Is a new consensus emerging in the West that, while still very much pro-Israeli, nevertheless dismisses the Israeli right as no more than a speed bump on the road to peace?
British/Israeli historian of the Arab-Israeli conflict Avi Shlaim wrote in The Independent on
March 21, 2010:
…since the end of the Cold War,
has become more of a liability than an asset. Israel
America's most vital interests lie in the Persian Gulf; to ensure access to oil, the
needs Arab goodwill. Here US is a major liability, as a result of its occupation of Palestinian land and its brutal oppression of the Palestinian people. Israel
Now Professor Schlaim is “just” an academic (albeit one who volunteered to join the IDF!), so consider the commentary in that dyed-in-the-wool institutional member of the Israeli lobby in the
, the Washington Post: U.S.
What's needed now is for Obama to announce that when negotiations begin, the
will state its views about United States and other key issues -- sketching the outlines of the deal that most Israelis and Palestinians want. If Netanyahu refuses to play, then we have a real crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations. Jerusalem
The Post commentator, David Ignatius, was certainly not advocating two states; he sneaked in, as though it was a mere detail, the fatal flaw of a “demilitarized” Palestinian entity. That, of course, is exactly what the Palestinians have now. In fact, it is even worse. After all,
has at least an armed militia attempting to defend the ghetto against prison guards with the world’s fourth best air force. So, no one could paint Ignatius’ essay as pro-Palestinian; all he is talking about as a “solution” is Palestinian Bantustan. Gaza
Nevertheless, he makes a couple key points critical to destroying the American taboo on thinking honestly about the conflict:
1. He distinguishes the extreme right wing that demands total victory from “
2. He calls on Obama to lay out “the deal that most Israelis and Palestinians want.”
That deal Ignatius defines as:
real sharing of Jerusalem; no right of return for the Palestinians; a return to the 1967 borders, with mutual adjustments to allow for big Israeli settlement blocks; and a demilitarized Palestinian state.
Perhaps one of those “mutual adjustments” could be a solid land bridge connecting the
West Bank to . Gaza
That Ignatius remains far from an “honest broker” position of neutrality is clear if his take is compared with that of the Shlaim, but if even the Post has moved this far, then perhaps there is now hope for a serious dialogue. What Ignatius offers is no solution: Palestinian Bantustan is a set-up for the continuation of Palestinian protests and Israeli repression. But if Ignatius’ conditions are accepted as the minimum, with two viable, defensible states as the maximum, there is room for a real negotiation about a solution that might actually work. Questions would include:
· How much of a land bridge connecting the
West Bank to would Gaza offer in return for being allowed to keep its several hundred thousand illegal residents in parts of Israel East Jerusalem?
· How much defensive capability will
be allowed to protect itself from Israeli tanks and F-16s? Palestine
· When might an international peacekeeping force deploy in the
West Bank remove settlers, prevent settlers from burning Palestinian olive groves, and replace Israeli soldiers?
· When will the collective punishment of Gazans be ended and the Gaza Ghetto be opened to the world?
Astonishingly, the two writers implicitly agree that Netanyahu is now not a negotiating partner but an obstacle on the path to peace. How far we seem to have come in only a week!