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Post Chuck Hegel and the Israel Lobby
Created by John Eipper on 12/19/12 6:43 PM

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Chuck Hegel and the Israel Lobby (Henry Levin, USA, 12/19/12 6:43 pm)

I hope we can get a conversation started on the distinctions between the Israel Lobby and the Jewish people. This has come up because former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel has been nominated for Secretary of Defense, and he has said disparaging things about the Israel Lobby (calling it the Jewish Lobby) and a has shown a lack of aggressive opposition towards Hezbollah and Hamas.

The use of the term Jewish Lobby is probably thoughtless rather than deliberate, but it undermines the debate with a falsehood. I am Jewish and favor Israel's continued existence and the promotion of a just and vibrant democracy which is presently being undermined internally by the government and religious "authorities." I do not agree with all of Israel's policies on a large number of issues. I deplore Benjamin Netanyahu and many of his appointees, as well as the settlement policy. I deplore Netanyahu's arrogance and technocratic stance as opposed to a human stance on such matters (and I do not accept that he must act this way because of the bellicosity and barbarism of Hamas, while still recognizing these threats). I also deplore the assumption that the US must provide political cover and financial support for every Israeli decision.

There are many Jews with my point of view. We have our own lobby called J-Street (look it up on the Internet). The problem is that not enough of us are "establishment" to be recognized as having the power of an entrenched lobby. Further, the Israel Lobby is not just Jewish. Some of the most powerful elements are evangelists and the Christian right, who support Israel only because it fits into their interpretation of scripture and the role of Israel in the predicted Armageddon. I think that the Israel Lobby is wrong and the official US policies are wrong. There is no doubt that peace will be hard to come by from both sides of the Israeli conflict, each side is divided within itself, much of the leadership on both sides is intransigent and there are large international forces and entanglements that have a stake in encouraging a continuing stalemate with violence breaking out periodically.

I suspect that Jews who support Israel, but do not support present US or Israeli policy, are an emerging majority, though their voices are not heard because they are drowned out by the established "voices." Congress ought to recognize the fact that there is not a unified Jewish lobby. The Israel Lobby ought to recognize that we are not "self-hating" Jews, but a diverse group of fellow religionists who differ profoundly with the self-defeating and knee-jerk policies sustained by the Israel Lobby and the Congress. We want to protect Israel from its enemies by creating a two-state solution that will be workable. Of course, all problems will not disappear with this, but it gives a much better basis for Israel's security and survival and the cooperative search for longer run solutions to the problems created by both Islamic and Jewish extremists (who believe that the Koran and the Bible have all of the answers) who believe that battle and "winner-take-all" solutions through out-right war take precedence over any compromise. Such a solution will also provide a framework for solving other major problems such as the serious water shortage for the entire region and a potentially unified stance in opposition to Iranian nuclear policies (which if unleashed will not discriminate between Palestinian and Israeli or Muslim and Jew).

I have written this to stimulate the WAIS response.

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  • Chuck Hegel and the Israel Lobby (Istvan Simon, USA 12/20/12 5:53 AM)
    Though I am in agreement with Hank Levin (19 December) on many of his points, I think that he is far too harsh on Netanyahu, the Israel Lobby and US policy. I feel that the truth of the matter is that the Palestinians seem to increasingly prefer Hamas and Hezbollah to the more moderate leadership that exists on the West Bank. And as long as they do, since it It is impossible to make peace with Hamas, and therefore there is little else left to do than Netanyahu's policies, which like Hank, I also do not support.

    Israel will have elections in a few weeks. I believe that Netanyahu will win, though personally I would welcome a more moderate leadership in Israel.

    Why will Netanyahu win, we may ask? He will win because Israelis by and large see themselves surrounded by implacable enemies, countries like Iran that send deadly rockets to Hezbollah and Hamas, or Syria, where Assad's days are numbered and no one knows who will replace him, and with what kind of policies will be pursued towards Israel.

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    • The Israel Lobby (Henry Levin, USA 12/20/12 5:51 PM)

      Where Istvan Simon (20 December) and I disagree on the assessment of the present
      Israeli "leadership" and its relation to the present deterioration of
      possibilities is the one-sidedness of Istvan's perspective.

      think that Netanyahu's intransigence, defiance with the settlements,
      and inability to serve any but the most extreme factions in Israel
      (and America) serves to create a frustration and sense of futility
      among even moderate Palestinians that leads to increasing support for
      the hardliners in Hamas and Hezbollah. This is not a one-way causal
      system, but more like a dynamic system of simultaneous equations or
      gaming strategies in which one needs to examine the dynamics of both
      sides and their influence on the decisions and choices of the other.

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      • Israel, Palestine, and Rationality (Istvan Simon, USA 12/21/12 4:32 AM)
        In response to Henry Levin (20 December), I do not think that my viewpoints are one-sided in any way. I did say that I agree with Hank on most of his points, and in fact, I have said so on this Forum similar things to what he has said many times. What he fails to appreciate, is that policy in Israel and on the Palestinian side is not determined by rationality nor what would seem reasonable to him or me.

        It is not Hank or I, or anyone else here, who suffers the consequences of policies, whether misguided or not. It is the Israelis and the Palestinians who suffer primarily the consequences of these policies. So it is they that decide, and they are the ones that benefit or get harmed from the consequences of their decisions.

        I have said many times here that I do not agree with Prime Minister Netanyahu's policies. I do not support settlements, for example. But whether I agree or not with Prime Minister Netanyahu is completely irrelevant. I do not vote in Israeli elections, and while I can try to influence events in a modest way, it is the Israelis that decide what is going to happen in Israel.

        Likewise, I abhor Hamas, and think of them as terrorists and little more than murderers. For example, their political leader declared just recently, when he visited Gaza, that every inch of Palestinian soil, (and Hamas thinks of Tel Aviv as Palestinian soil!) is forever reserved for Muslims.

