Israel’s Grand Illusion Collapses in Gaza’s Ruins

news.yahoo.com

The Film ‘The Grand Illusion’ by Jean Renoir, which I’ve been returning to occasionally through the years, is a 1937 B&W masterpiece that suggests, among other things, that “war is futile, and that mankind’s common experiences should prevail above political division, and its extension: war.” (Wikipedia.) “Renoir’s critique of contemporary politics and ideology celebrates the universal humanity that transcends national and racial boundaries and radical nationalism.”

I was thinking often about this film during the latest Israeli-Palestinian flare-up of semi-war with Hamas in Gaza. And what strikes me the most is not only the futility of war (it’s the fourth or fifth such round-of-hostility since Hamas took over power in Gaza in 2007), but the complete collapse of Israel’s belief that the Palestinian issue and conflict has been put to rest. The notion that—especially during the last twelve years of Netanyahu’s rule—the Palestinian political struggle for independence and a state of their own is practically all but over. That Israel has succeeded in squashing their national aspirations down. That they will agree, and get used to living as second, or third-class citizens under Israel’s occupation for good.

Maybe the biggest prize that Trump has given Netanyahu—more even than moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem, and declaring the disputed Golan Heights an Israeli territory—was the ‘Abraham Accords.’ The so-called ‘peace deal’ with the United Emirates and Bahrain, far away oil-rich Sheikdoms, and then Morocco and Sudan, all bribed and blackmailed to a degree by the Trump/Kushner administration with ‘huge’ presents to sign in on it. Of course, Israel was never at war with any of these outlier countries, and the agreement was at best a ‘normalization of relations.’ “We are witnessing the last vestiges of what has been known as the Arab-Israeli conflict,” Jared Kushner wrote in the Wall Street Journal two months ago.

Unfortunately, many fell into the fallacy of these agreements, including some experience, astute observers. For Netanyahu, the biggest prize was that by diverting the conflict away from the Palestinian issue—here we go, ‘The Grand Illusion’—that conflict would go away. So much so that he and others in the Israeli government were living under the delusion that the Palestinian issue is done and cooked on low heat forever, never to be irrupted again. “The deadly fiction that the Palestinians were so abject and defeated that Israel could simply ignore their demands,” wrote Michelle Goldberg in the NY Times recently.

Oh man, how wrong one can be—Netanyahu that is—when one’s sole purpose is to remain in power. And to use that power as means not for justice and humanity, but for victory at all costs. And make no mistake, the latest war was not about Gaza, nor was it about “Israel’s right to defend itself.” It was not even about the Palestinian elections and their inner power struggle, or Israel’s politicians attempting to form a governing coalition (as some have suggested). No: It was about the Palestinians right to exist in dignity. To have a state of their own. To be treated as human beings with equal rights under the sun. Not to be evicted at will from their homes in Jerusalem—where it all had started, this time and also many years ago—and to end the occupation once and for all. To borrow and paraphrase Bill Clinton’s campaign slogan, it was “The occupation, stupid.”

Israel’s refusal since the end of the Six-Day War of 1967 to realize that, to accept the consequences, and mostly its failure to stop the expansion of the settlement endeavor, is very costly and now almost behind repair. The two-state solution is dead, declared so here before, or at best is on death bed. Even with Biden in charge in Washington; even with a new Prime Minister in Israel (hard to believe it would ever happen); even if Israelis would realize their mistake (some do, the majority don’t), I don’t see how it can be reversed. I hope it can, but the facts on the ground, and the political challenges against it, are too immense. It is now a one-state solution. And how it would survive and thrive is anybody’s guess.

Case in point: Arab Israelis. Or Palestinian Israelis. For the first time in a long time they irrupted too. On the streets of Israeli cities with mixed populations—Lod, Accra, Haifa, Jerusalem, and Jaffa—they revolted and took to the streets, causing death, injuries, and havoc. They fought against extremist Jewish right-wingers who fought against them with the police mostly on their side. (Black Lives Matter, anybody?) It was ugly. It was violent. But it proved one point rather clearly: Put aside the political overture of some Israeli politicians and one Arab moderate politician to form a united governing coalition, the Arab Israeli people are not with them. They see themselves as Palestinians. That is how and where their hearts beat.

So deal with it, Israel, before it’s too late. If it’s not already so.

