Stav Shaffir “Israel’s Elizabeth Warren” tells liberals to “Occupy Zionism” at J Street conference

Haaretz is running this on Stav Shaffir:

J Street’s fiery rock star Stav Shaffir has a suggestion: ‘Occupy Zionism’

Just like Senator Elizabeth Warren, with whom she met on Tuesday, the red-haired Labor MK preaches social justice and 2-state solutions to her adoring liberal fans.

Because of her passion, because of her sharp tongue, because of her proven record of political activism, because of her David vs. Goliath skirmishes in the Knesset Finance Committee, because of her three-minute “Who is a Zionist” Knesset speech that became a viral sensation, because of her spectacular mane of red hair and because, like Anne of Green Gables, “her temper matches her hair,” Stav Shaffir is already a superstar in the Israeli left. After this week’s J Street Conference, one can safely say that she’s a big shot in the American Jewish left as well.Several leftist MKs managed to make it to the J Street Conference, despite last week’s elections, and all were received graciously and warmly. But only the charismatic Shaffir was covered with the pixie dust of success and enveloped by the allure of celebrity, generating unabashed enthusiasm and excitement, especially among the younger set, whenever she took to the stage

That speech is at http://www.youtube.com/…

Her “Zionist Dream”, on the other hand, is tailor made for liberal Diaspora audiences: to have an Israel that celebrates diversity, where tolerance is not a weakness, where the poor are treated with compassion, minorities with respect, women and gay people and Reform Jews with equality under the law. And “above all we want an Israel that does not control millions of Palestinians.” It is just the right mix of social advocacy, Tikkun Olam, Zionism and support for Palestinian independence that speaks to the heart of J Street’s beliefs.She wants to forge a “strategic alliance” with American friends and supporters. “We must connect them by creating a very clear vision where Israel must go,” Shaffir told Haaretz on Tuesday. “We can’t accept a situation in which where has a negative connotation. We must occupy Zionism and reclaim it.”

I can’t access YouTube at the moment, but it looks like her speech at the conference is here: http://www.youtube.com/…

She is undeniably charismatic, and committed to social justice.

She says that her three-minute YouTube sensation was completely unplanned and unscripted. “I was upset by Bennett’s attacks and went up to speak before an empty Knesset, so I was surprised by how far and wide the video was circulated, with over a million views in Israel. People in Israel felt they needed some defense: They are good law abiding Zionist citizens, yet they are being called anti-Zionists in order to delegitimize their views.”

Which is a reference to stuff like this:

J Street is here: http://jstreet.org/

+972mag: Herzog’s Anti-Arab Campaign, Bill Maher and the One-State Solution

For those of you who are unfamiliar with it:

+972 is a blog-based web magazine that is jointly owned by a group of journalists, bloggers and photographers whose goal is to provide fresh, original, on-the-ground reporting and analysis of events in Israel and Palestine. Our collective is committed to human rights and freedom of information, and we oppose the occupation.The name of the site is derived from the telephone area code that is shared by Israel and Palestine.

To my ears, it consistently has some of the most interesting and sensitive opinion coming out of I/P. Much of it resonates with me. I am also far more willing to credit their views because the collective has Palestinian members. Their views on contemporary Palestinian society are grounded in first-hand observations rather than the pre-judice engaged in by many other Israelis and Palestinians living in their segregated towns.

In many ways, the writing, themes and narratives remind me of our own country’s struggle with equal rights for American Indians, the Civil Rights Struggle and the Abolitionist movement.

For instance, Edo Konrad asks today – Why did we forget about Herzog’s anti-Arab campaign?:

The media, of course, rightfully panned Netanyahu for his remarks. But while Bibi’s racism was clear as day, it was Herzog’s utter indifference toward Israel’s Palestinian minority, not to mention the 47-year military dictatorship in the occupied territories, that received little media attention.In fact, the only time Herzog’s campaign really made an effort to spotlight Israel’s Arab citizens was in a video featuring IDF veterans who served alongside him in the prestigious Unit 8200, which is part of Israel’s vaunted intelligence corps. In the video, the veterans laud Herzog as someone who “understands the Arab mentality” and “has seen Arabs in all kinds of situations,” including “in the crosshairs.”

