Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Suggested "Two-State" Solution

Dear Friend,
The FPI - Holland group meets tonight at 7:00 in the Herrick Library Auditorium, to view the last half of WITH GOD ON OUR SIDE. Please come and take a neighbor along with you.

I'm sending along a very recent proposal by the President of the ATFP (The American Task Force on Palestine). The ATFP was introduced to me by Saliba Sarsar, a (then) ATFP Board member, a colleague of mine at Monmouth University in NJ. Who knows whether this has a chance of success? On paper, it makes sense.

I'm sufficiently intrigued to send it on for your consideration and questioning. The ATFP has long argued for a "two-state" solution as the only viable "solution" to the needs and desires of both parties (backed by the UN, the US and most in the international community). Salam Fayyad (Palestinian Prime Minister) has been forming a state and institution-based country whose center is in Ramallah (West Bank). Ziad Asali (President of the ATFP claims that this work can form the basis for cooperation with Israeli authorities. Read and consider. JRK

Giving up is not an optionDecember 8, 2010
Ziad Asali
American Task Force on Palestine, President


The Administration has mercifully, and honestly, admitted that the time has come to abandon its policy of seeking a settlement freeze as a path to negotiations. It will pay a political price and will be blamed and endure the gloating of its critics. However, at the end of the day, the US government will be the one that everyone else will look to for providing answers and driving policy. The two-state solution is the unchanging American policy because it is in our own national strategic interest.

The indispensible American role and the twin pillars of negotiations and state-building remain unchanged. The lessons learned have more to do with how to proceed on these tracks rather than questioning our assumptions about the two-state solution and the stake holders. Bending to political reality and adjusting political approach neither means, nor does it entail, a strategic shift in policy.

A major lesson to be learned is that while high diplomacy is complex and might prove to be elusive for some time to come, more attention needs to be paid to development on the ground both in terms of deliverables, and imbuing these deliverables with political significance.

Negotiations: Necessary but Elusive
The politics surrounding the Palestinian-Israeli peace process have never been more difficult to discern or more troubling to witness. While there is a deep freeze on negotiations, there is none on settlement expansion. President Mahmoud Abbas' responsible assistance in battling the raging fire in Carmel was met with a thankful call from Netanyahu, yet these two leaders cannot move one step forward to discuss the policies and resolve the politics that stand between them and the resumption of talks. Across the whole region, the smoldering confrontations on religious, ethnic and factional fault lines threaten to erupt while a mountain of diplomatic leaks yields a river of fatuous statements by regional politicians that have further polluted the landscape.

Over the course of the past two decades, the status quo between Palestinians and Israelis has been defined by a simmering conflict that is prevented from erupting by the pursuit of a political process or, at the very least, by the appearance of serious negotiations. While the negotiations have served the purpose of keeping peace, lack of progress has regularly resulted in episodic violence. The current impasse in negotiations, in the midst of a multitude of interconnected bubbling regional conflicts, brings us perilously close to explosion.

The only policy that actually offers a solution which would permanently end the conflict is the one of a two-state solution based on the ‘67 borders. However, turning that policy into reality is impeded by the politics of Israel, Palestine and the United States, all the places that must come to agreement if we are to have any hope. Leaders do not seem prepared for painful compromises they must make, and for the public pushback they will face. On both sides, the loudest public voices are the vociferous and cynical lamentations of professional victims warning politicians against “betrayal” of sacred and historic “rights.” The fates of Sadat and Rabin linger in the minds of the leaders who prefer to lead and to live.

A concerted effort must be made to shape expectations and to explain to people that the future is more important than the past and that sanity, let alone civility, must prevail in public discourse. History should be a guide to the future rather than a cave where one dwells. However, such reorientation of the political landscape is a complex – and time consuming – effort.

In the meantime, there is a pressing need to fill the vacuum generated by the inevitably slow and turbulent progress of negotiations. These times call for a policy to avert an explosion as the region reorients away from the zero sum game.

Quiet diplomacy including separate negotiations by each party with the US, combined with a robust state- and institution- building program of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad offers precisely such a policy.

Quiet diplomacy must be just that-quiet. No TV appearances, no op-eds and no public statements. Only the principals should be engaged with the US, and a person who speaks for and on behalf of the President must be at the table.

The resumption of talks should remain the stated objective of US policy, and vigorous efforts in pursuit of the goal should be maintained. However, the quest should not be the only – or even the main – element of the US approach. It is time to start capitalizing on what is happening on the ground.

