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?

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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.


Organized chaos and bare life (*): The non-story of the night raids

Posted: November 26th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism, unarmed protest | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

There exists a general, intentional, cleverly constructed misunderstanding surrounding the true nature of the Israeli occupation. Some say it’s a simple dispute over land, like many others in the world; other think the conflict is about national independence for the Palestinians, prompting statements like, “The Basques and the Kurds aren’t independent either, so why do people pick on Israel?”

But the occupation is something else. It is the ongoing military control over the lives of millions, and everything that comes with it: The lack of civil rights, the absence of legal protection, and perhaps more than anything else, a sense of organized chaos, in which the lives of an entire civilian population is run at the mercy of soldiers 18 to 20 years old. Most of the time, it’s almost hard to explain how bad it is for those who haven’t seen it with their own eyes.

Night raid in Nabi Saleh 24 November 2011.
Night raid in Nabi Saleh, 24 November 2011.

Joseph Dana posted this picture today, of a military raid on the home of an imprisoned Palestinian activist in Nabi Saleh. This is a non-story in the West Bank: The army enters Palestinian homes as it pleases, day or night. No warrant is needed, just like you don’t need a warrant to arrest a Palestinian (even a minor). Once the soldiers are in the house, the nature of the interaction between them and the family living there depends on their good or ill will – and in the 44 years of the occupation, we have had everything: from “polite” visits, to beatings and cursing, all the way up to the murder of civilians in their beds. A Palestinian is never safe – not even in his own home. He can never know what’s coming, the way most of us can even during unpleasant encounters with the authorities. The important point is that both the Palestinian and the soldier know that.

To illustrate this issue, here is a video from a couple of weeks ago. It was taken in Nabi Saleh, the same village where the picture above was taken. The soldiers enter a man’s house at night, and demand he wakes up his children, so they can take their pictures in order to keep them for identification in case of stone-throwing. I think that it is the calmness of the entire scene, the fact that the soldiers are polite and that nothing “horrifying” happens, which makes this video truly shocking.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jnb6z5HZ34&[/youtube]

You can say that everything is okay, as many Israelis would. But you can also ask yourself – why do the soldiers come at night? Or why do they come at all? After all, you don’t normally take people’s photos in the event they might be involved in illegal activities. And from there, you can also start questioning the whole logic of a permanent situation in which the army runs civilians’ lives.

I wonder what is the real effect of this scene, on all parties involved: The kids who are being awakened in the middle of the night; the humiliated father; the soldiers, who know that they can do whatever they want to this man and his family. And what is the effect of this scene taking place again and again and again, for 44 years?

Most important is to truly ask ourselves whether we can imagine the same thing happening to us, the same army visit taking place in our home. Would we respond so calmly? Probably not, because we have a different understanding of our existence than the Palestinians and soldiers in this clip. In many ways, we live in a different world.

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* Bare life: A term associated with the work of Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, describing a state of existence outside the political and legal order, in which a person is stripped of all forms of protection.


WATCH: Tel Aviv police pepper-spray democracy protesters

Posted: November 23rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

I only got to the last part of the Tel Aviv demo against the anti-democratic legislation led by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government. Most of the several thousand protesters were on their way home; a couple of hundreds had gathered on Rothschild Boulevard, and another 200 were demonstrating in the nearby King George Street, just under the Likud party headquarters, before proceeding to block the street for a few hours.

Earlier, I read a few Twitter messages about tear gas being used by the police. This sounded strange – Israeli security forces never use it in Jewish neighborhoods. On King George, the mystery was solved – it was pepper spray, the current world-wide celebrity of the crowd control department. An activist I knew was still red-eyed when I met him – he said the police had lost control for a minute, and sprayed the protesters for no reason at all.

You can see it happen clearly in the video:



More pepper spray fun: Testimonials go wild on Amazon.com

Posted: November 23rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Left, the US and us | Tags: , , | Comments Off

Photoshop mania wasn’t the only creative response to the “casually pepper-spraying cop” incident: Check out what happened to the Amazon.com page for Defense Technology 56895 MK-9 Stream – “the most widely used pepper spray in law enforcement and corrections”.