        Now, this is the ultimate in irrationality, given the facts on the ground, and that 6 million Jews live in Israel, and another 1.6 million Arab citizens of Israel live there, as well as hundreds of thousands of Christians. Israel is a diverse and multi-ethnic democracy. So to say that Tel Aviv will be reserved forever for Muslims, is the ultimate of irrationality. After all Tel Aviv was founded by Jews in 1909. Ex-WAISer Haim Harari's grandmother was one of the founders of Tel Aviv. Yet the Hamas leader was not booed out of Gaza, nor laughed at, but cheered.

        So clearly, Palestinian policies are not decided by rationality. Personally, I would rather have Abu Mazen, the leader of the West Bank Palestinians, than Hamas. But the Palestinians do not seem to think so. In spite of his success at the UN recently, the Palestinians think of Hamas as a better representative.

        There is not a chance in a million years that Tel Aviv will ever be reserved for Muslims alone. Yet this is what Hamas is saying, and this is what the Palestinians think should be their policies. Clearly, I can give no more convincing evidence that Palestinian choices are irrational. Yet those are their decisions.

        Now I challenge Hank to say why my perspective is one-sided. It is not. It is based on reality, not wishful thinking.



        JE comments:  Anyone willing to make the case for how the Hamas position is "rational" from their perspective?
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        • Israel, Palestine, and Rationality (Henry Levin, USA 12/21/12 4:27 PM)

          I agree that Istvan Simon (21 December) is balanced on much of the
          Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and I was responding only to what I
          considered his defense of the actions of Netanyahu, which he suggested
          were a reaction to the bellicosity of Hamas and Hezbollah. I believe
          that they extend far beyond responses to these extremists and are
          designed to harm all Palestinians and the prospect of peace. I cite
          the recent announcement that Netanyahu will not transfer the
          accumulated tax fund of the Palestinians to the Palestinian Authority
          and the deliberate provocations of his new settlement plans as
          examples. Even Netanyahu has connected these actions as his
          punishment for their seeking successfully a higher level of
          representation of the Palestinians in the UN. Moreover his naked
          vengeance seems to be promoting greater support and recognition for
          the Palestinians, not less. Even in terms of naked self-interest,
          Netanyahu makes poor strategic choices and disastrous public relations

          It is important to emphasize again that both Israeli's and the Jewish
          community in America are very much divided, not unified on these
          matters. According to the NY Times of today, 500 US Rabbis have
          issued a statement opposing the proposed housing developments that
          Netanyahu has sponsored. Increasing numbers of Jews are asserting
          that the survival of Israel as a democratic nation with secure borders
          cannot be achieved by present policies of Netanyahu and his coalition
          or the Israel lobby. We need to get Congress and the Christian Right
          to recognize this changing reality.

          JE comments:  Absolutely.

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          • Israel, Palestine, and Rationality (Tor Guimaraes, USA 12/22/12 7:47 PM)
            Even though I agree rather closely with Henry Levin's position (21 December) on the need for strategically wiser policies for Israeli coexistence with Palestinians and the rest of the world, I have a dissonant comment to make. Henry ended his post with "we need to get Congress and the Christian Right to recognize this changing reality." There might be some hope for Congress, but Christian Fundamentalists are only too eager to egg Israelis on to aggressive confrontation against the Islamic world in general. It seems as if to these "Christian" radicals Israel is merely a glorified pawn toward the Biblical self-fulfilling prophecy of Armageddon.

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          • Netanyahu and Israel's Settlement Policy (Istvan Simon, USA 12/23/12 4:04 AM)
            I basically agree with Hank Levin (21 December) on his comments about Prime Minister Netanyahu. I would like in particular to comment on his settlement policies.

            One of the founders of the settlement movement was Ariel Sharon. It was designed to eventually annex the West Bank to Israel. But it is significant that Ariel Sharon, as Prime Minister, changed his mind about the wisdom of this policy, and thus started the withdrawal of support of the Israeli government from relatively far away settlements in Judea and Samaria, that is to say, in the West Bank.

            Why did Ariel Sharon change his mind, we might ask? I think that the answer is quite simple. It has to do with demographics. The Palestinian population reproduces at a much higher rate than the Jewish population in Israel or the occupied territories does. Thus Sharon concluded that if the settlement policy were continued, then Israel would become a Muslim majority state within a few decades. Sharon changed his mind in order to preserve a Jewish majority in Israel.

            The two-state solution is predicated on the separation of the Muslim and Jewish populations that live in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza. I believe that it is the correct policy, because these two populations don't seem to be able to live in peace with each other, at least in the relatively recent past, say in the last two hundred years.

            Prime Minister Netanyahu's settlement policy, if continued, will lead to a one-state solution. Therefore, ironically, his policies have the same consequences as Hamas policies, because Hamas also defends a one-state solution, albeit one dominated by Muslims.

            The other idea that I would like to comment on is why in the Middle East extremism and what seems like unreasonableness to me prevail. This is a region of the world in which extremism is the norm, the only exceptions being Israel itself and perhaps Turkey.

            When the two-state solution got its wings, in the Oslo and Camp David Accords, Yasser Arafat cemented extremism on the Palestinian side, when he rejected out of hand the generous offers of Prime Minister Barak at Camp David 2, during the Clinton presidency. It is instructive to examine why.

            In my view, Prime Minister Barak is a reasonable man. So when he became Prime Minister, he decided that he would make a major effort to find peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As a magnificent gesture of peace, Barak withdrew unilaterally from Lebanon, where the Israeli occupation was suffering an unnecessary attrition war with Hezbollah. While the Israeli casualties in this war were relatively few, and Israel could very well have continued its occupation of southern Lebanon for decades more, the Prime Minister concluded that it was just not worth it for Israel, so he withdrew the IDF from Lebanon. It was a reasonable thing to do, and yet it was politically a major mistake. In the Middle East, unfortunately, reasonableness does not pay dividends.

            So why was the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon a major political mistake? Because Hezbollah claimed it as a military victory. More on this later.

