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Clinton says two-state-solution would have entailed ‘a lot of blood, gore, turmoil in Israel’

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Last week, the Brookings Institution held an event about Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister assassinated in 1995, on the occasion of a worshipful new biography by Itamar Rabinovich, the former Israeli ambassador.

The event was remarkable for underlining how difficult it would have been to achieve a two-state solution even if Rabin had not been shot by a rightwing Jewish extremist in 1995 for offering to give up land for peace.

Bill Clinton said creating a Palestinian state would have involved “a lot of blood, gore turmoil in Israel.” And Rabinovich and Martin Indyk and Rabin’s daughter Dalia discussed Rabin’s determination never to divide Jerusalem, an essential element of the two-state solution.

First, here’s Bill Clinton talking about how hard it would have been to get a two-state solution– and going on to eloquently deplore the us-and-them world of identity politics.

I remain convinced that had he lived we would have achieved a comprehensive agreement with the Palestinians by 1998 and that we would be living in a different world today. But I never thought it would be easy, as evidenced by Itamar’s book. I think just even had the agreement that they reached looked something like the agreement that Prime Minister Ehud Barak agreed to that Arafat never accepted, that there would have been a lot of blood, gore, turmoil in Israel to implement it. Even if the people had voted for it. Because, as we have seen, as the world has grown more interdependent, these identity conflicts have grown more intense.

So I don’t want to do what old guys like me always do and sugar coat the past and say it would have all been wonderful if only this, that, or the other thing. It would have been very hard, but it would have been done because of him, because of the hold he had, the trust he inspired. Not only among Israelis, but among his adversaries, or at least those who were on the other side of the negotiating table. Arafat was virtually in awe of him, which always kind of tickled me in a good way. So what I ask you to think about when you hear this — and we have ambassadors here from all over the world, some of whom come from areas which have known and still know great ethnic, religious, and ideological conflicts — is to realize that the whole history of humankind is basically about the definition of who is us and who is them, and the question of whether we should all live under the same set of rules. And most of the time it’s a close fight, and a lot of the time throughout history the people who wanted an us and them divide have found more political success and meet the deep psychic needs people have to feel that their identity requires them to be juxtaposed against someone else, that when somebody is telling you to share the land, share the power, share the future, they’re asking you to do something that when push comes to shove you might not do yourself. Once you get in an “us and them” world then of course nobody should live under the same set of rules. We should have a better set of rules that work more for us than for somebody else. And all over the world today that’s what we’re trying to come to grips with without easy answers.


Leah and Yitzhak Rabin, from Israeli Government Press Office, 1968

Next, here’s the discussion of Jerusalem that shows that even Rabin was against dividing Jerusalem under a two-state solution. The discussion involves Ariel Sharon in November 2000, weeks after one of his most famous and provocative actions: visiting the Haram-al-Sharif/Temple Mount in occupied Jerusalem in an expression of Jewish control of Jerusalem that helped set off the Second Intifada.

Martin Indyk: Jerusalem. I remember your mother, after Yitzhak had been assassinated —

Dalia Rabin: You remember this story about her?

Indyk: Well, tell us.

Rabin: She was very sick. She already had cancer and she was dying. [Leah Rabin died, November 12, 2000] And she was in the hospital. And Avi, my ex-husband, was here in New York and spent some time in an office with together with Ariel Sharon… And he calls me, it was Friday afternoon, he calls me, I was with her at the hospital, and he tells me Arik wants to talk to your mother. And it was on a cell phone. I said, Avi, she’s hardly breathing, she cannot talk. She said bring me the phone, I want to talk to Arik. And she takes the cellular phone and she said, Arik, do you think Yitzhak would give up Jerusalem? This was a day and a half before she died.

