Exile and the prophetic: State swap

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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 The Heartbeat of the Prophetic which can be found at Amazon and www.newdiasporabooks.com

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