Israel, Politics

Biden & Kerry: Freeze the Settlements

There’s significant room to ask whether or not these increasing calls from Washington for a settlement freeze are a big deal or not. They’re a big deal for sure in that it’s a huge departure from the Bush administration and a sea change in the way Congress is willing to stick its neck out to challenge the conservatives on Israel (a large number of people in the States, including the Jews in the Democratic party). And not that it’s not a big signal to Bibi’s government either: messages of support mixed with messages of “shape up on your obligations” should be coming in loud and clear.
But the settlement freeze itself might not be the most noteworthy of diplomatic gestures. From Bush, it would have been phenomenal! But from Kerry and Biden, this is the most basic of several grander suggestions, including finally mumbling something about two states for two peoples, engaging diplomatically again, and accepting a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas.
Thankfully, the settlements are the least controversial request. And there’s every evidence that on this issue Netanyahu will behave like the proverbial horse dragged to the waterhole and told to drink. But it’s one of many changes in American foreign policy (THANK THE LORD ALMIGHTY) and it’s the easiest one to swallow. So drink, Bibi, drink. If you do it right, you can claim “The American’s made me do it,” and preserve your political skin while still advancing peace in the region.
P.S. BTShalom, J Street and Americans for Peace Now all sent action alerts TODAY supporting Obama’s diplomacy. Thanks for reading our blog, and of course for commenting if you like what’s written here. But seriously? Call your Representatives and tell them yourself.

33 thoughts on “Biden & Kerry: Freeze the Settlements

  1. “and accepting a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas.”
    If this is JStreet’s position, than it is not adovcating two states for two peoples…because the Hamas political leadership has never given even the slightest indication that it will ever agree to a treay with Israel, based on two states for two peoples…never. It’s illogical to think that it would, considering Hamas’s ideology. This is a formula to kill the two-state idea. If groups want to advocate for that fine, but perhaps they shouldn’t represent themselves as pro-2-states.
    Is JStreet’s position also that the Palestinians should make a political reconciliation with Efi Eitam?

  2. Yes, they have. They’ve made numerous overtures and they’ve said it explicitly several times. You just don’t trust it, which is fine, but drop the hyperbole and just say it straight.
    Efi Etam doesn’t govern 1/4 of the Israeli populace.
    Also, how will it kill the two state idea? Ideologically Fatah never wanted two states either. You negotiate with people with power and recent history in the region proves to me that refusal to engage is an invitation for military and terrorist options. You want to ensure Hamas will always fire rockets? Keep ignoring them, because that’s what’s worked so far.

  3. First of all, Fatah (the PLO) publicly endorsed Resolution 242 in 1988, five years before Oslo.
    It will kill the two-state idea because Hams will torpedo any agreement, as Efi Eitam would. Because Hamas governs 1/4 of the Palestinian populace its ideology has changed? How have you made this inference?
    Please show us one of the several times where Hamas has explicity stated that they will support a treaty based on two-states. This will be earth-shattering news.

  4. Quick question before I start Googling around for it: how does Bibi and Lieberman’s opposition to two-states change your resistance to engaging Hamas? It’s funny to see the Palestinians regurgitating the same arguments that the other side (now Israel, under Bibi) isn’t committed to a two-state solution.

  5. Today’s NYT had a long interview with Meshal, He doesn’t quite offer a peace treaty, but rather a 10 year truce.
    In my view, real progress towards peace has been hampered by the effort to isolate Hamas. It’s left Hamas no role but to play the spoiler. We need a Palestinian government with both the legitimacy and the capacity to make peace. That probably means a Fatah-Hamas unity government.

  6. What’s your point? If the Palestinians think that Bibi and Lieberman are going to deliver a two-state agreement, I have a bridge to sell them in Brooklyn.

  7. Why would we want a 10-year-truce — under the terms of which Israel would withrawal to the 1967 lines and agree to the right of return in principle — only to continue this war after those ten years…in that case the Palestinians would understand that the path of violence and rejectionism (Hamas’s path) brings the results which cooperation (PLO’s method) couldn’t deliver?
    Again, how can we say that a government with Hamas has the capacity to make peace with Israel when Hamas itself explicity rejects this idea, and this very idea is anathema to Hamas’s raison d’etre?