If that wasn’t enough, Herzog and the Zionist Camp also supported the disqualification of MK Haneen Zoabi from the elections, joining the chorus of far-right extremists who have been inciting against her for years. Perhaps Herzog hoped that by attacking Zoabi he would be able to steal some seats away from centrist parties, which lean to the right on security issues. In doing so, however, Herzog only proved that he is willing to delegitimize an entire public for the sake of a few votes.

I do not know whether Netanyahu or Herzog harbor a deep hatred for Arabs, or whether they simply know what brings in votes. What is clear is that Netanyahu, who took a page out of Meir Kahane’s book, was roundly criticized, while Herzog — who rubber-stamped the delegitimization of Israel’s Palestinian citizens — was mostly let off the hook.[…]

By warning against “buses full of Arabs,” Netanyahu crossed the line from Likud hawk to Marzel-type incitement. Herzog, on the other hand, remained strictly within the confines of “good taste” — and lost.

Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man concludes – No, Bill Maher, Bibi’s campaign was indeed racist:

Maher continued: “I think that would be a good analogy if America was surrounded by 12 or 13 completely black nations who had militarily attacked us many times, including as recently as last year. Would we let them vote?”[…]

“I don’t know,” Maher continued. “When we were attacked by the Japanese we didn’t just not let them vote, we rounded them up and put them in camps.”

And finally, Yonatan Amir says – It’s time for a one-state solution:

There is no use convincing the Jewish public to support the two-state solution, especially when over 500,000 settlers live beyond the Green Line and there is no guarantee that a Palestinian state will not be the source of terror against Israelis. The only way forward is to grant full equality to all.

Every time I say that the two-state solution is no longer realistic, and that we need to think about new approaches to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, center-left voters respond with anger, condescension and pity. They claim that this is a far-fetched idea, not to mention dangerous and cruel (!) — an idea that proves the desire to destroy the State of Israel, and is disconnected from the will of the “sane Jewish majority.”Let’s start with a reminder: the new Knesset includes 107 members belonging to Jewish parties. Seventy-eight of them oppose the two-state solution, and are divided between those who have no qualms about their stances (Likud, Jewish Home, Kulanu, Shas, United Torah Judaism and Yisrael Beiteinu), and a minority that talks about a solution but creates obstacles to ever achieving one (Yesh Atid). On the other side we have the supporters of two states: five MKs from Meretz and 24 from the Zionist Camp. All in all, 29 versus 78.

These are the statistics. We aren’t talking about a difference of 2-3 seats that could make a difference in the future, not a “majority,” not “sane,” no “support” and no “solution.” The majority of Israelis oppose a two-state solution. Welcome to the negligible minority.

Even if we assume that we can convince a large percentage of settlers to evacuate the West Bank, and assuming the Israeli economy will be able to deal with the price, and assuming that a state that was unable to take care of thousands of Gaza evacuees will be able to take care of hundreds of thousands of evacuees from Judea and Samaria, and assuming that both sides will agree to allow visits to each other’s holy sites, and assuming the Palestinians will be satisfied with a demilitarized 21 percent of their historic homeland, and assuming that they will agree to give up on the right of return, and assuming we find a solution that will reconnect Gaza and the West Bank, and assuming that the agreement will be accepted by the majority of Palestinians (and not just a handful of suits in Ramallah). Even if we assume all these to be true, after Oslo and the disengagement, who can guarantee that missiles won’t strike central Israel a month after an agreement is signed? The Zionist Left has no good answer beyond its belief that things will eventually work out. So is it really a surprise that so few buy their plan?As opposed to the Zionist Left, the Right actually understands that the Palestinians and their demands aren’t going anywhere. The problem is that the Right doesn’t offer any logical plan to deal with the situation. As a result, what is called “Israeli policy” today is nothing more than a hysterical combination of Netanyahu-style paranoia and childish, folksy behavior à la Naftali Bennett. What we end up with are mantras about maintaining Israeli security alongside infantile slogans such as “the eternal people do not fear a long road.”

Most of the settlers are far from the violent messianism of Kahane. They came to the settlements because of their belief in God or settling the land, a desire for better quality of life, or simply the option to buy a home for a decent price. We can disagree with them, but we need to start learning how to work with what we’ve got. Speak to the average settler about evacuation because “it is the decent price to pay so to make it better for all of us,” and they will slam the door in your face. Speak with them about equality for the Palestinians they meet every day, and you will find the beginnings of cooperation.

