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John Kerry Is Right About Middle East Peace, But It Hardly Matters At This Point

Israel-Palestine-Flags

In a long speech yesterday that was somewhat remarkable for its bluntness, Secretary of State John Kerry responded to critics in the U.S. and Israel who have spoken out against the U.S.’s decision to allow the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution censuring Israel for its policy on West Bank settlements and, for some reason laid out a vision for Middle East peace that will quite obviously be abandoned when he and President Obama leave office in three weeks:

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Wednesday of thwarting peace in the Middle East, speaking with a clarity and harshness almost never heard from American diplomats when discussing one of their closest and strongest allies.

With only 23 days left in his four-year turn as secretary of state, during which he made the search for peace in the Middle East one of his driving missions, Mr. Kerry said the Israeli government was undermining any hope of a two-state solution to its decades-long conflict with the Palestinians.

The American vote last week in the United Nations allowing the condemnation of Israel for settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, he added, was driven by a desire to save Israel from “the most extreme elements” in its own government.

“The status quo is leading toward one state and perpetual occupation,” Mr. Kerry said, his voice animated.

His speech was a powerful admonition after years of tension and frustration, with the Obama administration giving public voice to its long-held concern that Israel was headed off a cliff toward international isolation and was condemning itself to a future of low-level, perpetual warfare with the Palestinians.

Reaction was immediate and harsh, not only from Mr. Netanyahu, but also from Senators John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York. President-elect Donald J. Trump did not even wait for Mr. Kerry to speak before condemning the secretary of state.

The United States and Israel are in the middle of a breach rarely seen since President Harry S. Truman recognized the fragile Israeli state in May 1948. In a direct response to Mr. Netanyahu’s barb over the weekend that “friends don’t take friends to the Security Council” — a reference to the Obama administration’s decision to abstain from the resolution condemning the building of new settlements in disputed territory — Mr. Kerry said the United States acted out of a deeper understanding of the meaning of its alliance.

“Some seem to believe that the U.S. friendship means the U.S. must accept any policy, regardless of our own interests, our own positions, our own words, our own principles — even after urging again and again that the policy must change,” he said. “Friends need to tell each other the hard truths, and friendships require mutual respect.”

Toward the end of his 70-minute speech in the State Department’s auditorium, Mr. Kerry acknowledged that Mr. Trump may well abandon the major principles that the United States has used for decades of Middle East negotiations, including the two-state solution that both Republicans and Democrats support. Mr. Trump is nominating a new American ambassador, David M. Friedman, who has broken with even the pretense of supporting a two-state negotiated agreement and has helped fund some of the settlements Mr. Kerry denounced.

On vacation in Palm Beach, Fla., Mr. Trump posted two Twitter messages rejecting the speech before it was delivered. “We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect,” he wrote on Wednesday morning. After assailing the nuclear deal in Iran and last week’s vote at the Security Council, he said, “Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!”

(…)

“The Israeli prime minister publicly supports a two-state solution, but his current coalition is the most right-wing in Israeli history, with an agenda driven by its most extreme elements,” he said. “The result is that policies of this government — which the prime minister himself just described as ‘more committed to settlements than any in Israel’s history’ — are leading in the opposite direction, towards one state.”

Seldom in modern American diplomacy has an American administration so directly confronted — and disavowed — a close ally’s actions as Mr. Kerry did on Wednesday, dropping most of the restraint he had shown in public over the past four years. One of the last times was during the Eisenhower administration, when the United States broke with Britain, France and Israel over the 1956 invasion of the Egyptian Sinai. Eisenhower had warned against the invasion and threatened to harm Britain’s financial system in retaliation.

When Mr. Kerry got to the principles for a future settlement, they were unsurprising. Many date to the 1990s or earlier, and many to past United Nations resolutions.

The principles he described started with a “secure and recognized border between Israel and a viable and contiguous Palestine,” based on Israel’s withdrawal from territory occupied since the 1967 war and land swaps to “reflect practical realities on the ground.”

