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Israeli settlement plans should shake up American policymakers

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  • Cort Greene
    http://972mag.com/israeli-settlement-plans-should-shake-up-american-policymakers/62401/ vBy Dahlia Scheindlin |Published
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 20, 2012
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      http://972mag.com/israeli-settlement-plans-should-shake-up-american-policymakers/62401/

      vBy Dahlia Scheindlin <http://972mag.com/author/dahlias/> |Published
      December 20, 2012Israeli settlement plans should shake up American
      policymakers

      *E1 should be a serious wake-up call for American policymakers, Michael
      Cohen argues below. If the controversial building project in the West Bank
      goes forward, he writes, it�s time to start saying what everyone in
      Washington knows � the two-state solution will die and the U.S. risks
      supporting a future of apartheid.*

      By Michael Cohen

      If there is one singular, yet frustratingly unattainable idea that has
      animated the Arab-Israeli peace process for the past two decades it is that
      of a two-state solution to the conflict � a Zionist and a Palestinian state
      living next to each other in peace within the confines of the Mediterranean
      Sea and the Jordan River.

      It is an aspiration mouthed by all sides in the conflict � by the current
      Israeli prime minister<http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=294790>,
      the head of the Palestinian Authority and U.S. and European policymakers �
      even if confidence in the achievement of this long-sought after goal seems
      more distant than ever, even if the present Israeli government has
      demonstrated little apparent interest in seeing its realization and even if
      we are perhaps further away from its realization at any point since Oslo.

      The fact that the two-state solution is receding is too rarely uttered. For
      this reason, the recent announcement by the Israeli government that it
      intends to ramp up settlement growth in the West Bank, and begin
      construction planning in the E1 area, which connects Jerusalem to the
      Israeli settlement of Ma�aleh Adumim, is both so controversial and also so
      clarifying.

      Indeed, reaction to the Israelis government�s announcement has been loud
      and furious, from the threat of European countries to recall their
      ambassadors from Tel Aviv to the stern response from Canadian Prime
      Minister Stephen
      Harper<http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/harper-sends-warning-to-israel-over-settlement-plans/article6016546/>,
      one of only nine countries to support Israel in the UN General Assembly
      during the recent vote on Palestinian
      statehood<http://972mag.com/palestinian-statehood-bid-succeeds-not-just-a-symbol/61094/>
      at
      the United Nations. Even the United States has criticized the Netanyahu
      government and by all accounts gave its European allies a green light to
      apply diplomatic pressure on Israel.

      The reason is not simply because of Israel�s continued flaunting of global
      public opinion, the spirit of the Oslo agreement and the positions of its
      allies in the United States and Europe (and also the humiliation of its one
      legitimate Palestinian ally, President Abbas) but rather because
      construction in E1 would make it practically impossible for a contiguous
      and viable Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital to take
      form.

      Building in E1 would not necessarily put a stake in the heart of a
      two-state solution, but it would come awfully close.

      None of Israel�s political allies who regularly voice their support for the
      now moribund peace process while tut-tutting at Israel�s continued
      settlement program want to entertain such a possibility. It would mean
      ending the increasingly unlikely notion that a two-state solution �
      particularly one not born from future conflict � is still possible. And it
      would put enormous pressure on Israel�s allies to re-examine their
      bilateral relationship with a country that could potentially find itself
      ruling over a majority of politically disenfranchised Palestinians.

      Now this question, of whether the two-state solution is dead on life
      support or whether it can still be achieved, is one that generates great
      controversy.

      There are more than a few observers of the region who will argue that a
      two-state solution is out of reach. By this argument, Israeli settlements
      have become so intertwined with Palestinian society that it would be
      virtually impossible to disentangle them. At present, there are an
      estimated 350,000
      settlers<http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2012/07/jewish-settlers-in-west-bank-pass-350000-mark.html>
      in
      the West Bank. Beyond that there are approximately 70,000 settlers living
      beyond the separation barrier <http://972mag.com/special/the-wall-2/>,
      which was built by the Israeli government over the last decade to keep
      Palestinian terrorists from entering Israel. The challenge in moving these
      individuals out of the settlements � and in particular the most zealous and
      religiously committed of them � means reaching a deal with the
      Palestinians, and that is only half the battle. Israeli society and its
      leaders will also have to find the political will to uproot settlement
      communities and in the process risk civil conflict among Israelis.

