Monday, January 24, 2011

Breaking News Just In: Two-State Solution Still Dead

The most important international news in a few weeks really isn't news, if you've been paying attention to such matters.  Al Jazeera, a Qatar-based news organization that is probably the best source of information in the Middle East, has released a set of documents it claims are from parties to the negotiations between the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.  I have no reason either doubt or believe their veracity based on the contents, but the ham-handed attack on Al Jazeera offices in the West Bank by a bunch of goons makes me think they are real.  And the documents do not paint the Palestinian negotiators in a good light.  They show how much the Palestinians were willing to give up in order to achieve peace relative to what international law indicates they should get.  They offered Israel a heck a lot of strategically located land, all of East Jerusalem and most of the suburbs east of the 1967 borders, and reduced the number of refugees from the 1948 war returned to Israel proper to a bare minimum.  And the Israelis rejected the offer.

That rejection just confirms that Israel has never been interested in peace.  The proof has always been plain to see, in tangible form, in the Jewish "settlements" built all over the West Bank, and most densely around Jerusalem.  Some have pointed to the forced removal of Jewish "settlers" from the Gaza Strip as evidence that the same might happen in the West Bank, and thus the Israeli government (which has always consisted of Jews and Druze at the ministerial level) had good intentions.  But the situations are far from similar, mainly because Gaza is so far from the Jewish holy city of Jerusalem, and the land between the Jordan and the sea.  (Gaza is at about the same latitude as the southern half of the Dead Sea.)  The number of "settlers" removed was also a fraction of the number currently living in the West Bank (about 2%).  Relocating the West Bank "settlers" would mean evicting and rehousing 6-7% of Israel's population.  An equivalent number in the US would be almost 20 million, which is slightly more than the population of New York state.  More evidence can be seen in the map contained in the documents, which resembles every map going back to 1967.

My main interest in all this is that America's unwavering support for Israel, even while claiming to be an honest broker, is just plain bad for America.  The backing complicates this country's relations with the Muslim world, severely disrupts its relations with the Arab world, and US leaders look like fools whenever they get rolled by the Israeli government.  The human rights aspects of the conflict - the displacement of Palestinians, the destruction of their property, the confiscation of their land, and the poverty the occupation causes - are also of concern to me.  Lots of other countries treat their subjects like crap, but Israel is unique in that it is the largest recipient of US state-to-state aid, and has been for decades.  Since Israel won't stop its reprehensible treatment of Palestinians while it is on the US dole, perhaps losing the subsidy would change its behavior.  That certainly is an experiment worth making.

For its own sake, the sake of the Palestinians, and perhaps even the sake of the Jewish ethnocracy itself, the US should do whatever it can to put distance between itself and Israel, not just cut aid.  Unfortunately, that's just not going to happen anytime soon because of domestic political considerations.  For a variety of reasons, unquestioning - no, embarrassingly slavish - support for Israel is a bipartisan affair, no matter what it does.  The reasons for the extreme level of support are hotly debated, so I'll just point out that (essentially) stating fealty to a foreign nation is not a prerequisite for a national political office in any country other than the US, as far as I know.  It's a bizarre situation, especially since the relationship is so counterproductive for the US.

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