Here is one of the recently-added testimonials for the product:

Whenever I need to breezily inflict discipline on unruly citizens, I know I can trust Defense Technology 56895 MK-9 Stream, 1.3% Red Band/1.3% Blue Band Pepper Spray to get the job done! The power of reason is no match for Defense Technology’s superior repression power. When I reach for my can of Defense Technology 56895 MK-9 Stream, 1.3% Red Band/1.3% Blue Band Pepper Spray, I know that even the mighty First Amendment doesn’t stand a chance against its many scovil units of civil rights suppression.

This guy wasn’t satisfied, and with a good reason:

I casually used this product to try to disperse a small band of non-violent campers who had locked their arms together. Although initially it seemed to be effective, it took two applications! The worst part is that the next day they multiplied exponentially! Now what?

And it goes on, and on, and on – 244 reviews and counting.

This pepper spray is awesome! When used in a public area for the whole world to see, it causes Republicans to instantly forget the basic principles of freedom the country was founded upon. Their pea brains start creating hypocritical arguments supporting the oppressors like “the protesters are acting really mean by sitting on the grass”. They don’t realize how “mean” their beloved Founding Fathers were during their protests hundreds of years ago, or how “mean” the Civil Rights Movement was, or how “mean” the Vietnam War protests were, etc.

The product itself seems to be selling well – only six items left at the time of writing.


Teacher summoned to hearing over leftist Facebook comments

Posted: November 16th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

A teacher in an Israeli public school, who has become the target of a hate campaign after she expressed leftist views on Facebook, has been summoned to a hearing at the Ministry of Education.

According to the teacher, following some messages she posted on a Facebook debate regarding an “alternative memorial day” (a pro-peace event taking place on the national memorial day for soldiers and terror victims), a group of rightwing Israelis traced her and wrote letters of complaint to the Ministry of Education. She was then asked to write a letter clarifying her position, and was invited to a formal hearing.

In a Facebook status on her wall, the teacher wrote (h/t Slippery Slope blog):

My dear friends, your support is heartwarming (…) for those who don’t have full knowledge of the details – some of you remember the debate on Yoni Rechter’s [an Israeli singer – N.S] wall when he made clear his intention to take part in the alternative Memorial Day… some of my messages on the same wall didn’t please a group of Kahanists of the lowest kind, one of them investigated who is XXX [the teacher's name - N.S.] and found out that I am a teacher and an educator in Israel, and sent a complaint to the Ministry of Education, claiming that among its staff there is a leftist traitor teacher. The school’s principal has learned of this, I was asked to write a letter of clarification, and my hearing is still pending. On top of the complaint to the Ministry of Education, the same group has also disseminated my pictures on the net, with hateful messages. Let’s pray for better days. Again, love and thanks to each one of you.

Last month, a group of settlers recognized another schoolteacher from Jerusalem as one of the participants in a demonstration near the settlement of Anatot (during this event, leftist protesters were attacked and beaten [Video], with the police standing by). The settlers demanded the teacher be sacked, and a campaign against her was launched on Facebook, with many of her students taking part.


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!


Hasbara: Why does the world fail to understand us?

Posted: November 13th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: media, the US and us | Tags: , , , | Comments Off

I have used the word “Hasbara” pretty freely recently, and so do more and more people, without stopping to explain what it actually means. The use of this term has been widespread in Israeli Hebrew for many years now, usually with a positive meaning, though not always in a positive context – there is a never-ending debate on “the failure of Hasabra” – yet I often wonder how many people outside Israel actually know it, let alone understand what it stands for. So here are a few words on Hasbara.

Hasbara is a form of propaganda aimed at an international audience, primarily, but not exclusively, in western countries. It is meant to influence the conversation in a way that positively portrays Israeli political moves and policies, including actions undertaken by Israel in the past. Often, Hasbara efforts includes a negative portrayal of the Arabs and especially of Palestinians.

The Hebrew meaning of the word Hasbara (הסברה) is “explanation” (the term “propaganda” has a different word in Hebrew – תעמולה). I believe that the popular use of this term also reflects a widespread public notion that a better effort of explaining Israel’s actions to the world will generate better understandings of Israel’s policies, and more international support. A less common use of the verb “to explain” (להסביר), which has to do with welcoming someone, was used in the past by the Tourism Ministry in campaigns urging Israelis to show a hospitable approach to tourists.

