From his aerie at the Council on Foreign Relations, Elliott Abrams has slammed Jodi Rudoren of the New York Times for her story suggesting that construction in the E-1 strip of the West Bank would end the two-state-solution. Abrams says the two-state solution is alive and well, and he suggests that Rudoren is incompetent:
It is just plain extraordinary that the Jerusalem bureau chief of the New York Times knows so little about the geography of the Jerusalem area that she could write such things. Here’s my theory: that just about everyone she knows–all her friends–believe these things, indeed know that they are true. Settlements are bad, the right-wing Israeli government is bad, new construction makes peace impossible and cuts the West Bank in half and destroys contiguity and means a Palestinian state is impossible. They just know it, it’s obvious, so why would you have to refer to a map, or talk to people who would tell you it’s all wrong?
To her credit, Rudoren responded to Abrams in an email to Politico, and while expressing regret over imprecision, stood up for the essence of her post, as well she should:
The essence of what our E1 story said was correct: that building there is seen by palestinians, peace advocates and diplomats worldwide as the death knell of the two state solution, because it prevents meaningful contiguity in the West Bank and easy access to the heart of East Jerusalem. (The Israelis also understand this; it’s precisely why this area was chosen at this time.)
Rudoren is plainly right. If you have been to the West Bank, you know that it is crisscrossed by Israeli-only roads, that the supposed capital of a Palestinian state, East Jerusalem, is infiltrated by more than a dozen Jewish settlements in what Jeff Halper has called a permanent “matrix of control;” and a huge wall cuts off the supposed Palestinian parliament buildings in Abu Dis from the spiritual heart of Jerusalem, the Old City.
Abrams’s claim that he is for the two state solution is hypocritical. In his book, Faith or Fear (1997), he lumped Presbyterian support for “Palestinian statehood” into a list of Christian statements about Israel that seemed to him “a form of anti-Semitism.” And just two weeks ago he was asked what his greatest achievement in 30 years of working on Middle East issues was and he said it was guaranteeing the Israeli colonization of the West Bank:
“the famous letter: the April 14, 2004, letter of President Bush to Ariel Sharon, Prime Minister Sharon, which for the first time said clearly: Israel is going to keep the major [settlement] blocs, and there is no ‘right of return.’”
Abrams has done as much to destroy the two-state solution as anyone, because he had a religious belief in the Jews’ God-given right to Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Plainly though, it is important to neocons to assert that the two-state solution is alive. They know that this is an important battle in the American mainstream discourse. For if the two-state solution is dead, then we are entering into an apartheid struggle in all the land between the river and the sea.
If you visit the West Bank, you know that that struggle has begun. But there is little awareness of this struggle in the US mainstream, and Abrams wants to keep it that way.
Rudoren is joined here by Paul Pillar, a former CIA official and realist, who says Israelis have been able to conceal the apartheid reality in the West Bank by the unending promise of a two-state solution.
He writes at “The National Interest” that the South Africa analogy clearly is applicable:
In any meaningful moral (or legal) sense, the Israeli system of apartheid warrants just as much active international opposition as the South African system did. But for a combination of historical and political reasons, it is substantially more difficult to mount such opposition.
One reason it is hard to mount opposition to Israeli apartheid, Pillar explains, is the fig leaf of the two-state solution:
Israeli governments such as Netanyahu’s… can continue to pretend to seek a two-state solution, treating the situation in the West Bank not as one of permanent subjugation but as only a temporary problem involving “disputed territory.” And if the ostensible goal is a Palestinian state, this inevitably muddies the issue of Palestinian rights and Palestinian life under Israeli rule. Why get agitated about the details of the Palestinians’ lives today, the Israelis can say, when if the Palestinians just stop terrorizing and start negotiating they can have a state of their own? Indefinitely maintaining the illusion of wanting a two-state solution is a reason Netanyahu—despite the willingness of some in his party and coalition to let the cat out of the bag regarding their true intentions—has stopped short of steps that would clearly kill off the two-state solution. That is why his recent “punishment” of the Palestinians involving expansion of settlements into the critical E1 zone involved the initiation of planning and zoning but may never lead to actual building.
Pillar makes a point that Ali Abunimah made years ago: that the two state solution as conceived is a form of apartheid, of segregating Palestinians into reserves so as to preserve a Jewish majority in the remaining territory. South Africans couldn’t get away with it, but Israel has. As Pillar writes, “By cordoning off—and periodically clobbering—the patch of blockaded misery known as the Gaza Strip, Jewish Israelis can remain a majority in the rest of the land they control. That is not something that white South Africans could ever hope for.”
Abrams understands that this is now the goal: limited Palestinian sovereignty in a ministate, so that no one can complain about apartheid. That’s why his battle with Rudoren is so important.