Borders. Security. Refugees. Jerusalem.
November 1, 2011 10:37 AM   Subscribe

The Atlantic is in the middle of a four-part special report on the Israel / Palestinian peace process, called "Is Peace Possible?" which features multimedia presentations on and analyses of what they believe are the four core issues of the conflict: Borders, Security, Refugees, and Jerusalem. (The latter two will be released on Monday, November 7 and 14th, respectively) The report was put together in collaboration with the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace.

To Weigh In: The Project's Twitter Feed

Additional reading / Associated materials: (The "Video" pages contain links to further reading that give both the Palestinian and Israeli perspectives.)

Borders
Video (and additional links) / Transcript
* How to Connect the West Bank and the Gaza Strip
* Difficult Truths on Borders

Security
* Video (And Additional Links) / Transcript
* The Most Contentious Settlements in the West Bank. Also: The Baker Institute's Getting to the Territorial Endgame of an Israeli-Palestinian Peace Settlement and Imagining the Border: Options for Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian Territorial Issue a 2011 Washington Institute for Near East Policy report by David Makovsky

The magazine mentions their long history of covering the conflict.

Other coverage:
Newsweek has excerpts from former secretary of state Condoleeza Rice's new memoir. Atlantic: What Condi Rice's Memoir Gets Wrong (and Right) on Israel-Palestine
posted by zarq (21 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
Thanks for this. I haven't read it yet, but I'm surprised that water/resources isn't its own entry as a determinant of future peace, regardless of whether it was covered in borders or not.

I'm guessing that at the moment the Palestinians don't have much agriculture to need it, nor appliances to use it, so it is less of an issue. Now.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:07 AM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


See It.'s all very simple.
posted by Postroad at 11:13 AM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Another article was just posted:

Abbas on Hamas, Netanyahu, and the Roadblocks to Peace
posted by zarq at 12:25 PM on November 1, 2011


This is a good example of how to do a post on a perennially contentious topic right. Well done.
posted by Amanojaku at 1:33 PM on November 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


Thank you, Amanojaku. :)
posted by zarq at 2:54 PM on November 1, 2011


Nice post - thanks.
posted by cromagnon at 3:23 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yep you should take the low comment count as high praise, I clicked mostly out of curiosity how this kind of post didn't rapidly devolve into hundreds of unreadable rants.
posted by sammyo at 4:20 PM on November 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


Good post zarq, makes for some interesting reading.
posted by arcticseal at 7:38 PM on November 1, 2011


four core issues of the conflict: Borders, Security, Refugees, and Jerusalem

Not settlements?
posted by delmoi at 9:15 PM on November 1, 2011


Settlements didn't become a thing until pretty recently and in my opinion they're something of a red herring. Here's a Wikipedia page giving population statistics for them, as well as the dates when they were constructed. According to that page only four have been constructed since the Oslo peace accords in 1993, the most recent one in 1998 - thirteen years ago. Even those are merely small extensions of adjacent cities and (in Israel's opinion, although I realise this is disputed) are on land it annexed long ago.

Everybody who believes in a two-state solution knows that some of these settlements will stay and others will go. Israel has withdrawn from a bunch of settlements already, most obviously every single one in the Gaza Strip. So there's no reason for them to be an obstacle to peace negotiations - and in fact they weren't, not until Abbas realised that his negotiation team had effectively agreed with the Israelis on a peace deal, and that it would now be his job to sell it to the Palestinians. All of a sudden they were the worst thing in the world, a barrier to peace, something that required the personal intervention of the US president. And you know what? Because Obama thought that this really was an issue Israel stopped building in those settlements, an historic event that was a huge national issue with an enormous amount of political fallout ... and Abbas still didn't come back to the negotiation table.


(*) The most recent one it identifies was constructed in 1998, but it's really just an extension of one built in 1996, which is itself part of a city built in 1985. According to Google Maps, they're mostly built on what was No Man's Land during 1949-1967, and the nearest Arab town is about a mile away, down one hill and up another one. They don't obstruct any possible rights of way and they don't occupy arable land. This is pretty thin material for outrage.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:12 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Though I favor a two-state solution it should be noted that within Iasrael Bibi is pushed by his right wing supporters. But the Palestinians have Abbas at odds with Hamas in Gaza, and Hamas not favoring a two-state settled peace arrangement, and, at the same time, a jihadist group in Gaza striking out--if we are to believe Hamas--on its own and sending rockets at Israel for one full week or more. This reached the point where the govt of Israel gave the orders to its army to end the attacks no matter what it took...Egypt pleaded and got a promised delay of about 24 hours to see if a peace could be brokered. I note this to indicate that the somewhat simple issues summed up here that seem so obvious have other realities going on that in many ways prevent anything from taking place.
posted by Postroad at 12:20 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Far beyond the issue of settlements which make the West Bank look like Swiss Cheese, the matter of connecting all of these areas together - as well as the matter of connecting Gaza and the West Bank appear really intractable.

