30 January 2014

Palestine Solidarity Campaign AGM 2014

Hugh Lanning - Chair of PSC

Solidarity with Abbas & the PA is solidarity with Israel - PSC has to choose between the collaborators or the oppressed

Tony Greenstein asking a question about the Annual Accounts

It was over 31 years ago, that a group of us decided for form the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Most of those in attendance have scattered to the four winds and few are active today who remain. Names that come to mind are Helen Stollar, Roland Rance, Jeremy Landau, Moshe Machover (I think!) and myself. Possibly John Gee was there too. The meeting was called as a result of the ‘test’ invasion of Lebanon by Israel about 3 months before the invasion. Then world opinion had forced Sharon to withdraw but it was obvious to all that Israel was not going to tolerate an independent Palestinian enclave in Beirut in alliance with others in the leftist Lebanon Solidarity Movement. In the mid-70s the Druze, Palestinian, Shi’ite and Sunnis combined with communists and socialist groups to seek a change in the confessional nature of the Lebanese state, a present bequeathed by its former colonial power, France.

In June 1976, Israel and the USA gave a green light to Assad, the father of the present President, to go into Lebanon and help ensure that the right-wing Christian/fascist Phalangists were not defeated. No mention then of Assad’s brutalities. Preventing the ascendancy of the Left in Lebanon was what was important. I had personally visited Lebanon with a group of people via Syria in 1979 (the Phalangist controlled embassy in London refused us visas). Two of us, whilst visiting what was the Palestinian refugee camp of Tel al-Zaatar in East Beirut where there had been a massacre in August 1976 of thousands of Palestinians by Christian Maronite and Phalangist forces.

We had crossed the border illegally in a PLO jeep staying at the Triomphe Hotel in West Beirut which the Israelis bombed in 1982. When arrested by the Lebanese army I simply said that we were there as guests of the Syrians. As I suspected they didn't check nor did they wish to. Hiding behind sandbags where East and West Beirut meet they were just a figleaf.
Jeremy Corbyn  MP, a stalwart supporter of the Palestinians outside Parliament.
But I digress. The 2014 AGM was one of the quietest I have known. It may also be the last one I attend owing to illness and many people such as Sarah Colborne, its Director, Hugh Lanning, Kamel Hawwash and Jeremy Corbyn MP and many others went out of their way to be sympathetic and kind. Jane Foxworthy from Leicester made, completely unknown to me as I wished to leave to get a train but she asked me to say for 10 minutes more, a very moving tribute to my work in the movement.

Bur however kind comrades were on a personal level, our political differences hadn't gone away and Sue Blackwell who has been a close comrade and Naomi of J-Big telling me they could not support it tactically I was determined that a marker should be put down.
Owen Jones at the PSC stall at the Labour Party conference
Motion on Abbas & PA
Until I moved the motion on Abbas and the PA it was a quiet AGM. It was an Emergency Motion on Abbas’s attack on BDS at the funeral of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. My motion pulled no punches because there are times when you have to exercise one’s own capacity for independent thought and action, especially given that the Palestinians don’t, unlike Black South Africans, have one united Palestinian organisation. The PLO exists in theory, having not met in years and likewise the Palestinian National Council.

A full house

The motion supported a unitary democratic secular state of Palestine, condemned the Abbas regime as a ‘quisling’ one and called for the non-recognition by PSC of the Palestinian Authority, which I termed the ‘bitter fruit’ of Oslo.

I pointed out that the one area in which the Palestinian Authority had succeeded was in the torture and abuse of its own people. Some 95% of detainees of its security police are tortured. The PA's security forces are trained by the American General Dayton in Jordan, with Israel approving who is a member.
I asked a simple question. 'How can an organisation that is funded and trained by those it opposes be a movement of liberation?' I never received an answer.

I pointed out that Abbas’s attacks on BDS were just one in a long line of betrayals. According to Clayton Swisher’s Palestine Papers, PA officials were responsible for urging on the Israeli attack on Gaza in 2009. Indeed they criticised it for not killing more people, destroying more homes and retaking the territory. Of course like the Saudi rulers and Iran they don’t say these things publicly but when was the last time that the PA called for an end to the Israeli siege on Gaza? It is little wonder that when Palestinians took to the streets to support the overthrow of Mubarak, they were attacked and beaten and told that anyone detained would be tortured.
Perhaps a revisit to the Palestine Papers by Clayton Swisher (Hesperus Publishing, 2011 introduction by Ghada Khami) explains it better than I can.   When the PP came out PA/Fateh thugs laid siege to the Al Jazeerah offices in Ramallah.   Abbas denied they were true even as Nabil Shath and others were confirming their veracity.
The PP describe the negotiations Israel and the PA conducted. The obsequiousness of the Palestinian negotiators to the Israelis, led by Tsipi Livni is embarrassing.

"According to a September 2008 summary of a conversation between General Dayton and Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad the Israeli occupying forces began to see the Palestinian Authority as a partner because of the latter's performance on American inspired efforts in the West Bank areas they controlled."

The Palestinian Authority laid out the extent of its cooperation with Israel in a confidential memo it gave Middle East envoy George Mitchell in June 2009. Among the anti-Semitic actions the PA highlighted:

Arrested approximately 3,700 members of armed groups.

Summoned around 4,700 individuals for questioning about various offences, including affiliations with armed groups.

Confiscated over 1,100 weapons. (p.55)

"What in part took the Palestinian Security Forces from being hunted and killed by Israeli forces in 2002 to full partner and friend by 2008 was strong security collaboration, including an operational willingness by the Palestinian Authority to kill their own people…"! (p. 56)

"Abbas noted: with pleasure that the fact that Sharon considered him a friend, and the fact that he too considered Sharon a friend, could serve them both in the days ahead." (p. 57)

This is the Butcher of Sabra and Shatilla that Abbas is prostrating himself before.

"Yes they [the Egyptians appear to have ended the siege. (Ahmad Q’rai Abu Ala)

"The Egyptians don’t do enough and we’re sure they can do much more. (Livni)

What can you do about Philadelphia Crossing? (Abu Ala)

We’re not there. (Livni)

You’ve reoccupied the West Bank and you can occupy the crossing if you want. (Abu Ala) p.117.

The Palestinian Authority is calling for the blockade to be strengthened.

The PA is nothing more than a handful of former senior Fateh officials and a number of rich Palestinian multi-millionaires who live in large mansions in or outside Ramallah oblivious to the plight of the refugees.

