Archive for January 5th, 2011

The Israel-Palestine conflict is rich with many things, but nothing is so widespread in it as useless aphorisms.

One of the most destructive of these is the oft-repeated mantra that “only direct negotiations between the two parties will resolve this conflict.” It was explicitly repeated today by leading Israeli hasbaranik, Mark Regev. I’ve touched before on this point, but now it seems to be gaining wider traction.

In the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, Howard Sachar, perhaps the best-known mainstream writer of Israeli history,

Is this a recipe for a bilaterally negotiated solution?

argues that only “great power intervention” can be expected to resolve this conflict. While I disagree with much of Sachar’s reasoning, his conclusion is inescapable. (Note: A tip of the hat to Bernard Avishai for pointing to this article).

Sachar’s reading of history tells him that small powers do not make peace by themselves and that only great power intervention settles these conflicts (for good or ill, as Sachar freely admits). That’s as may be, but, some would argue, the Israel-Palestine conflict has many dimensions that make it historically unique, so perhaps that principle would not apply here.

It is to this question that the major point Sachar misses in his essay provides an answer.

The disparity in power between Israel and the Palestinians is often pointed out, and this is no small factor. But there is another, more fundamental one that ultimately is the single biggest reason that bilateral negotiations are doomed to fail, and that only powerful outside intervention will ever resolve this conflict — that is the simple calculus that the status quo, or something close to it is preferable for Israeli leaders. (more…)

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Didi Remez of Coteret transcribed and translated the interview below from Israel’s IDF Radio. It is an interview of Michael Sfard, the prominent Israeli human rights lawyer who is representing the family of Jawaher Abu Rahme, who was killed on New Year’s Eve when the IDF flooded the town of Bil’in with tear gas during a protest against the Seperation Barrier there. It is worth noting that the barrier in Bil’in, which engenders weekly protests, was ordered moved by Israel’s High Court. The IDF has simply ignored the court’s order.

It’s also worth remembering that Jawaher’s brother, Bassam Abu Rahme, was also killed by Israeli forces in April, 2009 at another protest in Bil’in. Bassam was killed when a tear gas cannister was fired directly at him, in violation of legal use of such a weapon.

Jawaher Abu Rahme, another victim of the occupation

 

Interview with Michael Sfard

 

IDF Radio, January 4 2010 08:22 [recording here; interview begins at 00:33]

Niv Raskin: Now we turn to the IDF investigation on the death of protester Jawaher Abu Rahma. According to the IDF investigation, senior officers say it’s a kind of fabrication. The Bilin protester didn’t die of [tear] gas inhalation; she was a cancer patient. We want to talk about this issue with the family’s lawyer, Attorney Michael Sfard.

Attorney Michael Sfard: The IDF didn’t publish, its court journalists did.

Raskin: What do you mean?

Sfard: What I mean is that no IDF officer was willing to talk on-record. The IDF Spokesperson didn’t even put out a communiqué. Everything was done through journalists. They weren’t presented with even one document. I have never encountered such crazy fabricated blood libel.

Raskin: With your permission, let’s review the facts, at least as they were published. First, according to the reports, according to the investigation conducted by the IDF, there was no report of a wounded woman on Friday. According to those officers, at least, this casts doubt over whether she was at the protest at all. (more…)

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