann– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Message to Israelis disgruntled with President Barack Obama’s Middle East policies: you’ve got used to U.S. presidents pouring affection on you. Forget that. Obama is not “a lovey-dovey kind of guy”.

That assessment came from an old Middle East hand, former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, in an exchange in the closing minutes of the inaugural national conference of J Street, a new pro-Israel lobby for the liberal majority of American Jews (78 percent voted for Obama) who do not feel represented by traditional pro-Israel advocacy groups, chief of them the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

The conference, in the words of J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami, marked “the birth of a movement, a coming-out party for those who want to widen the tent and are not stuck in the mindset that because we are pro-Israel, we must be anti- somebody else”.

Now director of the foreign policy program at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, Indyk was on a panel entitled “Why Two States? Why Now?” He responded to a question from the audience on the advisability of American presidents getting personally involved in Middle East peace-making. They shouldn’t get involved in procedural detail, he said, but for Obama it would be “really important” to go to Israel. Why?

His approval rating, according to Israeli polls, hovers around five percent, a sharp contrast to the 88 percent drawn by George W. Bush, a man thoroughly disliked almost everywhere else. The majority of Israelis think Obama is pro-Palestinian and see his visits to Egypt and Saudi Arabia as evidence that he wants to distance himself from Israel and curry favour with the Arabs. Unless he can dispel that public perception, the Israeli government is unlikely to make concessions.

Without major concessions, both from the Israelis and the Palestinians, there is no chance that Obama will succeed where other American presidents have failed. As far as concessions from Israel are concerned, J Street expects to help the Obama administration convince Congress that questioning Israeli policies is not tantamount to being anti-Israel.

Thanks largely to the enormous influence of AIPAC, which calls itself “America’s pro-Israel lobby,” criticism of Israel has been rare in Congress; debate of U.S. policies towards the largest recipient of U.S. economic and military aid even rarer. In a controversial 2006 essay, two prominent political scientists, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, concluded that AIPAC had a “stranglehold” on Congress.

It’s too early to tell whether this will change, now that there is another lobby that calls itself pro-Israel but does not shy away from questioning Israeli policies. J Street reacted to last December’s Israeli attack on Gaza by criticising Hamas for raining rockets on Israeli civilians and Israel for punishing 1.5 million Gazans for the actions of extremists.

OUT OF TOUCH?
That stand drew furious responses both from the political right and the center. Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the president of the Union of Reform Judaism, the largest Jewish religious organisation in America, called J Street’s position “morally deficient” and “profoundly out of touch with Jewish sentiment”.

On the right, the Gaza statement transformed J Street into an anti-Israeli, pro-Hamas organisation. One right-wing blogger called the group’s conference, in the last week of October, an “anti-Israel hate fest”.

(J Street, by the way, takes its name from a gap in the Washington street grid. There’s an I Street and a K Street, home to most lobby firms in the capital, but no J Street. Missing street, missing voice).

Despite his disagreement with J Street over Gaza, Yoffie attended the conference and took part in a debate over what it means to be pro-Israel. There was agreement on a theme that ran through much of the meeting –  Jewish settlements in the heart of the West Bank make it impossible to establish a Palestinian state. Time is running out for a two-state solution. The alternative is worse.

That would be living together in one country in which Jews would be outnumbered (Palestinian birth rates are higher) and faced with the choice of abandoning democracy by exerting apartheid-style minority rule or giving up the idea of Israel as a homeland for all Jews.

The establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s Middle East policy, has been reluctantly embraced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but prospects look very bleak for soon resuming the peace talks that stalled last December.

Still, the mood at J Street was upbeat. One of the reasons: an attendance that convincingly ended arguments whether there was an appetite for a left-wing organisation that shuns the reflexive Israel-right-or-wrong attitude of the established lobbies.

“We planned for 1,000 delegates and when I first mentioned this figure, my staff thought I needed psychiatric treatment,” Ben-Ami said. “We got 1,500.” The under-estimate made for conference rooms so tightly packed that many delegates had to sit on floors and debates were frequently simulcast to spillover rooms.

A second reason for high spirits: Obama’s decision to send his National Security Advisor, James Jones, to make the keynote speech. It broke no new ground but ended with a promise that the Obama administration would be represented at all future J Street conferences.

What better sign that the neophyte group has arrived as a serious participant in the foreign policy debate?