A second principle was the creation of a state for the Palestinian people, and a third was a “fair and realistic solution to the Palestinian refugee issue,” including compensation. There was no mention of a “right of return” for refugees and their descendants forced to leave Israel and the Palestinian territories, back to 1948.

The fourth principle called for Jerusalem to be the recognized capital of both states, which Mr. Kerry said was “the most sensitive issue for both sides.” The fifth was an agreement to satisfy Israel’s security needs while ending its military occupation of Palestinian territories.

Mr. Kerry, who has cast himself as one of Israel’s greatest friends, said in recent months it became clear he had to “save the two-state solution while there was still time.”

“We did not take this decision lightly,” he said of the vote in the United Nations Security Council, where the American abstention allowed a 14-to-0 condemnation of Israel go forward. “Israelis are fully justified in decrying attempts to delegitimize their state and question the right of a Jewish state to exist. But this vote was not about that. It was about actions that Israelis and Palestinians are taking that are increasingly rendering a two-state solution impossible.”

Not surprisingly, Kerry’s speech was immediately attacked both in Washington and Jerusalem. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu, for example, not surprisingly blasted the speech as ‘unbalanced’ and continued to claim that the United States had pushed the United Nations Resolution behind the scenes even though his government has yet to offer any evidence in support of this claim. Back home, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham accused Kerry of unfairly criticizing Israel while giving the Palestinians a pass for their own failures to honestly come to the table to talk peace, and Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer charged that Kerry had emboldened extremists on both the Israeli and Palestinians sides. President-Elect Trump, meanwhile, responded to the speech by saying that it “speaks for itself” and claiming that Israel has been treated “very, very unfairly” by the Obama Administration and others and promising a change of course. Despite this criticism, though, there was very little in Kerry’s speech, except perhaps the tone, that differs from what has been long-standing U.S. policy for decades stretching back to the aftermath of the 19 6 War that brought the West Bank and Gaza under Israeli control after years of being controlled by Arabs.

Anyone who looks dispassionately at the situation on the ground vis a vis the Israelis and Palestinians, and that is admittedly a small group of people since this is an issue that tends to arouse quite strong emotions on both sides, understands that what Kerry said yesterday is largely correct and that peace will never come to the Middle East in general, and between Israel and the Palestinians in particular, will only come with a solution that looks largely like the one that Kerry  outlined. Namely, of course, we’re talking about a two-state solution where Israel and an independent Palestine exist side by side. Getting there would not be easy, of course, in no small part because there would need to be a whole host of issues dealt with beforehand that are far easier to discuss than they are to solve. This includes issues ranging from what the borders of such a Palestinian state would be to how to practically deal with the inevitable physical separation of the West Bank and Gaza to, of course, the ultimate thorny issue, the status of Jerusalem, which both sides claim as their capital. Compared to the alternatives, though, it’s quite obvious that this is the only solution that can guarantee peace in the long-term.

The status quo, such as it is, is something that clearly cannot continue to exist for much longer without the inevitability of another round of the war and terrorism that has marked the region for the past 49 years or so. Keeping the Palestinians in what essentially amount to an occupation in all but name will only serve to increase resentment toward Israel and the Palestinian leadership that will result most likely in increased support for extremist groups such as Hamas, which already controls Gaza thanks to the Bush Administration’s unwise decision to ignore advice from both Israel and Palestinians on the West Bank and insist on elections in Gaza far sooner than was advisable. The result there has been the creation of a terrorist enclave within striking distance of Israel that has already been the launching pad for war. If you want a picture of what maintaining the status quo might be like, just imagine what the future might be like with Hamas in control of the West Bank as well as Gaza. An equally troublesome solution would be one in which the West Bank, in whole or in part, is reabsorbed into Israel as a whole and considered part of Israel. In this scenario, the Palestinian population, which is growing at a much faster pace than the Jewish population of Israel, becomes part of “Israel” in some way. Such a single-state solution would mean one of two things, either Israel ceases to exist as a primarily Jewish state or it ceases to exist as a democratic state. This is the case because we aren’t very far from the point where the Palestinian population would be larger than the Jewish population, especially once if it were combined with the Arab population already living inside Israel. At that point, a democratic Israel would mean one where the majority would not be Jewish and would likely have the political power to change the nature of the political system and the laws that have been in place there since 1948. The only way Israel would be able to resist that inevitability would be to either dramatically increase the birth rate among the Jewish population, which seems unlikely, or put in place restrictions on the rights of Palestinians that essentially turn them into second-class citizens in their own country. Given all of that, it’s obvious that the only viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian is one in which an independent Israel exists alongside an independent Palestinian state, both of which recognize each other. Unfortunately, that solution seems no more likely today than it did forty years ago, and Secretary of State Kerry’s speech yesterday, coming as it does at the end of his tenure, is largely pointless.