Instead of organizing conferences where people mingle and discuss ways to divide the land, a Left that wants to have political influence must work with the Right to advance equal master plans in Arab villages. Instead of entrenching ourselves in its comfort zone, it must work with people and organizations that promote dialogue and coexistence.Instead of chasing after the well-respected general turned successful arms dealer who can explain that stopping negotiations on a two-state solution only isolates Israel and harms it economically, it must join those on the Israeli Right and the Palestinian Left in order to advance equality in the workforce and education. Instead of trying to sell the Right on fantasies of dividing the land, which are destined to fail, it must work with it to bring about one state with equal rights for all residents on both sides of the Green Line.

This move will not abrogate Palestinian national aspirations. It will not put an end to either Jewish or Arab terror and will not solve all of Israel’s essential problems. But it will help build a more stable and fair infrastructure based on democracy and equality, which so crucial for the existence of a healthy society.

Amir’s is a hard-headed pragmatic analysis. I tried to write about the one-state solution in human, personal terms yesterday. We’ve been having a one-state vs. two-state discussion on this site for some time (perhaps mostly instigated by me).

I used to believe in a two-state solution as well.  But I stopped seeing it as the only game in town a number of years ago. My own rough-sketch view of how it might work is in this comment from a while ago. It’s a phased approach over 18 years.

I’ve been reading analysis and advocacy for a single, bi-national, federal, secular state for the past decade. I’ve looked at it with a critical eye (after all, I had to be persuaded too), and I find it difficult to refute the logic of its inevitability, I find it virtually impossible to deny the inherent justness of a single state with equal rights for all. That is what we have in the US for the most part. We continue to struggle towards a more perfect union. And perhaps it is naive, but this is the sentiment I think Israelis and Palestinians will have to embody to succeed:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

That is an enormous demand, perhaps greater than most men and women can meet. But what alternative is there?

Lastly, believe it or not, Palestinians and settlers in the West Bank can talk like neighbors.

Ruminating on a one-state solution in Israel-Palestine.

I’ve said before that the two-state solution for Israel/Palestine is a zombie. Most people acknowledge that the present reality is a single state with a couple of enclaves where some authority is delegated to Palestinians, but their movement is severely curtailed and an occupying military enters to take any action it deems necessary without effective oversight. And that’s just the West Bank.

But that isn’t what I want to talk about today. I want to discuss why so many people recoil from the one-state solution.

Undoubtedly, many Israelis are deathly afraid of living next to Palestinians. They may have lived through the bombings of the second intifada, and the TV routinely carries voices warning of of blood-thirsty groups bent on killing and conquest.

But many Israelis know that with a just peace, opportunity and equality, an armed Palestinian rebellion will lose steam. They know this because they see that many Palestinians want to live and work in Israel. Israelis also know that if the various Palestinian militia are absorbed into the IDF (as the terrorist groups Irgun and Lehi were in 1948), the risk of renewed armed rebellion goes down even further. And that is not so unthinkable, the Palestinian Authority has been co-ordinating with the IDF for years. Most sensible people know this even if it’s only subconsciously.

But there is one other reason to oppose a single state. And that is the fear of coming to terms with the inconsistencies in a cherished story.

The story is of a desperate people arriving in a land of their ancestors as the most terrible event in their collective memory. They find it sparsely populated and embark on an effort to build a homeland for themselves. They are set upon by neighboring states and tribes who covet the land. Through sheer grit and ingenuity, they manage to push back the overwhelmingly superior forces (five armies!). They claim a nation and make the desert bloom. True, if some were pushed aside, or prevented from returning, that was both moral and necessary.

If there is one state with equal rights, a lot of this goes out the window. Firstly because the narrative changes because half the country has a collective memory that contradicts this narrative and can directly refute the pleasant storybook. The Palestinian perspective on the Nakba and the War of Independence could not be ignored.

Even if you continue to cling to the storybook narrative of 1947/48, you will only be able to do it for so long.

Till the day a Palestinian family walks onto your block in West Jerusalem. An old woman carrying a worn set of keys is with them. How would you be able to swallow the lump in your throat when she stops in front of a house on your street and fingers the keys, the keys to the house that her family left or was driven away from 70 years ago. A house that continues to live in their minds, but which none of her grandchildren have seen till now because they could take nothing with them. And what will you tell your children when they asked who that family was, and how it is that they came to leave the house, and how it came to be that another family lives there now.

