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View Diary: Without Arafat, Whither Palestine? (264 comments)

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  •  Dennis Ross (none)
    I think that what you get out of Dennis Ross' book depends on the viewpoint you bring into it.  Certainly, Ross was very much an "insider" during the Oslo years, but whether his inside status means he is any way an objective commentator is questionable.  

    Avi Shlaim did the review of Dennis Ross' book for The Nation.  He pointed out that American policy vis-à-vis Israel-Palestine can either be of the "Honest broker" variety, giving equal weight to security to Israel and justice for Palestine, and treating those two demands as inseparable.  Or we can base our policy on "Israel's needs first", giving our unqualified support to Israel's positions and assuming that whatever settlement arises out of that approach will have to incidentally satisfy the Palestinian demand for justice.

    Shlaim points out that Ross is very much part of the latter school, believing that Israel can keep what it wants of the Occupied Territories as a "reward" for winning the 1967 war, and that the role of the US mediator is not to bridge the gaps between Israeli and Palestinian positions but to induce the Palestinians to accept whatever Israel offers.  I think that the extent to which you are in sympathy with those views will determine how useful you find Ross' book.  

    (Shlaim also made the point that we have been trying the Ross approach for 38 years, and it hasn't worked:

    There are three main problems with this approach to peacemaking. In the first place, it puts all the emphasis on Israel's concern for security and overlooks the Arab concern for justice. Given this approach, it is hardly surprising that the Arabs felt Ross was too sympathetic to Israel's needs and insufficiently attuned to theirs. Second, the Israeli concept of security is so inflated and one-sided that it amounts to a denial of the legitimate security concerns of the other side. Third, the approach advocated by Ross is wide open to abuse by Israel. Israel can absorb any amount of American aid without reciprocating with concessions to the Arabs. In short, Ross's mistake lies in assuming that a confident Israel would embark on the road to peace. History does not support this conclusion.

    No one was more confident of Israel's military power than Moshe Dayan, who served as defense minister from 1967 to 1974. Yet he was unwilling to assume risks for the sake of peace. Dayan frankly admitted that he would rather have "Sharm el-Sheikh without peace than peace without Sharm el-Sheikh" (a strategic point in the Sinai Peninsula, captured from Egypt in the 1967 war and later returned to Egypt in the Camp David I agreement). Opportunities for peace during that period were missed not because Israel felt insecure but because America did not lean hard enough on its ally to return the territories it had conquered in 1967. Dayan used to say: "Our American friends offer us money, arms, and advice. We take the money, we take the arms, and we decline the advice." The lesson for peacemaking is obvious: support for Israel should be made conditional on heeding American advice. )

    Clayton Swisher interviewed all the participants at Camp David for his new book, and deconstructed how Ross' approach worked in practice.  In short, Ross took a "divide and rule" approach to the Palestinians, trying to find and promote the perceived "weak links" among the Palestinian leadership (primarily Mohammed Dahlan, Mohammed Rashid and Hassan Asfour) who might sign on for whatever Israel would offer, while demonizing other members of the leadership (e.g. Saeb Erekat) who were never going to go along with that approach.  Ross apparently used the same divide and rule tactic in the Syrian talks, and it didn't work there either.  All it did was piss off the Palestinian negotiators (even Dahlan) who felt that the US had brought them to Camp David not to work out settlement, but to be browbeaten into accepting whatever crumbs came their way.  

    Ross' unqualified support for Israel's needs also pissed off some on the Israeli side, like Izzy Hasson (Shin Bet deputy chief and peace negotiator on security issues) and Yossi Beilin.  When Beilin writes in his new book that "the failure of the peace process is the failure of Dennis Ross", he is expressing very politely the hope that maybe next time the US could send a mediator who is not drawn straight from the ranks - and with the worldview - of AIPAC lobbyists, as Dennis Ross was.

    So what you get out of Dennis Ross' book will certainly depend on how far you are in sympathy with his approach.  Personally, I read it and came away convinced that if the US thinks it is being an honest broker by following Dennis Ross' approach, then there never will be a US-sponsored peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

    •  Dennis Ross (4.00)
      Unfortunately, Diane has mischaracterized Avi Shlaim's review of Dennis Ross's book, The Missing Peace.  (Reading Diane made me wonder whether Shlaim and I had read different books).  According to Diane:

      Shlaim points out that Ross . . . believ[es] that Israel can keep what it wants of the Occupied Territories as a "reward" for winning the 1967 war, and that the role of the US mediator is not to bridge the gaps between Israeli and Palestinian positions but to induce the Palestinians to accept whatever Israel offers.

      Here, from his review in The Nation, is what Shalim wrote:

      Ross's entire approach to peacemaking is premised on a strong US-Israeli relationship. Given Israel's small size and vulnerability, he argues, it must feel secure if it is to make concessions for peace. Israel would not feel safe enough to give up territory if it doubted the American commitment to its security. Similarly, the Arab world would not accommodate itself to Israel's existence if it had reason to question the staying power of the American commitment to Israel. While peace must ultimately be between the two parties and must therefore be directly negotiated by them, Israel must feel secure if it is to take risks for peace. This, in a nutshell, is Ross's philosophy of peacemaking.

      So far as it goes, I think this is a fair statement of the basis of U.S. policy under President Clinton and of the general policy thrust proposed by John Kerry.  Importantly, however, it leaves out the U.S. commitment to try to bridge gaps between Israel and the Palestinians towards the end of enabling the creation of a viable Palestinian state living at peace alongside Israel in Gaza and c. 97% of the West Bank, with its capital in Jerusalem, and a resolution to the refugee problem.

