“We’re proud to be a country that is governed by laws, not people,” [Netanyahu, below in item 2. “When Netanyahu wants to be like Putin”]
The above statement perfectly characterizes 3 of the 4 items below, all of which point to the direction that Israel is on the way to being, and which should warn any Jew abroad who is neither ultra-Orthodox (i.e., fundamentalist) or ultra-Zionist (also fundamentalist) not to come to Israel to live. I have in the past termed Israel a tribal society. Well, if till now that has characterized Israel, then I guess it is rapidly becoming an ultra-tribal society—one that exists on xenophobia and narrow-mindedness. Add these to an ultra-militaristic society and you have all the makings of a place in which not only will there be no peace (one after all cannot neglect to remember the area in which Israel is located) but also will be no room for anyone not belonging to the tribe or not behaving according to the tribal laws
Item 2 begins the trend by arguing that Netanyahu wants to be a dictator, item 3 tells us that Netanyahu backs a law to ban loudspeakers at mosques, and item 4 reveals that Jewish religious laws are threatening Jewish women. You get the idea? Unfortunately it’s all actually happening under our noses.
Item 1 is on a different tack. It is a response to the notion that the Palestinians must first and foremost–before any discussion of peace or talks recognize Israel—recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and that the Palestinian refusal to do so is at the root of the conflict. Indeed! As usual, and as with the law to ban loudspeakers calling Muslims to prayer, Netanyahu forgets both history and where Israel is situated (5 million or so Jews among 350 million or so Muslims!). The authors respond to Netanyahu’s demand quite well, but barely touch on what would have strengthened their argument yet more: none of Israel’s governments have really wanted a solution to the conflict. Of course they want peace, but on their own terms, namely by overcoming the Palestinians and creating the greater Israel. I have recommended and will again the slim but excellent volume by Zalman Amit and Dapha Levit, “Israeli Rejectionism: a Hidden Agenda in the Middle East Peace Process.” They state clearly and in no uncertain terms what they intend to (and do) show in their book: “Our position is that Israel was never primarily interested in establishing peace with its neighbors unless such a peace was totally on its own terms.” I agree.
All the best,
December 11, 2011 [forwarded by Muriel]
What About Israeli Rejectionism?
Why the Jewish State Must Recognize Palestine
Ghassan Khatib and Michael Bröning
GHASSAN KHATIB has served as a Member of the Madrid Peace Delegation and a Minister of the Palestinian National Authority. He is currently Director of the Palestinian Government Media Center in Ramallah. MICHAEL BRÖNING is Director of the East Jerusalem office of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.
Yosef Kuperwasser and Shalom Lipner’s “The Problem Is Palestinian Rejectionism” (November/December 2011) hangs on an echo — perhaps an unconscious one — of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2009 speech at Bar-Ilan University. “The Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state stands at the root of the struggle and behind every so-called core issue,” the authors argue. “Rather than focus on the issues of settlement activity and territory, success in the negotiations will first require at least a tentative change in the Palestinian position on recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.” This is a prime example of the ongoing attempts to revive the increasingly incredulous myth that a peace-loving Israel simply has “no partner for peace.”
One fact is undisputed: In 1993, the Palestine Liberation Organization recognized “the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security” through the letters of mutual recognition exchanged between then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. The authors correctly note that the declaration did not imply a Palestinian recognition of a “Jewish state.” However, they inaccurately interpret the omission as proof of a thinly concealed Palestinian scheme to pretend to support a two-state solution.
The truth is less dramatic. The declaration did not include the recognition of a “Jewish state” for the simple reason that Israeli leaders had not asked for it. And this was hardly an accident; they made no such request in the years that preceded the Oslo accords and did not include any such statement in the “road map for peace” or the “joint understanding” of the 2007 Annapolis Conference. Contrary to Kuperwasser and Lipner’s claim, the demand to gain outside recognition for a Jewish state is a position without precedent.
Of course, Israel has officially characterized itself as a “Jewish and a democratic state” since amending the basic law in the 1980s. Still, virtually no international actor, including Arab states with diplomatic relations with Israel, has ever been asked to embrace this designation. That is not surprising: Intertwining the ethnic and religious identity of a state with the question of legal recognition is not a common practice in international relations. Notwithstanding occasional references, even Washington, Israel’s most staunch supporter, has never recognized Israel as a “Jewish state.” To the contrary, U.S. President Harry Truman personally removed the term in the formal letter of recognition of Israel in 1948, replacing it with the handwritten correction “State of Israel.”
As Kuperwasser and Lipner correctly point out, the main Palestinian concern with recognizing a Jewish state has to do with the rights of Palestinian refugees and the Palestinian minority in Israel. As the authors know, Palestinian recognition of a Jewish state would be interpreted as waiving the right of return and forfeiting the rights of Palestinians in Israel before even beginning final status negotiations.
