Exile and the prophetic: State swap

Israel/Palestine
on 10 Comments

This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

Political leaders drone on, don’t they?  The Arab League, Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Kerry, President Obama. 

“A very big step forward.”

“Tremendously helpful.”

“Strategic choice for peace.”

“We’re taking more steps.  Yesterday was another step,” Secretary of State Kerry remarked.  “And we’re going to continue to march forward and try to bring people to the table despite the difficulties and the disappointments of the past.”

The strange thing is that decades of “more steps” have only led us backwards.  Israel continues to expand.  Palestine continues to shrink.  Land swaps being what they are the expansion and shrinkage will continue.  Step forward?

Kerry may be proposing an alternative theory of the universe I don’t understand: backwards leads forward.  In Kerry’s universe the pace backward accelerates forward motion. 

If only Albert Einstein were alive.  He could investigate Kerry’s theory of backward accelerated forward motion (ba = fm²) and give him some advice on an alternative theory of Jewish practice, the pitfalls of nationalism and the state of Israel.

Where is Albert Einstein when we need him?

Just the threat of a renewed peace process makes for high political theater.  Word out of Israel is that Prime Minister Netanyahu would put any peace agreement to a referendum.  Netanyahu hopes to make it even more difficult for any peace proposal to be finalized.  Evidently there would be referendum on the Palestinian side as well.  Looks like the parties are positioning themselves to let this “step forward” blow over.

As far as I can see, the land swaps envisioned by the Arab League would mean an extension of the Gaza prison outward and an extension of the West Bank enclave south.   The other amenities the Arab League piously includes, like Israel’s withdrawal to the 1967 borders, is a non-starter.Meanwhile, Israel solidifies its hold on Jerusalem and areas of the West Bank it prizes. 

Among other things, the land swap proposal doesn’t discuss what Jeff Halper calls Israel’s “matrix of control.”  The matrix of control is a catch-all for the Israeli infrastructure that connects the West Bank, Jerusalem and the rest of Israel and internally connects Jewish settlements in the West Bank.  This infrastructure is far more important and invasive than the percentage of land Israel takes and gives.

Besides, what is Israel giving up except land it doesn’t want or need?  Palestine is giving up its patrimony, Jerusalem, and the areas which surround it.  It’s difficult to imagine a more uneven land swap.

How about Israel giving up areas within Israel that it prizes?  “Painful concessions” have to swing both ways. Part of West Jerusalem? Tracts of land between Haifa and Tel Aviv?

Israel only withdrawing from the West Bank and East Jerusalem is painful enough for Palestinians.  In any peace deal the rest of Palestine will be forfeited.  How in the world can the Arab League and Washington demand more concessions from Palestinians?

Here’s where the rhetoric comes in.  Of course, the Arab League demands a full Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.  But no one in the world – no one in the Arab League or anywhere else for that matter – believes that’s anything but rhetorical flourishes.

Did I leave out Israel’s control of the air, water and the borders of both Israel and the semi- autonomous Palestinian territories?  If you don’t control your air, water or boundaries, if your land is small and surrounded by another state, what do you have left?

Maybe “state swap” would be a better term.  Israel gains its final legitimacy as a Jewish state with all that this entails, including a reprieve on questions of how it became a state and control of Palestinian borders, and Palestine affirms their right to a state while effectively surrendering it.

Israel gets real and final.  Palestine becomes pretend and disappears.

About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is retired Director and Professor of Jewish Studies at Baylor University and author of Burning Children: A Jewish View of the War in Gaza which can be found at www.newdiasporabooks.com

Other posts by .


Posted In:

10 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    May 3, 2013, 1:13 pm

    The idea of a swap doesn’t need to be so horrible. But it needs to be voluntary, and between quasi equals.

    Therefore, the “peace” needs to go in THREE parts.

    FIRST, a two state peace treaty which splits the land along the 1967 lines, the settlers gone, the wall down, and the settlement buildings subject to destruction at whim by Palestine. TOTAL sovereignty for both states. Palestine cut OUT of the Israeli electric and water systems, Israel no longer using most of the West Bank aquifer.

    [PS: Not sure what to do about water for Gaza. Its aquifer seems trashed beyond salvage, by Gazans and by Israelis.]

    SECOND, a land-swap which gives Palestine a wide highway between Gaza and West Bank, and gives Israel a narrow access to the Western Wall (and no more).

    THIRD, and thereafter such other and further land-swaps and other deals (Palestinian Right of Return deals, for example) as shall please both sides. If at all. (This is where Israel seeks to retain some of the settlements near Jerusalem so that it can return the former settlers to them, and to avoid having those settlements dynamited by Palestine.)

    THIS IS A DEAL THAT REQUIRES INTERNATIONAL PRESSURE ON ISRAEL. But then so does any other deal since Israel is evidently pleased with and willing to retain forever the present 1SS-apartheid deal.

    • valency
      May 4, 2013, 10:57 am

      I’m not opposed to the idea of a “land-swap” The problem is, like “liberal Zionist” belief in the “two state solution”, they mean a little ghetto somewhere on the Jordan border with a million people packed into it, and 95 percent of the current borders of Palestine for themselves. Any rhetoric about land swap must be based on the fundamental notion that Palestinians are not worse off, by land area, than their current claim.

