two cents in the “peace-process” wishing-well

October 7, 2010

The US-sponsored “peace process” is back in the news lately.
Almost nobody is holding their breath this time around. Netanyahu is hardly cuddly. Mahmoud Abbas is weak and, even if propped-up in the West Bank, he certainly can not speak for Gaza. Hamas, of course, is not welcome at the table.

I think about the middle east a lot… I’ll work at articulating why some page soon. But here’s a rough outline of what I (in some fantasy world where somebody would listen) would advise.

Middle-Eastern Thoughts.

I am not completely content to accept the existence of the state of Israel. I can’t completely get around my belief that its creation was a regrettable act.

I see Israel’s creation as largely the result of European feelings of guilt over the Holocaust, mixed with their own anti-Semitism. There were other factors… (1) European possession of most of the Middle East — spoils from the destruction of the Ottoman empire — set the stage. (2) A file of treaties and declarations (Balfour 1917, especially) became a box of props. (3) The deflating of the British empire gave it all a shove.
But…. more than anything else… Carving out a state for the Jews soothed “western” guilt, and it encouraged Jews to go somewhere else.

Today – for better, worse or some combination – the state of Israel exists. We need to work around this fact.  Having been the reality for decades, I do not wish to see it eliminated… or to see its population “pushed into the sea”.

I am not at all optimistic that the Palestine/Israel conflict will be settled (let alone the violence ended) in the foreseeable future. It could, but it won’t.

Until the US convincingly threatens to cut off the torrent of aid, the is really no hope that Israel will ever make the concessions that it must. That aid-tap will not be turned off until, in a world very different from today, Israel is no longer useful to the US. Maybe when the oil runs out, and the strategic value of the entire region fades…

…but then maybe the Saudi dessert
will turn out to be a great place to bury
the toxic waste  generated by whatever
energy source comes in its place.

One State or Two?

The one-state solution – dissolving the line between Israel and Palestine – is attractive. But I think there is no point waiting for Israel to accept it. From the Israeli point of view, the one-state solution is the most extreme of solutions. Palestinians (Arabs) vastly outnumber Israeli Jews… Palestinians may be badly weakened, but their numbers would make a very big difference if a single state were to be a democracy.

So, a two-state solution may be what must be settled for.

the Lines of 1967

Israel must withdrawal back to the “green line” – the borders as they existed before the summer of 1967.

This should be a familiar point. Most of the world agrees that – since 1967 – Israel has been illegal occupying Gaza, West Bank and Golan Heights.

Returning to the green line is, to my mind, is a major concession.

Putting aside the carving of the state of Israel out of Arab land… a great deal of land was seized by Israel in the violence which followed its creation (1948).  If Israel were to shoulder (at least) some of the blame for that conflict (elsewhere I’ve argued that they should do so) it would change the status of these territories.  Rather than accepted parts of Israel, the 1948 seizures would be remembered as illegal annexation by an aggressor-state.

So why not insist on returning to the borders drawn during the

creation of Israel?  …I’m not sure there is a good reason… other than bending to a realistic expectation of how just peace will ever be.


All “settlements” must be removed from occupied territory. Their residents should be assisted in re-establishing themselves with the state of Israel, or elsewhere.


Before it was seized in 1967, Jerusalem/al-Quds was within Palestine. Despite this, a compromise may be wise: remove Jerusalem from the control of both Palestine and Israel. The city could become a UN protectorate, administered with the explicit goal of facilitating the common by all groups.

A State for Who?

No matter what sort of government Israel has – democracy or dictatorship – it can not be “the Jewish state”.

The world, thankfully, does not have states for White people, tall people, Christians or Buddhists. Pakistan comes the closest, but (a) it does not claim to be the home of all Muslims, (b) non-Muslims are not (officially, at least) second-class citizens,

We do not tolerate (let alone support) countries which hand out rights according to race, religion or gender. (Except, for the past 62 years, Israel).

It must be forbidden for either Israel or Palestine to grant special citizenship privileges according to factors such as religion, ethnicity and language. On the other hand, either state could choose steer its immigration policies towards accepting members of such a group. (ala Quebec’s efforts to attract francophone immigrants).

Right of Return and Reparations

All Palestinians who have fled since 1948 (or later conflicts), must be able to return. This would also apply to any Jews who fled the conflict.

This is not impossible, and being complicated is no excuse for not trying. Further, the “cultural genocide” argument must be rejected.

The most basic (and common) complaint is that a massive increase in the Arab population within Israel would be genocide by demographics. Clearly their arrival would swamp the Jewish character of the state of Israel. Since I do not accept that states should ever be reserved for members of particular races or religions, this objection seems outrageous.

The land and homes of many Palestinians are simply not available. Many no longer exist. Many have been built upon. Some have Israeli families living in them.

If a Palestinian family has papers to prove that a particular piece of land was theirs – many still have such deeds – they should either be paid compensation according to the current value of that land, or be allowed to return (respectively: if it has, or has not been built on). This applies equally to land and property lost in 1948, 1967 or by the building of Israeli “settlements”.

Those families which can prove ownership of a house or other building which still stands, should be paid compensation based on the current value of that property.

Those who are unable to prove historic ownership of any land in particular should still be offered compensation. This includes the descendants of those who fled Palestine/Israel as a result of Israeli action (provoked or not). Negotiations would have to set a standard amount to be paid to each individual.

Shouldering the Cost

The cost of reparations (outlined above) should be paid by just by the state of Israel, but also those who have supported from inception until today. This would include the countries who sponsored the UN creation of Israel (such as Britain), those who have provided military aid (the United States, in particular), and those who have given diplomatic support to Israeli aggression (especially the US, which has so often vetoed UN resolutions condemning Israeli actions).

Safe Passage

A safe corridor must be created to allow free passage of people and material between the two occupied (Palestinian) territories — Gaza and the West Bank.

Israel may seal this corridor anyway she wishes, as long as it does not limit or threaten passage. Fences may be built, a buffer zone laid out, etc… however: pointing (let alone firing) weapons through such a fence, into the corridor, would be forbidden; as if it were any other international border.

Israel could not, by force, control what types of material passes through the corridor. Diplomacy (trade accords) would provide a way to limit, by agreement, what is permitted.

It seems sensible that parts of this corridor would be elevated on overpasses to permit Israeli traffic below… cutting Israel in two is obviously to be avoided.

Palestinian Politics

Israel, nor the international community, can continue forcibly interfering with the internal politics of Palestine. The current blockade and sanctions imposed on the Hamas-dominated government is exactly what must stop.

With very rare exceptions, it is seen as unacceptable for one state to interfere in the internal politics of any other. If the Palestinians choose to elect Hamas into power, no one should be changing their mind asking Palestine to be democratic.

Palestine as a Demilitarized State

Putting aside a Palestinian state’s obvious need to defend itself from a yet to be trusted Israel…
…being seen to have a “right” to the use of force (a military included) is one of the defining features of statehood, without one Palestine would only be a sort-of state.

It’s depressing that the idea of a demilitarized Palestine is regularly treated seriously by the “peace process”… it is absolute stupidity.

And so on…

There are many more issues to be settled… access to water resources, the ability of Palestinians and Israelis to cross borders (to work, or visit religious sites), the fate of Palestinians held in Israeli jails, etc, etc, etc.


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