Netanyahu Says NO to Independent Palestinian State; Israeli Dharma Group Confronts Israeli Settlers’ Arrogance and Violence
Editor’s note: We got this article (printed below) from the Times of Israel, in which Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu fully reveals that he never intended and never will negotiate an independent Palestinian state. To some this is shocking news and all the more since the Western media totally ignored this most significant statement made by Netanyahu, a full revelation of what he really thinks when he is speaking only in Hebrew and not trying to do p.r. for the West.
But for many of us who have followed his actions, increasing settlements and using the despicable murder of Israeli teens as a pretext for once again escalating into war the struggle against Hamas, we have not been mesmerized by his deceitful words and there is nothing surprising in all this. Netanyahu has never been a partner for peace and the foolishness of the Obama Administration’s strategy of “get the peace negotiations going” is revealed.
As I’ve said in previous editorials in Tikkun, the only thing the US can do that would be a real contribution toward peace is to go over the heads of Israeli and Palestinian leaders and go directly to the people and present a vision and a concrete plan for the terms that could actually end the conflict. I presented that plan in the Winter 2014 issue of Tikkun and in Embracing Israel/Palestine (www.tikkun.org/eip) . But neither Obama nor Kerry is willing to do that because of their fear of the pro-Israel lobby in the U.S. (made up not only of the economically and media-powerful Jewish establishment but also of the tens of millions of Christian Zionists).
In this respect, Netanyahu’s contempt for the spinelessness of the Obama Administration has some validity, because Netanyahu sees that Obama isn’t willing to stand up to Netanyahu, so why should the American Administration be counted to stand up to Israel’s real enemies (e.g. Islamic fundamentalists in ISIS and Iran who really do want to see the destruction of Israel). Our challenge as peace activists is to do what we can to popularize a positive vision of a solution, rather than merely carp at how screwed up Netanyahu and Hamas are–but it’s hard to do that when the violence of Israel against Hamas turns into a slaughter of many innocent Gazans who just live there and have never given their consent to Hamas as their rulers. Meanwhile, please don’t miss the article (below the Netanyahu revelations) in which the confrontations between an Israeli Dharma group and Israeli settlers teach us some important lessons.
–Rabbi Michael Lerner
Netanyahu finally speaks his mind
He wasn’t saying that he doesn’t support a two-state solution. He was saying that it’s impossible.
At his Friday press conference, the prime minister ruled out full Palestinian sovereignty, derided the US approach to Israeli security, and set out his Middle East overview with unprecedented candor. His remarks were not widely reported; they should be.
Does Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu really support a two-state solution, or is his rhetoric to this effect disingenuous? Did he genuinely seek an accommodation with the Palestinians during the nine months of US-brokered negotiations that collapsed in April, or was he just stringing the Americans and the Palestinians along, while his heart is truly with the settlement enterprise? These are fundamental questions — questions you’d think Israelis and the watching world would long since have been able to answer, especially given that Netanyahu is Israel’s second-longest serving prime minister ever. In fact, though, while many pundits claim to have definitive answers, most Israelis would acknowledge that they’ve never been entirely sure how Netanyahu sees a potential resolution of the Palestinian conflict, which concessions he’s truly ready to make, what his long-term vision looks like.
But now we know.
The uncertainties were swept aside on Friday afternoon, when the prime minister, for the first time in ages, gave a press conference on Day Four of Operation Protective Edge.
He spoke only in Hebrew, and we are in the middle of a mini-war, so his non-directly war-related remarks didn’t get widely reported. But those remarks should not be overlooked even in the midst of a bitter conflict with Gaza’s Islamist rulers; especially in the midst of a bitter conflict with Gaza’s Islamist rulers. The prime minister spoke his mind as rarely, if ever, before. He set out his worldview with the confidence of a leader who sees vindication in the chaos all around. He answered those fundamental questions.
Netanyahu began his appearance, typically, by reading some prepared remarks. But then, most atypically, he took a series of questions. And while he initially stuck to responses tied to the war against Hamas, its goals, and the terms under which it might be halted, he then moved — unasked — into territory he does not usually chart in public, and certainly not with such candor.
