Liberal Zionists confront, or deny, the ‘Doomsday settlement’

US Politics
on 18 Comments

Liberal Zionism is in crisis. The occupation is more permanent than ever. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu celebrated the settlement project’s 50th anniversary in a settlement and announced many more settlements in recent weeks. The Israeli left is marginalized to the point that Labor politicians parrot the right. While U.S. politicians have failed to openly criticize the occupation, even Democrats– till they are leaving office. All signs are that the dream of a Palestinian state is over.

Here are two responses by liberal Zionists to the crisis. In the first case, Alon Ben-Meir, a long time negotiator, pleads with Americans to hold on tight, the left is still alive in Israel, and p.s., Israelis will never accept one state between the river and the sea.

In the second case, Danny Seidemann in a Peace Now podcast is more realistic about Israeli politics. Everything looks grim, he says, including approval of a “doomsday settlement” that would kill a Palestinian state; but Seidemann holds out hope that Israel might still be saved from itself.

Ben-Meir, a professor at NYU, appeared at the Palestine Center on November 17, and said the Israeli left is alive and well.

There is a very strong, well-operating left in Israel today. But you don’t hear much of the left because there is no election going on today. All you have to do is, read the Israeli newspapers, read the commentaries in Haaretz…  The public is very sick and tired– the majority … are sick and tired of the conflict. They need to see an end to it. They talk openly about the two-state solution. There are scores and scores of organizations in Israel that’s all they do, promote peace peace peace, based on a two state solution.

The one state solution is never going to happen because no Israeli government from the extreme left to the extreme right will never allow to have one state and be governed eventually by a Palestinian majority. That’s not going to happen.

That’s not going to happen, plain and simple.

Ben-Meir called on the audience to “appeal to the segment of the Israeli population that wants to end this conflict.”

Danny Seidemann of Terrestrial Jerusalem spoke in a Peace Now podcast on November 15, and expressed far more pessimism than Ben-Meir.

Seidemann described an unprecedented “major surge” in new settlements in East Jerusalem since the summer. For the first time in a long time there is a “major surge in the number of settlements:” 1300 apartments on the fringes of existing neighborhoods. He pointed to four settlement plans in Sheikh Jarrah, approved in November, including a yeshiva. When these settlements are complete, Seidemann said, they will transform Sheikh Jarrah into an extension of Jewish, pre-67 Israel far east of the Green Line.

“This is a game changer because it’s a border changer.”

Seidemann also cited a “Doomsday settlement” on the south side of Jerusalem, given that nickname because it would end the two-state solution.

Secondly we’ve learned that one of the Doomsday settlements, Givat Hamatos, has been greenlighted by Netanyahu even though there’s no confirmation of that publicly. We’ve heard behind the scenes that the previous restraints have been removed by Netanyahu and the first tenders are going to be expected in the first quarter of 2018.

Givat Hamatos, on an empty hill near Har Homa, would cut off all connection between Jerusalem and Bethlehem for Palestinians.

Seidemann also described “massive infrastructures” that have erased the Green Line, integrating East Jerusalem settlements and West Bank settlements into Israel proper.

It’s possible to go from Tel Aviv to Etzion bloc [far south of Jerusalem] without hitting a traffic light, something you can’t do to my house in Jerusalem.

His conclusion :

So it really cuts to the quick… the authoritative question as to whether the two state solution is alive or dead.

Seidemann said that if there were a peace agreement, Israel would need to remove 163,000 settlers who do not live in the major settlement blocs, or about a quarter of more than 600,000 settlers east of the Green Line. That number used to be 116,000 when Netanyahu took office in 2009, but it goes up 6,000 or 7,000 a year, he said.

So if Israel has the capacity and the will to relocate 163,000 settlers, the two state solution is alive. And if it doesn’t, it’s dead.

He went on to say that Israel clearly has “the capacity” to remove those settlers, “because we absorbed 1 million immigrants from the Former Soviet Union.” But Israel doesn’t have “the will to relocate one.”

Now, here are several critical comments on the liberal Zionist crisis.

Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada responded to Alon Ben-Meir at the Palestine Center, and said that if Israelis are pressured, they could change their approach:

The claim we always hear that Israelis will never accept democracy, they will never accept equal rights for Palestinians, I think is underestimating the capacity for people to change. When I studied South Africa I looked at all the opinion surveys through the years from the 1980’s to the 1990’s… where solid majorities of whites said we will never accept a one person one vote system, that that would be suicide for us. FW de Klerk [former president of South Africa] said we will never accept one person, one vote, at the beginning of negotiations to end the racist system. And lo and behold within a couple of years, they accepted it. And no one says South Africa is utopia, but they accepted the thing they said they would never, never, never accept.

