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Following Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu's speech before the U.S. Congress, it was clear that there will be no peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And maybe that's not such a bad thing, to know where things really stand.  

In reality, the die was cast when the Likud government cast its lot with the country's anti-democratic elements, rather than forming a coalition government with the liberal-centrist Kadima Party. The result is a policy of expanding settlements and forcibly evicting Palestinians from their homes, described by a UN investigator as ethnic cleansing. Israel's nearly 1.6 million citizens of Arab descent are not truly citizens, as they face racial discrimination, and new laws on the books make sure they are kept down and out. Meanwhile, ultra-orthodox factions in Israel impose litmus tests for the Jewish diaspora and progressive Jewish-American groups such as J Street. George Mitchell's resignation as Obama's Mideast envoy, whether it was due to unwilling partners or missteps by the White House itself, only underscored the seeming intractability of the situation.

For AIPAC, the American neocons, and the Christian evangelical Zionists waiting for the rapture to begin, Netanyahu was a big hit in Congress. But his oratorical victory was a diplomatic failure. The leader of the client state thumbing his nose at the leader of the host state, in the absence of the latter no less, provided a façade of courage and little else. In reality, Bibi backed Israel further into the corner of international isolation, with the Israeli government as a continuing source of embarrassment for liberal Jewish-Americans. And he is relegating himself to the outpost of historical irrelevancy. Dedicating new Jewish housing in Arab East Jerusalem while dissing Obama in Washington was the easy thing to do. But extending a hand to those who disagree with you and forging a peace agreement that includes a genuine two state solution, now that's an entirely different matter. That's courage, which is missing.

According to Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak, his country faces a "diplomatic tsunami that the majority of the country is unaware of." Blaming Netanyahu, Barak said the prime minister's indecisiveness was "pushing Israel into a corner from which the old South Africa's deterioration began." Last year, Barak warned that a failure to make peace with the Palestinians would create an apartheid state or a state without a Jewish majority.

And so, the Palestinians will take their case for statehood to the United Nations in September. And with no viable alternatives, a unilateral declaration of statehood is viewed as the only thing to bring Israel back to the negotiating table. Effectively ignoring the threat of a U.S. veto in the UN Security Council, the Palestinians are expected to call for a vote in the General Assembly under UNGA Resolution 377, known as the "Uniting for Peace" resolution. Resolution 377 allows the General Assembly to step in during a stalemate in the Security Council, when "there appears to be a threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression." The Palestinians will likely succeed, as surely they know they will be hard to ignore once they have the support of anywhere between 110 and 150 nations, and establish embassies throughout the world.  

The larger question is whether all human beings have a right to self-determination and the right to determine their destiny, or whether the democratizing effect of the Arab Spring applies only to Arabs who live outside of the West Bank or Gaza. And I am reminded of Malcolm X, who in 1964 appealed to 34 African nations to take the "deteriorating plight" of African-Americans to the UN on the grounds that it was "definitely becoming a threat to world peace." He added that the "United States government is morally incapable of protecting the lives and property of 22 million Afro-Americans." That was a different time and place, perhaps, but still the issue of basic human rights remains the same.

Today in Israel, a policy that gives aid and comfort to the status quo is being dictated by fear and a concern for security. But Israel will never find security, or true democracy, under this occupation. You can only lull yourself into a false sense of security when you keep another group of people captive in your backyard and try to rationalize it. Any violence associated with that unnatural condition is not a valid justification for the occupation, but rather is a consequence of it, as the dehumanization, deprivation and hate engendered by the occupation proceed to suck all of the air out of civil society.

As for Palestinians, who can exercise only limited democracy under an occupation, there is an opportunity to foster democracy and institution building. Nadia Hijab, American Palestinian author and human rights advocate, believes the Arab Spring has strengthened the Palestinian people's hand, and has helped the decades-long nonviolent Palestinian movement. "Many of the Palestinian leadership have been stuck, they've been vested in a U.S.-led peace process that led nowhere," Hijab recently said in a conversation with Jewish Fast for Gaza, a peace group founded by Rabbis Brant Rosen and Brian Walt. "It has now freed them to play a more authentic leadership role, and has given a very big boost to Palestinians who have been undertaking nonviolent resistance through the popular struggle against the wall, which has been going on for six years as villagers organize village by village to try and stop their land from being swallowed up, as well as they Boycott Divestment Sanctions Movement."    