For some, his overall outlook will seem bleak and depressing; for others, savvy and pragmatic. One thing’s for sure: Nobody will ever be able to claim in the future that he didn’t tell us what he really thinks.
He made explicitly clear that he could never, ever, countenance a fully sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank. He indicated that he sees Israel standing almost alone on the frontlines against vicious Islamic radicalism, while the rest of the as-yet free world does its best not to notice the march of extremism. And he more than intimated that he considers the current American, John Kerry-led diplomatic team to be, let’s be polite, naive.
Perhaps most reporters switched off after he’d delivered his headlines, making plain that “no international pressure will prevent us from acting with all force against a terrorist organization (Hamas) that seeks to destroy us,” and that Operation Protective Edge would go on until guaranteed calm was restored to Israel. If they did, they shouldn’t have.
Netanyahu has stressed often in the past that he doesn’t want Israel to become a binational state — implying that he favors some kind of accommodation with and separation from the Palestinians. But on Friday he made explicit that this could not extend to full Palestinian sovereignty. Why? Because, given the march of Islamic extremism across the Middle East, he said, Israel simply cannot afford to give up control over the territory immediately to its east, including the eastern border — that is, the border between Israel and Jordan, and the West Bank and Jordan.
The priority right now, Netanyahu stressed, was to “take care of Hamas.” But the wider lesson of the current escalation was that Israel had to ensure that “we don’t get another Gaza in Judea and Samaria.” Amid the current conflict, he elaborated, “I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan.”
Earlier this spring, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon sparked a storm in Israel-US ties when he told a private gathering that the US-Kerry-Allen security proposals weren’t worth the paper they were written on. Netanyahu on Friday said the same, and more, in public
Not relinquishing security control west of the Jordan, it should be emphasized, means not giving a Palestinian entity full sovereignty there. It means not acceding to Mahmoud Abbas’s demands, to Barack Obama’s demands, to the international community’s demands. This is not merely demanding a demilitarized Palestine; it is insisting upon ongoing Israeli security oversight inside and at the borders of the West Bank. That sentence, quite simply, spells the end to the notion of Netanyahu consenting to the establishment of a Palestinian state. A less-than-sovereign entity? Maybe, though this will never satisfy the Palestinians or the international community. A fully sovereign Palestine? Out of the question.
He wasn’t saying that he doesn’t support a two-state solution. He was saying that it’s impossible. This was not a new, dramatic change of stance by the prime minister. It was a new, dramatic exposition of his long-held stance.
Naming both US Secretary of State John Kerry and his security adviser Gen. John Allen — who was charged by the secretary to draw up security proposals that the US argued could enable Israel to withdraw from most of the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley — Netanyahu hammered home the point: Never mind what the naive outsiders recommend, “I told John Kerry and General Allen, the Americans’ expert, ‘We live here, I live here, I know what we need to ensure the security of Israel’s people.’”
Earlier this spring, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon sparked a storm in Israel-US ties when he told a private gathering that the US-Kerry-Allen security proposals weren’t worth the paper they were written on. Netanyahu on Friday said the same, and more, in public.
Netanyahu didn’t say he was ruling out all territorial compromise, but he did go to some lengths to highlight the danger of relinquishing what he called “adjacent territory.” He scoffed at those many experts who have argued that holding onto territory for security purposes is less critical in the modern technological era, and argued by contrast that the closer your enemies are, physically, to your borders, the more they’ll try to tunnel under those borders and fire rockets over them.
It had been a mistake for Israel to withdraw from Gaza, he added — reminding us that he’d opposed the 2005 disengagement — because Hamas had since established a terrorist bunker in the Strip. And what Hamas had been doing in Gaza — tunneling into and rocketing at the enemy — would be replicated in the West Bank were Israel so foolish as to give the Islamists the opportunity.
