What Netanyahu means when he says 'two states'

Sunday’s approval of a discriminatory loyalty oath requiring non-Jews seeking naturalization to swear a loyalty oath to ‘the Jewish state’ adds to growing fears that for this Israeli government, a ‘peace deal’ might involve a mass transfer of Israel’s Arab citizens.

Monday, 11 October, 2010 - 08:56
London, UK

In June 2009, shortly after he was elected, Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu surprised many by declaring in a public speech that his aim was to achieve ‘two states for two peoples.’

While international attention has been focused on Gaza and the West Bank, it is also within Israel proper that the dramatic process towards these “two peoples” is occurring. Since the election of the current government, Israel has drastically escalated its measures against the country’s 20% Palestinian minority, through public incitement, accusations of disloyalty, restrictions on civil rights and denial of land rights.

Now with the Israeli cabinet approval of the loyalty oath to “the Jewish State”, a first step has been taken in the legislative segregation of Jews from non-Jews in Israel.

A speech made last week by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to the UN General Assembly sheds light on the connection between these measures and the current peace negotiations.

According to Lieberman, a peace deal would include a land and population exchange, whereby Jewish settlements in the West Bank will be annexed to a Jewish state in exchange for the transfer of densely-populated Arab areas in Israel to the control of a Palestinian political entity.

This declaration, never retracted, dovetails with Netanyahu’s demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state as an integral part of any peace deal.

When he says ‘two states for two peoples,’ Netanyahu means an eventual partition of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea along ethno-nationalist lines.

He does not mean a democratic Israeli state including both its Jewish and its non-Jewish citizens, alongside a sovereign Palestinian state in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Rather, his government wants a sovereign, explicitly Jewish state – emptied or nearly-emptied of its Palestinian citizens – separated from but controlling a collection of enclosed, politically fragmented Palestinian entities devoid of power and sovereignty.

The capital of this Jewish state would be a ‘united’ Jerusalem, including not only the Old City but also those neighborhoods around it – such as Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah – which are today Palestinian, but are rapidly being settled by Jewish extremists with the backing of the Israeli authorities.

Recent developments confirm this scenario. Last Thursday Israeli security forces staged a mock exercise – the scenario was how to respond to Arab uprisings in Israel following a future mass population exchange near the Green Line. This involved the erection of a vast detention camp for Palestinian citizens of Israel and the emptying of Israel’s prison population in order to make space for Palestinian protestors.

Also on Sunday, Minister of Interior Eli Yishai declared his intention to strip Palestinian citizens of Israel of their citizenship if they were convicted of ‘disloyalty to the state’. Their status should be made equal to that of non-Jewish migrant workers, he said.

Most Israeli Jews seem apathetic in the face of these developments, while political opposition from the ‘peace camp’ seems non-existent – not surprising when its own slogan has been wrested from it by the nationalist right wing.

The US and the international community have yet to acknowledge this rapid degradation of civil liberties and the de-sensitization of Israel’s Jewish citizens to its implications. These developments are largely ignored in debates around the conflict. The Arab League, too, by giving the peace process another month, is implicitly supporting the limiting of the problem of negotiations to the issue of the settlement freeze, while ignoring these more ominous aspects.

In its negotiations with Israel, the Palestinian Authority (PA) no longer seeks the full return of the occupied territories, the dismantling of the separation wall or even withdrawal from the settlements.

Instead, it is fighting a losing battle for control over the future development areas of the settlements, ‘Area C’ under the Oslo Accords, which comprise 40% of the West Bank. Of these, the US has already offered to guarantee Israel control over the Jordan valley, the natural border between the West Bank and Jordan.

If Israel, the international community and PA leader Mahmoud Abbas decide the fate of all Palestinians while disenfranchising them, they should not be surprised if the process brings no peace.

There cannot be a credible discussion of the future of Israelis and Palestinians if the voices of all Palestinians – in the West Bank, in Gaza, in Israel and in refugee communities in the Middle East and worldwide – are not authentically represented at the negotiating table.

This article may be reproduced on condition that JNews is cited as its source.

Image by http://www.louisvillepeace.org/twostates.html

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