Historian Avi Shlaim explained in an interview at Jadaliyya that the left in Israel was killed by Labor Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Having failed to negotiate a deal with the Palestinians in 2000, Barak convinced the public that there was no Palestinian partner for peace:

This was a tragic mistake and it had a real impact on Israeli politics, because if there is no Palestinian partner for peace then negotiations are pointless and hopeless. If there is no Palestinian partner for peace, Israelis don’t need to vote for a party like Labour that believes in negotiations. And rather than a moderate leader, a man of compromise, they would look for a strong one who is good at killing Arabs…. There was a Likud victory in 2001 and either it or an offshoot of the Likud, Kadima, which is also a right-wing party, has been in power ever since.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party is a shadow of its former self and no longer represents a clear alternative to the Likud. It has become a nationalistic party, and has changed its name from the Labour Party to the Zionist Union, which tells you everything. So it’s a Zionist party which believes in the land of Israel, that Jerusalem is the unified and eternal capital of the Jewish people, and that Israel should keep all the major settlement blocks in the West Bank in a final settlement. It is therefore not a moderate party, it is not a socialist party, it is not a left-wing party, it is a hybrid sort of centre-left party with no coherent ideology and with no clear alternative to the policies of the Likud.

Seidemann foresees Israel holding on to those settlement blocs. They contain about 200,000 settlers in the West Bank, in addition to the 200,000 or so settlers in East Jerusalem.

David Shulman writes in the latest New York Review of Books that we have now entered the period of a struggle for equal rights within a single country, as a minority of Palestinians now believe in the possibility of a Palestinian state. He is dismissive of the traditional liberal Zionist position. Labor Zionists started the settlement project and have never changed their minds about anything. “Inhabiting a mythic cosmos tends to reduce reality to a manageable set of indubitable equations,” he said.

Finally, Scott Roth points out that equating Israel’s ability to absorb the immigrants from the Soviet Union with removing settlers is a false equivalence because in fact those settlers are doing what the Soviet immigrants did: fulfilling the Zionist ideology. In fact many of the immigrants became settlers in illegal settlements out of the state’s Zionist impulse.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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18 Responses

  1. eljay
    November 29, 2017, 12:06 pm

    It’s hard to know who to despise more:
    – hard-core Zionists who are unapologetically forthright about their supremacist leanings and their desire for a supremacist state; or
    – liberal Zionists who beat their breasts and wring their hands while they advocate a “kinder, gentler” form of injustice and immorality.

    • RoHa
      November 29, 2017, 5:49 pm

      …It was so kind of you to come!
      And you are very nice!’
      The Carpenter said nothing but
      Cut us another slice:
      I wish you were not quite so deaf —
      I’ve had to ask you twice!’

      It seems a shame,’ the Walrus said,
      To play them such a trick,
      After we’ve brought them out so far,
      And made them trot so quick!’
      The Carpenter said nothing but
      The butter’s spread too thick!’

      I weep for you,’ the Walrus said:
      I deeply sympathize.’
      With sobs and tears he sorted out
      Those of the largest size,
      Holding his pocket-handkerchief
      Before his streaming eyes….

      “I like the Walrus best,” said Alice, “because you see he was a little sorry for the poor oysters.”

      “He ate more than the Carpenter, though,” said Tweedledee. “You see he held his handkerchief in front, so that the Carpenter couldn’t count how many he took: contrariwise.”
      “That was mean!” Alice said indignantly. “Then I like the Carpenter best—if he didn’t eat so many as the Walrus.”
      “But he ate as many as he could get,” said Tweedledum.
      This was a puzzler. After a pause, Alice began, “Well! They were both very unpleasant characters—”

  2. amigo
    November 29, 2017, 2:48 pm

    Click on the Palestine Center link above and go to min 47 to listen to Ben Meir ,s mind boggling evidence of liberal zionist self delusion , (possibly self inflicted).

