10 July 2016

Israel’s EU Challenge

Is effective hasbara possible?

Israeli hasbara has an uphill struggle. In fact, some believe it has an impossible task; that the EU and others are so far advanced in their anti-Israel, anti-Semitic and pro-Palestinian sympathies that hasbara is a waste of time, effort and money. In this view, the usual instruments of persuasion, facts, reason and logic will fail because they will be trumped by political interests. That is, regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the EU and others are happy to swear that a penny is square.

In assessing this theory, the background assumption adopted is that the Palestinians are incapable of and unwilling to accept Israel as the nation-state of Jews or the legitimacy of Jewish nationalism. This is the driving force of the conflict. To put this less rigidly, Palestinian acceptance may be possible – but only on a distant and imaginary horizon. This means that the conflict has many years to run before a decisive victory or peaceful accommodation. 

Therefore, on the basis of this war of attrition, the issue of how to persuade those such as the EU to be less hostile to Israel and less supportive of the Palestinians assumes a long-term importance. However, if the reasoning of the opening paragraph is accurate, the inevitable conclusion is that placing any reliance on more or better hasbara is doomed.

If two further propositions are added to the equation, these difficulties are compounded. The first is that Israel cannot somehow outsmart the EU, USA and others towards greater support. The second is that Israel does not possess the clout to coerce them into a more favorable position, to drop their opposition to settlements or their support for the PA and the Palestinian narrative.

This amounts to a significant predicament. Because in common with all human relations, institutions and agreements, international relations operate by a combination of consent and coercion. Therefore, the above reasoning produces the conclusion that these avenues are either useless or closed to Israel. If this is the case, the position for advancing Israel’s interests would be grim. And it is no wonder that desperate attempts periodically surface for a decisive breakout by means of a demonstrative unilateral action by Israel (see, From Occupation to Annexation: a desperate miscalculation).

A counter-perspective

Even if only partially true, this hypothesis means that outside an emergency ...

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Naftali Bennett’s Dangerous Concession

29 June 2016

Naftali Bennett’s Dangerous Concession

Annexation concedes West Bank does not belong to Israel

In his talk to the Shurat HaDin conference (21 June 2016), Naftali Bennett stated that PM Netanyahu’s Bar Ilan speech effectively conceded that the Territories did not belong to Israel although Israel had security needs there. Bennett’s point was that if this was the case, it inevitably produced the objection that Israel should not build on land that did not belong to it.

Leaving aside that the Bar Ilan speech did not imply this, it does point to the fact that Bennett’s own policy of annexation is guilty of exactly the concession he accuses Netanyahu of making. This is because it is impossible for a state to occupy or annex its own territory – at least, not in the sense of the standard international legal definition of occupation in The Hague Regulations, 1907, which concern relations between sovereign states rather than within a state.  
For example, the USA cannot be said to occupy Massachusetts or Ohio. Nor can it annex these states for the simple reason that it is already the legitimate power in those states (to use the phrasing of The Hague Regulations, article 43). In other words, the term occupation refers to the control of territory not legally under the sovereignty of the occupying power. And annexation refers to the appropriation of sovereignty by one state power from another. In other words, a state can only annex territory that does not belong to it.

Therefore, to accept that Israel occupies or should annex any part of The Territories effectively concedes the main argument of the Palestinians Israel. That is, it accepts that someone else was, is or should be the legitimate sovereign from which the territory was taken (albeit in legal self-defense) and continues to be held.

Inquiry into Anti-Semitism & Islamophobia among Labour Party Members, UK

19 June 2016

Inquiry into Anti-Semitism & Islamophobia among Labour Party Members, UK

As a former member of the UK Labour Party, now living in Israel, I am unable to contribute directly to the inquiry headed by Shami Chakrabarti, due to report in a few weeks. Therefore, these brief comments take the form of an open letter.

The inquiry panel will probably understand the great interest that this issue has created in Israel. The panel will also know of the alarm felt by many Jews in Britain and elsewhere that Jeremy Corbyn has associated himself with groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah who seek the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state. These organizations explicitly and incessantly proclaim their genocidal anti-Semitism - the Hamas Charter is a spectacularly unhinged example. 

It is beyond belief that this is not known to Jeremy Corbyn and likeminded figures within the Labour Party. The explanation has been offered that expressions of solidarity with these organizations are for the purpose of encouraging peace in the Middle East. In his meeting with Jonathan Arkush of the Jewish Board of Deputies (Feb 2016) Jeremy Corbyn gave assurance that the Labour Party position was that Israel had a right to exist within secure and recognized borders. 