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What’s Behind the Latest Buzzwords: ‘Israeli-Palestinian Confederation’?

ipconfederation.org

A lot has been written lately, in respectable media outlets by respectable scholars and observers, about a new formula—a new magic word—of solving the eternal Israeli-Palestinian conflict. ‘Confederation,’ that’s the keyword. No longer a ‘two-state solution’ but a ‘two-state federation.’ A two-state ‘light,’ with ‘soft’ borders and such. Luckily for you, I did the hard work and the long reading, and I’m ready to report to you on the outcome. Is it for real? Does it change anything on the ground? Does it have a future?

But first, let’s hear from Dahlia Scheindlin, who wrote a long piece about it in ‘The Century Foundation,’ titled “The Confederation Alternative for Israel and Palestine.” She writes: “A loose association of two states, based on freedom of movement, porous borders, residency rights and a shared Jerusalem—a confederation approach, in political science terms—holds the most promise.” And also, she writes: “It provides national self-determination for both peoples, while providing better solutions for daily life, with incentives and concessions to each side that did not exist in the earlier model.”

Will be back to examine it later, but here’s more, this time from Bernard Avishai and Sam Bahour in the NY Times: “Confederal institutions could begin to address thorny problems like the rights of Palestinian refugees and the interests, however arguable, of Israeli settlers; they could agree on how many Palestinian refugees could return to Israel and how many law-abiding Israelis could live in Palestine with permanent residency but not citizenship. As peace takes hold, confederal institutions could permit routine cross-border entry, perhaps to a chosen beach, with a signal from a car’s transponder.”

Science fiction almost, eh? And I like the authors’ “confederal institutions” expression, which they keep referring to in their article as if those institutions are already existing, or have any chance of existing soon. This is basically wishful thinking, a dreamy vision, or as we say in Hebrew: חזון אחרית הימים. Now, of course, the esteemed authors are aware of the situation on the ground in the West Bank and of the political forces in Israel and Palestine, who are opposed to any such resolution.

The thing is, a lot of what they are saying and what they are suggesting, make sense. You want it to succeed. But in essence, it’s still the same old two-state solution—declared dead here some eight years ago, now accepted almost everywhere as such—with different words and descriptions. I don’t see much new here that will change the facts on the ground. That will cause Israel, mainly—the occupier—to change its course an un-occupy. Currently, the one-state solution is winning. Big time. A one-state solution with two peoples, one the oppressor the other the oppressed. An Apartheid-in-progress. ‘Managing’ the occupation and situation, Netanyahu’s style. 

Admittedly, though, the idea of the federation—not that new, really—appeals to me. If only it could happen. They talk about soft, open borders, but Israel has already built a huge, awful wall; a ‘security barrier’ that separates the two peoples. The settlers travel on a separate expressway; they uproot Palestinian olive trees at will; they beat, maim, and kill Palestinian at will, sometimes with the Israeli Army looking the other way or in fact cooperating; Israel continues to confiscate Palestinian land for new settlements, new roads, or army training grounds at will. The Israeli public and political forces at play, therefore, allow for no such solution.

What gives, then? I tell you what. Good, wise people keep looking for solutions to the intractable conflict, spreading around some good ideas. But the bottom line is nothing changes. And nothing will change as long as the political situation in Israel remains deadlock at best, right-wing controlled at worst. The ‘confederation’ supporters call yet again for greater pressure from America on Israel to get moving in this peaceful road and direction. And yet there is no sign that such pressure will possibly come from Washington, due to its own political forces at play.

Furthermore: For almost fifty-six years now that the Israeli occupation is in force and expanding, under the leadership of both the Labor and Likud; mostly, though, the Likud. Peace with Egypt and Jordan had been achieved, with help from America. Only once an American president pressured Israel, and to good results. It was George Bush the father, now dead. The Trump administration, with Netanyahu in tow, pulled a rabbit from the hat in the form of normalization with some Arab countries; i.e. sheikdoms really. Mainly to distract from the main problem: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Which remains intractable, unsolvable, as long as the political situation in Israel stays the same. And it will. I don’t see it changing any day soon. Actually, it is getting worst. While over 70 percent of United Nations member states recognize Palestine as a state, and while the International Criminal Court is getting ready to investigate Israel’s crimes as an occupier, Palestinians are no closer to control their own destiny, and unleash themselves of the occupier. In reality, it’s now one state. And the future, in regard to solving this conflict, looks bleak.

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