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Through ‘severe pressure,’ U.S. can impose a two-state solution on Israel — Nathan Thrall

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Nathan Thrall is the author of an important new book, The Only Language They Understand: Forcing Compromise in Israel and Palestine. On May 24, Scott Roth and I interviewed him at the Jerusalem Hotel in occupied Jerusalem. Thrall began by relating a central part of his analysis, “Israel-Palestine, the real reason there’s no peace,” which lately appeared in the Guardian.

What I tried to argue in that Guardian piece was that it’s actually irrational for Israel to go for an agreement right now. Basically they’re sitting pretty. They’ve got quiet in the West Bank, they’re playing footsie with the Arab states that had been boycotting them. They’ve got an occupation that’s paid for largely by the U.S. and Europe. They have full security control over the West Bank. They’re on the border with Jordan as they want to be. They’re not facing any kind of public demand to change things. The public protests in recent years are over the price of cottage cheese, right? And so you look at that, and you say to yourself, What Israeli prime minister could rationally uproot tens of thousands of settlers, and say—which is a sine qua non— we’re giving up sovereignty over the Temple Mount, the Haram al Sharif when you have consistent polls showing a majority of Israelis are opposed to that– risking probably the greatest upheaval the society has ever faced, the potential assassination of the prime minister, Jew on Jew violence potentially–

To do all of that, for what? What are you going to gain? And what are you going to avoid by not doing it?

Let’s take it as a choice that a prime minister is making. A, you do this: upheaval, withdrawing from the West Bank, all of your concerns about what happens security-wise after it takes over. You are losing control. You now control Palestinians completely. Do they go to Jordan? Do they not go to Jordan? Who comes in? Who comes out? You’re controlling everything as you want to be. Now you’re going to lose all of that and face enormous political opposition at home. That’s option one. And you know, You’ll get some congratulations and maybe you’ll go to a Nobel Prize ceremony–

Maybe you’ll get shot.

I’m talking about the good part! So– maybe a Nobel Prize. And now the Arab states that refused to do business make it overt, and suddenly you’re now going to have embassies in your country. But it’s small potatoes what you gain from it compared to the cost.

Now look at the pros and cons of the other choice. Just demand that Palestinians accept something that you know they won’t accept, and essentially allow the talks to collapse or cause them to collapse. Now that the talks collapse, what do you face? A pretty good situation. The same one you have today. You hold on to your seat, your whole public blames the Palestinians for the fact that they have collapsed. There are some recriminations from the media– OK. BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] is growing– yes. But what tangible effect has it had on society so far? Really very little. So it’s obvious. It’s  irrational for a prime minister to go for the two-state agreement that the whole world is going for.

My book was written in part out of frustration of listening to U.S. officials. There’s a view on the far left that the U.S. is a totally cynical actor, that it’s promoting the peace process literally with the desire of not concluding that process. I’ve just talked to too many sitting U.S. individuals to believe that. But then I would be frustrated by American naivete. I would hear speeches of John Kerry. People said, Kerry’s final speech was so great. What was driving it fundamentally– he was oozing frustration. What was the frustration he was oozing? “Don’t they realize it’s in their own damn interest to take this deal?” And the answer is No, John, they don’t and you’re wrong. It’s not in their interest and moreover, your own government policies are a big reason why it’s not in their interest. It’s so obvious, right? But it felt at the same time like it wasn’t being said.

Nathan Thrall’s new book

Tell us about the book.

About a third of the book is one long original essay, about 30,000 plus words, and that’s the first section of the book, it’s the title section of the book, The Only Language They Understand, and it is divided into four parts, and the one I just described to you about diplomacy is the fourth part of that section.

The first three are to demonstrate this historically. First, I take the case study of the Egyptian Israeli peace agreement and I walk through it in detail, narratively telling the story of how the Carter administration got there. When Carter came into office, there are some parallels to Obama. He comes into office immediately after he’s elected, there’s a change of government from Rabin to Begin. And they think, oh my goodness, What can we possibly achieve with the most rightwing Israeli government ever? You had this idealistic Democratic president who was supportive of Palestinians and what he did was he exercised more pressure than any president has since on Israel, and it was his consistent determination and real threats he put against Israel that eventually brought, first of all Sadat to visit in Jerusalem. There’s this whole mythology that the U.S. was irrelevant to Camp David. That it was all about Sadat’s visit. But Sadat himself has said that he visited because of Carter.

So basically I walk through that process and show how actually the use of American leverage– we have a case study here, it worked. I’m also at the same time attacking the myth that the U.S. played no role in bringing about the Egyptian Israeli peace treaty.

Why was Carter a one-term president?

It doesn’t come into the analysis, but I do have quotes from him saying that I am willing to be a one-term president in order to secure Israeli-Egyptian peace.

So I’ve established through this case study that use of American pressure, real pressure, can have huge effects. And the second section of the chapter looks at the history of Israeli withdrawals. Every single territorial withdrawal Israel has done– from Sinai after ’56, multiple withdrawals from Lebanon, not just in 2000 but also during the Carter administration when they invaded and he forced them out twice, and from Gaza of course, and the kind of limited withdrawals that you saw from area A in the West Bank– I demonstrate that in every single instance Israel was forced to withdraw. That it never did it out of its own volition, it never did it out of some higher notion of Israel’s greater long-term interests, it was always getting its arm twisted. Whether that twisting was because the cost of the occupation became too high through violence from Hezbollah or militants in Gaza or the First Intifada made them recalibrate whether it was sustainable to continue the occupation in its then-current form, whether it’s through violence and making the occupation more costly, or whether it’s through severe American pressure.

And so what I try and demonstrate is actually that this famous Israeli aphorism, “Force is the only language they understand,” applies pretty well to the Israeli side as well.

Then the next chapter looks at Palestinian concessions and how the Palestinian national movement moved from rejecting a Jewish presence, rejecting a Zionist presence in Palestine, to slowly over many years, coming to accept a two-state solution on 22 percent of their homeland. And what I show there too is that force was very effective in bringing about ideological concessions on the Palestinian side. They didn’t have territory to give up. So the concessions that they had were ideological ones. But what I show there is how repeated defeats, often military defeats led immediately to ideological concessions that eventually brought them to accepting the two-state solution.