  8. here are some links to articles mentioning Hamas’ acceptance of a two-state solution. As early as 2006, top Hamas officials have been saying that they will accept a Palestinian state in the ’67 borders.
    and of course the articles that have abounded the last two days.
    Let’s not forget that even Israel’s founders were branded relentless, unrepentant terrorists by the British crown only to be invited to Buckingham Palace as guests of state just a few years later. Labels go a long, long way in politics. Engaging Hamas is key to seeing it moderate its stance towards violent resistance and will help them enter legitimate politics.
    It’s also important to remember that Hamas in Damascus and Hamas in Gaza are not entirely unified in many regards. And I would even imagine that Hamas’ political and military wings in Gaza are also not always entirely unified.

  9. Justin–
    I’ll go in reverse order of how you posted.
    The third article states that if the PLO makes an agreement, approved by a referendum of the Palestinians, then Hamas would not oppose it. It in no way states that Hamas will ever reconcile itself to the state of Israel’s existence. The seems to be a very good argument for why we should deal with the PLO only.
    The second article speaks of a tahadiyah (cease-fire) in exchange for a full Israeli withdrawal to the ’67 lines…which would only mean that we’ll resume this war ten years from now, but from the ’67 lines, and after the Palestinians have seen that violence pays.
    The first article does state that Zahar vaguely left open the possiblity of two-states. In this sence you are correct. But, you’re more optimistic than I if you interpret this as a wilingness to agree to an end-of-conflict treaty with Israel, especially in the context of Hamas’s more explicit statements to the contrary. Perhaps it is a matter of optimism and trust then.
    As for the anology with Israel’s founders, there is a big difference. Menachem Begin was a secular nationalist at the end of the day. Just like Yasser Arafat. Just like Sadat. Just like Assad. Just like George Habash. It’s not so incredible that any of these men made/might make policy u-turns…
    But it’s a bad analogy. Hamas is a religious movement. They have God on their side. Just like Efi Eitam. Just like Meir Kahane. Just like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, of which Hamas is part. They’ve never made any indication that they will moderate their fundamental beliefs. It’s illogical that they would. Will the Moslim Brotherhood moderate its beliefs? Al-Queda? Gush Emunim?
    Does anybody ever read Uri Avinery’s writings, btw? (If not, do so, as he is a great writer.) Anyway, for years he wrote about how Israel needed to help Arafat so as not to deal with Hamas–Avinery was the first politician to meet with Arafat. But, now that Hamas has power, he writes all of the time that we have to deal with Hamas. How can this be? I thought we were dealing with Arafat so as to not deal with Hamas, because we can’t make a deal with Hamas. That’s the unfortunate reality.

  10. Justin, Hamas never accepted Israel’s existence. Unlike Arafat, who lied outright, Hamas is too religious to lie. Instead they utilize half truths like “we will accept a Palestinian state in the ’67 borders”. Note – no mention of acceptance of Israel. The statement is phrased to sound like they support peace, but what it’s really saying is “we’ll accept the same things Fatah is asking for, but without giving the Israelis anything in return”. They reserve the right to start murdering Israelis the moment their ten year hudna (rearming) expires.
    Occasionally, as in your articles, a naive reporter takes this to mean that Hamas is ready for peace. But when questioned directly, Hamas admits they will never recognize Israel:

  11. I am breathlessly waiting for Bibi to come to Washington and rip Obama a new one. No two states. No withdrawal to ’67. Jewish settlement is not up for discussion. Jerusalem is not up for discussion. Nuclear disarmament (the latest outrage from State) of Israel will occur when pigs fly, snorkel, and speak Farsi.
    It’s unbelievable to me how short all your memories are. I remember vividly speaking to a rabidly leftist Israeli friend in 2005. You have to understand, she said, once we withdraw from Gaza, if they do anything we can finally fight them without both hands tied behind our back, because there is no occupation. They will have no legitimate reason to attack because there is no occupation. We can finally show the world who wants peace and who doesn’t.
    Four years later, Israel’s diplomatic and military hands are double and triple tied to the point where the world questions our right (and ability!) to defend ourselves from rocket barrages! Where our biggest ally is desperately trying to “save Israel from itself” by slicing our wrists!!!
    What has been demanded of the Palestinians by Obama? Name ONE THING! NAME ONE THING HIS ADMINISTRATION HAS DEMANDED OF THEM! Recognition of Israel as a Jewish state? No. Recognition of Israel period? No. An end to rocket attacks? No. An end to terror attacks? No. Meanwhile America arms a dictator in the West Bank – always more guns! – as if we didn’t see how well that turned out in the 1990s.
    There is no other way to put this, so I’ll be blunt. KFJ, Justin, et. al. who led us into the disaster of Gaza with beautiful promises… you failed the Jewish state, and you failed those of us who you convinced of your crazy schemes to give and give and give to the Arabs and hope and pray that they will love us.
    Olmert’s last and final failure (G-d I pray he takes up gardening in some remote spot in the Negev) was to stop the invasion of Gaza before we met a single objective.
    G-d help you, Bibi. You better spend that flight to Washington watching all those speeches you gave about Jewish rights, Jewish land, Jewish interests.
    Obama’s of his only leverage in the world is pressuring Israel. Obama doesn’t know how to pressure Iran, so he doesn’t. Obama doesn’t know how to pressure Russia, so he doesn’t. Obama doesn’t even know how to get Europeans to send a few measly thousand troops to Afghanistan! Instead all the pressure and foreign policy attention is focused on pressuring Israel.
    One speech is all it will take. One. Good. Speech.
    Cut him off at the knees.

