My final word (I hope) on the HoC debate on the Palestinians’ bid for statehood.
Over on Harry’s Place Sarah AB’s take on it has prompted several people to express sympathy with MP Richard Ottoway’s purportedly sorrowful confession that he’d lost faith in Israel when it chose to annex all that extra land in area C. People are saying that Israel makes it very difficult for her supporters when she constantly grants permission for more settlements.
Well, supporting Israel is not easy. Why should it be? It’s not likely to be easy.
“ The real friends of Israel are those that oppose the settler movement.” they say. “Israel is her own worst enemy!”
Why? So that these real friends can say “Look everybody, Israel occupies the moral high ground?“
In these complex circumstances, support is not something you can just reserve for Israel on condition that, in the eyes of the world, it unfailingly occupies the moral high ground. If that were a condition, as soon as Israel defended itself in any way at all it would be jeopardising that position and sacrificing the appended support. A “moral high ground only” precondition for supporting a country at war is no support at all.
How many times have you heard a ‘Palestine’ supporter saying “I was a staunch supporter of the Palestinians until Abbas lost the moral high ground by colluding with Hamas. Or until Abbas stated that any future Palestinian state would be Jew free. Or until Abbas stopped honouring murderers by naming streets after them. Or in fact saying “I stopped supporting Abbas when he violated the Oslo agreement by making a unilateral bid for statehood. He blew it for me when he did that, and now I’m in favour of Israeli settlements.”
No, you don’t hear that very often. Not ever. If you travelled all the way down Ottoway’s road you’d arrive at confining your support only to a passive Israel. An Israel that tolerates Hamas’s rockets, dismantles the barrier, eases the blockade, sacrifices a few citizens to a suicide bomber or two, and allows Palestinians to return their grannies’ former homes with their giant keys; one that lies down, rolls over and surrenders, and that’s the kind of Israel that would garner universal approval, without a doubt.
I daresay there are perfectly legitimate arguments for settlement building, but in this climate who is listening? In fact I have heard several credible justifications for it, but even if one were to give the Israel-bashers full benefit of the doubt and concede that the Israeli government acts out of pure malice, defiance, to thumb their noses at the Palestinians and wrong-foot their own supporters, it pales into total insignificance beside the obstacles to peace that the Palestinians themselves put up, and which most of the world doggedly fails to acknowledge.
What if Netanyahu were to impose his own set of preconditions? Supposing Netanyahu insisted that Israel cannot contemplate a two state solution until the P.A. and Hamas recognise Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state? Or, until the PA and Hamas put an end to incitement in all shapes and forms? Or if they agree to accept ‘normalisation‘ of Israeli / Palestinian relations? What if Israel refuses to negotiate till Hamas disbands, or puts down its arms, like the IRA had to, before going any further?
If Israel put its supporters pride before the feelings of the Israeli public, Israel’s supporters would be delighted. If the Israeli government carefully considered how not to make its supporters look foolish when formulating policies instead of considering the wishes and well-being of its own people, supporting Israel would be a doddle. Demanding that the Israeli government prioritise consideration of “us” in their policy-making is a truly weird definition of ‘true friendship’
This is starting to look like an “Israel right or wrong” argument. It’s not really. I think I’m saying that Israel doesn’t have to be ‘seen to be right’ every single time it makes a move in order to 'deserve' continued support. If, however Israel does something its supporters vehemently disagree with, they have a perfect right to say so, bearing in mind that doing so inevitably aids her enemies.
That’s how I see it at the moment, (written late last night) but I’m open to alternatives.
Aah. I see the argument has opened up. A much broader spread of views below the line has popped in to the comments field overnight. I was going to steal from a comment (from nitsanc to Gene) which illustrates one of my points: (I paraphrase)
Elliott Abrams did a study that found that almost all of the building taking place is in areas that every peace proposal has envisioned staying within Israel. Why is building within those towns such a cause for outrage from people who claim to be pro Israel?
If they are pro Israel then they must be at least equally outraged when Palestinians build within areas that are envisioned to stay within Palestine, right? Calling the designating of state land ‘annexation’ and getting up in arms over building in certain areas shows no understanding of Israel. It buys into this notion of settlements, regardless of where they are, as some horrible war crime, when in fact almost every segment of Israeli society could never countenance giving those particular areas up.
It doesn't matter. Settlement expansion is not essential to Israel's security and probably undermines it. Settlement expansion undercuts support for Israel even among its friends (and don't say Israel doesn't need friends like that). You can agree with most of what Netanyahu says and does while still understanding that.
I'll also point out, BTW, that Israel is the only one in this situation adhering to Oslo. While Oslo did not limit settlement construction, it did prohibit the moves made by both the Palestinians and now the International Community. Add to that the fact that Obama went back on Bush's commitments, what incentive does Israel have to trust any of these parties to abide by a future agreement? And what incentive do the Palestinians have to make any concessions?
I see that several of the other points I was trying out have been articulated by others while I was asleep. Instead of ranting further, I commend this estimable Harry’s Place thread to the House.