      • MHughes976
        May 4, 2013, 11:39 am

        And that they have control of their borders and the ability to defend themselves. Not happening soon.

  2. Citizen
    May 3, 2013, 2:41 pm

    Y Kerry’s peace attempt will go nowhere unless Obama does it from his pulpit, which he won’t: link to counterpunch.org
    Noble Peace Prize: LOL

  3. Citizen
    May 3, 2013, 2:46 pm

    Same Process, No Progress link to thebea.st via @thedailybeast

  4. anthonybellchambers
    May 3, 2013, 2:47 pm

    Taken as a whole, the Muslim Arabs of the land of Palestine have been and are by far the largest and oldest indigenous population of the region for the last 1000 years. This is a matter of public record that is beyond any neo-Zionist contention. Furthermore, notwithstanding wishful thinking, they will remain the largest indigenous population of the region and that inconvenient fact will not be challenged by illegal settlements, green or red lines or any other such obfuscation.

  5. Citizen
    May 3, 2013, 2:58 pm

    If Kerry actually believes he can make headway with his approach, which doubles down on the Israeli demand to keep all the key illegally got & kept settlements it wants, he’s a giant dummy and/or his sense of ego is way too high for reality as shown by the history of the peace process. And if the Arab countries involved believe that their latest notion of what’s minimally fair for the Palestinians is OK, this just shows how much those regimes are dependent on the US to stay in power over their own subjects. It seems Kerry is just going along at Obama’s direction, with the latest masquerading “peace process” attempt, so that Obama can gild its lilly for his library in the planning stage now. He has to have something in his future library to show he tried to earn his peace prize, or visitors will be shaking their heads, mumbling to themselves, “What did he do in his eight years to deserve that?” I think that’s what’s happening. And that’s the price Kerry may be knowingly paying to add his latest political position on his own historical resume.

  6. DICKERSON3870
    May 3, 2013, 3:30 pm

    RE: “[D]ecades of ‘more steps’ have only led us backwards. Israel continues to expand… Kerry may be proposing an alternative theory of the universe I don’t understand: backwards leads forward. In Kerry’s universe the pace backward accelerates forward motion.” ~ Marc Ellis

    POSSIBLE EXPLANATION: “Everything up is down. Everything down is up.” If Kerry can keep the “peace process” alive, then Israel will continue to have cover for its settlement/colonization of the West Bank. Inevitably this will result in one (majority Palestinian) state from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.
    Problem solved! ! !

    FROM ELLIOTT ABRAMS, The Washington (Neocon) Post, 04/08/09:

    [EXCERPT] . . . Is current and recent settlement construction creating insurmountable barriers to peace? A simple test shows that it is not. Ten years ago, in the Camp David talks, Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Yasser Arafat approximately 94 percent of the West Bank, with a land swap to make up half of the percent Israel would keep. According to news reports, just three months ago, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered 93 percent, with a one-to-one land swap. In the end, under the January 2009 offer, Palestinians would have received an area equal to 98 to 98.5 percent of the West Bank (depending on which press report you read), while 10 years ago they were offered 97 percent. Ten years of settlement activity would have resulted in a larger area for the Palestinian state. . .

    SOURCE – link to washingtonpost.com

    P.S. Elliott Abrams has totally convinced me [by the sheer power of his (il)logic and his very impressive math skills] to wholeheartedly support the Israeli settlement project in the West Bank.
    As I understand it, the ‘Abrams Principle’ stands for the proposition that more Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank will result in a larger area for the Palestinian state. That’s why I say: “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” with the settlement actvity; so as to result in the largest Palestinian state possible (from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River), no matter what that state is called. Fiat justitia! ( “Let Justice Be Done!” )

    P.P.S. According to a recent EU Briefing Paper (EU Trade with Israeli Settlements, Version 2: Published August 2012), “[t]he total area controlled by settlements is around 43 per cent of the West Bank.” The Briefing Paper further explains that “[w]hile fenced or patrolled areas of settlements cover three per cent of the West Bank, 43 per cent of the West Bank is off-limits for Palestinian use because of its allocation to the settlements’ local and regional councils, according to UN OCHA OPT (January 2012) factsheet ‘The Humanitarian Impact of Israeli Settlement Policies’ .”
    SOURCE [EU Trade with Israeli Settlements (PDF)] – link to qcea.org

  7. Talkback
    May 5, 2013, 5:15 am

    Israel will never allow more than Palestinian bantustans and gave US green light to support this decades ago.

  8. Citizen
    May 5, 2013, 4:34 pm

    @ talkback
    Yes. Any peace process ending must include “Israel’s secure borders.” And Israel views the minimum secure borders as the Israeli settlements–only the “hilltop” settlements are expendable. The military defense reason for this is classic, that otherwise, Israel would not have enough land to mount either a strong military defense or offense. The Art of War dictates that one needs at least two land-based defenses, one behind the other. The military reason is separate from the Greater Israel agenda, but it is compatible.

Leave a Reply