Or if you live in a kibbutz out in a quiet valley and you see a dozen old men and women get off a bus and walk around the ruins next to your town. They point out every hill, some of the old olive trees. The stop at a ruin and the more devout among them drop to their knees to pray. Then after a picnic meal at the stream they used to play in as children, they shuffle back into their bus and they are gone. When you look around you the next day, when you walk onto the fields your kibbutz has claimed. When you look at the Arabian horses around you, what will you be able to say to the voice that asks where they came from. Were they bought or were they taken? Will you still say that tearing down that village and the memories of those boys and girls was moral. And will you be able to tell yourself it was necessary?

It’s much easier to have two states. They stay over there, we stay here.

But without facing these truths and making this kind of reconciliation, will there ever be a just peace?

ADL says Obama is being “nasty” to Netanyahu

Bib Netanyahui’s statements about Arabs “voting in droves”, using settlements to separate Jerusalem from Palestinian Bethlehem and his rejection of the two-state plan shocked many Americans, including many American Jews.

The fallout is also likely to have a lasting effect on the way many Americans, particularly liberals, view various organizations.

There’s some damage control underway, as reported in the Forward today – Jewish Groups Seek To Paper Over Differences on Benjamin Netanyahu Reelection:

American Jewish groups moved to calm continuing tensions between Jerusalem and Washington in the wake of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decisive reelection this week. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Anti-Defamation League all released statements Thursday welcoming Netanyahu’s affirmation of support for a two-state solution.

But, AIPAC and the ADL also expressed their irritation that the president refused to give Bibi a pass on the racist remarks towards Arab voters and his contradictory statements on the two-state process.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, noting that Netanyahu had “clearly reaffirmed” his support for a two-state solution, criticized the Obama administration for having “rebuffed” the prime minister’s efforts to put relations with the United States back on track.

In an interview, Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director, called the administration’s stubbornness “unbecoming.”“To say we won’t forget,” Foxman said, “that’s nasty.”

But the story is actually much bigger than AIPAC or the ADL. Bibi’s words seem to have created rifts among American Jews in a way that not even last year’s bombing of Gaza did.

Continue reading “ADL says Obama is being “nasty” to Netanyahu”

Tony Judt knew the two-state plan was dead. In 2003.

As I caught up on the news reports and pundit pronouncements on Israel’s election this week, I realized there was one voice I was missing. True, there was very little coverage of the views of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. They have a lot at stake in this election, but we don’t really hear a lot from them. But it was Tony Judt I was missing. So I went back and read some of his older articles. They are so perceptive and spot on, that they deserve to be shared here.

From The NY Review of Books (October 2003) Israel: The Alternative

The Middle East peace process is finished. It did not die: it was killed. Mahmoud Abbas was undermined by the President of the Palestinian Authority and humiliated by the Prime Minister of Israel. His successor awaits a similar fate. Israel continues to mock its American patron, building illegal settlements in cynical disregard of the “road map.” The President of the United States of America has been reduced to a ventriloquist’s dummy, pitifully reciting the Israeli cabinet line: “It’s all Arafat’s fault.” Israelis themselves grimly await the next bomber. Palestinian Arabs, corralled into shrinking Bantustans, subsist on EU handouts. On the corpse-strewn landscape of the Fertile Crescent, Ariel Sharon, Yasser Arafat, and a handful of terrorists can all claim victory, and they do. Have we reached the end of the road? What is to be done?

The situation of Israel is not desperate, but it may be close to hopeless. Suicide bombers will never bring down the Israeli state, and the Palestinians have no other weapons. There are indeed Arab radicals who will not rest until every Jew is pushed into the Mediterranean, but they represent no strategic threat to Israel, and the Israeli military knows it. What sensible Israelis fear much more than Hamas or the al-Aqsa Brigade is the steady emergence of an Arab majority in “Greater Israel,” and above all the erosion of the political culture and civic morale of their society. As the prominent Labor politician Avraham Burg recently wrote, “After two thousand years of struggle for survival, the reality of Israel is a colonial state, run by a corrupt clique which scorns and mocks law and civic morality.” Unless something changes, Israel in half a decade will be neither Jewish nor democratic.