After the 1st World War Poland was given a corridor to the sea which effectively cut-off Eastern Prussia from the rest of Germany.

Even though Hitler himself recognized and said that "a great nation must have access to the sea" the isolation of East Prussia proved unworkable.

What settled this once and for all was the surrender of the old Hanseatic, Prussian port of Danzig to Poland (now known as Gdansk) and the forced re-settlement of all Germans living in East Prussia to Germany proper.

The resulting situation proved durable and lasting.

The idea that a "territorial-transportational link will likely be a corridor consisting of newly-created infrastructure, 100 to 200 meters in width, and include a road, a railway, and means for running utilities such as pipes and cables" just seems ridiculous. Especially when one considers that similar "links" would need to be constructed between all of the "settlements" in the West Bank.

A Palestinian "state" made of Swiss cheese, which does not control its own territory or the "corridors" which connect it, which must be completely disarmed, but which shall be responsible for keeping its citizens from taunting the Israelis is not anything like a sovereign state. One can well understand the lack of enthusiasm amongst Palestinians of such an absurd offer of "peace."

Really the only solution is a one-state solution in which respects the rights of all citizens and which creates a contiguous state capable of exercising sovereignty within its borders, but of course this is impossible in the eyes of those who insist that Israel must be a Jewish state. That's really at the end of the day the spanner in the cogs in all of this. The Zionists have basically won the debate.

I received an e-mail from a dear friend recently which was part of a story of his childhood. It was a story about his tutor, Moshe Spiraah, who was helping him study the Tanach in preparation for his bar mitzvah in 1954. Referring to Spirrah, Philippe explained:

"I remember once asking him whether It was the newborn state of Israel or the British Empire that would guarantee the survival of the Jewish people. My zionist Uncle Hayim claimed the former, and our History Teacher, Mr Purgavie, a former Lt Commander in the British navy, the latter. Spiraah pointed to the Tanach, there he said, “zere, inbetveen ze werdz zere you vill find ze key to zervival”, he said in his broad Polish-Ashkenazi accent, doing away with the brave Hagana in Israel and the Tommie’s of Field Marshal Montgomery."

His point was that there is no given consensus among Jews that a state of Israel is necessary; that even a man with first-hand experience of the Holocaust, who survived his wife and five year old son, could see that. He laments the loss of Jewish communities across the world, and in particular in the Middle East, who have been enticed to re-settle in Israel as a means to build-up the population. He bitterly opposes the idea of a Jewish nation-state as being the path of the Jewish people, but he recognizes that Jews such as himself have lost the debate. "The Holocaust," he says, "has so traumatized our people that we can no longer think clearly."

Philippe was born in 1941 and from talking with him about his experiences growing up, I can only vaguely grasp this post war trauma, but I understand the enormity of it is beyond my comprehension.

But I am also encouraged by the example of the Irish and British who were able to put aside centuries of hatred and decide to live together as equal citizens in Northern Ireland. Not everyone got what they wanted, but each got enough and in the final analysis what people want is to be able to live normal lives, enjoy a sense of justice and equality, raise their families, and go to sleep without fearing they will not wake up.

So a one-state solution is possible, if only the fiction of a Jewish nation-state can be replaced by the old narrative of Jewish history and tradition.

At least that is how this goy understands his friend's views on the matter.
posted by three blind mice at 4:12 AM on November 2, 2011


Three blind mice: negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians had reached the point where there was no "Swiss cheese"; the only necessary extraterritorial passage was between Gaza and the West Bank, which is inevitable. The two sides were arguing about really quite small details ("how much farmland is your suburb worth to you?") when the negotiations were terminated.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:32 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Joe in Australia: "Three blind mice: negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians had reached the point where there was no "Swiss cheese"; the only necessary extraterritorial passage was between Gaza and the West Bank, which is inevitable. The two sides were arguing about really quite small details ("how much farmland is your suburb worth to you?") when the negotiations were terminated."

Per wikileaks' Palestine Papers, (interactive) this statement bears no resemblance to the reality of the situation as I understand it. Perhaps you could clarify what you mean?

The Palestinians, in what appeared to be increasing desperation, offered more and more concessions to Israel, which were rebuffed -- meaning they were not agreed to by Israel. I do not believe they were 'negotiating' in the sense you seem to be implying: that the big issues had been agreed to and the two parties were just haggling over details. Offers being made and not accepted included recognition of the state of Israel, large, unprecedented concessions regarding Jerusalem (original docs) as well as the right of return. Full demilitarization. Land swapped, or simply given up entirely. Etc.