(You can contact the author at Debusmann@reuters.com)

86 comments

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For those expecting peace by denying the right of Israel to exist, peace will not come anytime soon, and may never come without war, and problem with any war is that you never know the extent of it, nor the consequences derived from it. Consequently, I do not think that the legality of Israel is or should be disputable under the current world order. Moreover, the insistence by Israelis that they have the right to defend themselves is not only undeniable, but is the obligation of their government to do so. Israel is a suzerain country, member of the international community, with the same rights as other member states.
The problem is that rights come with obligations. Discussions of the kind of state Israelis are building should not be utterly surprising for the international Jewish communities. Not long ago, they were still a people without a country, although with tight communities, large or small, scattered all over the world. Skilled at preserving their cultural distinct identity while surrounded by a variety of lesser or more of a hostile population, they proved to be very inept in accommodating other populations within their newly founded country, Israel. However, the desire for a pure Jewish state, although understandable after centuries of insecurity and humiliation, does not convey cleansing nor entitle apartheid. The Jewish people should accept that their new country is not on virgin territory, that anybody living in that territory becomes citizen of equal rights, and that the state of Israel cannot nationalize private property of any inhabitant, regardless if he/she is physically there or not.
In my opinion, the first step for the Palestinian people would be not to ask for an independent state, but for the recognition of the Israelis citizenship.
U.S. political elite should search their souls and answer to their constituents why they throw billions to Israel and not equally to the Palestinians as they certainly are in more dire need of funding, especially because they have been expropriated. The global capitalist center of the world should not support financially a government that appropriates private property from a population and transfer it to another. The latest, who retorted to such criminal transactions, if I correctly remember, was Stalin.

Posted by M | Report as abusive

Shame on you America, for being blind , Dumb and Deaf.

Posted by Ismail | Report as abusive

It amazes me that 2 people’s, Israel and Palestine cannot unite. They are the same people Jesus came from Palestine. So Jesus was as many other Jewish people Palestinians.
They have become one over the years yet they still think their is a difference between the Jewish people and the Arabia people. In the Old testament God tells the Jewish not to mix with the Arabia people. Yet they did!
Their are many Christians Palestine. So the difference so the difference isn’t their Muslim faith. It is the fact that they are Arabia’s/Jews. In the Christian belief we are to love our enemies. The Arabia’s through their belief in Muhammad felt Jewish people and Christians strayed from God.
So to this day they are fighting a belief that God said to a Special group of people to Hate the other people and destroy them.
Wow I thought God was LOVE not a God of hate! If these people except that their is only One God and they all believe in the same one.
What happened in 1948 by the UN because after the War NO Nation wanted the Jewish people. They were all stuck out on ships for months on end. Then the United Nations decided to put them back in the middle of Old Palestine.
Amazing these smart men who made that decision didn’t realize that stealing homes and displacing people would not create a war? Especially since everyone new these 2 people who had ancient history.

Posted by Judi Jeska | Report as abusive

Debusmann has it wrong about the way J Street can become a serious participant in the foreign policy debate. The way to be taken seriously as a left-wing organization is to make their espoused principles congruent with their positions.

In this case J Street would be more credible as a serious foreign policy organization if it held the Palestinians to the same standards (same standards, like the concept of equal justice under law, is not moral equivalence. It means that if you interchange the names of the groups you comment on the conclusions will be the same.)then J Street wouldn’t be so focused on Israeli shortcomings but would morally and legally balance them with actions (not alleged thoughts, intentions)of their adversaries.

What the media miss about AIPAC is the power they derive from accurate, grown up and sophisticated analyses provided to US Government officials. J Street is sophomoric by comparison.

Posted by Jojo | Report as abusive

As the U.S. becomes less and less important so will AIPAC. J Street is siphoning off the liberal wing of AIPAC. Because the Israelis have become more brazen in disregarding U.S. appeals to fairness vis-à-vis the Palestinians the mood of the media is changing and therefore the mood on the street. Nobody likes being duped. Nobody likes being humiliated by a protégé. This dilutes the influenced of AIPAC further.
Israel though is reaching critical mass, so it doesn’t need the U.S. as much as it did anyway. Some of the mid-term consequences of all this could be a reduction of aid for Israel and less protection from the U.N. by the United States. Israel’s biggest adversary may become the United Nations rather than the Islamic world.

Posted by blmarquis | Report as abusive

How can anyone in the western countries – Europe or the USA repeat the Israeli mantra that it is necessary for a “people” to maintain a state who’s policy is to maintain a demographic majority. And that policy is being maintained at the expensive of driving out those not of the “gens” and who are still living in the teritory they were left after the Israelis redefined the boundaries to their own liking and yet still aren’t satisfied with even those more generous boundaries. Why isn’t the settlement policy called what it really is: aggresive expansionism? The Chinese have not been as heavy handed nor have they been as selfish with the Tibetan’s as the Israeli’s have been toward the Palestinians. The Chinese actually share their development funds for the benefit of their own Han populations and the native Tibetans. In spite of the ethnic tensions in Tibet, the Chinese have been far more even handed that the Israeli’s ever were in either the West Bank or Gaza. The Tibetans can actually live in Chinese housing developments and can participate in the political life of the “occupying” power.