Progress on the Ground: It is Political
The state- and institution- building program of the Palestinian Government is already delivering palpable concrete results on the ground as well as inchoate principles of good governance. Palestinians are already reaping tangible benefits from this program and are beginning to view it as a political tool to end the ordeal of occupation. The world – particularly Israel and the US – should approach this program not as traditional development, but rather as a political effort which empowers the Palestinian people and engages their energies and imagination to earn their way to statehood by building it themselves.

The program should deliver political dividend for Palestinians. While the benefits of better governance and service delivery, enhanced law and order as well as economic development are highly significant, they are not enough. The Palestinians should be given reasons to feel that this program is bringing them closer to statehood.

How to Do It?
Progress – particularly on the security front – needs to result in Israeli territorial withdrawals and increased Palestinian jurisdiction over further areas of the West Bank. This requires an Israeli political decision to allow the military echelon to make security-based, not politically-driven, assessments on when such withdrawals and extension of jurisdiction are feasible. These assessments should then be turned into decisions and actions. This should not be subject to negotiations – which would only turn it into a political football – but rather should be part of a process of coordinated unilateralism. The Palestinians should pursue their institution building programs separately, as the Israelis make their assessments separately. Each side should be guided by its own internal assessments, goals and interests. What is needed is exchange of information, security cooperation, and a third-party – the US – to shepherd them along.

This approach would be beneficial in any scenario. It would create a buffer for the inevitable turbulence of the negotiations when they resume, and would also establish a sense of progress as well as a reality of security during periods of stalemate. Additionally, it would generate an incentive for progress in negotiations and would anchor the high politics in concrete developments. Once the Palestinians have built a state on the ground, it becomes easier to formalize it in a peace deal.

Finally, in the undesirable but possible scenario of a long impasse in the negotiations, this approach would provide a safety net against complete collapse and a return to violence. It would allow for a physical space for the Palestinians to continue maintaining security and building their economy and institutions while the diplomatic level strives to find ways toward resuming negotiations. To be clear, such a space would only be a stopgap measure and is in no way a replacement for a peace agreement that would end the conflict and create a Palestinian state, but it is patently preferable to a collapse and a return to confrontations.

As an immediate step, the institution-building program should be shielded from the vagaries of the negotiations process. Israel needs to resist the temptation to pressure Palestinian negotiators by holding back on-the-ground progress at the institution-building track. The two tracks need to be separated, and need to progress in parallel, each at its own organic pace.

While trilateral negotiations have come to an end in the immediate future, the quest for the resumption of negotiations cannot end. The Administration will continue its bilateral conversations with both parties. As new political realities and public perceptions are being reshaped, there needs to be positive concrete and political deliverables on the ground.

Israeli policy makers who understand the security and demographic imperatives of a Palestinian state to Israeli national interest, must engage in a strategic dialogue with those who view this effort as a threat to be stymied rather than a vehicle to deliver peace to the Israelis and the Palestinians. We, and the whole world, are helping the Palestinians build their state and its institutions as we help change the dynamics between them and Israel on the ground. Negotiations under our auspices are unavoidable and both parties must understand that they need each other to achieve permanent peace. The Palestinian state that will end the conflict is already on its way.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Organizations for Justice and Peace in Isr/Pal

Dear Friend,
Below is a representative listing of organizations working for security and peace among Israelis and Palestinians.
It is not exhaustive, but representative of the many, many folks seeking to break demonic powers wanting to sustain the "status quo" which is falling so short of security for Israelis and "justice" for Palestinians. JRK

Organizations and Agencies Promoting Justice and Peace in Israel/Palestine
Compiled by John R. Kleinheksel Sr. (Friends of Palestinians and Israelis) compiles important material sent to a distribution list that is free for the asking. Information. Not found in US media. Conciliatory.