Hijab -- who is the director of Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network, and senior fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies -- believes that the main concern coming from Palestinian youth and civil society is not necessarily elections in the territories, but to reconstitute the Palestinian National Council on the lines of the old PLO so that it represents all Palestinians. "So now the rulers of the West Bank and in Gaza know that they too will be held accountable and that they need to listen to people's aspirations, and one of the very first aspirations was we don't want this division of leadership," she said. "And then with the changes in Egypt, we began to see official statements that Egypt will no longer participate in maintaining Israel's siege in Gaza, that they will start to open the Rafah border. It has begun to give hope to the Palestinians in Gaza that the changes will have a direct impact on their lives, freedom of movement, their ability to deal with the rest of the world, their ability to develop, to rebuild after the horrible destruction that happened after Israel's December 2008 and January 2009 assault."

Peace and security will come to both Israelis and Palestinians only if it is based on a commitment to universal human rights. For Palestinians, this means self-determination -- whether as an independent state or with full democratic rights in Israel or wherever they find themselves. Right now, the Palestinians believe that taking the statehood issue to the UN is the way to make that happen.  

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Comment Preferences

  •  There are a lot of good points, but one sticky (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    point remains:


    Nothing is going to happen while Hamas continues to remain with the attitude of "sweeping Israel into the sea".

    That gives the Israelis all the excuse they need.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White

    by zenbassoon on Sun Jun 12, 2011 at 08:47:46 AM PDT

  •  It's an interesting question (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Actuary4Change, Rich in PA
    The larger question is whether all human beings have a right to self-determination and the right to determine their destiny

    As a general matter, I don't think they do.  If, say, Delaware decided it wanted to secede from America one would be hard-pressed to see how they'd have that right.  That tracks what I think is the perspective of international law, where a right of secession is contingent on there being some historical tradition of the given territory existing as a discrete nation (in the old-timey sense of some discrete identity, rather than the contemporary sense of sovereign state).  

    With all that said, my understanding is that international law understandings of secession are very much in flux, particularly in the wake of the Balkans.  The literature from the time that I've perused seems to indicate a lack of consensus, which in turn suggests that the ability of Palestine to constitute a sovereign state is unsettled.  So it'll make for an interesting challenge in international law: if the General Assembly votes to recognize Palestine as a state, does that make it a state?  Will the ICC subsequently recognize Palestine? (which would be a very big deal, since the ICC could, in theory, bring up war crimes charges).

    •  I think you've got things messed up (5+ / 0-)


      The  Palestinians is not trying to secede; they're trying to get out from under the Israeli occupation.

      Dissolve Israel; stop distinguishing between jew and non-jew in Palestine.

      by high5 on Sun Jun 12, 2011 at 09:15:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  General Assembly vote ... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      snowwoman, Actuary4Change, poco

      ... is what Israel usually points to as recognition of their state.

      As high5 notes, Delaware is not really a comparable situation: residents/citizens of Delaware have a voice in the federal government; Palestinians in the Occupied Territories have no voice in the government that rules them.

      •  When has Israel ever (0+ / 0-)

        pointed to the GA for their recognition? The UN did not create Israel, the Jewish people did. And the UN recognition of that fact went through the Security Council.

        •  Goodness. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          In the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, no less, we have this paragraph:

          On the 29th November, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Israel; the General Assembly required the inhabitants of Eretz-Israel to take such steps as were necessary on their part for the implementation of that resolution. This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their State is irrevocable.

          There was something quite troubling to me about your side of our earlier exchange. Can you guess what that might be?

    •  And if you take seriously the "human being" thing (0+ / 0-)

      ...then at what point to you draw the line?  There are always people who'll want to secede from any community. Modern Spain is the most pluralist, decentralized democracy that ever was, even more than Canada, but some people still want an independent Basque state.

      It's better to curse the darkness than light a candle. --Whoever invented blogs, c.1996

      by Rich in PA on Sun Jun 12, 2011 at 05:38:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  self-determination and secession are different (0+ / 0-)

      I think.  Arguably one can have self-determination without a state.  Whether a state is the best way, well that depends.  Full human rights wherever you are seems to be important to me.  In any case, you bring up very interesting points.

  •  Israelis are content to let the Far Right lead (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    snowwoman, tim woods

    Until that changes there is no point in talking about taking steps toward peace that Israel's ruling parties are dead set against taking.

    Plutocracy too long tolerated leaves democracy on the auction block, subject to the highest bidder ~ Bill Moyers

    by Lefty Coaster on Sun Jun 12, 2011 at 09:06:56 AM PDT

  •  You mention segregation in the US. (4+ / 0-)

    The solution to segregation in the US was equal rights.   The solution to Apartheid in South Africa was equal rights.   Why do you think that the solution for Israel is to shove the Palestinians into a desert ghetto?

    A "Palestinian State" under Israel’s thumb is no different than "Palestinian occupied territory" aside from the word "state".   The problem is Israel; let’s fix that.   Lets help Israel transition to being a country of equal rights.   Only that will bring peace!