“If we were to pull out of Judea and Samaria, like they tell us to,” he said bitterly — leaving it to us to fill in who the many and various foolish “theys” are — “there’d be a possibility of thousands of tunnels” being dug by terrorists to attack Israel, he said. There were 1,200 tunnels dug in the 14-kilometer border strip between Egypt and Gaza alone, he almost wailed, which Egypt had sealed. “At present we have a problem with the territory called Gaza,” the prime minister said. But the West Bank is 20 times the size of Gaza. Israel, he said flatly, was not prepared “to create another 20 Gazas” in the West Bank.
Beyond Israel’s direct current confrontation with Hamas, and the eternal Palestinian conflict, Netanyahu also addressed the rise of Islamic extremism across the Middle East — covering the incapacity of affected states to resist it, and Israel’s unique determination and capacity to stand firm. He said Israel finds itself in a region “that is being seized by Islamic extremism. It is bringing down countries, many countries. It is knocking on our door, in the north and south.”
But while other states were collapsing, said Netanyahu, Israel was not — because of the strength of its leadership, its army and its people. “We will defend ourselves on every front, defensively and offensively,” he vowed.
And in a passage that was primarily directed at Israel’s Islamist enemies, but might equally be internalized by those he plainly regards as Israel’s muddle-headed self-styled friends, he added: “Nobody should mess with us.”
David Horovitz is the founding editor of The Times of Israel. He previously edited The Jerusalem Post (2004-2011) and The Jerusalem Report (1998-2004). He is the author of “Still Life with Bombers” (2004) and “A Little Too Close to God” (2000), and co-author of “Shalom Friend: The Life and Legacy of Yitzhak Rabin (1996).
Thanks to NSP Advisory Board member Bernie Glassman, we received the following account of courageous Dharma activists in Israel. The courage of these Buddhist dharma activists is inspiring. Their account gives you a sense of what life under Occupation is like for Palestinians as they face the arrogance and periodic violence of some Israeli settlers (not all of them are violent or arrogant, but the cumulative impact of the settlements on the lives of Palestinians is revealed in this article, because the “good settlers” rarely constrain the hurtful and arrogant settlers). I admire these dharma activists, just as I admired those who bring food to the hungry in America’s inner cities and post-Great-Recession suburban and rural areas. But I also understand that just as feeding the hungry once a week doesn’t confront the problem of poverty and inequality in the U.S., so this kind of spiritual activism in Israel has its limits, because it doesn’t confront the fundamental problem of the Occupation itself.
–Rabbi Michel Lerner
Israel Dharma Group Challenges Israeli Settlers
A few years ago a group of us came to the Palestinian village of Jaloud. We came to support local farmers planting olive trees in one of their fields, which they couldn’t access due to attacks by Israeli settlers. Indeed, during the day, a pickup truck came in our direction from one of the settler outposts. An armed settler came out and demanded that the work stops. His manner was abusive but as there were dozens of us, we disregarded him. As he was waiting for the soldiers that he called in order to kick us out, he said threateningly to the Israeli participants: “Why are you meddling here? These farmers will pay the price for that”.
It all ended well and we had all reason to be satisfied with the accomplishment of the day. But we were very worried by the armed settler’s threat. We took him to be serious and we knew that the village was subject to raids and violent attacks by settlers previously.
What should we do? What could we do? Actually it was very clear to us what was called for. We should turn to the Jewish settlers in the area and find the ones who would share our concern and help us to prevent an attack. To many people, this idea could seem very naïve or very stupid: Settlers and Peace activists do not work together. “Fanatical right wing nationalists” and “extreme Left self hating Jews” as members of these two groups often tend to call each other, have nothing in common. Also, from a political perspective, turning to settlers for assistance would be recognizing the legitimacy of their presence in the Occupied Territories.
Other options – such as turning to the police or army – were not practical: We knew that they would not do anything. Our conviction that turning to settlers was the right thing to do was three-fold: 1) We could not tackle this issue alone, we needed help. An ally who belonged to the same community as the potential attackers would be the most helpful. 2) We had the obligation to do all that we could to prevent the farmers from being attacked. No matter what we thought of settlers living in the Occupied Territories and no matter what recognition our turning to them would grant them, preventing the attack was the top priority. 3) There is much more to “settlers” than the limited and stereotypical images that we “activists” may project on them.