Israeli liberals and moderate Palestinians have for two decades been thanklessly insisting that the only hope was for Israel to dismantle nearly all the settlements and return to the 1967 borders, in exchange for real Arab recognition of those frontiers and a stable, terrorist-free Palestinian state underwritten (and constrained) by Western and international agencies. This is still the conventional consensus, and it was once a just and possible solution.But I suspect that we are already too late for that. There are too many settlements, too many Jewish settlers, and too many Palestinians, and they all live together, albeit separated by barbed wire and pass laws. Whatever the “road map” says, the real map is the one on the ground, and that, as Israelis say, reflects facts. It may be that over a quarter of a million heavily armed and subsidized Jewish settlers would leave Arab Palestine voluntarily; but no one I know believes it will happen

For many years, Israel had a special meaning for the Jewish people. After 1948 it took in hundreds of thousands of helpless survivors who had nowhere else to go; without Israel their condition would have been desperate in the extreme. Israel needed Jews, and Jews needed Israel. The circumstances of its birth have thus bound Israel’s identity inextricably to the Shoah, the German project to exterminate the Jews of Europe.

A binational state in the Middle East would require a brave and relentlessly engaged American leadership. The security of Jews and Arabs alike would need to be guaranteed by international force—though a legitimately constituted binational state would find it much easier policing militants of all kinds inside its borders than when they are free to infiltrate them from outside and can appeal to an angry, excluded constituency on both sides of the border.5 A binational state in the Middle East would require the emergence, among Jews and Arabs alike, of a new political class. The very idea is an unpromising mix of realism and utopia, hardly an auspicious place to begin. But the alternatives are far, far worse.

The Jerusalem Post while reporting his death took the opportunity to respond to the essay: So Farewell Then Tony Judt. Since Tablet seems to be the “new media” go to site for apologists of the occupation, here’s their take: Tony Judt is Aging Poorly. Both make the point that the Middle East is littered with ethno-centric states, so Israel shouldn’t be singled out for fitting into the neighborhood. That really isn’t a critique of Tony Judt (because he said the same thing. Rather it confirms his critics do not place the same value on universal human rights that he did (i.e. their view is unshakably tribal). *From a July 2010 interview in The Atlantic Tony Judt’s Final Word on Israel

But what happens in small West Bank towns, in the Israeli Parliament, in Gazan schools or in Lebanese farms is invisible to the world. And Israel was always very good at presenting the argument from “self-defense” even when it was absurd. I think that Israel’s successful defiance of international law for so long has made Jerusalem blind and deaf to the seriousness with which the rest of the world takes the matter.

There is a partner. It may not be very nice and it may not be very easy. It’s called Hamas. In the same way the provisional [Irish Republican Army] was the only realistic “partner for peace” with whom London could negotiate; Nelson Mandela (a “terrorist” for the Afrikaaners until his release) was the only realistic “partner for peace”; the same was true of “that terrorist” ([according to Winston] Churchill) Gandhi; the well-known “murderous terrorist” Jomo Kenyatta with whom London fought a murderous war for five years before he became “a great statesman”; not to mention Algeria. The irony is that Washington knows this perfectly well and expects negotiations with Hamas within five years. After all, Israel virtually invented Hamas in the hope of undermining the PLO; well, they succeeded. But they are the only ones who can’t see what has to happen.

In such a state, Jews would soon be a minority. Doesn’t that frighten you?Not as much as it seems to frighten others. Why is it ok for a Jewish minority to dominate an Arab majority, its leaders to call for expulsions of majority members, etc., but not ok for a democracy to have a majority and minority both protected under law? At least Israel could then call itself a democracy with a clear conscience.

What you are really asking is whether I think the Palestinians would immediately set out to rape, pillage and murder the Jews? I don’t see why they would want to — there is no historical record suggesting that this is what Palestinians do for fun, whereas we have all too much evidence that Israelis persecute Palestinians for no good reason. If I were an Arab, I would be more afraid of living in a state with Jews just now.

Can you see or understand why Israelis are afraid?

Yes, but only in the sense that someone who has been brought up to fear and hate his neighbors will have good reason to be frightened at the thought of living in the same house with them. Israelis have created a generation of young Palestinians who hate them and will never forgive them and that does make a real problem for any future agreement, single- or two-state.

But Israel should be much, much more afraid of the Israel it’s creating for itself: a semi-democratic, demagogic, far-right warrior state dominated by racist Russians and crazed rabbis. In this perspective, an internationally policed and guaranteed federal state of Israel, with the same rights and resources for Jews and Arabs, looks a lot less frightening to me.