The obstacles to a two-state solution are far too complicated to summarize in one blog post, of course, and I am not going to claim to possess sufficient expertise in Middle East politics to speak to how the parties can get there from where they are today. What is clear, though, is that, right now neither party appears to really want to take the steps necessary to get to the point where talking about how a two-state solution would work. On the Palestinian side, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank continues to waiver back and forth between public rhetoric that claims they are ready, willing, and able to talk peace and actions that either suggest otherwise or at least make it difficult to assess their veracity and willingness to live up to a deal. Additionally, even if the Palestinian Authority is willing to talk, the fact that Hamas, which controls Gaza, continues to refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist or to disavow its professed goal of wiping Israel off the map and has refused to talk with anyone in any case. Until someone can figure out how to deal with that problem, Israel is correct to be skeptical of just how trustworthy a bargaining partner the Palesntian Authority can possibly be when half of its territory is controlled by a terrorist organization that has regularly launched rockets at civilian targets in Israel. For its part, Israel’s policy of building new settlements in areas that would be subject to negotiation in future peace talks is an obvious effort to 0change the facts on the ground to advance its interests and scuttle negotiations by making disputed territory a de facto part of Israel. The Netanyahu government has also sought to punish Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza by cutting off or curtailing water supplies and other deliveries to areas in the West Bank and Gaza that don’t have easy access to such resources on their own. As long as those policies exist on both sides of the table, negotiations are unlikely to be at all fruitful no matter how much this or any other Administration tries to influence events.

Looking at the situation as a whole, Kevin Drum makes the following observations:

In any case, the following things are indisputably true:

Israeli leaders will never* stop building in the West Bank. It would be electoral suicide.
Israeli leaders will never give up the West Bank. It would be electoral suicide.
Israeli leaders will never formally annex the West Bank. It would be electoral suicide.
In other words, nothing is going to happen. Period. Israel is going to keep things as they are, fight off world opinion forever, and hope that maybe over the course of several decades they can slowly get all the Palestinians in the West Bank to emigrate elsewhere. It’s sort of like Mitt Romney’s “self-deportation” on steroids.

And just in case you think this puts me on the side of the Arabs and Palestinians, forget it. To the extent that I stay even marginally on Israel’s side, it’s because the Arabs have acted even more abominably. They tried to invade Israel twice. They never cared a fig for the Palestinians except as a convenient poster child. (Jordan must have been the first country in history to lose territory in a war and be happy about it.) They never accepted Israel as legitimate, but for decades they’ve tacitly tolerated its existence because it gives them an easy way of stirring up demagogic hatreds that help prop up their own vicious regimes. The PLO was a murderous terrorist organization, and Hamas is worse. The intifadas were depraved and ruinous. And despite the fact that the Palestinians were clearly on the losing end of a war and needed to accept the best deal they could get, they remained delusional to the end. I’ve never bought into the revisionist history that Bill Clinton’s Wye River/Camp David/Taba negotiations were unfair to the Palestinians and Yasser Arafat was right to turn down the final proposal. He needed to accept it, and he probably knew it. He was just too cowardly to do it and too convinced that his own leadership was dependent on opposition to Israel.

