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Left In Lowell » Blog Archive » What happens when “I stand with Israel” becomes “I stand against democracy in the Middle East”?

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February 11, 2009

What happens when “I stand with Israel” becomes “I stand against democracy in the Middle East”?

by at 12:59 pm.

(Cross-posted at BlueMassGroup)

So the elections are in and it looks like the hard-liner Israelis (as well as hard-line Palestinians) have sucessfully reaped benefits from the current rounds of conflict. This, in all likelyhood, means more lip-service to a two-state solution at the same time as settlements continue to expand. It seems to me that incentives for Palestinians to negotiate at this point are dwindling by the day. At some point they will come to the conclusion that any two-state option that Israel is willing to give isn’t one worth having. What then?

More below the fold.

Once the two state solution is off the table, the international community is going to be confronted with the very real problem that there is a politically and economically repressed majority in Israel. They will effectively be governed without representation by a government willing to employ the most intrusive policies of any western democracy. Indeed, there will be a question if the term ‘democracy’ even applies to Israel any more.

Stephen Walt explains that there are three options as he sees it:

First, Israel could drive most or all of the 2.5 million Palestinians out of the West Bank by force, thereby preserving “greater Israel” as a Jewish state through an overt act of ethnic cleansing. The Palestinians would surely resist, and it would be a crime against humanity, conducted in full view of a horrified world. …

Second, Israel could retain control of the West Bank but allow the Palestinians limited autonomy in a set of disconnected enclaves, while it controlled access in and out, their water supplies, and the airspace above them. … In short, the Palestinians would not get a viable state of their own and would not enjoy full political rights. This is the solution that many people — including Prime Minister Olmert — compare to the apartheid regime in South Africa. …

[Third,] … The Israeli government could maintain its physical control over “greater Israel” and grant the Palestinians full democratic rights within this territory. This option has been proposed by a handful of Israeli Jews and a growing number of Palestinians. But there are formidable objections to this outcome: It would mean abandoning the Zionist dream of an independent Jewish state…

He then goes on and questions if we are ready with a plan B:

But if a two-state option is no longer feasible, it seems likely that the United States would come to favor this third choice. …

If the two-state solution dies, as seems increasingly likely, the United States is going to face a very awkward set of choices. That’s one reason why Obama and his team — as well as Israel’s friends in the United States — should move beyond paying lip-service to the idea of creating a Palestinian state and actually do something about it. But it’s hard to be optimistic that they will.

And while I’m at it, here’s one more heretical thought. Shouldn’t someone in the U.S. government start thinking about what our policy should be in the event that the two-state solution collapses?

Ezra wonders what the time frame could be:

I’d like the Israel hawks to tell me supports what’s wrong with Stephen Walt’s logic here. And if nothing is wrong with his logic, I’d be interested to know what their estimate is of the time frame at which point Palestinians decide any state they could get is not a state worth having due to settlement expansion and overcrowding, and they begin demanding the vote instead…

And Greenwald wonders about the potentially increasing cost of supporting Israel under these circumstances:

If, as it appears, the face Israel is now choosing for itself is that of Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman, then the cost to the United States of ongoing, one-sided support for Israel is going to skyrocket, and the need for serious change in U.S. policy towards Israel will be even more acute. It’s worth recalling that Barack Obama, when still seeking the Democratic nomination in February, 2008, said:

I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel, then you’re anti-Israel, and that can’t be the measure of our friendship with Israel.

It will be vital to ensure that Obama actually meant that. Netanyahu’s pledge to allow the still-further expansion of West Bank settlements makes an already-distant two-state solution less viable still, and his explicit vow to keep the Golan Heights “forever” makes negotiations with Syria doomed from the start. He actually just objected that Israel’s destruction of huge parts of Gaza “did not go far enough.”

One Chinese curse is certain,… Israel (and by extension the U.S.) will be living in ‘interesting times’ for some time to come.

8 Responses to “What happens when “I stand with Israel” becomes “I stand against democracy in the Middle East”?”

  1. joe from Lowell Says:

    Think about the border between downtown and Centralville. It’s very obvious that those are two different places. If you wanted to block off one from the other, it would be easy.

