UPDATE: I’ve added a link with some basic background on the conflict in the comments.
When I introduced myself earlier in the week, I said that I write a lot about Israel/Palestine, but that I also write about a lot of other stuff as well. Given the nature of this blog, I led with some of that other stuff. On Tuesday, though, I had a chance to appear on Russia Today, the Russian English-language news channel (I know – I didn’t know either) to discuss the latest goings on in Israel/Palestine — so here we go, leaping into my somewhat more regular gig.
To anyone wondering what my background in this is, I’ll say briefly: I lived in Tel Aviv for 14 years, and have studied, reported on and written about the topic for 25 years. I’ve been an advocate for a two-state solution since the 1980s, and my area of academic and professional expertise is the contemporary Middle East. More details can be found at the top of this post and you can get a good feeling for the approach I take, my personal attachment and personal heartbreak, in this post, and this one. Beyond that, there’s a lot of material to be found poking around here.
As it is my contention that one of the biggest problems in this conflict is the failure on the parts of so many people to genuinely listen to and respect the humanity of those on the other side, I’m going to ask that if you respond here — even if with great disagreement and passion — that you try to succeed where the diplomats have failed, and show genuine respect for each other.
So the other day, something of a stink was made about the fact that Israel is talking about “canceling” the Oslo Accords if the Palestinians insist on going to the UN in September to ask for recognition as a state.
Only it doesn’t really seem that Israel is necessarily considering such a move with any seriousness — they’re just kicking around a few reeaally stupid, self-defeatist, panicky ideas. You know, like they do.
Anyhoo, after appearing on Russia Today in May to discuss the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama’s two speeches, I was asked back yesterday to talk about the new mess! And so, of course, I said yes. (Last time, I was worried I looked like a moron; this time, I’m more worried about looking like a cadaver. [LIGHTING! MAKEUP!] Whatevs. I manged to slip in the word “Jedi,” in a totally appropriate context, so I’m good).
After the jump you can see me on the teevee (and, I’m certain, you’ll notice that my focus and attention were really rather impressive, given all the stuff going on around me). After the clip (transcript at the bottom of the post), you’ll find a little compendium of links to the articles I scoured in a state of high tizz to make sure I sounded smart in the segment. Very little of it came into play in my 4+ minutes — for instance, I didn’t get a chance to mention that just this past Saturday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said, and I quote, “Our first, second and third choice is to return to negotiations [over going to the UN]” — but hey! It’s all good. Smarter is better.
1. Palestine’s White September: An Historic Opportunity – an excellent, brief starting point, by author, journalist and Tel Aviv University professor Carlo Strenger, spelling out the Palestinian bid, and its risks and possible benefits for Palestinians, Israelis, and the Obama Administration.
2. Who is “delegitimizing” whom? – also excellent, also brief. By director for the Council on Foreign Relations U.S./Middle East Project (and former executive director of the American Jewish Congress) Henry Siegman, explaining why, exactly, the Palestinian bid is, by and large, the exact opposite of everything Israel is trying to tell you it is.
3. Palestine, Israel, the UN and America’s attempted Quartet sophistry – rather more “thorough” than “brief,” but really good at dispelling a bunch of myths and giving more detail to all the possible outcomes, by Daniel Levy, director of the Middle East Task Force at the New America Foundation and a former member of the Israeli negotiating team.
4. September Song – by law professor and former legal adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team Omar Dajani, a much-needed Palestinian take on the Palestinian decision to turn to the UN, with some great legal and political analysis.
5. No choice but the UN for the Palestinians – Lara Friedman, director of policy and government relations for Americans for Peace Now, briefly explains just why the Palestinians really are left with no other choice.
6. “Former [Israeli] diplomats: Recognize Palestine” – Ynet news. Three former diplomats (one of whom, Robbie Seibel, is the dad of my late friend Danny, and a really lovely man!) who think Israel’s approach is doing more harm than good.
7. Israel looking into revoking Oslo Accords in response to Palestinian UN bid – HaAretz. The wishy-washy “maybe they will, but they’re not really sold on it” report that got the world talking.