Even in theory, there is literally no settlement that either the Israelis or the Palestinians would accept right now.44

As noted above, I think Drum is largely correct, which is why Secertary Kerry’s speech was little more than a modern-day pointless quest worthy of Don Quixote.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. george says:

    There’s a subset of both Israelis and Palestinians who have a vested influence in keeping the war going, similar to what was happening in Ireland during the time of troubles. That most Israelis and Palestinians want peace isn’t enough; a dedicated few can make enough destruction to trump a lot of passive interest in peace.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  2. Gavrilo says:

    Building houses, while not ideal to the peace process, is simply not the moral equivalent of launching rockets indiscriminately, or blowing up pizza parlors, or stabbing civilians.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 23

  3. Slugger says:

    Bibi expects support from Trump. Trump is famously a deal maker. What can Bibi offer Trump? While much of Trump’s base cheers for Israel, I wonder how much material support they are willing to supply? The no-state solution for a majority of the people within the borders of Israel doesn’t seem sustainable to me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  4. Hal_10000 says:

    @Gavrilo:

    No it’s not. But as I seem to keep saying, we don’t define what’s right by the lowest common denominator.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 2

  5. Gavrilo says:

    @Hal_10000:

    But, it should provide some perspective on who John Kerry should be lecturing about jeopardizing the two-state solution.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 10

  6. bandit says:

    @george: The subset of Palestinians is about 100%

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 11

  7. MBunge says:

    The conviction that John Kerry either cares more about Middle East peace or understands the subject better than the people whose lives are literally at stake is pretty much the problem.

    The primary reason the US and the world cared about Middle East peace is that the area was seen as a potential flashpoint for US/Soviet conflict. The USSR died a quarter century ago, but the inertia goes on.

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 12

  8. Scott says:

    @MBunge: From a purely utilitarian perspective, you are correct. Now that we also have weaned ourselves off a substantial amount of imported oil, we have even less pragmatic interests. Anyone for abandoning the hell hole of the Middle East altogether?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  9. Sherparick says:

    @Gavrilo: The “Occupation” is a lot more than settlements. The “settlements” are just the tangible sign that the “Occupation” is permanent. Buildings are torn down, land confiscated, travel is restricted, people are arbitrarily arrested and held indefinitely, and occasionally some one is shot. Now Israel and their supporters are quite right to point out that all the other regimes in the Middle East (including sadly Turkey) do the same thing and at this moment Saudi Arabia is slaughtering thousands and starving millions in Yemen with the world saying squat and that Assad, Iran, and Russia are forcefully conquering Sunni Syria with equal blood thirstiness (sign me up for expanding the BDS movement when it includes Saudi Arabia and Syria as well as Israel). But that argument works both ways. It also means that Israel is not morally something special and hence the only reason to give it aide is the domestic political interests of U.S. politicians.

    The reason there is no movement toward peace is that neither the Palestinians or the Israelis want a 2-state solution any more (Israel had a majority for it before the 2d Intifada and before Gaza became an open sore, but no longer. The Palestinians never believed in it. They believe they can lose war after war, but that they only have to win one war to end Israel and drive out the Jews).

    Israel is moving toward annexation of the West Bank, but without Israeli citizenship to going to the Arabs, Christians and Muslim, who live there. Born as they may have been in the West Bank, with ancestors going back generations, they will be classified as “permanent resident aliens” or something like that. They have an U.S. Administration that is stupid enough to back them. http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/can-israel-annex-the-west-bank-without-compromising-the-states-jewish-identity/

    The logic of Israeli politics is that it is the right-wingers who are Netanyahu’s primary electoral rivals in Israel’s next election and they are agitating for annexation. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/06/08/israeli-minister-wants-to-annex-half-of-west-bank-and-kick-out-the-palestinians/?utm_term=.e0d57fde9a37 and http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/27/world/middleeast/naftali-bennett-pushes-netanyahu-rightward.html. Also, given the political circumstances of the region, there might not be any immediate blow back. Certainly Assad, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia don’t appear to give a damn a the moment and the U.S. Ambassador and most influential Republican donor would be all for it.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 0

  10. Sherparick says:

    @Scott: Yep. Although like a Sabre Tooth tiger in the La Brea tar pits, I don’t think it will be easy to get out.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. Sherparick says:

