(Another) Knesset Speaker endorses one-state solution

Posted: December 24th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off

Former Knesset Speaker Abrum Burg has an op-ed in Haaretz in which he not only endorses the one-state solution, but calls the entire left to do the same. Burg has flirted with the idea in the past, but he was never so explicit:

So enough of the illusions. There are no longer two states between the Jordan River and the sea… we [the left] must consider how we can enter into the new Israeli discourse. It has intriguing potential. The next diplomatic formula that will replace the “two states for two peoples” will be a civilian formula. All the people between the Jordan and the sea have the same right to equality, justice and freedom. In other words, there is a very reasonable chance that there will be only one state between the Jordan and the sea – neither ours nor theirs but a mutual one. It is likely to be a country with nationalist, racist and religious discrimination and one that is patently not democratic, like the one that exists today. But it could be something entirely different. An entity with a common basis for at least three players: an ideological right that is prepared to examine its feasibility; a left, part of which is starting to free itself of the illusions of “Jewish and democratic”; and a not inconsiderable part of the Palestinian intelligentsia.

The conceptual framework will be agreed upon – a democratic state that belongs to all of its citizens. The practicable substance could be fertile ground for arguments and creativity. This is an opportunity worth taking, despite our grand experience of missing every opportunity and accusing everyone else except ourselves.

The rest of the article is interesting as well; Burg writes against the habit of Jewish leftists to argue on behalf of the state and even the government abroad, thus helping the right carry out its policies undisturbed: “Let the right-wing MKs, the Katzes and the Elkins, travel around the world and show the beauty of their faces without the deceptive layer of makeup we  provided.”

A year ago, asked by +972 whether it’s time to move from a two-state vision to a one-state model, Burg said:

In Israel, there is a real fear of confrontation with the armed messianic forces living among us. Anyway our government policies are drawn from the power of the settler vision. It seems that the only way to balance this is an alternative suggestion of one state between the Jordan and the sea.  Secular, democratic, egalitarian and civilian.

It looks like recent developments and the expansionist policies of the current government have convinced Burg that it’s time to join the growing one state camp.

It’s interesting to note that the current Knesset Speaker, Reuven Rivlin (Likud), a rightwing hawk, also prefers a single state to two, arguing that “this land is not divisible.” Rivlin doesn’t support the “one person, one vote” model Burg is referring to, but mulls over what seems like a multi-national entity, possibly with two parliaments.

This is from an interview I did with Rivlin a year and a half ago:

“There is a conflict in the Middle East between two entities, and they’re both right, each in their own way. This is our only home, and therefore all kinds of solutions can be found. One could establish a system in one state in which Judea and Samaria are jointly held. The Jews would vote for a Jewish parliament and the Palestinians for an Arab parliament, and we would create a system in which life is shared. But these are things that will take time. Anyone who thinks that there are shortcuts is talking nonsense. As long as Islamic fundamentalism thinks that Jews are forbidden to settle in the Holy Land, we have a problem. It will not be resolved by an agreement, even if we obtain a promise from all the Arab states that it will be fine.

“So if people say to me: Decide − one state or division of the Land of Israel, I say that division is the bigger danger.

Who’s next in line?


Jewish Student Union in Berkeley boycotts J Street

Posted: December 8th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left, The Right, the US and us | Tags: , , , | Comments Off

The isolation of J Street and other Jewish groups that are critical of Israeli policies is evidence of a growing moral crisis in the American Jewish community

This post was updated.

A couple of years ago, while spending some time in the States, I was invited to a dinner at a Jewish friend’s home. “Just one thing,” my friend, a smart liberal lefty, said. “Don’t mention Israel by the table. The inevitable argument will ruin the evening.”

This, and a few similar experiences, led me to offer my editors in Haaretz a story about the Jewish community’s “Israel problem,” i.e., the inability to engage in a serious discussion about Israel. The working title we gave the piece was “Israel – not at the dinner table.” It was published almost year ago, and since then, things seem to have gotten worse.

Last week, the University of Berkeley’s Jewish Student Union rejected a request by J Street to join. This was the first time a Jewish chapter was denied membership in the union. Jacob Lewis, one of the leaders of the opposition to J Street at the Student Union, told San Francisco’s J Weekly that he has been suspicious J Street ever since he attended an event in which the group hosted Assaf Sharon of the Sheikh Jarrah Movement as a speaker. Sharon said that “everything beyond the Green Line is a settlement,” and Lewis concluded that this was “a virulently hateful event about Israel.”