  12. Firouz, I don’t see the world like you do at all. I just don’t.
    Why should Israel have a right to “untied” hands? No country does. Israel gets no special privileges from me. The Jews want to have a country? Sure. Welcome to realpolitik. They want to have nuclear weapons? Sure. Now be governed by the UN or lose ’em. (Or permit Iran to have them.) They want a superpower sponsor state? Sure. Now they have to do what the sponsor says. Correction: what I, the American voter, says. That’s the game. If the Jews want a country, that’s the way it is.
    That includes exposing and regulating Israel’s nuclear arsenal — way interesting news. Israel has lived with a nuclear hypocrisy for decades, holding it above the Arab states’ heads. Now Iran is getting a nuke. The likelihood that anyone would use it is small, but Israel will get a hip check in it’s ability to beligerantly persue military action in the region. She might have to *gasp* use diplomacy first!
    This is all to say that Firouz, your wish is a pipe dream. I’m sorry. It is. Bibi is a vassal to my President, who I voted for and whose policies have taken eight years to finally arrive.
    God bless the ‘Bama.
    Jonathan and nomad, you’re both interpretting facts your own way. The “death to Israel” statements you see as “the real Hamas” and the truces and overtures to negotation are “the lying Hamas.” Ohhhhh please.
    The statements are all there, but you choose to interpret them as subterfuge and lies. (Which is fine, that’s your worldview.) Instead, I see them as statements by a conflicted and inexperienced political body being dragged kicking and screaming to the realization that it will never have the money or power to even convince half the Palestinians that they can win by force. And that even if it did, Israel will always have more arms.

  13. Welcome to realpolitik.
    No, no, my friend. I welcome YOU to realpolitik. Like a schoolgirl, the left wing of America’s polity has taken Israel’s loyalty for granted. Obama has broken with five decades of policy, and that is his right. We will all see the price to America’s interests when the Levant is no longer so hospitable and accommodating to American whims.
    Israel is not a Jewish state due to American patronage, but to Jewish blood. Vassal state? I encourage you to speak those words loudly and proudly to every Jew you meet, particularly those in Israel.

  14. KFJ, something bugged me about your comment, and after thinking about it for half an hour… you’re coming off as an advocate for Samatha Power-style militarism with relation to Israel.
    Interesting that the only nation you think it wise to pressure and abuse (verbally, as you demonstrated with “vassal state”) is Israel. The only nation you’re willing to take a stand against, to force into submission, is Israel. Interesting. Interesting.

  15. “The “death to Israel” statements you see as “the real Hamas” and the truces and overtures to negotation are “the lying Hamas.” Ohhhhh please.”
    Excuse me, KFJ. Where did I write about the real and lying Hamas….I don’t think that Hamas’s leadership lie.
    Just this Monday, in the NYT, a top Hamas official stated that they would agree to a 10-year cease fire, in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal to the ’67 lines and agreement to the prinicple of the right of return. Who said he was lying about this?
    The problem is that we need an end-of-conflict treaty…why would Israel agree to such a cease-fire? Why are you so sure that Hamas’s leadership is so convinced it can’t defeat Israel. Time seems to be working in their favor. They speak about it all of the time (maybe they’re lying about that you mean?) It is the organization’s raison d’etre. Any member of Hamas’s leadership will tell you it’s Hamas’s raison d’etre. Why don’t you believe them?