Unfortunately, these organizations have no interest in such an outcome. Instead of being committed to a 2-State Solution, they are openly dedicated to the annihilation of Israel. Therefore, if Jeremy Corbyn agrees that Israel has a right to exist, he would help ease Jewish anxiety and vulnerability if he gave an account of his progress in trying to get these organizations to agree to this position as the basis for a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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From Occupation to Annexation?

20 May 2016

From Occupation to Annexation?

A Desperate Miscalculation

Formerly, calls for a One-State Solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict were faintly disguised attempts to extinguish the only Jewish state in the world.  More recently, the idea of a One-State Solution has found sympathy in some Jewish-Israeli circles with the calls for the annexation of the West Bank – either completely or in part.  

Naturally, this raises questions of legality, morality and practicality.  These have scarcely been explored.  However, in his essay Resolution 242 Revisited (2015), Eugene Kontorovich drew attention to the question of whether there is a legal right to annex territory conquered and occupied in a legal war (assuming that the West Bank can be described as occupied).  His discussion of the International Law Commission draft and unratified codes from 1949 and 1954, which seem to tilt in this direction, is interesting but inconclusive.  At best, it points to a definite-maybe or possible should-be.  More legal work is apparently required.

However, after such a lengthy passage of time is there any good reason to expect an international consensus decisively favorable to annexation – especially with regard to such a contentious dispute?  Additionally, this would cut-across the more recently developed view that sovereignty does not reside with this or that state, government or ruler, but with the people.  As a result, the Palestinians are said to have both legal and moral rights to national self-determination which annexation would plainly prevent.  

In other words, from where we are now and from what we now know ....

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A Counter-Propaganda Project

A Counter-Propaganda Project

Message, Means and Method

Three main questions are considered:

  1. What should be Israel’s primary counter-propaganda messages?
  2. By what means can they be delivered to VAST international audiences at negligible cost?
  3. What methods, techniques and organization are needed for effective delivery?

1/     Israel’s Primary Messages

Facing a mass of anti-Israel propaganda, a process of sifting is required to identify and focus on the primary issues that will be the subject of Israel’s main messages.  To do this, the substance of accusations against Israel must be identified.  

In brief, large sections of the international media, academia, political elites and the general public believe that Israel occupies and builds settlements on land that does not belong to it but to the Palestinians.  This domination is condemned as illegal, brutal and unjustified.  In this view, the obvious solution is to establish a state in fulfillment of the humanitarian, moral and legal rights of Palestinian national self-determination.  By being seen as preventing this, Israel is blamed as the cause of the conflict and the obstacle to peace.  

These are the PRIMARY ISSUES that generate widespread moral indignation.  They are powerful because ....

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GAZA: The Only Solution Absent Again?

17 May 2016

GAZA: The Only Solution Absent Again

Cause for Humanitarian Concern

PM Netanyahu Meets with Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende
(Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this evening (Tuesday, 3 May 2016), met with Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende.  The two discussed defeating Daesh in the region and the possibility of improving the humanitarian situation in Gaza while carefully meeting Israel's security needs.
Prime Minister Netanyahu noted the State of Israel's role as an anchor of stability in the Middle East, which is vital to Europe's security.

Queries to PM Media Adviser

1/    Did they discuss what the Norwegian government could do to produce the only real solution to the humanitarian situation in Gaza - a government in Gaza not dedicated to war and the annihilation of Israel?

2/    Did they discuss what the Norwegian government can do to ensure that Norwegians understand the aim of Hamas and its Charter of destroying Israel?

The PMO Statement on the French Initiative

30 April 2016

The PMO Statement on the French Initiative

“Israel adheres to its position that the best way to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is direct, bilateral negotiations.  Israel is ready to begin them immediately without preconditions.  Any other diplomatic initiative distances the Palestinians from direct negotiations.”   (28 April 2016)

My Comment

This restatement of the Israel’s position is absolutely necessary.  

But the occasion of the French Initiative also presents an opportunity to focus attention on issues that Israel needs the international public to understand. Additionally, it provides a marvelous opportunity to direct a call-for-action to states attending the Initiative to address the roots of the conflict and pursue the following measures as the only basis for a successful win-win solution.

Call for action 1 – the international community to reverse the following:

1/     the refusal of the Palestinians (and the wider Arab world) to accept Israel as the nation-state of Jews;

2/     the rejection by the Palestinians of 2-states for 2-peoples as an end to the conflict;

3/     their refusal to accept the legitimacy of Jewish legal and historic links to the region or Jewish national rights.

Call for action 2 – the international community to secure the following:

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Does Israel Need to Convince the Palestinians That It Wants Peace?

16 October 2015

Does Israel Need to Convince the Palestinians That It Wants Peace?

