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Haaretz op-ed cuts to the chase: ‘Israel does have a solution: do nothing’

on 22 Comments
The peace process continues.

The peace process continues.

Roy Isacowitz is a journalist and writer living in Tel Aviv, according to the tag line under his op-ed published on the Haaretz website today. I don’t remember reading anything else from him before, but among the hundreds of columns about the current negotiations that I’ve read over the last few months, his is among the clearest and most forthright.

Granted, like almost everything in the Israeli press, even from progressive writers, his framework is Judeo-centric: by “we” he means Israeli Jews, and he makes only passing reference to what “this mess” means for Palestinians.

Still, compared to most of what you read about the negotiations, Isacowitz’s column is pretty bracing stuff. He begins:

I don’t believe that John Kerry’s mission will accomplish anything other than finally proving that the United States is unable to be an honest broker in the Israel-Palestine dispute and should drop the charade. Even if the secretary of state forces Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas into a framework agreement, it will be a sham, a short-lived sop to American power rather than a sign of true intent on the part of either leader.

Nevertheless, in compelling the Israeli government to confront issues that it would much rather avoid, Kerry’s persistence has done some good. As the mission comes down to the wire, Israel has been forced into ridiculous posturing and inane sloganeering that only highlight just how hidebound the country really is, how stuck we are in 100 years of lies, bombast and self-delusion without the slightest idea of how to move forward.

Netanyahu’s statement to the Likud Knesset faction on Sunday that he has “no solution” to the so-called Palestinian problem was an astounding admission. Almost 68 years after the founding of the state, 46 years after the occupation of the West Bank and 18 years after Netanyahu first became prime minister, Israel still has no clue about how to handle the Palestinian issue. Astounding, but not exactly surprising.

…Surely, given all that time, effort and money, intelligent people would have come up with something. A teeny-weeny plan even?

Isacowitz understands, though, that the problem isn’t really that Israel is “hidebound,” and he recognizes that Netanyahu’s “no solution” line is just another lie:

The reality, of course, is that Israel does have a solution. It’s just that it’s difficult to talk about it with a straight face. Israel’s solution, ever since the time of Yitzhak Shamir, if not long before, is to do nothing. That’s the solution: not-so-benign neglect. Or, to put a more positive spin on it, to play for time. To hope that, given enough time, something will happen that will get us out of this mess.

Perhaps the Palestinians will decide on their own volition to get up and leave. And, if they don’t decide that, perhaps hedging them in with settlements, stealing their land and making their lives miserable will persuade them to do so. Maybe the West will suffer mass amnesia and leave us alone, maybe a nifty little earthquake will demolish the mosques on the Temple Mount or some deadly bacterium will only target Palestinians. Anything can happen – and we intend to be in possession of the land when it does.

So why does Israel even bother with the “peace process”?

The government’s job therefore is to buy time, to appear sane, rational and accommodating, while never giving an inch. To negotiate as much as possible – negotiations waste a lot of time – without ever reaching a solution. In the meantime, the settlements, landgrabs and oppression continue. God can be relied on to do what’s necessary when he’s good and ready, but there’s no reason not to help him along a bit.

…. Now, playing for time means rolling out all the old canards and shibboleths, the naked clichés, that might have worked once but are simply embarrassing in this day and age. Things like “Israel needs the Jordan Valley for strategic depth,” or “we can’t negotiate while the other side incites,” or “Beit El and Hebron are important to the Jewish people.”

This is crude, emotional and untrue stuff that might have worked in the ‘70s but is really showing its age in 2014. The tragedy is that military strength and Holocaust guilt were such effective palliatives, we never bothered to look for any other solution. It just never seemed necessary. And of course, there was always time – lots of time.

Henry Norr

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22 Responses

  1. Scott on January 9, 2014, 11:33 am

    It’s like the joke about teaching the horse to talk. (You all know it, right?)

  2. pabelmont on January 9, 2014, 11:52 am

    He tells the truth we’ve all known. The Israeli DUCK walks, talks, acts, etc., etc., like the Israeli DUCK he describes and that it IS that Duck. Time Obama, Kerry, USA, UN, EU got aboard this very, very accurate description.

  3. Chu on January 9, 2014, 11:59 am

    Why is the secretary of state wasting capitol and time with these charlatans? They are probably laughing at him after he leaves. George Mitchell was the last name scratched off in the toilet room wall, Kerry is next.

  4. ritzl on January 9, 2014, 12:40 pm

    Similarly, all the Palestinians have to do is “nothing.” Stay put. Persevere. Sumud. Let the Apartheid-Hafrada similarities/connection become more readily identifiable and broadly recognized as such, and one state it is. Backed by an international popular and political consensus advocating for Palestinian civil rights (propelled by the recognition of the squandered time and opportunities mentioned in the op-ed).