    @Sherparick: By the way, as descendant of Irish people on both sides of that particular 450 year conflict and occupation, I can tell you that this type of thing can go on a long, long time. It is also odd how some Americans look fondly at folks like Wolfe Tone and Michael Collins and their modern day descendants as “freedom fighters” (Hi Peter King), but when Palestinians use the same tactics, well they are just a bunch of swarthy heathen terrorists.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 1

  12. KM says:

    A Modest ME Proposal (apologizes to Swift):

    Throw them all out. *Nobody* gets to live there, pray there, visit there for a decade. Seal off all the borders and empty the land – give it back to God, so to speak. Violators will be shot on site and dumped into the Mediterranean nameless with no honors. Every country in the world would need to participate in paying for the wall and would have to accept refugees, both Israeli and Palestinian. In 10 years, the refugees will hold a vote on how to divide the land among themselves but it must be unanimous otherwise the moratorium goes on for another 10 years. However, this right will not pass to their children – only those alive at the time of the removal would have the right to vote. Since that will never happen, the Holy Land will be blissfully peaceful and untouched by human hands for a lifetime; hopefully long enough for the world to realize just how STUPID this whole thing is. The UN gets to keep its relevance as the caretaker of the world’s largest religious and cultural historical reserve. Since everyone will hate this, we’ll all be united in misery.

    Satire maybe but give it a chance!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  13. Rick Zhang says:

    To Santorum and other right wing supporters of Israel to the bitter end: how would you feel if Mexicans moved over the US border and started building their own enclaves with the eventual goal of annexing land that was historically (and much more recently) a part of their homeland?

    If you can’t be logically consistent in your view of the above example and what is happening in Israel today, you’re a partisan who willingly turns the other eye to all kinds of atrocities, as long as it’s your side that’s winning.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 4

  14. grumpy realist says:

    @KM: I was thinking maybe the easiest way out is to aim sufficient asteroids at the area so all the land under discussion vanishes and everything is 100 ft under water….

    I’m tired of the Mideast. I had a friend who had emigrated from that area. Background is Christian Arab. His reaction?

    “Everyone in the Mideast is nuts.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  15. Tyrell says:

    I don’t think that Secretary Kerry said anything that has not been covered before: there may not be anything new to offer. Overall his proposals are good and worthy, but who in the world wants the Palestinians next door ? (Iran maybe, and ISIS) As I recall, Nixon and Carter spent a lot of time trying to do what he is proposing. When he can get some of the Arab countries to have their military allied with the Israeli army, then he might have something. His proposals are easier said than done. The European countries certainly can’t offer much, as they have their own problems right now with the terrorists attacking them. England used to be a major factor in the middle east and was working with Israel when they first got their land after WWII. But, unfortunately General Allenby and Colonel Lawrence are long gone.
    Kerry said that the countries would all work to insure the security of Israel !
    Good luck with that. That did not work out too well for Anwar Sadat.
    The only country that Israel can depend on is the US. It will require a major commitment of the military to oversee a two state policy that Kerry is proposing.
    See: “Does America Need a Foreign Policy?” (Dr. Henry Kissinger)
    “Allenby and British Strategy In the Middle East” (Matthew Hughes)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  16. Hal_10000 says:

    @Gavrilo:

    Because we’ve never criticized Hamas or the Palestinian Authority. Ever.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  17. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Rick Zhang: And you’re surprised that these people are “partisan(s) who willingly turns the other eye to all kinds of atrocities, as long as it’s your side that’s winning?” (And don’t believe they know this about themselves?)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  18. michael reynolds says:

    Kerry is of course right, as Doug wrote. Israeli voters have chosen a path which, if they continue, will destroy either the dream of a Jewish state or of a democratic state. They are moving in directions we don’t like, on the path to being fatally contaminated by the neighborhood.

    That said though, you gotta love the idea of Americans lecturing anyone on stealing land. The Israelis stole a sliver of Mediterranean coastline; we stole a continent. The difference being that we exterminated or ethnically-cleansed the previous owners, while the Israelis have not.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 4

  19. MarkedMan says:

    To me the only question is can Israel manipulate Trump into having America attack Iran on Their behalf. The answer, I fear,is yes. Yes they can.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  20. Eric Florack says:

    Where is the possibility of a compromise with a group of people that want your entire country dead, and have four generations been working toward that end?