Indyk: And, you know, he fought for Jerusalem. He lost in a sense —

Rabinovich: Yeah. Actually, Martin, I remember you and I appeared together in the Embassy of Israel. You were then not the ambassador, but International Security Council, the director for Middle Eastern Affairs. We appeared before an Orthodox Jewish audience and they spoke derisively about Rabin and Jerusalem. Before I could say something you looked at them and you said to them how dare you speak derisively about Yitzhak Rabin and Jerusalem and Yitzhak Rabin fought in Jerusalem in 1948 and liberated it in 1967. And there was silence, silence in the hall. So, yes, Jerusalem was a very sensitive issue and I think there was a strong commitment. But look, before he became prime minister he spoke in the election campaign against the [giving up]  of the Golan. And he was willing under certain terms to do it. He certainly did not — he spoke against Arafat and the PLO and never thought about shaking hands with Arafat and he ended up shaking hands with Arafat. So who knows? Had he lived, had he been reelected in 1996, had final settlement negotiations with the Palestinians begun and proceeded, who knows how it would have gone. There’s no telling.

The late Israeli PM Ariel Sharon had a similar memory of the telephone call, at a memorial for Rabin in 2001. Haaretz:

Speaking at a special Knesset memorial ceremony to mark the sixth anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that Rabin would not have agreed to divide Jerusalem in an agreement with the Palestinians.”Leah (Rabin) said to me with the last of her strength: ‘Arik, it is true that Yitzhak would never concede Jerusalem,’ and I replied, ‘I am sure that on Jerusalem he would never have condeded.'”

Sharon also quoted remarks Rabin had made regarding the capital, like “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel,” and “Jerusalem is not open to negotiation.”

So prime ministers right and “left” as well as a figurehead of the left (Leah Rabin) agree that Jerusalem should never be divided. These statements underline the difficulty of achieving a two-state solution even under the most propitious political circumstances, so long as one side holds the cards. No wonder partition has never happened, despite 70 years of world consensus on the point.

Finally, a crazy counter-factual. Rabinovich said that if Rabin had lived, there would not be a civil war in Syria.

[T]he preference was strategically to make the first deal with Syria, and once of course you had an Israeli-Syrian deal the Palestinian deal would come much more easily because the Palestinians of course would feel that Israel was holding the trump cards. So that was the plan. But the way events developed, of course, it ended up differently… [H]ad Assad made peace with Israel there would be no civil war in Syria. As you remember very well, it was not just a bilateral negotiation between Syria and Israel, it was a trilateral negotiation. And for Assad, actually making peace with the United States was more important than making peace with Israel. So he would have had to open up. It was not just about making peace, but about changing the orientation of Syria, which may have frightened him, may have been the reason that at the end of the day he did not step up to the plate. But had he made the deal, had he opened up, the pressure cooker that burst in 2011 would not have burst.

P.S. Bernie Sanders has also criticized identity politics.

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15 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    March 13, 2017, 1:29 pm

    I tend to think that identity politics is good when it give a voice and some balance-of-power to the otherwise powerless. In the USA, black, brown, women, sexual-minorities, indigenes, and so forth. In those cases, it is constructive of democracy, equality, even-handedness, etc.

    But after a group has achieved dominance of power, then that group’s “identity politics” is simply destructive of democracy, constructive of the cruelty shown by USA to Native Americans and by Israel to Palestinians.

    Identity politics should be a (pull yourself up by your own) boot-strap affair where you cut off the boot-strap after the boot comes level with the “other” and before the boot stomps on the “other”. The minorities should be (though I guess they forget this sometimes) striving for a world where ALL are equal, without discrimination, without built-in privilege.

    So I support BLM and BDS, water-protectors most places and certainly near Dakota Access Pipeline, but not white-supremacy (though I am white — I suppose) (were Jews always “white”?).

    • John O
      John O
      March 13, 2017, 5:06 pm

      Very true – it marks the difference between democracy (where everyone has an equal say in how they are governed) and the mere tyranny of the majority.

  2. amigo
    March 13, 2017, 2:26 pm

    ” I think just even had the agreement that they reached looked something like the agreement that Prime Minister Ehud Barak agreed to that Arafat never accepted,” BC

    Ah yes , another one of the zio myths, “Barak went further than any PM had ever gone”

    Oddly , ( not ) no such plan ever saw paper.Not even a beer mat or serviette .

