Feb 4th 2009

The Violence and Settlements Anathema (Part 1/2)

by Alon Ben-Meir

A noted journalist and author, Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is professor of international relations and Middle East studies at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University. Ben-Meir holds a masters degree in philosophy and a doctorate in international relations from Oxford University. His exceptional knowledge and insight, the result of more than 20 years of direct involvement in foreign affairs, with a focus on the Middle East, has allowed Dr. Ben-Meir to offer a uniquely invaluable perspective on the nature of world terrorism, conflict resolution and international negotiations. Fluent in Arabic and Hebrew, Ben-Meir's frequent travels to the Middle East and meetings with highly placed officials and academics in many Middle Eastern countries including Egypt, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Syria and Turkey provide him with an exceptionally nuanced level of awareness and insight into the developments surrounding breaking news. Ben-Meir often articulates

From his first Middle East tour as President Obama's special envoy, George
Mitchell must have found that not much has changed since his 2001 report. During
his previous mission on the origins of the Second Intifada, Mitchell concluded
that ending the Israeli settlement activity and violence are intertwined and
remain the core impediment to meaningful negotiations. Mitchell has also said
that conflicts that are caused by man can be resolved by man, and that
negotiation is the singular most effective tool to solve disputes. His core
beliefs and emphasis on diplomacy will certainly help him tremendously on his
mission, but he may need more than that to pierce through this emotionally and
psychologically laden conflict that has eluded all of his predecessors.

The proposition that if the Palestinians want a state they must foreswear
violence, and if Israel wants peace it must end the occupation, seems logical
and practical though neither logical discourse nor practicality dictate this
long and debilitating conflict. From the Palestinian perspective, ending violent
resistance cannot be mitigated by anything other than ending the settlement
activity and occupation, which are the source of humiliation and deprivation. As
they see it, no Israeli government can do anything to obscure this basic
reality. Many Palestinian moderates agree that acts of violence including firing
rockets into Israel are inexcusable and Israel has the right to defend itself.
But they also insist that the Israeli war on Hamas and future retaliatory
attacks will have no moral sustenance and will not change the core of the
problem as long as Israel fails to address the root-causes of violence in the
first place.

Given that Israel is seen as an occupying power, it has been unable to capture
the moral high ground even in self-defense. Instead of generating sympathy for
being rained on with rockets, it was condemned by the international community
for its incursion into Gaza. Israel might wish to separate Hamas from the
Palestinian civilians, but Hamas' popularity grows in parallel to the settlement
expansion activity, especially in light of the Palestinian Authority's inability
to do anything about it. The Israeli contention that the settlements activity
will not prejudice the final status agreement falls largely on deaf ears as the
Palestinians witness the Israelis' daily encroachment on their land and the
consequent hardships they endure. Calm will last only if there is a visible end
to settlement expansion, even in settlement blocks that Israel is planning to
incorporate into Israel proper by a land swap agreement with the Palestinians.
Otherwise, ceasefires are no more than tactical moves serving immediate and
limited objectives, and renewed violence remains just a matter of time.

From the Israeli stand point, wanton violence against its civilians is
unacceptable under any circumstances. Israelis recall with horror the violence
at the break of the Second Intifada in late 2000 and the more than 110 suicide
bombings that indiscriminately killed and maimed hundreds of innocent civilians.
For most Israelis, the extent of Palestinian violence-especially following the
peace proposals made at Camp David-was indicative of the Palestinians' rejection
not only of any peace formula but of Israel's very existence. All the confidence
building measures taken up through the summer of 2000 were shattered overnight
leaving most Israelis baffled about any real prospect for peace. By making the
cessation of hostilities a precondition to political and territorial
concessions, continued occupation has become synonymous with national security.
Palestinian extremists vowing to destroy Israel have provided it with further
justification for taking extraordinary measures to protect the security of
Israelis. Yet, targeted killings, arrests of would-be terrorists and the
demolition of homes by Israeli security forces have provoked violent reactions
casting a darker cloud on any credible political discourse or territorial
concessions.

Given this uncertain climate, the settlements movement has made significant
inroad into Israel's political establishment, usurping the political agenda
while successive governments have openly supported expansion or the building of
new outposts. Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and the subsequent use of
the strip as a staging ground for attacks against Israel has disheartened most
Israelis and alienated even the moderate camp. It has further played into the
hands of right wing Israeli extremists who oppose any withdrawal, and deepened
their conviction that peace with the Palestinians remains as illusive as ever.
The Israeli public has reacted to the firing of rockets from Gaza during the
past three years by further shifting to the right; a development that will make
it most likely for Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu to become the next prime
minister following the February 10th national election.