Along with Kuperwasser and Lipner, Netanyahu in his Bar-Ilan speech took as a point of departure the notion that “the root of the conflict has been — and remains — the refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish people to its own state.” The prime minister also demanded a “demilitarized” Palestinian state, called on Palestinians to “overcome Hamas,” give up the right of Palestinian refugees to return to Israel, forsake internationally recognized claims to Jerusalem, and accept “normal life” in Israeli settlements. Remarkably, Kuperwasser and Lipner practically overlook that last part, even though settlements are one of the fundamental hurdles to progress. In fact, according to a recent estimate by the Israeli nongovernmental organization B’Tselem, settlements today control more than 40 percent of the West Bank.
Conspicuously, Kuperwasser and Lipner choose to focus solely on Palestinian ideological “rejectionism.” Certainly, programmatic shortcomings exist in the Palestinian political movements, but the authors neglect the ideological rejectionism on the Israeli side. The Likud Party’s 1999 platform “flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan River” and considers Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza a “realization of Zionist values.” Similarly, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party considers the very concept of land for peace “fundamentally flawed.” The programmatic stance of Netanyahu’s coalition partner, Shas, is equally uncompromising: Its document of principles flatly declares that “Jerusalem is not an issue for negotiation or for division” and that “Shas will work for the continuation of settlements in Judea and Samaria.” Likewise, Habayit Hayehudi, the smallest and most radical right-wing party in the Israeli government, unambiguously declared in 2009 that “there will be no Palestinian state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean,” since “Jordan is the Palestinian state.”
These positions may not reflect a broad Israeli consensus. However, Kuperwasser and Lipner fiercely justify their call for the recognition of a Jewish state by stressing the need to “ease Israeli fears about the Palestinians’ true motivations.” They would be well advised to apply the same principle to the current Israeli government.
Finally, the authors’ focus on “Palestinian rejectionism” prevents them from recognizing constructive developments in the Palestinian Authority. For the authors, the PA “is only a would-be state without any legacy of governance or practice in exercising a monopoly over violence.” And given this Palestinian inability to govern responsibly, any Palestinian state would be prone to “serve as a launch pad for terrorist strikes against Israel’s heartland.”
The authors appear to have lost touch with current events. Not usually known for a pro-Palestinian bias, last April the World Bank declared that, under Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, state-building programs have fundamentally transformed the territory. And in its economic monitoring report, the World Bank stipulates that the PA “has continued to strengthen its institutions, delivering public services and promoting reforms that many existing states struggle with” while reiterating its assessment that Palestine “is well positioned for the establishment of a state at any point in the near future.”
Contrary to the current Israeli government’s claims, demanding further verbal Palestinian concessions is the least productive means of advancing genuine political progress. Instead of fabricating new conditions, what is needed is a willingness of the government of Israel to acknowledge legitimate demands of Palestinians, namely, the right to live freely in an independent state, and to back this acceptance with constructive steps on the ground. Kuperwasser and Lipner’s obsessive focus on “Palestinian rejectionism” makes them oblivious to the fact that, since the signing of the Declaration of Principles in 1993, policies of rejectionism have so far managed to keep only one state off the map: the state of Palestine.
December 12, 2011
When Netanyahu wants to be like Putin
When we look at the bigger picture we see a comprehensive program that serves Netanyahu and his ideology and is orchestrated by him.
By Merav Michaeli
The immediate, unequivocal support voiced by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman for Russia’s parliamentary election, which he characterized as free, fair and democratic, is puzzling. Russia and Vladimir Putin are pro-Iran, pro-Syria, pro-Hamas and pro-Hezbollah, and by Lieberman’s ultra-nationalist Israeli lights, they are terrible for Israel. So why is he so eager to embrace them?
Perhaps it’s an expression of his great identification with, and envy for, Putin’s position. And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his own quiet support for Lieberman’s remarks, demonstrates that he shares the desire to be in the same position as Putin.
The method is familiar: Lieberman speaks or acts, and Netanyahu tacitly acquiesces. It’s the same modus operandi the prime minister is using with MKs Zeev Elkin, Ofir Akunis, Yariv Levin and Faina Kirshenbaum and, of course, with Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman. They initiate laws and measures to erode democracy, and Netanyahu says nothing. Occasionally he delays deliberations on a particular bill or announces that the cabinet will not approve another – making him look like the knight come to the rescue of the rule of law, the man with his finger in the dam, the very defender of democracy.
But when we look at the bigger picture we see a comprehensive program that serves Netanyahu and his ideology and is orchestrated by him. The Prime Minister’s Office hires people to silence, or simply get rid off, journalists in the Israel Broadcasting Authority; the PMO decides to arrogate for itself authority over Israel Educational Television, a station that had heretofore been nearly invisible; Defense Minister Ehud Barak runs Army Radio as he sees fit; the government puts Channel 10 in a financial stranglehold and appoints cronies to the Second Authority for Television and Radio, which regulates commercial broadcast outlets. Meanwhile, the Israel Hayom daily benefits from the freedom to coordinate every word it prints with the prime minister.
Netanyahu appointed Neeman, and backs him by supporting bills aimed at changing the composition of the Judicial Appointments Committee and at interfering with the inner workings of the Israel Bar Association and the way the president of the Supreme Court is selected. There is nothing accidental about the timing of the onslaught against the Supreme Court and the news media. Each is supposed to protect the public, and democracy at large, from such measures; the combined assault renders each incapable of doing so.