The official Israeli policy that the state must be “jewish” is just another form of the old civil evils like the aparthied system of South Africa or the segregationist poilcies of the southern US in the days of Jim Crow laws, and more recently, the Serbian insistance under Milosavik (sp?) that Kosovo had to become “Serbian” again. The Israeli insistance that it remain “Jewish” is almost the mirror image of the Nazi idea of the Deutcher “Volk”.

It is obviously a policy that now can only be maintained by the theft of the occupied territories resources, the exclusion of any Palestinians from the life of the settlements themselves and the sytematic discrimination against the Palestinians in the only territory left to them.

Sovereign state or not – how can any non Jewish person find much to sympathise with in Israel’s insistance that it remain “Jewish”. And how does anyone actually define what that means as a means of gaining citizenship there? I have asked this question on other blogs and heven’t received even an attempt to explain how Israel determines who is “jewish” enough to claim a right of citizenship there.

Not being a Jewish person, I find a lot of difficulty in understanding how anyone can define what a “people” actually is. I also have a great deal of difficulty accepting an exception made for either ethnicity or religious affiliation, that could not be legally maintained in any state in this country nor in most of Europe or even Latin America. Most countries in the world do not have a policy that someone is eternally a citizen of that country if they choose to adopt the citizenship of another country and renounce the citizenship (and tax and military obligations that usually accompany citizenship)of their former homes.

I was raised in a country that prided itself on the fact that it was a “melting pot”. That issues of ethnicity or religious tradition were secondary to what a person was in his totality. Why is Israel allowed to utter the obsenity of ethnic and religious bias without so much as a question even by most of the commenters on this page?

Posted by paul rosa | Report as abusive

As much as anything else, this article exposes the disastrous fallibility inherent in unregulated public opinion polls anywhere, in Israel in particular.

There is quite simply no 83% difference in any policy or approach between U.S.Presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama. I for one wish there were, but there isn’t.

In absence of higher reason, whoever elects to exploit figmentary differences of this stripe can only be doing so for their own gain.

Not the lowly peons who respond to commercial pollsters but quite a lot of other people have been making obscene amounts of money from protracted conflict in the Middle East. This is not a matter of opinion, but one of manifest fact.

I can’t imagine Barack Obama being the one to do it, but it’s time somebody told those unscrupulous manipulators, “Nie wieder!” And the polls they rode in on.

Posted by The Bell | Report as abusive

Joeyjoe: What do you mean when you say: “After all, Israel has occupied those regions for over twenty years…” and then “…Both Gaza and West Bank are independently ruled, even if they consider themselves occupied.” From the first statement, it seems you believe they are occupied as well. Please explain how, precisely they are “independently ruled”. You really believe the people there have independence? They have more restrictions on them and have suffered worse transgressions and dispossession than any other people on the planet. All at the hands of Israel. A supposed “modern” Nation State acting according to international standards. If I were an American Jew I would be sending what ever money I had left from Madeoff to J Street just to get Israel to stop dragging me and my religion into their oppressive and illegal land grab and human rights abuses.

JohnisGood: You are forgetting the Ottomans…the land they controlled included Palestine, and the people that held title to land and property and paid taxes there were, you guessed it; Palestinians. In 1948 Israel took over from where the British Mandate left off. And then, suddenly, those people and their property and rights didn’t matter? The PEOPLE there have a right to there property, persons, liberty and freedom under international law. Sorry.

Posted by Alloptionsonthetable | Report as abusive

The growing conflict between J Street and Israeli’s and Obama and Israeli’s is to be expected. Many Israeli’s have lived in fear and the anger associated with their daily stress and it has encouraged a very myopic view. Right and wrong, good and bad have been colored by their fears and anger toward Palestinians and Arabs. Many Israeli’s no longer see beyond this limited perspective, or seem to care how their actions and behaviors have become reflected in the Palestinian and Arab perspective.

The stress and anger of Israeli’s has been mirrored in an equally myopic view of many Palestinians and Arabs who view Israel as the enemy. Hamas has no chance of every destroying Israel, yet its anger and hate of Israel feeds its primary justification for their continued efforts to “fight back”. The greater strain placed on Palestinians in Gaza by Israel has fed not diminished that viewpoint.