    Israel will have peace when it has equal rights!

    by Joe Johnson on Sun Jun 12, 2011 at 09:26:56 AM PDT

    •  "Equal rights" = Muslim majority led by (0+ / 0-)

      factions that call for the genocide of the Jewish people.

      Equal rights indeed.

      •  Led by? (0+ / 0-)

        Embellishing the facts like this shows you bias.

        Plutocracy too long tolerated leaves democracy on the auction block, subject to the highest bidder ~ Bill Moyers

        by Lefty Coaster on Sun Jun 12, 2011 at 11:04:32 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  yes, this falls into anti-Muslim stereotypes (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Governance that reflects the diversity of Palestinian thought is the goal.  when people have their destiny in their hands, and are able to tackle their problems by themselves, I don't see how destroying Israel comes into play.  Some factions feel this way, perhaps, but that does not translate into the entirety of Palestinian civil society and the nonviolent rights movement.  

    •  "The problem is Israel, let's fix that" (0+ / 0-)


      I think that a bigger problem for Palestinians is their self proclaimed advocates at home & abroad who describe Israel as a "problem" to be "solved"

      •  Israel is a country... (0+ / 0-)

        Israel is a country that denies people their rights based on their religion and ethnic origin.   Is that ugly fact not something that must be fixed?

        Israel will have peace when it has equal rights!

        by Joe Johnson on Sun Jun 12, 2011 at 12:26:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You didn't say that Israel has a problem. (0+ / 0-)

          Which they surely do, and several.

          You stated that Israel IS a problem.

          Also, you state as an incontrovertable fact your opinion that "Israel denies people their rights based on their religion and ethnic origin", which at least in so far as your Jim Crow analogies go, is factually incorrect. Arab Israelis vote and elect members to the Knesset.

          •  We Americans know... (0+ / 0-)

            We Americans know exactly how that works.   Under segregation black people could vote!   A clear statement of fact.   Of course they risked their life if they tried to vote.   Even if they did vote it did not matter.   The system was stacked against them.

            Israel is the same.   Sure the Palestinians with Israeli citizenship can vote.   Does it matter?   Can they vote away all the discriminatory laws?   Can they vote for equal rights?   Israel is the perfect example of the failure of democracy.   The term for that is; the tyranny of the majority!

            Israel will have peace when it has equal rights!

            by Joe Johnson on Sun Jun 12, 2011 at 01:35:18 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  So you have no problem with Israeli actions? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joe Johnson

        Plutocracy too long tolerated leaves democracy on the auction block, subject to the highest bidder ~ Bill Moyers

        by Lefty Coaster on Sun Jun 12, 2011 at 12:27:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I have problems with some actions (0+ / 0-)

          of certain Israelis.

          When you state it in the way you do, "no problem with Israeli actions", or the way that Joe Johnson does, I am not hearing a criticism of any particular Israeli action, or inaction. What I hear is that some commenters  believe that Israel itself is a problem that must be fixed, or worse, its very existence a mistake that must be erased.

          I think Israelis may hear this too, and when they do, it is the kind of talk that sends them running away from a negotiation table, not towards it. So that's probably not really helpful.

    •  yes, so true (0+ / 0-)

      A Palestinian Bantustan is a Bantustan, whether it is an occupied colony as it is now, or a colony with a facade of independence and the strings being pulled by Israel.

  •  Drudge's headline today (0+ / 0-)

    Plutocracy too long tolerated leaves democracy on the auction block, subject to the highest bidder ~ Bill Moyers

    by Lefty Coaster on Sun Jun 12, 2011 at 12:25:35 PM PDT

  •  I hope people saw these: (0+ / 0-)

    This article in the JP and a similar one in Ha'aretz concerning Hamas and possible non participation in the PA government for the reasons stated. Another, which I tried to save but didn't appeared today saying that Hamas did not consent that Mr. Fayyad, the architect of the structures in WB that have made that area function sufficiently to be considered by some international entities to be capable of the mechanics of statehood, be the 'neutral' Head of the neutral first state.  

    This articleis one of a series that have appeared in Ha'aretz (see here) and JP respecting a possible rebalancing of what will happen in September, and which appeares to be part of a conversation appearing in those newspapers about whether the current Israeli government will agree to the Obama points and proceed to prompt and real negotiations, possibly in France next month, as an alternative to the September UN dance. See this one as well.  and here. There are more articles than these.

    There is also this article.  What is of note in this one imo is the first full paragraph below the blue square advertisement which indicates that the Israeli government is arguing to member states against the September action is that in some manner the creation of a palestinian state is a delegitimization or would lead to such, of the Israeli state. That in some manner they are mutually exclusive.

    The parties are apparently now dancing a bit as to whether Israel will agree to negotiate, possibly in Paris under the Sarkozy invitation, as an alternative to the September US mess, which has its own risks.

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