    You’re right, this Haretz op-ed is yet another liberal lament about the risks to the Jewishness of Israel by castigating “right-wing” inaction to preserve it. But how can you lament the passing of something that was doomed to failure in the first place. The fundamentals for success were never there in that time and place.

    If WWII/The Holocaust had not happened, there would be no modern Israel in its current form and/or location. But because WWII/The Holocaust happened all the rules changed on colonialization and universal human rights. Zionism/Israel meteored right into the middle of that irreconcilable conflict of historical trends, carving out it’s place as a lush European dream/colony in a desert climate using force, ethnic cleansing, and other people’s resources.

    It’s not so much right-wing inaction that should be at issue in Mr. Isacowitz’s lament, it’s that there is no apparent 21. C solution to his narrowly-defined problem (Jewish and democratic). He should start looking forward instead of backward. The “What Happens Next” series here would be a good place to start contemplating how to rethink the question.

    Aside, I believe Jews need a Jewish state, if only as a source of pride and self-determination (in the spiritual sense, not the steamroller sense). The world could benefit from that as well. But without any humility or acceptance of modern Israel’s unique timing, founding cover-ups, and Palestinians, this attempt seems to be finite as a solely Jewish state.

    Thanks for the article.

    • Citizen on January 9, 2014, 2:07 pm

      @ ritzl

      Actually, because of WWII/The Holocaust Israel was recognized despite the Nakba then already in progress since the prior fall of 1947, and despite the additional fact that the international law had been CHANGED and was changing even when Truman recognized the state of Israel despite this change in the then on-going Nuremberg-Tokyo War Crimes Trials. Israel declared itself and its borders as set along the UN partition line. Given these facts, any state that ignores them is trucking in criminal conduct. If you look at international law after WW1 but before WW2, there’s even more evidence that Israel is an outlaw state dating from there.

      • ritzl on January 12, 2014, 1:14 pm

        Agree Citizen. That’s why the current Hasbara and Zionism is in such a precarious and obviously refutable condition. Internet/truth, 21.C norms, an increasingly multi-racial society/attitude in the US, even just a sense of what’s “right” by normal people all lead to actionable beliefs in the direction of Palestine and solving this, pending exposure.

        There is nothing in the Hasbara that can contradict that exposure, technical, philosophical, or factual, compounded by all three taken together.

        Your “Dick and Jane” get it. They really do. They are waiting for an avenue that is demonstrably inclusive. Waiting for inclusive is a sign of both exasperation AND acceptance. How those two seemingly competing popular sentiments merge/are merged will be a sign of the effectiveness of any effort to bring Israel into line.

  5. American on January 9, 2014, 12:42 pm

    ”Anything can happen – and we intend to be in possession of the land when it does.”>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Is the Israeli plan.
    Just stall and continue to steal the land till something or ‘nothing’ happens.
    The current Israel solution is to use up time while they do a slow attrition of Palestines by keeping their survival uncertain and making their living conditions bad enough to encourage many to leave.
    Their preferred solution would be to use some event as an excuse to transfer all of them……they are testing the waters and world attitude on some kind of final solution to rid Palestine of Palestines with their latest scheme to transfer borders to put Palestine Israelis in Palestine.

  6. seafoid on January 9, 2014, 12:57 pm

    I can imagine Dick Fuld of Lehman Bros in the spring of 2008 deciding to do nothing on the money the bank was losing. It’s an ingenious strategy. Only the chosen people could come up with such a humdinger.

    Lehman would have been saved.

    • Citizen on January 9, 2014, 2:20 pm

      @ seafoid
      Interesting analogy. Why do you think Lehman was not saved when so many others of the same ilk were not saved with taxpayer bailout money? Maybe there’s a lesson there?

      Lehman was the sacrifice offered up to the then salient concept of “moral hazard,” i.e., some bank had to be allowed to fail or risk of failure of the entire capitalistic system was likely.Wasn’t AIG rescued by taxpayer cash a few days later? I see nothing in the analogy with Israel because Israel stands alone as a state “too big to fail.” Why save it from itself? No reason except AIPAC et al.

      • seafoid on January 10, 2014, 1:42 pm


        Nobody wanted to buy Lehman and it wasn’t system critical so they let it go. They had to draw a line in the sand.

        Israel isn’t “too big to fail”. It’s like that snake on youtube that died because it ate that alligator. “Possibly another predator killed the snake while it was digesting its enormous prey.”