Eventually the Palestinians seemed to be making offers and the Israelis were saying "no" without making reasonable counteroffers. That is not "arguing about small details," nor is it a negotiation. It's saying, "you give us virtually everything we want, or we agree to nothing and have no deal." An attitude which is perhaps understandable considering their history, although also completely hypocritical given the way the Israelis lied to the world about Palestinian intransigence during the peace talks.
posted by zarq at 7:19 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


no "Swiss cheese";

Help me with this one Joe in Australia . Please.

Google is unhelpful because it seems there is plenty of propaganda from both sides flooding the search engines.

Here is one from a Pro-Palestine Israeli organization so maybe somewhat accurate. It looks like Swiss cheese to me.

So does the interactive link zarq put up.

I've seen plenty of maps like this one showing the settlements in the West Bank and unless the Israelis have agreed to do what they have done in Gaza - withdraw or otherwise abandon a large number of these settlements - and future Palestinian state looks to me like a particular brand of cheese with lots of holes in it. I am aware that there are already highways connecting these settlements which are off-limits to Palestinians and that this is a point of misery and contention for both sides.

This is my impression of the situation. You suggest it is wrong and I would appreciate some clarification on just this one point.

What areas of the West Bank will remain under Israeli control based on the latest Israeli offer?

How does Israel propose that isolated Israeli settlements - if any - be connected to Israel proper? Or to each other?

There are too many issues involved for me to really understand, but this one I thought I had under control. If not, I would really appreciate being corrected.
posted by three blind mice at 8:10 AM on November 2, 2011


three blind mice: " His point was that there is no given consensus among Jews that a state of Israel is necessary; that even a man with first-hand experience of the Holocaust, who survived his wife and five year old son, could see that. He laments the loss of Jewish communities across the world, and in particular in the Middle East, who have been enticed to re-settle in Israel as a means to build-up the population. He bitterly opposes the idea of a Jewish nation-state as being the path of the Jewish people, but he recognizes that Jews such as himself have lost the debate. "The Holocaust," he says, "has so traumatized our people that we can no longer think clearly." "

Being nearly wiped out as a race will do that, yes.

You're right that there is no Jewish consensus regarding Israel. However, there is a sense held by many modern Jews that logically, there is strength in numbers. Because when we did not have a government who spoke for us and protected our interests, we were subjected to atrocities, including genocide and mass murder. To many, the concept of Israel and of Zionism represents protection and security for Jews in a way that was not available to us as a people prior to 1945. The concrete reality is more complex, of course. Israel does not always act in its own best interests, or in the interests of the Jewish people. But then again, neither do most countries.

This, by the way, is one of the reasons why Jews tended to congregate in cities here in the US prior to WWII -- there was strength in numbers. There were other, practical reasons, too. But the movement by Jews to suburban America didn't really happen until the 1950's out of fear that they would be isolated and harassed. Anecdotally, my grandparents moved to Long Island in 1955. The local KKK burned crosses on their lawn.

The flip side of the security argument is that Jews, especially religious Jews, were concerned that they would be forced to emigrate to the newly-formed Jewish state. And this did happen. Some Jewish communities across the world were harassed out of their home countries even while others peacefully transplanted themselves to Israel. The argument the anti-Zionists raised was that being herded into one country was not security but instead a recipe for disaster. They also were concerns raised by religious Jews that our religion is not and should not be tied to one place. We do not require the structured hierarchy of a Church in order to pray, so there was concern that Israel would represent the beginning of a sort of top-down Vatican-like system.

The Zionist movement in America was fueled for more than 50 years by two primary drives:

1) There were large, oppressed groups of Jews that needed to be liberated / saved, in Russia and other countries.
2) Overall security for the Jewish people

In the last 20 years, the "Let my people go!" movements have died off. There are no longer large Jewish communities in need of saving from oppressive governments. The Jewish feminist movement has come into its own. Israel has proven it can defend itself against military aggressors. So the American Jewish focus has shifted in large part from the importance of Israel to continuity of religious and cultural traditions, and concerns that mixed marriages are decimating both. Zionism therefore may seem a bit less relevant. And Jews like me have become more comfortable speaking out when we think Israel is not doing the right thing.

Sorry to ramble. This is my roundabout way of saying that I don't think Jews such as your friend's tutor lost the debate, necessarily. Jewish public opinion has shifted and refocused a great deal in the last 60 years. I don't think that's ever going to mean Jews will turn their back on Israel en masse. But Israeli policies may change further over time as a result.
posted by zarq at 8:18 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Being nearly wiped out as a race will do that, yes.