            Barak's next move was to offer a comprehensive peace accord to Yasser Arafat at Camp David 2. The terms that he offered Arafat were absolutely generous from the Israeli point of view, and I think that it is very doubtful that the Palestinians will ever get as good an offer in the future. But Yasser Arafat rejected Barak's offer out of hand, not even bothering to discuss a counter offer, and instead haughtily left Camp David 2.

            We may ask, why did Arafat do that, against the advice of his own advisers? The answer, I believe, is that Arafat did not come to Camp David for a peace treaty. Instead he had already decided on armed conflict, that is he decided that he would launch the Intifadah at the first opportunity. And why did Arafat decide on that? Because of Prime Minister Barak's political mistake of withdrawing from Lebanon. As I said, in the Middle East reasonableness does not pay dividends. So Arafat concluded that since Israel withdrew from Lebanon, it must be that he would get a better deal by doing what Hezbollah had done in Lebanon, and enter a war of attrition with Israel. This was of course a major miscalculation, because for Israel the occupied territories and Lebanon are vastly different things. So all that Arafat got for his Intifadahs was a vast number of Palestinian dead at the cost of a much smaller number of Israelis murdered in supermarkets, buses and pizzerias by suicide murderers.

            I invite WAISers to comment on this historical overview, and in particular Hank Levin to think about its implications on what a Prime Minister of Israel should do in the current situation, remembering always that in the Middle East reasonableness unfortunately does not produce dividends.

            JE comments: I am always hesitant to opine on Palestine-Israel, but it seems to me that a unilateral Israeli moratorium on settlements, made "in the spirit of goodwill and as a prelude to a permanent and peaceful two-state arrangement" would be the best place to start. Does Netanyahu continue the settlement policy to appease Israeli hardliners, or is it to generate a more powerful bargaining chip to bring to the bargaining table?

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            • Netanyahu and Israel's Settlement Policy (Paul Pitlick, USA 12/23/12 6:47 PM)
              It's probably not too bright of me to jump into the middle of a thread on Israel/Palestine (see Istvan Simon, 23 December), but my recollection of what the Palestinians were offered in Oslo was a state chock-full of holes, which were continued Israeli settlements, plus access roads controlled by Israel. I think the Palestinians wouldn't be allowed an army, nor, as I recall, even a commercial airport. Maybe I mis-remember some of these details, but if at least some of my recollection is correct, it wouldn't have been a viable state. So, even though the Palestinians were offered "98% of what they wanted" etc., etc., and/or they were offered as much as Israel would give up, isn't it possible that Arafat realized it wouldn't work as a state? I'd have walked away, also.

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              • Netanyahu and Israel's Settlement Policy (Istvan Simon, USA 12/24/12 7:36 PM)
                Dr. Paul Pitlick (23 December) is of course entitled to his opinion, though I disagree with him.

                I disagree that what Arafat was offered by Prime Minister Barak was not a viable state. In fact various Palestinian leaders have said as much since then. Even a few Hamas leaders have declared that if Israel offered them a similar deal now, they would consider accepting it.

                To be sure, there was already a Palestinian state created by the UN in 1948. It was called Jordan. It was only subsequent events that created the strange idea, now universally accepted, that another Palestinian state was needed, basically because the PLO was unable to live in peace in any place where it has operated. Thus King Hussein eventually had to crack down on the PLO in Jordan, and expelled them from Jordan. They then established residence in Lebanon, from where they were thrown out by Israel in 1982. The PLO then went to Tunisia. It did not take long that they overstayed their welcome there as well. Maybe all these Arab countries were not offering Arafat a viable state either...

                JE comments:  Isn't territorial contiguity more or less essential for a "viable state"?

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                • Netanyahu and Israel's Settlement Policy; *The General's Son* (Tor Guimaraes, USA 12/26/12 4:38 AM)
                  I would be extremely interested in the specific opinions of Istvan Simon, John Heelan, Paul Pitlick, and Henry Levin regarding a video I mentioned earlier a few times and have sent to John Eipper. It is a discussion by the author Miko Peled of his book The General's Son. In my opinion the work provides a unique, exceptionally unbiased view of how military establishments go about appearing patriotic by creating wars and developing their own stories to look righteous and justify more resources to "defend" a nation against their mortal enemies.

                  What makes this book truly amazing is that the now peace activist author was born in Jerusalem to a well-known Zionist family. His grandfather, Avraham Katsnelson, was a Zionist leader and signer on the Israeli Declaration of Independence; and his father, Matti Peled, was a military officer in the 1948 war and a general in the 1967 war. The book basically accuses prior Israeli governments and the Netanyahu administration of deceiving the world, including the Israeli people, regarding a unnecessarily harsh militaristic approach toward Arab countries, and an active ethnic cleansing policy against the Palestinian people.

                  To me a discussion of this work by the respectable WAIS members mentioned above would be invaluable.

                  JE comments:  Who in WAISworld has read The General's Son?  I have not, but I have heard about the controversy it caused.

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                  • Peled's *The General's Son* (Henry Levin, USA 12/27/12 5:16 AM)

                    I do not have the book that Tor Guimaraes is recommending (26 December), but I do have a huge
                    backlog of reading. I am curious and will eventually get to it. I am presently
                    on "sabbatical" and spending my time in eight different countries with
                    heavy obligations for teaching and doing research.

                    But, I was taken by the statement that the Israeli military is
                    "creating wars and developing their own stories to look righteous and
                    justify more resources to 'defend' a nation against their mortal
                    enemies." I am extremely critical of Netanyahu and most of his
                    predecessors, but I doubt that anyone unbiased would doubt the
                    existence of mortal enemies of Israel and their declared purpose of
                    wiping it off the map. I ask Tor if Peled is arguing that there are
                    no mortal enemies and that this is all a ruse. Also, what does Peled
                    suggest as a solution?

