July 29, 2013

Who said "Land swap...precludes any possibility of a Palestinian State"?

Well it was Norman Finkelstein finding his old form in an interview with Jamie Stern-Weiner at the New Left Project:
Jeremy Ben-Ami, who heads J Street, the main liberal Zionist lobby in the U.S., welcomes renewed peace talks as a potentially "historic opportunity" to reach a two-state settlement. You've been a close observer of the peace process for more than two decades. Can renewed talks produce a "historic" moment, or should we expect more of the same?
When folks like Jeremy Ben-Ami speak of the "two-state solution", they are talking about two states divided by the pre-June 1967 border, with, they are always careful to add, land swaps. By "land swaps", they mean Israel’s annexation of the major settlement blocs and giving Palestinians some territory in return.  In fact the delineation of their proposed border is very clear. It's the route of the Wall. Israelis speak fairly openly of the Wall as the "future border", to quote Israel's current Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni.
That kind of two-state settlement precludes any possibility of a Palestinian state. Israeli retention of the settlement blocs of Ariel, Karnei Shomron and Ma'ale Adumim would trisect the West Bank, appropriate some of its most valuable land and resources and cut off East Jerusalem. When people talk about the terms of a final settlement they often focus on percentages—what percentage of the West Bank will Israel retain, and so on—which misses the point made by the Palestinian delegation to the Annapolis talks: it's not just about percentages. East Jerusalem comprises just 1% of the West Bank, but a Palestinian state in its absence is unthinkable. Greater East Jerusalem—the triangle going from East Jerusalem to Ramallah to Bethlehem—accounts for 40% of the Palestinian economy.
However, I agree with Ben-Ami that we are approaching a potentially historic moment. Why? Because Palestinians are now the weakest they have ever been.
Finkelstein identifies four factors colluding to put the Palestinians in their weakest ever position and he is withering in his criticism of the PA which is nice.  For me the most interesting bit is where he speaks of the fickle and therefore unpredictable nature of public opinion and behaviour in responding to events.  He uses two contrasting examples of the civil rights in the American South in the 1960s and Egypt today:
Anyone who predicts these things with any degree of confidence is a charlatan. The Montgomerybus boycott was completely spontaneous, as were the original student sit-ins in Greensboro. When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, the NAACP’s plan was to go through the legal system to get a favourable court ruling. What happened—a mass popular boycott—was spontaneous. Imagine these working people, walking to work or going in makeshift car pools for a year.  A year, getting up in the wee hours of the morning.  Who could have guessed that they would find the inner moral resources to make that kind of sacrifice?
So you can never predict these things. But we should also be careful to avoid predicting in the other direction. When I was speaking about changes in the Middle East the past couple of years, I always described developments in Egypt and Turkey as irreversible except in the event of a military coup in Egypt, which—I always added—I considered highly improbable. Why improbable? Because who would ever have thought that there would a popularly mandated military coup in Egypt? I could not, in my wildest imagination, predict that the secular liberal-left in Egypt would support a military coup. That's a shocker. The inaugural act of the putschists in Egypt was to shoot dead dozens of worshippers at 3.30am during morning prayers.  The secular liberal-left uttered not a word. Nothing. Who would have guessed that a year ago?
Insightful stuff. The whole thing is worth a read here.

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