    Didn,t take Clinton too long to place the blame squarely on the Palestinians.

    • Misterioso
      March 14, 2017, 10:26 am


      The Camp David summit failed primarily due to the fact that Barak and Clinton made no offer to the Palestinians that provided a credible basis for negotiations.

      “In July 2000, at President Clinton’s Camp David retreat, he [Barak] laid before Arafat his take-it-or-leave-it historic compromise. In return for his solemnly abjuring all further claims on Israel, Israel would acquiesce in the emergence of a Palestine state. Or at least the pathetic travesty of one, covering even less than the 22% of the original homeland to which he had already agreed to confine it; without real sovereignty, East Jerusalem as its capital, or the return of refugees. Most of the detested, illegal settlements would remain.” (David Hirst, The Guardian, 11 November 2000.

      The contention by Israel and its supporters that Arafat and his negotiators failed to come up with any proposals of their own regarding key issues is contradicted by the facts. As Robert Malley and Hussein Agha note regarding the Palestinians’ readiness to negotiate a solution to the refugee issue that would not threaten Israel’s majority: “No other Arab party that has negotiated with Israel, not Anwar el-Sadat’s Egypt, not King Hussein’s Jordan, let alone Hafez al-Asad’s Syria ever came close to even considering such compromises.” (Robert Malley and Hussein Agha, “Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors,” by Robert Malley and Hussein Agha, The New York Review of Books, 9 August 2001)

      Arafat and his team also put counter proposals on the table. Regarding the very difficult matter of East Jerusalem, Israeli Foreign Minister and chief Israeli negotiator at Camp David 2000, Shlomo Ben-Ami, revealed that “he spent considerable time after Camp David trying to explain to Israelis that the Palestinians indeed did make significant concessions from their vantage point. ‘They agreed to Israeli sovereignty over Jewish neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem, 11 of them’, he said. ‘They agreed to the idea that three blocs of the settlements they so oppose could remain in place and that the Western Wall and Jewish Quarter could be under Israeli sovereignty.’ ” (Deborah Sontag, “Quest for Mideast Peace: How and Why It Failed,”, New York Times, 26 July 2001)

      BTW, even before the summit began Arafat expressed serious concern that it might fail as not enough time had been devoted to preparation. Nevertheless, he agreed to attend following President Clinton’s assurance that he would not be blamed if negotiations collapsed. According to Palestinian negotiator Abu Ala’a (Ahmed Qurei), as quoted by New York Times columnist Deborah Sontag, “[w]e told [Barak that] without preparation it would be a catastrophe, and now we are living the catastrophe. Two weeks before Camp David, Arafat and I saw Clinton at the White House. Arafat told Clinton he needed more time. Clinton said, ‘Chairman Arafat, come try your best. If it fails, I will not blame you.’ But that is exactly what he did.” (“Quest for Mideast Peace: How and Why It Failed,” Deborah Sontag, New York Times, 26 July 2001.

      In short, working in tandem, Barak and Clinton tried to shove a very bad deal down Arafat’s throat during the 2000 Camp David Summit. It could only be rejected. Suffice to quote Shlomo Ben-Ami, then Israel’s foreign minister and lead negotiator at Camp David: “Camp David was not the missed opportunity for the Palestinians, and if I were a Palestinian I would have rejected Camp David, as well.” (National Public Radio, 14 February 2006.)

      • amigo
        March 14, 2017, 3:44 pm

        Thanks for the reply Misterioso.

        If I am not mistaken , Barak left those so called peace talks in somewhat of a hurry because Ariel (war criminal ) Sharon was kicking ass in the polls because he was telling the Israeli public that Barak was giving the shop away.

        Sharon,s lies won the day. Barak needed cover , hence the gang up on Arafat.

        Some people are born with a silver spoon , Zioniists are born with lies on their tongue.