                    I believe that there are paths to co-existence which have not been
                    pursued by either side. But, if Peled is denying the "mortal enemies"
                    and is asserting that the Israeli military is just pursuing a big
                    charade to "create wars," I would say that Peled has a personal ax to
                    grind for which he using a diversionary illusion to mask a personal

                    Perhaps Tor can give us a few summary paragraphs of Peled's

                    JE comments:  Greetings from Henry Levin's old stomping grounds and the birthplace of WAIS--Palo Alto, California.  Later today I'll be meeting with WAIS Board members Paul Pitlick, Laarni von Ruden (Treasurer), Roman Zhovtulya (IT Director) and Cameron Sawyer (Chair--he's visiting from Moscow), to discuss the present and future of our beloved organization, and to propose some new initiatives for 2013.  I'll post a full report on our meeting.

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                    • Peled's *The General's Son* (Tor Guimaraes, USA 12/28/12 6:35 AM)
                      First I must thank Istvan Simon (27 December) for what I believe is his honest opinion about The General's Son. Also I thank Henry Levin (27 December) for his interest and some direct questions: "I ask Tor if Peled is arguing that there are no mortal enemies and that this is all a ruse." I agree with Henry that if I had detected any hints of a positive answer to this question, I would not have recommended this book.

                      Regarding Henry's question, "what does Peled suggest as a solution?" I was impressed that for someone whose family was touched by terrorism directly, he has a turn the other cheek attitude; thus making him a better man than I am. He thinks the present Israeli government is lying to the world and the Israeli people are pursuing an ethnic cleansing program which must be stopped. He proposes and is implementing on his own a more conciliatory approach, which is bound to turn most Palestinians against their own extremists. What impressed me the most is that the author's pedigree normally would place him with Netanyahu. Instead he showed the intelligence and enormous spiritual strength to break free and promote what he thinks is right. Last, I have sent a one-hour video to John Eipper where the author discusses his book. That would be a good synopsis and save Henry time before reading the book.

                      JE comments:  Here is the video link:


                      I am a bit confused by Tor Guimaraes's answer to Henry Levin (first paragraph), regarding Israel's mortal enemies.  Perhaps Tor could explain further--is the Israeli government perpetuating a ruse or not?

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                      • Peled's *The General's Son* (Paul Levine, Denmark 12/28/12 10:19 AM)
                        Could I suggest a moratorium on discussion of Peled's The General's Son until someone has actually read the book?

                        What we get now is a digest of pre-formed opinions on Israel and the Middle East. More heat than light. Perhaps I we could agree on a resolution for 2013 for WAIS members to refrain from commenting in the dark.

                        Happy New Year!

                        JE comments: A most reasonable suggestion from Paul Levine. On the occasional tendency of WAISers to shoot from the hip, our Chairperson, Cameron Sawyer, shared this Dilbert cartoon at yesterday's Board meeting.  Here's chuckle for the New Year:


                        So I propose the following resolution for 2013:  don't be a Wally.

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                      • *The General's Son* and Toyota's Prius (Tor Guimaraes, USA 12/29/12 8:43 AM)
                        Let me respond to John Eipper's (28 December) question, "I am a bit confused by Tor Guimaraes's answer to Henry Levin (first paragraph), regarding Israel's mortal enemies. Perhaps Tor could explain further--is the Israeli government perpetuating a ruse or not?"

                        To me this is a difficult question, analogous to asking if the US has mortal enemies. Of course we do/have had mortal enemies, in the sense that they wish(ed) they could destroy us at some point in time: Vietnam, the USSR, China, Saddam Hussein's Iraq with WMD, the Taliban, Fidel Castro and Guevara, etc. Similarly, it will take a long time and many strategic mistakes before any enemies will do more than talk about Israel's destruction. Answering more directly, I saw no evidence that Peled, author of The General's Son, thinks no one is trying to destroy Israel. He does think that the Israeli military establishment is manipulating the Israeli people, and that right-wing political parties controlling the Israeli government are engaged in ethnic cleansing. Fortunately, now everyone can watch the video and/or read the book, and make their own minds.

                        Minor correction: My 27 December post stated, "He [Peled] thinks the present Israeli government is lying to the world and the Israeli people and pursuing an ethnic cleansing program which must be stopped." During editing John inadvertently changed the statement to "He thinks the present Israeli government is lying to the world and the Israeli people are pursuing an ethnic cleansing program which must be stopped." The Israeli people are not.

                        Last, a brief comment/question about Istvan Simon's Toyota Prius: My wife bought one of the first Prii in the US. We were extremely impressed with a 55 to 59 MPG on the road. At purchase time I was leery of buying "new technology" still untested in the marketplace. After four years and 58K miles of driving the car without any problems, my wife traded it in for a regular but also efficient car (very pretty). While shopping for the new car, my big surprise was that the newer Prius is not as gas efficient; none deliver the 55 to 59 MPG. Why?

                        JE comments: Four years and 58,000 miles? I'm jealous--I put that many miles on a car in 18 months.

                        After our lunch yesterday, Istvan Simon let me take the wheel of his plug-in Prius for a spin around Palo Alto. I would have said that Istvan "handed me the keys," but there is no need to do this with a Prius. (If you have the key in your pocket, it's sufficient just to push a starter button, and even then nothing happens, as the engine fires up only when you move.) The plug-in drives just like a small conventional car, and it's peppy and nimble.  I never had the chance to drive on battery-only, however, as Istvan had used up the reserve on his drive from Pleasanton.

                        Regarding Tor's question about the lower mileage of the new Prius: I suspect that Prii, like most of us, have put on weight in recent years, with extra airbags and all the requisite doodads.

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                  • Peled's *The General's Son* (Istvan Simon, USA 12/27/12 5:54 AM)
                    In response to Tor Guimaraes (26 December), I have not read Miko Peled's book, so I can only offer some preliminary comments, having read some of the reviews of the book by very sympathetic reviewers.

                    Miko Peled's journey may have led him to pacifism and the view that Israel is too harsh on the Palestinians. It is a painful journey.

                    He describes in his book the funeral of his cousin, a mere child, who was killed by a suicide murderer, and that he met Ehud Barak there, who was to become Prime Minister not much later. He describes a confrontation with Barak on this occasion, in which he defended the absurd idea (absurd in my opinion), that his cousin was killed because Israel occupied Palestinian land. While one has to respect Miko Peled's opinions, and the journey that led him to this conclusion, there is absolutely no evidence that Miko Peled can offer that things would be better or different if the policies he advocates were to be put in practice. On the contrary, there is ample evidence, in my opinion, that they would be worse.