A wise Middle Eastern man once said, “If a blind person leads a bind person, both of them will fall into a hole.” This seems predictive of what is happening now. People blinded by hate and anger are leading each other onward to the same hole they seem are destined to fall in together.

Those of us on the outside marvel at this and ask why. Meanwhile, those on the inside unable to see the larger picture or care about their present path protest our ignorance and understanding of the particulars that have led to this current state.

Posted by PJW5552 | Report as abusive

the ‘two state’ policy was nonsense from the beginning. israel will never allow palestinians to have a sovereign state (which means loading up on all the weapons they think they need for their defense). there will only ever be an apartheid israel housing palestinians in walled-off homelands filled with poverty and disease. in other words, a slow moving genocide.

Posted by dr arp | Report as abusive

If not two state solution, is Israel ready to make Palestinians own citizens and under which condition? No country can call itself civilized and perform ethnic cleansing or running apartheid regime. It should be clear, Palestinians will not leave on own free will.

Of course, if someone wish to wait till Muslim lobby outweighs AIPAC, it is only matter of few decades. But considering global numbers,it is inevitable eventually.

Posted by Mladen Matosevic | Report as abusive

“Joeyjoe: What do you mean when you say: “After all, Israel has occupied those regions for over twenty years…” and then “…Both Gaza and West Bank are independently ruled, even if they consider themselves occupied.” From the first statement, it seems you believe they are occupied as well. Please explain how, precisely they are “independently ruled”. ”

Fact 1:
Gaza is ruled by Hamas.

Fact 2:
The West Bank is controlled by Fatah, as per the Oslo accords in 1999.

Fact 3:
The UN does not recognise the existance of ‘Gaza’, ‘West Bank’ or ‘Palestine’ as nations.

Fact 4:
The United Nations considers both Gaza and West Bank to still be occupied by Israel.

Hence, the regions are independently ruled, and occupied at the same time. If you find that confusing, blame the UN.

Posted by JoeyJoe | Report as abusive

Sorry. Typo.

Oslo accords signed in 1993.

Posted by Joeyjoe | Report as abusive

Is there any difference between lebensraum and “settlements”? If so what?

Posted by JM | Report as abusive

One of the main problems in achieving any breakthrough in the Middle East is that we are for the past two decades always considering old solutions.
The attempt to achieve a two state solution is not a new idea. It has accompanied modern diplomacy for over two hundred years. In our time we have seen its implementation in India vs. Pakistan, in North and South Korea and its attempt in the long war in Vietnam. Whenever and wherever a two state solution is attemted the necessary response is continual strife, bloodshed and war. In recent years, due to the success of the two state solution, we have seen the development of these conflicts breeding true danger and challenging the existence of world civilization as we know it.
In a generation before these regional outbursts so troubling the wold today, we witnessed a great cold war centering along the borders of the two state solution of East and West Germany. The infamous Berlin wall divided the German people and dangerously divided and exasperated the tensions between east and west. When that wall fell the civilized nations of the world felt a new era had dawned upon Europe and a fresh new breath was taking place. The union of the two German states led to an increased stability in Europe and the possibility of a normalization of relations between Russia and the United States.
NOW, why is it always considered axomatic that what is evidently horrendous for the world is good for the Middle East? The present considerations for a two state solution simply cannot and will not work. They have been on the negotiating table for over 16 years and have not produced anything but further bloodshed.
It is true that Israel now has a serious problem. This solution has been sought after for so long and has been desired by so many; at the same time so much has been invested in this totally wrong direction that all other possibilities have been totally ignored. But anyone who views the situation objectively must note that presently after the rule of Hamas in Gaza, after the unsuccessful attempts of Abbas to maintain a viable rule any two state solution, after the recognition of the Israeli public that the simplistic solutions that were unilater did not and cannot succeed – the continual discussion of a two state solution will continue to wreck havoc in the area.
Basically, the issue of a two state solution is a nonstarter from any angle that it is analyzed from.
So why do so many people continue to discuss it as if its future will be different from its dismal past? To this obviously deep question I unfortunately cannot offer any objective answers. I fear that the answer may be sought in either the ignorance of those discussing these issues, or in the lack of vision of the political leadership or in vain psycholgical hopes that cause intelligent men to seek solutions in directions where there are none.
Peace is possible in the Middle East but it can only come when political leaders and others probe different paths and recognize the true possibilities for peace in the area and act accordingly.

Posted by Moshe Pavlov | Report as abusive

The man, Obama, is no friend of Israel. He is an opportunist and is only interested in himself.