Norman Finkelstein says that the Palestinians are defeated. What about the possibility that the very dispiriting status quo is going to be forever. These people will always be on parcels of land, under the worst conditions, sometimes prison-like, second-class citizenship, circumscribed movement. And following your point, that defeat is meaningful: this is like the Creek Indians in Georgia in the 1830’s?

First of all, I do think that the continuation of this horrible status quo for a long time is absolutely possible and in fact one of the things I’m arguing against is that I feel like a lot of American naivete about this conflict is driven by a false notion of an imminent dangerous choice that Israel is facing: it’s either one state or two, they’re gonna have to choose one or the other, if they don’t they’re going to have one state and they’re going to have to give citizenship to all the Palestinians. In fact, no one is forcing them to give citizenship to the Palestinians. And if you go back and you look, these accusations of Israel being a pariah state: in the discourse that we have today, people infer from it that Israel can’t sustain living this way, under attack. But if you go back to shortly after the first Likud government came to power in ’77, and certainly after the invasion of Lebanon, we’ve been living with the world wagging its finger and not doing much more.

But we are eons away from anybody demanding, Shit or get off the pot, give them citizenship or give them a state. Nobody’s forcing that choice, and part of what allows Americans to be culpable in perpetuating occupation, in financing the Israeli army which is exerting most of its energy on the occupation, in financing the P.A., which allows Israel to pay a much lower price for the occupation– part of what allows that is this American belief that it’s very temporary because very soon Israel is going to have to do one or the other.

But that being said, what makes me think that it’s not actually going to stay permanently in its current form, is that Palestinians do not accept it.

Repeated defeats led them to accept the internationally-agreed consensus position that they were pressured and pressured and pressured to accept, and they finally did. They now feel they’ve made that concession and they’re waiting for the world that had been twisting their arm to say yes to it to live up to its end of the bargain, which is to force the other side now to accept it. And what we’ve seen is that Palestinians when they know that they don’t have the power to liberate themselves– they’re too weak, the power discrepancy is too great– they turn to others. That’s why in the history of the PLO, they had this strategy of entanglement. It was literally to try and entangle Arab states in a conflict with Israel in order to get them to liberate them. And then the Arab states proved themselves to be totally worthless to the Palestinians. So as they came to realize that they had no hope of getting liberated from the Arab states, they slowly came to accept this international consensus position, and since then, since Oslo, we’ve had them now hoping for liberation from the U.S. And what’s happened is that as it’s been confirmed for them that that liberation from outside, from the U.S. in this case now, is not coming, they attempt, even though they know they can’t achieve the full liberation, they attempt to confront the occupation, in order to at least change the situation in some way, to shake things up, to bring the attention of the outside powers to the conflict again to try and do something to resolve it.

And out of those episodes of upheaval, the First Intifada, the tunnel riots of 1996, the Second Intifada, we have seen that Israel adjusts itself and it makes some concessions to the Palestinians as a result. They’re still under occupation. They still don’t have a state. But from the First Intifada they got Israeli withdrawals from Area A and limited autonomy, and from the tunnel riots they got the Hebron agreement, which also called for withdrawal from additional parts of the West Bank. And from the Second Intifada they got the withdrawal from Gaza. And this has all come at a huge price to them, and ultimately they can’t really sustain it long enough, to get what they really want. But they are able through these bouts of confrontation with Israel every few years to get something, and I see this iterative process of: Palestinian confrontation, Israeli concession and readjustment of the occupation, a period of exhaustion and quiescence, confrontation again, new tweaking of the occupation to try and appease the Palestinians. And out of that, trying to project into the future, you can imagine that Palestinians are going to have a better situation than the one they have today, even though that’s not predicting statehood or sovereignty.

Can you explain why F.W. de Klerk in South Africa did what he did in contrast to your analysis of the Israeli leaders?

I just don’t know the South African history well enough.

Scott Roth: What if anything did Palestinians get out of the last few Gaza wars since Cast Lead?

What Hamas I think would argue that they got above all is simply keeping the territory. If they had been weaker, and Israel thought it would be easier for them to reoccupy it and simply put the P.A. in place, Israel would have done it. And the fact that they’ve kept it as a semi-autonomous independent entity that has not been reoccupied by Israel, they would regard that as the greatest achievement that they have had through those conflicts. And to this very day despite all of those wars, the existing Israeli policy is as Netanyahu said in the Knesset when they were fighting over the state comptroller’s report over the 2014 war, he said I don’t want to reoccupy Gaza and that is the overwhelming position of the security establishment, despite the fact that the defense minister says other things. And that is still pretty much the policy: we are ready to keep Hamas in place, they’re too strong for us to do otherwise. So I think that the fact that the Palestinians a, got through the Second Intifada, that they got their first piece of territory, they liberated the first piece of territory from Mandatory Palestine, is one of the most consequential developments in this conflict since 1967. The fact that they’ve held on to it is no small achievement.

By the way there’s a great Efraim Halevy quote on this from the last year that I have in my book. All this talk about disarmament, Hamas disarming, and then we’ll allow economic development, we’ll give them a port– They’d be crazy to do it. Of course, the second they drop their weapons, we have no interest in them whatsoever. We’ll take over. So he says we’ll take over, we’ll slaughter them. I can’t remember the quote exactly. [The original quote: “Imagine that Hamas does disperse its military units and they lay down their arms. What will Israel do if it doesn’t kill them? What incentive will we have to negotiate with them if they are no longer a threat to us?”]

If your book is widely read and it has policy influence, what do you want to achieve?

I think the most basic point that I’m making is that the U.S. is a major supporter of the status quo, and the status quo is very comfortable for Israel. And if there’s any chance of solving this conflict, it’s through changing incentives. Unless you do that, it’s hopeless, and so at the very least I want the effect of the book to be a greater recognition that the continued U.S. policy of essentially supporting the status quo while doing lip service to wanting to change it and also engaging each new administration in new rounds of talks is highly hypocritical. Beyond that I want people to understand that it’s within the U.S.’s power to change the incentive structure and get a deal if the U.S. wants it enough.