The Arab moderate states, especially Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco and Egypt,
who have condemned Hamas and tacitly supported Israel's stand against it are
running out of patience. The Arab masses cannot reconcile the death of
Palestinian civilians, especially women and children, with Israel's grievances
about violence when the Palestinians are an occupied people and have an inherit
right to resist. For the vast majority of Arabs, it is an anathema that Israel-a
country presumably seeking peace-has refused to embrace the Arab Peace
Initiative which offers exactly that: a comprehensive peace in exchange for the
territories. Increased Arab militancy and violence are the inadvertent results
steadily eroding the position of the Palestinian moderate camp in favor of
militant confrontation.

This is the climate in which Mr. Mitchell will find himself when he returns to
the region for his Herculean mission. Moreover, he will face a new Israeli prime
minister who will likely be Likud Leader Benjamin Netanyahu-a right of center
leader who staunchly supports the settlements movement. And on the Palestinian
side he may well have to deal with a Fatah-Hamas unity government that will too
take a harder line in the peace negotiations. In addition, Mitchell will have to
bolster and engage with moderate Arab leaders to ensure their direct engagement
and perseverance, while coaxing Syria to enter into direct negotiations with
Israel. This however, will not deter a skilled negotiator like Mitchell as there
is also a silver lining here: both Israelis and Palestinians bestow greater
trust on stronger and more unified governments who don't compromise their
national interests. And the leading Arab states, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, are
eager to see tangible progress on the Palestinian front and are thirsty for a
genuine American active involvement. Damascus too is anxious for a direct
dialogue with Washington.

Mr. Mitchell, with the full support of President Obama and Secretary of State
Clinton can succeed where other administrations have failed. He must come
equipped, however, with carrots and sticks for both sides, remain committed,
actively involved and relentless, and be prepared for the United States to be a
part of a long-term solution.

(This is part one of a two-part analysis on violence and the settlements in
Israel and the Palestinian territories.)

If you wish to comment on this article, you can do so on-line.

Should you wish to publish your own article on the Facts & Arts website, please contact us at info@factsandarts.com.



Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Sep 24th 2021
EXTRACTS: "We have found that 47 million American adults – nearly 1 in 5 – agree with the statement that “the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and Joe Biden is an illegitimate president.” Of those, 21 million also agree that “use of force is justified to restore Donald J. Trump to the presidency.” Our survey found that many of these 21 million people with insurrectionist sentiments have the capacity for violent mobilization. At least 7 million of them already own a gun, and at least 3 million have served in the U.S. military and so have lethal skills. Of those 21 million, 6 million said they supported right-wing militias and extremist groups, and 1 million said they are themselves or personally know a member of such a group, including the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys." ----- "..... the Jan. 6 insurrection represents a far more mainstream movement than earlier instances of right-wing extremism across the country. Those events, mostly limited to white supremacist and militia groups, saw more than 100 individuals arrested from 2015 to 2020. But just 14% of those arrested for their actions on Jan. 6 are members of those groups. More than half are business owners or middle-aged white-collar professionals, and only 7% are unemployed."
Sep 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "That long path, though, has from the start had within it one fundamental flaw. If we are to make sense of wider global trends in insecurity, we have to recognise that in all the analysis around the 9/11 anniversary there lies the belief that the main security concern must be with an extreme version of Islam. It may seem a reasonable mistake, given the impact of the wars, but it still misses the point. The war on terror is better seen as one part of a global trend which goes well beyond a single religious tradition – a slow but steady move towards revolts from the margins."
Sep 11th 2021
EXTRACTS: "Is it not extraordinary that in a country that claims to be as enlightened and advanced as ours, the combined wealth of three individuals – Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and investor Warren Buffett – exceeds the total wealth of the bottom half of Americans? One has to return to the days of the pharaohs of Egypt to find a parallel to the extreme wealth inequality that we see in in America today." ...... "The top tax rate remained above 90 percent through the 1950s and did not dip below 70 percent until 1981. At no point during the decades that saw America’s greatest economic growth did the tax on the wealthy drop below 70 percent. Today it is somewhere around 37 percent. President Biden’s American Families Plan would increase the top tax rate to 39.6 percent – a fairly modest alteration, albeit in the right direction. It is true that there was a time when the top marginal tax was even lower than it is today: in the years leading up to the Great Depression it hovered around 25 percent."
Sep 7th 2021
EXTRACT: "But Biden can’t be blamed for the rise of the Taliban, or the fragile state of a country that has seen far too many wars and invasions. The US should not have been there in the first place, but that is a lesson that great powers never seem to learn."
Sep 4th 2021
EXTRACT: "The world is only starting to grapple with how profound the artificial-intelligence revolution will be. AI technologies will create waves of progress in critical infrastructure, commerce, transportation, health, education, financial markets, food production, and environmental sustainability. Successful adoption of AI will drive economies, reshape societies, and determine which countries set the rules for the coming century." ----- "AI will reorganize the world and change the course of human history. The democratic world must lead that process."
Sep 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Although the Fed is considering tapering its quantitative easing (QE), it will likely remain dovish and behind the curve overall. Like most central banks, it has been lured into a “debt trap” by the surge in private and public liabilities (as a share of GDP) in recent years. Even if inflation stays higher than targeted, exiting QE too soon could cause bond, credit, and stock markets to crash. That would subject the economy to a hard landing, potentially forcing the Fed to reverse itself and resume QE." ---- "After all, that is what happened between the fourth quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019, following the Fed’s previous attempt to raise rates and roll back QE."
Sep 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Today’s economic challenges are certainly solvable, and there is no reason why inflation should have to spike."
Aug 27th 2021
EXTRACT: "To be sure, they have focused on their agenda, which is totally misguided—not by our own account but by the account of the majority of the American population, who view the Republican party as one that has lost its moral footing to the detriment of America’s future generations, who must now inherit the ugly consequences of a party that ran asunder."
Aug 21st 2021
EXTRACTS: "Now that so many sad truths about Afghanistan are being spoken aloud, even in the major media – let me add one more: The war, from start to finish, was about politics, not in Afghanistan but in the United States. Afghanistan was always a sideshow."--- "....the 2001 invasion was fast and apparently decisive. And so it rescued George W. Bush’s tainted presidency,..." --- "Bush’s approval shot up to 90% and then steadily declined,..."
Aug 17th 2021
EXTRACT: "The Taliban’s virtually uncontested takeover over Afghanistan raises obvious questions about the wisdom of US President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw US and coalition forces from the country. Paradoxically, however, the rapidity and ease of the Taliban’s advance only reaffirms that Biden made the right decision – and that he should not reverse course. ...... The ineffectiveness and collapse of Afghanistan’s military and governing institutions largely substantiates Biden’s skepticism that US-led efforts to prop up the government in Kabul would ever enable it to stand on its own feet. The international community has spent nearly 20 years, many thousands of lives, and trillions of dollars to do good by Afghanistan – taking down al-Qaeda; beating back the Taliban; supporting, advising, training, and equipping the Afghan military; bolstering governing institutions; and investing in the country’s civil society. .... Significant progress was made, but not enough." ....... "That is because the mission was fatally flawed from the outset. It was a fool’s errand to try to turn Afghanistan into a centralized, unitary state. "
Aug 6th 2021