I wonder if Lewis is not that knowledgeable on politics, or if he has joined the war on reality that some advocates for Israel have recently declared. What would you call construction projects east of the Green Line if not “settlements?” And it’s not just Assaf Sharon stating this position, but also every U.S. Administration to date.

The fact is that by Israeli political standards – which have seen a dramatic shift to the right in recent years – J Street’s positions are part of the mainstream. But even the very limited debate that is taking place in Israel seems to be too “radical” for the taste of many Jewish Americans these days (And also for the taste of many Americans. Prime Minister Rabin used to say that the occupation fuels hatred for Israel and for Jews, but repeat this in Washington today and your career might be in danger.)

Still, how could we blame 20-year-old Lewis, if the leaders of his community are too afraid to engage in those questions? Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman, executive director of Hillel Berkeley, which funds the Jewish Student Union, wasn’t present at the vote on J Street, and his comments on the matter to J Week were so careful that you need another Rabbi to explain what he meant:

“We have to be very careful in how we talk about Israel and how we define our tent, because the stability and strength of Israel’s future is dependent on the strength of our Jewish community, and by that I mean every facet of our community. We always have to be careful about who we include and exclude.”

If this is all the Rabbi has to say to his students in one of their most important political decisions ever, why do you need a Rabbi at Hillel? And if students are not encouraged to deal with new – and even “radical” – positions when they are in their early twenties, what hope there is of developing a new generation of sensitive, smart and sophisticated leaders?

The debate regarding Israel is probably the greatest moral challenge this generation of Jews will face, and so far, things don’t look very good. In my last visit to the States, I got the sense that many Jews, especially from the liberal side, prefer to walk away from this problem altogether (something which is in direct contradiction to the growing interest non-Jewish liberals find in the Middle East, and in Israel/Palestine in particular). I was repeatedly told of Rabbis who wouldn’t host events on Israel, fearing that the internal debate they would spark would get out of control to a point that would endanger their own position.

The question of J Street in Berkeley is not very important for future political developments in Israel and Palestine. The resistance to the occupation will continue and the pressure on Israel is likely to grow – not because of J Street or anything else American Jews will or won’t do, but due to the simple fact that Palestinians will continue to fight for their rights as long as Israel denies them. What’s at stake in Berkeley – and in many other places all across America – is the moral integrity of the Jewish community, and its ability to examine conflicting values.

I am not a big fan of some of J street’s latest positions (which I have criticized) and still, one has to admit that J Street is trying to offer a space to engage with those issues in a way that goes beyond echoing Israeli talking points. The isolation of J Street, and other progressive Jewish groups is further evidence of the spiritual and moral crisis into which the Jewish community is sinking.

UPDATE: It seems that some people in Berkeley Hillel, including Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman, regret not voicing a stronger opinion before the vote on J Street at the JSU. Rabbi Naftalin-Kelman and Barbara Davis, President of the Board of Directors of Berkeley Hillel, have sent this letter to the J Weekly (it is yet to be published):

Dear Editor

Berkeley Hillel is steadfastly committed to the support of Israel as a Jewish and democratic State with secure and recognized borders and as a member of the family of free nations.  Berkeley Hillel supports a range of student groups whose activities advance our mission.  The JStreetU chapter adheres to our Israel policy and Hillel International’s Israel Guidelines and will receive the support of Berkeley Hillel as do the broad spectrum of other Israel-focused groups working with Berkeley Hillel including, Bears for Israel (AIPAC group), Tikvah: Students for Israel,  Israel Action Committee, Tamid, and Kesher Enoshi.

We respect the right of the Jewish Student Union, an organization sponsored by UC Berkeley student government, to make its own decisions, but we encourage JSU to reconsider its vote and include JStreetU as a member.

Berkeley Hillel is committed to creating a pluralistic community that embraces the diversity of our Jewish tradition.  In honoring the spirit of college students, we work to guide, mentor, and facilitate their unique Jewish expression. At a time when Jewish students are seeking community, we are careful not to exclude Jewish students, and we embrace the wisdom of our namesake Hillel by embodying the value of an inclusive community.

Barbara Davis
Board President on Behalf of the Board of Directors of Berkeley Hillel
Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman
Executive Director

As I said, I have a feeling we will witness many more such cases in the months and years to come.