What do people mean by an imposed solution?

An imposed solution means severe U.S. pressure. That’s what it means. And it’s possible. And the reason everybody talks about it and says we would never do it is no one devotes this much energy to denouncing an imaginary threat. It’s a real threat. The U.S. is capable of doing it. If the U.S. weren’t capable of doing it you wouldn’t have to denounce an imposed solution left and right.

Roth: Do you think with current U.S. politics it’s possible?

No; in principle, no. But you tell me, Are things changing in the U.S.? What do you make of the Brookings poll that shows that 60 percent of Democrats are in favor of – it’s vague language– but some form of sanctions? Or some other wording and they’re against settlements specifically. Still, the odds of Bernie Sanders having become president were not small. Now I’m skeptical he would have radically changed things.

Roth: He can’t even bring himself to say BDS is not the worst thing in the world. 


Is there a hopeful piece to your book?

Yes. Because at the end of the day what I’m saying is, right now we’re at peak despair and every analyst will use the one-state reality to describe the present situation, which I agree with wholly. But they’ll also leap from that, many of them, and say one state is inevitable. And I’m arguing very much against that and the reason why is simple. Israel holds all the power. There will not be a one-state solution unless Israel wants it, and Israel does not want it for sure. You know the whole point of Zionism is for them to have their own Jewish state and they’ll lose that with the one-state solution, and so long as Israelis don’t want it, it’s not happening. Now what I’m arguing that is hopeful in the book is in fact that through bloodshed and through pressure, and through coercion, both parties have steadily made progress toward the two-state vision that the whole international community endorses, and it’s hard to remember that when everybody’s talking about one state today. But the fact is if you look on the ground, first of all, from ’67 to ’87, that was much more of a one-state reality than we have today, right? Because people were traveling everywhere, in both directions. Now they’ve got a foreign ministry in Ramallah, a big beautiful giant building, they have their several intelligence services, and diplomats in other countries.

There’s no denying that it looks like two separate entities today. Of course, Palestinians are not sovereign. They don’t have their own state, but the trend has been toward greater separation, first of all on the ground and second, even in the positions on both sides you see both sides moving steadily toward this vision. So for example, in the ’80s, there was nobody on the Israeli side who was in favor of Palestinian statehood. Rabin didn’t even say he was in favor of Palestinian statehood– the patron saint of the peace movement. Read his last speech to the Knesset trying to promote the second Oslo 2 agreement, just a month before he died. It sounds like Bar-Ilan [Netanyahu speech on two states in 2009]. His positions and Bibi’s are very, very similar. In the late 90’s Shimon Peres was against Palestinian statehood, and there were a couple in the Labor Party who were for it, but the Labor Party itself was against it. Now we have a Likud prime minister, it’s cynical, but he at least said it. Israelis have been saying it. Sharon was the first one who did it, during the Second Intifada. That’s no coincidence. As I argue in the book, there were other concessions that were made during the Second Intifada. Not just the withdrawal from Gaza, but Sharon– for the first time an Israeli prime minister said he was in favor of Palestinian statehood. For the first time it became official U.S. policy to promote Palestinian statehood under [George W.] Bush.

Roth: I would disagree somewhat and say it’s semantics. The Palestinian state that Netanyahu is talking about at best it’s autonomy, which is what Rabin was saying. Or even the Labor Party.

I’m not disputing that about Netanyahu. But let’s leave Netanyahu out of it. The Israeli public– the majority of Israelis have come around on the Clinton parameters. If you poll them—the basic outline of it still doesn’t give Palestinians full 100 percent of the territory, the territory of the West Bank and Gaza, but Israelis have come around to at least the price of what a two state agreement would entail. And again you saw that when the violence erupted in Jerusalem, the initial wave after the 2014 war, and then it picked up again in the fall of 2015, you had polls showing the highest-ever number of Israelis wanting to pull out of East Jerusalem. And the question that the pollster asked– of course the Israelis who answered it interpreted it not to include the Old City, I’m sure. But nevertheless there was this peak support for getting the fuck out when the cost becomes too high. And so I think it’s discouraging that it’s going to take a lot more suffering for us to get to where I think it’s possible to get, which I think is a two-state outcome, but I think this is a hopeful element because I do see a trend of our moving steadily in that direction

Where are you from, what called you to this material?

I grew up in California, being very interested in American politics. I didn’t care so much about international politics and I knew next to nothing about Israel, and it was only later when I got a master’s at Columbia and I finished and I thought what on earth am I going to go do. I was thinking of becoming a journalist but I didn’t know where, and then the Shalit kidnaping happened about a week after I graduated and then the 2006 Lebanon war broke out and I hopped on a plane and I moved here and I started writing for the Jerusalem Post and I started taking Arabic and Hebrew classes at Tel Aviv University. I lived here for a year, and I was trying to get things published in New York and I realized I was going to hit a cul de sac staying here. I wanted to write big long pieces and I was just finding it very difficult. So my grandfather was sick and I took a plane back to visit him and there was an ad for the inaugural year of a writing program in New York based at CUNY, and it was headed by Andre Aciman and I applied for it, I got a fellowship… Then I worked as an editor at The New York Review of Books… I worked there for about a year and I was kind of chafing at having a desk job and I asked Bob Silvers if I could write a piece based in the West Bank and so while I was still working there, I came here on a reporting trip and I wrote a piece that was published shortly after I left the New York Review on Fayyadism and on the U.S. training of Palestinian security forces in the West Bank, and it was called “Our Man in Palestine,” and in a way it was poking a hole in what was becoming a very trendy bipartisan issue in the United States, which was the support for the Fayyad state-building program. Basically from there I got hired by Rob Malley to work for the International Crisis Group, and he asked me where I wanted to go if I could go anywhere in the middle east, and I said Gaza. So I went to Gaza and I lived there for about a month and a half and did some reporting on Salafi jihadis, and it was a trial period. My girlfriend now my wife was pregnant in New York, and the Crisis Group liked what I wrote, and they hired me full time, and six weeks after my daughter was born we moved to Jerusalem.

