Dennis Ross says Israel should unilaterally take 8% of West Bank while stating ‘it has no intention of expanding into future Palestinian state’

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
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The summary of Dennis Ross’s plan to get the peace process back on track.
(Image: New York Times)

Yesterday Dennis Ross was at it again in his role as Israel’s lawyer, arguing for his client in the New York Times on the opening day of the AIPAC annual conference in DC. It is a very disturbing and dishonest piece. Ross advocates for Israel and in return for giving away 8 percent of their land at the outset of a “process,” the Palestinians get nothing but more requirements for what they owe their occupiers. (Whatever happened to “mutually agreed upon land swaps?”)

I was pleased to see that Noam Sheizaf has written about the op-ed today at +972, so I’ll let him do most of the heavy lifting:

Ross juxtaposes a list of “demands” from each side – which are in fact directed only at the Palestinians. They are to publicly recognize Israel’s connection to Jerusalem – despite the fact that it is the Israeli government which refuses to acknowledge Palestinians claims to the city, not vice versa. They need to include Israel in their maps – Ross knows all too well that since 2009 it has been the Israeli side that refused to open maps in the talks. And so on.

From Israel, Ross demands it stop construction of settlements beyond the separation barrier, but he accepts and even explicitly supports building projects west of it, in an area consisting of 8 percent of the West Bank. This is perhaps the most astonishing point in the article, because it: (a) encourages Israeli construction in the occupied West Bank – something the entire international community, including all American administrations, refused to do so far; (b) it accepts Israel’s interpretation of the notion of “settlement blocs,” including the Ariel and Kadumim “fingers,” which cut through the northern West Bank, and; (c) it sees the security barrier Israel unilaterally constructed on Palestinian land (and not on the internationally recognized 1949 armistice lines) as the future borders of the Palestinian State.

Thus, Ross is echoing Binaymin Netanyahu’s refusal to see the 1967 border as the starting point for any negotiations. It is worth noting that annexing 8 percent of the West Bank to Israel means dropping the idea of equal land swaps, because Israel won’t be able to come up with more than 3-4 percent of land west of the Green Line with which to compensate the Palestinians for the annexed settlement blocs.

In short, Ross’ plan puts the entire burden on the Palestinians, and accepts the Israeli leadership’s preconditions, including an unprecedented recognition of most of the settlements before negotiations even began.

 

I’ll add my thoughts to those of Sheizaf.

The opening statement that precedes the graphics is a litany of false equivalences. As for Ross’s wail about “poor Israelis, poor Palestinians” frozen in inaction by mutual distrust—give me a break. The Israelis are the colonizers and the egregious violators of international law; the Palestinians are the ones whose state is being stolen and who live under oppressive occupation. That understanding is almost universally accepted internationally, even if most are too cowardly to do anything about it. There is no equivalence.

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(Image: New York Times)

And to focus on just one set of Ross’s (Wilsonian?) “fourteen points” Consider just points 1, 2, and 3, where Ross avoids parallelism, though he obviously could have asked the same of both sides (even here, however, I emphasize that the Israelis are the primary violators). Here’s what Ross asks of the Palestinians: (1) Palestinians must be willing to speak of two states. (2) Palestinians must put Israel on its maps. (3) Palestinians must commit to building their state without “encroaching” on Israel, with particular attention to rule of law.

Now check Ross’s points 1–3 for the Israelis, which having nothing to do with his points for the Palestinians, though all are relevant; that’s where Ross presumes to give Israel 8 percent of Palestine, for starters (the Palestinians haved repeatedly said they’re open to a maximum of 3 percent of equal land swaps). Ask yourself why Ross doesn’t demand of the Israelis precisely what he demands of the Palestinians as part of “confidence building.” Okay, I’ll tell you. (1) Israelis leaders, certainly Netanyahu’s party and Bennett’s, explicity oppose a Palestinian state; and the others, like Lapid, insofar as they envision one, see it as a  state of bantustans under continued Israeli control. (2) Israel government maps and maps in Israeli textbooks do not show the Green Line; it is all one state. Wouldn’t it be embarrassing for Dennis Ross to have to ‘fess up about that to the readers of the New York Times.  (3) How can Ross ask that Israel commit to building their state without encroaching on Palestine, when this is essentially precisely about encroaching on Palestine and how much Israel can take; and re Israel, to speak of the rule of law thing would be a joke.

I’ll stop there, but you get the idea. I don’t know what Ross is really aiming for with this absurd piece; its terms would certainly be no more acceptable to the Israeli colonial regime than they would be to the Palestinians. But we do know that keeping talk of two states alive in the face of the Israeli destruction of the possibility of two states serves Israeli interests by continuing to foster the illusion that Israel is a sort-of partner for something.

 
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(Image: New York Times)

I’m fine with the New York Times publishing junk by Dennis Ross; but I hope we’ll see a good full-page, fact-based response soon, ideally by a Palestinian. The record needs to be set straight by the newspaper of record.

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