    If the Palestinians and the Arabs surrounding Israel lay down their arms there will be peace. If the Israelis lay down their arms there will be no more Israel.

    As for the validity of any Arab claim on Israel and particularly on Jerusalem Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years some 1500 years before Islam was created. Any questions?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 17

  21. Rick Zhang says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Sadly I’m afraid the lesson most dictators and wannabe strongmen like Trump and Netanyahu draw from this is that when you’re making a landgrab, you need to be more thorough in your ethnic cleansing. The Turks didn’t do a good enough job with the Armenians and the Kurds, and they’re in this prickly situation today. Likewise, China isn’t doing enough in Tibet and Xinjiang to displace, assimilate, or exterminate the locals. This will lead to terrorism and ongoing resentment down the road.

    If you want to see a job well done you have to look at Russia, which thoroughly expelled and exterminated Sibirs, Circassians, etc on their way to carving out an empire. It’s not something generally though of as acceptable in modern times but with the rightward shift of the world, maybe it will become a viable option for countries going forward.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  22. Turgid Jacobian says:

    @Eric Florack: sure: what about the standing rock Sioux? Also, gonna vacate Cahokia soon? Tenochtixlan?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  23. Matt says:

    @Turgid Jacobian: If you had not of done it I would of. While his double standard is glaringly obvious I doubt he cares..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  24. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Eric Florack: `

    Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years

    No, no it hasn’t. “Israel” – if we’re referring to Eretz Yisrael – ceased to exist when it split into Israel (Samaria) and Judah in 930 BCE (nearly a thousand years before the birth of Christ.

    If you want to date it in terms of Jewish control of Jerusalem, it ceased to exist in 586 BCE (nearly 600 years before the birth of Christ) when Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judah and deported the Judeans to Babylon.

    If you’re referring to the modern state of Israel, which is an independent creation that has nothing (beyond a romantic connection) to do with a nation state from antiquity which hasn’t existed for 2,602 years, then Jerusalem (from a Jewish perspective) has only been the capital since either 1967 (when Israel took operational control of the land) or 1980 (when Israel effectively annexed East Jerusalem) since up to that time Temple Mount (and other relevant sites) were controlled by Jordan.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 1

  25. MarkedMan says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years some 1500 years before Islam was created. Any questions?

    The entire US belonged to indigeous people before Europeans showed up. If a bunch of nations got together and gave your house back to their descendants would you object? For that matter virtual every ethnic group in the world either conquered or were conquered. The Ashantis had an empire that stretched a thousand miles in each direction and their descendants still live there, but there were tribes that lived there before them. You can ask a Druid how they feel about those Angles, if you can find one. And Ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt displaced hundreds of different ethnic groups whose descendants might feel they have claim.

    Bottom line, basing legitimacy on who ruled a place millenniums past is a fools game. What matters is who lives there now, and whether they dispossed people who are currently suffering because of it.

    Personally, I would morally back Israel if they were a democracy. But they have ruled the territories for decades and are building schools and roads, post offices and bridges – for some of the residents. But the vast majority are second class citizens. Hamas and the PLO are no better. We will one day wash our hands of this whole mess and let them kill each other off. Let’s not send our sons and daughters to die in a war against Iran in order to defend what Israel might have been. Because what they actually are is an apartheid state.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  26. george says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Exactly, and on all points.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  27. MBunge says:

    If you really want to understand the problem that is Israel, consider that one of the major factors in its rightward tilt as been the…wait for it…arrival of huge numbers of Russian Jews since 1989. Yes, that’s right. Immigration policy is at the heart of it all. But of course, that hardly ever gets talked about because the very suggestion that immigration might have negative consequences is anathema to our political establishment.

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 11

  28. MBunge says:

    @MarkedMan: What matters is who lives there now, and whether they dispossed people who are currently suffering because of it.