You’ve cited poll numbers in the States and in Israel. What is the meaning of rising numbers of Palestinians who according to Khalil Shikaki’s polls, the young are beginning to favor a one-state outcome.

Well it’s roughly a third on each side, Israelis and Palestinians, who say they would be in favor of it in some way. But at the end of the day even if 100 percent of Palestinians were in favor of a one-state solution– which we are miles away from that, right? That’s the last thing that the Palestinian national movement and the PLO is ready to embrace. Still, let’s say that somehow there’s a coup and a revolution and these youth take over. So then you have 100 percent of the Palestinians in favor of one state. I do not think that the next thing that happens is that the rest of the world says, “Give them citizenship.” The next thing that happens is that if people start to support their demands, then Israel does something very simple. It announces a unilateral withdrawal to the wall or to something along those lines, and it will have a U.N. Security Council resolution and every nation of the world lining up and saying say Israel wants peace and it’s done its part and there still has to be a negotiation over the border and settlements and this, that and the other, but we’re putting in an international peacekeeping force and blah blah blah. So I don’t think it’s quite the threat that people paint it to be.

The number of settlers east of the wall– is it 80,000?

No. It’s more.

Leave aside the Green Line and Jerusalem, what sort of bloodshed is entailed in getting those settlers to go back?

That’s one of the reasons that I said that the status quo is so preferable for Israel. That’s one of the things that Israel greatly wants to avoid. At the same time I think you could make a case that the degree of bloodshed from those groups, settlers who are east of the wall, is overstated. That the number of true radicals there who will fight against the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] is very small. Tactically there are ways to deal with it. You can essentially bring out all of the ones who are willing to go, and then you leave those people isolated. Then you shut off their electricity, you cut off their water, you don’t have to do a two-week operation, it can be a very slow process where you bring them out and pluck them off one by one. Let’s keep in mind that there were lots of dire predictions before the Gaza pullout and it went very smoothly.

Now in terms of the question of withdrawing the settlers, we have to acknowledge that there are a few different possibilities. One of them is that you have a final status agreement in which they are permitted to stay. It’s important to note that the Beilin-Abu Mazen agreement of 1995, it’s called an agreement even though it was never implemented. And it’s not a binding agreement, but it was their attempt at a final status agreement. It allowed the settlers to stay. And it’s conceivable that you could have a deal in which settlers were allowed to stay and maybe conditions on their staying would be so onerous that you’d get rid of 90 percent of them. So it would say you have to be a citizen of the state of Palestine, they have jurisdiction, you can’t live in exclusive communities, etc. Then an Israeli prime minister can say I didn’t force a single one out though in fact the conditions under which they have to stay is such that most of them go.

So one outcome is that they’re allowed to stay in one form, and then another is that you have this withdrawal. But the withdrawal as I mentioned could be done in such a way that it would not be an impossible task for Israel.

You’ve had barbs for American naivete. Can you elaborate, which arguments are fairyland or self deluding?

I think the most fundamental one is this belief that it’s possible to persuade Israel that it’s in its own interest to do the deal that they’ve been refusing and it’s just merely a matter of being persuasive enough: it’s obvious to everyone that of course they have got to do it in the end. And one of the things that I argue in the book is even if you could demonstrate to Israel that in the end you’re going to be forced to do it– in the end BDS is going to grow so strong, there are going to be sanctions against your banks, and you’re going to have no choice but to do it– that’s going to be 20 years from now. Because obviously the pace of this isn’t faster than that. And they have every incentive to wait until that moment comes and not to do it today. So I think that the most fundamental thing is that belief that both sides want peace and it’s just a bunch of strings of bad luck and the stars haven’t been aligned correctly that have caused all these failures, rather than, Structurally the whole thing is built to keep up the status quo rather than to reach an agreement.

When I first came here in 2006, a Palestinian shopkeeper in the Old City told me, Palestinians are miserable, and so are the Israelis. That became a mantra for me: both peoples are immiserated by the situation. One revelation of this trip for me is: the Israelis aren’t immiserated.

That’s right.

It’s like the Stanley Milgram experiment. They turn up the dial, but they can live with it. They hear the people screaming, but they carry on.

I think that that’s another element of American naivete about the conflict. There’s a lack of understanding about how comfortable the situation is for Israel, and hearing the screaming on the other side of the wall– they barely hear that. And if they do hear it, they’ve been told that it’s their own damn fault. It’s their intransigence, their demands are unreasonable. Even though they’ve accepted the position of the international community and actually have made concessions on top of that, saying, we’ll have a demilitarized state, we’ll allow settlement blocs to stay, etc. So Palestinians are in fact demanding less than international law affords them. I’d say 95 percent of Israelis are not aware of that.

When will your work be done here? Will you move back to the States?

I have no idea. I do already have another idea of a book that’s here.

Do you have any scorn for people in the West who don’t tell how bad it is out here? I get angry at liberal Zionists because I think it’s apartheid and J Street temporizes about that; and there’s a special place in hell for people who temporize about reality. Do you share any of that?

For me I direct it more at the policymakers and analysts who write in that way. I haven’t met with J Street when they come here, I don’t direct it at them, but certainly you have some saying that Trump ought to visit Rawabi, as if Rawabi is representative or indicative of what’s going on in the West Bank. You know about Rawabi– it was kind of the crown jewel of the Fayyad plan, to create these expensive modern apartments. I think that they were consulting with Moshe Safdie who created Modi’in. So it’s the notion that basically the West Bank is thriving and that this is the path forward. For other people who come to the West Bank, they’ll talk about how easy it was for them to go from Jerusalem to Ramallah. But it was easy for them because they were in an Israeli car with Israeli plates and as far as the soldiers were concerned when they were passing through they were headed for a settlement.