These convictions, which were spontaneous and not a result of lengthy deliberation, were a direct fruit of our Dharma practice: Awareness that we are not self-reliant, an obligation to prevent harm and a turning away from the tendency to demonize.
We managed to get in touch with a Rabbi living in Shilo, the main settlement near Jaloud. He heard us on the phone and came to meet us in Jerusalem the next day. His response was not something to take for granted – he did not share our political viewpoint and many in his community would call us trouble makers and shut themselves off to anything we had to say. But for him, the potential of violence and the possibility to prevent it came before political views and contorted perceptions. The encounter was very warm. In spite of the ideological divide, we discovered that we had shared values, shared concerns and that we could trust each other.
To make a long story short – practically speaking the endeavor was unsuccessful. The political gaps and straightforward animosity did not enable the Rabbi to find partners for this task in the settlement and we too were limited in our ability to engage Jaloud residents with the grievances he had towards the village. A few days after we understood that this endeavor will not bear fruit, a Jaloud teenager working on his family’s fields was shot in the stomach by settlers. He was hospitalized and recovered in a few weeks. The attackers were never caught.
We stayed in touch with the Rabbi. We visited him in the settlement once. A few times he sent us emails with his views on political issues and a few times we did the same. We can sum it up by saying that politically our meeting and correspondences with the Rabbi did not achieve much but that a mutual respect developed. Or, we can say that a mutual respect developed but politically not much was achieved. Which of these phrasings would be the right to use?
As mentioned above, the polarization between Israelis of opposing political views is great. There are several large hate groups against “leftists” on Facebook. On various occasions left wing activists have been physically attacked. Among left wingers you can find those who demonize against religious Jews and settlers. As activists who learn firsthand of the discriminatory policies of our government and the violence of both soldiers and settlers against Palestinians, we need to be careful of the negative mental and emotional patterns that we may develop towards those groups. Mindfulness of inner processes, as well as reflection on our experiences and cultivating the qualities of the heart, are essential for this task. The story above, as well as the ones that will follow, give a taste of how we contend with this specific aspect of our Dharma inspired activism.
A couple of years ago, our friends from the Palestinian village Deir Istiya told us that sewage from Revava, a near-by settlement has been spilling into their olive groves. We went to see the area and found the beautiful olive groves flooded by disgusting sewage. The scenario is a typical one: The settlers are totally indifferent to the damage they are causing and the automatic response in us is to be furious, and to fall into an “us” vs. “them” approach: No use in talking to them, we need to make them accountable1. Instead, we tried to approach it differently and give Revava the chance to take responsibility. Ask any experienced anti-occupation activist and they will tell you: “No use trying to do such a thing”.
One of us called the council of Revava and asked to speak to its director. After hearing the word ‘sewage’, the director immediately snapped: “Who the hell are you?” When he heard the answer “I have friends in Deir Istiya”, he burst into a torrent of abuse and slammed the phone. How would you feel if this happened to you? Perhaps, “We gave them a chance but they are assholes and now we can go public with the story”. But a minute later our guy picked up the phone, dialed the same number and asked for the director again. Somehow, this time a conversation ensued. The director, still aggressive, refused to take any responsibility. Instead he demanded: “Why are you helping them? Do you know how much trouble I have?! Why are you not helping me?” A ludicrous comparison: Revava enjoys the financial and military backing of a strong regime and its residents are well able to demand that their needs be met. Deir Istiya has no such backing and the little it does have, is under threat by that same – occupying – regime. Still, our guy responded “What kind of help would you want?” and the conversation ended with the director inviting our guy to pay a visit. It took them a few more phone calls to coordinate a time and in the process the director started to call our guy on his own initiative.
When our guy arrived at the Revava council offices, he saw that they are located right above the settlement’s sewage facility which broke down and was pouring its filth to the nearby olive groves. The meeting was a frustrating and depressing one. The director felt comfortable enough to express openly his arrogance and racism: “We” (Jews) are good, intelligent, blessed… “I know Palestinians much better than you do”. “A Jewish soul is not like that of a Gentile. I have special powers. I can recognize a Jewish soul”. A while later our guy said that be that as it may he would like to know how the director intends to fix the broken sewage facility. To this the director gave the astonishing answer: “I have so many assignments on my list. This is not in our priorities.”