Hasbara represents only one side of propaganda, as it is mostly aimed at foreign audience. The use of the Hebrew term Hasbara in a critical context, rather than “propaganda” or “public diplomacy” (the title of the Wikipedia entry on the issue), is necessary, because Hasbara efforts are wider and their goals much more ambitious than any similar activities taken by all democracies and most non-democracies. Hasbara targets political elites, opinion makers and the public simultaneously; it includes traditional advocacy efforts as well as more general appeals made through mass media, and it is carried out by government agencies, non-governmental organizations, lobbying groups, private citizens, students, journalists and bloggers.

The Israeli government encourages all citizens to actively engage in Hasbara. Recently, it even distributed brochures with talking points to all Israelis traveling abroad (a Hebrew web version of the campaign can be viewed here). Israelis are asked to engage in politically-oriented conversations with their hosts and contacts abroad. Rather than discuss the Palestinian conflict, they are advised to cite Israeli technological achievements, mention environmental policies and take pride in notable cultural works. The West Bank is to be discussed – under its ancient Hebrew name, Judea and Samaria – as a potential tourist marvel.

Until a few years ago, the main government agency carrying out Hasbara work was the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through its Media and Hasbara department. Under Ehud Olmert’s government, and more so under Netanyahu’s, there was a considerable increase in Hasbara efforts. Prime Minister Netanyahu has launched for the first time a Hasbara Ministry, headed by a government minister (the current hasbara minister is Yuli Edelstein). The Hasbara Ministry includes a situation room, which operates in five languages; it has a new-media team that can reach, according to the office’s web page, 100,000 volunteers on social media networks, as well as many bloggers.

UPDATE: The Ministry of Hasbara is hiring! “Advantage to minorities and representatives of the gay community.” More details here.

On top of the Hasbara Ministry, there is a Hasbara branch in the Prime Minister’s Office (in charge of both local and international PR). The IDF Spokesperson has an international arm with a new media branch, which makes Hasbara efforts and does not limit itself to providing information on army activities. Other government agencies, such as the Ministry of Tourism or the Ministry of Culture, also take part in ad-hoc Hasbara activities. There are other agencies that have gradually moved into greater involvement in Hasbara – perhaps the most notable is The Jewish Agency, which used to serve as a liaison to Jewish communities abroad, and now trains its envoys to American campuses to engage in propaganda.

Under Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the Foreign Ministry was instructed to take a bigger role in the Hasbara effort (a popular rant against the foreign ministry for many years was that it deals with peacemaking instead of advocacy, and Lieberman has promised to solve that). I was contacted awhile ago by a private agency that won a contract with the foreign ministry; they were looking for professionals to play hostile journalists in simulations with Israeli diplomats.

Much of the Hasbara work carried out outside official channels – but with heavy official influence – is carried out through non-governmental organizations such as Stand With Us, The Israel Project and more. These organizations produce resources – booklets, slideshows, flyers, maps, polls and more – and spin news events in ways which are favorable to the Israeli government. A lot of thought is put into influencing opinion-makers: journalists and bloggers are flown on a regular basis to tours in Israel, accompanied by government officials, while Israeli representatives – former diplomats, journalists, soldiers and officers – are brought to give lectures at campuses, think-tanks, conferences and other public events around the world. Organizations also try to influence the grassroots level by granting Hasbara fellowships to international students in Israel.

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There is an interesting tension in Israel between the tremendous efforts put into Hasbara – Israeli advocacy is probably the most widespread and ambitious state-run propaganda effort in the world today – and a sense of “Hasbara failure” in the Israeli public. Rants about the fact that Israel is misunderstood and complaints about the incompetence of those dealing with Hasbara are often heard in the popular media. In my opinion, “the failure of Hasbara” is actually a failure of policy – especially, but not limited to, that relating to the occupation and the control over the Palestinians.