———————

Further reading on this issue:
Bradley Burston in Haaretz: When Jews in Berkeley vote to cut support for Israel


EXCLUSIVE: Report on politics department at Ben Gurion University

Posted: November 30th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, media, The Right | Tags: , , | Comments Off

Last week, the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth broke a story about a draft report by an evaluation committee commissioned by Israel’s Council for Higher Education (CHE), recommending closing the Department of Politics and Government at Ben Gurion University if changes are not made, including to the perceived political leaning of the department. The department has been the target of a campaign by the radical rightwing movement Im Tirzu for its “lefty” political leaning.

Despite pleas from dozens of academics that protested this attempt to supervise the political opinions raised in classrooms, the Council for Higher Education voted to adopt the report yesterday.

Haaretz has revealed that before the committee was formed, one of its members was replaced with a rightwing professor. Furthermore, committee member Prof. Galia Golan refused to sign the report, claiming it was politically-motivated. Instead, Golan  wrote a Minority Opinion (can be read at the end of the report below), in which she wrote that the demand “for a balance (of views) in the classroom… runs directly counter to the principle of academic freedom.”

Here is the full report, made public for the first time:

 

BGU Report


Despite denials, JNF to continue eviction effort of Jerusalem Palestinians

Posted: November 28th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Right, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off

A recent comment by the Jewish National Fund makes it clear that previous statements by its US office were lies

The Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF), one of the most respected and well-known institutions in Zionist history, has become involved in a controversy over the attempted evacuation of an East Jerusalem family from its home. After denying its major part in the affair, the JNF has now gone back to threatening legal action against the Sumarin family, unless all family members leave their home in Silwan immediately.

Over the last two decades, Silwan, the biggest Palestinian neighborhood in Jerusalem, has been the target of major colonization efforts by Jewish settlers.

Most people know the JNF because of its tree-planting campaigns. On its site, the JNF invites donors to sponsor a tree in Israel, or plant one on their own. It also takes pride having planted 240 million trees in Israel. Yet the JNF’s primary function is keeping state land exclusively in Jewish hands. The JNF now controls 13 percent of the land in Israel. As a policy, the fund – a non-profit which is run by the Israeli government – markets its land only to Jews.

Now it turns out that the JNF also takes an active part in evacuating Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem, east of the Green Line.

The current affair began in the 1980s, when the original owner of the Sumarin home, Musa Sumarin, passed away. Israel did not recognize the family members living in the house at the time as Musa’s heirs, and instead had the Custodian of Absentee Properties take control over the home. This was and still is the most common practice in the ongoing “legal” campaign to uproot Palestinians from their homes.

The Custodian of Absentee Properties gave the asset, along with other properties in Silwan, to Himnuta, a subsidiary wholly owned by the JNF. Himnuta launched a legal battle alongside the settlers’ organization Elad to remove the Sumarin family from its home.

You can read more about Himnuta and the effort to move the Sumarins here, here and here.

Following the exposure of the story by Haaretz a couple of weeks ago, several organizations started a campaign aimed at stopping the evacuation. Rabbis for Human Rights, Solidarity and Yachad urged activists to write letters to JNF officials, demanding they let the Sumarin family continue living in the house.

Concern over the damage to their image led the JNF’s American office to post this sarcastic message on their site, denying all involvement in the affair:

JNF has been the topic of a recent petition put out by Rabbis for Human Rights. In a world in which everyone is tearing each other apart it would have been nice to show a little civility and menschlichkeit, by handling their concerns in a different way. A phone call or meeting to learn the fact would have been nice.

KKL-JNF leased the land to Elad in the early ‘90’s. The reason for leasing the land was because of the ongoing City of David excavations that began in the aftermath of the ’67 war.

KKL-JNF has no rights, control, or responsibility in this issue at all. This would be as if we leased the land to someone who built a shopping center and one of the storeowners didn’t pay rent to the developer. It is strictly between the Sumarins and Elad, not KKL-JNF. Elad, as the one who has full legal rights over the entire area, has exercised the due process of the legal system of Israel.

Yet as legal documents reveal, the JNF took part in all the proceedings against the Sumarins. In fact, it is the JNF-owned Himnuta that signed the warrant for the evacuation of the Sumarin family. A lawyer for the family told Haaretz that Elad, the settler organization, is not even mentioned in the warrant.