It seems that even Israel’s international isolation is no mistake, and the cold shoulder from friendly states is not undesirable for Netanyahu. Just as an abusive husband isolates his wife from her social circle, both as part of his abuse and a means of facilitating its escalation, so too does Israel’s isolation facilitate the escalation of the occupation and the antidemocratic processes within. Fewer external pressures, fewer countries to give an accounting to – and on top of that, the government can always blame the other countries for being the ones to turn their backs on us.
It’s possible that Netanyahu is not always conscious of the motivations behind his actions; he certainly doesn’t see himself as a Lieberman. That is why he chose to surround himself with antidemocratic people, each of whom is a projection of a different repressed aspect of Netanyahu’s personality. There’s Barak, whose career in the army was presumably based at least in part on his affinity for the undemocratic nature of ruling by command (and his final round as Labor Party leader proved that he never relinquished that affinity ). There’s Neeman, who is loyal to power and to Jewish law, but not to democracy. And there’s Lieberman, of course. Not for nothing has Netanyahu termed them “our natural partners” from day one. Each one is an alter ego who does what Netanyahu would like to do himself but does not dare.
After all, Netanyahu does have other political options. He could have given more power to Likud politicians like Dan Meridor, Benny Begin or Reuven Rivlin, but they wouldn’t have served his purposes. Netanyahu wants to be Putin: an iPad for every worker and complete freedom to rule. There’s a reason for Netanyahu’s timing in scheduling a party primary that almost guarantees him victory – he wants it now, as the antidemocratic efforts are gaining momentum.
“We’re proud to be a country that is governed by laws, not people,” Netanyahu said last week in honor of International Human Rights Day. And that is precisely why his people are changing the law so that only certain people will be able to govern the country.
December 12, 2011
Netanyahu backs law to ban loudspeakers at mosques
‘There’s no need to be more liberal than Europe,’ PM says of move that would ban loudspeakers in calls to prayer.
By Barak Ravid
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday voiced support for a law that would ban mosques from using loudspeaker systems to call people to prayer.
The so-called Muezzin Law, propsed by MK Anastassia Michaeli (Yisrael Beiteinu ) applies to all houses of worship but the practice is prevalent only in mosques.
“There’s no need to be more liberal than Europe,” Netanyahu said in reference to the law during a meeting of his Likud ministers.
After intense pressure from Likud ministers Limor Livnat, Dan Meridor and Michael Eitan, who harshly criticized the bill, Netanyahu announced that he was postponing the scheduled debate in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation.
Michaeli has said hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens routinely suffer from the noise caused by the muezzin’s calls to prayer.
“The bill comes from a worldview whereby freedom of religion should not be a factor in undermining quality of life,” she said.
Netanyahu made similar comments to the Likud ministers.
“I have received numerous requests from people who are bothered by the noise from the mosques,” he said. “The same problem exists in all European countries, and they know how to deal with it. It’s legitimate in Belgium; it’s legitimate in France. Why isn’t it legitimate here? We don’t need to be more liberal than Europe.”
Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor said there was no need for such a law and that it would only escalate tensions.
Michael Eitan, minister for the improvement of government services, agreed with Meridor, adding that this law was just a pretext for those wishing to legislate against Muslims. “If the desire was to combat sound, then a law against sound in all areas should be introduced,” said Eitan. “But the MK proposing the bill wants to combat religion. I met with her and she tried selling it to me as an environmental law. I said to her, ‘Look me in the eyes. You are not interested in the environment, but in Islam.”
Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat joined Eitan and Meridor, saying anyone who wishes to serve a complaint over noises coming from Mosques can already do so under existing law. “There is an anti-noise law that is supposed to deal with the problem of noise from mosques, if such a problem even exists, but that law is not enforced. There is no need for a new law, rather the proper enforcement of the existing one,” said Livnat.
“None of the ministers came to Netanyahu’s defense or supported his position,” said one minister who participated in the meeting.
Netanyahu realized he would not be able to muster a majority in support of the law among his Likud ministers, and announced that the bill would be removed from the agenda of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, which convened a few hours after the Likud meeting.
Netanyahu added, however, the matter would be debated over the coming days and that the bill would be brought before the ministerial committee next week.
As a resident of Caesarea, Netanyahu is particularly familiar with the struggles that exist over noises emerging from mosques. For some time now, Caesarea residents have been acting against the use of loudspeaker systems by mosques in the neighboring village of Jisr al-Zarqa. In the past few years, “round table” teams comprised of members from both villages have been set up to find solutions to various issues. One of the representatives from Jisr al-Zarqa told Haaretz the issue of mosques using loudspeakers has arisen in their meetings.
Head of the Jisr al-Zarqa local council Az-a-Din Amash said Netanyahu did not intervene in the discussions, adding, “We have no desire to clash with Caesarea residents over the matter, quite the opposite. As such, we established a joint committee for dialogue, in which numerous issues relating to mosques use of loudspeaker systems arise.”