Blogs: Paul Pillar

The Muddled Travel Ban

The Enduring Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Paul Pillar

The PA, and the Fatah-dominated PLO, also do not represent all of the Palestinian body politic.  They do not represent refugees, and they do not represent the stream of opinion embodied in Hamas, which won the last free and fair Palestinian parliamentary election, has made clear it is prepared to live in peace in a Palestinian state side-by-side with the State of Israel, and has tried to observe the cease-fires negotiated after the last two Gaza wars.  Israel and the United States refused to accept that election result, and Israel has done everything it can to sustain division between Hamas and Abbas’s PA, such as by withholding tax receipts owed to the Palestinians when the PA has made a move to resolve differences with Hamas.  We can expect the same Israeli reaction to an initiative announced by Hamas this week, in which it says it will dissolve its own administration of Gaza in favor of a new joint administration with the PA and participation in fresh Palestinian elections.

Recent internal developments on the Israeli side, and specifically Netanyahu’s legal and political problems stemming from multiple corruption cases, only make matters worse regarding any peace process.  The prime minister’s response has been to tie himself ever more closely to the right-wing coalition partners whose support he needs to stay in office.  That means more of an inflexible hard line on anything having to do with the Palestinians.  Netanyahu recently said to an audience of West Bank settlers, “We are here to stay forever. We will deepen our roots, build, strengthen and settle.”

Many informed observers believe that the two-state solution is dead.  I don’t believe it is dead in the sense of technical feasibility.  Despite how far the Israeli colonization of the West Bank has gone, it still would be possible to construct a peace agreement along lines that have been well known for quite some time, based on the 1967 borders with mutually agreed upon land swaps, and creative ways to deal with sticky issues such as right of return and control of holy places in Jerusalem. 

But what the pessimistic observers accurately note, besides the ever-narrowing bargaining space from construction of additional facts on the ground, is how much of the edifice on which the so-called peace process is based has been regarded by one side as a basis for avoiding an ultimate peace agreement rather than building one.  The Oslo formula that created the PA was based, on Israeli insistence, on the 1978 Camp David framework agreement, which in turn was based on an autonomy plan from Begin that was designed not to establish Palestinian self-determination but to prevent it.  This has been a matter of peace processing indefinitely while the side in control has created still more facts on the ground.  Begin’s successor Yitzhak Shamir was quite candid about this when he said, ”I would have carried on autonomy talks for ten years, and meanwhile we would have reached half a million people in Judea and Samaria.”

The Trump Administration’s Posture

And now we have, in the country with the greatest potential outside leverage over all this, the Trump administration.  Donald Trump said some things early in his campaign about being even-handed, but then he made his peace with Sheldon Adelson, and from the time he spoke later during the campaign to AIPAC, most of what he has said and done on this issue would have easily passed muster in the Israeli prime minister’s office.  His son-in-law the envoy comes from a family with connections to West Bank settlements.  Trump’s bankruptcy lawyer, whom he has appointed as ambassador to Israel, has direct personal involvement in aiding a West Bank settlement, has likened liberal, pro-peace American Jews to Nazi collaborators, and recently departed from a long-established U.S. diplomatic lexicon by referring to the “alleged occupation”. 

Trump has backed away from the two-state solution, which had been the explicit U.S. objective of the previous couple of administrations, Republican and Democratic, and the implicit objective of the couple of administrations before that, Republican and Democratic.  In an extraordinary statement, the State Department spokeswoman recently said that to recommit to the two-state solution would constitute “bias”.  As former U.S. ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer commented in an op ed last week, “her words indicate that the Trump administration itself is extremely biased — in favor of hardliners in … Netanyahu’s coalition who want the United States and Israel to abandon the two- state outcome.”

Those hardliners, and the Trump administration, have recently been looking to what is referred to as the “outside-in” concept—the idea the other Arab states will lean on the Palestinians to accept something less than a real state.  But if the key to a peace settlement rested with those other Arab states, then Israel could pick up off the table what has been on the table for 15 years: the Arab League peace initiative, which offers full recognition of, and peace with, Israel by all Arab states and a formal declaration that the Arab-Israeli conflict is over, in return for an end to the occupation and establishment of a Palestinian state.  Genuine peace with the region still requires genuine peace with the Palestinians.  Neither the Saudis nor other Arab leaders will sign off on bantustans for their Arab brethren in Palestine.