Understanding this point could shed light on a self-defeating element in the Hasbara battle: as Israel loses interest in finding a solution to the Palestinian question that would meet the minimal moral standards of the Western World – either “one man one vote” or complete Palestinian sovereignty over a contiguous territorial unit – Hasbara efforts are just likely to draw more attention to the ongoing Israeli failure to live up to the promise of its talking points, and will shed more light on the ever-growing gap between the model, picture-perfect democracy reflected in brochures and the grim reality on the ground.


US top envoy leaving, and so should his politics

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

Dennis Ross was the architect of a policy that centered on shielding the Israeli government from pressure while hoping that it would decide to end the occupation on their own. The result was an epic, two-decade long failure

Dennis Ross, president Obama’s top adviser on Israel-Palestine, is leaving the White House by December. Ross, a veteran diplomat who took part in the negotiations through the 90′s and until the failed talks between PM Barak and Arafat at the beginning of the previous decade, has let his decision be known in a lunch with Jewish leaders. This is not surprising: Ross has enjoyed good relations with Israeli and Jewish officials. Last night, when Ross’ departure was made public, Haaretz’s headline was “Netanyahu’s friend in the White House is leaving.”

Dennis Ross might have been valuable for the president in maintaining good relations with Israeli lobbyists in Washington and inside the Democratic Party, but his Middle East policies were a disaster. If a single man can be blamed for a two decades of failure, Ross is this person.

More than any neo-con, Ross can be identified with the way American administrations tried to broker a deal between Israelis and Palestinians in the last twenty years: creating a space for an Israeli internal conversation and once consensus is reached, forcing the Palestinians to agree to the Israeli terms, usually through a combination of threats and bribes targeting the political elites (serving as “Israel’s lawyer,” a diplomat working under Ross in Camp David called it).

The outcome was the one any reasonable person could expect: Shielded from outside pressure, Israelis have continued to strengthen their hold over the West Bank, while the “vigorous internal debate” in “the only democracy in the region” reached nowhere. At the same time, the Palestinian leadership, being forced to make more and more concessions without getting anything in return, lost all credibility with its own people, giving rise to other forces, which weren’t seen as taking orders from abroad.

The hope that the Israeli political process would lead the government into leaving the West Bank has failed again and again. Left on their own, it was proved that Israeli leaders will always prefer not to spend their limited political capital on evacuating settlements. The only exceptions – the Oslo accord and the Gaza pullout – came after the first and second Intifadas. The tragic truth is that violence has been very effective in gaining Israeli concessions, while America’s one-sided diplomacy only bought Jerusalem more and more time to expand settlements and make the two-state solution impossible.

True to his bizarre version of peacemaking, in the last couple of years Ross has been busy defending the most extreme government Israel has known, led by a Prime Minister that publicly boasted about the way he manipulated and deceived Ross’ own bosses at the Clinton administration. Finally, the Palestinian side lost both patience and faith in President Obama and his administration, and turned to the international community instead. Palestinians I spoke to last month told me that the boost in Abbas’ popularity wasn’t because of the UN bid itself – Palestinians are smart enough to understand it would get them nowhere – but because he finally stood up to the United States. Nothing could be more telling.

At the same time, the Israeli opposition was forced to support the Netanyahu government line, because when it comes to the peace process, no mainstream Israeli leader would take a position that is further to the left than the American negotiator. Ross and his team pretty much guaranteed that there wouldn’t be an effective opposition to Netanyahu at home and no pressure from abroad. Given these conditions, seeing the Israeli position move further to the right – the government now opposes concessions offered by both Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert in previous rounds of negotiations – shouldn’t have come as a surprise.

Ross is finally out – let’s hope that this time it’s for good – but his ideas are still popular in Washington, and even in some European capitals. It’s hard to believe, but there are still serious, well-meaning politicians and diplomats who think that left on their own, Israelis wil simply wake up one day and decide to end the occupation. It won’t happen. The next Israeli government could actually be worse than this one, as hard as it is to imagine. Even if Netanyahu is not elected again, there isn’t a serious political force, or a single political leader, who sees it as his or her mission to lead Israel out of the West Bank and there won’t be any mainstream party even running on this platform in the next election. The current trends could easily continue for another decade.

Hopefully, Ross’ departure will serve as an opportunity to examine the entire American and European approach to the conflict, to the Palestinians, and to the government in Jerusalem.