Posted by Richard Fandel | Report as abusive

The conflict between AIPAC and J Street has to do with the values of freedom and justice. AIPAC represents a deviation from the American values of freedom and Justice regarding the Palestinians. This divergence has been hidden from view by the response to Islamic militancy. However the treatment of the Palestinians even when Palestinian violence is not involved as well as the systematic disenfranchisement of the Palestinian people have made the American Jewish founders of J Street so concerned that they started an opposition.
The Non-Jew who has been normally apathetic to this region is also becoming uneasy because actions are being taken against a people with his country’s support. AIPAC dominates U.S. policy concerning the Middle East. The methods used by AIPAC of intimidating opponents of their policies are un-American. Aiding a foreign country in taking the land of a helpless people is also un-American.

Posted by blmarquis | Report as abusive

I have a new Middle East peace proposal that is almost sure to work for almost everybody!

Proposal: The United States will absorb the entire Palestinian population of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and all refuge camps that are willing to settle in the U.S. The Palestinians may settle in any state they desire. Land grants will be made as an equal trade for all lands given up. Foreclosed housing will be made available for free. The current and next two generations of settlers will receive free medical and free higher education. The settlers will receive fast-tracked business loans. The settlers will receive aid for dependents. The settlers will receive food stamps and utilities allowances. All working age settlers not finding immediate employment may apply for a one time load of $175,000.00.

That should make a fine ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ peace deal.

Posted by dr arp | Report as abusive

dr arp:
I will match you mockery proposal with this one:

From now on, all UN member states would pool funds in equal percentage of each country’s GDP to be equally distributed per capita among Israelis and Palestinians for as long as a peace solution acceptable by both parties and the UN would be agreed upon and implemented.
Any other support provided by any individual, organization or government would be illegal.

Posted by M | Report as abusive

How about a proposal that is more realistic, and more likely to happen?

For over fifty years now, Israel has attempted to live in peace with it’s neighbours. An offer of ‘peace for peace’ has always been offered, but denied.

Israel has been attacked several times by multiple arab nations. And each time, has defended itself and gained territory.

Israel has attempted to give land for peace. But giving away the Sinai led to smuggling tunnels with Egypt. Giving away South Lebenon led to Hezbulla. Giving away Gaza led to Hamas’s rise to power.

And recent events have shown, Israeli military force has proven effective at stopping rockets when negotiation fails. Even though these conflicts tend to be seen as ‘divine victories’ by Hamas and Hezbulla.

So the proposal is as follows:
-The Palestinians take the territory they hold now and become an autonomous region.
-The Palestinians agree to safeguard the settlements, and those who live there.
-Israel keeps the current territory they hold, including those parts of the West Bank now behind Israel’s wall.

And this is the only offer. It will remain on the table until it is accepted, and no other offer will take it’s place.

The Palestinians can swallow their pride, and accept subpar terms in exchange for peace. The UN aid and development will swell, and this will no doubt salve any bruised nationalist egos.

Or they can raise another generation of Israel-hating children, launch more rockets at Israeli cities, and get another bombing in return. If the lesson of the past is not learnt, it must be retaught.

Posted by Haha | Report as abusive

Both J Street and the Reform Juaism movement are not religious and do not speak for the majority of Jews. Most are unaffiliated and a lot of others are Orthodox. We love Israel and want the Palestinian terrorism to stop. J Street doesn’t sand for Jewish, and many politicians pulled out from the J Street freak show when it was found out that anti-Israel Arabs would be on hand.

Posted by Q | Report as abusive

“Is there any difference between lebensraum and “settlements”? If so what?”

Lebensraum is territory seized through war, where the intentions of that war was to annex land.

The settlements were territory seized by war, where the intention was to defend against the impending or actual invasion by the Arab states. Notice the fine difference?

If you attack a nation and lose territory, you are joking if you believe the UN should get your territory back for you.

War is like a casino. If a nation chooses to gamble their land in war and lose it, then that land is gone.

Palestine can blame Israel for all the wars. Or blame the Arab nations for starting those wars. But regardless, they are unlikely to see a handful more dirt then they have now.

Israel has tried ‘peace-for-peace’ plan, as well as ‘land-for-peace’ plan and even a modest ‘prisoners-for-stolen-corpses’ plan. But no result in return except for allowing terror groups to become stronger.

Now Israel has realised the only true solution. Ignore the Palestinians, except for Israel’s continuing obligations under the new ‘missile-strikes-for-rockets’ plan.

Posted by Zoom | Report as abusive

Takes a near crazed level of bias to be the type of person to think one side has been desperately trying to achieve peace while the other has been on the attack.

Takes years of media programming your brain to believe in such a way.

