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May 29, 2009


No argument here.

As an aside, I know Netanyahu may be one of the worst PMs to break this to, but I'm also always hearing about how his right-wing coalition makes it practically impossible.

But I'm not sure it even necessarily works against Obama's goal -- for example, doesn't Foreign Minister Lieberman actually support a functioning Palestinian state? (Granted, he supports it so Israel can have somewhere to deport its Arab citizens, but just the same...)

Considering the number of settlers in the West Bank, I don't know how dismantling the settlers will ever be physically or politically possible.

The settlers will not go quietly.

Yeah, "stopping settlement expansion" is a no-brainer, and thank the heavens that the Obama people are talking firmly about it. But it's hardly more than one tiny step in the right direction, as a) the currently-existing settlements make a viable Palestinian state impossible, and b) hundreds of thousands of cranky settlers aren't going to leave quietly. And somehow I doubt they'll be enthusiastic about adopting citizenship in a new Palestinian state.

"Ending settlement growth is a no-brainer on both policy and moral grounds."

For me and thee, yes.

But: "And I think most Israeli leaders recognize this"

This is true of Labour, Kadima, and New Movement-Meretz, who have a combined 45 seats in the Knesset.

It's also true of Balad, Hadash, and the United Arab List, who have 11 seats in the Knesset.

It's certainly not true of Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu, The Jewish Home, and National Union, who have a combined 50 seats.

And Shas and United Torah Judaism mostly only care about their subsidies.

This is a loose generalization, to be sure, but when you say "most Israeli leaders," if you don't define your terms in some more limited, and probably tautological way, you're more or less wrong. Would that it were otherwise so.

And, to be sure, we're speaking as much of the people who elected these parties and their leaders as we are the leaders.

"But I'm not sure it even necessarily works against Obama's goal -- for example, doesn't Foreign Minister Lieberman actually support a functioning Palestinian state?"

Yes, but his version is the opposite of limiting settlements: he and his party want to make all the settlement areas part of Israel, while turning the Arab-majority parts of Israel over to the Palestinian sate. Meanwhile, he'd like settlements to grow as fast and big as possible.

"And Shas and United Torah Judaism mostly only care about their subsidies."

Which, I neglected to say, have 16 seats.

The current cabinet is the largest ever, and consists of Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu, Shas, the Labor Party, The Jewish Home, and UTJ, with thirty ministers and nine deputy ministers.

These "leaders," other than those of Labor, don't want to stop settlement growth, let alone remove settlements. (Though Shas could possibly be bribed to go along, as might UTJ; but meanwhile they favor having further religious settlements.)

This last Israeli election made me sink in despair; not that that's a new experience for me as regards Israeli/Palestinian affairs.

Hopeful signs, but it is worth remembering that this was also the policy 25 years during the Reagan administration, and somehow the Israelis managed to keep on expanding settlements. This is going to have to get very ugly before this will change. Too large a segment of Israeli polity is devoted to Greater Israel and the required ethnic cleansing necessary to keep the expanding state majority Jewish.

The Israelis currently in power are just going to dig in their heals and keep on surreptitiously supporting the status quo, which is an expansionist policy. I do not think that there is enough political power in Israel to change that (oppose and slow it, yes, but reverse it? - no), and outside pressure will have to be kept up for a long ugly time to create any change (if it can).

I think despair is the only rational response to the whole Israeli-Palestinian problem, really.
I would say that the best that can be hoped for on the settlement issue from the current government is a standstill on settlement growth and the dismantling of outposts and maybe a few small settlements, plus a readjustment of the Wall. This is probably not enough for even the west Bank Palestinian authority, much less Hamas.

Obama-a man given to rational discussion and understanding both sides of an issue- is going to go into an area where both sides reject that approach.

The federal government doesn't tell, e.g., Texas where it can and can't build settlements, so I don't see why it should treat the 51st state of Israel any differently.

This last Israeli election made me sink in despair

This is an unfortunate byproduct of their not-very-functional parliamentary system, and their granting of seats to someone who can get their dog to vote for them. Consider the results:

Kadima: 22.5%
Likud: 21.6%
Yisrael Beiteinu: 11.7%
Labor: 9.9%
Shas: 8.5%
United Torah Judaism: 4.4%
United Arab List: 3.4%
National Union: 3.3%
The Jewish Home: 2.9%

Yeah, I'd say Bibi has a strong mandate from the electorate, all right. This is probably why he sought Kadima as a coalition partner. The strong growth of Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu is a worrisome trend, though. But Netanyahu has been in power and publicly picked fights with the US before. And then he was out of power. It is getting late in the region, but perhaps still not too late.

Didn't Bibi as much as tell both of 'em to go pound sand, and authorized new buildings almost simultaneous with Obama's objection?

@mds: 55%-plus for right-wing parties? That's a pretty grim result that isn't made more comforting by the idea that Netanyahu's party only got the direct votes of 22.5%.

Now that fifteen years of expanding settlements, apartheid highways, checkpoints, and water theft has made a two-state solution a political and practical impossibility, now the U.S. government is really putting its foot down, eh? The sand's running out of the hourglass, and quickly.

Recognition that settlement removal is the right thing to do is step one. And you said it best that political leaders in Israel need cover to do the right thing. I'm glad progress is being made, though some critics say the Obama administration needs to focus on more important issues.

Here is one bit of good news, at least.

The Israeli cabinet has rejected a controversial proposal to require Israeli citizens to take an oath of loyalty to the Jewish state.


The measure was thrown out by eight votes to three at a meeting of the Cabinet on Sunday.

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