And here comes the interesting and little-noticed part: In a comment to today’s piece on Haaretz, the JNF no longer conceals its involvement in the affair (my emphasis):

The JNF said that “in 2006, after a legal battle, the court determined that the Sumarin are to evacuate the asset in Silwan. The family refuses to carry out the court’s order and have rebuffed efforts to engage in a dialogue that would resolve the case. Out of the company’s (JNF) responsibility and sensitivity, it was decided that the evacuation would not be carried out right now, and a new attempt for dialogue would take place; if this fails, the company would turn to the legal authorities so that they would carry out the verdict.”

(For some reason, the important sentence at the end of the comment wasn’t translated in Haaretz’s English edition.)

So, what do we have here? (a) JNF Israel lets it be known that JNF America simply lied in its public announcement and (b) JNF Israel makes it clear that if the Sumarins cannot be persuaded to leave their home, they will be kicked out – soon.

So much for the talks about excavations and leasing. The JNF is openly trying to get Palestinians out of their homes, and bring Elad’s settlers in.

UPDATE: The Jerusalem court has froze the eviction of the Sumarin family, thus giving the JNF a chance to reconsider their position. Will they use it?

————————-
Read more about this story, and about the JNF’s involvement in pushing Palestinians from their homes and lands:

The JNF: Planting Trees or Uprooting Families?
JNF involvement in the repeated destructions of the Beduin village El-Araqib


Haaretz’s publisher: US president can’t act against Israeli Apartheid

Posted: November 27th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Left, The Right, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

Haaretz’s publisher Amos Schocken had a very strong op-ed this weekend titled “The necessary elimination of Israeli democracy.” Schocken is referring to the settlers’ ideology as “promoting Apartheid” and accuses all Israeli governments, except Rabin’s during Oslo and Sharon’s during the disengagement, of playing along.

Schocken has also something to say about the United States’ role in the process (my bold):

… The fact that the government is effectively a tool of Gush Emunim and its successors is apparent to everyone who has dealings with the settlers, creating a situation of force multiplication.

This ideology has enjoyed immense success in the United States, of all places. President George H.W. Bush was able to block financial guarantees to Israel because of the settlements established by the government of Yitzhak Shamir (who said lying was permissible to realize the Gush Emunim ideology. Was Benjamin Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan University speech a lie of this kind? ). Now, though, candidates for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination are competing among themselves over which of them supports Israel and the occupation more forcefully. Any of them who adopt the approach of the first President Bush will likely put an end to their candidacy.

Whatever the reason for this state of affairs – the large number of evangelicals affiliated with the Republican party, the problematic nature of the West’s relations with Islam, or the power of the Jewish lobby, which is totally addicted to the Gush Emunim ideology – the result is clear: It is not easy, and may be impossible, for an American president to adopt an activist policy against Israeli apartheid.


Read the rest here.




Haaretz’s publisher: US president can’t act against Israeli Apartheid

Posted: November 27th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Right, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

Haaretz’s publisher Amos Schocken had a very strong op-ed this weekend titled “The necessary elimination of Israeli democracy.” Schocken is referring to the settlers’ ideology as “promoting Apartheid” and accuses all Israeli governments, except Rabin’s during Oslo and Sharon’s during the disengagement, of playing along.

Schocken has also something to say about the United States’ role in the process (my bold):

… The fact that the government is effectively a tool of Gush Emunim and its successors is apparent to everyone who has dealings with the settlers, creating a situation of force multiplication.

This ideology has enjoyed immense success in the United States, of all places. President George H.W. Bush was able to block financial guarantees to Israel because of the settlements established by the government of Yitzhak Shamir (who said lying was permissible to realize the Gush Emunim ideology. Was Benjamin Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan University speech a lie of this kind? ). Now, though, candidates for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination are competing among themselves over which of them supports Israel and the occupation more forcefully. Any of them who adopt the approach of the first President Bush will likely put an end to their candidacy.

Whatever the reason for this state of affairs – the large number of evangelicals affiliated with the Republican party, the problematic nature of the West’s relations with Islam, or the power of the Jewish lobby, which is totally addicted to the Gush Emunim ideology – the result is clear: It is not easy, and may be impossible, for an American president to adopt an activist policy against Israeli apartheid.


Read the rest here.


Government committee approves bills limiting funds to human rights organizations

Posted: November 13th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left, The Right | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation have approved two bill proposals aimed at limiting the ability of the UN and foreign governments to financially support human rights organizations in Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supports the bills, increasing the likelihood of a Knesset majority for both legislative initiatives.