Both sides have been fighting, and not striving or peace. On one hand you have people throwing rocks at jets which is anti-peace, and on the other hand you have jets dropping bombs on those people’s heads.

Both are in the wrong, but one side has a lot more control in the outcome.

It’s not realistic but the way that peace could be achieved tomorrow would be if these people dropped their crazy dogmas and became atheists.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

IT seems the issue for a minority on both sides is what General Grant warned us about.. Learning to love war to much…..and we forgot about the other guy that said. “Blessed be the peacemakers”.

Sorry but I often hear and see the extreme religious and political right in USA stoking this thing and no “moral” reason, only political is the driver.

Posted by Chuck2 | Report as abusive

dear readers…

my proposal may be expansive, but it is not a mockery. the u.s. has the money (or, at least, credit) to make it happen.

my proposal would allow israel to take all of the land of the palestinians without a fight and achieve complete separation without resort to a ‘homelands’ policy, which would be required with the ‘two state solution’. we all know that a palestinian state would be controlled by israel. netanyahu has already spelled out the rules by which a ‘palestinian state’ would be allowed to operate.

the ‘two state’ approach is pure hypocracy! all these so called ‘peace talks’ have just be an excuse for the diplomatic types to fly around, first class, and live it up in the best hotels around the world. a complete waste of their time and OUR money!

so, why bother with the ‘two state’ approach. if the u.s. is so committed to the fate of israel, let us put our land where our mouth is and bring the palestinians here. i don’t think the israelis would object.

on the other hand, that is just one way to go. i also like the ‘one state’ solution. i think the palestinians should give up any notion of their own state and just stay in israel. then, by shear force of numbers, they will win their land back in about 20 years (or less).

so…two solid proposals. don’t see any of you coming up with anything as concrete as these!

Posted by dr arp | Report as abusive

Dear dr arp:
To your attention (and there are others of the same view, including your own posting):

November 2nd, 2009 4:17 am GMT – Posted by M

For those expecting peace by denying the right of Israel to exist, peace will not come anytime soon, and may never come without war, and problem with any war is that you never know the extent of it, nor the consequences derived from it. Consequently, I do not think that the legality of Israel is or should be disputable under the current world order. Moreover, the insistence by Israelis that they have the right to defend themselves is not only undeniable, but is the obligation of their government to do so. Israel is a suzerain country, member of the international community, with the same rights as other member states.
The problem is that rights come with obligations. Discussions of the kind of state Israelis are building should not be utterly surprising for the international Jewish communities. Not long ago, they were still a people without a country, although with tight communities, large or small, scattered all over the world. Skilled at preserving their cultural distinct identity while surrounded by a variety of lesser or more of a hostile population, they proved to be very inept in accommodating other populations within their newly founded country, Israel. However, the desire for a pure Jewish state, although understandable after centuries of insecurity and humiliation, does not convey cleansing nor entitle apartheid. The Jewish people should accept that their new country is not on virgin territory, that anybody living in that territory becomes citizen of equal rights, and that the state of Israel cannot nationalize private property of any inhabitant, regardless if he/she is physically there or not.
In my opinion, the first step for the Palestinian people would be not to ask for an independent state, but for the recognition of the Israelis citizenship.
U.S. political elite should search their souls and answer to their constituents why they throw billions to Israel and not equally to the Palestinians as they certainly are in more dire need of funding, especially because they have been expropriated. The global capitalist center of the world should not support financially a government that appropriates private property from a population and transfer it to another. The latest, who retorted to such criminal transactions, if I correctly remember, was Stalin.

Posted by M | Report as abusive

“Both sides have been fighting, and not striving or peace. On one hand you have people throwing rocks at jets which is anti-peace, and on the other hand you have jets dropping bombs on those people’s heads.”

I think that you will agree that the Palestinians have been doing a bit more then ‘throwing rocks at jets’ to have bombs dropped on their heads, Ham.

In the last fifty years we have seen multiple invasions of Israel, which only led to more lost land. When war was proven a failure, suicide bombing campaigns started against Israeli citizens. When the walls and checkpoints prevented this, rockets were launched at Israeli cities.

If Palestine wants peace tomorrow, all they need to do is stop commiting terrorist acts.

If Israel wants peace tomorrow, they would need to stop defending themselves from terrorist attacks, allow uncontrolled weapon smuggling, give away all their military gains and pretty much pack up and exodus the entire nation of Israel. Because those are the only peace terms the Palestinians will accept.

Plus there is the principle of legitimate military targets, collateral damage and proportionality.

Launching a missile at an Israeli city is illegal. Basing that missile launcher in Gaza is even more illegal. But dropping a bomb on a missile launcher in Gaza is not illegal. It is a legitimate military target and a legitimate response. Even if civilians can be expected to die in the strike.