Its participation in the ‘Peace Talks’ merely allows Israel more time to colonise the West Bank and to justify its refusal to give even the slightest civil rights to the Palestinian population of some 4 million.

The attack on BDS wasn’t the first time that Abbas had done this. When Israel objected to the Goldstone Report on Israeli war crimes in Gaza the Palestinian ‘state’ submitted a critical motion to the UN Human Rights Council only to withdraw it when they came under pressure from Netanyahu.
Abbas himself lost his mandate to rule some 3-4 years ago and continues on as life President of the Palestinian ‘State’because he was told to by the Americans.

The speech received a healthy applause and it was clear to me that that Executive, who didn’t speak, were in somewhat of a dilemma regarding Abbas and the PA
Unsurprisingly up jumped the Honorary President of PSC Betty Hunter to make a demagogic speech worthy of certain European leaders of the 1930’s. Her speech was vacuous and empty repeating that it is not for us to decide who should represent the Palestinians. The motion was ‘divisive’ which is what those European leaders used to say about democracy. Far better to have a false unity i.e. agreement with those who rule  than useless democratic  debate. That has been the stock-in-trade of dictators throughout the ages. Other speeches were against the motion but their points were obscure.

Betty Hunter it was who, in 2009, again made a demagogic speech when we proposed that PSC should have no links with anti-Semitic groups like Eisen’s Deir Yassin Remembered on the grounds that we had no links anyway and the motion implied the contrary. After two years, with Gilad Atzmon and friends becoming increasingly influential amongst supporters, and Ms Hunter having retired, members of PSC Executive worked with Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, to make it  clear that anti-Semitism and holocaust denial has no place in PSC.  Although moving their own motion, to expel an open holocaust denier from its ranks PSC Executive in effect reversed the position they took 2 years previously.

There is certainly an irony in Betty Hunter’s position. I first met year in 2005 at a private dinner party hosted by members of Bricup, following our success in successfully moving the boycott of Israeli universities. She asked me to rejoin PSC and I explained that I had resigned with 1993 when PSC had voted to support them. ‘Oh, noone support them now though’ and after much  I decided that if that was the case it would be foolish to decline the offer and so rejoined.

Unfortunately those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it. Ms Hunter had learnt no lessons from Oslo and it would appear will back anything the PA agrees as a settlement, which is a distinct possibility.

I put it to Conference that if a framework agreement was reached it would involve leaving the settlements in place, demilitarising the Palestinian entity and giving Israeli forces the right to enter at will, an abandonment of the refugees (which in essence Abbas had already done) and a possible ‘land swap’ that involves moving the ‘Triangle’ in particular into such a ‘state’ because the contains the greatest concentration of Palestinian citizens of Israel. As well as giving up Jerusalem.  Again this Ms Hunter had nothing to say about this. It was all a question of Palestinian self-determination.

The only problem is that Palestinians live under occupation and severe repression.  Failing a 3rd Intifada they are unlikely to be organised enough to sweep the PA into Israel where the belong. We have to decide whether Abbas is indeed the chosen representative of the Palestinian people. Clearly Ms Hunter thinks that they do.
Needless to say the motion was lost overwhelmingly but the issues I raised will not go away and PSC will be force to take a stand on the '‘peace process’ and a future Palestinian Reservation (bantustan is being too kind). I also pointed out that the ANC had refused to work with Buthelezi, the apartheid supporting leader of the Zulus). PSC’s present position is de facto that it does see the PA as legitimate. Even Hamas, for all its many faults, is sincere in wanting a 2 state solution, despite the absurdity of a national liberation movement which is the Gazan wing of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. But since Israel helped create it in the late 1980’s that too is not surprising.

I can understand that there are some good people working in the offices of the PA in London, including Prof. Hassasian. However a means can be found to accept that they are the representatives of the Palestinians in Britain whilst seeing those who appointed them as worse than quisling (who at least ensured the territorial integrity of the whole of Norway).  Betty Hunter hoped to shock conference by the fact that I had described the PA as quislings.  In a sense she is right.

 They are a Palestinian  Judenrat, the Jewish Councils in Europe who co-operated with the Nazis.

Whether I’m around to see it or not, there is no doubt that PSC cannot continue to bury its head in the sand.
PSC out campaigning for Boycott
There were no other contentious political motions (there was an absurd on the creation of a separate media entity along the lines of the Israeli lobby organisation BICOM but that too was heavily defeated

Those put forward for election were unopposed. It is clear though the numbers of those in PSC is well over 5,000 and is at a record high.  The organisation does excellent work around the media and boycott but it also has to become more political and not be afraid of offending leaders.
Tony Greenstein

25 January 2014

The End of Palestine or the End of Norman Finkelstein?

The Madness of King Norman

Once Upon a Time the brightest star in the firmament was Norman Finkelstein. With his prodigious academic talents he put to flight all those he conquered. It was Norman Finkelstein, more than anyone else, who exposed the forgery of Joan Peter’s From Time Immemorial which went from adulatory reviews in virtually every American publication that matters, to becoming something loathsome, even to the neo-cons who bought into it.

Peter’s book essentially said that there were no Palestinian refugees because the Zionists were there first and the Palestinians came, attracted by their economy. An argument that used to be made by the Boers in South Africa.
When Daniel Goldhagen wrote an appalling book, Germans: Hitler’s Willing Executioners, it was Peters all over again. Goldhagen, a mediocre academic who has long since disappeared. attack the distinguished holocaust historian Christopher Browning’s The Ordinary Men of Police Battalion 101, which was part of the Order Police, brought in to help the Einsatzgruppen exterminate Jews in Russia and the Ukraine in the wake of Operation Barbarossa. Once again Finkelstein’s analysis put a Zionist with a reputation to make to the sword. Although the same New York Times and America’s press claque was impressed, historians were unanimous in their condemnation. Even Yehuda Baeur, the prime holocaust historian of Yad Vashem called the book ‘worthless’ whilst claiming credit for its thesis that there was something about the Germans that made them mass murderers and killers.
There was no subject that was taboo for Finkelstein. It was he who wrote Holocaust Industry which showed that the Jewish Claims Conference and other Zionist groups who obtained billions of marks reparations from the German government (in return for being silent about Nazis in Konrad Adeneuer’s office such as Hans Globke, the senior Nazi civil servant who drafted the Law for the Protection of German Blood & Honour (the most important Nuremberg law). On 25 April 1938 Globke was praised by the Reich Interior Minister Dr. Wilhelm Frick as "the most capable and efficient official in my ministry" when it came to drafting anti-Semitic laws. Frick was the Police Minister who was hanged at Nuremberg but the Americans also sought to protect Globke.

