So goes the somewhat recherché headline adorning the front of page B1 in the Haaretz newspaper dated Friday, May 31, 2013.
It may seem like a strange souvenir with which to return home; a tattered newspaper carried halfway across the world. Yet the editorials struck a chord with me. Perhaps within Israel itself there’s an odd, paradoxical honesty in the way that they report the goings on of the Palestinian conflict.
And so, in what may or may not be a sign of things to come, my first proper post will be an editorial of sorts itself, a summation and largely a possibly selective quotation of three articles from the aforementioned news sheet.
The general thrust of these writings can be boiled down to three significant points. To wit; the Israeli settler movement holds tremendous sway over the policies of the government, the realpolitik of the Israel-Palestine question is often just barely hidden beneath a veneer of disingenuous diplomacy, and finally, the Zionist project is a self-defeating notion driven by the very zeal from which the idea was born.
My initial conclusions upon reading these articles were comprised primarily of a feeling of pessimism, which I suppose is not a novel emotion when it comes to the conflict that rages within the borders of Israel and Palestine; however given that these reports were of a somewhat more firsthand nature, my pessimism rings a little more true than usual.
The first of these three points is summarized in the following quotes from Amos Harel’s piece, the name of which I’ve appropriated for my own post here.
“The problem is not just the fundamental differences in the approaches of the two sides to they key issues…[it is] above all, the expansion of the settlements…the settlers’ leadership has failed to prevent establishment of a future Palestinian state and ensure the settlements’ annexation to Israel…It’s hard not to reflect on the possibility that maybe they have already won, and that the situation on the ground is in fact irreversible.”
Regional commanders speak at length about the creation of illegal settler outposts, but admit “…in the same breath that the army was providing them with security…One arm of government declared that building was forbidden; a second ensured that the settlers in the outposts were guarded; and a third saw to it that they received sufficient infrastructure and logistical aid.”
Mr Harel speaks of the overwhelming influence of the settlers’ lobby and the various pressure groups that have been set up throughout many branches of Israeli governmental bureaucracies. He continues to say that senior figures on the Palestinian side are both cynical and pessimistic in their view towards the true intentions of the Israeli government when it comes to returning land to the Palestinians, and that if negotiations for a fair and equitable land sharing deal are not concluded in the near future, ‘…the road from there also leads to a third intifada”, a reasonably terrifying prospect given the horrors of the past.
Now one may ask, is there evidence to suggest that the Israeli government is indeed beholden to such lobby groups as mentioned in Mr Harel’s editorial? That very question brings me to my second point, and our second editorial, written by Yossi Klein and entitled ‘In the blink of an eye’.
In a more anecdotal fashion, Mr Klein relays a story of a press conference witnessed by a “short balding guy” who works as an assistant to the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry.
The scene is a press conference, held by the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and John Kerry.
“When Mr Netanyahu spoke of his desire for a durable piece, or something like that, the short balding guy noticed that while speaking, the prime minister shut his left eye and blinked rapidly…he also noticed that National Security Adviser Ya’akov Amidror was seized by a similar spasm…Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon…in turn shut an eye quickly but vigorously.”
A taller man, a colleague of his from the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, explained. “That’s what they do here…[they] wink at one another to express disagreement. Their wink cancels out anything their mouth is saying.”
“God help us”, said the short guy to himself.
This is merely a snippet, a story told from person to person to person, and hardly verifiable as truth. But perhaps it gives some small insight into the inner workings of the most senior members of Israeli government.
My final point is illustrated by Uri Misgav’s essay, ‘The real post-Zionists’, and I hardly need write a word of my own here.
“What will bring the Zionist project to an end is the occupation the the settlement enterprise…the goal of Zionism was to create a national home for the Jewish people…but this goal cannot be achieved as long as the occupation continues and the settlement enterprise exists.”
“It has become apparent that [the settlers’ movement] are the surprise political winners. They haven’t succeeded in inhabiting they hearts of the people, but they have managed to inhabit the land and the hearts of the ruling establishment. A small and determined vanguard has managed to impose its principles and desires upon a silent, confused and paralyzed majority.”
The conclusions that are reached are similar to those mentioned in the first article. The grip of the settlers’ lobby upon the heart of the Israeli establishment, and even the Israel Defense Forces “physically prevent the settlement enterprise from being dismantled.”
In concert, these three articles make for somewhat discouraging reading. If indeed there are such influential minorities such as the settlers’ movement successfully executing their agenda within Israel and the occupied territories, then it is difficult to see how a realistic two-state solution can be reached in the foreseeable future.
I would have liked to say that a first-hand glimpse of the world that the Israelis inhabit was an enlightening and encouraging experience. Instead, I’m going to continue the theme of this post (that being taking others’ writings and using it to improve my own) by quoting Morgan Freeman as William Somerset, himself quoting Hemingway.
“Ernest Hemingway once wrote, ‘The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.’ I agree with the second part.”