The UNHCR has long been biased towards Israel, because of Arab bloc voting. And the UN has been biased towards Israel, because it knows that Israel will be the one guaranteed to restrain itself once sufficient international outcry is made.

Nor is any distinction made between the actions of terrorist groups (defined as those who attack civilian targets for the purposes of killing civilians) and the self defensive actions of Israel (who only attacks civilian areas in strikes against military value targets).

And while you may scoff at the concept that Israel was defending itself during Operation Cast Lead, I would be very interested in the alternative which you believe should have happened.

Allow open borders so Gaza can smuggle arms? Allow terrorist tactics to dictate terms? Just sit back for a few months while Gaza launches missiles at Israeli cities? Send in some Israeli cops into Gaza to arrest the terrorists? Mobilize the entire Israeli military and force the entire Gaza population into Egypt, like Russia drove out the Georgians in South Ossetia?

Perhaps when it comes to bias and media programming, you should practice what you preach?

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

The peace situation is as follows:

-Palestinians accept the land they have now.
-Settlements remain and their safety must be ensured.

Israel has tried giving up land for peace, and it doesn’t work. All it does is create the perception of weakness, and further demands. Gaza and Lebenon being prime examples.

Israel will NEVER accept a one state solution. And a one state solution cannot be imposed on them.

Gaza and the West Bank have never been considered part of Israel. The populations in those regions can grow all they please. But as they will never be part of Israel, their numbers matter very little in the scale of things.

People who support the one state solution know it will destroy Israel. Or they think that the one state solution is the de facto result; that somehow Gaza and West Bank will magically become part of Israel if peace fails to occur. Neither views which are realistic.

The truth? There is only two results to the Israeli-Arab conflict. A two-state solution which Palestine is willing to make concessions for peace. Or simply the status quo we see now, continuing now and forever.

If Israel cannot secure the former, it will settle for the latter.

Posted by JoeyJoe | Report as abusive

joeyjoe…you may not have noticed, but by the logic that after the first arab-israeli war, the land belonged to nobody, so israel could establish a ‘legal’ state upon the land by simply having its army and people on the land, means that the only state in palestine is israel. therefore, israel is, de facto, the ‘one state’ solution!

there’s nothing to impose!

so, if the israelis don’t want to live with the palestinians, they have only two highly distasteful options: (A) explusion of the palestinians as they use up more the palestinian’s land or (B)…well, we don’t want to go there!

really, my plan is the best plan proposed to date. what more could the israelis want than the complete removal of the palestinians? the palestinians would certainly be much better off in the US than anywhere else.

it’s a ‘win-win’! (i’m next for that peace prize!!!)

Posted by dr arp | Report as abusive

oh…joeyjoe…nothing continues forever! israel is doomed simply by the demographic trends of the region. again…we don’t want to go into the solution for that…do we…or is that what you mean by “If Israel cannot secure the former, it will settle for the latter.
“?

Posted by dr arp | Report as abusive

I very much doubt that the US can veto any resolution contravening Israel’s interests indefinitely. With each veto cast in the full light for the world to see, the US political manoeuvring on the subject narrows. By reaching to the world out of necessity, US must compromise more, and unconditional support for Israel is becoming a lag like never before. Economically, it just does not make sense to subsidize Israel, and others in the region just for the pretence of balance, and concomitantly to retort to all kind of risky compromises with the Arabs to keep oil prices in check. While China worries for the value of the dollar, the Arabs can just lift the price of oil. The vast fortunes Arabs have amassed in the big banks (those not allowed to fail) levels the playing field in political sympathy. Morally, Israel has no credibility as long as it maintains the death balance at 1/10. Not that in the other corner are the angels, but in this scenario, Israel is the Goliath. It does not help that what transpires from Israeli officials facing a camera is a sense of arrogance, aggressiveness and cynicism.

It seems that the untangling, the undoing has begun. In Morocco, Clinton just declared that the US could not want peace more that the Israelis or Palestinians. I suspect that in diplomacy, the opposite is true. The US is trying to decuple. In a sensible and delicate way: through the peace process.

Posted by M | Report as abusive

Anon,

I no longer know what a terrorist is or what practicing terrorism is.

According to the group of Americans who call themselves conservative (your type) the following are NOT terrorist acts and doing them doesn’t make you a terrorist:

Selling chemical weapons to leaders who kill their own people

Selling weapons non-allies in order to be used in warfare and to kill

Killing innocent people, women and children included

Being often engaged in wars

So since none of these things mean you’re acting as a terrorist, that word and it’s different forms mean nothing to me.