Finkelstein showed how the Zionist organisations were ripping off the holocaust survivors, leaving them to die in poverty, whilst using the reparations for Zionist projects. The Claims Conference has been mired in corruption.

But Finkelstein has since had a personal crisis after losing a battle, in which he proved that Alan Dershowitz, a Zionist law professor at Harvard was a plagiarist. Dershowitz retaliated by campaigning openly for Finkelstein’s university, St Pauls in New York, to deny him tenure.

We don't know the details, but Finkelstein has hinted that after realising he had no academic future, and seeing himself a  martyr, in front of him, decided that his life should not be wasted without any return and he decided to use undoubted intellectual powers in aid of a bogus 2 State solution. It is as if Finkelstein had simply had a brainstorm or suffered from depression, but whatever the truth, Finkelstein has seen as his main task to attack BDS as a ‘cult’, the Palestine Solidarity movement act as a bourgeois politician who is nonetheless a pariah.
In the last issue of the New Left Project, Norman Finkelstein is interviewed by Jamie Stern-Weiner, who co-edits New Left Project. Finkelstein is convinced that a solution is round the corner. The settler blocs will be annexed, Hebron’s settlers will be abandoned and Israel’s Palestinian citizens will not be handed over to whatever monstrosity emerges. Out of darkness will emerge light!

Kerry is apparently different from all those who have gone before him. Finkelstein confidently predicts that a framework agreement will shortly be agreed, oblivious to what happened to the Oslo Accords. For someone who was an able analyst of Zionism he comprehensively misunderstands that Zionism will not brook the state of the indigenous population in any meaningful terms.

Finkelstein believes that a compromise whereby Israel is defined as the State of the Jewish people and its Palestinian citizens will be agreed, whereas Tsipi Livni and Liebermann both see any agreed solution as an ideal way of getting rid of much of Israel’s Palestinian citizens. See Clayton Swisher’s Palestinian Papers.

Finkelstein admits that ‘the whole thing is diabolical’ but nonetheless the question of the settlements, which divide the West Bank in two has been resolved in the settlers’ favour.

Just what kind of state Finkelstein thinks will emerge beggars the imagination. But the only reason things might not quite work out as he planned is that ‘one of the big stumbling blocks, oddly enough, is inertia.’ Not the Zionist logic of expansion but inertia. He says that the idea that the conflict might be settled (despite the Palestinian refugees) are the various NGOs, Zionist Israel studies and not least ‘all those Palestine solidarity activists, groups, websites, researchers and analysts (of which he includes himself). ‘A huge sprawling superstructure’ which has an interest in the status quo, has been built on the Israel-Palestine conflict and consequently their ‘fear and trembling’ is the major obstacle to Finkelstein’s idea of a Palestinian heaven.

Finkelstein says that ‘every day there’s another report of an individual or collective European initiative severing ties with Israeli entities linked to the illegal settlements.’ Ironically Finkelstein is now using the same BDS movement he denounced as a cult, as a threat to be wielded to make the Israelis come to an agreement'!
Yet BDS is not a governmental conspiracy but a result of a determined campaign in support of the call of the Palestinians and the Boycott National Council to boycott Israel. But the Palestinians rarely get a mention, except as two bit actors in our Norm’s scenarios.

When asked how binding any framework agreement would be, Finkelstein can only say that there will be a lot of momentum behind it. And in the unlikely event that any agreement is reached, one can be sure that the settlers and their representatives will make it unworkable as they did at Oslo (even if it meant assassinating Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Finkelstein admits that even at present ‘The Palestinians have no leverage over the Palestinian Authority.’ Quite why a mini Bantustan would be of any difference is something Norm doesn’t enlighten us about. But a settlement, whatever the cost, is worth it.

Norman Finkelstein has gone from political analyst to a fantasy diplomat who does not see the forces at work in Israel to prevent any Palestinian State emerging.

Perhaps Finkelstein should have read Moshe Dayan’s address given to Technion University students (19 March 1969), which appeared in Ha'aretz (4 April 1969), quoted in The Question of Palestine (1980) by Edward Said, p.14

We came to this country which was already populated by Arabs, and we are establishing a Hebrew, that is a Jewish state here. In considerable areas of the country we bought lands from the Arabs. Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you, because these geography books no longer exist; not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahalal arose in the place of Mahalul, Gevat — in the place of Jibta, Sarid — in the place of Haneifs and Kefar Yehoshua — in the place of Tell Shaman. There is no one place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population. http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Moshe_Dayan
Then perhaps we would understand why Zionism and peace are like oil and water. They can never mix nor can one make way for the other.

Tony Greenstein

New Left Project 11 January, 2014

The End of Palestine?

An Interview with Norman G. Finkelstein

US Secretary of State John Kerry was in the Middle East again this week, conducting intensive talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials and other regional actors. His aim, it has been widely reported, is to reach a "framework agreement" as a prelude to a final settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Norman Finkelstein is the co-author, with Mouin Rabbani, of How to Solve the Israel-Palestine Conflict (OR Books, forthcoming). I spoke with him about the significance of the negotiations, as we enter what may be a decisive phase in the Palestinians' long struggle for self-determination.

By Norman Finkelstein, Jamie Stern-Weiner

You’ve been warning for some time now that the Israeli-Palestinian talks being brokered by Secretary of State Kerry might, unlike many prior rounds of negotiations, actually produce a deal to end the conflict. Its content would amount to Israel’s long-standing terms of settlement. What’s your assessment of where the diplomatic process is currently at?

A "framework agreement" will shortly be reached, and a final settlement will probably be signed in the last six months or so of President Obama’s term in office. When the Kerry process was first announced I was virtually alone in predicting that it would actually go somewhere; now, it’s widely assumed. Many respected Israeli commentators now take for granted that an agreement is just a matter of time.

In recent weeks the Kerry talks have apparently focused on Israel’s demands for (i) an enduring military presence in the Jordan Valley and (ii) Palestinian recognition of it as a "Jewish state." The Palestinians will negotiate some face-saving deal on the Jordan Valley involving a US-Israeli joint presence for a period of time. The Jordan Valley was already essentially resolved at the Annapolis negotiations in 2008. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is raising it now only so he can later claim to be making a "heart-wrenching concession"—Israel is adept at "conceding" things to which it has no title in the first place—by allowing for only a temporary US-Israeli presence along the border. It’s been received wisdom for years—even pro-Israel hack Dennis Ross concedes it in The Missing Peace—that the Jordan Valley has no strategic value.

On the "Jewish state," the agreement will probably resolve on the formula: Israel as the state of the Jewish people and its citizens, Palestine as the state of the Palestinian people and its citizens. It will afford (legal) protection for Israel’s Palestinian citizens, but will negate the right of return for Palestinian refugees, which is what Israel really cares about. Palestinian President Abbas can then claim it as a victory because he secured the rights of Palestinians in Israel.

The whole thing is diabolical. The Israelis—with, of course, active and critical US connivance—have managed to completely shift the debate and shape the agenda. The only issues now being discussed are the Jewish state and the Jordan Valley, which, in terms of the international consensus for resolving the conflict, never figured at all. (Even in prior bilateral negotiations presided over by the US, such as at Annapolis, these were at most peripheral issues.) The key issue (apart from the refugees), in terms of the international consensus and in prior bilateral negotiations, has been the extent of the land swap along the border: Will Israel be allowed to annex the major settlement blocs and consequently abort a Palestinian state? But the debate has completely shifted, because annexing the settlement blocs is a done deal.

The framework agreement will probably just speak of land swaps in terms of percentages, and merely insinuate—as the Clinton Parameters did—Israel’s annexation of the major settlement blocs without divulging the precise details. But it is striking that in all of the discussion over the last several weeks, Ma'ale Adumim—i.e., the largest settlement bloc that effectively bisects the West Bank—has never even come up. Because it’s already been resolved, in Israel’s favour.

And a final deal will follow?

A lot of politicking still has to be done, a lot of marketing, a lot of hysteria in Israel—its usual, Oscar-winning performance. It will take the full three years that remain of Obama’s presidency, climaxing in a Camp David-like summit (Obama also loves drama, speechifying is his forte and he’s probably already contemplating which hip black leather jacket to wear), before the final deal is sealed.

One of the principal obstacles at this point to reaching an agreement, in my opinion, is not the details, because those are basically known: the annexation of the settlement blocs by Israel and the annulment of the right of return. One of the big stumbling blocks, oddly enough, is inertia.

If you date the political origin of the conflict back to the 1917 Balfour Declaration (before then Zionism was basically a self-help operation), you’re talking about a century-long conflict. When a conflict endures for such a protracted period of time, huge numbers of individuals and institutions develop a vested interest not in its resolution but instead in its perpetuation; what’s now called, only half-facetiously, the Peace Industry. Many are now consumed by the dreadful prospect that after a full century, it might actually end. It does send shivers down the spine: the Israel-Palestine conflict might be over. All those UN special sessions and special committees; all those Ramallah-based NGOs, Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations, and conflict-resolution getaways; all those IMF, World Bank, Crisis Group reports; all those academic programs—Israel Studies, Holocaust Studies—which sprung up to justify Israeli policy (none can lay a claim to intellectual content, and most have been subsidized by wealthy right-wing Jews); all those film festivals, scholarly studies, memoirs and "poetry"; all those Washington-based Israel "think"-tanks; all those Palestine solidarity activists, groups, websites, researchers, and analysts (present company included).... A huge, sprawling superstructure has been built on the Israel-Palestine conflict, and consequently a major obstacle to an agreement is now the fear and trembling across the political divide that it might actually be coming to a denouement. It’s not quite conceivable, is it?

But presumably inertia on its own can merely delay; it can’t prevent.

I agree.

What is Kerry doing to shore up support for an agreement?

As Palestinian political analyst (and my co-author) Mouin Rabbani has observed, the big difference between President Clinton and Secretary of State Kerry is that Clinton ignored everyone outside the United States; he imagined that he alone, without any external assistance, could be the kingmaker. Kerry, on the other hand, has in a very deliberate fashion set about lining up all the ducks. The Saudis, Arab League, European Union—the Palestinians are being surrounded and besieged. So are the Israelis, but to a much lesser extent because it’s essentially Israel’s terms of settlement that are being imposed.

The Europeans in particular are turning the screws. Every day there’s another report of an individual or collective European initiative severing ties with Israeli entities linked to the illegal settlements. My guess is, the threats currently emanating from Europe are being coordinated with Kerry, in order to convey, not so much to the Israeli government (for all his emoting, Netanyahu is on board), but to Israeli holdouts, that the settlement project outside the Wall has no future prospects. Within Israeli politics, those supporting the Kerry process—here’s an irony worth savouring!—have exploited the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to the same end: "If we don’t settle now, BDS is just around the corner."

And the various Arab states?

The Palestine issue has, at least, temporarily, died as a mobilising factor in the Arab-Muslim world. It’s fairly easy now for the US to get Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, and Iran either on board or to set Palestine aside. Iran hasn’t said anything about the Kerry negotiations so far, and probably doesn’t much care. Syria is a null factor. Egypt is playing a positively nefarious role, as it tries (in cahoots with the US, Israel and the Palestinian Authority) to depose Hamas by tormenting Gazans. Saudi Arabia figures that by playing ball with the US on Palestine it can score points with the US on Syria-Iran. Turkey has its own agenda that for a while did (e.g., at the time of the Mavi Marmara), but no longer does, include Palestine. It is preoccupied by Erdogan’s blunder on Syria and his fear that, in the event of an American rapprochement with Iran, Turkey will drop a notch on the regional totem pole, whereas he has harboured visions of a reborn Ottoman Empire.

The Palestine issue had political resonance in the Arab-Muslim world mostly because it was popular on the so-called street. But people don’t much care now. They’re focused, rightly or wrongly, on other tragedies, such as Syria. In places like Libya, where people used to give at least lip-service to Palestine, they obviously have other things on their minds right now. Kerry is no genius, but certainly he shrewdly assessed the lay of the land when he concluded that now was the perfect moment to impose a settlement on the Palestinians.

It has been interesting to see everyone wooing Israel’s foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman. Suddenly he’s the toast of the town in Washington, the British foreign minister is meeting with him, etc.

It cuts both ways, because Lieberman wants to be Israel’s next prime minister. So it’s time to shed the nightclub bouncer persona (the New York Times recently reported that Lieberman reads weighty tomes on history; sure, and on weekends I do pirouettes in the Bolshoi…) and to don the persona of a Responsible Statesman. So, he’ll go along with a Kerry agreement. He’s already signalled his acquiescence, even enthusiasm, this past week. He’s also been muttering about transferring Israel’s Palestinian citizens to a new Palestinian state, but that won’t go anywhere. It would violate basic norms of international law by sanctioning the right of established states to redraw internal borders in order to denationalize unwanted minorities. Nobody’s going to buy that.

How serious are recent moves by Hamas and Fatah towards reconciliation?

One possibility is that the Palestinian Authority is playing a silly game of threatening the United States and Israel, "If you aren’t more forthcoming, we’re going to reconcile with Hamas and won’t deal with you anymore." The second possibility is that Hamas wants a piece of the pie, and so will form a National Unity government that will guarantee it something in the final agreement. The third and, according to Mouin, most plausible possibility is that Abbas wants to neutralise Hamas by bringing it on board, thereby also reviving his claims to represent all Palestinians, while Hamas supports a reconciliation to bring it out of the cold after the disastrous developments in Egypt.

How binding will a framework agreement be upon future negotiations?

Nothing is inexorable, but there will be a lot of momentum behind it. The juggernaut will be hard to stop. For all the pieces to fall into place, a new Israeli coalition will probably have to form, a government of National Unity led by Netanyahu. Israeli public opinion polls show that a majority of Israelis would support the probable Kerry proposal. Hebron will have to be evacuated. Of course, there will be the usual Israeli anguish, but it won’t be difficult to pull off. The IDF can just march out, and say to the four hundred meschugge Jewish settlers, "You want to stay? You can stay"—alone, amidst the 150,000 Muslim Hebronites.

Does the Palestinian leadership have the capacity to resist?

I can’t, for the life of me, see how the Palestinians can extricate themselves at this point. There’s such a broad array of political forces ranged behind the Kerry process that the Palestinians are trapped. Abbas and his imbecile sidekick Saeb Erekat are playing good cop/bad cop. Abbas says "yes, this agreement might work," whereas Erekat whispers to the media—you know, the "senior Palestinian negotiator who doesn’t want to be identified"—that "oh, this agreement is horrible, it’s terrible, it’s awful, they can shove it." Erekat thinks that’s being clever, it’s putting pressure on the Americans, as if anyone on god’s earth gives a flying fig what Erekat has to say about anything.

The Palestinians are cornered, they’re isolated. When you’re in such desperate straits, of course, you must play your strongest cards. A real leadership would, first of all, level with the Palestinian people, "We’re in a bind, we’re being steamrollered, stampeded. We need you, we need to draw on all our collective resources and reserves to resist"; and second, it would call on Palestine’s supporters abroad, "We’re about to be clobbered, we need your help." I can’t say it would turn the tide, though, as you know, the Palestinian cause has sufficient resonance abroad that if Palestinians were to say, "We’re facing the moment of truth now, we might be extinguished," it could perhaps, in conjunction with a mass civil revolt among the Palestinians themselves, do something. It could become a factor.

But the Palestinian leadership is irredeemably corrupt, incompetent and stupid (petty and megalomaniacal, Abbas lost interest in Palestine long ago—he just wants the Nobel), while Palestine’s supporters abroad are, to put it politely, not acting smartly. They think the big issue now is the American Studies Association vote for an academic boycott of Israel and debating the virtues of academic freedom at a Modern Languages Association conference. (Watch what happens if and when BDS supporters try to introduce the academic boycott in a solid, established academic discipline such as History, Philosophy, or any of the Natural Sciences, where, among many other factors, Jews figure prominently. It won’t be a pretty sight.) But that’s the state of Palestine solidarity right now. They carry on as if the Kerry process is a meaningless sideshow, something that can be safely ignored. But it’s a very big difference, as Mouin and I have pointed out, whether the Wall is illegal or whether it is a legal border. Why? It would turn what are currently illegal Jewish settlements into ordinary Israeli towns; Israel could legally confiscate Palestinian land and evict Palestinians from their homes. In India or China, when the government wants to build a big hydroelectric dam, it removes 100,000 people in one fell swoop. They expel masses of people from their homes, and the international community sits by mute. It’s the sovereign right of a country—it’s eminent domain.

The moment the Wall is re-baptized a border, the settlements behind it become a dead issue. They’re Israel’s sovereign territory. And of course most of the world will be glad to be rid of the Israel-Palestine conflict. They’ll be happy when the dotted line is signed. What are you going to do then? An American Studies Association boycott of The World?

Once the framework agreement is signed, won’t it still be very difficult to implement? For example, for Abbas to agree to a formula that effectively nullifies the refugee question—that will be an extremely hard sell among Palestinians.

What can the Palestinians do? Israel just wants the refugee question excised from the international agenda; it wants a document stipulating, "That’s no longer Israel’s responsibility." If Kerry succeeds, they’ll get it. Especially if they get "Israel as a Jewish state plus its citizens" in the framework agreement, which nullifies the refugee question. How can the Palestinians stop it? They’re totally in thrall to European and American money right now. Yasser Arafat signed the 1993 Oslo agreement because the PLO was financially strapped after he aligned with Saddam Hussein during the First Gulf War. (The Gulf states retaliated by cutting off their subsidies to the PLO.) It was either agreeing to Oslo or—as it was put back then—"bye, bye PLO." History is now repeating itself. He who pays the piper calls the tune.

At the popular level, though, Palestinians have influence over their own leadership.

The Palestinians have no leverage over the Palestinian Authority. The people are politically inert while the Palestinian police are quite effective now at quashing isolated dissent. It’s possible that Abbas will get a bullet in his head, which would probably slow things down because there’s no obvious immediate successor. But setting that possibility aside, I don’t see where Palestinians can exercise leverage. It’s not as if the refugees in Lebanon or Jordan can do very much. They haven’t been able to effect anything since Oslo, except languish in the camps.

What about Palestinians in the occupied territories? They won’t stand for a renunciation of the right of return.

This scenario is more romantic theory than current reality. The place is hopelessly fragmented. Gaza itself is alien to the West Bank now. What did the West Bankers do when Gazans were being massacred in 2008-09? Were there large demonstrations? We have to be realistic about the current situation. There’s no concerted will among Palestinians. They’re real, living persons, not a myth. Right now, the people’s spirits are shattered. Of course, a little spark can change things. I noticed a Haaretz article by Amira Hass some weeks back hinting at the possibility that a real popular resistance might yet emerge. It’s pointless speculating but, as of now, there aren’t visible signs that Palestinians are ready, able or willing to resist an imposed solution. Quite the contrary, if the final agreement is sufficiently nebulous to the untutored eye (like the 1993 Oslo agreement), and is sweetened with a huge "aid" package, Palestinians might, however reluctantly, go for it. The US/EU will have three years to soften the Palestinians, turning tight the economic screws, but not so tight as to cause the whole edifice to snap.

If a final agreement on Israel’s terms is signed, how big a set-back will it be for the struggle for Palestinian self-determination?

It would be almost irreversible. Many activists don’t want to acknowledge it, but these sorts of agreements and codifications can have real consequences. Didn’t the 1947 Partition Resolution, backed by Israeli wherewithal and will, already prove the point? There’s no obvious reason why you can’t have an agreement whereby a new border is drawn between Israel and the Palestinian territories, especially if such an agreement is ratified by the UN Security Council, which it almost certainly will be. Israel has the wherewithal and will to make that new border stick. Indeed, it already is a fact, except juridically. A political settlement would crown the already existing facts on the ground with the jewel of legality. It is a significant step, turning an illegal wall into a permanent, internationally recognized border; and it’s not beyond Israel’s reach. From then on, what claim will the Palestinians have beyond that border? None.

In your forthcoming book with Mouin, you recommend steps that Palestinians, solidarity activists and others should take to solve the Israel-Palestine conflict in a just and durable way. Will those steps, then, have to happen within the next three years? After that, will it be too late?

For anything to happen, it must begin among the Palestinians in the occupied territories. That would command international attention—though again, we have to be realistic about the political lay of the land right now. World attention is focused on Syria and Iran. There’s going to be the meeting in Geneva. It will be very hard for Palestinians to seize the political spotlight at this point. But that’s the only thing that can stop or slow down the juggernaut. Everything else is meaningless, it’s Nero fiddling while Rome burns.

Jamie Stern-Weiner co-edits New Left Project

24 January 2014

Boycott Goes International

Britain's main Jewish Boycott Group

 Boycott goes prime-time in Israel
As people can see Boycott is going international with campaigns springing up across Europe and even causing ructions in the Italian Jewish community. Also Israel’s most popular Channel 2 Channel devoted a whole programme to it.

Israelis are worried.  What 'degitimisation' means is a  refusal to accept a Jewish State.   That is what worries them

Tony Greenstein

From Israel’s +972 Magazine

The country’s number-one news show runs lengthy piece on the growing movement – and blames it not on anti-Semitism or Israel-bashing, but on settlements.
Stock photo boycott activists in France. (Photo: Olga Besnard / Shutterstock.com)
On Saturday night the boycott of Israel gained an impressive new level of mainstream recognition in this country. Channel 2 News, easily the most watched, most influential news show here, ran a heavily-promoted, 16-minute piece on the boycott in its 8 p.m. prime-time program. The piece was remarkable not only for its length and prominence, but even more so because it did not demonize the boycott movement, it didn’t blame the boycott on anti-Semitism or Israel-bashing. Instead, top-drawer reporter Dana Weiss treated the boycott as an established, rapidly growing presence that sprang up because of Israel’s settlement policy and whose only remedy is that policy’s reversal.

Canada's largest church supports boycott
In her narration, Weiss ridicules the settlers and the government’s head-in-the-sand reaction to the rising tide. The segment from the West Bank’s Barkan Industrial Park opens against a background of twangy guitar music like from a Western. "To the world it’s a black mark, a symbol of the occupation," she reads. "But here they insist it’s actually a point of light in the area, an island of coexistence that continues to flourish despite efforts to erase it from the map." A factory owner who moved his business to Barkan from the other side of the Green Line makes a fool of himself by saying, "If the state would only assist us by boycotting the Europeans and other countries causing us trouble …" The Barkan segment ends with the manager of Shamir Salads saying that between the European and Palestinian boycott, he’s losing about $115,000 to $143,000 a month in sales. "In my view," he says, "it will spread from [the West Bank] to other places in Israel that have no connection to the territories."

Weiss likewise ridicules Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who runs the government’s "hasbara war," as he puts it. Weiss: "Yes, in the Foreign Ministry they are for the time being sticking to the old conception: it’s all a question of hasbara." This week the campaign’s new weapon, developed with the contributions of world Jewry: (Pause) Another hasbara agency, this time with the original name ‘Face To Israel.’" She quotes the co-owner of Psagot Winery saying the boycott is "nothing to get excited about," that people have been boycotting Jews for 2,000 years, and concluding, "If you ask me, in the last 2,000 years, our situation today is the best it’s ever been." That final phrase, along with what Weiss describes as Elkin’s "conceptzia," are the same infamous words that Israelis associate with the fatal complacency that preceded the surprise Yom Kippur War.

The Channel 2 piece features abortive telephone calls with boycott "victims" who didn’t want to be interviewed for fear of bad publicity. The most dramatic testimony comes from Daniel Reisner, an attorney with the blue-chip law firm Herzog Fox Neeman who advises such clients. He explains:

Most of the companies victimized by the boycott behave like rape victims. They don’t want to tell anybody. It’s as if they’ve contracted some sort of disease and they don’t want anyone to know.

More and more companies are coming to us for advice – quietly, in the evening, where no one can hear them – and they say: ‘I’ve gotten into this or that situation; is there something you can do to help?’"

Without giving the names of his clients or the extent of their losses, Reisner says the boycott is causing Israeli businesses to lose foreign contracts and investors. "My fear is of a snowball effect," he says. Prof. Shai Arkin, vice president for R&D at Hebrew University, says there are many cases of Israeli candidates for research fellowships at foreign universities being turned down because their resumes include service in the Israeli army.

Advice from a friend abroad comes from Matthew Gould, the British ambassador to Israel: "I love Israel. And I’m worried that in another five years Israel will wake up and find that it doesn’t have enough friends."

Weiss asks the EU ambassador here, Lars Faaborg-Andersen: "If Israel would change its policy, all this would go away?" The ambassador replies: "Yes. It is about Israeli policies. If the settlement business continue[s] to expand, Israel will be facing increasing isolation."

The piece presents Tzipi Livni as the country’s would-be savior. She says the current negotiations with the Palestinians (in which she represents Israel, along with Netanyahu confidant Isaac Molho) are holding back the boycott’s expansion, but that "if there is a crisis [in the talks], everything will break loose." She says she is "shouting at people to wake up."

