People of good will outside of Israel seeking justice for Israel and Palestine should not be deceived that the the Israeli political reality is anything but what it is—that is, not only Netanyahu’s official right-wing coalition but also the faux liberal opposition fully supports Israel’s colonial occupation. The difference is that the latter employs the sleight of hand of confusing language to suggest that it doesn’t.
Isaac Herzog, leader of the Israeli “opposition,” outlines for the readers of the New York Times his recently announced separation plan, aimed at keeping the colonial project intact while affording the world the illusion of something en route to a state for the Palestinians. In the op-ed, “Only Separation Can Lead to a Two-State Solution,” Herzog is explicit that the plan eschews the establishment of a State of Palestinian at this time; instead it allows Israel to take what it wants while maintaining complete control. Neat trick.
Herzog comes at this proposal out of fear of the potential grief to come to Israel from the obvious one-state fact on the ground that is causing Israel so much trouble internationally—causing trouble because (of course, unnoted by Herzog) the current situation is an apartheid reality and because one state that accepts all the residents between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River as citizens is unacceptable to Israelis. Thus he offers up his interim “separation” plan. In its way, it is reminiscent of Sharon’s 2005 Gaza disengagement, which at the time was intended to head off the Saudi peace plan (to which Israel never even responded), to get rid of the overly costly settlements in Gaza, to shore up the settlement project in the occupied West Bank, and to mislead the West into thinking that Israel was looking to end the occupation.When Isaac Herzog speaks of “separation,” he explicitly does not mean separation resulting in two viable states. Rather, he intends unilateral separation that gives Israel what it wants, while leaving the rest of Palestine cut off, nonviable, not independent, and wallowing. Not Israel’s problem, in a sense. No wonder Israelis love it. And naturally, the resultant zone of leftovers would still (as now) be responsible for guaranteeing Israel’s security.
Herzog’s been pushing his plan, the height of Israeli chutzpah, for some months now. This latest presentation, aimed at the readers of the New York Times and beyond, is founded on falsehood after falsehood.
1. Herzog begins with the foundational Israeli lie, the talking point that undergirds all the rest: that Palestinians time and again have spurned the unbelievably fabulous, generous offers proffered by the likes of Ehud Barak (Camp David, 2000), Ariel Sharon (they could have had a great little state, even a Singapore, according to Thomas Friedman), and Ehud Olmert (in his last year as PM). I can’t rehash the histories here, but each of these has been thoroughly debunked. The ugly corollary of the lie of first resort is, to this day, that “there is no partner” (invented by Ehud Barak) and that not only is Abbas not a partner but he is also today the great inciter. This comes from the truly great Israeli inciter-in-chief, Benjamin Netanyahu.
And let me interject the following on one of these points: Ehud Olmert actually wrote in the New York Times on September 21, 2011, that Abbas had never turned down his “offer.” Olmert itemized the parameters of the agreement under discussion (regarding the establishment of a Palestinian state, “mutually agreed-upon land swaps,” shared Jerusalem, as the capital of both countries, a resolution of the refugee question “within the framework of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative,” and the resolution of security concerns). As for Olmert’s “offer” (for which, by the way, he never produced any maps; ditto for all other Israeli negotiators), Olmert writes:
These parameters were never formally rejected by Mr. Abbas, and they should be put on the table again today. Both Mr. Abbas and Mr. Netanyahu must then make brave and difficult decisions.
2. Herzog’s second, third, and fourth whoppers:
The largest settlements, known as settlement blocs, are adjacent to the 1967 lines, constitute a tiny percentage of the West Bank’s territory and hold the vast majority of settlers. These are essential to Israel’s security. Most stakeholders accept that they will remain part of Israel in any permanent peace agreement, in return for land swaps. The security fence currently being built around these blocs should be completed, yet with allowance given to ensure the territorial contiguity of Palestinian lands and prevent the isolation of Palestinian villages.
It should come as no surprise that, regarding the settlement blocs, Herzog’s glib reference to “most stakeholders” does not include the Palestinians. The accepted international premise (admittedly accepted by everyone but Israel and as stated by Olmert) was for “mutually agreed-upon land swaps.” Further, “adjacent to the 1967 lines” is a relative concept, as any Palestinian will tell you. The Palestinians have never accepted the idea that Ma’ale Adumim and the controversial E1 area bisecting Palestine in the South and the Ariel bloc bisecting Palestine in the North will be part of any such swap.
As for “tiny percentage,” well that’s definitely an eye-of-the-beholder problem. When it comes to the theft of their land, Palestinians do not buy the Israeli notion of “tiny.” The tiny land area that was supposed to constitute the entirety of the Palestinian state—the occupied West Bank and occupied Gaza—is 22 percent of historic Palestine. If the Israelis had been willing to cut a deal, Israel would have had its borders set by international law on 78 percent of historic Palestine (but greed, hubris, and stupidity led them to do otherwise; hence the mess that Herzog is desperately trying to clean up).
And as for that “security fence” (see the picture in the article; it’s nine meters high), the International Court of Justice ruled more than a decade ago that every meter of that fence built within occupied Palestine (that is, over the Green Line) is illegal. The court made clear that Israel is most welcome to build its wall on its own turf, but not on someone else’s turf.
So Herzog has presented another unilateral plan for solidifying the Israeli theft of Palestine. It is not all that different in spirit from Bennett’s annexation plan and no one should be fooled by it. Is it any wonder that, per Herzog, “[p]olls show that our separation plan has earned the support of over 65 percent of Israelis”? Israelis love “unilateral.”
Bottom line: Zionist Union/Labor Party = (in essence) Likud and its coalition partners. Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.