Yes, I do feel that a lot of people are misrepresenting reality, but at the same time they’re probably led on very limited tours, so they’re probably being taken from Jerusalem to Rawabi and they’re not really looking at H2 in Hebron.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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44 Responses

  1. Tchoupitoulas on May 31, 2017, 3:06 pm

    Here’s what Trump has to say about pressuring Israel into a deal:

    “I’m committed to working with Israel and the Palestinians to reach an agreement. But any agreement cannot be imposed by the United States, or by any other nation. The Palestinians and Israelis must work together to reach an agreement that allows both peoples to live, worship, and thrive and prosper in peace. And I will do whatever is necessary to facilitate the agreement — to mediate, to arbitrate anything they’d like to do. But I would love to be a mediator or an arbitrator or a facilitator. And we will get this done.

    I’m sure Netanyahu was very careful to school Trump on this point, and early on.

  2. [email protected] on May 31, 2017, 3:48 pm

    I like the severe pressure headline which is to posture a process of restoration to the Oslo/Geneva Accord two state garbage trap. The thrust of this piece is that Israel now realizes it can get what it wants without even the minimal restoration of Palestinian human rights.
    So severe pressure is just liberal Zionist garbage speak. We will be bold and assertive and liberal and daring. The only real difference is you’ll throw a big party once a year when you let the natives off their Bantustans “Independent State I mean” and feel good about yourselves. I expect tougher questions and more insight from this website.

  3. Donald on May 31, 2017, 8:42 pm

    I think he is probably right about how Israelis view things. So long as the US is on their side, they have no incentive to change their behavior.

    I think he is wrong about the ” naïveté” of US officials. If you accept their sincerity, the word he is looking for is ” stupid”. But he apparently is in a profession where he has to talk to these people, so the harshest thing he can say about them is that they are ” naive”. That’s a standard trope used by people in government or around it. Other countries have officials who are cynical or dumb. Ours are well intentioned and naive.

    The fact is that Israel has unquestioned US support and can keep stealing land and the Senate will support them 100 to 0 and every official in both the US and Israel has to know this. They aren’t ” naive.” They play the peace process game because, at least in the pre Trump era, Westerners like to be seen as having good intentions. This is meant to fool fellow Westerners as much as anyone.

    • Sibiriak on June 1, 2017, 5:45 am

      Donald Johnson: I think he is wrong about the ” naïveté” of US officials. If you accept their sincerity, the word he is looking for is ” stupid”

      I’m not so sure. Some of the beliefs he chalks up to naïveté are also held by most MW commenters–and I certainly wouldn’t call those folks stupid.

      • Donald on June 1, 2017, 11:35 am

        Which beliefs? I was speaking specifically about the belief that with a little jawboning the Israelis would gladly accept a 2 ss along 67 lines. As Thrall points out, the incentives are for Israelis to keep doing what they are doing, in part because Congress will support them as long as they pretend to want a 2ss.. Government officials can figure this out as well as anyone, so if they can’t see it they are a bit dumb.


      • Sibiriak on June 1, 2017, 1:36 pm


        I feel like a lot of American naivete about this conflict is driven by a false notion of an imminent dangerous choice that Israel is facing: it’s either one state or two, they’re gonna have to choose one or the other, if they don’t they’re going to have one state and they’re going to have to give citizenship to all the Palestinians

      • Sibiriak on June 1, 2017, 2:24 pm

        Donald Johnson: I was speaking specifically about the belief that with a little jawboning the Israelis would gladly accept a 2 ss along 67 lines

        Btw, I don’t think many U.S. officials actually hold such a belief. “A little jawboning”, “gladly accept”– that seems like gross hyperbole to me.

        In any case, recent U.S. proposals allowed for major settlement blocs to be annexed by Israel; Israel to maintain a long-term military presence in the Jordan valley; Palestine to be a demilitarized state; no effective right of return, etc.–i.e. the U.S. proposed terms much more favorable to Israel than simply “a 2ss along 67 lines.”

      • Donald on June 2, 2017, 1:57 am

        You’re right–US officials lately haven’t been pushing for a 2ss along the 67 lines, but something less. But they do act as though talking without pressure will bring it about, when nothing the Israelis would accept ( unless forced) would be acceptable to the Palestinians and vice versa. The Israelis have no incentive to do anything. Thrall is right about that and it should have been obvious to people like Kerry. You might think it gross hyperbole but I could use more sedate and careful language and it boils down to the same thing–people in the US pretend to believe that negotiations without any serious pressure will bring about a solution acceptable to both sides. Or rather, no serious pressure on the Israeli side.

        People can talk about what their long term interests are, but nobody can predict the long term future and anyway, comfortable people usually don’t make difficult drastic changes based on what might happen in some nebulous long term future. Kerry might think they should. If the US isn’t willing to cut the aid and stop siding with them in the UN, why should they change their behavior? Hophmi below says Phil doesn’t see them as human beings. They seem like bog standard human beings to me. Comfortable, complacent, no reason to change.

      • Donald on June 2, 2017, 7:28 am

        I should add that I don’t think we should be pressuring the Palestinians, but again as Thralll points out, they have been under tremendous pressure to back away from their basic human rights. ( Thrall doesn’t put it quite like that.). The Israelis, on the other hand, are told the settlement program is an obstacle to peace, but nobody expects the US to cut off aid even after decades, On the issue of violence,the US is wholly in Israel’s corner. We hear constantly about terrorism and rains of rockets, never about war crimes, though Kerry was sarcastic about pinpoint operations when he thought he was off camera during the Gaza war. The US takes pride in defending Israel against war crimes charges and supplies some of the weapons, yet we pretend to be honest brokers. This isn’t naive. It is blatant hypocrisy and officials would have to be stupid not to recognize it in private.

        Kerry waited until he was going out of office before displaying anger, but he was the only one who thought his efforts were going to bear fruit. I suppose you could call this naïveté. To me it is more a combination of arrogance and self induced blindness. We give the Israelis massive amounts of aid, pressure the Palestinians to acquisce to something far less than is their right, and Congress makes it clear they support Israel no matter what and Kerry thought the Israelis should take what we are willing to let them have when they are sure they can have more.