Light for the World ( Marlin and Sally Vis site. They want you to join them on tour in Isr/Pal. This site has links to many agencies too; ones not listed on this page.
The Israel/Palestinian Mission Network ( The PC (USA) mission network dedicated to finding security for Israel and justice for Palestinians. Direct action, advocacy.
Seeds of Peace ( ) To help Jewish and Palestinian youth develop leadership skills, bringing about reconciliation in the coming generations
Combatants for Peace ( Former Israel Defense Force and Palestinian fighters, seeking the way to peace apart from military means
The Parents Family Circle ( Isr and Pal parents who have lost children/youth to the “terror tactics” of the other side. To find peace, reconciliation
J Street ( “Pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby group, seeking to counter AIPAC, (The America-Israel PAC) the more traditional lobbying giant in Washington D.C.
The Holy Land Trust ( Based in Bethlehem, seeking nonviolent solutions to development and leadership training
Mar Elias Schools ( > The educational institutions of Bishop Elias Chacour, in Isr/Pal (He of “Blood Brothers” fame). Muslims, Christians and Jews attend these schools. There is an American component to this movement.
Americans for Peace Now ( Basically Jewish based, aligned with the Peace Now folks in Israel. Seeking a way for Israel and the Palestinians to be reconciled
End the Occupation ( Anna Baltzer the new Nation organizer, seeking to change US policies that sustain the occupation and deny human rights to the Palestinians.
The Kairos Palestine document ( The IPMN (above) has prepared a three-week study for congregations to understand and implement the Kairos Palestine document. The document was composed by Palestinian Christian leaders, asking for help.
SABEEL ( or for the North American branch. Sabeel is the ecumenical liberation theology center of (Anglican-based) Palestinian Christians, seeking justice
Musalaha ( Youth retreats for Jews and Palestinians, learning each others’ narrative, finding compassion, understanding, ways to move forward. Grass roots.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

On the Right Use of "Words" "Justice"?

Dear Friend,
Thanks to Doug Dicks, (PCUSA) for digging this piece out by John Whitbeck.
The assumption by many is that to "conquer" land, means to have sovereignty over it, with the "right" to destroy those opposed to the occupation (as though they are "terrorists", instead of persons trying to get their property back).
Not so, declares the UN and related bodies. Whose "words" does the US listen to? I'll give you two guesses, and the first two don't count.
John Whitbeck is a lawyer who has advised the Palestininians in "negotiations" with Israelis. Read it with profit. Pass it on to others in your world.
If his point is "true" it has profound implications going forward. JRK

Peace Requires Justice
New Language for Middle East Peace
The recent passage by Israel's Knesset of a law requiring either a two-thirds Knesset majority or approval by an unprecedented national referendum before Israel can "cede" any land in expanded East Jerusalem to a Palestinian state or any land in the Golan Heights to Syria has been widely recognized as making any "two-state solution", as well as any Israeli-Syrian peace, even more inconceivable than was previously the case. It also highlights the need for a concerted effort by politicians, negotiators and commentators to adopt a new “language of peace”.

The words which people use, often unconsciously, can have a critical impact upon the thoughts and attitudes of those who speak and write, as well as those who listen and read. Dangerously misleading terminology remains a major obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace.

It is normal practice for parties to a dispute to use terminology which favors them. In this regard, Israel has been spectacularly successful in imposing its terminology not simply on Israeli consciousness and American usage but even on many Arab parties and commentators. It has done so not simply in obvious ways like use of the terms “terrorism”, “security”, “Eretz Israel” or “Judea and Samaria” but also in more subtle ways which have had and continue to have a profound negative impact on perceptions of legal realities and other matters of substance.

Commentators on all sides speak of Israel's "ceding" territory occupied in 1967 to the Palestinians. The word suggests a transfer of land by its legitimate owner. Unless there are reciprocal exchanges of territory in a final peace agreement, the issue of Israel's "ceding" territory to Palestine does not arise. Israel can withdraw from occupied Palestinian territory or hand over administrative control of such territory, but to "cede" property one must first possess legal title to it. Israel can no more cede title to occupied Palestinian lands than a squatter can cede title to an apartment which he has illegally occupied. In reality, it is Israel which continues to insist that Palestine cede to Israel indisputably Palestinian lands forming part of the meager 22% remnant of historical Palestine which Israel did not conquer until 1967.

There is also much talk of “concessions” -- "painful", "far-reaching" or otherwise -- being demanded from Israel. The word suggests the surrender of some legitimate right or position. In fact, while Israel demands numerous concessions from Palestine, Palestine is not seeking any concessions from Israel. What it has long insisted upon is “compliance” – compliance with agreements already signed, compliance with international law and compliance with relevant United Nations resolutions – nothing more and nothing less. Compliance is not a concession. It is an obligation, both legally and morally, and it is essential if peace is ever to be achieved.

It is not only the Western-embraced Fatah which insists on nothing more and nothing less than compliance. The Western-shunned Hamas, winners of the most recent Palestinian elections, now publicly proclaims the same position. At a December 1 press conference, Ismael Haniyeh stated: "We accept a Palestinian state on the borders of 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital, the release of Palestinian prisoners and the resolution of the issue of refugees."