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Iran and the Nuclear Sunset Clauses

Paul Pillar

The PA, and the Fatah-dominated PLO, also do not represent all of the Palestinian body politic.  They do not represent refugees, and they do not represent the stream of opinion embodied in Hamas, which won the last free and fair Palestinian parliamentary election, has made clear it is prepared to live in peace in a Palestinian state side-by-side with the State of Israel, and has tried to observe the cease-fires negotiated after the last two Gaza wars.  Israel and the United States refused to accept that election result, and Israel has done everything it can to sustain division between Hamas and Abbas’s PA, such as by withholding tax receipts owed to the Palestinians when the PA has made a move to resolve differences with Hamas.  We can expect the same Israeli reaction to an initiative announced by Hamas this week, in which it says it will dissolve its own administration of Gaza in favor of a new joint administration with the PA and participation in fresh Palestinian elections.

Recent internal developments on the Israeli side, and specifically Netanyahu’s legal and political problems stemming from multiple corruption cases, only make matters worse regarding any peace process.  The prime minister’s response has been to tie himself ever more closely to the right-wing coalition partners whose support he needs to stay in office.  That means more of an inflexible hard line on anything having to do with the Palestinians.  Netanyahu recently said to an audience of West Bank settlers, “We are here to stay forever. We will deepen our roots, build, strengthen and settle.”

Many informed observers believe that the two-state solution is dead.  I don’t believe it is dead in the sense of technical feasibility.  Despite how far the Israeli colonization of the West Bank has gone, it still would be possible to construct a peace agreement along lines that have been well known for quite some time, based on the 1967 borders with mutually agreed upon land swaps, and creative ways to deal with sticky issues such as right of return and control of holy places in Jerusalem. 

But what the pessimistic observers accurately note, besides the ever-narrowing bargaining space from construction of additional facts on the ground, is how much of the edifice on which the so-called peace process is based has been regarded by one side as a basis for avoiding an ultimate peace agreement rather than building one.  The Oslo formula that created the PA was based, on Israeli insistence, on the 1978 Camp David framework agreement, which in turn was based on an autonomy plan from Begin that was designed not to establish Palestinian self-determination but to prevent it.  This has been a matter of peace processing indefinitely while the side in control has created still more facts on the ground.  Begin’s successor Yitzhak Shamir was quite candid about this when he said, ”I would have carried on autonomy talks for ten years, and meanwhile we would have reached half a million people in Judea and Samaria.”

The Trump Administration’s Posture

And now we have, in the country with the greatest potential outside leverage over all this, the Trump administration.  Donald Trump said some things early in his campaign about being even-handed, but then he made his peace with Sheldon Adelson, and from the time he spoke later during the campaign to AIPAC, most of what he has said and done on this issue would have easily passed muster in the Israeli prime minister’s office.  His son-in-law the envoy comes from a family with connections to West Bank settlements.  Trump’s bankruptcy lawyer, whom he has appointed as ambassador to Israel, has direct personal involvement in aiding a West Bank settlement, has likened liberal, pro-peace American Jews to Nazi collaborators, and recently departed from a long-established U.S. diplomatic lexicon by referring to the “alleged occupation”. 

Trump has backed away from the two-state solution, which had been the explicit U.S. objective of the previous couple of administrations, Republican and Democratic, and the implicit objective of the couple of administrations before that, Republican and Democratic.  In an extraordinary statement, the State Department spokeswoman recently said that to recommit to the two-state solution would constitute “bias”.  As former U.S. ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer commented in an op ed last week, “her words indicate that the Trump administration itself is extremely biased — in favor of hardliners in … Netanyahu’s coalition who want the United States and Israel to abandon the two- state outcome.”

Those hardliners, and the Trump administration, have recently been looking to what is referred to as the “outside-in” concept—the idea the other Arab states will lean on the Palestinians to accept something less than a real state.  But if the key to a peace settlement rested with those other Arab states, then Israel could pick up off the table what has been on the table for 15 years: the Arab League peace initiative, which offers full recognition of, and peace with, Israel by all Arab states and a formal declaration that the Arab-Israeli conflict is over, in return for an end to the occupation and establishment of a Palestinian state.  Genuine peace with the region still requires genuine peace with the Palestinians.  Neither the Saudis nor other Arab leaders will sign off on bantustans for their Arab brethren in Palestine.