      Indeed, the current Israeli government, which is one of the most right-wing
      ever to hold power in Israel and certainly the most opposed to two states
      than any since the signing of Oslo in 1993 (despite its official rhetoric),
      has shown precious little inclination to take on the settler community. If
      anything, it *shares* the settlers� goal of perpetuating and expanding
      Israeli control over the West Bank. Considering that this government led by
      Benjamin Netanyahu is highly likely to secure another four-year term come
      January, settlement expansion that runs the risk of ultimately blocking the
      creation of a Palestinian state will continue unabated. And every month and
      every year that there is no progress on the two-state front the achievement
      of a potential Palestinian state becomes that much more unrealistic.

      Beyond these issues is the general apathy and resignation of the Israeli
      public to the current trajectory of peace efforts. Even though a sizable
      percentage of Israelis continues to support two-states a recent poll of
      Israeli Jews shows that 55
      percent<http://sadat.umd.edu/Israel_Nov12_rpt_FINAL.pdf> of
      them �don�t believe [a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians]
      will ever be achieved.� Of course, the fact that Hamas continues to reject
      Israel�s right to exist, pines for all Palestine to be under its control
      and fires rockets indiscriminately into Israeli cities makes the
      realization of a lasting peace even more difficult and hardens the
      conviction of Israelis that they have no true partner for peace, further
      reinforcing Israelis� belief that maintenance of the status quo is the only
      alternative

      These are glaring political challenges that Western policymakers � and in
      particular U.S. leaders � have generally been loath to acknowledge,
      particularly the increasingly significant impediments to peace on the
      Israeli side. For the United States, in particular, which has such a close
      relationship with Israel, those impediments are almost too painful to
      consider � namely the possibility that five, 10 or 15 years from now, the
      United States will be providing billions of dollars in aid to a Jewish
      state that fails to offer full political rights to a majority of Arabs � in
      effect, an apartheid state.

      This is why E1 construction is such a hot button, not simply because of the
      damage it would do to the creation of a Palestinian state, but also because
      it brings to the fore this exact issue, which U.S. policymakers have done
      their best to ignore as they mouth the latest
      platitude<http://www.cfr.org/palestinian-authority/susan-rices-statement-palestines-un-status-november-2012/p29575>
      about
      the need for negotiations toward a lasting peace between Israelis and
      Palestinians.

      In the end, while is likely that Bibi will eventually back down from this
      latest provocation (even as other less controversial settlement projects go
      forward<http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/israel-approves-construction-of-1-500-homes-in-east-jerusalem.premium-1.485449>,
      like new construction in East Jerusalem) this event should serve as a
      wake-up call to Israel�s supporters, particularly the Obama Administration.
      For the past four years, the U.S. administration has demonstrated nothing
      but meekness in the face of Israeli impertinence. The Jewish state is on a
      dangerous and unsustainable course. It is one that leads in few pleasant
      directions � like a renewal of violence, growing international pressure or
      an Israeli state that is Zionist but not democratic.

      Everyone knows this is happening, but no one wants to talk about it,
      including Israel�s benefactors in Washington. The E1 imbroglio creates a
      small chance to make sure everyone has to.

      *Michael Cohen is a fellow at the Century Foundation. Follow him on
      twitter: @speechboy71.*

      *Related:*
      E1 is not a �land without a
      people�<http://972mag.com/israeli-settlement-plans-should-shake-up-american-policymakers/62401/972mag.com/e1-is-not-a-land-without-a-people/62265/>
      Resource: What is the E1 area, and why is it so
      important?<http://972mag.com/could-e1-be-the-trigger-that-sparks-a-new-round-of-violence/62046/972mag.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=62046&action=edit&message=10>

      By Noam Sheizaf <http://972mag.com/author/noams/> |Published December 19,
      2012Election committee bans Palestinian MK Zoabi from participating in
      elections

      *An automatic appeal before the Supreme Court will be heard next week.
      Zoabi�s party, Balad, has already announced it will withdraw from the
      elections if the decision is not reversed.
      *
      <http://972mag.com/resource-israeli-elections-and-palestinian-parliamentarians/61918/zoabi-2/>

      MK Haneen Zoabi (photo: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

      Israel�s Central Election Committee (CEC) voted today (Wednesday) to
      disqualify Palestinian Knesset Member Haneen Zoabi from participating in
      the coming elections. MK Zoabi is the number two candidate on Balad�s
      Knesset list. The decision is automatically transferred to the Supreme
      Court, which will hear the appeal next week. Earlier today, Balad announced
      that if the Supreme Court doesn�t allow Zoabi to run, the entire party will
      withdraw from the elections.

      The decision did not come as a surprise: The CEC is a political body whose
      members are determined in proportion to the representation of their parties
      in the Knesset. The current committee therefore has a clear right-wing
      majority. The decision to ban Zoabi from taking part in the elections was
      also supported by members of Kadima, widely considered a centrist party.
      Labor, Meretz, Hadash, Livni�s Hatnua party and the Palestinian parties
      voted against, and the result was 19-9 in favor of the disqualification.

      Interestingly enough, the CEC rejected requests to disqualify Palestinian
      parties Balad and Ra�am Ta�al from taking part in the elections. In
      previous elections, both parties were disqualified but the decision was
      reversed by the Supreme Court.

      Still, Balad held a press conference today, in which party leader Dr. Jamal
      Zahalka made it clear that Balad will not run without Zoabi:

      This [move] hurts the entire Arab public. Its purpose is to weaken the
      political power of the Arab citizens in the Knesset and to strengthen the
      Israeli right. We fully support MK Zoabi and all her actions, and we
      emphasize again that if the Supreme Court does not reverse the decision,
      Balad will not take part in the coming elections.

      MK Zoabi, the only Palestinian woman in the Israeli parliament, was singled
      out <http://www.promisedlandblog.com/?p=3327> by the Israeli right in 2010
      due to her participation in the first Gaza
      flotilla<http://www.promisedlandblog.com/?p=3009>.
      But despite all the video evidence that the IDF confiscated from passengers
      on the Mavi Marmara, it failed to prove that MK Zoabi knew or took place in
      any action against IDF soldiers who stormed the ship (leaving eight Turkish
      citizens and one American dead). After failing to press criminal charges
      against Zoabi, coalition members tried to withdraw some of her rights as an
      MK, and even to physically attack her. At one point, the Knesset speaker
      had to assign bodyguards to the Arab Knesset member.

      Here is a video (with English subtitles) showing Knesset Members preventing
      MK Zoabi from speaking:

      *http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=KBUxZnHb2ig*


      Chances are that the Supreme Court will indeed let Zoabi run (I am pretty
      sure that some of the MKs who voted against her had this in mind). Israeli
      law actually makes it harder to prevent a specific candidate, rather than
      an entire party, from running, and the evidence against him or her needs to
      be very strong. This is not the case with Zoabi. Earlier this week,
      Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein issued an opinion claiming there is not
      enough evidence to disqualify Zoabi. It is thus very unlikely that even the
      current Supreme Court, which is more conservative then previous ones, will
      take a different position.

      In the unlikely event that Zoabi *is* disqualified, a boycott � at least
      partial � of the elections by Palestinian citizens of Israel will probably
      take place. Such a scenario won�t only change the outcome of the vote, but
      would also be a watershed moment between Arab and Jewish citizens in
      Israel, the significance of which will be felt long after these elections.


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