    • MHughes976 on June 1, 2017, 5:54 am

      I’m glad we’re still hearing from you in the comments section, Donald – you’ve mentioned that you don’t find it such a rewarding place these days.
      The good intentions of ‘quiet Americans’ are famously satirised by Graham Greene. They arrive in a strange place knowing everything because they have read a book, so they are educated into illusion. I think that Kerry and his like have told themselves two things, that it is the Israeli interest to ‘make peace’ and that is in the American interest not to be so closely involved in a regional conflict. In a way he is expecting Israel to rescue America, but in its own interests.
      There’s an immediate problem: it is very much in the interests of a small country to be intimately locked into the workings of a superpower. It’s not just that – as Thrall rightly says – American patronage removes all the incentives that there would otherwise be for ‘peace’ but the very fact that ‘peace’ would lessen the American connection or at least its intimacy, making it possible for the superpower to show a more evenhanded interest in all the regional states, is in an important sense against Israel’s rational and objective interests.
      We see, relevantly I think, how Israel has developed this extraordinary dual economy, one represented by the American-linked startups and one represented by those low PISA scores. Kerry and the brilliant minds who surrounded him in the office see the ME as a trouble and drag on the energies of successive Presidents and of people like themselves. They don’t share the moral commitment – moral inertia, perhaps – of ordinary people who have come, as a matter of routine through endless iterations, to praise or at least vaguely think of Israel as basically a good moral cause. The manipulation of the political system through ‘donations’ is accepted with scarce a murmur partly through inertia but basically because Israel is regarded as good. Severe pressure on Israel is a fabulous monster dreamed up by people whose naivety exceeds Kerry’s, I think. The rest of the West is of course a mere pale shadow.

      • Donald on June 1, 2017, 11:46 am

        I think that is right if I understand you correctly.

  4. Maghlawatan on June 1, 2017, 12:38 am

    The occupation is not in the long term interest of Israelis . It is hard to do anything against the occupation. These are the 2 contrasting forces. Israelis assume everything will be fine. They won’t if the occupation continues.

    One of the thing most analysts miss is political attention. Israel throws everything into the occupation at the expense of other issues. The economy is in serious trouble. The Haredi birth rate is out of control. Education is crap.
    These issues are the political equivalent of rust.
    The general consensus is that the Americans have to DO something. I think Israel will collapse all by itself. Some crisis will emerge that puts unbearable pressure on because all the years of jerking off over Hevron and Beit El left the institutions in a weakened state. 1967 left Israel taking risks it cannot afford.

    The lamentations of Jeremiah cover the period after the first Temple was destroyed. Why did it happen? Group think, baby. And geopolitics.

    • John O on June 1, 2017, 9:44 am

      At least part of Israel’s mistake is down to the fact that it began as – effectively – a European colony. Then, in 1967, it gobbled up the West Bank, Sinai, Gaza and the Golan Heights, creating its own bunch of mini-colonies. But, as the British, french and others have discovered, empire is an expensive way of doing business.

      • MHughes976 on June 1, 2017, 1:55 pm

        It has moments when the costs are high but for long periods empires have paid well. Some say that the Roman Empire couldn’t pay its way after about 250, some that it was so damn profitable and pieces of its action so desired that takeover bids were mounted in such hostile form that the whole business had to be demerged, even dismembered.

      • Maghlawatan on June 3, 2017, 7:57 pm

        Empires lasted much longer in the past. The Byzantines got 12 centuries. The British got 2. America has just finished. 76years

  5. Citizen on June 1, 2017, 7:56 am

    Disgusting; well, we heard of one anonymous US official who, preparing for Trump’s trip to Israel with Israeli officials, said to those officials: “You can’t come with us there because that’s not part of your state.” Must be some more US officials who are not naive and brave? Or did that guy already lose his career?

  6. Ossinev on June 1, 2017, 11:55 am

    Meanwhile hot of the press Donald Trump has decided to “delay” moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem.
    Officially he “made this decision to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians”.

    So let`s analyse that. He said in January eg:
    “They want it in Jerusalem,” Trump said in a January 2016 interview. “Well I am for that 100 percent. We are for that 100 percent.”

    So basically all that is needed is for the Palestinians to 100% give up their claim to East Jerusalem as their “state” capital as part of the “deal” and everything will be hunky dory.

    I suggest a compromise why doesn`t he offer Zioland Washington DC as their eternal capital . The Israelis already run America so might as well put it it on a more formal footing. Hey he could even throw in a $100 million sweetener to pay for a Third Temple opposite the White House .
    Won`t have to fund a special wall of any kind. because there would be nothing to wail about.

  7. hophmi on June 1, 2017, 12:48 pm

    It’s unfortunate, Phil, how you seem incapable of viewing Israelis as human beings.

    • Citizen on June 1, 2017, 1:44 pm

      It’s unfortunate, hophmi, how you seem incapable of viewing Palestinians as human beings.

      • RobertHenryEller on June 1, 2017, 2:32 pm

        Also unfortunate that hophmi seems incapable of seeing Israelis and Zionists as human beings, i.e., as susceptible as any other human beings to lying to, stealing from and murdering other human beings.

    • Mooser on June 1, 2017, 4:54 pm

      “It’s unfortunate, Phil, how you seem incapable of viewing Israelis as human beings.”

      Shorter “Hophmi”: ‘Jews don’t do those things’

    • echinococcus on June 3, 2017, 12:23 pm


      You are right: Zionist invaders of Palestine are fully human beings. No one should be allowed to see them otherwise than as human beings of the mass-murdering, robbing, genocidal kind. At least 92% of them.

      It’s all things that only humans do. No other species.

    • Marnie on June 4, 2017, 11:55 am

      Phil views israelis as human beings. Just not superior to any other human beings. Maybe you could start there hophni.

  8. JLewisDickerson on June 1, 2017, 4:46 pm

    RE: “Through ‘severe pressure,’ U.S. can impose a two-state solution on Israel”

    IN OTHER WORDS: It would require a U.S. President willing to (at least potentially) commit political seppuku/harikiri!

    Ending of ‘Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters’

    Uploaded on Apr 19, 2010
    The ending of Paul Schrader’s brilliant 1985 film on the life and work of the writer Yukio Mishima. These last scenes revolve around his ritual suicide on November 25, 1970.