  3. Annie Robbins
    November 29, 2017, 6:08 pm

    Scott Roth points out that equating Israel’s ability to absorb the immigrants from the Soviet Union with removing settlers is a false equivalence because in fact those settlers are doing what the Soviet immigrants did: fulfilling the Zionist ideology.

    in all fairness to Seidemann, a false equivalence is a logical fallacy in which two opposing arguments appear to be logically equivalent when in fact they are not. so what are his opposing arguments? he said israel had “the capacity” to remove the settlers,“because we absorbed 1 million immigrants from the Former Soviet Union,” but that israel has no will to do that. so there’s no opposing argument there. the two thoughts are perfectly compatible. they fit like a hand in glove. why? because as roth points out — they are both fulfilling the Zionist ideology. and i seriously doubt Seidemann would argue otherwise.

    i recommend Seidemann’s podcast. he said a bunch of other stuff, including notes on religious radicalization. “the groups on the ascendency are all of those who weaponize religion” — the temple mount crowd. contains the “seeds of morphing” into religious conflict. freaky.

    thanks for the update phil.

    • gamal
      November 29, 2017, 9:02 pm

      “in which two opposing arguments appear to be logically equivalent when in fact they are not”

      hey Annie,

      you know how bad at I am at this but my August Pablos son has this rockerssounstataion, from skyline in Kingston JA,

      this link should take you to this weeks,

      “would you let this break us apart, would you let this, would you let this break our hearts, ….”

      Capelton wrings it out, we can you know, let this….they can’t kill us.. any of us, let these tunes sink into your bones …..Respect Annie..

      http://www.ustream.tv/channel/rockers-sound-station

      • Annie Robbins
        November 30, 2017, 1:44 pm

        gamal, just seeing this now. your August Pablos son! how wonderful. i opened the link but can’t get the ustream to work, just a spinning circle. i also opened it on another browser, some thing! please let me know if and when there’s a youtube video, i would so love to listen..

      • gamal
        November 30, 2017, 4:52 pm

        Annie you have to hunt for KIngston Dub Club, gebri selassie, it must play in the states ..
        but here is Stephie and Capelton…

        for you one old mans only friend…like I say capelton wrings this out ….find some one to make the ustream play its worth it, i no help, stupid old man…

        https://youtu.be/zJhW9FDKJQE

  4. Nathan
    November 29, 2017, 9:50 pm

    It’s a very strange world. The Palestinians claim that the State of Palestine has been established, and they are calling upon everyone to recognize it. Yet, no one cares what the Palestinians are saying – not even the pro-Palestinian community. This article asks “whether the two state solution is alive or dead”, even though the Palestinians are screaming at us that there are already two states. Was the acceptance of Palestine as a non-member state in the UN just a publicity stunt? Was the acceptance of Palestine in the International Court in the Hague just a game of “make-believe”? It would be nice if an article (claiming that the two-state arrangement is no longer possible) would add a note that the Palestinian state recognized throughout the world is just propaganda.

    Another strange element of the article is the problem of building a neighborhood in Givat HaMatos. For some reason, traveling from Bethlehem to Jerusalem through a built neighborhood (instead of an empty lot) is absolutely impossible – but there is no problem with the world-wide agreement that a Palestinian state should include the West Bank and Gaza which will necessitate traveling through many miles of Israeli territory (and towns) in order to travel from here to there.

    Finally, a further strange claim is the belief that the demise of the two-state solution means that there will be a one-state solution. It’s total nonsense. The common denominator of the one-state solution and the two-state solution is, obviously, the term SOLUTION. A solution means that the two sides have reached an agreement to end their conflict through the establishment of a single state or separate states. However, there is not going to be an agreement to end the conflict, period. So, just as there won’t be a two-state solution, there will not be a one-state solution either. The two warring communities are not going to find themselves sharing a state together as a kind of default. The only default is the continuity of conflict.

    • oldgeezer
      November 29, 2017, 11:29 pm

      @nathan

      Over 70% of states have recognized the state of Palestine. They represent a lot more than 70% percent of the population of the planet. One day there will be a price to pay by criminal zionists like you and they will cry victimhood. You won’t garner any sympathy for being the racist abusers that you demonstrably are. No sympathy. None is due.

      Your ignorance, racism and casual indifference marks you as the low life you sonehow, and quite ironically, perceive as a perverted virtue.

      The reality is that the two most significant states that have not recognized Palestine are the inbred led states of Israel and Palestine. Yet you risibly demand Palestinian recognition of a racist state of Israel. Spare me… it isn’t worth the sweat off my …

      • Nathan
        November 30, 2017, 10:43 am

        So, oldgeezer, you inform us that over 70% of the states in the world recognize the State of Palestine. That’s really nice. It would seem, therefore, that you too find it absurd to read in the above article that “we have now entered the period of a struggle for equal rights within a single country…” Most of the world now maintains that there are already two states. More importantly, the Palestinians themselves insist that they have attained a separate statehood – so, obviously, they are not interested in having a single state with the Jews.