        It is hard to change systems from which a lot of people benefit. Very few people benefit from the Jewish Sparta. Most American Jews get nothing from it. A cost/benefit analysis of Jewish hegemony versus democracy in the Levant wouldn’t be very favourable to the bots. Democracy would free up a lot of military spending and there’d be strong growth in a region that is currently held back by Israeli belligerence.

        Dutch pension funds are giving up on Israel. YESHA is not economic.

        Even if there are 40million Christian fundies in the US who need a Jewish State to go to church, God never said anything about a 30K per head standard of living in Israel pre Armageddon.

  7. DICKERSON3870 on January 9, 2014, 4:37 pm

    RE: “The government’s job therefore is to buy time, to appear sane, rational and accommodating*, while never giving an inch. To negotiate as much as possible – negotiations waste a lot of time – without ever reaching a solution**. In the meantime, the settlements, landgrabs and oppression continue.” ~ Isacowitz

    * FROM JOEL KOVEL, 1-20-13:

    [EXCERPT] . . . As with everyone I know of in official political culture, [Thomas] Friedman [probably like Kerry and Obama – J.L.D.] assumes that Israel is a rational actor on the international stage who will obey the calculus of reward and punishment that regulates the conduct of normal states.
    The presumption is that if you tell it the truth, and even pull back US support, it will get the message, reflect, and change its ways. But Israel is not a normal state, except superficially. It will make adjustments, pulling back here, co-operating there, making nice when necessary, crafting its message using a powerful propaganda apparatus employing the most up-to-date social science. But this is simply tactical and no more predicts or explains the behavior of the Zionist state than an individual sociopath can be explained by the fact that he obeys traffic signals while driving to the scene of his crime. . .

    SOURCE –

    ** FROM ALISTAIR CROOKE, London Review of Books, 03/03/11:

    [EXCERPT] . . . Israel’s vice-premier, Moshe Ya’alon, was candid when asked in an interview this year: ‘Why all these games of make-believe negotiations?’ He replied:

    Because … there are pressures. Peace Now from within, and other elements from without. So you have to manoeuvre … what we have to do is manoeuvre with the American administration and the European establishment, which are nourished by Israeli elements [and] which create the illusion that an agreement can be reached … I say that time works for those who make use of it. The founders of Zionism knew … and we in the government know how to make use of time.

    SOURCE –

    • DICKERSON3870 on January 9, 2014, 5:00 pm

      P.S. ALSO SEE: “Kerry and Chutzpah”, by Uri Avnery, CounterPunch, 6/28/13

      [EXCERPTS] We have watched this procedure for many years. Successive American presidents have undertaken to bring the two sides together. It is an American belief, rooted in Anglo-Saxon tradition, that if two reasonable, decent people get together to thrash out their differences, everything will fall into place. It’s almost automatic: meet – talk – agree.
      Unfortunately, it does not quite work this way with conflicts between nations, conflicts that may have deep historical roots. In meetings between leaders of such nations, they often just want to hurl old accusations at each other, with the aim of convincing the world that the other side is utterly depraved and despicable.
      Either side, or both, may be interested in prolonging the meetings forever. The world sees the leaders meeting, the mediator and the photographers working hard, everybody talking endlessly of peace, peace, peace. . .
      . . . Netanyahu declares, with his usual sincerity, that he wants to meet. Nay, that he is eager to meet. With the polished charm of a seasoned TV presenter familiar with the power of visual images, he even offered to put up a tent halfway between Jerusalem and Ramallah (at the infamous Qalandia checkpoint?) and sit down with Abbas and Kerry until a full agreement on all aspects of the conflict is achieved.
      Who could resist such a generous offer? Why the hell does Abbas not jump at it and grasp it with with both hands?
      For a very simple reason.
      The very start of new negotiations would be a political triumph for Netanyahu. Actually, it’s all he really wants – the ceremony, the bombast, the leaders shaking hands, the smiles, the speeches full of goodwill and talk of peace.
      And then? Then nothing. Negotiations that go on endlessly, months, years, decades.
      We have seen it all before. Yitzhak Shamir, one of Netanyahu’s predecessors, famously boasted that he would have dragged out the negotiations forever.
      The profit for Netanyahu would be clear and immediate. He would be seen as the Man of Peace. The present government, the most rightist and nationalist Israel has ever known, would be rehabilitated. The people around the world who preach a boycott of Israel in all spheres would be shamed and disarmed. The growing alarm in Jerusalem about the “de-legitimization” and “isolation” of Israel would be relieved. . .


