Wednesday, April 14, 2010

More mysteries of Us Policy in Israel

More mysteries of US policy in Israel.

In the previous blog I suggest that that there was more than one face to US policy in Israel. While our government publicly criticizes the Israelis for planning construction of more Jewish housing in East Jerusalem, they give advanced airplanes to the Israeli Air Force as if to take the sting out of the public criticisms.

But now an Iranian-American Reza Aslan, author of Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalization, asserts that the two state solution is no longer feasible. For the longest time, many observers argued that separate Israeli and Palestinian states were necessary for peace in the area. According to Aslan that is no longer a viable project. He recently traveled all up and down Israel and the Palestinian areas and found very few people who still regarded a two state solution as a real option.

There are clearly many reasons for that. It is difficult to think of a Palestinian state as long as the Palestinians have two different leaderships, Fatah and Hamas, each of them controlling a portion of the Palestinian lands and neither of them willing to have serious conversations with the other.

In the past, Palestinians have often been extremely hostile to Israel and thereby make it less likely that an Israeli and a Palestinian state should be able to live side-by-side in reasonable peace. The power of the Israelis, in their turn, rests very heavily on the Palestinians.

The Palestinian economy, such as it is, is not only in bad shape but is deteriorating. Unemployment is more than 30% in some areas. The standard of living is deplorably low. It is hard to imagine that a thriving Palestinian state could arise in areas of such utter wretchedness.
The reality on the ground is that Palestinian territories are crisscrossed by roads restricted to use by Israelis, roads linking Israeli settlements that dot the landscape of the West bank everywhere. Suppose a Palestinian state were to be established in that territory, would the Israeli settlements be transformed into Palestinian towns and their inhabitants become citizens of a Palestinian state? Would they be removed from their present housing to Israel?

It is very unclear to what extent Israelis have ever been willing to consider allowing a Palestinian state next to them in the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. Some people claim that the Israeli leadership, their rhetoric to the contrary notwithstanding, were from the very beginning committed to founding a Jewish state without Palestinians.

Recent reports suggest that conservative sentiment is growing rapidly in Israel. Various units of the Israeli Defense Force publicly announced that they would never assist in moving Israeli settlers from Palestine back to Israel. Units of the Armed Forces openly take political stands against Palestinian independence. They declare publicly that under certain conditions they would disobey orders from their superior commanders. While the government of Israel complains about that, no one gets punished. Either the Israeli government is not in charge of its military and is therefore unable to repatriate Israeli settlers if that became necessary for the sake of founding a Palestinian state, or the defiant sentiments of the military units actually express the position of the Israeli government. In that case obviously, the push for a two state solution is a complete waste of time.

There are, no doubt, other reasons for being very skeptical of any two state solution helping to bring peace in the Mideast.
But that raises an interesting question: do President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, the Mideast experts in the State Department not know all this and a whole lot more about the future of a Palestinian state? They surely do. Why are they still pushing for a two state solution when they know that the hope for such a two state solution is terribly tenuous at best?

One answer, no doubt, is that there aren't any plausible alternatives. If we drop the two state solution we either make our peace with Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and Israeli oppression of the inhabitants of those lands. Or we can look forward to a multinational state in Palestine with a large Jewish population and an even larger population of Palestinians. There are Palestinian citizens of Israel today but they are, apparently, second-class citizens. An Israeli state with a large Palestinian population could well resembles South Africa before the end of apartheid. According to Reza Aslan neither Israelis nor Palestinians have any enthusiasm for a multinational state even though there are examples of multinational states that function reasonably well, such as South Africa, or Belgium, or Canada. The United States is trying very hard to construct a multinational state in Iraq. In some of the Latin American countries, like Bolivia, the indigenous people are sufficiently self-conscious and organized among themselves to virtually constitute a separate nation in a multinational state they share with the mixed-race descendants of the Spaniards.

The United States has a problem with the face they turn to the world, especially the Arab world. They cannot support Israeli oppression and annexation of Palestine. They would not look much better if they sponsored a solution that nobody even in Israel or Palestine is interested in-- Israel/Palestine as one, multinational state. So they keep supporting a solution which has no future in order to seem reasonable and evenhanded.

That seems a pretty desperate situation to be in for “the most powerful country in the world.” In order to look good in the region, we promote a solution to the Mideast struggles which we know to be totally hopeless. We play “pretend.” It is hard to see how that will make us look good in the long run.

It also, of course, shows what we have always known that having a lot of nuclear tipped warheads in silos all over the Midwest makes us very dangerous, but it doesn't make us powerful. Our impotence in the Mideast shows that very clearly.