From the NY Times Op-Ed (June 2010) Israel Without Cliches

“Democracy” is no guarantee of good behavior: most countries today are formally democratic — remember Eastern Europe’s “popular democracies.” Israel belies the comfortable American cliché that “democracies don’t make war.” It is a democracy dominated and often governed by former professional soldiers: this alone distinguishes it from other advanced countries. And we should not forget that Gaza is another “democracy” in the Middle East: it was precisely because Hamas won free elections there in 2005 that both the Palestinian Authority and Israel reacted with such vehemence.

But there is. As American officials privately acknowledge, sooner or later Israel (or someone) will have to talk to Hamas. From French Algeria through South Africa to the Provisional I.R.A., the story repeats itself: the dominant power denies the legitimacy of the “terrorists,” thereby strengthening their hand; then it secretly negotiates with them; finally, it concedes power, independence or a place at the table. Israel will negotiate with Hamas: the only question is why not now.

But since 1967 it has been Israel that has missed most opportunities: a 40-year occupation (against the advice of its own elder statesmen); three catastrophic invasions of Lebanon; an invasion and blockade of Gaza in the teeth of world opinion; and now a botched attack on civilians in international waters. Palestinians would be hard put to match such cumulative blunders.

For anyone interested in Europe, Judt’s book Postwar is at once thrilling, enlightening and beautiful. Essential reading, if you have anything to do with Europe. If you’re on the left, he was one of the most articulate voices for measured social democracy and a very nuanced view of the welfare state. There is a nice remembrance in the Times’ review of his essay collection (published posthumously): When the Facts ChangeGrab bag of links:

– NY Times Obituary (2010): http://www.nytimes.com/…
– FT Op-Ed – Israel must unpick its ethnic myth (2009): http://www.ft.com/…
– Lunch with the FT (2007): http://www.ft.com/…
– FT’s Review of When the Facts Change (2015): http://www.ft.com/…
– Dialog with his son about Obama’s election (2010): http://www.nytimes.com/…
– Andrew Sullivan remembers Tony Judt (2014): http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/…

I regret not having taken one of his classes while I had a chance.

* In any case, the Kurds and Azeris are in a similar sort of position as the Palestinians in certain countries.

Though he would be loathe to say it, in a very real sense Tony Judt belonged to the trans-national tribe of professionals he once called clerks who inhabit international airports. Their paper of choice is the Financial Times.

The FT’s take on the Israeli election is captured in Bibi’s triumph and the challenge for Obama

Mr Netanyahu now appears to have rejected negotiations. In those circumstances, and without a halt to Israel’s settlement policy on the West Bank, the US cannot credibly maintain its veto on Palestinian statehood. Washington should reconsider its position if and when the Palestinians resume their bid at the UN.

Israel’s tribal impasse behind Netanyahu’s dramatic victory

So the first piece of clarity to emerge from this result is for Palestinian citizens living in Israel proper: the message is one of continued marginalisation. It was brought home powerfully by Mr Netanyahu himself, warning in an election-day video that droves of Arabs were descending on the polls and had to be counterbalanced. Remember, this is a prime minister talking about his own citizens exercising their most basic democratic right. Just imagine if such a comment were made by a European leader about Jewish or black voters.

And finally, their perceptive analysis of the maneuvering that has commenced to form a coalition: Kahlon holds key to Netanyahu coalition

What we’ve learned about the Israeli electorate from the election.

I’m going to focus only on the question of Israel’s policy towards Palestinians and the Occupied Territories. I’m going to ignore economic issues since frankly they have limited interest to most who don’t live in Israel. This is myopic and I’m the first to admit it.

First off, things really didn’t change much. Israel is split pretty much down the center between Left-ish parties and Right-ish parties.

Likud won 25% of the vote which was more than they did last time, the broader right won around 50% which was about the same. For the most part, the broader right shares Netanyahu/Likud’s vision of a greater Israel and settlement expansion in the West Bank. In general these parties believe the two-state peace process is a useful distraction, to be indulged when there’s something to be gained, or a loss to be prevented. The news (if you can call it that) is that Bibi said it out loud into a microphone.

The fact is that Israelis look across their borders and see a terrifying civil war in Syria, and a vicious guerrilla war in Iraq. Netanyahu stoked fears that any devolution of powers to a Palestinian state would bring this state of affairs to the West Bank. I would argue Palestinian society is not really fertile ground for ISIS and their ilk, in the same way Lebanon and Turkey are not (essentially they’re all Mediterranean cultures). Nevertheless, this is a reasonable concern that reasonable people may have. [* See Below]

Whether or not such concerns can retro-actively legitimize a permanent occupation and arrogation of the rights of Palestinians was not a subject of discussion in this election. There was no event that made the Israeli electorate at large sit up and notice the banal injustice of the occupation and how the country has arrived at this juncture. With the exception of the usual suspects on the far left, Arab Jews/Christians and subscribers to Haaretz (who really are suspects or worse in the eyes of many).