Shlomo Aveniri and the Two-State Solution

How to convince the Palestinians – and much of the rest of the world - that Israel wants peace is a question that stands behind the thinking of many Israelis who occupy the political center or center-left. Numerous friends of Israel internationally also ask the same question. 

Various answers are provided. For example, Israel could show goodwill and seriousness by releasing more prisoners and halting settlement construction. Other proposals involve unilateral withdrawals by Israel. Marc Goldberg, a regular columnist with the Times of Israel and Harry’s Place, wants to withdraw all Israeli civilians from the West Bank and leave the IDF in place to prevent disorder and terror. If order ensues, this will be followed by IDF withdrawals and the handover of larger areas of control to the PA.

This is a variation of the approach proposed by Ami Ayalon in Israel and Cary Nelson in the USA, for a unilateral phased withdrawal from the West Bank. Each successive phase of the withdrawal will be contingent on a peaceful Palestinian response to the previous phase. The aim is to withdraw in this manner from up to 85% of the West Bank, by which time, assuming good Palestinian behavior, the situation would be ready for a 2-State Solution to the conflict (for a full-scale destruction of this perspective, see How Not to Rescue the 2-State Solution).

An Alternative Question


Islamic Wars and Palestinians

8 October 2015

Islamic Wars and the Palestinians

Lies, Damned Lies and Taqiyya

The current eruption of murderous attacks on Jews over the issue of the Temple Mount is causing speculation about a third intifada. It also provokes Jewish despair at the blatant lies of the PA leadership – and the repetition of Palestinian propaganda by much of the international media. The mixture of Islamism and Arab nationalism, neither of which accepts Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, continues to be the driving force of the conflict. 

As a fundamental factor, Islam divides the world into the Dar al-Islam (the House of Islam) and Dar al-Harb (the House of War) which is under the rule of Dar al-Kufr (the House of the Unbeliever). Apart from temporary treaties, war is permanent. A significant product of this idea is that anyone leaving Islam is seen exactly as we view someone siding with an enemy in war: as a traitor. 

Do all or the great bulk of Muslims think this? I've no idea. But in the UK I slightly knew someone who was a noted Catholic theologian. He would sigh in amused dismay at the distance between the beliefs of the Catholic hierarchy and himself and those of many of his fellow churchgoers. So it wouldn't be a surprise to find something similar in Islam. Not everyone is a theologian. 

However, with Catholicism, no-one can be forced to adhere to it any longer and there are lots of alternatives for those who don't like it. And anyone who prefers something else can denounce the Pope as the anti-Christ (or whatever) as loudly as they wish without fear of being burned at the stake. Alas, we know that in Arab states the public criticism of Islam is impossible and changing religion very dangerous. Therefore, as a generalization, Islamic intolerance has a far greater hold on minds and behaviors than, for example, modern western Christianity.

How to Cure a Disastrous Self-inflicted Diplomatic Wound

July 25 2015

How to Cure a Disastrous Self-Inflicted Diplomatic Wound

The Hidden Dilemma of Final Status Negotiations

Currently, the issue of negotiations with the Palestinians is not at the forefront of diplomatic activity and there is no indication that negotiations are imminent. PA President Abbas has set preconditions for talks which are unacceptable to Israel and this makes PM Netanyahu’s offer of talks without preconditions unacceptable to the Palestinians.  

But neither party can be confident that this diplomatic limbo will last forever.  
Outside pressures will once again provide the key impetus to renewed talks. Israel will then be subject to a major hidden obstacle that will completely nullify any diplomatic advantage expected by its participation. 
The hidden obstacle is that years of peace talks, interim agreements, on-off negotiations, recriminations over settlements, disputes over land-swaps, prisoner releases, and so on, have all reinforced the idea that a win-win approach to resolving the conflict is normal and possible.  As a result, the Palestinian rejection of the Jewish state is obscured from view.  Yet this is the rock against which all peace attempts crash.  

Therefore, by participating in final status talks as if the PA, or any other Palestinian body, were willing or able to agree to the necessary compromise to end the conflict, Israel’s diplomacy has the disastrous effect of hiding the Palestinian zero-sum approach behind the appearance of a win-win process. This conceals from the international public that the Palestinian/Arab rejection is the driving force of the conflict and the insurmountable obstacle to a genuine 2-state solution (see The Israeli Demand That Palestinians Accept Israel as a Jewish State).  

This appearance is compounded by the inevitable failure of the fake final status talks.  Without producing an agreement for a full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank or an agreement for a Palestinian state, the widespread belief is reinforced that Israel is to blame for denying Palestinian self-determination.  As a result, Israel is viewed as the obstacle to peace.  This solidifies international hostility, fosters criticism of Israel from the Jewish diaspora and fuels BDS activities.