The Palestinian territories conquered by Israel in 1967 are frequently referred to as “disputed”. They are not. They are “occupied” -- and illegally so, since the status of "perpetual belligerent occupation" which Israel has been seeking to impose over the past 43 years does not exist in international law. While sovereignty over expanded East Jerusalem, which Israel has formally annexed, is explicitly contested, none of the world’s other 194 sovereign states has recognized Israel’s sovereignty claim and Palestinian sovereignty over the Gaza Strip and the rest of the West Bank is, in both literal and legal senses, uncontested (even if not yet universally “recognized”).

Israel has never even purported to annex these territories, knowing that doing so would raise awkward questions about the rights (or lack of them) of the indigenous population living there. Jordan renounced all claims to the West Bank in favor of the Palestinians in July 1988. While Egypt administered the Gaza Strip for 19 years, it never asserted sovereignty over it. Since November 15, 1988, when Palestinian independence and statehood were formally proclaimed, the only state asserting sovereignty over those portions of historical Palestine which Israel occupied in 1967(aside from expanded East Jerusalem) has been the State of Palestine, a state which, even though it continues to operate within its own territory through a hobbled Trojan Horse named the “Palestinian Authority”, meets all the customary international law criteria for sovereign statehood and is already recognized as a state by over 100 other sovereign states.

Misleading language has been particularly destructive with respect to Jerusalem. For years, Israeli politicians have repeated like a mantra that “Jerusalem must remain united under Israeli sovereignty.” Understandably, Israelis have come to believe that Israel currently possesses sovereignty over Jerusalem. It does not. It possesses only administrative control. While a country can acquire administrative control by force of arms, it can acquire sovereignty (the state-level equivalent of title or ownership) only with the consent of the international community.

The position of the international community regarding Jerusalem, which the 1947 UN partition plan envisioned as an internationally administered city legally separate from the two contemplated states, is clear and categorical: Israel is in belligerent occupation of East Jerusalem and has only de facto authority over West Jerusalem. The refusal of the international community (even including the United States) to recognize West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, supported by the maintenance of all embassies accredited to Israel in Tel Aviv, vividly demonstrates the refusal of the international community, pending an agreed solution to the status of Jerusalem, to concede that any part of the city is Israel’s sovereign territory.

There can be no question of Israel relinquishing or transferring sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem for the simple reason that Israel currently possesses no such sovereignty. Indeed, the only ways that Israel might ever acquire sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem are by agreeing with Palestine on a fair basis for either sharing or dividing sovereignty over the city (or doing a bit of both) which is recognized as fair and accepted by the international community or by agreeing with the Palestinians to transform all of historical Palestine in a single, fully democratic state with equal rights for all who live there, in which case the Jerusalem conundrum, as well as most of the other perennial roadblocks to peace intrinsic to any potential "two-state solution", would cease to pose any problem.
This legal reality is of fundamental intellectual and psychological importance for Israeli public opinion. There is a world of difference for an Israeli leader between being perceived as the man who achieved Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem for the first time in 2000 years and being perceived as the man who relinquished some measure of Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem. It could be a life-or-death distinction.

One word which has been too rarely used in connection with the “peace process” (and which should be invoked more often) is “justice”. For obvious reasons, it is never used by Israeli or American politicians as a component of the “peace” which they envision. Yet a true and lasting “peace”, as opposed to a mere temporary cessation of hostilities, is inconceivable unless some measure of justice is both achieved and perceived, by both sides, to have been achieved.

Israel is not generously contemplating ceding its own land to Palestine but insisting that Palestine cede indisputably Palestinian lands to Israel. Palestine is not seeking concessions from Israel, only compliance. The Palestinian territories conquered in 1967 are not disputed, simply illegally occupied. The only ways Israel might ever acquire sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem are by agreeing to share or divide the city with Palestine or by accepting a democratic one-state solution. Any true peace requires some measure of justice.

It is high time for all involved to recognize and speak clearly about these fundamental realities. The clarity of thought necessary to achieve either a decent two-state solution or a democratic one-state solution would be greatly enhanced by clarity of language, by taking care to use terminology which both reflects reality and facilitates, rather than hinders, the achievement of both peace and some measure of justice.

John V. Whitbeck, an international lawyer who has advised the Palestinian negotiating team in negotiations with Israel, is author of "The World According to Whitbeck".