  8. DaveS on January 9, 2014, 5:16 pm

    I agree with Henry that Isacowitz gets it right. Continuation of the status quo for as long as possible is clearly the Israeli goal. Occasionally someone like Hillary Clinton pronounces the present situation of occupation “unsustainable” but it has managed to “sustain” for nearly half a century and there is no reason for Israel to be anxious for change. After all, Israelis enjoy all the power and are able to function quite well in callous disregard of the misery they are imposing on Palestinians. The only challenge is to construct a mythology in which they are striving to end the conflict and the Palestinians are to blame for intransigence. So far, Israeli hasbarists have been up to the task.

    A while back, Bill Kristol recognized that the status quo option was not really objectionable – You would rarely find an Israeli official who makes the same admission, but it does appear to be their guiding principle.

  9. MHughes976 on January 9, 2014, 6:02 pm

    I’ve mentioned how ‘the solution is to live without a solution’ is explained in the late Richard Ben Cramer’s ‘How Israel Lost’, which should be better known. Not that Israel seems to have lost that much in the 10-odd years since RBC wrote.

  10. TheWatcherWatching on January 9, 2014, 11:08 pm

    That’s there plan stall for time make the palestians lives so miserable they leave. Go through the motions of the peace process to appease the west. They did it for 50 years so what’s another 50 they say

  11. UshPhe on January 10, 2014, 12:14 am

    I’m curious….what do commenters think would happen inside Israel if U.S. stopped all aid? Would it be significant or non-significant? would Israel still continue down its destructive path with no change. with some of the comments here, I get the feeling that most here think it wouldn’t matter. I’m not 100% sure one way or the other.

    • Sumud on January 10, 2014, 8:58 am

      The real problem for Israel will be when the US stops using it’s veto power in the UN Security Council. When it happens BDS will be even more established and international sanctions against Israel will follow shortly thereafter.

      Of course they want the billions in annual aid but compared to the SC veto power the aid is small potatoes.

    • SQ Debris on January 10, 2014, 2:49 pm

      The aid – more to a first world nation with a population smaller than New York City than any actually needy place on earth – isn’t really the zio-empowering facet of U.S. foreign policy. It’s the veto in the U.N. Security Council that perpetuates Israeli war crimes. Israel might be able to continue on its path without the bux, but it would be a no-fly-zone without the veto.

      • UshPhe on January 12, 2014, 7:31 pm

        ok but couldn’t strongly advocating and pushing for the end of military aid to Israel be framed as an issue to attract other leftist and social justice organizations in America to the cause of Palestinian solidarity by saying Let’s bring back this money and use it for…..for example working to make higher education in the U.S. free and any other number of issues that these groups are working towards. I’m just brainstorming but, since the Palestine solidarity movement exists primarily on college campuses, couldn’t that be a good way to gain members? I frequently hear the analysis that the left in America is fragmented and each organization is focused on its own issue when really all these issues are intertwined and intermingled and it would behoove these different movements to band together in order to gain a critical mass and confront Washington with their demands.

      • annie on January 13, 2014, 9:17 am

        Let’s bring back this money and use it for…..for example working to make higher education in the U.S. free and any other number of issues that these groups are working towards. I’m just brainstorming

        check end the occupation website, they have an interactive map that lets you check by state, how much goes to israel and what it could afford for that state. too busy to look for it now. great idea!

  12. W.Jones on January 10, 2014, 2:51 am

    I remember reading that the Nakba and Naksa, as well as occupation of West Bank territory were more of a taking advantage of an opportunity caused by moments of conflict. The separation wall was built based on an opportunity too- the excuse of suicide bombers from 10 years ago.

    So there’s the solution- just keep being in control, grow, and wait for more opportunities to subject the native population. Maybe sign a deal with them where they live in bantusans, or make more expulsions, or other things mentioned in the article.

    Israel is a nuclear armed technological and economic wonder with impunity and world trade. The unarmed ghettoised Palestinians are like flies in a room to them.

    Still, it will be very hard for them to accomplish a goal of replacing the Temple on the Mount, because of the repercussions around the Muslim world (20%+ of the world population).


    At least a long time from now though I think the situation will change there again radically, based on the fact the land has changed hands so many times.

    So you can foresee something between the two poles- the near term with consecutive peace arrangements like those made between the US and the Indians where the conquered side was typically the loser, and the long term in the distant future when it will change hands again or something like that.

  13. amigo on January 10, 2014, 7:07 am

    Israel is not “doing nothing”.

    ” Following prisoner release || Israel announces tenders for 1,400 new housing units in West Bank, Jerusalem
    600 settlement units planned for East Jerusalem, 800 for West Bank; Netanyahu’s announcement preempts likely protest by right-wing hardliners in his government.”haaretz

    That,s in addition to the 270 the day Kerry was on the plane back to the USA.

    How does it feel Obama, being constantly kicked in your family Jewels and insulted by land stealing ethnic cleansers and all around criminals.

    Stand up man.

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