      Until now, these general policies have not been controversial within the Democratic Party.  In my view, they are both right and good for the party.

      Finally, those interested in a brief statement of Dennis Ross's views, as of the summer of 2002, may want to read Think Again: Yasir Arafat from the July-August, 2002, issue of Foreign Policy.

      •  Re: Dennis Ross (none)
        "Until now, these general policies have not been controversial within the Democratic Party.  In my view, they are both right and good for the party."

        There are many policies that are good and right for the Democratic Party that I personally oppose.

        For example, I am opposed to the death penalty, but I want my Democratic politicians to be pro-death penalty.  I can read the polls.  Likewise, I don't want Democratic politicians to share my personal views of pro-gun control, pro-marijuana legalization, pro-gay marriage, pro-defense cuts.  Again, I can read the polls.

        But I've been looking at this thread not as a discussion of what is politically prudent for the Democratic Party in the short-term, but instead a discussion of what is right.

        ---

        Shalim characterizes Ross's views as:

        "Given Israel's small size and vulnerability, he argues, it must feel secure if it is to make concessions for peace. Israel would not feel safe enough to give up territory if it doubted the American commitment to its security."

        Sure.  And I also support an American commitment to Israel's security within pre-1967 borders.

        But after 25 years of Israel using the American security umbrella to expand and expand the settlements, at some point we should say "enough is enough".

        The settlements are an existential threat to the Palestinian state, an existential threat to Israeli security, a non-existential threat to American foreign policy, against international law, and morally wrong.  

        At some point we need to present an ultimatum to Israel to either reverse its settlements policy, or face the loss of the American security umbrella.

        •  I think we are in significant agreement , but . . (none)
          As an early activist in Americans for Peace Now, I yield to no one in my antagonism to the settlements.  But they cannot simply be wished away.

          From most accounts, many in the Palestinian leadership recognize this (unfortunate) fact and have been open to a peace settlement that would draw Israel's border with the Palestinian state so as to include the majority of the settlers within Israel (and would compensate with land from what is now within Israel).

          Since this would leave the Palestinian state with c. 97% of the West Bank, including territorial contiguity within the West Bank, I do not understand how such a resolution would constitute "an existential threat to the Palestinian state."

          If we can agree on this much, then, recognizing the crushing blows dealt the Israeli peace camp by the Second Intifada, the question is: how do we get from here to there?

          An ultimatum to Israel?  Apart from the fact that there surely are more effective ways for friends to communicate, in the absence of a credible Palestinian partner for peace, I strongly suspect that the result would be counter-productive.  More to the point, given a credible Palestinian partner, an ultimatum would be unnecessary.

          In my view, what is needed is active, consistent American involvement along the lines of the Clinton Administration.  One of the (many) faults of the Bush Administration has been its largely hands-off attitude to the problem.

          •  Re: I think we are in significant agreement (none)
            "As an early activist in Americans for Peace Now, I yield to no one in my antagonism to the settlements.  But they cannot simply be wished away."

            They cannot be wished away, but at a minimum, their expansion can be halted.  And at a maximum, they can be dismantled.

            If Israel wishes to keep some or all of the settlements, they will need to come up with a significantly more fair offer than the joke that was Taba.

            "Since this would leave the Palestinian state with c. 97% of the West Bank, including territorial contiguity within the West Bank..."

            I believe you have your facts badly wrong about the nature of the Palestinian state offered at Taba.  See my very recent post for details.

            "More to the point, given a credible Palestinian partner, an ultimatum would be unnecessary."

            I think you grossly misread the history of Israeli behavior during the 90's.  Throughout the entirety of the Oslo process, the Israeli continued expanding the settlements.

            I think we no longer have a credible Israeli partner, and it's time to start re-evaluating our relationship with Israel.  After 25 years of both Israeli parties expanding the settlements no matter what the Palestinians do, it's time to start saying that American should no longer be a partner in this crime.

            I'm tired of acquiescing to "facts on the ground".  No more.

            •  Re: I think we are in significant agreement (none)
              You wrote, in part:  "If Israel wishes to keep some or all of the settlements, they will need to come up with a significantly more fair offer than the joke that was Taba."

              But according to Gush Shalom, an Israeli peace group to the left of Peace Now that sharply criticized the Israeli position at Camp David:

              "The Palestinians accepted the Taba map as a basis for negotiations . . ."

              Gush Shalom also provides a map that appears to differ from the one you've cited elsewhere.

              [http://www.gush-shalom.org/generous/taba/index.html]

              Of course, as Gush Shalom notes, by this time -- January, 2001, Barak was a "political corpse."

              I have plenty of criticisms for the different actors on the Israeli side, but that does not change my belief that, because of Arafat, the Palestinians missed a great opportunity to enter into a serious negotiating process at Camp David that well could have produced a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel, albeit at the price of some small, but painful, territorial compromise, and agreement to realize the so-called Palestinian Right of Return within the State of Palestine, and not within the State of Israel.

              As for the existence, or not, of a credible Israeli partner, from what I can tell from public opinion data -- talking with Israeli friends and relatives is too anecdotal, a substantial majority support renewing peace negotiations with the Palestinians, provided the terror stops, and most likely would support a definitive peace agreement of the sort likely to emerge from negotiating on the basis of the Clinton Parameters.  

              Unfortunately, public opinion data on the Palestinian side seems to show a substantial majority in favor of what are called "suicide operations" and a plurality taking the view that the end result of this second intifida should be the creation of a Palestinian state in all of "historic Palestine," i.e., no Israel.  See Jerusalem Media & Communications Centre Poll no. 51 - June, 2004.  (N.b., JMCC is a Palestinian organization.)

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