        You claim that Israel does not recognize the State of Palestine; however, Israel’s recognition is not a necessary component of statehood. There are so many countries in the neighborhood that don’t recognize Israel, and yet Israel is a state nevertheless. That’s the nature of conflicts.

        Anyway, just for the record, I will state clearly that there is a Palestinian state. I’m happy to learn that you think so, too. So, we can agree that the above article should have mentioned Palestinian statehood.

        JosephA – I think it’s quite humorous that my “fixation on semantics isn’t particularly productive”. Tell me, please, what would be a productive comment in an internet debate? No one here has the talent of expressing an opinion that suddenly will change the reality of planet earth. Debating on Mondoweiss is fun and entertaining, and perhaps someone in thirty years from now will write a PhD thesis about the debate. In such a case, all comments (including yours and mine) will be productive in the sense that they contributed to someone’s getting the title of “doctor”.

      • RoHa
        November 30, 2017, 4:26 pm

        “the Palestinians themselves insist that they have attained a separate statehood – so, obviously, they are not interested in having a single state with the Jews.”

        “This is the arrangement we’ve got now” does not imply “we are not interested in having any other arrangement.”

    • JosephA
      November 30, 2017, 12:52 am

      Your fixation on semantics isn’t particularly productive.

      • Marnie
        November 30, 2017, 11:45 pm

        “You claim that Israel does not recognize the State of Palestine; however, Israel’s recognition is not a necessary component of statehood”. Yet the “state” of israel, when pretending to be ‘negotiating peace’ but actually doing the jerk to another rollicking round of Let’s Pretend and always, always inserts the demand at crunch time that the palestinians must recognize the apartheid ‘jewish state of israel’. This jewish zionist privilege in all things under the sun is more than grating on one’s nerves. More whining and demanding from the offal of the gods.

    • MHughes976
      November 30, 2017, 11:23 am

      I confess that there is a certain realism in what you say, Nathan. But perpetual conflict is to some extent perpetual wrong, so we cannot admire or be content with it.

      • Mooser
        November 30, 2017, 4:45 pm

        .” But perpetual conflict is to some extent perpetual wrong,”

        Who is “Nathan” trying to kid? Israel does not have the resources, human or material, for “perpetual conflict”.

        And gee, could anything be better for a world-dispersed religious minority than to be known as “The People of Perpetual Conflict”?

      • gamal
        November 30, 2017, 5:54 pm

        “a world-dispersed religious minority than to be known as “The People of Perpetual Conflict”?”

        have people taken leave of what little sense they ever had?

        let me tell you I am big guy well trained and conditioned, last time I was knocked out it was by my student a 14 year old Camogie player, 6ft 2, taller than me, but still just a pretty little girl,

        so at first she kicked me in the liver, if it had been a man i would have gone down into the fetal position and started crying, it hurts, I didn’t want to upset her, so i fell back against the ropes, I saw her whole body spin perfect leverage, she hit me with a left,

        i woke up, she was crying, thinking she had killed me, all 8 of the other men in there were almost unable to offer me any help due to crippling laughter, as soon as my head cleared I also started laughing, shit now i must i fear little girls, Camogie is brutal, i hope the little girls will protect me,

        perpetual conflict are you fucking insane…after 15 minutes i start to get helpless…combat is not any place to get weary…tired…look how brutal white people are when they get the better of others..conflict is fine when its going your way..it has another side though

  5. Mooser
    November 29, 2017, 10:56 pm

    ” The only default is the continuity of conflict.”

    Why, I can’t see any more fruitful or productive project for world Jewry in the 21st Century. I mean, what else have we got to do?

  6. pabelmont
    November 30, 2017, 12:04 pm

    If BDS were the success that it hopes for and indeed moved a significant number of important nations to impose sanctions (travel, trade most likely) on Isrfael until thd settlers are all removed, then (assuming Israel was moved by the sanctions, let’s say by its biggest export corporations and billionaires) Israel would jolly-well move the settlers back to 1966-Israel, to live in tents if nothing else. (I’d hate to find zealous former-settlers moving back to USA!).

    It makes no sense to say that Israel has no room. You an always build up! And you can always use desalinization to provide water (and return the WB aquifer water to the Palestinians).

    Pie-in-the-sky.

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