    • JLewisDickerson on June 1, 2017, 5:02 pm

      Yukio Mishima: The Last Samurai | Tooky History

      Published on Feb 2, 2017
      Yukio Mishima, a pen name of Kimitake Hiraoka, was one of the most influential Japanese writers of the 20th century and was considered for the Nobel Prize three times. He voiced his political ideas publicly and was ready to go a long way for his ideas.

    • gamal on June 1, 2017, 5:55 pm

      when the “incident” occurred, the Observer magazine published a full set of gory detailed colour photos, I was stunned, had no way of understanding what it was about,

      then i read a translation of “runaway horses”, he wrote the year before the “incident”, it came out in english in 73 so i read it at 13 or so, i was amazed to encounter such a different culture and view, Mishima was something else, he was very SM, loved the Christian martyrs, back then suicide was rare now the Muslims have taken it up its the commonest thing on earth and beheading is banal.

      • JLewisDickerson on June 1, 2017, 9:27 pm

        Dare I mention Masada?

        From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia –

        [EXCERPTS] Masada (Hebrew: מצדה‎‎ metsada “fortress”[1]) is an ancient fortification in the Southern District of Israel situated on top of an isolated rock plateau, akin to a mesa. . .

        . . . In 73 CE, the Roman governor of Iudaea, Lucius Flavius Silva, headed the Roman legion X Fretensis and laid siege to Masada.[4] The Roman legion surrounded Masada, built a circumvallation wall and then a siege ramp against the western face of the plateau.[4]

        According to Dan Gill,[9] geological investigations in the early 1990s confirmed earlier observations that the 114 m (375 ft) high assault ramp consisted mostly of a natural spur of bedrock. The ramp was complete in the spring of 73, after probably two to three months of siege, allowing the Romans to finally breach the wall of the fortress with a battering ram on April 16.[10] The Romans employed the X Legion and a number of auxiliary units and Jewish prisoners of war, totaling some 15,000 (of whom an estimated 8,000 to 9,000 were fighting men),[11] in crushing Jewish resistance at Masada. A giant siege tower with a battering ram was constructed and moved laboriously up the completed ramp. Originally, Jewish rebels on top of Masada threw stones at those building and constructing the ramp. To counter this tactic, the Romans put captured Jewish prisoners from previously conquered towns to work at the ramp. The Jewish defenders on top of Masada stopped killing those who were building the ramp, choosing not to kill their fellow Jews, though they understood this might result in the Romans penetrating the fortress.[citation needed] The walls of the fortress were breached in 73 CE.[12] According to Josephus, when Roman troops entered the fortress, they discovered that its defendants had set all the buildings but the food storerooms ablaze and committed mass suicide or killed each other, 960 men, women, and children in total. Josephus wrote of two stirring speeches that the Sicari leader had made to convince his men to kill themselves.[4] Only two women and five children were found alive.[4] . . .

      • Mooser on June 1, 2017, 9:48 pm

        Who makes that one, Mazda? We got an FRS instead.

  9. inbound39 on June 2, 2017, 7:05 am

    The American Government has always held the key to implementing the Two State Solution. By denying Israel the obscene amount of aid it recieves. What the American Government lacks is the motivation to see Israel’s obligations and compliance to International Law imposed thus ending Israel’s impunity for crimes undertaken in violation of International Law

    The fact the American Government has abstained from withdrawing Israeli aid has telegraphed to people around the World that America has no respect for International Law or the UN Charter.
    Hence the status of America has fallen and its credibility undermined. The American Government fails to see that Israel views America solely as a cash cow and a supplier of men and equpment to f acilitate wars and battles that are of Israeli interest and not American. The vast majority of American aid is used to maintain the occupation of Palestinians and subject them to devastating bombardments and war crimes committed by Israeli troops. Pull the pin on aid and the occupation grinds to a halt.

  10. hophmi on June 2, 2017, 8:52 am

    Oh wow, put pressure on the Israelis. That’s original. It will never happen because it’s not in the US interest to support the Palestinians, who are not ready for prime time as a nation. And in fact, each and every time they suggest that they are ready for prime time, by elevating serious non-corrupt technocrats to leadership, like Salam Fayyad, unserious dilettantes like Nathan Thrall castigate them for it.

  11. JustJessetr on June 2, 2017, 10:25 am

    I’m glad Thrall says that a two-state solution is the way. He is rising above the illusion of a one-state solution, for which there is no diplomatic initiative anywhere in the world. No Palestinian faction has supported a 1SS*. Not even the Islamic Republic of Iran supports a 1SS. It’s time for campuses and journalists and bloggers to get real.

    *Thrall himself: “Advocacy among some Palestinian intellectuals and their allies for enfranchisement in a single state, the so-called one-state solution, has not been endorsed by a single Palestinian faction and is a long way from drawing majority support in the West Bank and Gaza.”

    • echinococcus on June 2, 2017, 11:24 am

      Jesse the Just,

      He is rising above the illusion of a one-state solution, for which there is no diplomatic initiative anywhere in the world.

      There can be no diplomatic solution because one of the parties is the rabid Zionist entity, which has never and will never agree to anything else than overwhelming force. The likelihood of the US exerting that force is nil.

      “Diplomatic solution” is thus the preferred instrument of the Zionist criminals for stalling indefinitely while continuing their genocide undisturbed With the complicity of the US clients, the Arab states, and their Palestinian puppets. Perhaps some starry-eyed American liberal Z’s are sincere but they never counted, while your own use of this phantasm looks like a deliberate exercise in vicious propaganda.

      Of course continuing to propose peaceful solutions is a must –that’s how people end up seeing what’s going on. Otherwise, though, the Zionists will not agree to any diplomacy, necessarily forcing an Algeria-like solution when US power starts slipping –provided the ongoing genocide of the Palestinians is not complete,

      • JustJessetr on June 2, 2017, 3:12 pm

        Hey, then keep marching fown a blind alley towards a 1SS. Even though the idea is a, “…long way from drawing majority support in the West Bank and Gaza.”

