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


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.

* The ‘Leave a Comment’ link is the last tag below, in blue.

The War on Bullshit

Jon Stewart 2


Pardon my French, but that’s what Jon Stewart – whom I enjoyed tremendously the last sixteen years, and whom I consider the brightest star of American Televising of the new millennia – commanded us to do. Here are some of his last words from his final program: “First, bullshit is everywhere. Institutional bullshit, design to obscure and distract. Second: hiding the bad things under mountains of bullshit. And finally, it’s the bullshit of infinite possibility. The best defense against bullshit is vigilance. If you smell something—say something.” Well, I smell something, so I’m going to say something. And the hell with the consequences.

So here’s my take on the situation in Israel. The latest Palestinian outburst of violence, I’m talking about. The Teenage Intifada; the Month of the Long Knives; the Wave of Terror. Call it what you will. But before I do that, here’s a full disclosure: Most of my family live in Israel, where from young to old – indeed, like most Israelis – they have to do more thinking, and take extra precautions before going out the door into the streets these days. Second, I tried to restrain myself from commenting the last month and a half, as long as people were being killed daily. But, since it doesn’t look – unfortunately – that it’s going to end any time soon, I find it necessary now to try and clear the clouds of dust (and bullshit) that are still being thrown in the eyes of Israelis, and Jews around the world, in an attempt to obscure the true nature of this uprising.

First cloud: The Palestinian outburst of violence is all because of the threat, true or perceived, that Jews will seize control over the Al-Aqsa Mosque, or the Temple Mount. This is akin to saying that the cause of the Six-Day War of 1967 – a war I proudly participated in as a young soldier, both in the Egyptian front and the Syrian front – was all about capturing the Western Wall and East Jerusalem. Not so. That war was a war of survival for Israel, par excellence. But with a big problem on our hands, following the big win: What to do with all these captured territories: Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and, of course, East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Big problems all; so much so that, more than 48 years later, they are still vibrating all the way to the present day and the latest outbreak of violence. It’s easy to forget, and it’s fun to continue “sipping cappuccino on the edge of the volcano,” as I heard it being said in Israel, rather than admit to the cause of the problem, and fix it once and for all. But more about that later, as we have more clouds to clear first.

Second cloud: It’s all Facebook’s fault, let’s sue them. One wants to lough, if it wasn’t so sad. Instead of treating and healing the wounds, let’s get some monitory compensation because we are injured, or at the very least put a stop to free speech and unrestrained exchange of ideas. This cloud is akin to killing the messenger, since we are unable to deal with the message. Or rather, don’t want to deal with it. Because, dealing with it will demand courage of us; will demand perseverance of us; will demand tough decision of us: and will demand of us to face the mirror of truth and reality, and admit to what we are causing with our actions – since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin twenty years ago – not only to the Palestinians in the West Bank, and to the Arabs in Israel, but also to us Israeli Jews, and World Jews as well. To the street, everybody, let’s blame the social network and media for the occupation, and for children being born and growing up surrounded by separation wall and barber wire, checkpoints and army night-raids, with guns in settlers and soldiers hands pointing at them from roads and rooftops. Let’s do that, why don’t we. But wait, there’s another cloud coming.

Third cloud: The cloud of hate and of no other choice. The Arabs, both in Israel proper and in the occupied territories, hate us. Full stop. It will never change. It will never improve. There is no other choice but to fight them. To be stronger. There is no other option but constant war; no other future but blood and tears forever. As if we have nothing to do with the fact that they hate us. As if we don’t share the blame for it, to no small extent. Moreover, as if we don’t hate them (help me here, ‘Beitar Jerusalem’ fans). As if only they are educated from infancy to hate the Jews, and the Jews are not educated to hate the Arabs (help me here, religious zealots everywhere, including ultra-orthodox Jews). It is a blame game – nothing else. But it is tragic, nonetheless. A tragic loss of lives, for the Israelis and the Palestinians alike. For Jews and Arabs, the victims of violence on both sides. And it will continue, no doubt, unless we clear the clouds of bullshit and face reality head on. And do something about it.

There are other clouds, of course, but I’m sure you get the picture. And the picture is clear, just look how “pretty” it is, how “magnificent” are all those biblical white-stoned, red-roofed buildings mushrooming on almost every hill in the West Bank. Aren’t they beautiful, all these settlements, built (mostly) with American dollars, for (mostly) American Jews who can afford to buy them, and live there without doing too much working? Leave it to the Arabs to work and build. Build all these settlements; solidified the occupation; the rule over other people for almost fifty years now. These kids and young men with knives were born into this reality, and grew up with it, so how do you expect them to feel, and behave otherwise? It’s the settlements, stupid! It’s the occupation, stupid! Don’t bullshit us anymore!

Here are some quotes: “Palestinian officials say Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and settlement construction are the triggers of violence,” it was reported in Haaretz. “Some of the motivation of the Palestinians to carry out terror attacks is due to the violence of right-wing elements in the West Bank,” the director of the IDF operations directorate, Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, was quoted as saying in the same newspaper. And also there: “… this is not an intifada,” wrote Asher Schechter in the only article I’ve read that hit the nail squarely on the head. “This is something far more sinister: A terrifying preview to a binational, one-state Israel that already exists to a large degree on the ground.”

There you have it. The settlement endeavor leads to an ongoing occupation; the ongoing occupation leads to a binational state; and a binational state leads to an apartheid state. And occasionally, to outbursts of violence from the oppressed. If you prefer clouds of dust, wrapped yourself in them. If you prefer to look away from the mirror and lie to yourself, go ahead and do that. But as long as it continues – settlements and occupation – so does the war on bullshit. And so do desperate acts of resistance with knives and slingshots. You can find it in the bible.

* Published originally on “The Times of Israel.”
** The “Leave a comment” link is the last tag below, in blue.

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