8. FM: Israel would not dare to cancel Oslo deal – Maan News Agency. The Palestinian Authority responds to the reports.
9. Peres: Oslo Accords still hold – JTA. Peres thinks the whole thing isn’t even real to begin with. (Also, please note that his description of the behavior of Syrian protestors for which he has such deep admiration could apply equally well to Palestinian protestors, and of course, he is entirely unaware. I’m sure he would say that the Israeli government is no Assad, and in that he would be right, but dude: Every single word he says here could be applied to the very people his government has been occupying for 44 years…! The willed and willful ignorance sometimes just makes me want to weep).
Russia Today: The latest threat to Middle East peace is a promise by Israel to punish the Palestinians if they go ahead with plans to declare statehood at the UN in September. It’s considering canceling the landmark 1993 Oslo Accord which is the main road map in resolving the Middle East conflict. Well, the US is among the countries refusing to support the Palestinians’ moves towards recognition. Let’s get the view of political writer and blogger Emily Hauser.
Ms. Hauser, thanks very much for joining us. Now what would Israel achieve if it cancels the Oslo Accord?
Emily Hauser: Thanks so much for having me.
Well, it’s, you know that’s an interesting question because it starts with – I actually have to back up a little bit to the vocabulary that’s being used: To “cancel” the Oslo Accord. This is an internationally recognized bilateral agreement — it’s not Israel breaking up with her boyfriend. You can’t just cancel something, this is – there’s not some Jedi might trick that can be done, “Oh, this this accord was never there.”
However having said that, what it will achieve is very little. It will only make [Israel’s] own position more isolated, more difficult to negotiate out of.
Having said that, it’s also, for all the noise that this suggestion has gotten in the press there’s also the very real possibility that – it doesn’t seem to be being considered all that seriously. Israeli President Peres said today that it’s just a “journalistic rumor,” was the way he put it, which seems a bit inaccurate because HaAretz has Israeli officials confirming that it’s on the table but the report put it as: “Not the leading alternative,” is the way that it was put.
So to me it reads as Israeli officials spitballing in kind of a state of desperation. There’s a real whiff a panic to all of this.
RT: Now many Israelis, though, see the Palestinians as already having violated Oslo by resorting to armed revolt in 2000 and in 2006, as well as voting for Hamas. Now would such a move by Israel really inflict damage?
EH: Well [sigh] it’s kind of odd to me that Israelis and the Israeli government refuse to acknowledge the ways in which we — and I say we because I’m Israeli-American — the ways in which we have violated the agreement from, from – I mean, the ink had hardly gone dry. We have not once stopped building in the territories we have not once stopped adding Israelis there and building bypass roads.
So is violence breaking the agreement? Yes but so are building settlements, so are running bombing raids and running raids into the centers of town. You know we, Israel has continued with military incursions into areas that were supposed to be entirely under Palestinian security control from the very beginning.
So yes, both sides broken the Accords time again but for Israel to pretend that they have not is, is just – gross dishonesty.
RT: Right, right. Israel also used strong words saying they will punish the Palestinians, but also they say that the Palestinians’ unilateral move for statehood in September will not bring peace. What do you think the impact will be on the ground?
EH: Well on the ground it will not immediately bring peace, it won’t even immediately bring statehood. There are two possibilities here, the Palestinians –
RT: Will it make things worse, though?
EH: In the short run it might, but in the long run – [in the short run] because it’s likely to inflame passions on the Israeli side and lead to Israeli violence against Palestinians. I think it’s interesting that the Israeli government is using the word “punish,” because that says a lot about the Israeli attitude towards the people with whom it’s supposedly negotiating, right?
However, what the Palestinians are proposing, and Israel and America seem to have not noticed this or are refusing to see it, is they’re proposing going to the international community and saying: Yes, we’re part of you, we have this state according to limited boundaries, the 1967 borders with negotiated adjustments, and we want to live side-by-side with Israel, we want to forswear force violence permanently and become a member of the international community – and Israel is acting like a bomb has been set off in the Knesset.
RT: Okay well thank you very much for that analysis, we do have to see how this will play out. Emily Hauser, political writer and blogger, thank you very much.