Land swaps in Israel/Palestine (and a bridge for sale in Brooklyn)

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Al Thani speak to the media following a meeting with members of the Arab League. (Photo: Reuters)

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.

Is it me or does the land-swap business in the Middle East strike you as political corruption in the international market place?

The Arab League presented its amended “Land Swaps for Israeli-Palestinian Peace” plan yesterday.

Who did they present it to? Vice-President Joe Biden.

Where did they present it? Washington D.C.

Who heralded their plan as a “big step” toward peace in the Middle East? Secretary of State John Kerry.

The Israeli link to Washington isn’t the only Middle East connection used to maintain power. Arab bonding with Washington is as important to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait as it is to Israel.

Washington, Israel and the Arab world. Triangulation. To maintain the system everyone needs to know where the other one is.

Land-swaps allow Israel to keep its large settlements in the West Bank in exchange for some Israeli controlled desert areas or, at least, Jewish deserted areas.

At most, land-swaps mean Palestinian autonomy within an expanded Israel.

In presenting the plan, Qatar’s foreign minister emphasized that peace between Israelis and Palestinians was a “strategic choice” for the Arab states. Yes – for the Arab states. Like Israel, they depend on the economic and military protection of the United States.

Such a willing dependence has little or nothing to do with Palestinians. Land-swaps are not a strategic choice for Palestinians, assuming that Palestinians want a real state and a future to boot.

The land-swap mentality has crept into Jewish discourse. Progressive Jews are in the forefront of this innocent sounding terminology. It’s symbolic of their multi-colored kippah paternalism.

Like selling vacation property in Florida when I was a child – that turned out to be swampland. Or in New York City offering to sell unsuspecting immigrants the Brooklyn Bridge.

Swapping land in Israel/Palestine, where Israeli settlements stay in place and Palestinians receive land Israel doesn’t want, is a scam.

So why have a ceremonial presentation in Washington heralding the plan that has nowhere to go?

Perhaps it’s a reaffirmation of President Obama’s self-declared lame duck status in the Middle East. Or another brick in his library-in-waiting.

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

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