We informed the director that we intend to issue a complaint against the settlement. We published a petition and hundreds of people sent complaints to the Ministry of environment. This ministry intervened and new infrastructure was put in place – the contamination has stopped (but no compensation to the farmers was given). So was it a waste of time to try and communicate with Revava? And what will happen the next time we run into a similar situation – will we then think “no use approaching ‘them’, we already tried that before”?
Well, recently we met the same situation. Sewage from another settlement has been flowing for several weeks into a Deir Istiya farmer’s olive groves. We walked through the beautiful olive terraces and again witnessed the magnificent trees immersed in filthy, smelly sewage. We reached the security fence surrounding the settlement. Right on its other side was the flood of sewage gushing out of the sewage pipe. And next to it stood a resident of the settlement who noticed us approaching and came to… why did he come?
It didn’t start off so well. As we were speaking to the man and asking him questions about the leak, one of us started filming. The settler got into a rage: “Stop filming at once,” he demanded. Our guy stopped the filming but the man did not calm down. “Come here,” he yelled, “give me your camera”. The settlement’s fence was separating him from us so he couldn’t do much, but he continued to act surprised when the man phoned us and declared: “We must make the authorities fix the sewage. I want you to phone X and I will phone Y and together we will make them do it”. The next morning he phoned again and informed us: “I made them fix it. I screamed at them and told them what I think of them. And they came and fixed it. I love you, you are my (Jewish) brothers and I don’t care about your politics”.
We were happy but also perplexed. For weeks this man –and others in the settlement – knew about the problem but did not fix it. What was it in meeting us that made him turn his powerful energies to get it finally fixed? Usually, Dharma stories focus on qualities of compassion, listening and kind speech, and give accounts of how expressions of these qualities transform both the conflict and the harmful mindsets of the people involved in it. So now we have a new kind of Dharma story: We stood up to this man’s aggression. We didn’t speak in a soft voice but instead raised our voice and expressed our dislike with his manner. That transformed his behavior. Confrontation can also be transformative.
These are three examples of our attempts to communicate and arrive to mutual understanding with people living in settlements in the Occupied Territories. There are plenty more such stories we could tell. Is there a moral to these stories? There are certainly some clear patterns:
1) Communication is possible. Sometimes it will reveal to us the racism and aggressiveness of our political foes. But even then patience, steadiness and friendliness can bring down some of the barriers of hostility between “us” and “them”. And at many other times the will to communicate will allow us to meet kind and wise people and allow them to meet us and see our kindness and wisdom. This is extremely valuable when the norm is for Israeli right-wingers and peace activists to be extremely hostile towards each other.
2) When communicating with people in a position of power and privilege one should not shy away from confrontation. True communication may not be possible without a will to challenge power and privilege that have been abused. As much as we would like these qualities to work wonders, listening, acceptance and compassion may not always be enough. Sometimes confrontation is also called for.
3) Our commitment to communicate and reach out has limited practical results in terms of stopping violence or achieving justice. Time and again we have reached this sort of dead end.
This gap gives rise to several dilemmas. Communication is very tempting. The pain of animosity is something many in the Dharma community and general Israeli society wish to be able to heal. But we must not let our ability to offer a sense of healing to blind us to the fact that it is of a very partial nature. Yes, we must take responsibility for our demons and devote energy so that our projections and prejudices don’t close our hearts and minds. When meeting with people of different views we want to be open, friendly and free of aversion. But we should not feel content in this achievement: Our main responsibility is to change the reality of injustice and systematic violence that is the occupation.
Engaged Dharma Israel is a group of Israeli Dharma practitioners. As part of our Dharma practice we engage in Israeli-Palestinian solidarity and aim to raise awareness in the Dharma community to the reality of Palestinian life under occupation.
You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org