Pages

Getting to Yes With North Korea

Paul Pillar

The PA, and the Fatah-dominated PLO, also do not represent all of the Palestinian body politic.  They do not represent refugees, and they do not represent the stream of opinion embodied in Hamas, which won the last free and fair Palestinian parliamentary election, has made clear it is prepared to live in peace in a Palestinian state side-by-side with the State of Israel, and has tried to observe the cease-fires negotiated after the last two Gaza wars.  Israel and the United States refused to accept that election result, and Israel has done everything it can to sustain division between Hamas and Abbas’s PA, such as by withholding tax receipts owed to the Palestinians when the PA has made a move to resolve differences with Hamas.  We can expect the same Israeli reaction to an initiative announced by Hamas this week, in which it says it will dissolve its own administration of Gaza in favor of a new joint administration with the PA and participation in fresh Palestinian elections.

Recent internal developments on the Israeli side, and specifically Netanyahu’s legal and political problems stemming from multiple corruption cases, only make matters worse regarding any peace process.  The prime minister’s response has been to tie himself ever more closely to the right-wing coalition partners whose support he needs to stay in office.  That means more of an inflexible hard line on anything having to do with the Palestinians.  Netanyahu recently said to an audience of West Bank settlers, “We are here to stay forever. We will deepen our roots, build, strengthen and settle.”

Many informed observers believe that the two-state solution is dead.  I don’t believe it is dead in the sense of technical feasibility.  Despite how far the Israeli colonization of the West Bank has gone, it still would be possible to construct a peace agreement along lines that have been well known for quite some time, based on the 1967 borders with mutually agreed upon land swaps, and creative ways to deal with sticky issues such as right of return and control of holy places in Jerusalem. 

But what the pessimistic observers accurately note, besides the ever-narrowing bargaining space from construction of additional facts on the ground, is how much of the edifice on which the so-called peace process is based has been regarded by one side as a basis for avoiding an ultimate peace agreement rather than building one.  The Oslo formula that created the PA was based, on Israeli insistence, on the 1978 Camp David framework agreement, which in turn was based on an autonomy plan from Begin that was designed not to establish Palestinian self-determination but to prevent it.  This has been a matter of peace processing indefinitely while the side in control has created still more facts on the ground.  Begin’s successor Yitzhak Shamir was quite candid about this when he said, ”I would have carried on autonomy talks for ten years, and meanwhile we would have reached half a million people in Judea and Samaria.”

The Trump Administration’s Posture

And now we have, in the country with the greatest potential outside leverage over all this, the Trump administration.  Donald Trump said some things early in his campaign about being even-handed, but then he made his peace with Sheldon Adelson, and from the time he spoke later during the campaign to AIPAC, most of what he has said and done on this issue would have easily passed muster in the Israeli prime minister’s office.  His son-in-law the envoy comes from a family with connections to West Bank settlements.  Trump’s bankruptcy lawyer, whom he has appointed as ambassador to Israel, has direct personal involvement in aiding a West Bank settlement, has likened liberal, pro-peace American Jews to Nazi collaborators, and recently departed from a long-established U.S. diplomatic lexicon by referring to the “alleged occupation”. 

Trump has backed away from the two-state solution, which had been the explicit U.S. objective of the previous couple of administrations, Republican and Democratic, and the implicit objective of the couple of administrations before that, Republican and Democratic.  In an extraordinary statement, the State Department spokeswoman recently said that to recommit to the two-state solution would constitute “bias”.  As former U.S. ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer commented in an op ed last week, “her words indicate that the Trump administration itself is extremely biased — in favor of hardliners in … Netanyahu’s coalition who want the United States and Israel to abandon the two- state outcome.”

Those hardliners, and the Trump administration, have recently been looking to what is referred to as the “outside-in” concept—the idea the other Arab states will lean on the Palestinians to accept something less than a real state.  But if the key to a peace settlement rested with those other Arab states, then Israel could pick up off the table what has been on the table for 15 years: the Arab League peace initiative, which offers full recognition of, and peace with, Israel by all Arab states and a formal declaration that the Arab-Israeli conflict is over, in return for an end to the occupation and establishment of a Palestinian state.  Genuine peace with the region still requires genuine peace with the Palestinians.  Neither the Saudis nor other Arab leaders will sign off on bantustans for their Arab brethren in Palestine.