The first bill, sponsored by Likud MK Ophir Akunis seeks to limit all foreign funding for “political organizations” to 20,000 NIS (some 5,000$) per year while the other, proposed by Yisrael Beitinu’s MK Fania Kirschenbaum seeks to levy a 45 percent taxation rate on all foreign state funding of NGOs. The Knesset is expected to vote on both bills in the coming weeks.

Hagai El-Ad, Executive Director of The Israeli Association for Civil Rights, has said in response to the decision that “the current government is leading an attack on the foundations of democracy – the Supreme Court’s very independence was endangered today, as are the freedom of operations for human rights organizations.” Read his related post on +972 here.

Haaretz reported on Sunday that the European Union and the United States are exerting pressure on Israel to scrap the bill in light of its ramifications for Israeli democracy.

UPDATE: Dr. Ishai Menuchin, Executive Director of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel:

Approval of the Law Proposal limiting foreign funding for NGOs by “the Ministerial Committee on legislation” places Israel in step with non-democratic societies in the world. With this decision we have slipped further down the slippery slope of eliminating democracy in Israel. The eleven ministers who supported the proposed law (amongst them the education, culture and welfare ministers!) demonstrated a basic lack of understanding of the concept of freedom of association in a democracy, an abject lack of commitment to democracy and the strongest desire to stifle voices of those with dissenting opinions.

UPDATE II: Likud MK Danny Danon posted the following message on his Facebook page:

The Ministry Committee for Legislation’s decision to approve the bill that restricts left-wing organizations from receiving funding from foreign groups is good news for all supporters of Zionism. An Organization which advocates against the State should be outlawed. Ceasing their funds is the first step in removing the peripheral leftists from Israeli society. This who are against the investigation of the source of financing of these leftist organizations will have to accept that the law will ultimately end the interference of foreign countries in internal affairs of the State of Israel!


Obama, Sarkozy are right to not believe Netanyahu

Posted: November 11th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Right, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

This week, when the American president was attacked for his “open mic” rants with French president Sarkozy over the Israeli PM’s character, it was hard not to remember this video from 2001, in which Netanyahu bragged on how he manipulated the Clinton Administration and stopped the Oslo Accords.

[By the way, this clip was discovered and aired by Channel 10. Last week, it was revenge time for Netanyahu: The PM ordered all coalition members to oppose a new arrangement on the the channel's debts. As a result, Israel's second commercial channel - known for its aggressive and critical news desk - has announced it will cease to exist in 2-3 months.]

This is from Richard Silverstein’s transcript of the video:

Woman: Aren’t you afraid of the world, Bibi?

Netanyahu: Especially today, with America. I know what America is. America is something that can easily be moved. Moved to the right direction.

Child: They say they’re for us, but, it’s like…

Netanyahu: They won’t get in our way. They won’t get in our way.

Child: On the other hand, if we do some something, then they…

Netanyahu: So let’s say they say something. So they said it! They said it! 80% of the Americans support us. It’s absurd. We have that kind of support and we say “what will we do with the…” Look. That administration [Clinton] was extremely pro-Palestinian. I wasn’t afraid to maneuver there. I was not afraid to clash with Clinton. I was not afraid to clash with the United Nations. I was paying the price anyway, I preferred to receive the value. Value for the price.

In the following segment, Bibi boasts about how he emptied the Oslo Accords of meaning by an interpretation that made a mockery of them:

Woman: The Oslo Accords are a disaster.

Netanyahu: Yes. You know that and I knew that…The people [nation] has to know…

What were the Oslo Accords? The Oslo Accords, which the Knesset signed, I was asked, before the elections: “Will you act according to them?” and I answered: “yes, subject to mutuality and limiting the retreats.” “But how do you intend to limit the retreats?” “I’ll give such interpretation to the Accords that will make it possible for me to stop this galloping to the ’67 [armistice] lines. How did we do it?

Narrator: The Oslo Accords stated at the time that Israel would gradually hand over territories to the Palestinians in three different pulses, unless the territories in question had settlements or military sites. This is where Netanyahu found a loophole.

Netanyahu: No one said what defined military sites. Defined military sites, I said, were security zones. As far as I’m concerned, the Jordan Valley is a defined military site.

Woman: Right [laughs]…The Beit She’an Valley.

Netanyahu: How can you tell. How can you tell? But then the question came up of just who would define what Defined Military Sites were. I received a letter — to me and to Arafat, at the same time — which said that Israel, and only Israel, would be the one to define what those are, the location of those military sites and their size. Now, they did not want to give me that letter, so I did not give the Hebron Agreement. I stopped the government meeting, I said: “I’m not signing.” Only when the letter came, in the course of the meeting, to me and to Arafat, only then did I sign the Hebron Agreement. Or rather, ratify it, it had already been signed. Why does this matter? Because at that moment I actually stopped the Oslo Accord.