Here’s the silver lining. Despite the concern of wider Middle-East unrest arriving to the West Bank of the Jordan, roughly 50% of the population voted for parties that continued to tacitly support a devolution of power to Palestinians and a negotiated withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. This half of the country (including the fifth of citizens who are of Palestinian Muslim and Christian descent) voted for engagement, despite the risks. They did not rush into Bibi’s arms despite his fear-mongering about barbarians at the gates (Hamastan in the West Bank) and enemies within (Arabs voting in droves).

The 2014 war in Gaza and its impact on Palestinians was largely ignored. There was no real discussion of the propriety of Israeli action (including home bombings, indiscriminate shelling and the targeting of designated safe zones) except obliquely from the Joint List and the far, far left. This should not come as a surprise to anyone given the narrative focus on Hamas rockets and “terror tunnels” last summer. Netanyahu’s framing of the war as “Israel’s right to defend itself” is largely unassailable in the public sphere.

* To provide some context. We (as in the USA) are still waging a War by Drone all across the world with many civilian casualties and mum’s the word state-side. If there were rockets (however ineffectual) launched from New Jersey landing on the Upper West Side, I suspect many of my neighbors would be all for pummeling the Garden State into dust. If New Jersey were a Native American reservation (or had the racial makeup of Ferguson), I shudder to think what options might be on the table. All that said, we’ve overcome most of our worst injustices from the past. It took a Civil War and many faltering steps, but the US no longer has that kind of relationship with its indigenous population or minorities. Then again, if FARC were in Pennsylvania (our hemisphere’s rough equivalent), with a risk it might spill over to NYC, I think my liberal bastion of a city might even bring Giuliani back.

A round-up of the punditry I found interesting below:

In Netanyahu won, but Israel was brought to its knees, Ari Shavit writes:

But the tribe known as the “white tribe” is the most primitive political tribe that exists in Israel. Time after time it blindly follows false messiahs and makes incomprehensible mistakes. This happened yet again on Tuesday. The decision of hundreds of thousands of people to vote for Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid split the moderate bloc and gave the government yet again to Likud, to the right, and to Gush Emunim. Just as in 2013 Yair Lapid brought Naftali Bennett to power, this time, Lapid gave the power back to Benjamin Netanyahu.

In Netanyahu deserves the Israeli people, and they deserve him, Gideon Levy writes:

On Tuesday the foundations were laid for the apartheid state that is to come. If Netanyahu succeeds in forming the next government in his spirit and image, then the two-state solution will finally be buried and the struggle over the character of a binational state will begin. If Netanyahu is the next prime minister, then Israel has not only divorced the peace process, but also the world. Piss off, dear world, we’re on our own. Please don’t interfere, we’re asleep, the people are with Netanyahu. The Palestinians can warm the benches at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, the Israel boycotters can swing into high gear and Gaza can wait for the next cruel attack by the Israeli army.

In The Guardian: Netanyahu’s victory is clear break with US-led peace process

Ahead of Tuesday’s election, some Palestinian officials close to Abbas had intimated that a Netanyahu victory – not least in terms of his outright rejection of a two-state solution and his vow to continue settlement construction – would mark a clear break in a US-led peace process that has been on ice since it collapsed almost a year ago.Indeed a common sentiment among Palestinians in recent days is that the election campaign forced Netanyahu to reveal his opposition to a two-state solution.

“The Israeli elections forced Netanyahu to reveal his real position,” said prominent Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab, reflecting the views of many.

In The Jerusalem Post: White House knocks ‘divisive rhetoric’ against Israeli Arabs in election:

The White House said on Wednesday that it was deeply concerned by the use of “divisive rhetoric” in the Israeli election that sought to undermine Arab Israeli citizens.Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested on election day that Left-wingers were trying to get Arab Israeli voters out “in droves” to sway the election against him.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters traveling on Air Force One that the United States would communicate its concern about the issue directly to the Israelis.

Earnest also told reporters on Air Force One that the administration will evaluate its approach on the Middle East peace process following Netanyahu’s recent statement that there would be no Palestinian state under his watch.