Weiss: "What does this all mean? What is it going to be like here? South Africa?"

Livni: "Yes. I spoke with some of the Jews who are living n South Africa now. They say, ‘We thought we had time. We thought we could deal with this. We thought we didn’t need the world so much for everything. And it happens all at once.’"

Sixteen minutes of prime time on Israel’s all-popular TV news show on Saturday night, the end of the week in this country. Bracing stuff. A wrench thrown into the national denial machine – and by Channel 2. Definitely a sign of progress – and of life. Another reminder of why this country is worth fighting for – which, for many of us Israeli boycott-supporters, if not necessarily most of us, is what the boycott, strange as it may sound, is all about.

(Watch the segment here. The English-language segments, interviews with UK Ambassador Matthew Gould and EU Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen, can be seen at 08:11 and 14:05, respectively.)

Pressure on Israeli banks from investors intensifies

Financial Times, January 19, 2014 5:33 amBy Madison Marriage

ABP, the world’s third-largest pension fund, and two major European investors are reviewing their holdings in Israeli banks over concerns that the banks finance illegal Israeli settlements in Palestinian-occupied territories.

As well as ABP, the Dutch pension fund with €300bn of assets under management, the investors include Nordea  Investment Management, a €130bn Scandinavian fund house, and DNB  Asset Management, a €60bn Norwegian fund group.
All three want more information from the Israeli banks about their involvement in financing the settlements, which contravene international human rights laws established under the Fourth Geneva Convention in 2004.

A spokesperson for KLP, one of the biggest Norwegian pension funds, with €45bn of assets, also confirmed that "dilemmas linked to financing [of Israeli settlements] will be discussed at KLP".

Palestinians see the settlements as an obstacle to achieving a viable state, and most countries consider the settlements illegal.

The reviews come after PGGM, the second-largest Dutch pension fund, two weeks ago became the first big investor to dump its holdings  in five large Israeli banks: Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, First International Bank of Israel, Israel Discount Bank and Mizrahi Tefahot.

PGGM said in a statement: "Given the day-to-day reality and domestic legal framework they operate in, the banks have limited to no possibilities to end their involvement in the financing of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

"Therefore it was concluded that engagement as a tool to bring about change will not be effective in this case."

ABP has held talks with three of the banks over the settlement issue for a year. The pension fund might exclude the stocks "as a last resort" if the banks fail to act on ABP’s complaints, a spokesperson said.

Nordea Investment Management has sent letters to Leumi and Mizrahi "regarding concerns about the violation of international norms", Sasja Beslik, Nordea’s head of responsible investment, told FTfm.

The Scandinavian fund house plans to meet these banks in March before taking a decision on whether to withdraw their investment at a committee meeting in May.

DNB Asset Management’s external consultancy GES is engaging with several Israeli banks on this issue.

Israel Discount Bank declined to comment. Banks Hapoalim and Leumi did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr Beslik expects other large investors to start looking at their investment policies on the Israeli settlement matter shortly.

He said: "Very few asset managers have a policy [on this issue], which means that the banks are not under pressure regarding these violations. The pressure on asset owners to live up to their values when it comes to these issues will increase, I am certain about that."

ING Investment Management, the fund arm of Dutch Bank ING, said that it has requested research on the settlement issue from an independent third party.


Germany, Israel’s best friend in Europe is increasingly imposing sanctions on companies trading across the Green Line

from Electronic Intifada

Senior Israel officials, including justice minister Tzipi Livni and finance minister Yair Lapid, have in recent weeks sounded increasingly desperate warnings about the dire effects growing BDS campaigns were likely to have on Israel.

Italian Jews Grapple With J Street-Style Rift on Israel

Disruption of Critical Meeting Sparks Rethink

Special meetings are being held this week to discuss increasingly sharp political tensions within the Italian Jewish community centered on differing attitudes toward Israel and the Middle East.

Italian act
or Moni Ovadia resigns from Milanese Jewish community
The meetings were called in the wake of an incident on Jan. 14, in which Jewish protesters disrupted a panel discussion of a book on the left wing and Israel, "The Left and Israel: The Moral Frontier of the West." The event was organized at a Rome Jewish center by the leftist Jewish group J-Call – which is modeled on the American J-Space, and the Hans Jonas Association Jewish cultural organization.

Amid what a report in the local Jewish media called "heavy intimidation," the protesters prevented J-Call spokesman Giorgio Gomel, from speakinTzg, and Gomel and another organizer had to be escorted from the premises by Jewish community security.

Gomel, who has been vocal in his criticism of Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians, has frequently come under fire from opposing Jewish factions. Reports said protesters on Jan. 14 unfurled a banner saying "Gomel, go back to Gaza."

Expressing "alarm and concern," Renzo Gattegna, the president of Italy’s umbrella Jewish organization, the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, called an extraordinary meeting of the organization’s council to clarify the "limits, procedures and rules" to be followed at Jewish community venues.

At the same time, the leadership of the Rome Jewish community convened an urgent meeting open to all members of the community. "Beyond the image of Italian Jewry as a whole, what is at play is the security of our members," Rome Jewish community President Riccardo Pacifici was quoted as saying by the Jewish media.

Italian actor Moni Ovadia last year resigned from the Milan Jewish community with accusations that it is a "propaganda office" of the Israeli government. 

Why Israel Doesn't Want Peace

It is often taken as given that Israel wants peace. In a sense it does, but it is the peace of the vanquished. Peace on its terms. The failure of the current talks is predictable. Netanyahu doesn’t want any agreement. He therefore continues to add conditions which even Abbas has difficulty selling.

Zionism has always operated on the basis of ‘facts on the ground’. If you use the ‘peace talks’ to buy time to build a settlement or two, then it is worth going through the motions. But that is their only purpose. They act as a cover for colonisation and war.

The article below, which is on Jonathan Cook’s blog, shows that the security elite also don’t want peace. Not only is it bad for business, nothing better than weapons tested in battle, but it also create mercenaries who can go fight and train in other countries.

Zionism was always an expansionist movement. That is the nature of the colonial best. As Moshe Dayan put it, with his customary refusal to use euphemisms:

As Moshe Dayan said in a speech to young soldiers: 'During the last 100 years our people have been in a process of building up the country and the nation, of expansion, of getting additional Jews and additional settlements in order to expand the borders here. Let no Jew say that the process has ended. Let no Jew say that we are near the end of the road.’ http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Moshe_Dayan The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World by Avi Shlaim, Ma’ariv, 7.7.68.
Tony Greenstein

Israel’s security elite don’t want peace

23 January 2014

Hidden away both behind the Ha’aretz paywall and in its business pages is one of the most astute articles I’ve seen in the Israeli media. It tells how Israel (more so even than other western states) has been taken over by a security elite – what is termed here a "security network" – that has no interest in peace, though it increasingly likes an endless peace process. War and security are good for business, as far as this elite is concerned.

It is more than possible, as the article notes, that the Palestinian leadership is part of this security network. An academic quoted observes: "I think that in both elites, the Israeli and Palestinian, some want this perpetual state of a nation-waiting-to-be-born, and benefit from it. An established state means not only grave social problems but also limitations and constraints on the political leadership."

The first half of the article is equally interesting but of more parochial concern regarding what Guy Rolnik, one of Ha'aretz’s best writers, calls Israel’s "independent tax militias", corporations that have ramped up the cost of living through government-sanctioned cartel practices.

Meir  Dagan, former head of Mossad (MI6) and Yuval Diskin (former head of Shin Bet - MI5)
So people have a chance to read it, I’m appending the second half of the article:

I have constantly maintained that there is no connection between the threats Israel faces and its defence expenditure. Like all big systems, the defence establishment is preoccupied mainly with its own survival, with increasing its clout and budget. And now let us ask the real question: Do the interests of the defence establishment lead to a waste of billions upon billions, but also block any chance of diplomatic understandings in the region?

I asked these questions of Prof. Oren Barak, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who recently published the book "Israel’s Security Networks" together with Prof. Gabriel Sheffer (Cambridge University Press). The two claim that much of local politics, and economic and social affairs can be explained through the excessive influence of the "security network," as they call it. They claim that since Israel’s establishment, and mainly since the Six-Day War, an informal but powerful security network has been evident, consisting of security officers (on active duty and retired) and their civilian cohorts. This network affects the culture, the politics, society, the economy and the public debate. It also impacts Israel’s foreign relations. The two experts describe the weakness of Israeli civilian society and explain that it’s in the interest of the security networks to keep it that way, relegating economic, cultural and civilian considerations to the margins.
IOF admits that israeli soldier threw stones at bilin

I asked Barak if behind the arguments on the territories and the peace process, something simpler lies – a powerful interest group fighting to preserve its status; a defence clique that managed to bend foreign policy, politics and the budget to its interests.

"Yes, that is exactly what we claim in the book," Barak says. "It isn’t a club in the sense of a place where people meet, but of people who share the same beliefs and values, first and foremost the supremacy of security as they perceive and represent it, with the Israeli army as its main representative."

Those involved in this network can certainly collude to advance policy that serves their interests, Barak continues: "The defence budget is an outstanding example of the might and influence the security network has. Each year you can see how they frustrate any attempt to reduce that budget, and often act to increase it after its formal approval by Knesset. That explains the big gap between the approved budget and actual one."
Meir Dagan - former head of Mossad (MI6)
Fifty-two years ago Dwight Eisenhower warned the American public about that very thing: a club of generals and arms-dealers conquering U.S. foreign and defence policy. He coined the phrase "the military-industrial complex," and indeed that club has dragged America into war after war during the last 50 years.

Isn’t the Israeli security junta, which inflated the defence budget to 70 billion shekels, essentially an Israeli military-industrial complex?

"When Eisenhower spoke in 1961 about the complex in the U.S., he was talking about its formation following the Cold War and the U.S.’ massive arms build-up, which could create ‘misplaced power’… he was warning the American people about what could happen. What we’re talking about in Israel’s case isn’t theoretical, it’s reality: The security network exists and penetrates a great many public areas, including politics, society, the economy and the culture."

Soldiers patrolling along Syrian border nr Druze Village Majdat Shams

Take the gas found in the Israeli seabed, Barak says. Right after its discovery, a process of "securitizing" the gas began – meaning it morphed from a civilian issue to being tagged as a military one, with the help of the security network. Since it had become a military issue, it suddenly became important to produce the gas quickly, lest it fall into enemy hands, and now also to protect the gas-drilling sites using costly new boats. "That’s exactly how the security network operates: frame a topic as military, and take it away from the civilian apparatus – the public, the Knesset, the government," Barak says.

There are claims that a military-industrial complex arose anew in the United States, especially given the interminable war on terrorism, he notes. Israel isn’t a military empire like America, but it does have massive defence exports and, of course areas that need protecting within and beyond its borders.

"In the book we discuss cases like the Israeli case: a small country facing a genuine or imagined existential threat, which chose to build a large military establishment that is not separate from the civilian sector. Good examples of this include South Korea, Taiwan, South Africa and Singapore," says Barak.
Both Israel’s left- and right-wing parties frame the debate on the Palestinian issue as ideological, religious, cultural and historic, and associate the inability to reach a solution with the ideology of the leaders, religion, history and so forth. The simpler possibility, the incentives of the leaders, is not seriously discussed in Israel or elsewhere, Barak says.

Could it be that the peace process is stuck because the status quo, meaning war and unending tension alongside an interminable peace process, serve the security, diplomatic and political elites in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the Arab world and in the other involved countries?

"I think the state of perpetual war in our area serves the security network, because it creates a need for the unique skills of its members as security experts. I do not necessarily claim that all the network members are warmongers. Some sobered up and acknowledge the importance of regional peace … but most still look at things through a gun-sight, and even when involved in a diplomatic process, they view it mainly as a defence issue, not a civilian one. Oslo began as a civilian initiative and underwent securitization."

The left views Israel’s leadership as bearing the main responsibility for the failure to progress in peace talks. Could there be elements on the Palestinian side who also want to perpetuate the process, because in the event of the establishment of an independent state, they’d have to contend with serious social problems?

"I think that in both elites, the Israeli and Palestinian, some want this perpetual state of a nation-waiting-to-be-born, and benefit from it. An established state means not only grave social problems but also limitations and constraints on the political leadership, such as clear boundaries vis-à-vis not only the nation and its neighbours, but in areas such as politics, the economy, society, the army and religion. It’s a lot easier to be an unborn state fighting for its existence against a hostile world … It’s quite clear that a Palestinian state, if one arises, and that’s highly doubtful, will be a failing state dependent on others, like Israel and the European Union, which is not a tempting scenario for its leaders. Look at South Sudan."

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