EXTRACT: "But even in the US, which is more lenient than most countries, the principle cannot be absolute. Inciting imminent violence is not permitted. Donald Trump’s speech on January 6, urging the mob to storm the US Capitol, certainly came close to overstepping this boundary. It was a clear demonstration that language can be dangerous. What the internet media has done is raise the stakes; “fighting words” are spread around much faster and more widely than ever before. This will require a great deal of vigilance, to protect our freedom to express ourselves, while observing the social and legal bounds that stop words from turning into actual fighting. "
Jul 27th 2021
EXTRACT: "When it comes to the Chinese economy, I have been a congenital optimist for over 25 years. But now I have serious doubts. The Chinese government has taken dead aim at its dynamic technology sector, the engine of China’s New Economy. Its recent actions are symptomatic of a deeper problem: the state’s efforts to control the energy of animal spirits." ---- "... the Chinese economy, no less than others, still requires a foundation of trust – trust in the consistency of leadership priorities, in transparent governance, and in wise regulatory oversight – to flourish. --- Modern China lacks this foundation of trust ."
Jul 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "It seems that they are, as the last 18 months have seen a remarkable expansion of the central banks’ fields of activity, largely driven by their own ambitions. So they have moved into the climate change arena, arguing that financial stability may be put at risk by rising temperatures, and that central banks, as bond purchasers and as banking supervisors, can and should be proactive in raising the cost of credit for corporations without a credible transition plan. That is a promising new line of business, which is likely to grow. ---- Central banks are also trying to move into social engineering, specifically the policy response to rising income and wealth inequality, another hot button topic with high political salience."
Jul 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "The EU’s ambitious unilateral climate strategy will transform Europe into a trade fortress, encourage green protectionism worldwide, and give other regions the opportunity to develop using cheaper energy. And without China, India, and the United States on board, other countries will be careful not to follow the EU in its self-appointed role as the world’s green guinea pig. If Europe is not careful, it will risk finding itself in a climate club of one. "
Jul 9th 2021
EXTRACT: ".... ruminants belch and fart methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas. As a result, rearing beef cattle brings about, on average, six times the contribution to global warming as non-ruminant animals (for example, pigs) producing the same quantity of protein. ..... if projected to 2050 [beef production], would use 87% of the total quantity of emissions that is compatible with the Paris climate agreement’s objective of staying below a 2° Celsius increase in temperature."
Jul 8th 2021
EXTRACT: " .... while China’s leaders never mention it, they are just as embittered over Russia’s theft of Chinese territory in the nineteenth century as they are over the West’s imperial predations. With Western imperialism having been largely rolled back, it is Russia’s continued occupation of historic Chinese territory that stands out the most to ordinary Chinese observers. For example, the city of Vladivostok, with its vast naval base, has been a part of Russia only since 1860, when the tsars built a military harbor there. Before that, the city was known by the Manchu name of Haishenwai." ---- "There is also a demographic argument for Putin to consider: the six million Russians spread along the Siberian border face 90 million Chinese on the other side. And many of these Chinese regularly cross the border into Russia to trade (and a good number to stay)."
Jul 7th 2021
EXTRACTS: "According to a new analysis by researchers at Brown University, America’s two-decade war in Afghanistan cost it nearly $2.3 trillion. Now, Afghanistan’s neighbors – Pakistan, Iran, China, India, and the Central Asian countries – are wondering just how much it will cost them to maintain security after the United States is gone." ----- "After clandestinely supporting the Taliban as a means to undermine the US war effort, Russia now fears broader destabilization in Central Asia and beyond." ---- "Similarly, after having made nice with the Taliban, China also now fears the greater regional instability that the US withdrawal may incite. In addition to disrupting Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Eurasia-spanning Belt and Road Initiative, a revitalized Taliban could re-energize the Islamist extremist threat in China’s western Xinjiang province."
Jul 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "When former Fed Chair Paul Volcker hiked rates to tackle inflation in 1980-82, the result was a severe double-dip recession in the United States and a debt crisis and lost decade for Latin America. But now that global debt ratios are almost three times higher than in the early 1970s, any anti-inflationary policy would lead to a depression, rather than a severe recession. ---- Under these conditions, central banks will be damned if they do and damned if they don’t, and many governments will be semi-insolvent and thus unable to bail out banks, corporations, and households. The doom loop of sovereigns and banks in the eurozone after the global financial crisis will be repeated worldwide, sucking in households, corporations, and shadow banks as well. ---- As matters stand, this slow-motion train wreck looks unavoidable."
Jun 19th 2021
EXTRACT: "Xi Jinping’s call for friendship gives us an opportunity to examine Chinese politics on both the domestic and international stage. On the face of it, it suggests the possibility of rapprochement between the rich liberal democracies represented by the G7 and the authoritarian Chinese state. However, despite appearances of a call for a closer relationship, there is more than one way of being friends – and Xi’s idea might be somewhat different to what many in countries attending the G7 might expect."
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "China’s recently published census, showing that its population has almost stopped growing, brought warnings of severe problems for the country. “Such numbers make grim reading for the party,” reported The Economist. This “could have a disastrous impact on the country,” wrote Huang Wenzheng, a fellow at the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing, in the Financial Times. But a comment posted on China’s Weibo was more insightful. “The declining fertility rate actually reflects the progress in the thinking of Chinese people – women are no longer a fertility tool.” "