                    Let us examine the Miko Peled's assertion, that his cousin was murdered because Israel occupied Palestinian land. This incredible statement is demonstrably false and ridiculous. For prior to 1967, Israel did not occupy Palestinian land, at least not in the opinion of the UN. Hamas, as I have mentioned, thinks of Tel Aviv as "occupied territory, that needs to be reserved for Muslims forever." Now clearly, it is impossible for Israel to make peace with people who think this way. Anyway, let's go back to say May 1967, when Israel was not occupying any Palestinian land according to the UN.

                    Now, according to Miko Peled's logic, since Israel was not occupying Palestinian land in May 1967, the Palestinians should have made peace with Israel. But it is a historical fact that they did not! On the contrary, in May 1967 Assad's father, Hafez Assad of Syria, was bombarding Israel every day with heavy artillery that caused many civilian casualties in Israel, from the Golan Heights, then under Syria's control. Peled does not describe the funerals of the Israeli babies that were killed in Kyriat Shimona and places like that by those artillery shells. I wonder how he would characterize their deaths, since Israel was not then an occupying power. Of course Peled does not remember much of this, because he was 6 years old at the time. But for someone writing a book about Israeli policy, one would expect that he would study some history.

                    Or let's go back to 1920, when Israel did not yet exist as a modern state. Why were Jews being murdered in 1920 in Jerusalem? That they were murdered in large numbers, all that Miko Peled would have to do to understand, is again study some history. He should also ask why the same individual that was organizing the murder of Jews in Jerusalem, then organized the murder of 3,000 Iraqi Jews, whose ancestors had been living in Iraq for thousands of years, in fact way before Muhammad walked on this Earth.

                    I would have recommended that Miko Peled read this and reflect a bit on what it means, before writing a book in which he asserts that Israeli policy towards the Palestinians is "too harsh." Mass murder is way harsher, and yet Palestinian Haj Amin al Husseini, a mass murderer and war criminal, died unmolested in Lebanon in 1974, 54 years after he committed mass murder.


                    So I say based on these facts that there is no evidence that if Miko Peled's pacifist ideas were put in practice, things would be better. There is plenty of evidence that they would be worse.

                    Now a few final words for Tor Guimaraes. In my opinion, Tor is way too impressed by Miko Peled's credentials. While Mr. Peled's journey is worthy of reflection, it is a well-known joke that if you see three Jews in Israel, they are going to found 4 political parties. Which is to say only that Israel is a democracy, and political discussion is alive and well and healthy in Israel. So one can find ultra left-wing pacifists like Miko Peled, and all opinions in between from there to the extreme right wing, to people that think that Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) should be settled by Jews.

                    If only one could say the same about the Palestinians with whose plight Tor is so sympathetic. Alas, no such democracy remotely exists under Hamas or the PLO. There are no pacifists in the West Bank who can freely say what Miko Peled has written and undoubtedly said aloud often enough in Israel. And that is why Peled is wrong that it is possible to find peace with the Palestinians at this time. I think that maybe when there will be people in the West Bank and Gaza who say publicly loud and clear and unmolested that the Palestinians should find peace with Israel, that Tel Aviv is not occupied territory and will never be reserved for Muslims alone, that it is imbecilic to bombard Israel with 2140 rockets in a year, and furthermore also deeply wrong--then but only then one could re-examine Peled's ideas.

                    JE comments: Yes, but somebody has to be the first to offer the peace branch. Is it an ultra left-wing pacifist idea to suggest that Israel take the first step? In the meantime, Israel this week announced plans to build 1200 new settlement houses in E Jerusalem. This is not a positive step for peace or Israel's image in the court of world opinion.

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                  • Peled's *The General's Son* (John Heelan, -UK 12/27/12 9:13 AM)

                    Also in response to Tor Guimaraes (26 December), I too have not read Miko Peled's book, only a variety of reviews. My reason for the non-reading is that I am always wary of books by "born-agains," whether they be religious, political or nationalist, because they usually interpret past events in ways that support their personal reasons for conversion. I prefer relying on analyses by professional historians.

                    JE comments:  An important point.  "Born-agains" are always the strongest zealots...but zeal is also the best agent for positive change (and negative change too, I suspect).

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                • Netanyahu and Israel's Settlement Policy (Paul Pitlick, USA 01/27/13 5:45 AM)

                  This is a somewhat belated response to Istvan Simon's post of 24 December 2012. Istvan is, of course, correct that I expressed an opinion (which he disagrees with). He also cites the opinions of "various Palestinian leaders." However, I wish that Istvan had addressed the basis for my opinion. I had said, "my recollection of what the Palestinians were offered in Oslo was a state chock-full of holes, which were continued Israeli settlements, plus access roads controlled by Israel. I think the Palestinians wouldn't be allowed an army, nor, as I recall, even a commercial airport." Aside from my mention of "Oslo" (it should have been "Camp David"), is this information incorrect?

                  I won't cite too many references, but see this link (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2000_Camp_David_Summit ).

                  One sentence: "The West Bank would be split in the middle by an Israeli-controlled road from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, with free passage for Palestinians, although Israel reserved the right to close the road to passage in case of emergency."

                  Another: "Additional grounds of rejection was that the Israeli proposal planned to annex areas which would lead to a cantonization of the West Bank into three blocs. Settlement blocs, bypassed roads and annexed lands would create barriers between Nablus and Jenin with Ramallah. The Ramallah bloc would in turn be divided from Bethlehem and Hebron. A separate and smaller bloc would contain Jericho. Further, the border between West Bank and Jordan would additionally be under Israeli control. The Palestinian Authority would receive pockets of East Jerusalem which would be surrounded entirely by annexed lands in the West Bank."