    Now think of the border between downtown and the Acre. Or downtown and Back Central. Which storefronts are in which?

    The settlements are making the border between Israel and Palestine more like the latter. Disaggregating them could well become impossible.

    In other words, the settlers themselves, and the government that allows them, are undermining the Zionist vision of a nation with a specifically Jewish identity. It won’t be possible for there to be an Israel that is distinct from Palestine.

  2. Josh Says:

    I don’t get why everyone is so hard on Israel. 1.) It’s the ONLY democratic nation in the Middle East and 2.) It’s got a sizable Arab minority enjoying all the rights of citizenship in Israel proper (not counting the territories).

    Name one state in the Middle East where a sizable Jewish population could survive and exercise democratic rights.

    I’m not saying that Israel is perfect, but I would characterize it as a Beacon of Democracy in the Middle East.

  3. Mr. Lynne Says:

    If you really want to be ‘hard on Israel’ then just continue to let this play out in its current form. The current path for Israel is self-destructive. The ‘I’m for Israel’ crowd in the US is helping them down it gleefully. I didn’t set them on this path. Don’t blame me.

  4. joe from Lowell Says:



    Why do conservatives always forget about Turkey? It’s been a democratic republic longer than Israel.

    The ‘I’m for Israel’ crowd in the US is helping them down it gleefully. Yup. Have you ever noticed that they don’t talk about what is smart for Israel, just how morally righteous whatever their latest military action is, and how immoral Palestinians are? It’s like they’re not so much interest in the actual well-being of Israelis or how they can achieve a secure future, so much as they’re fascinated the image of Israel as the good guys in a war. It’s almost as if not having Israel in wars is beside the point, or even undesirable.

  5. mike01824 Says:

    This was really a good post. Thanks Chris.

  6. Mr. Lynne Says:

    Thanks Mike. I put up a comment on the BMG thread with some 60 Minutes video:

    As I pointed out above it wasn’t futile for Hamas if the goal was never a two state solution in the first place. It should be noted, however, that the appearance of Hamas not necessarily wanting a two state solution shouldn’t necessarily be taken at face value. It could be that they already do not see a viable two state solution as being feasible in the current conditions. Personally, I think their behavior was utterly predictable. I can imagine the frustration of being told that they should be negotiating in good faith knowing full well that the object of negotiation is losing worth by the month because the other side isn’t doing anything in good faith at all. It’s the kind of thing that can (demonstrably now) drive an already oppressed people to do something stupid.

    Greenwald had a post about the recent 60 Minutes piece:

    The 12-minute 60 Minutes segment, which is highly recommended for those who haven’t seen it, conveys a very clear sense of how difficult that task is going to be and how the blame for this conflict is hardly confined to one side:

    He then embedded the piece in question:

    Looking at that, I just think ‘American revolutionary patriots put their lives on the line for arguably less’.

  7. warmer_in_NC Says:

    Turkey is in a losing battle with Islamist elements within the country. Buddhists are being slaughtered and one dare not profess being Christian in Turkey either.
    Turkey, for a long time, existed as a predominantly Muslim but with a secular government. That separates is from all other predominantly Muslim countries that are under radical Islamic rule. The only country that is more cruel to Christians than Islamic countries in Atheist Communist North Korea where Christians are sent to terminal camps for the crime of believing in a power greater than there supreme ruler.
    Israel can not be expected to take seriously any “peace deal” from Hamas. Hamas has stated its vision of an Arab Muslim world with no Israel. No Jew is innocent in their world view. As such they see nothing wrong or criminal about firing rockets into civilian population centers.
    The Israeli forces, on the other hand, go to great effort to target only the structures from which attacks are launched. It is unfortunate that Hamas chooses to launch attacks from schools and hospitals.

  8. joe from Lowell Says:

    Indonesia, Malaysia, Lebanon, Bangladesh, the UAE and Brunei are under “radical Islamic rule?” I’m pretty sure you’re wrong about that.

    The Google displays no stories about Buddhists being slaughtered in Turkey.

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