Jerusalem construction in next decades – mostly on occupied territory

Posted: November 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Right, The Settlements | Tags: , , | Comments Off

This is not a Peace Now report, but an official document of the Jerusalem Municipality: According to a survey conducted at the request of the mayor’s office, 60,718 new housing units are slated for construction in Jerusalem in the next decades. Of those, 52,363 of them will be built east of the Green Line, in the territory annexed to Israel after the Six-Day War.

The document, revealed today by the daily paper Maariv, states that 23,628 of the planned units were already approved by relevant zoning committees – 20,263 of those for the “eastern” part of the city. In the area of Silwan, the biggest Palestinian neighborhood in Jerusalem, nearly 5,000 housing unites are planned. Silwan has seen many demonstrations in recent years against the attempt to settle it with Jews, and tension is likely to grow in light of the new plans.

Jerusalem employs a system of separation between the Palestinians living in the city, who only hold the status of “residents” and the Jews, who enjoy citizen rights. Under those conditions, Arabs in Jerusalem don’t have the right to vote in national elections, their ability to purchase houses are limited, and if they leave the country for several years, they are likely to lose even their legal residency status. Most Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem receive limited municipal services.

Further Reading: The legal and moral problem with Israel’s actions in East Jerusalem (background)


Boycotting oneself: Washington, Jerusalem on dead end road

Posted: November 3rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Right, the US and us | Comments Off

America’s war on the world continues: After threatening to cut funds from the United Nations if the organization promotes the Palestinian delegation’s status, the State Department decided to freeze its support for the Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization of the United Nation (UNESCO) because the latter defied Washington’s order and accepted Palestine as a member state.

Israel has added a threat of its own – to completely withdraw from UNESCO. In recent years Israel took pride in the fact that UNESCO recognized World Heritage Sites within its borders – Tel Aviv’s white city being one of the latest additions – so such a move, if it happens, would be the equivalent of boycotting oneself and is likely to hurt Israel more than any other country. The Tel Aviv Municipality would have to change its website, for starters.

Later came another Israeli response – the decision to construct 2,000 housing units in settlements and East Jerusalem. Strangely enough, I remember Prime Minister Netanyahu declaring that settlement construction is not aimed against the Palestinians and doesn’t hurt the peace process; now Netanyahu presents it as retaliation to a Palestinian unilateral move. So which Netanyahu should we believe? The one saying that the settlements aren’t a problem or the one using them as a punishment?

Neither, is the correct answer. Netanyahu’s policies in the West Bank have nothing to do with UN diplomacy. He is building settlements simply because he believes Israel should control this territory forever. Under real pressure (which is not the case now), Netanyahu might concede some areas to limited Palestinian control – his version of the two-state solution, which has nothing to do with “states” or “solutions” – but not much more. The prime minister has said so many times, and he is backing his words with actions.

It seems that everyone is playing internal politics: Netanyahu, whose right-wing position sits well with an Israeli constituency who is indifferent to the occupation and feels that the status quo serves it well; Palestinian President Abbas, who is enjoying a boost in his popularity after standing up to Israel and to the United States, and the American administration, which simply decided that it doesn’t have the political capital to spend on getting concessions out of an Israeli government with such strong ties in Washington, so best to simply forget about the whole thing and limit its Middle East policy to damage control. Withdrawing from international bodies and threatening to hold funds from the Palestinian Authority are likely to further weaken the United States’ position, something more and more people now view as an unavoidable process on the road to ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

As for Israel, one thing should be clear: The internal conversation regarding the Palestinian issue will not result in a new policy and not in a new government, even if elections are held next year. Actually, Netanyahu is getting stronger, not so much because of a rise in his own popularity, but due to the collapse of Kadima, the main opposition party. Perhaps for the first time in thirty years, there is no major political force in Israel that seriously pushes for the end of the occupation. Not one party and probably not one Knesset member who wakes up in the morning and asks him or herself what would he do today to get there. There used to be such people in the political system – Beilin or Peres, with all their faults, come to mind – but there is absolutely no one now. Everyone swears by the two-state solution, but nobody would spend political capital on it.

By shielding Israel even from the mild diplomatic pressure the Palestinians are able to promote, Washington is making sure that these local trends continue.