  16. I’m looking at the third article Justin posted and it’s unbelievable.
    Hamas’s spokesman said that if the PA reached an agreement with Israel, approved by a referndum of Palestinians, Hamas wouldn’t try and oppose it…In the evacuation of Yamit, Meir Kahane was flown in to tell his followers to stop fighting with the police and leave. He told them that he didn’t want to see a Jewish civil war….I guess this means that Kahane was a proponent, at least tacitly, of the Egypt treaty? Had he been part of that government he would have pushed Begin to sign that treaty?
    Maybe I too live in a different world than you.

  17. At least Hamas offers the Palestinians a referendum (and not mere opinion polls). Do we expect such gestures from the Israeli leadership? Certainly that was NOT the case with Sinai or Gaza.
    It is one thing to lose the ideological debate and get voted down in a national referendum. It is another for the leadership to bulldoze the opposition and harness the media to suppress and belittle dissent, which is what happened with Gaza – I don’t think even those of you who supported Gaza can disagree with that.

  18. The Jews of Judea and Samaria succeeding in settling the Land, but they failed to settle into the people’s hearts, Firouz.

  19. I’ll take your comment separately, but my previous remark stands. Unlike Hamas, the Israel government will not give its people the choice to vote on fundamental national interests like keeping Judea and Samaria, or even Golan.
    The Jews of Judea and Samaria succeeding in settling the Land, but they failed to settle into the people’s hearts, Firouz.
    The Jews of the coastal plains of Israel, of the north of Israel and of the south of Israel have succeeded in settling the Land, but they failed to settle into the people’s hearts (i.e. the hearts of Israeli arabs). So what? Whether in Nablus or in Jaffa, they don’t want us there, Jonathan, and there is nothing on this green earth that will convince them that getting beating in consecutive wars and being driven from the Land is a positive experience.
    You want them to love us, Gandhi-style, so let’s work on that. The first step is to kill Abbas and disband the PA. That would make Israel popular overnight. Then annex Judea and Samaria on an extended, 50 year timetable as I’ve written in the past. Start connecting infrastructure, economy, services, etc. You want to win their hearts? Show them they’re human beings with rights, not animals to be led around on a leash.

  20. The people in Nablus and Jaffa don’t want us there? You’re kidding.
    Ironically, I was quoting a common expression heard from much of the settlement leadership in the past few years.
    They realize what apparantly you don’t realize: The settlement movement does not have the backing of most Israelis. Don’t ask me, after Yamit, Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook (sp?) said that the people aren’t with us.
    The Israeli government does give the people a choice–the elections. The parties who take a hard line don’t win many votes. Period. That’s the reality.

  21. The settlement movement does not have the backing of most Israelis.
    Then let democracy work. What are you afraid of? Let’s have a referendum on any further “disengagements”.

  22. Jonathan, you know as well as I do that, campaign rhetoric aside, the real Israeli political spectrum is much smaller than campaign rhetoric. Netanyahu just gave $13 million to Gaza, which he lambasted Olmert for doing just 6 months ago! Sharon campaigned on not returning an inch, and ended up adopting the left’s position 100%. You know all that, and you’re counting on Israel’s broken governmental system to cynically advance your agenda against the will of a majority of Israelis.
    A simple up or down referendum. It’s good enough for Hamas and the Palestinians, but not good enough for Jews? You claim your view is in the majority, so what are you afraid of?

  23. Ok. I’m not afraid at all. If the government makes an agreement and wants to put it to a referendum, I’d be all for it. There’s little doubt it would pass.
    You need to check your history, btw. Sharon won in 1/03 by very clearly stating that a Palestinian state was a fait accompli. He was the sitting PM, who had sent his own son to meet with Arafat, and who had agreed not to build any new settlements. He had a very open argument with Netanyahu about this in the Likud convention in 2002. What do you think he meant by Palestinian state?
    And Firouz, tell us what your vision is for the future in Israel. This is what the expression means–Gush Emunim settled into the heart of the Land of Israel but not into the heart of the people of Israel….
    Don’t keep trying to trick us by saying (1) Sharon did a policy u-turn after the ’03 election (he didn’t,) (2) the elections don’t reflect the will of the people (they do, and even if that weren’t the case, why would a referendum be any different?,) (3) what terrible event happened to somebody like me to turn my heart cold enough to want Jews to leave the territories (because I want the state of Israel to survive) (4) the government came out of nowhere and expelled the Jews from Gaza and now they’re abandoned (they knew about it for a year and refused to cooperate or receive any compensation,)(5)it’s all because the Israeli media is against the settlement movement (they are, but the settlement movement never gives a clear version of how it sees the future,) (6) the Disengagement led to the rocket attacks (we’ve been fighting with the Palestinians for a century, and we can take a poll to see how many Israelis want to rebuild Gush Katif)….
    Stop trying to trick us, achi. Tell us how you see the future. Do you believe Moshiach is about to come if we hold onto Judea and Samaria? Do you want to expel the Palestinians? This is why Gush Emunim never settled into the people’s heart, it’s never a clear answer…it’s always something like “Ariel Sharon wants to give the country away,” etc.