                  But you really need to see a map to understand what that means. I couldn't find a map of the Camp David proposal, but I think the map found here (http://www.fmep.org/reports/archive/vol.-18/v18n3/map-projection-of-israels-west-bank-partition-plan-2008 ) illustrates the "cantonization" mentioned.

                  In summary, I'd like to ask Istvan if he could cite a successful "state" that has had no control over its borders, no control over internal movements of people within it, no army or air force, nor control over its airspace? I just don't see how that's viable. Oh yes, I'm looking for a fact (i.e. name a state), not another opinion.

                  I would also question Randy Black's opinion of 28 December: "As I understand these matters, the Palestinians might have had their independent state for the past dozen years, thousands would not be dead on both sides and all would be generally peaceful except for the bloodthirsty nature of the super wealthy thief Yasser Arafat, aka Mohammed Abdel Rahman Abdel Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husseini." Years ago, many of my Jewish friends insisted that once Arafat was out of the picture, the Palestinian problem would be much more solvable.

                  To paraphrase Sarah Palin, how's that working out?

                  PS: John Eipper mentioned the split between Gaza and the West Bank. Also from the Wikipedia article: "In the Israeli proposal, the West Bank and Gaza Strip would be linked by an elevated highway and an elevated railroad running through the Negev, ensuring safe and free passage for Palestinians." Nobody should be surprised that the next sentence is: "This highway would be under the sovereignty of Israel, and Israel reserved the right to close the highway to passage in case of emergency."

                  JE comments: Who would pay for this elevated highway/railroad?  Even more importantly, think of what could be achieved in education and infrastructure development with that money.

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                  • Netanyahu and Israel's Settlement Policy (Istvan Simon, USA 01/28/13 2:08 AM)
                    Paul Pitlick's quotes (27 January) from the Wikipedia article on the Camp David negotiations are very selective. I disagree with his claims, and so I would like to cite a larger paragraph from the same article:

                    "The Palestinian negotiators indicated they wanted full Palestinian sovereignty over the entire West Bank and the Gaza Strip, although they would consider a one-to-one land swap with Israel. They maintained that Resolution 242 calls for full Israeli withdrawal from these territories, which were captured in the Six-Day War, as part of a final peace settlement, although Israel disputes this interpretation of Resolution 242. In the 1993 Oslo Accords the Palestinian negotiators accepted the Green Line borders for the West Bank but the Israelis rejected this proposal. They wanted to annex the numerous settlement blocks on the Palestinian side of the Green Line, and were concerned that a complete return to the 1967 borders was dangerous to Israel's security.[citation needed]

                    "Barak offered to form a Palestinian State initially on 73% of the West Bank (that is, 27% less than the Green Line borders) and 100% of the Gaza Strip. In 10-25 years, the Palestinian state would expand to a maximum of 92% of the West Bank (94% excluding greater Jerusalem). As a result, Israel would have withdrawn from 63 settlements. Israel would only keep the settlements with large populations. All others would be dismantled, with the exception of Kiryat Arba (adjacent to the holy city of Hebron), which would be an Israeli enclave inside the Palestinian state, and would be linked to Israel by a bypass road. The West Bank would be split in the middle by an Israeli-controlled road from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, with free passage for Palestinians, although Israel reserved the right to close the road to passage in case of emergency. In return, Israel would allow the Palestinians to use a highway in the Negev to connect the West Bank with Gaza. In the Israeli proposal, the West Bank and Gaza Strip would be linked by an elevated highway and an elevated railroad running through the Negev, ensuring safe and free passage for Palestinians. This highway would be under the sovereignty of Israel, and Israel reserved the right to close the highway to passage in case of emergency.

                    "However, Israel would retain around 9% of Palestinian lands in exchange for 1% of Israeli land. The land that would be conceded included symbolic and cultural territories such as the Al-Aqsa Mosque, whereas the Israeli land conceded was unspecified. Additional to territorial concessions, Palestinian airspace would be controlled by Israel under Barak's offer.

                    "Additional grounds of rejection was that the Israeli proposal planned to annex areas which would lead to a cantonization of the West Bank into three blocs. Settlement blocs, bypassed roads and annexed lands would create barriers between Nablus and Jenin with Ramallah. The Ramallah bloc would in turn be divided from Bethlehem and Hebron. A separate and smaller bloc would contain Jericho. Further, the border between West Bank and Jordan would additionally be under Israeli control. The Palestinian Authority would receive pockets of East Jerusalem which would be surrounded entirely by annexed lands in the West Bank."

                    Now, the "cantonization" quote is entirely a Palestinian point of view, and one that was adopted as a negotiating position to extract possibly greater concessions from Israel. Paul Pitlick is of course entitled to agree with the Palestinian negotiating position. But he cannot expect that I must also agree with these characterizations. And I don't.

                    It is clear from the larger quote that I included above, that Prime Minister Barak offered unprecedented major concessions to Yasser Arafat, including the complete dismantlement of 63 Jewish Settlements.

                    Further, such a proposal can only be interpreted in a fair light, if the history of the conflict is taken into account, including the experience of the Israelis, that have been murdered and attacked continuously since at least the 1920s, thus much before the modern state of Israel came into existence. Once again, Paul Pitlick is entitled to his opinions, and therefore to ignore these facts, and discuss the creation of a Palestinian state as if it were some sort of abstract exercise in map making. But in my view, such a position will never succeed, because Israel will not ever agree, in my considered judgement, and in my opinion rightly so.

                    The restrictions on the Palestinian state to be, are there for a reason. The reason is the history of the Palestinians against the Jews, that have been murdering Jews and later Israelis for over 90 years. That is why they would not have complete control of their borders, and other like restrictions. It is in my opinion very foolish to say, that because of this a Palestinian state would not be viable. On the contrary, it would be very much viable, and the restrictions could very well be removed at a future time, if the Palestinians were to show that they can live in peace with their Jewish neighbors.

                    Finally, I want to address Dr. Pitlick's comment in which he asked, quoting Sarah Palin, "how is that working out for you?"