How am I showing bias when I say both are in the wrong? It’s all religious based hatred on both sides, not a rational reason for it. And come on Anon you’re a smart guy you know i’m playing with words when i’m saying rocks vs jets but the truth isn’t very far off. Hamas has primitive homemade rockets and 60 year old kaleshnikov’s and Israel has the finest US made jets/bombs/weapons money can buy.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

i can see no settlement of peace in this conflict. when we see thugs terrorise civilians unemployment rampant and foreign powers supply arms and hate rather than food and education to broaden peoples minds there is no solution. i see continuing violence and hate. i feel sorry for both sides while these elements rule and are fed by outside forces. there is no future in jealousy,envy,contention and division and not recognising the rights of other human beings,even to exist.

Posted by frank cooper | Report as abusive

It is stunning to read some comments that suggest that conquest of territory is still legitimate and worth the bother in the modern era. Don’t we tend to see dates written as CE rather than AD?

Where are the former Soviet teritories gained by conquest – even those two, Georgia and Ukraine, that were gained by conquest several centuries ago?

Who controls the territories of all the former European Colonial Imperial powers now?

Who runs the Phillipines now?

What makes Israel think it can buck the trend of the last 60 plus years that has seen the expulsion of the British from India, the end of Apartheid, and the formulation of the policies and even doctrines of the UN.

Some people are putting faith in the integrity and security of nation states, and claiming rights to the spoils of war that are not generally recognized by the UN or almost any other state in the world. Israel is recognized by the UN as the occupying power but that came with obligations that the Isreali’s have generally ignored. The UN and the rest of the world has been paying the bills for the Palestinians’s schools, hospitals and food aid, for decades. Those bills have risen greatly in the last decade.

The powers that be – or who were – during the last century – who have tried to maintain their dominance and expoitation over others through force, have not faired well – or haven’t you noticed?

There’s something just a bit too Old Detestimental about it all. It is no wonder to me that the Islamic world is singing a popular tune of longing for the good ole days of the 8th century in as much as they face a state that tends to sing an equallty obnoxious song based on even older pretensions.

It’s a pity one can’t consult the almighty and his “registry of deeds” to see what his intentions might really be regarding the issues of land tenure and so called perpetual land grants.

What nation state on this planet is immune from criticism? What religion has managed to escape ridicule at one time or another? Not even religion has an entirely free hand to establish claims that effect the tangible world when they conflict with the values of the larger societies in which they live. And they certainly don’t escape critiicsm if those policies start to cost others far too much money for the dubious results they seem to be producing.

It might do the Israelis and the Islamic world well to get out of the era of Judges and Kings and the time of Mohammad and remember that they live on a planet where almost half of the population knows little or nothing about the religious pretentions of the participants even if they know anything at all about the current commotion.

And as a side note: Why the hell do people tend to find it easier to fight to the death to defend religions far easier than it is to express any reason why they love them at all?

Posted by Paul Rosa | Report as abusive

The fact that the Israeli/Palestinian peace process has failed should make Americans mad. America needs peace and justice in the Middle East to relate with our Arab friends. Normally one could expect that if Israel did not cooperate with the U.S. president he could restrict the foreign aid Israel receives. However as so many presidents before him he learns that the Israel Lobby – AIPAC – controls the congress in these matters. So Israel knows it will be paid no matter what.

The Israel Lobby is in transition due to the J Street revolt so it is unclear if it could still win a face down with the president on this. The American people should get angry though – not at Obama and Clinton – although they behaved foolishly, but at Israel for humiliating the U.S. with their brazen disregard for our wishes in spite of the aid. Israel is a charlatan – an aggressor posing as a friend and victim. Israel drives up our deficits and creates enemies for us in the Arab world.

Posted by blmarquis | Report as abusive

I follow a simple definition for ‘terrorist’.

A terrorist is a person who directs an attack at civilian targets, with the intention to kill civilians. Or who fights in civilian areas, with the intention that any attack against them will also kill civilians.

An attack directed at a military target in a civilian area is not terrorism. Nor is attacking a contested city held by terrorists. Because the only reason a civilian area is involved is because of the choices of the terrorist. The military attack in that area is one of necessity.

This is the only definition which can be legitimate.

The alternative definition is that terrorists can launch attacks from civilian areas at will and hide in civilian areas at will. And nations would be bound by the laws of war not to respond to such actions. A situation which you will agree is simply not viable.

Plus, I fail to see where you can constantly see the issue of religion in this situation. The issue is simply one of nationality. The religion and racism issues came later, generally as frustration with the situation grew.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive