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‘My aim is not to resolve the conflict’ — former top Israeli negotiator

Israel/Palestine
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“My aim is not to resolve the conflict. My aim is to secure a Jewish democratic Israel . . . the Zionist vision that came true 70 years ago,” Gilead Sher tells Gilad Halpern and Dahlia Scheindlin at the Tel Aviv Review. If you ever wonder, why is there no peace with the Palestinians, you need look no further than this.

Gilead Sher is an attorney who served as Israel’s chief negotiator with the Palestinians under Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001) for the Sharm el Sheik Agreement, the Camp David Accord, and the Taba Agreement.  Today Sher heads the Center for Applied Negotiations at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies.  The program discussed Sher’s co-edited book Negotiating in Times of Conflict, which offers a panorama of perspectives on how to overcome obstacles in peace negotiations, looking at examples from around the world. The Institute does good and valuable work and Sher has helpful insights to offer.

But when it comes to Israel, Sher’s focus appears to be all tactics and manipulating advantage. Based on this interview, justice is not the focus.

Gilad Halpern states the obvious:

Halpern: “The end goal is to see the conflict resolved.”

Sher:  “Right.”

That seems correct, and should go without saying. But Sher is not at ease with his answer, and he quickly doubles back to revise.

Halpern: “Going back to the settlers . . . . they live in many ways much better with the conflict going… than… with the end result of resolution (of the conflict), which would most probably mean their evacuation from the land.”

Sher:  “Well, there is a few points that I have to address about your question. First, my aim is not to resolve the conflict. My aim is to secure a Jewish democratic Israel based on the fundamental principles that are encompassed within our Declaration of Independence of 1948. The basics of the Zionist vision that came true 70 years ago. So in order to do that we have to possibly disengage with the Palestinians and hopefully through a negotiated agreement.

“Second, when you look at the settlers, 80% already live adjacent to the Green Line in major blocks, and they will become part and parcel of Israel in any agreement. You are dealing with maybe up to 100,000 settlers that would have to be resettled in a permanent status agreement if Israel and Palestinian disengage one from the others. And for that an internal dialogue is needed.”

End of conflict is not the goal, suggests Sher.  If the conflict must continue in order to preserve the Zionist vision as expressed 70 years ago, with permanent Israeli Defense Forces occupation of all of the West Bank and “separation” with the Palestinians, so be it. The goal, says Sher, is to preserve the Jewish state as envisioned in its declaration, and “in order to do that” he says, “we have to possibly disengage with the Palestinians.”

But we have seen what disengagement means: it means walling off Palestinians from Jewish settlements, walling off Palestinians from their farmlands, walling off Palestinians from their watering wells; it means checkpoints and separate infrastructure; it means military rule for West Bank Palestinians and civil courts for West Bank Jews. It means institutionalized violence, intimidation, discrimination, and control of Palestinians. It means turning Gaza into an open-air prison. It means no justice. It means continued conflict.

I’m sure Sher would say he is in favor of ending occupation, in favor of civil courts for West Bank Palestinians, and harmonious relations with Gaza. (If only the Palestinians were more peaceful!) But this is not realistic. If your goal is “separation, hopefully through a negotiated agreement” over “resolution of the conflict,” what you’ll get is conflict and military occupation.

And I’m sure Sher would point to some of the idealistic provisions of the Israeli Declaration of Independence: ” [Israel] will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex,” it promises.

And it’s true, Israel is struggling and making an effort to meet this promise within the Green Line. But Israel is making no effort to honor this promise for Gaza or the West Bank and East Jerusalem. If the border is at the Jordan river, Israel has abandoned this promise.

The Declaration promised “equal citizenship” to its Arab inhabitants, but Israel then played fast and loose with the concept of citizenship, by differentiating between citizenship and nationality. It’s akin to placing a big brown “A” on the lapels of its Arab citizens.

The Declaration asserted that Israel “is prepared to cooperate with the agencies and representatives of the United Nations in implementing the . . .  economic union of the whole of Eretz-Israel” (meaning Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank).  Israel has not been serious in this enterprise. It is fundamentally incompatible with occupation.

Prioritizing separation over conflict resolution assures the conflict will not be resolved. Israel’s negotiators need to make conflict resolution their top priority if the conflict is to be resolved.

This post first appeared on December 9 on Roland Nikles’s site. 

Roland Nikles
About Roland Nikles

Roland Nikles is a Bay Area writer and attorney. He blogs here: rolandnikles.blogspot.com. And you can follow him on twitter @RolandNikles

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32 Responses

  1. eljay
    eljay
    December 10, 2017, 6:29 pm

    Sher: “ … my aim is not to resolve the conflict. My aim is to secure a Jewish democratic Israel based on the fundamental principles that are encompassed within our Declaration of Independence of 1948. The basics of the Zionist vision that came true 70 years ago. …

    The goal of Jewish supremacists (Zionists) was, is and always will be Jewish supremacism in/and a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine.

    Justice, accountability and equality need not apply.

  2. pabelmont
    pabelmont
    December 10, 2017, 6:45 pm

    Always seemed to be a bit of hesitation among Israeli negotiators to work toward peace or justice. We should not be surprised. Zionism takes as an unquestioned and unquestionable axiom that a Zionist (but probably not anyone else) taking someone else’s homeland is a good thing. So giving part of it back would seem a bad thing.

    No surprise. Without outside pressure, to create carrots and sticks beyond those Israel can make for itself, no progress will be made.

  3. just
    just
    December 10, 2017, 6:49 pm

    “And it’s true, Israel is struggling and making an effort to meet this promise within the Green Line. ”

    Sorry, but don’t make me laugh so hard!

    “The Declaration promised “equal citizenship” to its Arab inhabitants, but Israel then played fast and loose with the concept of citizenship, by differentiating between citizenship and nationality. It’s akin to placing a big brown “A” on the lapels of its Arab citizens.”

    As evidenced below:

    “Following Riots, Israeli Defense Minister Calls for Boycott of Arab Citizens: ‘They Don’t Belong Here’

    Avigdor Lieberman says residents of Wadi Ara ‘are not welcome here’; Minister Bennett: ‘Arabs should not test our patience’ …

    Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday said that Israeli Arab residents of the Wadi Ara region “do not belong to the State of Israel” and should be boycotted. …

    The residents of the Wadi Ara region should be boycotted, Lieberman told Army Radio in an interview on Sunday morning. “They should understand that they are not wanted here, they are not part of us.” According to the defense minister, Wadi Ara residents “have no connection to this country.”

    “What is happening in Wadi Ara is intolerable,” Lieberman said. “So I am calling for a boycott of Wadi Ara. Don’t go there and don’t buy there. They need to understand that it is impossible to demonstrate with Hezbollah flags, Palestinian flags and pictures of [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah. To accept billions from the National Insurance [Institute] and to also destroy us from within,” he added. …

    In another radio interview on Reshet Bet on Sunday morning, Lieberman made similar comments.  He added that “formally, the residents of Wadi Ara are Israeli citizens, but they are not a part of Israel and must be part of the Palestinian Authority. He later repeated his call for a boycott of businesses in Wadi Ara. 

    The chairman of the Joint List, MK Ayman Odeh, responded to Lieberman’s comments, saying the minister is “a representative of the dark fascist regime of [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s extreme right-wing government.”

    “The call to boycott citizens just because of their national and religious origin reminds one of the darkest regimes in human history. The thought that such a person is responsible for the security of the country should worry every rational citizen.”

    MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) said the protest by Arab citizens of Israel against Trump’s decision is a legitimate protest, “and we have not heard the [Defense] Minister call to boycott Haredim or Ethiopians who blocked roads in the demonstrations they held.”

    The chairman of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, the former MK and leader of the Hadash party Mohammed Barakeh, said “every protest by the Arab community is considered a security incident. I did not see tear gas grenades at the demonstrations by the disabled.””

    read more: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.827961

  4. jake42
    jake42
    December 10, 2017, 8:39 pm

    “We must define our position and lay down basic principles for a settlement. Our demands should be moderate and balanced, and appear to be reasonable. But in fact they must involve such conditions as to ensure that the enemy rejects them. Then we should manoeuvre and allow him to define his own position, and reject a settlement on the basis of a compromise position. We should then publish his demands as embodying unreasonable extremism”. – General Yehoshafat Harkabi, Former Israeli Chief of Military Intelligence

  5. Boomer
    Boomer
    December 11, 2017, 8:26 am

    re: “The Declaration promised “equal citizenship” to its Arab inhabitants, but Israel then played fast and loose with the concept of citizenship, by differentiating between citizenship and nationality. It’s akin to placing a big brown “A” on the lapels of its Arab citizens.”

    I’ve seen this alluded to in various ways over the years that I’ve been following Mondoweiss. I’ve never felt that I understood it. I imagine that my confusion reflects the intent of those who created the distinction.

  6. jackal
    jackal
    December 12, 2017, 12:07 am

    It all goes back to who has ‘THE BOMB.’
    When you hold that kind of power over people you can do and say anything you want. The United States has never really confronted anyone who has The Bomb. It just gets involved in smaller countries which it knows it can exploit.
    As a Canadian, I am pissed that my Prime Minister recently continued to support Israel as did our previous PM. Canada was the only other country to support the US against the United Nations’ 15 most recent resolutions targeting Israel.
    I’m sorry.

    • Maghlawatan
      Maghlawatan
      December 12, 2017, 5:01 am

      The bomb is useless against BDS. It couldn’t stop the dumbing down and brutalisation of Israeli society. The evidence from Israel is that Jewish elites are ignorant when it comes to the coherent use of violence.

    • m1945
      m1945
      December 12, 2017, 10:37 am

      The UN is prejudiced against Israel.

      For example, the UN criticized only one country for its treatment of women. It was not Saudi Arabia where women are not allowed to drive. It was not Egypt or Iraq or Yemen where girls suffer from female genital mutilation. It was not Palestine or Jordan or Iran where women are subjected to honor killings. It was Israel – a country that has had a female prime minister & female fighter pilots.

      The 10 worst countries for human rights are: Syria, Sudan, DR Congo, Pakistan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Myanmar, Yemen & Nigeria. So why are there more UN Resolutions against Israel than against the 10 worst countries combined?

      There is no boycott of China even though China invaded Tibet & transferred millions of Chinese settlers into Tibet.
      There is no boycott of Turkey even though Turkey occupies part of Cyprus and Turkish settlers have moved into occupied Cyprus.
      There is no boycott of Morocco which occupies part of Western Sahara.
      Unlike China, Turkey and Morocco, the Israel’s occupation began because Israel was attacked. Also, unlike China, Turkey and Morocco, Israel offered to end the occupation if Palestinians would sign a peace treaty.

      • Eva Smagacz
        Eva Smagacz
        December 12, 2017, 2:50 pm

        Jack Green:
        You claim:

        There is no boycott of China even though China invaded Tibet & transferred millions of Chinese settlers into Tibet.
        This is news to everybody who follows the conflict. Care to provide evidence for those “millions” of Chinese? Where do they get their food from, not to mention roofs over their heads?

        There is no boycott of Turkey even though Turkey occupies part of Cyprus and Turkish settlers have moved into occupied Cyprus.
        well, occupation of Cyprus is an ongoing stumbling block in negotiations of more access of Turks into the EU economy, and Turkey does not claim that whole of Cyprus is it’s eternal fatherland given to them by Allah.

        There is no boycott of Morocco which occupies part of Western Sahara.
        Marocco gave Western Sahara residents Marocco passports and full equal rights, including right of participations in national elections.

        Unlike China, Turkey and Morocco, the Israel’s occupation began because Israel was attacked.
        Israel’s occupation started when pre-Israel militia started to ethnically cleanse Palestinian natives from not only the area United Nations proposed as area to be under Zionist control BUT ALSO outside that area and all the way to green line. HOW ELSE do you think there is miraculous majority of jewish voters in Israel??

        Also, unlike China, Turkey and Morocco, Israel offered to end the occupation if Palestinians would sign a peace treaty.
        I think this curtain has been raised, and this rabbit cannot be stuffed back into the hat: too much freely available information clearly states that Israel never meant for the “offers”to be anything but a fig leaf to cover their asses politically, while determined and ongoing ethnic cleansing of native Palestinians was and is being carried out.
        62/71

      • Talkback
        Talkback
        December 12, 2017, 3:08 pm

        Jack Green: “So why are there more UN Resolutions against Israel than against the 10 worst countries combined?”

        Because the US will veto any relevant veto in the case of Israel.

        Jack Green: “Also, unlike China, Turkey and Morocco, Israel offered to end the occupation if Palestinians would sign a peace treaty.”

        Nope. Colonisers come to stay: invasion is a structure not an event. Therefore every time Palestinians accept the settler bullies demands they change it into something Palestinians can’t accept. Right now it is accepting Jerusalem as Israel’s exclusive capital. You know their land grabbing game.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        December 12, 2017, 3:27 pm

        “Jack Green”, that was the most subtle evocation of a “The Aristocrats” joke in a Hasbara whataboutery comment I have ever read. Good job.

        “….and what do you call this place which needs compare itself to some of the worst situations to try and excuse what it does?”

        “Why, “The Holy Land”, of course.”

      • inbound39
        inbound39
        December 12, 2017, 5:29 pm

        When Israel is in violation of 70 plus UN Resolutions and in violation of its Sovereignty obligations of complying and abiding by International Law then it is not bullying or picking on Israel…..it is valid and honest criticism….legitimate confrontation of Israel.

  7. Maghlawatan
    Maghlawatan
    December 12, 2017, 1:52 am

    This guy is ignorant of system theory. Two of my favourite system theorists are Jewish but I doubt they were Zionists.
    Hyman Minsky wrote the financial instability theorem.

    1. There are systems which are stable and those which are unstable

    2. Over time stable systems become unstable.

    Immanuel Wallerstein writes in Monthly Review.

    1. All.systems have lives
    2 all systems die.

    Zionism is groupthink for deluded Jews

    The occupation is not stable.

    • m1945
      m1945
      December 12, 2017, 10:38 am

      Jews had been persecuted for centuries in majority-gentile countries. Even when not actively persecuting the Jews, the majority-gentile countries refused to give refuge to the Jews when they needed it. There would have been no Holocaust if majority-gentile countries would have allowed in Jewish refugees who were escaping from the Nazis. The idea of Zionism was that Jews would return to their homeland & have a majority-Jewish country because majority-gentile countries had failed to provide safety for the Jews.

      • amigo
        amigo
        December 12, 2017, 12:09 pm

        Jacko .you are repeating yourself.You already posted that 3 times.

        Got any original ideas of your own.

        Yawn

      • Kaisa of Finland
        Kaisa of Finland
        December 12, 2017, 12:35 pm

        “Jews had been persecuted..”

        OMG Jack, are you like copy/pasting this same stuff every second week here??

        What ever happened before 1948, does not give any justfication for the Zionists to oppress the Palestinians.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        December 12, 2017, 1:43 pm

        “OMG Jack, are you like copy/pasting this same stuff every second week here??”

        I keep on telling you, “Jack Green” is the most egalitarian, inclusive, ecumenical person in the world!
        He speaks to every person, no matter who they are, as if they are all oppressed Jews who haven’t heard the good news about Zionism yet!
        That is so endearing, “Jack Green”, you treat everybody the same.

      • Eva Smagacz
        Eva Smagacz
        December 12, 2017, 3:02 pm

        Jack Green, you said:
        “Jews had been persecuted for centuries in majority-gentile countries”.

        Yes, we know, and I feel sorry about the history. but have you ever notice that other groups: economic, religious, and national were also persecuted in those countries.
        Have you also noticed that such persecutions rose in times of economic instability and fell in times of economic growth for all the groups, and not only Jews?

        How on earth does that allow Jews (in your words) to persecute Palestinians for over a century?
        63/72

      • Talkback
        Talkback
        December 12, 2017, 3:04 pm

        Jack Green: “There would have been no Holocaust if majority-gentile countries would have allowed in Jewish refugees who were escaping from the Nazis. The idea of Zionism was that Jews would return to their homeland …”

        … which is in contradiction to majority-gentile countries allowing Jewish refugees. So guess which rejectionist policy Zionists were lobbying in majority-gentile countries when it came to allowing Jewish refugees.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        December 12, 2017, 3:17 pm

        “.You already posted that 3 times.”

        Three?
        Try TEN times!

      • inbound39
        inbound39
        December 12, 2017, 5:34 pm

        We shall forget Israel operates outside of the borders it declared in 1948 which it stated were those defined by Resolution 181 and it also stated it accepted the conditions of 181. Those borders and conditions are still the only borders and conditions that are Internationally recognised.

      • amigo
        amigo
        December 12, 2017, 6:14 pm

        “Three?
        Try TEN times!” Mooser.

        It,s easy for you to correct others, you know how to do an archives search.

        Me, I,m still working on that.Last time I tried that function , I was informed that only the moose was allowed to graze in that pasture.
        Thanks for the correction , though.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        December 12, 2017, 6:26 pm

        “Thanks for the correction , though.”

        You are welcome, but it was more of an augmentation, after your comment tipped me off.

      • Keith
        Keith
        December 13, 2017, 11:49 am

        EVA SMAGACZ- “Yes, we know, and I feel sorry about the history.”

        What history? Zionist myth-history? During the period of Classical Judaism, Jews were relatively privileged compared to the Gentile peasants. During this period, Jews functioned as service nomads usually serving the Gentile nobility in their rule over the Gentile peasantry. Many of the “pogroms” were, in fact, peasant uprisings against the nobility and their hired help. I have commented on this numerous times in response to Jack Green’s deceitful rants, however, he never responds to my comments, preferring to wait and repeat his repetitious hasbara.

        Also, note the semantic dishonesty implicit in his comments. Majority-Gentile countries? This misrepresents non-Jews as part of a vast “Gentile” tribe, united in oppressing Jews. A majority-Gentile country would be any country where Jews were not the majority, no? So, more honest phraseology would be that everywhere throughout the world, all of the non-Jewish people would persecute the Jews but not their fellow Gentiles. How reasonable is that? If that was actually the case, there would not be any Jews because any sane Jew would have abandoned such a doomed fate if the opportunity presented, masochists notwithstanding. The Palestinian Jews by and large converted to Islam because that provided benefits. Likewise, the Diaspora Jews remained Jews because the Diaspora Jewish leadership derived benefit from doing so. Being city dwellers serving the crown sure beat being a peasant.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        December 13, 2017, 1:14 pm

        “During the period of Classical Judaism, Jews were relatively privileged compared to the Gentile peasants.”

        I don’t dig that long-hair schmalz, but it only makes sense. While Judaism was Classical, the peasants were still Baroque.

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        December 13, 2017, 5:31 pm

        I think of Australia as the very model of a modern majority Gentile country, and we haven’t persecuted Jews for days.

        Actually, I don’t know of a time when when we did.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        December 13, 2017, 11:52 pm

        “Also, note the semantic dishonesty implicit in his comments.”

        This is outrageous! How dare you say something like “the sem…a…n…”

        Oh… Never mind.

  8. Elizabeth Block
    Elizabeth Block
    December 12, 2017, 10:48 am

    First, my aim is not to resolve the conflict. My aim is to secure a Jewish democratic [sic] Israel.
    Oooh, I am so surprised!
    Well, of course. Israel doesn’t want peace. (The status quo is just fine. See Nathan Thrall’s latest book.)
    I’m one of a group of people who hold a weekly vigil in front of the Israeli consulate in Toronto. A few years ago, just before the 2014 assault on Gaza, a young man came by who wanted to understand what was going on there. He asked what life was like for Jewish Israelis. I said, “They’re fine. They go to the beach, they go to the mall, they go to work, they go to school. The Occupation doesn’t touch them.” Well, that isn’t quite true. Of course it touches them. It brutalizes them and corrupts their government and their society. But they don’t see it; and if they did they would think it well worth the cost.

  9. Eva Smagacz
    Eva Smagacz
    December 13, 2017, 8:11 pm

    Keith, you wrote:

    EVA SMAGACZ- “Yes, we know, and I feel sorry about the history.”

    What history? Zionist myth-history? During the period of Classical Judaism, Jews were relatively privileged compared to the Gentile peasants.

    I do agree with your comments. My point, which may not have been clear was that suffering from persecution was not on a Jew/Gentile axis, but persecuted/non-persecuted human beings axis:

    In narrative of supremacists like Jack Green, Jews are convinced that their suffering was somehow unique in intent, consequences and depth.

    I find this deeply insulting to multitude of persecuted minorities throughout the ages, like Ukrainians who’s family members perished during Holodomor, or, indeed, as you suggested, to peasants in the feudal systems of Europe.
    64/73

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      December 13, 2017, 11:33 pm

      “Eva” the African-American slaves, exposed to the Bible in the New World, took up the story of the Exodus as an allegory of their position and their hopes.

      But it’s funny, I’ve never, ever seen a Jewish lachrymographer compare Jewish suffering with African suffering. I wonder why not. African nations are sometimes cited in the Whataboutery, but nowhere else.

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        December 14, 2017, 5:59 am

        “Lachrymographer” – nice coinage.

      • gamal
        gamal
        December 14, 2017, 8:46 am

        “nice coinage”

        Still typing, you are Sir “A man of Steel”.

        if you have a moment for idle speculation, I wonder what part of Carpathia should the Magyarabs accept, they are black and have been in Egypt and the Sudan since about the 16th century, and have lost the Hungarian save a few words, but they are devoted to paprika and are quite real. The cane is a sacred symbol of Magyarness to them, their name is not a agglutination of Magyar and Arab but rather in that Upper Egyptian/Nubian slang they speak Magyar Ab means the Hungarians or Hungarian Tribe, all he wants is a cane…sweet.

        https://youtu.be/L_1mjTtA6RI

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