    That doesn’t make any actual sense. It’s infantile empathy masquerading as morality and would justify forcing you to allow a homeless man to set up camp in your living room.

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 12

  29. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @MBunge:

    consider that one of the major factors in its rightward tilt as been the…wait for it…arrival of huge numbers of Russian Jews since 1989.

    Most of the Russian arrivals tend to be atheistic, but militantly nationalistic. The true crazies – the Meir Kahanes, the Baruch Goldsteins, the Meir Ettingers – tend to arrive in Israel with US passports.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  30. MarkedMan says:

    @MBunge:

    would justify forcing you to allow a homeless man to set up camp in your living room.

    I’m not sure where you get that from. What I’m saying is that when it comes to territory, the only claims that matter are ones from people actually affected, I.e. those who were born there or whose immediate family were dispossessed. Claims based on some ancestor who lived centuries or millennia ago shouldn’t have weight.

    Even given that constraint, these are not simple problems. And they are vastly complicated when the controlling state makes some residents second class citizens. Because whatever obligation a citizen has to accept the rulings of a court, they are reduced when that court starts with the presumption that their rights are less than another’s.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  31. Pch101 says:

    @Eric Florack:

    As for the validity of any Arab claim on Israel and particularly on Jerusalem Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years some 1500 years before Islam was created. Any questions?

    When some Native American tribesman shows up at your door with an eviction notice based upon his relatives’ land claims of a few centuries ago, will you be hiring a moving company or renting a U-Haul?

    Florack is some sort of European surname, so let’s hope that the EU takes you back. Good riddance.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  32. wr says:

    @MBunge: Wow, what a completely stupid and useless point, made doubly so since someone has already mentioned the influx of Russian Jews in this very thread. Look, if we all promise to tell you you are the wisest and deepest among us, would you stop feeling that desperate need to prove it all the time and go back to posting messages that don’t all scream “I’m better than everyone!!!”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  33. Sleeping Dog says:

    I’ve never bought into the revisionist history that Bill Clinton’s Wye River/Camp David/Taba negotiations were unfair to the Palestinians and Yasser Arafat was right to turn down the final proposal. He needed to accept it, and he probably knew it. He was just too cowardly to do it and too convinced that his own leadership was dependent on opposition to Israel.

    As I’ve said a pox on both the Israeli and Palestinian houses.

    An excuse expressed by a Palestinian apologist at the time of the collapse of the Camp David negotiations was that Arafat would have been assassinated if he had agreed to those terms. Of course he could have called for a referendum and left it to the Palestinian people. I would like to know what the results would be of such a referendum.

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  34. Eric Florack says:

    @bandit: and that’s the core of the problem

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  35. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Bravo for Kerry and the Obama administration.

    What we have seen with this, as well as taking a stance on Russian hacking and offshore oil drilling is that it is never too late to do the right thing.

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  36. Tyrell says:

    @Liberal Capitalist: What have we here? UN to adopt unheard of blacklist of Israeli companies doing business in the west bank. Since when does the UN have the authority to try and regulate or control commerce anywhere?
    Looks to me like the Obama strategy here was to back down. There was a time when the whole US delegation would have got up and walked out. Or took the Adlai Stevenson approach: “I am prepared to wait for my answer until hell freezes over !” The US should not be pushed around by some goon countries governed by tin horn dictators.
    http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/patrick-goodenough/un-approves-funding-first-anti-israeli-settlement-blacklist
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-03-24/un-rights-body-to-create-blacklist-of-companies-in-west-bank

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  37. Matt says:

    @Tyrell: At first I thought when you said “The US should not be pushed around by some goon countries governed by tin horn dictators.” I thought you were talking about Israel and I was going to correct you that it was still technically a Democracy….

    BTW your second link is almost a year old and is just a list that no one had issues with.

    Your first link is absurdity posted on a “news” source that has a hard conservative pro-Israel at all costs bent to it’s news coverage. They spun a simple list into a BLACKLIST BANNING ISRAELI COMPANIES despite no evidence supporting such a notion. If you’re getting your news from sources like that it’s no surprise you’ve been so clueless.

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