                    I will answer him by asking him and the Palestinians the same question: "How is it working out for you, your decision to launch an Intifadah instead of accepting Prime Minister Barak's proposal, or at least offer a counter-proposal?"

                    Are you really better off than you might be, had you accepted that proposal, even if we accept the "cantonization" interpretation? Does Dr. Pitlick think that the Palestinians have gotten closer to a "non-cantonized" state since the Camp David negotiations, or rather further away from such a goal?

                    JE comments: I believe we can agree that the Palestinians are now further away from a non-cantonized state than they were at Camp David. But the region is also further away from peace.  One thing that both sides in this conflict must do is to stop citing "history" as a justification for their present positions.  They must start with a clean state, or else a two-state solution will never be reached.

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                    • Camp David 2000 (John Heelan, -UK 01/28/13 8:20 AM)
                      In response to Istvan Simon (28 January), the following article from the Jewish Virtual Library on "Camp David 2000" makes interesting reading and is perhaps a better source than Wikipedia.


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                      • Camp David 2000 (Istvan Simon, USA 01/29/13 4:59 AM)
                        I am much obliged to John Heelan (28 January) for forwarding this excellent summary of what happened at the Camp David negotiations and the subsequent offer which was even more generous than what was offered at Camp David.

                        I would be interested in Paul Pitlick's comments (and JE's, who has repeated here some of the mis-characterizations of what was offered in previous comments, e.g., the "Swiss cheese" theory, the non-contiguous-state-impediment theory, and the "cantonization" theory), since the article explicitly states that none of these applied to the final offer that Arafat rejected. It is therefore clear that these "objections" had been red herrings, because when the final offer was presented by President Clinton, each of these previous supposedly major objections had been addressed in Arafat's favor, and yet Arafat did not have anything positive to say.

                        The following quote says it all:

                        Nonetheless, the three leaders met at the White House in December and a final settlement proposal was offered. The US plan offered by Clinton and endorsed by Barak would have given the Palestinians 97 percent of the West Bank (either 96 percent of the West Bank and 1 percent from Israel proper or 94 percent from the West Bank and 3 percent from Israel proper), with no cantons, and full control of the Gaza Strip, with a land-link between the two; Israel would have withdrawn from 63 settlements as a result. In exchange for the three percent annexation of the West Bank, Israel would increase the size of the Gaza territory by roughly a third. Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem would become the capital of the new state, and refugees would have the right of return to the Palestinian state, and would receive reparations from a $30 billion international fund collected to compensate them. The Palestinians would maintain control over their holy places, and would be given desalinization plants to ensure them adequate water. The only concessions Arafat had to make was Israeli sovereignty over the parts of the Western Wall religiously significant to Jews (i.e., not the entire Temple Mount), and three early warning stations in the Jordan valley, which Israel would withdraw from after six years.

                        Now, I would like to emphasize in this, that the Palestinians, in my opinion, will never get such an offer again from Israel. For what President Clinton offered, and Prime Minister Barak fully endorsed, was the division of Jerusalem, in which the Palestinians would get East Jerusalem, in which they could have their capital. No Israeli government will ever offer this again, and in my opinion rightly so. I have thought about the issue of Jerusalem for a long time, before and after Camp David, and I fully support the annexation of Jerusalem to Israel, and I have consistently defended that position within WAIS. Jerusalem shall never again be divided, and so I think that Barak went way too far, not that he did not go far enough. By not accepting this offer, Arafat committed a major blunder, and the Palestinians lost their best chance at peace. If they ever shall want peace again (it is not clear to me that the Palestinians want peace--Hamas certainly does not), they will have to accept less generous terms.

                        JE comments: As a language guy, I find it interesting that both "cantons" and Swiss cheese have Helvetic connotations--but Switzerland is a peaceful multilingual society. Istvan Simon has written several times that the Camp David offer of 2000 presented Palestine with the chance for a geographically viable state. Since the offer was rejected, we'll never know. Might Arafat have been most concerned with the de facto hegemony of Israel over a new Palestine, given its "warning stations," control of access roads and the like?

                        I think we've exhausted the topic of what might have been. Dovetailing on Paul Levine's post of earlier today, I'd like to refocus our discussion and ask what influence Lapid's secularists might have on the peace process.

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                        • Camp David 2000, Revisited (Paul Pitlick, USA 02/11/13 2:11 AM)
                          Here's a somewhat belated response to Istvan Simon's post of 29 January, in which Istvan responded to my previous questions with a list of things Israel would have given up for establishment of a Palestinian state. For example, they would have relinquished 63 settlements. And there would be a road and train connecting the West Bank and Gaza.

                          But my issue was with what Israel wouldn't allow. For example, the Israeli settlements left within the Palestinian "state" would have been under Israel's control, including access. Also the Gaza-West Bank highway/train would have been under Israel's control, as well as the borders and the airspace of the new state. So my question was, "How many 'states' in the history of the world were not allowed to control their own borders or air space, nor control internal movements of their own people and/or citizens of a hostile neighbor, and were not allowed to have a military?" Finally, if we can think of any, "How'd they do long-term?"

                          JE comments: That's a head-scratcher. The only examples I can think of are the Vatican and perhaps the UN. Both of these are unique "states," however, and certainly not comparable to Palestine.  Moreover, neither is surrounded by a hostile neighbor, although there have been times when the Vatican has been at odds with the secular authorities in Rome and Italy.  And finally, the Vatican has its own military, albeit foreign.  Their weaponry is obsolete, but they make up for it with snazzy uniforms.

                          Returning to Israel/Palestine, Paul Pitlick asks a specific question:  did the Israeli offer at Camp David give Palestine any realistic chance for a viable state?  Istvan Simon has already answered that it was the best offer the Palestinians could ever hope for.  This may be true, but it doesn't directly address Paul's question.

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                          • Viability of a Palestinian State (Istvan Simon, USA 02/12/13 5:55 AM)
                            Per the Camp David offer of 2000, the Israeli settlements that were to be left are all very near to Israeli soil. So what Paul Pitlick says (11 February) is just not true. The Palestinians would have had a state, and they would have controlled the movements of their own people unfettered.