And the Jerusalem Post has noted the American press’s reaction to Netanyahu’s pre-election comments.Or if you prefer, the Guardian is carrying the same story: Obama snubs Netanyahu and criticises Israeli PM’s ‘divisive rhetoric’

Not sure whether it’s just the first stage of grief, but Peter Beinart seems to have changed his stance and writes With Netanyahu’s reelection, the peace process is over and the pressure process must begin

My entire adult life, American Jewish leaders have been telling Americans that Israel can save itself. Just wait until Israel gains a respite from terror, they said; then its silent, two-state majority will roar. Give Israelis constant reassurance; never pressure them. If they know “the United States is right next to them,” Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations promised Barack Obama in 2009, Israeli leaders will “take risks” for peace.Israel has been disproving that theory throughout the Netanyahu era. Now, with this election, Israel has killed it.

This campaign, in other words, offered an excellent test of the theory that the American Jewish establishment has peddled for decades. And look what happened. In the absence of Palestinian violence and American pressure, Jewish Israelis at first pretended the Palestinians did not exist. “As Israeli election nears, peace earns barely a mention,” noted Reuters. During a 90-minute debate in late February, eight candidates, together, mentioned the word “peace” only five times. And three of those mentions came from the Arab candidate.

“Power,” said the great American abolitionist Frederick Douglass, “concedes nothing without a demand.” For almost half a century, Israel has wielded brutal, undemocratic, unjust power over millions of human beings in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. And as this election makes clear, Israel will concede nothing on its own. This isn’t because Jewish Israelis are different than anyone else. It’s because they are the same.

Elections have consequences: Netanyahu just won a mandate to kill the two-state process

It looks like Likud won 25% of Knesset seats after Bibi said this:

Under pressure on the eve of a surprisingly close election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Monday doubled down on his appeal to right-wing voters, declaring definitively that if he was returned to office he would never establish a Palestinian state.[…]

“I think that anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state today and evacuate lands is giving attack grounds to the radical Islam against the state of Israel,” he said in a video interview published on NRG, an Israeli news site that leans to the right. “There is a real threat here that a left-wing government will join the international community and follow its orders.”

— NYT: Netanyahu Says No to Statehood for Palestinians

Some will claim (as indeed Bibi might tomorrow) that he is referring to the threat that ISIS or Hamas will set up shop in the West Bank, and that this is hopefully a temporary state of affairs. Except…

Netanyahu was then asked specifically whether he meant that a Palestinian state would not be established if he were reelected prime minister. He answered, “Correct.”

— WaPo: Netanyahu says no Palestinian state if he wins

Which is not really news to the Palestinians who have signaled for some time that they consider negotiating with a Netanyahu government on statehood a waste of their time.

By the way, Haaretz noted that:

the NRG website – which is owned by casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and tied with the settler newspaper Makor Rishon – were a last-minute attempt to pull right-wing voters away from Habayit Hayehudi.

Netanyahu’s statements over the past week have made it very difficult for anyone to propose re-starting bi-lateral negotiations with a straight face. This probably means the Palestinian Authority will continue pushing to elevate it’s status in various international organizations to that of a member state.

I wonder whether our State Department can continue to stick with the official line of “We believe the only solution is bi-lateral negotiations within the two-state framework” given Bibi’s statements. Though anything’s possible within the two-state negotiations industry, after all the US has exhibited toothless opposition to settlements for decades now. Our happy-go-lucky official line was that they could be undone and do not put the Palestinian goal of a state in the West Bank with East Jerusalem as their capital at risk. Oh except the Palestinians have been telling everyone what Bibi confirmed this week:

During a campaign stop in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa, Netanyahu promised to increase construction there, saying it was “a way of stopping Bethlehem from moving toward Jerusalem.”

— Times of Israel

But that’s never stopped us from maintaining our trademark American optimism. Hell, even after Israeli planes had pummeled Gaza to bits (with our ordinance), we suggested the Palestinians join Bibi at the negotiating table. So maybe it isn’t that outlandish to demand the PA sit down to negotiate something Israel’s leader has publicly said will not happen on his watch.

I suspect Netanyahu is fine with the status quo, and in the short-term this allows his government to shore up support on the right by green-lighting some more settlement expansion in the West Bank without worrying unduly about US/European opinion.

But in the medium to long term, does that mean a one-state solution looks more likely? Perhaps with just the West Bank annexed to make the demographics more palatable?