        You hurt Palestinians more than you imagine.

      • Mooser on June 2, 2017, 6:52 pm

        “You hurt Palestinians more than you imagine.”

        “You want to know who helps Palestinians at the Coop? Jesse Rosenfeld does! He worked like hell to bring a new brand of Palestinian olive oil to our shelves. And who has done the most bitching about it? So-called supporters of Palestinian liberation”

      • talknic on June 2, 2017, 10:14 pm

        @ JustJessetr June 2, 2017, 3:12 pm

        ,em>”Hey, then keep marching fown a blind alley towards a 1SS. Even though the idea is a, “…long way from drawing majority support in the West Bank and Gaza.”

        What alley has the Zionist Federation been marching down since 1897?

        “You hurt Palestinians more than you imagine.”

        Oh save it pal. You;’re full o’ sh*te

      • JustJessetr on June 3, 2017, 10:07 am

        Talknic, whatever the ZF have been doing all that time, they haven’t been dangling a false hope in front of Jews and Israelis. What one-staters and BDS sheep like yourself do is give Palestinians false hope, from your nice safe perch above it all, that they can have everything from the river to the sea. It’s simply not going to happen. Normalization is the only way for them to salvage what little is left. They’ve gone with Arafat, they’ve gone with the PA, boycotting, the Pan-Arabists, and they have gained exactly nothing of what should have been theirs long ago.

        You damage Palestinians more than you imagine. You are a problem, not a solution. It’s time to get real and ditch your ever so predictable rhetoric and start to contribute something useful.

      • echinococcus on June 3, 2017, 12:31 pm

        Jesse etc.,

        What a stupid thing to say.
        Of course a one-state solution that includes the Zionists won’t draw any popular support in Palestine (including all Palestine.) It is unjust.
        I don’t remember off the top of my head any case of popular support anywhere in invaded/colonized lands for continuing injustice, even in the face of overwhelming force.

        Any “one-state” that allows Zionists to remain anywhere in Palestine and even inhabit the same state territory as the Palestinian owners of the land is a compromise solution as long as the balance of forces continue as today. It is also a ridiculous pipe dream of people who expect the Zionists to start making concessions as long as the US remains strong. It is also a pet of (liberal) Zionist propagandists, who are stupid enough to believe it is an attractive carrot to dangle before the eyes of a conquered population who have almost nothing to lose anymore.

        It will only be supported by some intellectuals, some otherwise marginal types, Zio-collaborating traitors, surrounding US client regimes, and Western liberaloids.

        Your concern for the Palestinians while you help with their genocide is touching

      • talknic on June 3, 2017, 1:04 pm

        @ JustJessetr June 3, 2017, 10:07 am

        “Talknic, whatever the ZF have been doing all that time, they haven’t been dangling a false hope in front of Jews and Israelis. “

        How odd. The Zionist Federation plan has for over a century loaned money specifically to poor Jews, specifically at interest, on condition they specifically put themselves on the front lines in the Zionist war on Palestine, thereby endangering themselves and their families, while the ZF and Jewish Agency push for one Jewish State. Fine employers you have. Requiring you to lie, day after day, year after year

        “What one-staters and BDS sheep like yourself do is give Palestinians false hope, from your nice safe perch above it all, that they can have everything from the river to the sea.”

        Problem. I’ve never stated I believe in one state you jerk. Nor do I belong to or have need to belong to any BDS organization. Lke all Zionist propagandists, you have to start tawkin’ out your fat flatulent Zionist rrrrrrrrrs

        I do however believe in adherence to one’s commitments to the law and the basic commonsense tenets of Judaism, which is more than you or your creepy Zionist propagandist friends can say

        Furthermore, the Palestinians already have a state, it is not as you are required to describe to keep your pathetic job. They long ago accepted only 22% of their rightful territories for peace with Israel. The majority of the International Comity of Nations has recognized this simple fact. All they seek now is independence from Israeli occupation, which is BTW their legal right

        ” It’s simply not going to happen. Normalization is the only way for them to salvage what little is left. They’ve gone with Arafat, they’ve gone with the PA, boycotting, the Pan-Arabists, and they have gained exactly nothing of what should have been theirs long ago.”

        What should have been theirs long ago is that which Israel and Zionism covets. The Palestinians ask only for their legal rights. Israel meanwhile has no legal, moral, ethical basis for its demands or to continue the occupation.

        Israel refusing to adhere to International Law , ending occupation withdrawing to its borders just isn’t allowed to enter the ZioScum propaganda narrative

        “You damage Palestinians more than you imagine. You are a problem, not a solution. It’s time to get real and ditch your ever so predictable rhetoric and start to contribute something useful.”

        Meanwhile Israeli intransigence, occupation, slaughtering innocents who have no protection from Israeli armaments, dispossession, are all wonderful ZioGifts. Yeh, I get your drift you wanker

      • Mooser on June 3, 2017, 1:36 pm

        Shorter “Jesse”: ‘Give Israel what it wants or “Jews and Israelis” will destroy the Palestinians.’

      • Maghlawatan on June 3, 2017, 7:04 pm

        The idea that Palestinians missed the history bus because Israelis are smarter is laughable. David Schumer was the one who said Israel is the cousin with the Heroin problem. IF it can’t continue any longer it won’t.

  12. Maghlawatan on June 3, 2017, 7:47 pm

    And Israelis who think the Occupation is foreva have false hope. Hatikva is a nightmare

  13. Ottawa observer on June 11, 2017, 9:37 pm

    I don’t think the US would need to impose ‘severe’ pressure on Israel. All it has to do is stop protecting Israel – economically, diplomatically, financially and militarily. The severe pressure will come from the rest of the world.

    • echinococcus on June 11, 2017, 11:46 pm

      What is the purpose of this distinction: do you think any pressure, be it so “light” is easier to apply to the Zionists than “severe” pressure? Or is stopping the protection “light pressure”?

      Let’s not kid ourselves, the US is not in a position to ever be able to even lift an eyebrow to the Zionists –except if the general American population is addressed and mobilized. And reaching out to the general American population is now taboo among the marginal and tribal crowd.

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