Except zarq you missed the point that this man was himself a survivor of the camps. He was able to have a different perspective - entirely contrary to the post-war Zionist narrative - despite what he saw with his own eyes and experienced with his own heart. I have encouraged my friend to write more about him. It would be a pity for his story too to be lost for all time.

Yeah, Victor Hugo said that you do not write history with a microscope, but neither should one ignore what one sees under the microscope.

There are no longer large Jewish communities in need of saving from oppressive governments.

Well, that's one side of the story. I get a really different take on things from my friend. As an American, I've only been exposed to one side of the story for most of my life. Through my long talks with him, I see a different perspective. He laments that the oldest Jewish community in the world - in Badgad - one which thrived under Saddam Hussein - now gone. Likely never to return.

The narrative of "Let my people go" has a counterpart in Zionist nationalism which is "bring my people here." It seems only fair to recognize this and to give it proper weight. It is not just about security.

BTW I sat and watched the Borders link and feel no smarter for it. Instead of making it simpler, it just confused me even more.
posted by three blind mice at 9:30 AM on November 2, 2011


delmoi: "four core issues of the conflict: Borders, Security, Refugees, and Jerusalem

Not settlements?
"

Also, just to address this. There are articles linked in this FPP that talk about the Settlements, specifically the section under Security (bold text). There are quite a bit of supplementary links/info offered regarding them at both the Borders and Security video links, too.
posted by zarq at 9:39 AM on November 2, 2011


He laments the loss of Jewish communities across the world, and in particular in the Middle East, who have been enticed to re-settle in Israel as a means to build-up the population.

"Enticed" by persecution, violence, and expulsion by various Middle Eastern governments? A funny choice of words.
posted by Behemoth at 11:58 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


three blind mice: "Except zarq you missed the point that this man was himself a survivor of the camps. He was able to have a different perspective - entirely contrary to the post-war Zionist narrative - despite what he saw with his own eyes and experienced with his own heart. I have encouraged my friend to write more about him. It would be a pity for his story too to be lost for all time.

I have friends whose family members survived the camps. However, all the members of my own family and my wife's family who were shipped to the camps never made it out alive.

I agree that his experiences and perspectives are exceptionally valuable and I hope your friend is able to write them down. The only thing I will mention in response is that there are also many people who went through the camps and survived, and turned out to be devoted Zionists. The experience was likely transformative for them all, but of course they were not all touched or changed in the same way.

Yeah, Victor Hugo said that you do not write history with a microscope, but neither should one ignore what one sees under the microscope.

You know, there are lessons that (I assume) every Holocaust Museum teaches their visitors. Among them, that silence in the face of oppression or atrocity can be horribly destructive, state-sanctioned hatred must never be allowed to flourish, we must be able to speak truth to power even under difficult circumstances, and also that the vulnerable in any society must be protected and cared for.

We can extrapolate from this.

Israel was essentially founded as an answer to the Holocaust. In an ideal world, I would like to see the country absorb and incorporate these and other lessons gleaned at terrible cost into their domestic policies and foreign relations. In an ideal world, Israel would not be a source of oppression to anyone. They would never tolerate ethnic imbalances, such as those revealed by the Orr report in their society. They would fight to prevent injustice.

In an ideal world.

Well, that's one side of the story. I get a really different take on things from my friend. As an American, I've only been exposed to one side of the story for most of my life. Through my long talks with him, I see a different perspective. He laments that the oldest Jewish community in the world - in Badgad - one which thrived under Saddam Hussein - now gone. Likely never to return.

I meant that there is no longer a marketing campaign being waged to the American Jewish public, encouraging them to fight oppression of Jews in other countries. We don't hear about Ethiopia or Iran anymore. Priorities have shifted.

The narrative of "Let my people go" has a counterpart in Zionist nationalism which is "bring my people here." It seems only fair to recognize this and to give it proper weight. It is not just about security.

I understand what you mean. But also, if Israel was founded as a safe haven for Jews, then encouraging them to go there is also considered a way they can be secure.

BTW I sat and watched the Borders link and feel no smarter for it. Instead of making it simpler, it just confused me even more."

Sorry. It's a highly complicated situation and I don't think there are any easy answers. And as postroad says, there are issues that aren't even mentioned.
posted by zarq at 12:36 PM on November 2, 2011


I keep forgetting to update this post. The other two sections were posted on schedule:

Refugees
* Resolving the Palestinian Refugee Crisis: Video and Additional Links / Transcript

Jerusalem
* The Future of Jerusalem: Video and Additional Links / Transcript
* The Myth of United Jerusalem

Also:
* How Israel's Security Barrier Affects a Final Border
* Some Israeli Generals Say 1967 Lines with Swaps Are Defensible
* The Death of the Arab Peace Initiative
posted by zarq at 7:35 AM on December 1, 2011


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