Saturday, 18 February 2017

Missing Israelis

Talking of Dateline London, today's edition featured a section on Israel, the Palestinians and, of course, President Trump. 

It was a curious affair in which the pro-Palestinian Guardian writer Rachel Shabi made her usual attacks on Israel, while the rest (including Janet Daley and Gavin Esler) pretty much contented themselves with having pops at the new US president. 

Whether most of the 'pops' were justified or not, it made me realise, in passing, that Dateline hasn't had an Israeli regular (or any Israeli) for ages now, while its most regular guest remains the hardline Palestinian journalist Abdel Bari Atwan. 

That can't be right, can it?
A transcript follows:

GAVIN ESLER: Let's move on. Israel and Palestine - and a two-state solution involving land for peace - has been the core of the Middle East political agenda for decades. Now President Trump has floated the idea of a one-state solution, and also suggested moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In Israel a "one state" solution means a Jewish state. To some Palestinians it means a secular state in which Israelis and Palestinians could live side by side. But either way would Palestinians inevitably be in the majority - making this, again, no solution? I mean, you could say it's good to re-think Middle East peace because after 30 years of talking about two-state solutions it hasn't gone anywhere?
RACHEL SHABI: Yes and no. Certainly that's true, that it hasn't gone anywhere, and anybody who has spent time in the region will be able to say, look, on the ground, in real terms, because of Israel's settlement expansion, and the way it has expanded into Palestinian land, has made the two-state solution impossible - practically impossible on the ground. 650,000 Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, and arranged in a way that makes a contiguous Palestinian state just impossible. And a lot of people will say that the two-state premise, parameters that have been in operation for these decades in the international community, have in a way given Israel cover, that they have allowed this expansionist policy to take place under the cover of a supposed attempt to solve the conflict. But, on the other hand, when you have a US president quite clearly walking away from those parameters, then, of course, that's going to enable the far-right, the expansionist right, in Israel and give them permission to be even worse, and...
GAVIN ESLER (interrupting): Although he did say...sorry to interrupt, Rachel...but he did say, look, Mr Trump did say, look, basically if it's OK with Israel and the Palestinians. I mean...
JANET DALEY: Anything you guys want! I'll go along with it. 
RACHEL SHABI: But look at way that was read in Israel. So you have the far-right of the coalition government celebrating a new era. You have Naftali Bennett, who is the Education Minister under Netanyahu's coalition government and also the leader of the right-wing pro-settlement Jewish Home party, you have him saying, "The Palestinian flag has come down and the Israeli flag has been replaced". Now, given that the Israeli flag is already waving across Israel we can only assume that he meant that about Palestine, and for the land marked for a Palestinian state. Now the fact they have been so enabled and given permission by this is bad - as is the fact that the Palestinians now, in a way, have been abandoned because as much as, you know, the occupation and the settlement project was carrying on they at least had some level of diplomatic protection that has now been completely removed. 
JANET DALEY: Well, there was a good reason why there was never any resolution of the one-state, two-state condition, because nobody wanted to try to settle this. This is an insoluble problem. Nobody is going to be happy with any single solution. That's why what he said was so ignorant and absurd. He said "I've looked at the one-state, I've looked at the two-state, anything that makes you happy, you guys agree something and whatever you like I'll go along with it". He seems to be completely unaware of the fact that there is no one solution that satisfies both sides. 
HENRY CHU: And to go back to what you said earlier, his own UN envoy has now said, in contradiction, that the two-state solution is the basis. 
GAVIN ESLER: That it's the only game in town. Even if it's a bad game he's suggesting it's...but has he...I'm worried about asking this... has he moved back from the idea of moving the embassy? Is that...that seems to have gone?
RACHEL SHABI: For today, yes. 
JANET DALEY: For today, yes.
HENRY CHU: He didn't understand the complexities involved in this. 
GAVIN ESLER: Or the sensitivities. 
HENRY CHU: He puts out things that he then has to retract. To go back to what you said earlier, I think it really puts us in a "no solution" camp because in the two-state solution, in practice, is now impossible, a one-state solution, in principle, it won't be accepted by either side because it would destroy the Jewish nature of that area that Israel wants to preserve and Palestinians, of course, by no means will accept being second-class citizens in a single state. 
GAVIN ESLER: But what has changed...I'll come to you Marc in a moment... but what has definitely changed, and I've talked to a quite a lot of people in the Gulf, there is a completely new mood because of Iran and there is less, how can one put it, less overt hostility to the Israeli state in some countries than there was before.
MARC ROCHE: Well, clearly Israel has played quite well in order to rapprochement with Saudi Arabia against the common enemy Iran. But the fact is that, to come back to the one-state, one-state is impossible because it doesn't work. We have seen it in Yugoslavia, we see today in Cameroon. You can't put a people who are so hostile to each other in one state. So the only solution is the two-state, even if it's not working. But at least you can say it's containment for the West to have that solution, even if it doesn't work. 
GAVIN ESLER: Were you surprised it came up so early? What tends to happen with American presidencies is they don't actually do very much about the Middle East until the very end of their term because they can't, effectively they can't.
JANET DALEY: There are many people around him who do feel very strongly about this, and he wanted a great success. He wanted to launch something that would seem to undo previous foreign policy and would produce a miraculous result. And he doesn't seem to understand why nobody has been able to produce a miraculous result in the past, even with the most painstaking peace negotiations. It's terrifyingly ignorant. 
GAVIN ESLER: It's not a business deal, basically. 
GAVIN ESLER: But he thinks it is. 
HENRY CHU: Which is why whatever you two can be happy with I'll be happy with as well. 
RACHEL SHABI: But if there is a silver lining - and goodness knows we have to find one...
GAVIN ESLER: Go on! We're all listening now!
RACHEL SHABI: One possible outcome of this is that, you know, if the US is going to openly abandon what it has effectively abandoned in practice for the last few decades, ie a commitment to the two-state solution, because, whatever previous administrations have said, in reality Israel has flouted international law with regards to building settlements, and that has been the biggest obstacle to a two-state solution...If the US is so openly abandoning that it might now create room for European countries, who for some time been very disgruntled with the way that the US has handled this process, and have a very different take...It might give them scope to, as a bloc, step up and step into a field where the perception is that the US has not been the honest broker and the honest mediator that is required.

1 comment:

  1. The BBC can't have Israelis on unless absolutely necessary for a specific news story, and then only if they are challenged. One of the BBC's biggest concerns is being seen as a Zionist shill, and any appearance by a pro-Israel voice without either an opposing voice at the same time or at least being robustly challenged by the BBC presenter brings in Complaints From Both Sides. Can't have that. There is also the anger from below stairs to worry about.