  24. I have explained, numerous times. I need to leave, but in three hours I will return and tell you my vision for the future. You want it on this post or somewhere else? Let’s pick a newer post or you won’t find it later.

  25. Ok. I must have missed it. Are you also Victor?
    I think you should post so everybody can read it…

  26. This just in:
    The Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas will not accept a two-state solution as a means to end the conflict with Israel, the movement’s Damascus-based politburo chief Khaled Meshal said Saturday.

    Meshal told the New York Times last week that Hamas has agreed with the rival Fatah movement to a state based on 1967 borders, including East Jerusalem, the dismantling of settlements and a right of return for Palestinians. He said such a deal could be the basis for a long-lasting ceasefire. Some analysts saw the remarks as an indirect recognition of Israel.
    It’s the usual story: Hamas makes vagues statements about accepting a Palestinian state, some naive reporter thinks this means they will accept Israel, Hamas later clarifies they will never accept Israel.
    It’s happened numerous times before. It’s just happened again. KFJ, I wish just as much as you do that Hamas would consider permanent peace with Israel, but I think we have to accept that it’s never going to happen.
    When does Hamas’ election term expire?

  27. Nomad,
    Just give up. The reality that Hamas will never accept Israel does not fit with the narrative that the organized American Jewish community is anti-peace.

  28. “I need to leave, but in three hours I will return and tell you my vision for the future.”……
    “Maybe you guys should just give me login info so I can revolutionize this site outside of my quiet insurgency in the comment section.”
    What happened?

  29. I forgot, sorry. I found where I shared this “vision” with you a few weeks back, and your response. Basically, it breaks down like this:
    I refuse to give up Judea and Samaria because I believe that territory and security are fundamentally linked to each other. Demographics are of secondary importance to me, both because I believe we can, are and will outgrow Palestinians in the Land, and because I propose a gradual annexation that will allow us time to digest the West Bank, and its population, in a pragmatic way.
    You refuse to live in a state where Jews are not the overwhelming majority (75%+), with territory and security only of secondary or tertiary importance.
    My criticism of your position is that the Palestinians will never have a state in WB/Gaza that meets their needs for self-determination, because that state will be consumed by Israeli economic, political and military power. Thus, the Palestinian endgame for self-determination is not a state in WB/Gaza, but the destruction of Israel. By giving up territory we only enable them to continue the war against us. The only way to stop this war is to win it – and the only way to do that is to settle the land and kill their desire for self-determination at its root.
    Your criticism of my position is that annexing the territories means “one person, one vote”, which will destroy the State of Israel and create a brewing sectarian war that will destroy any chance for a Jewish state for a hundred years.
    Does that pretty much cover it?

  30. Firouz, I find the idea of “disenfrachise your enemy by outbreeding them” to be disgusting, regardless of whether it’s espoused by Israelis or Palestinians.
    Both Israelis and Palestinians deserve self determination. The only solution that provides this is two states.
    But if you like we can compromise on three states. One for the moderate Palestinians, to enjoy self determination. One for the moderate Israelis to do the same. And a third state where the extremists on both sides can try their best to outbreed and oppress one another. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

  31. Fair enough Firouz.
    But, I propose that, in this situation, security is gained through building a strong, vibrant society, which is impossible to accomplish in the current master/slave paradigm in which we’ve entrenched ourselves. Territory is of secondary importance, although undeniably it is a risk to cede vital lands to our enemy.
    Could this Israel prevail in the situations of ’67 and ’73, though?
    (Through land swaps and compensation deals, we can establish a Jewish majority of 85%, btw, and had we handled matters differently since ’67, it would probably be about 90% today.)
    “Thus, the Palestinian endgame for self-determination is not a state in WB/Gaza, but the destruction of Israel.”
    It seems so.
    “By giving up territory we only enable them to continue the war against us.”
    I would argue that by KEEPING the territories we enable them to continue the war in the most effective manner possible.
    “annexing the territories means “one person, one vote”, which will destroy the State of Israel and create a brewing sectarian war that will destroy any chance for a Jewish state for a hundred years”
    This seems to be where we are heading, no?

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