Pages

Storms in the Anthropocene and Post-Truth Epochs

Paul Pillar

The PA, and the Fatah-dominated PLO, also do not represent all of the Palestinian body politic.  They do not represent refugees, and they do not represent the stream of opinion embodied in Hamas, which won the last free and fair Palestinian parliamentary election, has made clear it is prepared to live in peace in a Palestinian state side-by-side with the State of Israel, and has tried to observe the cease-fires negotiated after the last two Gaza wars.  Israel and the United States refused to accept that election result, and Israel has done everything it can to sustain division between Hamas and Abbas’s PA, such as by withholding tax receipts owed to the Palestinians when the PA has made a move to resolve differences with Hamas.  We can expect the same Israeli reaction to an initiative announced by Hamas this week, in which it says it will dissolve its own administration of Gaza in favor of a new joint administration with the PA and participation in fresh Palestinian elections.

Recent internal developments on the Israeli side, and specifically Netanyahu’s legal and political problems stemming from multiple corruption cases, only make matters worse regarding any peace process.  The prime minister’s response has been to tie himself ever more closely to the right-wing coalition partners whose support he needs to stay in office.  That means more of an inflexible hard line on anything having to do with the Palestinians.  Netanyahu recently said to an audience of West Bank settlers, “We are here to stay forever. We will deepen our roots, build, strengthen and settle.”

Many informed observers believe that the two-state solution is dead.  I don’t believe it is dead in the sense of technical feasibility.  Despite how far the Israeli colonization of the West Bank has gone, it still would be possible to construct a peace agreement along lines that have been well known for quite some time, based on the 1967 borders with mutually agreed upon land swaps, and creative ways to deal with sticky issues such as right of return and control of holy places in Jerusalem. 

But what the pessimistic observers accurately note, besides the ever-narrowing bargaining space from construction of additional facts on the ground, is how much of the edifice on which the so-called peace process is based has been regarded by one side as a basis for avoiding an ultimate peace agreement rather than building one.  The Oslo formula that created the PA was based, on Israeli insistence, on the 1978 Camp David framework agreement, which in turn was based on an autonomy plan from Begin that was designed not to establish Palestinian self-determination but to prevent it.  This has been a matter of peace processing indefinitely while the side in control has created still more facts on the ground.  Begin’s successor Yitzhak Shamir was quite candid about this when he said, ”I would have carried on autonomy talks for ten years, and meanwhile we would have reached half a million people in Judea and Samaria.”

The Trump Administration’s Posture

And now we have, in the country with the greatest potential outside leverage over all this, the Trump administration.  Donald Trump said some things early in his campaign about being even-handed, but then he made his peace with Sheldon Adelson, and from the time he spoke later during the campaign to AIPAC, most of what he has said and done on this issue would have easily passed muster in the Israeli prime minister’s office.  His son-in-law the envoy comes from a family with connections to West Bank settlements.  Trump’s bankruptcy lawyer, whom he has appointed as ambassador to Israel, has direct personal involvement in aiding a West Bank settlement, has likened liberal, pro-peace American Jews to Nazi collaborators, and recently departed from a long-established U.S. diplomatic lexicon by referring to the “alleged occupation”. 

Trump has backed away from the two-state solution, which had been the explicit U.S. objective of the previous couple of administrations, Republican and Democratic, and the implicit objective of the couple of administrations before that, Republican and Democratic.  In an extraordinary statement, the State Department spokeswoman recently said that to recommit to the two-state solution would constitute “bias”.  As former U.S. ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer commented in an op ed last week, “her words indicate that the Trump administration itself is extremely biased — in favor of hardliners in … Netanyahu’s coalition who want the United States and Israel to abandon the two- state outcome.”

Those hardliners, and the Trump administration, have recently been looking to what is referred to as the “outside-in” concept—the idea the other Arab states will lean on the Palestinians to accept something less than a real state.  But if the key to a peace settlement rested with those other Arab states, then Israel could pick up off the table what has been on the table for 15 years: the Arab League peace initiative, which offers full recognition of, and peace with, Israel by all Arab states and a formal declaration that the Arab-Israeli conflict is over, in return for an end to the occupation and establishment of a Palestinian state.  Genuine peace with the region still requires genuine peace with the Palestinians.  Neither the Saudis nor other Arab leaders will sign off on bantustans for their Arab brethren in Palestine.

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