  3. Maghlawatan
    March 13, 2017, 9:33 pm

    Identity politics are fine as long as they don’t generate existential risk. And they did for Israel.
    “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel,” and “Jerusalem is not open to negotiation.”

    That is ok. But not if it is at the price of Israel.
    Zionism is so naive. Such a fascinating groupthink story.

  4. Maghlawatan
    March 13, 2017, 9:40 pm

    The Israeli left worship Rabin and he was so much better than the thug whose vision has defined Israel since his death. But there was nobody in Israel to lead the people out of the Palestine trap. The Likud was supposed to be a mould breaker but its political philosophy can be summarised in 2 words. “Fuck you”

    Israel is in serious trouble today.

    • echinococcus
      March 14, 2017, 12:39 am

      Rabin was one of the folks who gave us the Nakba, the major wars of aggression, the apartheid, etc., not to mention the Big Cover-up. Much more dangerous than the plain cavemen. The “human face” of the Labor genocidaires is the only thing that can be used as a pretext by the governments of Europe to continue aiding and abetting Zionism.
      Also look up personal butchery history by said Rabin –“so much better”, eh?

      • Eric
        March 14, 2017, 10:30 am

        The “peace process” is a core Zionist delaying tactic cum charade to provide a cover for land theft while pointless discussions occur over many years. It’s one of the key tenets in the Apartheidists’ strategy, and Rabin was a devoted servant to the cause. Thus, the end result had he not been killed is identical to what we have today. So why is Phil providing free publicity for Rabinovich’s book tour?

      • Maghlawatan
        March 22, 2017, 5:20 pm

        They could have negotiated a deal, Echi. They could have secured Israel. But nobody had the balls to stand up to the settlers so now everything is in danger. The Israelis think they can keep the Palestinians to less than 22% of the land, that 1948 is untouchable. And that is wrong.

      • echinococcus
        March 23, 2017, 1:48 am


        The only way the Zionists, of any shade or hue, can “secure Israel” is the annihilation of the Palestinians on a par with the American Indians. Period. Occupied peoples don’t easily accept injustice, and the injustice here consists in an alien invasion for the purposes of racial supremacy. No consultation with the owners.

        A lot of liberals here are under the illusion that a nice-sounding implementation of high-flying moral principles, like equality of invader and invaded, one-man-one-vote, liberty, fraternity and so on is automatically enough to eradicate the basic sense of justice.

        “Everything” has been ” in danger” from Day 1. True, things are moving slower than usual given the array of forces but there doesn’t seem to be any “deal” with the Zionists, no matter the pressure.

  5. Boomer
    March 14, 2017, 9:56 am

    “Bill Clinton said creating a Palestinian state would have involved “a lot of blood, gore turmoil in Israel.” So he, and all U.S. citizens, have had no choice but to continue providing financial, military and diplomatic support for Israel.

  6. James Canning
    James Canning
    March 14, 2017, 1:12 pm

    I too think the current catastrophe in Syria might have been avoided, if Israel had made peace with Syria years ago. A deal was nearly achieved in 2008.

  7. talknic
    March 15, 2017, 10:00 am

    Clinton is compromised. The Zionist Movement have had over a hundred years experience and time to hone their skills at creating and getting the dirt on the influential, putting their people, money and influence where it best suits their colonial cause.

  8. Boomer
    March 15, 2017, 10:32 am

    re James Canning — Counterfactual history is futile, but hard to resist. In “The Pity of War” Niall Ferguson argues that it would have been better if the UK had not entered WWI. Along similar lines, I suspect that it would have been better if the US had not done so. Wilson’s choice to go to war may well have been a greater blunder than GWB’s choice to invade Iraq.

    I also sometimes wonder what would have happened if the US and UK hadn’t engineered the overthrow of a democratically-elected government in Iran. And, though the facts are in dispute, there seems to be reason to believe that the US has a similar track record in Syria. Of course, many actors had an interest in the region, the truth is hard to ascertain, and “what might have been” is unknowable.état

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