                            If they learned to live with Israel in peace, in due time they could have control of their airspace too. These objections are frankly just red herrings. No one cares in their ordinary lives, about who controls their airspace. Particularly if there is peace. It is just not an issue that matters to most ordinary people. It certainly does not matter to me. Spy satellites can see if I am naked or not in the privacy of my own backyard. Who cares?

                            The United States violated the airspace of the Soviet Union pretty regularly, and yet no one ever said that the Soviet Union was not a viable state. If we could violate their airspace, it follows that they did not control it. And it was a good thing too, because it was through the U-2 flights that President Eisenhower knew that the Pentagon's estimates of Soviet military strength were grossly exaggerated.

                            Costa Rica does not have an army, and certainly does not control its airspace. Any number of neighboring countries can violate it at will. Is Costa Rica not a viable state? When I was in Costa Rica, not one Costa Rican complained that their airspace can be violated, say, by Nicaragua. It is just not an issue at all if there is peace.


                            JE comments: I agree with Istvan on one point: when there is peace, no one cares about airspace. But the Costa Rica analogy is far-fetched. First of all, CR should be compared to Israel, not Palestine, as it's far more prosperous than Nicaragua and also enjoys US protection. Most importantly, Costa Rica and Nicaragua aren't competing for control of the same homeland. Therein lies the biggest obstacle to peace in Israel.

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                            • Viability of a Palestinian State (Paul Pitlick, USA 02/13/13 1:26 AM)
                              I'll try to make this my last response to Istvan Simon's posts about a proposed Palestinian "state." Concerning Istvan's contention (12 February) that "the Israeli settlements that were to be left are all very near to Israeli soil," I looked all over the web for maps of where the remaining settlements were located, as well as the access roads, and I was unable to find any, but there were many settlements throughout the West Bank in 2000. In the "trust but verify mode," could Istvan please cite a reference or two?

                              Also, my understanding is that the travel of Palestinian farmers who have land on both sides of an Israeli access road is actually quite "fettered." If Istvan disagrees with this, I hope there will be some reference(s) to substantiate his opinion. While it's true I may have gleaned this from pro-Palestinian websites, there must be some objective data somewhere about how Palestinian interests are either protected or dismissed by the Israelis with respect to settlements as well as the access roads, within the West Bank. The settlements are one thing, but my understanding is that a fair amount of inconvenience for the Palestinians is related to the roads which Israel controls, not just the settlements.

                              JE comments: "Trust but verify": doveryai, no proveryai. It's striking that one of the all-time great Reagan quotes was in Russian.  Even more striking (to me) is that Reagan first popularized this proverb in 1987, over 25 years ago.

                              A question for Cameron Sawyer:  Is "doveryai no proveryai" still commonly heard in Russia, and if so, is it done with a nod to the Great Communicator?

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                              • Viability of a Palestinian State (John Heelan, -UK 02/13/13 2:48 PM)
                                I read with interest the recent interchange between Paul Pitlick and Istvan Simon on Israeli/Palestinian negotiations. "Camp David" by Israel's supporters is often cited as a "chance missed." But was it really? To me, it appears that it was just another of the ritual dances demanded of both parties at regular intervals by the US and the International community, in which neither of the parties was really interested reaching an agreement. So once again it followed the usual pattern of an offer being made--knowing it would be unacceptable to the other party--who was determined to reject any offer, no matter how acceptable it would be. Each party ends up blaming the other for the lack of agreement that neither really wants. And so the dance goes on! Both parties pirouette in solitude, while continuing to enjoy political and economic support from their sponsors. Will the music ever stop?

                                JE comments: John Heelan gives perhaps the most incisive interpretation yet of the Israel/Palestine conflict: there's no peace because enough powerful people on both sides don't want it.  But where do we go from here?  Keep dancing this Dance of Death? 

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            • Netanyahu and Israel's Settlement Policy (John Heelan, -UK 12/24/12 4:55 PM)
              JE asked on 23 December: "Does Netanyahu continue the settlement policy to appease Israeli hardliners, or is it to generate a more powerful bargaining chip to bring to the bargaining table?"

              Given the recent merger of Likud and Ysrael-Beiteinu to form Likud-Beiteinu, it is probable that one of the costs to Netanyahu of political survival in the next election was to agree to Ysrael-Beiteinu's constant policy of settlement expansion.

              However, as I have argued many times in WAIS, the settlement strategy--dating back to Jabotinsky--has been maintained by successive Knessets for the last 60 years or so with three major objectives. Firstly an attempt to salami-slice towards Eretz Yisrael. Secondly, to "Balkanize" the West Bank and Gaza to make a viable and contiguous Palestinian state difficult to achieve. Lastly, as protection against any future peace solution forced upon Israel by the international community (or a war with Arab states), by having as many pawns in place to allow it to argue a peace treaty based on the "pieces lying where they currently are."

              The strategy is valid from an Israeli perspective. History shows that neither Israel nor Palestine is truly interested in changing the status quo, despite the PR weasel-words that both sides frequently emit to placate world opinion and continue gaining benefits from their sponsors. The sore will continue to suppurate unless and until there is a cataclysmic event that changes the status quo. Of course, no supporters of either side is willing to admit the realpolitik of the situation.

              JE comments:  No argument from me here.

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  • The Israel Lobby (Tor Guimaraes, USA 12/20/12 5:41 PM)
    I am in complete agreement with Henry Levin's last statements (19 December). Furthermore, I venture to say if the present Israeli government would behave more in line with Henry's philosophy toward the implementation of wiser and more constructive policies, Islamic extremists would lose their success at recruiting new members. Then, and only then, we might allow the Israelis and Palestinians to raise their families in peace.

    JE comments: And a peaceful and warm Holiday greeting to Tor Guimaraes. Greetings to all from Key West, the southernmost city in the (continental) US.  Tomorrow we're going to do a full day of tourism, including the Hemingway house and the "Little White House," former home of Harry S. Truman.

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