Danny Danon has a howler of an op ed in the New York Times today, arguing that Israel should annex the Jewish settlements in the West Bank before the Palestinians have a chance to declare (and maybe receive) statehood in September. The argument is so flimsy that it crumbles if you touch it. Take his first point:
In 1995, as part of the Oslo accords, Israel and the Palestinians agreed that “neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.” If the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and prime minister, Salam Fayyad, decide to disregard this …by seeking United Nations recognition of statehood, it would mean that Israel, too, is no longer bound by its contents and is freed to take unilateral action.”
Say WHAT? Netanyahu actually declared the Oslo Accords dead ten years ago (Hebrew). Even then, Netanyahu needn’t have bothered to say it, considering that Israel never stopped building settlements during or after Oslo. That construction has been the most dramatic unilateral action changing the status of the territories, and must be the most famous fact of the conflict. But maybe Danon thinks New York Times readers just haven’t been paying much attention to the Israeli Palestinian conflict for the last 44 years years.
Then came another unilateral action: dismantling settlements in Gaza in 2005. Last I checked, that too was an Israel policy.
The Palestinians also share responsibility for killing Oslo, by killing civilians throughout the 1990s (and in the second Intifada), and by squandering a sea of international funds.
So the question is not whether Oslo is dead, but whether it ever lived; justifying annexation because Oslo is suddenly broken is a joke.
Still Danon declares:
We could then extend full Israeli jurisdiction to the Jewish communities and uninhabited lands of the West Bank.
Very detailed, Mr. Danon. Does that mean the large settlement blocs outside Jerusalem like Gush Etzion or Maaleh Adumim, which were considered likely annexations in the case of a negotiated agreement? (Despite President Obama’s back-to-negotiations speech tonight, the concept of a negotiated agreement seems increasingly imaginary itself.) Or does Danon mean to include the outlying settlements, hilltop youth communities, Hebron’s Jewish settlers? And calling those places “uninhabited” well, that’s just going right back to the old canard (or petard?) “a land without a people for a people without a land.” It wasn’t correct then and it isn’t now; maybe Mr. Danon hasn’t realized yet that the Jewish people already have a land, and the extra land he wants has people on it – and not just his people.
Now comes the best part. Danon considers the remote possibility that unilateral Israeli annexation might just be unpopular internationally (ya think?). But Israel has dealt with such irritation before, he says, citing the annexation of East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the placement of the capital in West Jerusalem before dismissing the problem with the most surreal claim of all: “The diplomatic storms soon blew over.”
So, Mr. Danon – how are all those annexations working out for you? Sure, the diplomatic storms blew over – if you live on Mars.
East Jerusalem is a boiling mess of extremist settlers and over 250,000 Palestinians, many living in squalid, garbage lined refugee camps, with regular flare-ups. Except for left wing activists and religious settlers, few Jewish Israelis even set foot in East Jerusalem, and if they do, they feel like they’re in another country.
No country recognizes Jerusalem as the capital, even Israel’s best friend. The Golan may yet be severed from “Israeli reality” (as Danon puts it) in a future agreement with Syria.
So, the diplomatic storms are over? Wish someone had told me about it. Maybe someone should inform the international community too, which has never been angrier at Israel. Never has Israel stood so alone, with just one old friend by its side – as even stalwarts like Germany and France are starting to squirm. Since Mr. Danon doesn’t know this, he obviously wouldn’t have asked himself why Israel is so alone – but I’ll answer anyway: Shocker – they’re still angry! In fact, they’re more angry, because Israel keeps up its doublespeak of saying it wants peace, while continuing to build.
Danny Danon’s arguments are an insult to the informed and caring reader.
A final word: perhaps it’s worth noting that Palestinian President Abbas’ op ed from the previous day also contained serious omissions to tilt history in favor of his statehood claim. I agree with the statehood claim, and all its current political implications – but I was bothered by the lack of a full historical picture. I might have said so, but Prime Minister Netanyahu beat me to it and I have to say I’m with him at least on the need for full historical accuracy.
When will politicians of either side realize that there really isn’t any need to bend, break or legislate away the facts? Past, present and future all lead to one historic mandate: the occupation must end, viable, national self-determination for two nations must be realized – no more land thefts, no more build-and-grab tricks, no more violent Intifadas. Enough.